‘Mort Sahl: Last Man Standing’ by James Curtis

Last Man Standing

Folks, please give a little love to the publication today of “Last Man Standing,” James Curtis’ new biography of Mort Sahl, who transformed standup comedy from mother-in-law gags to cutting political commentary. James, known for his biographies of W.C. Fields, William Cameron Menzies, Preston Sturges, Spencer Tracy and James Whale,  began this project as a labor of love when no publisher was interested in it. The book finally found a home at the University Press of Mississippi and has been praised by Woody Allen and Kirkus Reviews.

The book is available from Amazon, and can be ordered from Book Soup, Skylight Books and Vroman’s.

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About lmharnisch

I am retired from the Los Angeles Times
This entry was posted in 2017, Books and Authors, Stage and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

4 Responses to ‘Mort Sahl: Last Man Standing’ by James Curtis

  1. Benito says:

    Reportedly Mort’s career went downhill because he was too partisan, and that he basically lectured his audiences until he couldn’t get bookings. Maybe he’s perceived now as a martyr for his views, because the mainstream approach of that era was: don’t alienate half your audience. This book should address all that. Some current comedians who shall remain nameless have the same schtick, but their distribution channels are better than Mort’s were.

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  2. Bruce Reznick says:

    My recollection was that for a few years, all he wanted to talk about was the JFK assassination, and after a while, most of the audience got bored. I could be wrong; I was in high school and college then

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  3. Fred Reiss says:

    I’m reading the book to treasure it. Sahl’s influence on stand-up is enormous. This book is very honest about his strengths, flaws, and determination. You can’t seriously talk about stand-up without him, I highly recommend his albums too–some stellar lines and an original delivery. I do agree with one criticism, which is before JFK he was much more varied in his topics and lively, after JFK it became a template where he interpreted the news. I see nothing wrong with him holding his views about the CIA and the Kennedy assassination (Although he did make some great jokes and insights in his work with Jim Garrison.), but when he imposed that template on his act, just like America, the innocence and fun seemed to leave his act, and he became more anecdotal (But great anecdotes),The man is 90 and still performs at the Throckmorton Theater in Mill Valley and streams it on periscope. I admire the guy. He’s heroic in his artistic dedication.

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    • lmharnisch says:

      I’m up to about 1960 and what I’m enjoying the most is the depiction of the whole nightclub scene in the 1950s. There is lots here for people who are interested in Dave Brubeck, Paul Desmond, etc.

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