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Mister Kelly's

Becoming Ella Fitzgerald: The Jazz Singer Who Transformed American Song

Becoming Ella Fitzgerald: The Jazz Singer Who Transformed American Song

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Ella Fitzgerald (1917-1996) possessed one of the twentieth century's most astonishing voices. In this first major biography since Fitzgerald's death, historian Judith Tick offers a sublime portrait of this ambitious risk-taker whose exceptional musical spontaneity made her a transformational artist.

Becoming Ella Fitzgerald clears up long-enduring mysteries. Archival research and in-depth family interviews shed new light on the singer's difficult childhood in Yonkers, New York, the tragic death of her mother, and the year she spent in a girls' reformatory school--where she sang in its renowned choir and dreamed of being a dancer. Rarely seen profiles from the Black press offer precious glimpses of Fitzgerald's tense experiences of racial discrimination and her struggles with constricting models of Black and white femininity at midcentury.

Tick's compelling narrative depicts Fitzgerald's complicated career in fresh and original detail, upending the traditional view that segregates vocal jazz from the genre's mainstream. As she navigated the shifting tides between jazz and pop, she used her originality to pioneer modernist vocal jazz. Interpreting long-lost setlists, reviews from both white and Black newspapers, and newly released footage and recordings, the book explores how Ella's transcendence as an improvisor produced onstage performances every bit as significant as her historic recorded oeuvre.

From the singer's first performance at the Apollo Theatre's famous "Amateur Night" to the Savoy Ballroom, where Fitzgerald broke through with Chick Webb's big band in the 1930s, Tick evokes the jazz world in riveting detail. She describes how Ella helped shape the bebop movement in the 1940s, as she joined Dizzy Gillespie and her then-husband, Ray Brown, in the world-touring Jazz at the Philharmonic, one of the first moments of high-culture acceptance for the disreputable art form.

Breaking ground as a female bandleader, Fitzgerald refuted expectations of musical Blackness, deftly balancing artistic ambition and market expectations. Her legendary exploration of the Great American Songbook in the 1950s fused a Black vocal aesthetic and jazz improvisation to revolutionize the popular repertoire. This hybridity often confounded critics, yet throughout the 1970s and 1980s, Ella reached audiences around the world, electrifying concert halls, and sold millions of records.

A masterful biography, Becoming Ella Fitzgerald describes a powerful woman who set a standard for American excellence nearly unmatched in the twentieth century.

Born Standing Up: A Comic's Life

Born Standing Up: A Comic's Life

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The riveting, mega-bestselling, beloved and highly acclaimed memoir of a man, a vocation, and an era named one of the ten best nonfiction titles of the year by Time and Entertainment Weekly.

In the mid-seventies, Steve Martin exploded onto the comedy scene. By 1978 he was the biggest concert draw in the history of stand-up. In 1981 he quit forever. This book is, in his own words, the story of "why I did stand-up and why I walked away."

Emmy and Grammy Award-winner, author of the acclaimed New York Times bestsellers Shopgirl and The Pleasure of My Company, and a regular contributor to The New Yorker, Martin has always been a writer. His memoir of his years in stand-up is candid, spectacularly amusing, and beautifully written.

At age ten Martin started his career at Disneyland, selling guidebooks in the newly opened theme park. In the decade that followed, he worked in the Disney magic shop and the Bird Cage Theatre at Knott's Berry Farm, performing his first magic/comedy act a dozen times a week. The story of these years, during which he practiced and honed his craft, is moving and revelatory. The dedication to excellence and innovation is formed at an astonishingly early age and never wavers or wanes.

Martin illuminates the sacrifice, discipline, and originality that made him an icon and informs his work to this day. To be this good, to perform so frequently, was isolating and lonely. It took Martin decades to reconnect with his parents and sister, and he tells that story with great tenderness. Martin also paints a portrait of his times--the era of free love and protests against the war in Vietnam, the heady irreverence of The Smothers Brothers Comedy Hour in the late sixties, and the transformative new voice of Saturday Night Live in the seventies.

Throughout the text, Martin has placed photographs, many never seen before. Born Standing Up is a superb testament to the sheer tenacity, focus, and daring of one of the greatest and most iconoclastic comedians of all time.

Dangerously Funny: The Uncensored Story of the Smothers Brothers Comedy Hour

Dangerously Funny: The Uncensored Story of the Smothers Brothers Comedy Hour

$19.99
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Now in paperback, a rollicking history of the rise and fall of The Smothers Brothers Comedy Hour --"A stunningly alive portrait of the 1960s and of two very different men who 'refused to shut up' and thereby made TV history" (People).

A dramatic behind-the-scenes look at the rise and fall of The Smothers Brothers Comedy Hour--the provocative, politically charged program that shocked the censors, outraged the White House, and forever changed the face of television.

Decades before The Daily Show, The Smothers Brothers Comedy Hour proved there was a place on television for no-holds-barred political comedy with a decidedly antiauthoritarian point of view. Censorship battles, mind-blowing musical performances, and unforgettable sketches defined the show and its era. In this compelling history, veteran entertainment journalist David Bianculli draws on decades worth of original research, including extensive interviews with Tom and Dick Smothers and dozens of other key players, to tell the fascinating story of the show's three-year network run--and the cultural impact that's still being felt today.

