“I Killed: True Stories of the Road from America’s Top Comics” compiled by Ritch Shydner and Mark Sciff.

This book is hilarious! And, to me, enlightening. The list of comedians contains many names I don’t recognize. My level of TV watching dropped off very fast after the age of nine, and never made a significant comeback. And I never went to many shows… I saw Bob Hope – once, Bill Cosby – once…

Surprise! I am the parent of an aspiring standup comedian. He’s aiming for a world totally unfamiliar to me. So he tosses me the occasional book to read. Comedy is a subculture (tribe?) with a history, values, leaders and in-jokes. And I’m not likely to go out and immerse myself in it. So the books add to my son’s stories, which are so far fairly tame, though homeless drunks and drug addicts sometimes get hold of the microphone in the clubs of Atlantic City.

So what was I looking for in this book? Laughs, of course. There were many! But I also kept my mother-eye open. What are the hazards to my own (unique, can’t live without him) son?

Drugs, sex and poverty…not necessarily in that order. Travel? The general bizarreness of human nature? Some of the stories are scary. A comedian being chased by…wolves?!

All the comedians in the book had their share of disasters – the worst possible bad joke at the wrong time – but they continued to work. So my son will probably have his share, and I’ll feel terrible when it happens, but he may get what he wants – his time on the road and on stage.

I can’t pick a favorite story – too many funny tales. One thing I hadn’t realized is the huge role played by hecklers. It would be a different world without them, but there they are, presenting their own kind of opportunity. As a person who never thinks of the “right” comeback until the next day, I admire (almost) all the ways comics handle the unexpected and sometimes really awful hecklers.

I originally read this book in March of 2013.


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