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David Letterman, Jay Leno, Robin Williams and Andy Kaufman and many other soon-to-be-stars were once young, broke and funny in 1970's LA. They were also friends...until one event changed everything I'm Dying Up Here chronicles the collective coming of age of the stand-up comedians who defined American humour during the past three decades. Born early in the Baby Boom, they grew up watching The Tonight Show, went to school during Vietnam and Watergate, migrated en masse to Los Angeles in the mid-1970's and created an artistic community unlike any before or since. They were arguably the funniest people of their generation, living in a late-night world of sex, drugs, dreams and laughter. For one brief shining moment, stand-up comics were as revered as rock stars.It was Comedy Camelot but, of course, it couldn't last. In the late 1970's William Knoedelseder was a cub reporter assigned to cover the burgeoning local comedy scene for the Los Angeles Times. He wrote the first major newspaper profiles of Leno, Letterman, Andy Kaufman and others. He got to know many of them well. And so he covered the scene too when the comedians - who were not paid for performing at the career-making-or-breaking venue called The Comedy Store - tried to change an exploitative system and incidentially tore apart their own close-knit community. Now Knoeldelseder has gone back to interview the major participants to tell the whole story of that golden age and of the strike that ended it. Full of revealing portraits of many of America's best-known comedic talents of the age, I'm Dying Up Here is also a poignant tale of the price of success and the terrible cost of failure - professional and moral.
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Publishers Weekly, STARRED review
“Knoedelseder skillfully layers powerful dramatic details, and readers will shelve the book alongside those other key classics on comedy.”
“A revealing and entertaining look at the 1970s Los Angeles comedy scene and the labor dispute that ended its most glorious era.”
“Fact-packed, highly readable history... peppered with plenty of portraits of struggling young comics, some destined for national fame, others headed to obscurity and, in a few cases, early death.”
“One of the most eye-opening and informative books ever written about standup comedy...One of the books of the year for any student of American television and pop culture...A little-known story has now been told very well in perfect context. And when you finish the book you may feel as if you finally understand every comedian you see on TV for the first time.”
“A lively new book...Knoedelseder reminds us that comedy is a dicey calling.”
New York Times Book Review
“Knoedelseder, who was around in those days as a reporter on the Los Angeles Times, interweaves the fascinating stories of the tragic, unknown Lubetkin and the performers who were to become household names, set against the basic contradictions of working the Comedy Store.”
Dallas Morning News
“Written with a journalist's strong narrative sense, I'm Dying Up Here chronicles the tight-knit community of artists who cracked open the world of funny entertainment and the event that shattered their camaraderie...Knoedelseder's ability to sniff out the human stories behind the headlines is what makes this rowdy chapter in stand-up such a good read. It's a bittersweet tale told with humor and economy.”
“I’m Dying Up Here lays bare the bad and the ugly of Hollywood; from what good there was, like primordial muck, emerged the funniest guys and gals around.”
"A revealing and entertaining look at the 1970s Los Angeles comedy scene and the labor dispute that ended its most glorious era." - Shelf Awareness
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