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Constant Comedy: How I Started Comedy Central and Lost My Sense of Humor

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Discover the riveting, hilarious true story of the birth of Comedy Central in what New York Times bestselling author, Dan Lyons, calls the “funniest behind-the-scenes memoir I’ve ever read, full of crazy characters, plot twists, and suspense.” When a young, mid-level employee named Art Bell first pitched his idea for a 24-hour all comedy cable channel to an HBO programming Discover the riveting, hilarious true story of the birth of Comedy Central in what New York Times bestselling author, Dan Lyons, calls the “funniest behind-the-scenes memoir I’ve ever read, full of crazy characters, plot twists, and suspense.” When a young, mid-level employee named Art Bell first pitched his idea for a 24-hour all comedy cable channel to an HBO programming executive he was told it was a terrible idea. But Art didn’t give up. His idea found its way to the chairman of HBO who gave it the green light. A short time later HBO launched the channel that would become Comedy Central. Constant Comedy takes readers behind the scenes into the comedy startup on its way to becoming one of the most successful and creative purveyors of popular culture in the United States. From disastrous pitch meetings with comedians to the discovery of talents like Bill Maher and Jon Stewart, this intimate biography peers behind the curtain and reveals what it’s really like to work, struggle, and ultimately succeed at the cutting edge of show business.  “Bell’s book mixes humor, yes, with nostalgia and the sort of insider view that make show biz memoirs so fun. Through the ups and downs of the experience, including an unceremonious firing at the end of his Comedy Central tenure, Bell offers detailed accounts of conversations while also adding observations gained from two decades of perspective.” Forbes, Sept 14, 2020


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Discover the riveting, hilarious true story of the birth of Comedy Central in what New York Times bestselling author, Dan Lyons, calls the “funniest behind-the-scenes memoir I’ve ever read, full of crazy characters, plot twists, and suspense.” When a young, mid-level employee named Art Bell first pitched his idea for a 24-hour all comedy cable channel to an HBO programming Discover the riveting, hilarious true story of the birth of Comedy Central in what New York Times bestselling author, Dan Lyons, calls the “funniest behind-the-scenes memoir I’ve ever read, full of crazy characters, plot twists, and suspense.” When a young, mid-level employee named Art Bell first pitched his idea for a 24-hour all comedy cable channel to an HBO programming executive he was told it was a terrible idea. But Art didn’t give up. His idea found its way to the chairman of HBO who gave it the green light. A short time later HBO launched the channel that would become Comedy Central. Constant Comedy takes readers behind the scenes into the comedy startup on its way to becoming one of the most successful and creative purveyors of popular culture in the United States. From disastrous pitch meetings with comedians to the discovery of talents like Bill Maher and Jon Stewart, this intimate biography peers behind the curtain and reveals what it’s really like to work, struggle, and ultimately succeed at the cutting edge of show business.  “Bell’s book mixes humor, yes, with nostalgia and the sort of insider view that make show biz memoirs so fun. Through the ups and downs of the experience, including an unceremonious firing at the end of his Comedy Central tenure, Bell offers detailed accounts of conversations while also adding observations gained from two decades of perspective.” Forbes, Sept 14, 2020

30 review for Constant Comedy: How I Started Comedy Central and Lost My Sense of Humor

  1. 5 out of 5

    Reyna Gentin

    Art Bell's insightful memoir is funny, for sure, but it's so much more. Bell's feel for personality and his gift for assessing situations and understanding what makes people tick results in a very compelling read. Bell's prominent role in the fast-paced setting of an emerging television network is fascinating, and his self-deprecating style is endearing. This memoir is full of energy, passion, and hope, even in moments that are uncertain. And yes, it's funny. Art Bell's insightful memoir is funny, for sure, but it's so much more. Bell's feel for personality and his gift for assessing situations and understanding what makes people tick results in a very compelling read. Bell's prominent role in the fast-paced setting of an emerging television network is fascinating, and his self-deprecating style is endearing. This memoir is full of energy, passion, and hope, even in moments that are uncertain. And yes, it's funny.

