Sacks interviews some of the best in the comedy-writing business, from a variety of disciplines: Mel Brooks, George Saunders, Amy Poehler, Terry Jones, Roz Chast, Dan Clowes, and 38 others. The most interesting interviews are stacked heavily at the front of the book, leaving the reader to gnaw on a couple duller pieces in the end, but it’s on the whole an improbably good read.
The interviews range from process to biography to the concept of comedy, but possibly the best parts of the interviews come when these very funny people discuss the things that make them laugh. Parks and Recreation creator Mike Schur enthuses over the genius of Cheers and the 1988 film Midnight Run (calling the latter “maybe the tightest screenplay ever written.”) Saturday Night Live writer James Downey praises cartoonist S. Clay Wilson and cult radio host Phil Hendrie, a talented impressionist who would interview himself on the air for hours. And Sacks spotlights forgotten comedy giants like Peg Lynch, who single-handedly wrote two new episodes of her sitcom-prototype radio show Ethel and Albert every weekday for years. In theory, it’s the sort of book you leave sitting out on a coffee table (or the tank of a toilet) to dip into now and again, but in practice, you sit up in bed way too late binging on the collective knowledge culled from conversations with dozens of funny, smart people.