“You’re not famous until my mother has heard of you.” – Jay Leno
“New Year’s Eve, where auld acquaintance be forgot. Unless, of course, those tests come back positive.” – Jay Leno
This is a fantastic read if you are a Wannabe comic or even if you’re just a stand-up comedy fan like me.
This non-fiction book follows the rise of comics such as Jay Leno, David Letterman, Richard Lewis, Elayne Boosler, Andy Kaufman, Tim Dreesdon, Richard Pryor, Robin Williams and more. This book is a great read for Wannabes of all kinds as it recalls the days when Jay Leno slept on the back steps of a comedy club and many comics survived on less than one full meal a day.
I eagerly snatched up the book as I love to read biographies of people I admire and this book promised to deliver the goods about numerous well-known comics. The biggest surprise of this book is that it reads like a suspense novel. It chronicles the rise of the aforementioned comics at the Comedy Store in Los Angeles, which was owned by Mitzi Shore (mother of Pauly….). Mitzi had a strict “no-pay” policy for the performers as she considered the comedy club a kind of training ground / comedy workshop for green performers to hone their craft. Even after the club became a huge success and Shore implemented hefty cover charges, she still refused even the meager $5 the comics requested for gas money and breakfast (this being the 70s, I guess 5 bucks was sufficient for all that). The comics organized a boycott and picketed the club, resulting in a painful split between those who thought of Mitzi Shore as the patron saint of new comics and those who felt she was cruel and power-hungry, insisting that she be able to control “her” comics.
It also includes the harrowing story of Steve Lubetkin – the tragic story of his life is enough to strike terror in the hearts of any Wannabe. His life shows how thin the line between success and obscurity truly is. His career trajectory was comprised of a lifetime of missed opportunities and very close brushes with success. If something, anything, could have gone his way, his life might have turned out very differently.
How this whole Comedy Store saga has not yet been made into a film yet is beyond me. Here’s hoping someone will have the sense to option Knoedelseder’s book and get cracking on that right away.