(Originally appeared on Publishers Weekly July 27 2009)
(Starred Review) Veteran journalist Sacks conducted dozens of interviews with the top humor writers of the last century, and the result is a whiz-bang collection of Q&As that will school readers just as often as it provokes laughter. The assortment boasts elder statesmen including Dick Cavett, 93-year-old Irving Brecher (who wrote shtick for the Marx Brothers and Milton Berle) and Mad magazine’s Al Jaffee, who reminisces about reading American comic strips during his 1930s boyhood in Lithuania. High notes include David Sedaris, with the bestselling humorist confessing to cringing when he reads earlier writing, including breakthrough Me Talk Pretty One Day: “I used to exaggerate a lot more than I needed to. So when I needed readers to believe me, they didn’t.” Other contemporary writers offer up equally revelatory tidbits, especially Marshall Brickman (Annie Hall) and Allison Silverman (The Daily Show), but would-be humorists will appreciate most the nuts-and-bolts knowhow regarding the industry. Though it’s decidedly testosterone-heavy, Sack has compiled a lively compendium sure to captivate anyone who loves a good comedy.