Saturday, November 01, 2014

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NY1 teams with contributors from The New York Times, Wall Street Journal, New York Magazine, Slate.com and Essence Magazine to review the latest books and book-related trends.

The Book Reader: 'Poking a Dead Frog'

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Jesse David Fox of Vulture.com reports on newly released book titles and the world of publishing in "The Book Reader."

When talking about talking about comedy, people like to reference the famous E.B. White quote. You know the one. It starts, "Analyzing humor is like dissecting a frog." The real quote is a bit more nuanced: "Humor can be dissected as a frog can, but the thing dies in the process and the innards are discouraging to any but the pure scientific mind." It continues, saying humor "won't stand much poking. It has a certain fragility, an evasiveness, which one had best respect."

Mike Sacks' new book of interviews with comedy writers is framed by this full quote and derives it's title from it: "Poking a Dead Frog." As Sacks writes, "Yes, it's true that the poor frog dies...but the crux is that the process can be fascinating to a certain type of person."

So, if you are that certain type of person, that respects humor, the sort who lists famous sitcom writing staffs like others might list famous baseball team lineups, "Poking a Dead Frog" is your home.

A follow-up to 2009's "And Here's the Kicker," Sacks interviews a diverse array of comedy heavy weights from yesteryear and today, including Mel Brooks, Cheers co-creator Glen Charles, Anchorman writer/director Adam McKay, Parks & Recreation showrunner Mike Schur and author George Saunders. It also includes shorter, specific advice-focused interviews with comedians like Amy Poehler, Bill Hader and Patton Oswalt.

"Poking a Dead Frog" is a guide book for the aspiring comedy writer, filled with advice both practical and inspirational, but there is definitely plenty for the comedy and pop culture fan. Also, as a whole, "Poking a Dead Frog" provides a compelling portrait of the comedy writer as not the class clown, but the obsessively compulsive or compulsively obsessive kid in the back of the room quietly making fun of everything to him or herself.

So, if poking a frog to see what funny noises comes out is your thing, this might be your book.

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