Ebony Magazine and Lerone Bennett Jr.: Popular Black History in Postwar America

Ebony Magazine and Lerone Bennett Jr.: Popular Black History in Postwar America

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From its launch in 1945, Ebony magazine was politically and socially influential. However, the magazine also played an important role in educating millions of African Americans about their past. Guided by the pen of Lerone Bennett Jr., the magazine's senior editor and in-house historian, Ebony became a key voice in the popular black history revival that flourished after World War II. Its content helped push representations of the African American past from the margins to the center of the nation's cultural and political imagination.

E. James West's fresh and fascinating exploration of Ebony's political, social, and historical content illuminates the intellectual role of the iconic magazine and its contribution to African American scholarship. He also uncovers a paradox. Though Ebony provided Bennett with space to promote a militant reading of black history and protest, the magazine's status as a consumer publication helped to mediate its representation of African American identity in both past and present.

Mixing biography, cultural history, and popular memory, West restores Ebony and Bennett to their rightful place in African American intellectual, commercial, and political history.

High Times, Hard Times

High Times, Hard Times

$20.00
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"...in the tradition of the best jazz autobiographies...a fascinating travelogue through the jazz world, filled with vivid images of Gene Krupa, Stan Kenton, Roy Eldridge and Billie Holiday...Her prose is as hip as her music." -The New York Times Book Review
History of Sketch Comedy: A Journey Through the Art and Craft of Humor

History of Sketch Comedy: A Journey Through the Art and Craft of Humor

$29.95
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"A boisterous debut ... the authors are as funny as one would expect ... this is a hoot."Publishers Weekly

"Will entice fans of Key & Peele ... a fun and funny primer on the art form."Booklist

Authors Keegan-Michael Key and Elle Key build on the popularity of their 2022 Webby Award-winning podcast and delve deeper into the world of sketch, helped along with new essays created expressly for the book by comedy greats.

The History of Sketch Comedy will appeal to all kinds of comedy fans as well as fans of Keegan-Michael Key, whether they know him from his Emmy and Peabody-winning work on Key & Peele; his roles in Fargo, The Prom, Schmigadoon!, The Bubble, and the upcoming Wonka; voiceover work in The Lion King; or as President Barack Obama's anger translator, Luther.

With epic personal tangents and hilarious asides, the Keys take you on an illuminating journey through all facets of comedy from the stock characters of commedia del arte in the 16th century, to the rise of vaudeville and burlesque, the golden age of television comedy, the influence of the most well-known comedy schools, and the ascension of comedy films and TV specials--all the way through to a look at the future of sketch on social media platforms. Along the way, we hear tales of Keegan's childhood, his comedy influences, and the vicissitudes of his career path. As the New York Times said in its review of their podcast, "this comedy nerd history is filtered through memoir, with Key relating stories of his budding fandom, training and rise from improv comic to television sketch artist."

Part memoir, part masterclass, and hilariously embellished with priceless commentary, The History of Sketch Comedy highlights the essential building blocks of sketch comedy while interweaving Keegan's personal career journey and the influence of his comedy heroes. The text is complemented by original art by Elle Key and exclusive essays compiled from conversations with influential performers, sketch writers, and uber comedy fans including Mel Brooks, Julia Louis-Dreyfus, Mike Myers, Chris Rock, John Oliver, Tracy Morgan, Carol Burnett, Jim Carrey, Jordan Peele, and many more. This book is as entertaining as it is enlightening--a must-read for fans of comedy and all who aspire to comic greatness.

EXPANDING THE HIT PODCAST: With content from the #1 trending, NAACP-award-nominated and Webby-Award-winning Audible podcast, and featuring new-for-the-book material as well as never-before-heard stories and essays, this book will be a hit for newcomers and avid listeners of the podcast alike.

MASTER OF THE MEDIUM: Keegan-Michael Key is a bona fide maestro of comedy, with the chops, experience, and love for the history of the medium that make him the perfect expert on all things sketch. As co-writer Elle Key likes to say, "If Keegan-Michael Key was a guest lecturer at NYU teaching a course called 'The History of Sketch Comedy, ' it would be a very popular class."

EXCLUSIVE ESSAYS: Keegan and Elle interviewed over a dozen comedy legends exclusively for this book, and got their takes on topics ranging from the influence of Saturday Night Live, to women in comedy, to the mathematics of sketch. Hear, in their own words, from Mel Brooks, Mike Myers, Jordan Peele, Julia-Louis Dreyfus, John Oliver, Tracy Morgan, Stephen Colbert, Carol Burnett, Chris Rock, Bob Odenkirk, Mike Birbiglia, Matt Lucas, Ken Jeong, Christopher Guest, Gary Oldman, Kevin Nealon, Laraine Newman, and Jim Carrey.

GIFTABLE VOLUME OF COMEDY GOLD: Original illustrations and personal photographs throughout make this unique comedy book as visually entertaining as it is enlightening. The perfect gift for comedy fans of all ages as well as anyone aspiring to write, perform, or produce comedic art.

