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Laughing Matters: On Writing M*A*S*H, Tootsie, Oh, God! and a Few Other Funny Things (Thorndike Nonfiction)

Gelbart, Larry

ISBN 10: 0783802943 / ISBN 13: 9780783802947
Published by G. K. Hall & Company, 1998
Used Condition: Fine Hardcover
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Bibliographic Details

Title: Laughing Matters: On Writing M*A*S*H, ...

Publisher: G. K. Hall & Company

Publication Date: 1998

Binding: Hardcover

Book Condition:Fine

Dust Jacket Condition: Fine

Signed: Signed by Author(s)

Edition: First Edition

About this title

Synopsis:

Larry Gelbart is the comic genius who developed M*A*S*H for TV, one of the longest-running, most beloved series in history; he was a much-admired member of that memorable gaggle of writers who worked for Sid Caesar, which also included Mel Brooks, Carl Reiner, Woody Allen, and Neil Simon; and he's written successful movies like Tootsie and Oh, God!, smash hits for Broadway, including A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum and City of Angels, TV comedy-dramas like Barbarians at the Gate and Weapons of Mass Distraction, and more.
        His book now adds to the fun. Part memoir, part sampler, part love letter, Gelbart tells of writing radio comedy at age sixteen for Danny Thomas--and later for Bob Hope, Jack Paar, and Red Buttons; he offers behind-the-set stories about Milton Berle, George C. Scott, and George Burns, "Klinger" and "Radar" and "Father Mulcahy"; and he lets us know about the places he's lived and how he's lived and what he's learned while doing so.
        Not everything is played for laughs. Some of Laughing Matters is serious--Gelbart is a wit, not a gag writer, and he cares deeply about writing. Some is touching--for instance, his account of the last days of M*A*S*H. His sketches of comedy performers and writers are "elegant," said Publishers Weekly in an early review, his sense of form original.
        He's won Emmys, Tonys, and Peabody awards, he's twice been nominated for an Academy Award, and now, in print, he may well win your heart.
        A lot of funny things happened on the way to this book--and you'll be hugely entertained.

Review:

After five decades in the funny business, Larry Gelbart has done it all. And what he hasn't done, he's obviously avoiding. You probably know him as the man who developed the television series M*A*S*H; it's his crowning achievement, but hardly his only claim to fame. Gelbart also wrote Oh, God!, Tootsie, City of Angels, and A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum, along with innumerable gags for Bob Hope, Red Buttons, Sid Caesar, and a pantheon of others. But he hasn't written anything specifically for print--until now.

Laughing Matters is a look back, sometimes in anger, but mostly in appreciation, at Gelbart's spectacular career. The book is not an autobiography nor is it a collection of fugitive pieces. It also doesn't qualify as a selection of greatest hits from radio, stage, and screen. There just isn't a proper descriptor for what Laughing Matters is, except entertaining. Gelbart comes off as the witty, caustic, intelligent fellow everyone says he is. The Hollywood system, however, does not fare so well, and neither do meddling TV executives and certain actors and other associates, both nameless and named.

Because M*A*S*H will likely be what Gelbart is most remembered for--and according to the book, appears to be the experience of his that most nearly approached creative perfection--an extract dealing with that show seems most appropriate:

It is estimated that the vast store of M*A*S*H episodes to be rerun in syndication will keep the series around well into the twenty-first century, long after I am gone. A nice compilation, to be sure, but I'd give anything to have it the other way around. Thinking of the possibility of M*A*S*H playing so far into the future leads me to hope, paraphrasing Winston Churchill, that if America and its television audience should last a thousand years, people will say this was their finest half hour.
Laughing Matters provides many fine half hours, too.

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