Tag Archives: comedy

Comedy superstar headlines Greater Naples Jewish Film Festival

When You Lie About Your Age, the Terrorists Win (Villard, 2009) and How to Succeed in Business Without Really Crying (Quirk, Books, 2014).

Carol Leifer

Carol Leifer’s stories bring tonic laughter and wacky wisdom.

As she does in her classic stand-up routines, Carol Leifer talks about herself as a way of talking about all of us, certainly the female spectrum of all of us. The chapters of these two books, books which are different in several ways, are either chapters in her own life or observational chapters about what goes on around her. Sometimes abrasive, sometimes sensitive, but always funny and wise.

In When You Life About Your Age, the Terrorists Win, a good deal of the focus has to do with turning forty and what follows from that time marker through another decade or so.

The perspective is feminist, Lesbian, and Jewish all braided into one brainy package. 

It is not about her career, but in a way it is very much a part of her career. You can hear her voice bringing her material to an audience – all of us.

The title of the second chapter says it well: 40 Things I Know at 50 Because 50 is the New Forty.

Enjoy family stories about growing up, mom and dad, exploring and enhancing her Jewish identity, discovering and acting on her Lesbian inclinations, and the family she creates with her partner and their adopted son. The stories explore the tension that we all share between the way we’d like things to be and the way they are: our appearance, our values, surviving our mistakes, our health, and our relationships – including relationships with pets.

Considering the need for better quality breast implants, devices she would never use, she shouts out in the safety of her thoughts: “Why am I fighting for your fake tits when you’re not bringing anything to my table?”

Carol wonders about the women she meets who are a generation or two younger than herself. She doesn’t see them carrying the torch as she and her contemporaries carried through the earlier decades of the Women’s Movement.

She wonders about her “quid pro quo” attitude toward gift-giving. Is getting even what it’s all about? Is it just a family or “Jewish” thing? And how did a classic gift, the “chafing dish,” get its name? Should it be treated with Vaseline before use?

Have we become “lazy-ass weenies,” she asks, needing “comfort grips” on our tooth brushes and pens? What’s that all about? 

Carol’s experiences in her various doctors’ offices will bring knowing smiles from her readers. But when they get to the part about a mammogram, when the radiology tech says that the doctor wants “a few more films of your left breast,” readers will know we’ve slid off the comic table for a page or two. Luckily all turned out well. What tremendous emotional resonance is in that vignette.

Ultimately, this earlier book is a celebration of aging. Carol helps us all celebrate together.

How to Succeed in Business Without Really Crying, published in a small page format, is also a memoir, and it covers some of the same thematic concerns. This time, however, Carol plunges into her career history as both a hugely successful stand-up comedian and brilliant television comedy writer. Guess what? Carol has found a way to make this self-help book applicable to almost any career that one might wish to enter. And it’s not just about breaking in, but about staying and rising to the top.

While she draws examples from her own experiences – and these are all terrifically entertaining stories – she extracts the transferable lessons in a way that make sense to anyone aspiring to get started in the world of work, to change directions, or to reach a higher level of achievement.

Carol underscores the need for constructive attitude building that leads to positive action plans. She explores the value of making and keeping useful connections. She insists that consistently treating others well will pay off, while treating them poorly is likely to come back to haunt you and block your path. She shows how you can rebound from a negative experience and often transform it into something unexpectedly positive.

It doesn’t hurt that we get to encounter models of successful professional performers whom we think we already know: Jerry Seinfeld and Larry David, Bette Midler, David Letterman Jay Leno, and Frank Sinatra are only a small handful of the many show business celebrities with whom Carol has worked and who have helped shape her own expertise about climbing the ladder of success and not falling off. Her rules for the road are in themselves quite a ride. Laughs are everywhere.

An extra added ingredient in this book is the inclusion of dozens of photographs.

Well known for her stand-up specials on TV and her award-winning contributions as a writer to such television series as Seinfeld, Saturday Night Live, and Modern Family, Carol Leifer will be joining the staff for the upcoming season of Curb Your Enthusiasm as a Writer/Producer.