Perfect for:

  • Comedy lovers of all kinds
  • Fans of Key & Peele
  • Fans of improv, sketch, stand-up, and shows like SNL, MadTV, Monty Python, and Mr. Show
  • Gift giving or self-purchase for established and aspiring comedians
  • Readers of such bestsellers as Bossypants, Yes Please, Is Everyone Hanging Out Without Me?, Born Standing Up, and Comedy Comedy Comedy Drama
  • How to Talk Dirty and Influence People: An Autobiography

    How to Talk Dirty and Influence People: An Autobiography

    $18.99
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    During the course of a career that began in the late 1940s, Lenny Bruce challenged the sanctity of organized religion and other societal and political conventions; he widened the boundaries of free speech. Critic Ralph Gleason said, "So many taboos have been lifted and so many comics have rushed through the doors Lenny opened. He utterly changed the world of comedy."

    Although Bruce died when he was only forty, his influence on the worlds of comedy, jazz, and satire are incalculable. How to Talk Dirty and Influence People remains a brilliant existential account of his life and the forces that made him the most important and controversial entertainer in history.

    Last Man Standing: Mort Sahl and the Birth of Modern Comedy

    Last Man Standing: Mort Sahl and the Birth of Modern Comedy

    $39.95
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    A Times Literary Supplement 2017 Book of the Year

    On December 22, 1953, Mort Sahl (1927-2021) took the stage at San Francisco's hungry i and changed comedy forever. Before him, standup was about everything but hard news and politics. In his wake, a new generation of smart comics emerged--Shelley Berman, Mike Nichols and Elaine May, Lenny Bruce, Bob Newhart, Dick Gregory, Woody Allen, and the Smothers Brothers, among others. He opened up jazz-inflected satire to a loose network of clubs, cut the first modern comedy album, and appeared on the cover of Time surrounded by caricatures of some of his frequent targets such as Dwight Eisenhower, Richard Nixon, Adlai Stevenson, and John F. Kennedy. Through the extraordinary details of Sahl's life, author James Curtis deftly illustrates why Sahl was dubbed by Steve Allen as "the only real political philosopher we have in modern comedy."

    Sahl came on the scene the same year Eisenhower and Nixon entered the White House, the year Playboy first hit the nation's newsstands. Clad in an open collar and pullover sweater, he adopted the persona of a graduate student ruminating on current events. "It was like nothing I'd ever seen," said Woody Allen, "and I've never seen anything like it after." Sahl was billed, variously, as the Nation's Conscience, America's Only Working Philosopher, and, most tellingly, the Next President of the United States. Yet he was also a satirist so savage the editors of Time once dubbed him "Will Rogers with fangs."

    Here, for the first time, is the whole story of Mort Sahl, America's iconoclastic father of modern standup comedy. Written with Sahl's full cooperation and the participation of many of his friends and contemporaries, it delves deeply into the influences that shaped him, the heady times in which he soared, and the depths to which he fell during the turbulent sixties when he took on the Warren Commission and nearly paid for it with his career.

    Last Words

    Last Words

    $18.99
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    Now in paperback, this posthumous work by an American classic was a fitting last book, an instant bestseller, and a huge success!

    One of the undisputed heavyweight champions of American comedy, with nineteen appearances on the Johnny Carson show, thirteen HBO specials, five Grammys, and a critical Supreme Court battle over censorship under his belt, George Carlin saw it all throughout his extraordinary fifty-year career, and made fun of most of it. Last Words is the story of the man behind some of the most seminal comedy of the last half century, blending his signature acerbic humor with never-before-told stories from his own life, including encounters with a Who's Who of 1970s celebrity--from Lenny Bruce to Hugh Hefner--and the origins of some of his most famous standup routines. Carlin's early conflicts, his long struggle with substance abuse, his turbulent relationships with his family, and his triumphs over catastrophic setbacks all fueled the unique comedic worldview he brought to the stage. From the heights of stardom to the low points few knew about, Last Words is told with the same razor-sharp wit and unblinking honesty that made Carlin one of the best-loved comedians in American history.

    Live at Mister Kelly's

    Live at Mister Kelly's

    $14.00
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    The iconic Mister Kelly’s, once called a “supernova in the local and national night life firmament,” illuminated legendary Chicago’s Rush Street, and the entire country, by launching talent like Barbra Streisand, Richard Pryor, Bob Newhart, Bette Midler and Steve Martin. Its visionary owners George and Oscar Marienthal smashed color and gender barriers to put unknown, controversial voices on stage and transform entertainment. Now, with the club long gone, and its star talent reaching its golden years, George’s son David and director/screenwriter Theodore Bogosian go on a quest to collect the memories of the clubs before they are lost. Live at Mr. Kelly's includes interviews with Bob Newhart, the Smothers Brothers, Dick Gregory, Lainie Kazan, Herbie Hancock, Dick Cavett, Tim Reid, Fred Willard and Ramsey Lewis. How do you change the world with a laugh and a song? Find out in a film that documents the rise and fall of one of American entertainment's great proving grounds.