Fans of Borscht Belt shtick and classic comedies will enjoy Brooks’ stroll into the past.



The madcap director, actor, and comedian adds another arrow to his quiver with this spry memoir.

Brooks (b. 1926) has been dining out on the anecdotes in this book for decades. One, which Johnny Carson devotees may recall, is when Sid Caesar, for whom Brooks wrote in the 1950s, held him outside a high-rise hotel window until Brooks stopped complaining about the smoke in the room. “Sid said, ‘Got enough air?’ ” Brooks recounts. “In a very calm voice I said, ‘Oh yes. Plenty! I’ve had enough.’ ” Another is the author’s affectionate ribbing of his late wife, Anne Bancroft: “I think one of the reasons I married Anne Bancroft was the fact that her real name was Anne Italiano and, boy, could she make spaghetti.” There’s lots of delightful material, even if it’s well rehearsed. For example, Brooks recalls how he changed his name from Melvin Kaminsky—“which would be a good name for a professor of Russian literature”—by painting his mother’s maiden name, Brookman, on the drums he played as a teenager and running out of room at “Brook,” with just enough space for the final letter. The author’s anecdotes about early life in Depression-era Brooklyn are charming, as are his notes on the dawn of TV. He also dishes nice dirt on the making of his films, some of which seemed to proceed by accident: Dustin Hoffman was to have starred in the original version of The Producersbut instead won the lead in The Graduate. Enter Gene Wilder. Richard Pryor didn’t show for History of the World, so enter Gregory Hines, with whom star Madeline Kahn had worked. Peter Boyle and Marty Feldman (“he more or less sees out the sides of his face like a horse”) earned roles in Young Frankensteinvia a right-place, right-time agent. And so on. Though the book is sometimes labored, if you want to know about the making of “the greatest farting scene in cinematic history,” here’s your source.

Fans of Borscht Belt shtick and classic comedies will enjoy Brooks’ stroll into the past.

Pub Date: Nov. 30, 2021

ISBN: 978-0-593-15911-8

Page Count: 400

Publisher: Ballantine

Review Posted Online: Sept. 10, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 1, 2021

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A virtuoso performance and an ode to an undervalued medium created by two talented artists.



The veteran actor, comedian, and banjo player teams up with the acclaimed illustrator to create a unique book of cartoons that communicates their personalities.

Martin, also a prolific author, has always been intrigued by the cartoons strewn throughout the pages of the New Yorker. So when he was presented with the opportunity to work with Bliss, who has been a staff cartoonist at the magazine since 1997, he seized the moment. “The idea of a one-panel image with or without a caption mystified me,” he writes. “I felt like, yeah, sometimes I’m funny, but there are these other weird freaks who are actually funny.” Once the duo agreed to work together, they established their creative process, which consisted of working forward and backward: “Forwards was me conceiving of several cartoon images and captions, and Harry would select his favorites; backwards was Harry sending me sketched or fully drawn cartoons for dialogue or banners.” Sometimes, he writes, “the perfect joke occurs two seconds before deadline.” There are several cartoons depicting this method, including a humorous multipanel piece highlighting their first meeting called “They Meet,” in which Martin thinks to himself, “He’ll never be able to translate my delicate and finely honed droll notions.” In the next panel, Bliss thinks, “I’m sure he won’t understand that the comic art form is way more subtle than his blunt-force humor.” The team collaborated for a year and created 150 cartoons featuring an array of topics, “from dogs and cats to outer space and art museums.” A witty creation of a bovine family sitting down to a gourmet meal and one of Dumbo getting his comeuppance highlight the duo’s comedic talent. What also makes this project successful is the team’s keen understanding of human behavior as viewed through their unconventional comedic minds.

A virtuoso performance and an ode to an undervalued medium created by two talented artists.

Pub Date: Nov. 17, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-250-26289-9

Page Count: 272

Publisher: Celadon Books

Review Posted Online: Aug. 31, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 15, 2020

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A conversational, pleasurable look into McConaughey’s life and thought.

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All right, all right, all right: The affable, laconic actor delivers a combination of memoir and self-help book.

“This is an approach book,” writes McConaughey, adding that it contains “philosophies that can be objectively understood, and if you choose, subjectively adopted, by either changing your reality, or changing how you see it. This is a playbook, based on adventures in my life.” Some of those philosophies come in the form of apothegms: “When you can design your own weather, blow in the breeze”; “Simplify, focus, conserve to liberate.” Others come in the form of sometimes rambling stories that never take the shortest route from point A to point B, as when he recounts a dream-spurred, challenging visit to the Malian musician Ali Farka Touré, who offered a significant lesson in how disagreement can be expressed politely and without rancor. Fans of McConaughey will enjoy his memories—which line up squarely with other accounts in Melissa Maerz’s recent oral history, Alright, Alright, Alright—of his debut in Richard Linklater’s Dazed and Confused, to which he contributed not just that signature phrase, but also a kind of too-cool-for-school hipness that dissolves a bit upon realizing that he’s an older guy on the prowl for teenage girls. McConaughey’s prep to settle into the role of Wooderson involved inhabiting the mind of a dude who digs cars, rock ’n’ roll, and “chicks,” and he ran with it, reminding readers that the film originally had only three scripted scenes for his character. The lesson: “Do one thing well, then another. Once, then once more.” It’s clear that the author is a thoughtful man, even an intellectual of sorts, though without the earnestness of Ethan Hawke or James Franco. Though some of the sentiments are greeting card–ish, this book is entertaining and full of good lessons.

A conversational, pleasurable look into McConaughey’s life and thought.

Pub Date: Oct. 20, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-593-13913-4

Page Count: 304

Publisher: Crown

Review Posted Online: Oct. 27, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 1, 2020

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