Come to the Hilton Naples to laugh and learn when trailblazer Carol Leifer leads off the Greater Naples Jewish Book Festival on October 17 at 7:30 p. m.  Schedule and ordering Information is available online at http://www.jewishbookfestival.org. You can also send email to fedstar18@gmail.com or call the Federation office at 239.263.4205.

This review appears in the October 2018 Federation Star (Jewish Federation of Greater Naples) and also in the Naples Florida Weekly. See Leifer

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When farmed tilapia are dying from bleach, it could be big

 


Coastal Corpse, by Marty Ambrose. Five Star. 229 pages. Hardcover $25.95. Ebook $3.99.

Mallie Monroe is at it again in the fifth “Mango Bay Mystery.” She’s juggling two beaux. One is Cole, whose engagement ring she has managed to misplace (Freudian slip). The other is Nick, the chief police detective on Coral Island. Mallie seems to have a commitment problem. 

She has other problems as well. Her job as a reporter for the “Coral Island Observer” has been immensely complicated by the secretary-receptionist’s honeymoon and the editor’s disappearance. Suddenly, she finds herself in charge of just about everything, including getting out the next issue of the paper. There are just too many stories waiting to be researched and written. Which is the feature and which are the fillers? Mallie is not happy about having to enlist the help of people with little or no experience. Things are chaotic.

A local crazy is trying to pin all her problems, including a bad landscaping job, on Mallie and actually attacks her. Aging lothario Pop Pop keeps imagining that he’s Mallie’s boyfriend. Madame Geri, a local psychic, does more harm than good as a fill-in reporter. There is also a character whose violin bears scratches that resemble a portrait of Abraham Lincoln. Should Mallie choose this item as the lead story? Probably not.

Ambrose

And there is trouble at the Town Hall meeting where former friends and business associates are at each other’s throats. When one of the ends up dead in a fish tank, the other is an obvious suspect – but there are plenty of other suspects to choose from, including jealous women. Now there’s a story.

Even Mallie’s friend and landlord, Wanda Sue, campaigning for a town council seat, finds trouble.

Many of the characters – and there are perhaps too many of them for a relatively compact novel – are quite colorful. Their excesses are part of the novel’s fun. Several don’t act their age – their relatively advanced age. Others are simply wacky. It’s a community in which a frenzied motormouth like Mallie is the pillar of stability.

More complications. Bad fertilizer made from farm-raised tilapia killed by bleach is ruining gardens and crops. Who’s behind this? Why? Mallie has to help track down the culprit. . . .

To read the full review, as it appears in the October 4, 2017 Fort Myers Florida Weekly and the Naples and other local editons for October 5 , click here: https://naples.floridaweekly.com/pageview/viewer/2017-10-05#page=53

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 Comedy and compassion fuel a fine new mystery series

Murder on Pea Pike, by Jean Harrington. Camel Press. 264 pages. Trade paperback $15.95.

Jean Harrington’s new “Listed and Lethal” mystery series shares some features with her earlier, five-part “Murders by Design” mystery series (recently reprinted by Harlequin). The main similarity is that the protagonist in each series is a professional woman who is teamed up with a law enforcement officer. That is, teamed up romantically and unable to avoid being involved in his investigations.  

While the earlier character, Deva Dunne, lived and worked the interior design trade in upscale Naples, Florida, Honey Ingersoll is a real estate agent in rural, small town Arkansas. Differences in education and social class also distinguish the two protagonists.

As she pursues a real estate deal on the outskirts of Eureka Falls, chances upon the corpse of an attractive, flashy young woman whom she had seen at Ridley’s Real Estate just recently. Though Tallulah Bixby is dressed to kill, someone got to her first.

Soon after, the owner of property in the same neighborhood as Honey’s corpse discovery is also found murdered. You guessed it – discovered by Honey. Hmm. She might be a suspect, except for the fact that she is the narrator. Speaking of discoveries, Honey finds a couple of uncut diamonds near the crime scene.

The novel’s two main centers of interest are the murders and Honey’s love life. With respect to the murders, there seems to be an orchestrated buying-up of properties in the area surrounding the murders, suggesting the need to keep the purchases secret. Or maybe it’s the rumors concerning the diamonds lying about. Murder is one way of shutting someone up. When readers find out that a major casino project is being planned, they may surmise that some in the town are against it.

