David Letterman, the Vice-President of Comedy

By Peter W. Kaplan Esquire December 1981 I have no troubles that I can’t tell standing up and to several million people at once.—Jack Paar When David Letterman enters a small club, other young comics make way for him, and although he moves among them, he is separate....

The Chinese Gourmet Club

By Alex Belth The Stacks Reader Here’s something fun. From Kenneth Tynan’s lavish 1977 New Yorker profile of Mel Brooks (available online only to New Yorker subscribers though you can also find it in Tynan’s wonderful collection, Profiles): After separating from his...

How Pryor Put Cosby Behind Him

By Scott Saul From Becoming Richard Pryor 2014 When Richard Pryor first came on the national scene in the mid ’60s, he was a comic who consciously followed the blueprint established by Bill Cosby. Never mind that Pryor, even when he was doing a clean act, lacked...

Comedy is Not Pretty

By Ivan Solotaroff The Stacks Reader November 11, 2013 Charlie Barnett was pivotal in getting started as a full-time journalist. I spent close to six months—a late fall, entire winter, and early spring—watching him and getting to know his story—not only his crack...

Little Big Mouth: The Unfunny Comedy of Andrew Dice Clay

By Ivan Solotaroff The Village Voice 1990 A hundred or so surprisingly subdued leather boys and their women are guzzling Budweiser and Bud Lights on a bottlenecked New Jersey Transit bus to the sold-out, 21,000-seat Brendan Byrne Arena in the Meadowlands, headed to...

Mel Brooks Says This Is the Funniest Man in the World

By Harry Stein Esquire June 1976 Harry Ritz will say it himself, but he prefers that others say it for him. “As far as I’m concerned,” says Mel Brooks, “Harry Ritz was the funniest man ever. His craziness and his freedom were unmatched. There was no intellectualizing...

Mel Brooks: The Playboy Interview

By Brad Darrach Playboy February 1975 “The rich,” according to a Spanish proverb, “laugh carefully.” They have a lot to lose. The poor, on the other hand, need to laugh in order to forget how little they have to laugh about—which may be why the Depression was the last...

Lenny

By Seymour Krim Nugget June 1963 We come, with mixed feelings, to the Case of Lenny Bruce. You probably have an opinion—who doesn’t?—but sit still long enough to hear ours. First, so that no matter how finky you finally think our stand is, let it be triple-clear that...

Trading Places

By Peter Richmond GQ July 1992 The lights are rheostated low inside a customized bus parked on Tenth Avenue in Manhattan at nine o’clock on a winter dark evening. Two candle flames dance on a table. Eddie Murphy stares at them, without speaking. Hammer just dropped...

The Gookie

By Alex Belth The Stacks Reader The origins of “The Gookie,” from one of the great showbiz memoirs, Harpo Speaks! The man who first inspired me to become an actor was a guy called Gookie. Gookie had nothing to do with the theatre. He rolled cigars in the window of a...

Beyond Laughter

By David Hirshey Rolling Stone April 1981 Out of the blue, in the middle of the action, an extremely clever comic actor began counting, very slowly, and with great concentration: one, two, three, four … enunciating each of the numbers with the utmost...

Albert Brooks Is Funnier Than You Think

By Paul Slansky Playboy July 1983 It’s Thanksgiving Eve in NBC studio 6-A, and Albert Brooks is talking about bowling. “In every bowling alley, there’s a room just a little bit larger than this desk called the pro shop,” he tells David Letterman. “It’s full of balls...