|About the Book|
Jimmy Durante and Sid Caesar memorably shared the big screen in the opening sequence of It’s a Mad Mad Mad Mad World. Individually they worked their special brand of magic on audiences large and small in virtually every conceivable medium, beforeMoreJimmy Durante and Sid Caesar memorably shared the big screen in the opening sequence of It’s a Mad Mad Mad Mad World. Individually they worked their special brand of magic on audiences large and small in virtually every conceivable medium, before they made their respective television debuts in 1950.As a funnyman who capitalized on the power of personality, Durante—a veteran of nightclubs, vaudeville, legit theatre and network radio—hesitated to appear on television in the early days of the medium. Charles Isaacs once recalled his lack of enthusiasm at a meeting for a proposed show. “ ‘Gotta memorize all that stuff,’ he growled, ‘and worse than that, I gotta read it before I memorize it.’ ” Somebody had to write all that stuff before Durante could read it, and that somebody, more often that not, was Isaacs.Caesar, who honed his comedic chops in Catskill resorts and Coast Guard revues during World War II, before his breakthrough on TV, was a comedian who relied on the script. But not for lack of talent—he was simply too shy to be himself. As Larry Gelbart observed, Once he got into any sketch, any prepared material, once he could do a monologue, once he could do a mime, once he could play a character, he was fine. The only person in the world he did not know how to play was Sid Caesar. As a member of the writing staff for Caesar’s Hour, Gelbart was but one of Caesar’s celebrated wordsmiths.In this ebook Charlie Isaacs talks about learning to write visual comedy, and Durante’s preference for “a little slam-bang feeling to make sure the jokes worked.” He compares Durante to Caesar and recalls the one time Jimmy admitted having comedy writers—to a hotel maid.Larry Gelbart talks about transitioning from radio into TV with Bob Hope, the “religious experience” of watching Caesar weekly on Your Show of Shows—TV’s most influential comedy-variety program—the process of writing Caesar’s Hour, and the “organized chaos” that resulted when he worked with a team of writers including Mel Brooks and Woody Allen.Vol. 5 in a series, excerpted from the author’s acclaimed book, “The Laugh Crafters: Comedy Writing in Radio and TV’s Golden Age,” which features a dozen writers discussing their work in the prehistoric days of broadcasting—the 1930s, ‘40s and ‘50s.