Honey’s love life? Up until now, a series of poor choices. But what’s an attention-needy, somewhat insecure girl to do? These days, Honey is idealizing her attractive boss, Sam Ridley, who is among those showing an interest in those rundown properties. Can he possibly be on Honey’s suspect list? She has imagined getting a dazzling kiss from him for a long time. Honey has been an invaluable employee, but he has plenty of cause to worry about her recent strange behavior. . . .

To read the entire review, as it appears in the August 23, 2017 Fort Myers Florida Weekly and the August 24 Naples, Bonita Springs, Collier Count, and Palm Beach editions, click here: Florida Weekly – Murder on Pea Pike

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Pop culture comedy classic flays Florida’s foibles

Coconut Cowboy, by Tim Dorsey. William Morrow. 336 pages. Hardback $25.99.

This is Serge Storms Series book 19, but who’s counting? Mr. Dorsey’s long-running series gets nuttier and nuttier, but who’s complaining? The author is probably not crazy, but he is certifiable, as is his main character Serge and Serge’s sidekick Coleman. Coleman never met an intoxicant he didn’t like. Serge is a bit more discriminating – or pretends to be. You want some laughs as the expense of Florida’s dignity? This your chance.  CoconutCowboyHC

Where is the American Dream? That is the question that Serge, sometimes underemployed as a serial killer, has set for himself and his comrade. He hopes to find it in the past; in particular, in the idealistic and idealized 1960s. How do you get to the past? You get off the highways and get onto the back roads that take you through small town America. How do you make this trip? Just like the “Easy Rider” searchers – on motorbikes. In this case, a motorbike with a sidecar.

Mr. Dorsey pays exquisite, zany, and yet sincere homage to the American counterculture classic film, with Serge casting himself and Coleman as the film’s Captain America and Billy. What they find in the small towns they sample is corruption. And because Serge and his creator are obsessive Floridaphiles, they find a ton of that small town corruption in the novel’s major creation – Wobbly, Florida. Wobbly is at once the exemplary American small town, though not a positive example, and the quintessence of Mr. Dorsey’s rural Florida.

What’s going on? Well, the first homes in a new housing development are disappearing into sinkholes attributed to subterranean aquifer pumping gone wild. Engineering reports and insurance issues and investigations of wrongdoing reach the highest circles – which in a small town are not very high. It’s all about who pays off whom to get away with what.

Tim Dorsey

Tim Dorsey

Money accumulated for that special kind of laundering that is illegal is found buried. Narcotics have brought the money into Wobbly, but how is it going to get out? And in whose pockets?

The city leaders, notably the mayor, have managed a narrow land annexation that has been put to good economic use as a speed trap. But whose economy has been enhanced? There are no reliable financial accounts or reporting procedures. There are no audits when nothing is available to audit. . . .

To read the entire review, as it appears in the February 3, 2016 Fort Myers Florida Weekly and the February 4 Naples, Bonita Springs, Punta Gorda/Port Charlottte, Palm Beach Gardens/Jupiter, and Palm Beach/West Palm Beach editions, click here: Florida Weekly – Coconut Cowboy which also includes signing events.

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Serge becomes a free-lance legal “fixer” in Dorsey’s latest laugh-fest

Shark Skin Suite, by Tim Dorsey. William Morrow. 336 pages. Hardcover $26.99.

You will laugh so hard that you’ll fall off the plot lines. But don’t worry. Mr. Dorsey will help you get back on them, off them, and on them again. What we have here is an episodic, picaresque novel, belatedly in the tradition of “Don Quixote de la Mancha.” Serge Storms, the hero of record in Tim Dorsey’s long-running series, is a knight errant transported to contemporary Florida, a place with plenty of windmills at which to tilt.  Serge doesn’t have to imagine adversaries; they are only too real. Serge is an easy-to-love homicidal maniac. His buddy Coleman is his Sancho Panza. SharkSkinSuiteHCc

Okay, I’ll drop the World Lit 101 and get back to business.

