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Jan 30, 2017

Comedian Ritch Shydner made a career onstage painting pictures with words, so it should be no surprise that he transitioned easily to doing the same in book form. What might be surprising is that more comics haven’t told their stories in this way.

RITCH SHYDNER podcast excerpt: "Rodney Dangerfield once said, 'Listen to what the audience is laughing at.' I tape myself not just to help structure the material and the jokes , but to find out what they find funny."

Shydner’s tale, Kicking Through the Ashes: My Life as a Stand-up in the 1980s Comedy Boom – includes years of drug and alcohol abuse, women, and repeated attempts to earn his father’s respect – gives comedy fans an unprecedented look at his id and ego. We also get a front row seat at life on the road and the friends he made, including Jay Leno, David Letterman, Jerry Seinfeld and Larry David, Sam Kinson, Gilbert Gottfried, Jeff Foxworthy, Bill Hicks and many more. Speaking of behind the scenes, I must disclose I have an extra interest in Shydner’s book: it was published by Mr. Media Books, which is an extension of this podcast. Ritch and I have gotten to know each other this past year and I asked to read his manuscript. Being a comedy fan, I loved Kicking Through the Ashes and offered to publish it myself. If you love comedy, you gotta have this book in your life.

RITCH SHYDNER podcast excerpt: "(My first wife, comedian Carol Leifer) and I were both very competitive. We met when I moved to New York in 1979, started dating in '80, and get married in '81. We were both insecure about our status and our careers, both trying to make a mark. The relationship was always, I think, secondary to our careers."

Key interview moments:

• 3:30 Comedian Ritch Shydner explains how the 1980s were a transformational moment for stand-up comedy;

• 16:30 Rodney Dangerfield's advice to young comics;

• 33:00 Among the more personal anecdotes in the book, Shydner talks about his competitive relationship with his first wife, comedian and ("Seinfeld" writer) Carol Leifer.

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