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Albert Brooks and the Rise of "New Humor"

As noted in my recent piece on Bob Einstein's lost classic comedy book, the real comic genius in the Einstein family is little brother Albert, who took to the stage under the name Albert Brooks. A year after Bob's publishing debut, Albert made an even bigger splash in the print world in the February 1971 issue of Esquire magazine. (Side note: Oh, those truly were the glory days of publishing. The magazine was an astounding 10 1/4-inches wide and 13 1/8-inches tall — too big for my consumer-grade scanner to capture a whole page at once. How did it fit on a newsstand? And many of those enormous pages consist entirely of tiny 9-point type. Apparently, people actually enjoyed reading back then…)

Anyway, for the magazine Brooks created a five-page parody of the Famous Artists School, whose ubiquitous "Draw Me" ads filled the pages of every comic book, men's magazine, and hobby publication of the day. The "Albert Brooks Famous School For Comedians" featured a typically smarmy Brooks welcoming hopeful students to his shady enterprise. The following pages offered a photographic tour of the "campus," samples from "The Curriculum" — including a two-page Comedy Talent Test® — and Brooks' "Komedy Korner®," which "answers" vital student questions about comedy. (Note also the Register Mark, used extensively throughout the article to impart an air of transparently undeserved authenticity). There is also a "testimonial" from a former student, who unfortunately seems to have learned exactly the kind of broadly shameless humor the Famous School For Comedians teaches. READ MORE

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Comedy Books You Should Know About

Forty years before Tumblr was created, allowing wisenheimers to easily publish funny pictures, Bob Einstein created the book version. A book that almost nobody read. This Is My First Magic Book So I'm A Little Nervous arrived in 1970, a slim 96 pages of photographs with short captions. It goes for up to $133 online if you can find a copy. I bought mine new for $1.50.

The book is basically a standup routine told in pictures. The title is the premise and Einstein plays it straight, milking every absurdity out of the strange idea of "reading" a "live" performance, in this case a magic act. The extra-genius part is that Einstein is a terrible magician. The camera exposes all of his feeble efforts to fool you, while the "banter" in the captions portray an utterly undeserved confidence. READ MORE