Comedy at the Edge

 

By Richard Zoglin; Bloomsbury; $24.95

It was the decade that saw the end to America’s involvement in Vietnam, the Watergate scandal, drugs, disco and feminism – the 1970s. And during that same decade, stand-up comedy started to become a more integral part of this country’s cultural landscape. The pioneers of that generation of comedians, including George Carlin, Richard Pryor, David Letterman, Andy Kaufman and Jerry Seinfeld, helped people see the world in a slightly different, humorous light.

Richard Zoglin, an editor at TIME magazine, begins this well-researched book with the death of counterculture funnyman/icon Lenny Bruce. In wake of this event, several comedians, including Carlin and Pryor, picked up the microphone and expanded on the observational comedy style that Bruce had started. Comedy at the Edge recounts how the “Borscht Belt” comics like Henny Youngman and Shecky Greene were supplanted by the likes of Carlin and Pryor, as well as Robin Williams, Steve Martin, Robert Klein and Albert Brooks.

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