Friday, October 13, 2023

Book Review: Comedy Book

Comedy is king. From multimillion-dollar TV specials to sold-out stand-up shows and TikTok stardom, comedy has never been more popular, democratized, or influential. Comedians have become organizing forces across culture—as trusted as politicians and as fawned-over as celebrities—yet comedy as an art form has gone under-considered throughout its history, even as it has ascended as a cultural force.

In Comedy Book, Jesse David Fox—a definitive voice in comedy criticism and someone who, in his own words, “enjoys comedy maybe more than anyone on this planet"—tackles everything you need to know about comedy. Weaving together history and analysis, Fox unravels the genre’s political legacy through an ode to Jon Stewart, interrogates the divide between highbrow and lowbrow via Adam Sandler, and unpacks how marginalized comics create spaces for their communities. Along the way, Fox covers everything from comedy in the age of political correctness and Will Smith’s slap to the right wing’s relationship with comedy and, for Fox, comedy’s ability to heal personal tragedy.

Comedy Book will be released November 7, 2023. Farrar, Straus and Giroux provided an early galley for review.

Fox approaches the subject of comedy by its various aspects: audience, funny, timing, truth, context, and more. Per the first chapter, the lens used to analyze these things is specifically the comedy made from 1990 through the early 2020's (the last three decades). This approach is important as the world has changed so much in that time, and the comedy art form has had to adapt to those changes as well. It also shines a light on how the millennials and GenZ consume comedy (something this GenX-er has been doing for most of his life).

I appreciated how much this book made me think about comedy - the how and why it affects me in the way that it does. Many of the examples cited I was either very familiar with or would be able to locate easily enough. Comedy fans will definitely appreciate Fox's discussions.

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