Vanity Fair

(Originally appeared in July 2009)

Laughter may be universal, but the world of comedy writing is shrouded in mystery. In AND HERE’S THE KICKER (Writer’s Digest Books), Mike Sacks, a humor writer and Vanity Fair staffer, helps lift the veil with in-depth interviews of 21 top comedy writers from various fields. How in-depth exactly? To give you an idea, 94-year-old Irving Brecher, who wrote for the Marx Brothers, accused the diligent Sacks of “killing” him. (It would prove to be one of Brecher’s very last interviews. He died in 2008.) Collecting rare musings—and practical advice—from the likes of Harold Ramis (Animal House, Groundhog Day), David Sedaris (Me Talk Pretty One Day), Bob Odenkirk (Mr. Show), and Allison Silverman (The Colbert Report), Sacks puts together the book he wishes he had read as a budding humor writer. The comedy world is a treacherous landscape. All of his subjects agree: Funny can’t be taught, but it can be self taught. And it helps to know where the banana peels are hidden.

—Julian Sancton