Sunday, January 30, 2011

Growing Up Laughing

From 1966 until 1971, "That Girl" was a regular on our console black and white television (it was a Sears model and boy did we think it was fancy).  Does anyone remember the "That Girl" episode where Roger took Ann Marie to a party and told her to mingle?  She walked around saying, "Mingle... mingle, mingle... mingle!"  I still laugh when I think about that one.  And, I don't know why it sticks in my head!  There's something endearing about sitcoms of the 1960s; I miss them!
     Today, while I was wandering the bookstore, I picked up Marlo Thomas's book Growing Up Laughing: My Story and the Story of Funny.  I sat in a comfy chair with a cup of coffee and, for the next hour and a half, I was hooked!  The creator of Free to Be... You and Me and other "best selling" books has documented a creative look at her childhood through the eyes of the "laughter" that surrounded her family.  But, of course, if Danny Thomas was your father, you would have to laugh!
     What I enjoyed about the book was the fact that she included anecdotes and memories about Bob Hope, Sid Caesar, George Burns, and Milton Berle (and other famous comedians of her father's era).  Imagine having them as family friends... imagine the dinner parties!  I laughed out loud at some of the jokes and stories she included... I guess because I remember watching these same comedians when I was growing up... still love catching them on re-runs or You Tube.  Watching comedians work their magic was something that bonded our family as we sat and watched television together (well, that and Gunsmoke, Carol Burnett, and Bonanza).   My parents loved a good joke and we laughed together a lot!
     Thomas includes interviews with many of today's "hot" comedians... which is an added bonus.  Among her stories of growing up with the greats and her family memories, she intersperses interviews with Jerry Seinfeld, Ben Stiller, Jay Leno, Tina Fey, and several other contemporary comedians... all of them share how they were influenced by the same actors and comedians that Marlo Thomas had been, except that she knew the "greats" personally via her father!  Who doesn't love a good joke?  Who doesn't love a good story?
     Not my typical blog post, but I certainly could see using bits and pieces of this book as a mentor text for writers.  Imagine students adding tidbits and "interviews" with family members and friends as part of a memoir study.  I think it would add a delightful twist to a study of memoir. 
     I may be adding Marlo Thomas's book to my "have to buy it" list!  "That Girl" sure got me thinking about a new twist to make memoir writing come alive... for myself and my students.

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