Who are the bad guys of our time? Why, of course the financial institutions that gave us the mortgage foreclosure nightmare and the lawyers who struggled, sometimes unscrupulously, to defend them. Enter Brook Campanella, former flame to Serge and now a young lawyer damsel in distress. Yes, there are good guy lawyers, too, and Serge is cutting every corner so he can to pass as one.

After seeing Brook in action, a good-sized Florida firm hires her and quickly gives her a case that would seem to be beyond her. Coupled with one of the firm’s equally inexperienced staffers, Brook sets out to argue a class action case against a bank gone wild but that has powerful, corrupt legal representation. There are hints of collusion between Brook’s firm and the bank’s – is her assignment a set-up? Is she supposed to fail so that both law firms somehow win?

Guess what? She’s so darn good that she’s winning the case! That wasn’t the plan. Perhaps it would be best if she not continue. Maybe she can be discredited, or frightened, or worse. Her co-council disappears. Who’s next?

Dorsey

Dorsey

Where is Serge? He seems to be on a bender of feverish imagination and unchained impulse, often accompanied by drugged out Coleman and with a shifting retinue of other strange characters. We follow Serge as he scrambles around the state looking for the locales of his favorite set-in-Florida films (even though most were made in Hollywood studies). We observe his attempts to turn his self-induced legal education into a scheme for bringing him easy money. And we enjoy his relationship with a new buddy, an out of work journalist, as part of Mr. Dorsey’s hilarious exposé of another segment of our time’s bad guys: the greedy media outfits. . . .

To read this review in its entirely, as it appears in the February 11, 2015 Fort Myers Florida Weekly and the February 12 Naples, Bonita Springs, and Punta Gorda / Port Charlotte editions, click here: Florida Weekly – Tim Dorsey

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Sharon Potts shows how (not) to find the ideal mate

“South Beach Cinderella,” by Sharon Potts. CreateSpace. 338 pages. $12.99 (paper), Kindle edition $2.99.

Although she is an established author of suspenseful mysteries, Sharon Potts decided that the best way to switch genre tracks was to publish her latest, a comedy-romance, through e-book and print on demand publishing. Let us hope she brings her fans along to enjoy her work in a different mode.

Sharon Potts

Frankie Wunder, real estate agent and wife of super-dentist Warren Wunder, is an earnest but misguided character whom Ms. Potts portrays with empathy and wry satiric strokes. When her childless marriage to her cheating husband falls apart, Frankie works herself up into a campaign frenzy to find true love and motherhood. Naively optimistic, she projects her versions of the ideal mate on a series of men whom she hardly knows, inevitably finding disappointment and slowly beginning to share the opinion of many of her friends that there just aren’t any good men out there. 

Why the frenzy? Well, she’s desperate to have children, she’s thirty-five, and she hears that clock ticking. This panic, in part, makes her a bit delusional about the true merits of the men she meets.

Sharon Potts captures the humorous and awkward aspects of entering the dating game after more than a decade of married life. Frankie makes hilarious missteps, and the detached reader can often predict that things will turn out badly given Frankie’s sense of urgency and her blindness to obvious clues. Though Frankie is highly intelligent, her antennae are muddled. She builds dream men out of spoiled goods. And she is a bit scary in pushing her happy family agenda.

Frankie’s background, which includes a father she never knew and a hippie mother whose parenting style she has rejected, partially explains her needs and her confused state. Slowly, she gains greater insight and a more balanced perspective.

Crucial to the novel’s success and vision is her friend Neil, a lawyer turned free-lance accountant and unpublished author. Neil’s life is a battle against conventionality. His peculiarities make him seem like a lone wolf. Often unkempt, comfortably ignorant about fashion, oscillating between shyness and outspokenness, Neil is nobody’s Prince Charming. He’s a guy who makes do with the necessities of life and values repairing above replacing. He has a kind of earthy know-how, and he is loyal to his friends. . . .

To read the entire review, as it appears in the October 26, 2011 issue of the Fort Myers Florida Weekly and in the October 27 issue of the Naples edition, click here:  Florida Weekly – Sharon Potts pdf

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