In the mid-1970s, Jay Leno, David Letterman, Andy Kaufman, Richard Lewis, Robin Williams, Elayne Boosler, Tom Dreesen, and several hundred other shameless showoffs and incorrigible cutups from all across the country migrated en masse to Los Angeles, the new home of Johnny Carson's Tonight Show. There, in a late-night world of sex, drugs, dreams and laughter, they created an artistic community unlike any before or since. It was Comedy Camelot—but it couldn't last.
William Knoedelseder, then a cub reporter covering the scene for the Los Angeles Times, was there when the comedians—who were not paid for performing—tried to change the system and incidentally tore apart their own close-knit community. In I'm Dying Up Here he tells the whole story of that golden age, of the strike that ended it, and of how those days still resonate in the lives of those who were there.
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Did you ever wonder how David Letterman and Jay Leno got to become the two baby boom comedians that hosted the top two talk shows for the past 20 years? While Dave and Jay are only a relatively small part of a multi-faceted look at the "new comics" that started in the seventies, author William Knoedelseder offers a fascinating story of the journey that many of today's top comedians had to take to become successful. The key catalyst: Johnny Carson's decision to move the Tonight Show from 30 Rock in Manhattan to NBC Burbank in 1972. Johnny always appreciated new talent and his scouts adopted a practice of frequenting "new" places like Mitzi Shore's night club, the "Comedy Store" on the Sunset Strip in West Hollywood, to find new talent thus beginning the comic migration to Los Angeles.
The comics, most in their twenties, would work for free just to have the opportunity to practice their craft at the Club and possibly be discovered for a five or six minute set at the end of...
I'm Dying Up Here was a wonderful read. If you like showbiz books, comedy, and inside scoops on what's shaking in some of those celebrity minds, then do yourself a favor and buy a copy of this book.
Gone are the days of the Golden Era of stand-up comedy. The life-style, viewpoints, and groundbreaking comedy of the 70s and 80s have been buried a long time ago. They were buried with television deals, strong arming of talent, broken promises between friends, and crossroads that were not expected. I'm Dying Up Here is a play on words, of course, and a good one at that. Many comedic hopefuls with stars in their eyes, who are talented, are naive and romantic. You see it today at open mics across the country and it was just the same in the early days of Leno, Williams, Letterman, and Prince. The difference between now and then was the faith that something good was bound to happen. It had to; it was the beginning of something wonderful and, if you were lucky enough to be around...
I purchased this book after hearing Richard Lewis mention it on his interview at The Nerdist.
A great story and extremely well told. I'm a comedy fan, yet besides knowing something about how Pauly Shore's mother owned a comedy club, I had no idea about this amazing story. You get to learn about the origin of Leno and Letterman and also much about Richard Pryor, Richard Lewis, and Andy Kauffman. Even more interesting are the 2nd tier comics, people I've had to check out on youtube since reading the book. You definitely get immersed in the world of standup comedy and all the struggle that comes for those who never quite make it.
I haven't said this about many books in my life, but this is one that I could not put down. I think I read it in four sittings. I can't stress enough what an accomplishment this book is. He introduces about 20 characters, develops them all, and you get to learn a lot of history of the entertainment world (even a bunch about Johnny...
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