Margo Dill: Famous comics will have you in stitches

Margo Dill: Famous comics will have you in stitches

If you are a fan of stand-up comedians, then you will love "Make 'Em Laugh: 35 Years of the Comic Strip."

The book is full of interviews of famous comedians from Jerry Seinfeld to Chris Rock, from Lisa Lampanelli to Adam Ferrara, discussing their memories of doing stand-up at The Comic Strip in New York City.

The Comic Strip, which co-author Richie Tienken opened in June 1976, is responsible for giving a stage to some of the biggest names in comedy: Paul Reiser, Gilbert Gottfried, Billy Crystal, Ray Romano, Susie Essman and more. To commemorate 35 years in the business, Tienken wrote this book along with Jeffrey Gurian, who conducted the interviews.

From Rock's humorous introduction, where he compares the comedy club to college and explains why even though he didn't attend a university, performing at The Comic Strip was education enough, to the first interview of the book with Seinfeld, readers will be laughing.

Rock states, "You are about to read about my higher institution of learning, The Comic Strip, a place that I adored then and now ... it's the best decision I ever made — one that my daughters are forbidden to repeat."

Gurian asks each comedian for their earliest memories of performing comedy and how they got started. Then he personalizes the questions more, asking each one about individual career accomplishments from appearing on "The Tonight Show" to their own television series and movies.

The quotes in this book are priceless, and the memories are fascinating. Take the interview with Reiser, who went on to fame in his own series, "Mad About You," with Helen Hunt. He discusses how his father couldn't exactly wrap his mind around his son wanting to be a comic and making any money out of it. His father would ask him how he knew he would be any good.

He finally explained it to his father in business terms: "I'm not looking to be a star as of tomorrow. I wanna build slowly and get good." Eventually, Reiser got good.

How about Romano? Before he tried to do stand-up comedy in 1982, he delivered futons in Manhattan for his best friend from Queens because he was a "very bad student." He continued to deliver futons while he did his stand-up routines, and then one day he told his wife that he was quitting, and "it's stand-up or nothing."

"And it was nothing for a while," he said.

This book will inspire artists and anyone struggling in a career to persevere, work hard and keep the faith. Many stories are similar to Reiser's and Romano's, and readers can see where these comedians came from and where they are today.

The book only has four chapters and is organized by age of the comics: the older kids, the younger kids, friends of the family (individuals that helped Tienken successfully build The Comic Strip) and an introduction to some up-and-coming comics who are not yet household names.

This is the perfect book for someone who loves comedies, stand-up comics and Comedy Central specials. Readers who have been lucky enough to hear a routine at The Comic Strip will enjoy the history this book presents through the words of the people who made it successful.

Plus, a book that makes you smile and laugh is always a worthwhile read.

Margo L. Dill is the author of "Finding My Place: One Girl's Strength at Vicksburg," a middle grade historical fiction novel. She often reviews books as a columnist for "WOW! Women On Writing" e-zine and her blog, "Margo Dill's Read These Books and Use Them" ( She lives in St. Louis with her family.

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