I'm Dying Up Here: Heartbreak and High Times in Stand-up Comedy's Golden Era

I'm Dying Up Here: Heartbreak and High Times in Stand-up Comedy's Golden Era

William Knoedelseder

Language: English

Pages: 304

ISBN: 158648317X

Format: PDF / Kindle (mobi) / ePub


In the mid-1970s, Jay Leno, David Letterman, Andy Kaufman, Richard Lewis, Robin Williams, Elayne Boosler, Tom Dreesen, and several hundred other shameless showoffs and incorrigible cutups from across the country migrated en masse to Los Angeles, the new home of Johnny Carson’s Tonight Show. There, in a late-night world of sex, drugs, dreams and laughter, they created an artistic community unlike any before or since. It was Comedy Camelot—but it couldn’t last.

William Knoedelseder was then a cub reporter covering the burgeoning local comedy scene for the Los Angeles Times. He wrote the first major newspaper profiles of several of the future stars. And he was there when the comedians—who were not paid by the clubs where they performed— tried to change the system and incidentally tore apart their own close-knit community. In I’m Dying Up Here he tells the whole story of that golden age, of the strike that ended it, and of how those days still resonate in the lives of those who were there. As comedy clubs and cable TV began to boom, many would achieve stardom.... but success had its price.

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pullin’ a gun outta there.’” After counting eleven applause breaks, he closed with an endearing appeal to the crowd. “You’ve been a wonderful audience,” he said. “And because this is my first appearance here and show business is such a tough life, I’d just like to say this to you: If you liked me and you are a Protestant, then say a prayer for me. If you are a Catholic, then light a candle. And if you are Jewish, then someone in your family owns a nightclub, so please tell them about me. Thank

free at the showcase Comedy Store on Sunset Strip. But then came a laughter stoppage: The unpaid comedians went on strike in 1979, and a troubled comic named Steve Lubetkin killed himself. The funny business, we learn, is deadly serious.” —AARP The Magazine “One of the most eye-opening and informative books ever written about standup comedy. . . . One of the books of the year for any student of American television and pop culture. . . . A little-known story has now been told very well in

see noses turning up all around the room as if they smelled feet. After Ackerman got into a particularly heated exchange with comedian Kip Addotta, who all but called him and his union a bunch of goons, the comics voted almost unanimously against affiliation with AGVA. (Ackerman lived up to AGVA’s reputation the next day when he sent a note to Dreesen that said, “You might advise Mr. Addotta that he has awakened a sleeping dragon and therein I will watch with great interest any engagement of his

Alliance of Theater and Stage Employees/Local 33 Is It Something I Said? (Pryor) January, Kent Jerk, The (movie) Jerry Van Dyke’s club Joe Franklin Show, The Joffe, Charles Johnny Dark Thing Johnny’s Gay Club (bar) Jones, Tom Kaplan, Gabe Karp, Herb Kaufman, Andy Boosler and as busboy Carson and Comedy Store/Shore early work Improv Improv fire/benefit and SNL success Taxi (TV show) The Tonight Show Keaton, Diane Keaton, Michael Kellogg, Anne Kent, Roberta King,

Weinberger, Ed. Weinstock, Lotus Weis, Gary Weiss, Chuck E. Weld, Tuesday Wilcox, Larry Wild and Crazy Guy, A (Martin) Wilder, Gene William Morris Agency Williams, Andy Williams, Robin after strike background Boosler and borrowing material Canter’s Comedy Store/Shore drugs Improv fire and income/success labor dispute Laugh In (TV show) Leno and Lewis and Masada and Mork Pryor and Winters and Wilson, Flip Winger, Debra Winters, Jonathan Witherspoon, Johnny WKRP in

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