Canadian-born David Steinberg looks back on a storied career in comedy, from his roots at Chicago's Second City improvisational group to his stints directing popular television shows such as Designing Women, Golden Girls, Friends, and Curb Your Enthusiasm. Also included are excerpts from 75 interviews Steinberg conducted with historic comedians.
If, in book form, the material loses some of the rhythm and poetry of the subjects’ speech, this volume will still be a welcome addition to any comedy fan’s library ... Steinberg tends to overpraise. He calls dozens of his mentors and contemporaries geniuses. That may be true, but the repetition wears after a while. One wishes the printed interviews were more than just partial transcripts from the shows. And the writing is often—no pun intended—sketchy. Perhaps he assumed his audience already knows his subjects well, but the lack of specificity about what makes them special makes the book lightweight and cursory. Inside Comedy is at its best when Steinberg shares anecdotes only he can tell ... It’s good for books, too.
... unpolished, repetitive, digressive and occasionally braggadocious. This is arguably a felicitous approach to stand-up legend David Steinberg's splendid subject ... Inside Comedy's calling card is Steinberg's historically attuned firsthand accounts, as of the rise and fall of the Smothers Brothers, Richard Pryor's notorious onstage freak-out at a Human Rights Campaign event in 1977, and the marvel that was Carson's Tonight Show.
It's hard to deny his comedy credentials ... But Steinberg continually centers himself in this narrative, even when writing about fellow comedians. Anecdotes about smoking cigars with Groucho Marx and being flashed by Milton Berle are nestled among paragraphs of name-dropping; they're balanced by his warm remembrances of Robin Williams, Johnny Carson, among others—plus a wild Redd Foxx story. The last third of the book is drawn from interviews Steinberg conducted on his TV show ... This section is effective, yet Steinberg still dominates the spotlight ... Steinberg hits the history harder than the comedy and presents himself as a pivotal figure. Comedy fans who remember his onscreen work will likely agree with his self-assessment and enjoy his book.