I have owned this book for twenty years. I remember getting it when it came out. I am a comedy nerd. My parents love The Second City. This book should have been a homerun for me.
It absolutely was not. There is a reason this book took me twenty years to read. It felt like it took twenty years once I started. And, incidentally, I started it about four times and every time put it the hell back down because I couldn’t make myself want to read it.
First of all: the layout. The chapters are interspersed with “spotlights” on different Second City alumni (which is hilarious two decades later, as they note that Tina Fey is one to watch in her paragraph long spotlight that she shares with her husband, but Rachel Dratch gets a full page to herself), and then have random two-page articles about some Second City arcana in the middle of a chapter. FOCUS.
Second: the content – this was written like a playbill or a promotional magazine, not a book. The layout of Lovelace and Babbage was ungainly, but the content was interesting. This just wasn’t, despite it being about the theater that gave us Bill Murray, John Candy, Tina Fey, Harold Ramis, Gilda Radner, half of SNL’s cast – comedy gold. I’ve read more interesting phone books.
Third: Get thee to an editor. Each chapter sets the stage with what is happening at the time (e.g. “The tumultous sixties were in full swing – JFK had just been assassinated… blah blah blah” – obviously not a direct quote, but you’re out of your mind if I’m opening that book up again to find one) which is right up there with “webster’s dictionary defines “blank” as ….” in terms of cliched awful ways to start an essay. And my god, you managed to get a book to print with this many typos? Martin does not spell his surname “Scorcece” and “self flagellation” only has one G and two Ls.
I harpooned this beast, it’s done. And now I can send it to the briny depths from which it came (or resell it to the book store, same diff.)