If you were a working or aspiring stand-up comic in NewYork City about 30 years ago, there were three major comedy clubs where you plied your trade in order to make it in the world of comedy: the Improv, Catch A Rising Star and the Comic Strip. In his introduction to 999102112 111040113 111120912 Stuart Nulman Book Banter Skyhorse Publishing, $28. 95 Jeffrey Gurian and Richie Tienkin's book that recounts the 35-year history of the Comic Strip, "Make 'Em Laugh", comedian Chris Rock writes that comedy clubs in NewYork City about 30 years ago were like colleges for aspiring comics. "The two main schools (and schools of thought) were Catch A Rising Star and The Comic Strip. Catch wasYale, and the Strip was Illinois State University, Urbana. Catch was stressful, like you were always on the verge of being expelled if you didn't keep up your grades.The Strip was laid back. If you put in the work and studied, you would do well. But if you blew off a term smoking pot, it didn't go on your permanent record. Catch was more rigorous, like you needed to back up your joke with references. The Strip was like, 'fooood fiiiight!'" Since Richie Tienkin

Book Review by Stuart Nulman

Make 'Em Laugh

by Jeffrey Gurian and Richie Tienken

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999110412 opened the Comic Strip on June 1, 1976, it became the training ground for some of the best stand-up comics that have graced comedy clubs across North America, not to mention festivals,TV shows and movies. How's this for illustrious alumni ... Jerry Seinfeld, Ray Romano, Chris Rock, Billy Crystal, Lewis Black, Colin Quinn, Larry Miller, Gilbert Gottfried and Lisa Lampanelli (and that's just scratching the surface). But for those who have performed at the Comic Strip and have made the club their training ground and launching pad into the world of stand-up comedy, it was more than a club. It was a place to hang out, to develop and polish your routines, and most of all, to create a close, familial atmosphere amongst your fellow comics who had the same goal as you, but with very little or no vapid competition amongst each other. Being part of the Comic Strip fraternity was in a way a very treasured membership. Comics would hang out with each other every night until dawn (and having late or early meals at a local diner after the club closed its doors for the night), would eagerly await the regular softball game as part of the Comic Strip's team, and would look forward to attend the annual Christmas party or NewYear's Day brunch. Tienkin teamed up with NewYork-based comedy writer/performer/aficionado Jeffrey Gurian (who writes a regular internet comedy column called "Comedy Matters" and is host of his "Comedy Matters" internet TV channel) to write an intimate history of the Comic Strip and its impact on the world of contemporary standup comedy. The book contains interviews with 30 prominent comics who have built their careers on the Comic Strip stage.They have divided them into

Photo: Stuart Nulman Co-authors of "Make 'Em Laugh" Jeffrey Gurian (left) and Richie Tienken, pictured at the 2010 Just For Laughs festival

two generations: the "Older Kids" (Seinfeld, Rock, Romano, Crystal, etc.) and the "Younger Kids" (Lampanelli, Jeffrey Ross, Jim Gaffigan,Adam Ferrera, etc.). Tienkin and Gurian get the comics who are profiled in the book to open up to them about how they started at the Strip, how they developed their trademark routines, the rigors and struggles of making it as a comic in a highly-charged competitive atmosphere that is NewYork City, and a lot of favorite memories of being part of the Comic Strip brotherhood. Basically, because Tienkin and Gurian are respected insiders in the comedy world, it made the difficult task of getting comedians to speak their mind about how they started in the business, the difficulties of breaking into comedy and how the respect they have for their fellow comics became much easier, and it shows quite vividly in the book. When you read "Make 'Em Laugh", you get several consensus of opinion of what it was like to work at the Strip: the lottery method of auditioning; waiting for hours to get a spot to perform onstage (even if it was after midnight on a weeknight, with very few people in the audience); getting "passed" and asked for your day and time availabilities (also known as "avails"); being honored or intimidated by the critiques of your performance by the late Lucien Hold, the club's manager (or if you had the good fortune to be hooked into one of his lengthy conversations, where you would be lucky if you got one word in edgewise); and when he wasn't managing the early career of Eddie Murphy, how Tienkin was a caring, nurturing individual to every comic who passed through the Strip's doors (which gained him revered rock star status amongst them). And of course, the book has plenty of anecdotes and backstage stories of carving out careers in comedy during the golden era of the burgeoning NewYork comedy club scene, in which the Comic Strip was an integral part of that scene. For example, there is the time when Paul Reiser was performing at the Strip's branch in Fort Lauderdale, when he found out he got the role of Modell in Barry Levinson's classic 1982 flick "Diner". He was told by the production people that "we're not sure yet what he's (Modell) gonna do, but you'll flesh him out when you get there (to Baltimore, where the film was shot)." "Make 'Em Laugh" is a very enjoyable, insightful book about a pioneering comedy club that has become a virtual comedy institution.And although many comedy clubs across North America have come and gone in the 35 years since the Comic Strip first opened its doors, the respect it has gained and how important and relevant it remains to new generations of stand-up comics will ensure its doors will stay open for many more years. Stuart Nulman's "Book Banter" segment is a twicea-month feature on "The Stuph File Program" with Peter Anthony Holder,which now has almost 150,000 listeners per week. You can either listen or download it at peteranthonyholder.com , or Stitcher.com or subscribe to it on iTunes. Plus you can find it at www.CyberStationUSA.com,www.KDXradio.com , True Talk Radio, streaming on www.PCJMedia.com, and over the air at World FM 88.2fm in New Zealand,Media Corp in Singapore andWSTJ, St. Johnsbury,Vermont.Stuart can be reached at: bookbanter @hotmail.com . Comment on this article at: www.westendtimes.ca 10 OCTOBER 13, 2012 *

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