Sunday, August 24, 2014

Recommended comedy reading

Starting tomorrow I will again be teaching "The Foundations of Comedy" lecture course at USC.   I'll be surveying screen comedies, silent pictures, sitcoms, sketch comedy, stand up, improvisation, radio, screenwriting and playwrighting.   Some features I'll be screening include:  WAITING FOR GUFFMAN, THE LADY EVE, ANIMAL HOUSE, MIDNIGHT RUN, DR. STRANGELOVE, and BANANAS.   These are all films I recommend you watch although you won't get credit. 

More than that, it's the old expression:  You gotta be there.

I am however, sharing my reading list.  There are way more books and articles, but these should get you started. 

Required Reading---

Neil Simon – Odd Couple (play)

Recommended Reading --

John Vorhaus – The Comic Toolbox
Dan O’Shannon – What Are You Laughing At?
Ken Levine – Blog:
Woody Allen – Without Feathers
Woody Allen – Getting Even
Tad Friend - “What’s So Funny?”
John Morreall – “Historical Theories of Laughter”
Henri Bergson – Laughter, An Essay on the Meaning of the Comic
Steve Martin – Born Standing Up
Douglas McKwan -- My Lush Life
Tina Fey – Bossypants
Marc Maron – Attempting Normal
Andy Goldberg – Improv Comedy
Mike Sacks – Poking a Dead Frog

I want a ten page paper on one of these topics from all of you by Friday.  


Scooter Schechtman said...

And of course you won't be recommending Shakespeare, Rabelais or Fielding because you can assume the kids have already downloaded them into their Kindles. Or Joe Miller, because that guy was a comedy volcano!

emily said...

The dog ate my iPad.

solidisme said...

You might consider adding this book on the National Lampoon and its diaspora to the reading list, esp. if Animal House is on the screening list.

Bob O'Brien said...

And there just happens to be a new book out from McFarland Publishing called THE ODD COUPLE ON STAGE AND SCREEN that traces the play from its Broadway roots to the silver screen, to television, to animation, and back again.

Victoria said...

I'm really excited about this class--just don't spoil the Emmys for us tomorrow night!

al smitty said...

Feydeau and Sheridan should be on that list.

Mr Whirly said...

The improv workshop in Guffman is brilliantly hilarious (as is the whole film.)

Cee said...

Glad to see The Comic Toolbox on your list, what a great book on comedy writing.

Also, what about more on women and comedy? Highly recommend books and articles by Gina Barreca.

VP81955 said...

Let's not forget some of the scripts written for Ernst Lubitsch.

Bob Claster said...

I highly recommend a terrific book called "From Fringe to Flying Circus" by Roger Wilmut, which chronicles that wonderful era of British comedy from Beyond the Fringe through Python. John Cleese told me that it's the only book about them that gets everything right.

Frank Paradise said...

I remember comic genius John Vorhaus and his Comic Toolbox book came to New Zealand at great expense to set up a sitcom called 'Melody Rules'. It is known as the worst comedy ever produced in New Zealand and is still the butt of many jokes. I was sent a photocopied edition of The Comic Toolbox by the head of TVNZ Comedy which I thought was a sick joke.

DBenson said...

"The Lady Eve" -- Required viewing whether you're studying comedy or not.

Dan Ball said...

Awww, but I'm already supposed to finish a feature-length script and write a 100-120 page pilot this semester!

Johnny Walker said...

I've already read nine books on the list. Now I just need a way to enrol by tomorrow morning, and move to LA.

Wayne said...

A good addition to any humor reading list: Comedy Writing for Late-Night TV by Joe Toplyn, Harvard grad who was head writer for Letterman, Leno and Chevy Chase. That's some comedy range.

Barry Traylor said...

How could you miss Jean Shepherd? The first time I read him in Playboy magazine back in the 1960's I laughed so hard tears came to my eyes.

Mr. Hollywood said...

You need to add SOME LIKE IT HOT to your film list ... what I consider the best, most perfectly structured comedy ever made.

Tallulah Morehead said...

Thank you, darling. It's nice to see that there are other books worth reading after they finish reading mine. Who knew?

(I knew learning to read would pay off eventually!)

(Mr. Hollywood, I agree with you about SLIH.)

MikeK.Pa. said...

A book I'd highly recommend for future reading lists is "Laughing Matters" by Larry Gelbart, who was part of Sid Caesar's legendary writing room and adapted "M.A.S.H." to TV.