Proposal for Great American Comedians: A Biographical Dictionary

Having written one dictionary (of the Avant-Gardes, 1993, 1999), I’m prepared to write another. A choice subject would be the great American comedians, whose work I’ve admired all my life, whose lives and best jokes are embedded in my memory. What I propose would be biographical entries alphabetically organized, with individual characterizations of each person’s comedy in the course of noting classic gags and currently available works. Need I mention that the number of recent comedy retrospectives on American television is one index of a continuing interest in and enthusiasm for native comedians.

This dictionary would differ from earlier books on American comedy in casting the widest possible net, including not only stand-ups (e.g., Richard Pryor and George Carlin, among many others), but comic film characters (Bugs Bunny, the Marx Brothers), radio comedians (Jack Benny, Stan Freberg), comic authors (Mark Twain, Joseph Heller), comic composers (Spike Jones, Peter Schickele), and parttime comedians (e.g., Yogi Berra, Frank Layton, John Cage). One theme is the richness and variety of American humor. No similar book exists, to my knowledge.

I hope that every individual entry, which may run as long as two thousand words, will both inform and amuse. (If not, it should be discarded). My goal is the creation of a standard reference that can be read from start to finish, as well as consulted at random, with the expectation of both edification and amusement.

I know from experience that I can deliver to whatever length the publisner thinks most appropriate. It would take about a year to finish. Should a prospective publisher like to consider sampIes from my earlier Dictionary, please let me know. Thank you for your attention.