Author Magazine loves the Wicked Wit
January 10, 2009
Over at AuthorMagazine.org, Kevin Lauderdale reviews The Wicked Wit of the West, and loves it:
When Brecher died late last year, he left behind a legacy of decades of film, television, and radio writing. Fortunately for posterity he also had just completed his memoirs.
Largely told through anecdotes of three or four pages, Brecher takes us from the 1930s through the 60s. He got his start writing for notorious joke-appropriator Milton Berle by advertising himself as a provider of "Berle-Proof Gags. Jokes so bad, not even Milton will steal them." This drew the comic's attention, and Brecher became one of vaudeville's hottest writers. He went to Hollywood and was soon hanging out with, as well as writing for, the Marx Brothers. His adventures with Groucho, professional and personal, fill a delightful chunk of the book.
When he's not quoting notables from Hollywood's "Golden Age," Brecher is dropping one-liners about the actors he worked with ("She was no star. She wasn't even an asterisk.") and befriended (At 101, George Burns had "not one single enemy. They all died."), as well as life in general (Interviewer: "If you had a robot, what would you want it to do for you?" Irv: "Go to my proctologist.").
It's only January, but the odds on any other book coming out this year being funnier than this are very slim. Brecher was a script doctor on The Wizard of Oz, adapted a series of New Yorker short stories by Sally Benson into the Judy Garland classic Meet Me in St. Louis, and created The Life of Riley, a hit radio show that became the first televised sit-com.
We are fortunate to live in an era where most of Brecher's work is readily available. Many of his movies are on DVD, and the radio shows are available on CD and in MP3 compilations. If, looking at the book's cover, you recognize only Judy Garland and Groucho Marx, you owe it yourself to complete your comedy education. Let this book be your guide.
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