A fresh topic explored in a unique, satisfying manner.

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WE KILLED

THE RISE OF WOMEN IN AMERICAN COMEDY

Marie Claire contributing editor Kohen uses Christopher Hitchens’ infamous 2007 Vanity Fair article “Why Women Aren’t Funny” as her pivot point for exploring the obstacles faced by women in the male-dominated comedy business.

The author traces the path of female comedians beginning in the 1950s with Phyllis Diller, “the prototypical female stand-up,” and “the mother of sketch comedy,” Elaine May, through the current lineup of popular female comedians such as Sarah Silverman, Tina Fey, Chelsea Handler, Aubrey Plaza and Emily Spivey. Kohen successfully weaves the stories into an entertaining timeline illustrating women’s increasing presence in American comedy. Writers, talent agents, club managers and comedians discuss a range of subjects, including the evolution of comedy styles, the role of TV, especially Saturday Night Live, and the different types of venues (including YouTube) and individuals who have helped or hindered women’s rise in the business. Kohen notes that during the 1970s, the hiring of female TV writers led to lively female characters, such as the women of The Mary Tyler Moore Show. This shift fostered a period of mentoring of women writers by “the powerful men who spent the decade transforming the sitcom,” including Norman Lear, Garry Marshall and Carl Reiner. Taken together, the interviews provide an inside look into the sometimes-turbulent relationships among the stand-up and sketch comedians, club owners, writers, producers and TV executives. Kohen intersperses illuminating bits of narrative among the oral history accounts, adding context and depth to her subject. “Stand-up is arguably the hardest form of comedy,” she writes. “There are no props, magic tricks, partners or music to fall back on. It’s just the comic, alone in front of the microphone under the spotlight. When they fail, they ‘die,’ when they succeed, they ‘kill.’ ”—as does this book.

A fresh topic explored in a unique, satisfying manner.

Pub Date: Oct. 16, 2012

ISBN: 978-0-374-28723-8

Page Count: 336

Publisher: Sarah Crichton/Farrar, Straus and Giroux

Review Posted Online: Aug. 6, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 1, 2012

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An engrossing memoir as well as a lively treatise on what extraordinary grace under extraordinary pressure looks like.

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BECOMING

The former first lady opens up about her early life, her journey to the White House, and the eight history-making years that followed.

It’s not surprising that Obama grew up a rambunctious kid with a stubborn streak and an “I’ll show you” attitude. After all, it takes a special kind of moxie to survive being the first African-American FLOTUS—and not only survive, but thrive. For eight years, we witnessed the adversity the first family had to face, and now we get to read what it was really like growing up in a working-class family on Chicago’s South Side and ending up at the world’s most famous address. As the author amply shows, her can-do attitude was daunted at times by racism, leaving her wondering if she was good enough. Nevertheless, she persisted, graduating from Chicago’s first magnet high school, Princeton, and Harvard Law School, and pursuing careers in law and the nonprofit world. With her characteristic candor and dry wit, she recounts the story of her fateful meeting with her future husband. Once they were officially a couple, her feelings for him turned into a “toppling blast of lust, gratitude, fulfillment, wonder.” But for someone with a “natural resistance to chaos,” being the wife of an ambitious politician was no small feat, and becoming a mother along the way added another layer of complexity. Throw a presidential campaign into the mix, and even the most assured woman could begin to crack under the pressure. Later, adjusting to life in the White House was a formidable challenge for the self-described “control freak”—not to mention the difficulty of sparing their daughters the ugly side of politics and preserving their privacy as much as possible. Through it all, Obama remained determined to serve with grace and help others through initiatives like the White House garden and her campaign to fight childhood obesity. And even though she deems herself “not a political person,” she shares frank thoughts about the 2016 election.

An engrossing memoir as well as a lively treatise on what extraordinary grace under extraordinary pressure looks like.

Pub Date: Nov. 13, 2018

ISBN: 978-1-5247-6313-8

Page Count: 448

Publisher: Crown

Review Posted Online: Nov. 30, 2018

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The author's youthfulness helps to assure the inevitable comparison with the Anne Frank diary although over and above the...

NIGHT

Elie Wiesel spent his early years in a small Transylvanian town as one of four children. 

He was the only one of the family to survive what Francois Maurois, in his introduction, calls the "human holocaust" of the persecution of the Jews, which began with the restrictions, the singularization of the yellow star, the enclosure within the ghetto, and went on to the mass deportations to the ovens of Auschwitz and Buchenwald. There are unforgettable and horrifying scenes here in this spare and sombre memoir of this experience of the hanging of a child, of his first farewell with his father who leaves him an inheritance of a knife and a spoon, and of his last goodbye at Buchenwald his father's corpse is already cold let alone the long months of survival under unconscionable conditions. 

The author's youthfulness helps to assure the inevitable comparison with the Anne Frank diary although over and above the sphere of suffering shared, and in this case extended to the death march itself, there is no spiritual or emotional legacy here to offset any reader reluctance.

Pub Date: Jan. 16, 2006

ISBN: 0374500010

Page Count: 120

Publisher: Hill & Wang

Review Posted Online: Oct. 7, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2006

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