Make ‘Em Laugh: The Funny Business of America is an absolutely gorgeous, brilliant, fascinating, well-written, wonderful, and extraordinary book about American comedy. Laurence Maslon and Michael Kantor have put together the most complete study, encyclopedia, biography, and history of what has made America and the world laugh over the past century to date. Any comedy fan must have Make ‘Em Laugh: The Funny Business of America on his / her coffee table, especially since the book is so heavy the table will eventually break and this will provide a few laughs.
If you have seen the brilliant 6-part PBS comedy documentary series, you ain’t read nothin’ yet: As is almost always the case, Make ‘Em Laugh the book is even better than the TV adaptation. Granted, some of the information is verbatim but the book is structured very differently and covers a lot more ground and comedians. The many photographs are great.
Each chapter focuses on a different aspect of comedy and each chapter contains a series of two or three-page profile and biographies of the most important comics or genres.
Make ‘Em Laugh: The Funny Business of America the book is of course much more complete than the PBS series. Those who, like me, feel Black American comedy was a bit short changed in the TV version will find much more information here.
I especially liked the two pages on the history of the comedy album.
The one flaw in this comedy book is the three page “Clubs, Camps, and the Catskills”: pale grey print on a dark being background make this section impossible to read without getting a headache.
If there is an important or somewhat important aspect of American comedy Laurence Maslon and Michael Kantor missed, I will eat every single page of Make ‘Em Laugh with a side dish of cauliflower.