  2. 5 out of 5

    Don Abramson

    It turns out that this work of art is the work of Art! Art Bell's memoir, Constant Comedy, describes his role in starting what has become the Comedy Central television network, but does so in a way that helps us understand what an individual with a strong vision faces in dealing with corporate life in our time. The book is consistently entertaining, but the first chapter has given me the most pleasurable reading experience this century. I've just finished reading the Iliad. Bell's adventures wit It turns out that this work of art is the work of Art! Art Bell's memoir, Constant Comedy, describes his role in starting what has become the Comedy Central television network, but does so in a way that helps us understand what an individual with a strong vision faces in dealing with corporate life in our time. The book is consistently entertaining, but the first chapter has given me the most pleasurable reading experience this century. I've just finished reading the Iliad. Bell's adventures with powerful and famous figures at HBO call to mind the struggles for glory and tending to wounded egos between Achilles and Agamemnon featured in the Iliad. A bit to my surprise, his navigation of corporate waters reminds me of some of the challenges Odysseus faced in the Odyssey as well. I hadn't expected ancient Greek classics to inform the reading of what might become a modern business classic, but they do. The voice of Homer speaks in the age of Homer Simpson. The Iliad focuses on how extraordinary people act under extreme pressure fighting or not fighting the battle of Troy. It explores where humanity can be found in the face of conflict. Constant Comedy focuses on how Bell and his HBO bosses and stars, many of whom are extraordinary, act under extreme pressure to create a successful comedy channel. It also explores where humanity can be found in the face of conflict. The thirst for power, control, and glory has survived three thousand years and Bell's book gives an amusing and instructive view of the tension between the various ambitions of the individual and the collective enterprise. Yet the Bell in Constant Comedy is something like a modern Odysseus. He is firmly committed to his "nostos," an attempt to return over and over to his original idea of creating a pure comedy channel. As in The Odyssey, Bell stoutly faces a series of obstacles and is often subjected to the caprice of the HBO television gods in a valiant and successful struggle. As the book makes clear, Bell proves himself to be a mere mortal and can not defy the gods; however, what he goes through allows us to learn about modern corporate life in an amusing, easily digestible way. Constant Comedy shows how one can do battle, endure, and sometimes thrive in an often difficult environment. A wonderful read.

  3. 4 out of 5

    Mike Kowis

    Interesting read! Not many people can say they thought of the concept for a brand new cable TV channel and stepped out of his comfort zone to make it a reality. In this entertaining memoir, Art Bell explains his remarkable journey of creating the concept for Comedy Central and how he found a way to get it off the ground and grow it into a successful cable channel. It's obvious from this book that Mr. Bell is a huge fan of comedy, but he's not a standup comedian. Rather, he is the brains behind th Interesting read! Not many people can say they thought of the concept for a brand new cable TV channel and stepped out of his comfort zone to make it a reality. In this entertaining memoir, Art Bell explains his remarkable journey of creating the concept for Comedy Central and how he found a way to get it off the ground and grow it into a successful cable channel. It's obvious from this book that Mr. Bell is a huge fan of comedy, but he's not a standup comedian. Rather, he is the brains behind the original concept to create a 24-hour comedy channel on cable TV, and he successfully saw that vision through the channel's first 8 years of operations. After upper management changed hands a few times, he was eventually pushed out of the organization. Later, he went on to become President of Court TV. His journey was a roller coaster, and the pages of this book turn themselves. If you are a fan of Comedy Central, this book is a must read!

  4. 4 out of 5

    MH

    A really enjoyable, quick-reading story of the start of the Comedy Channel, which would become Comedy Central, from the man who created it. It's a book that's more about boardrooms and executive infighting than about the shows themselves (although we have a few encounters with some of the channel's early stars, and they're exactly who you'd expect them to be - Jon Stewart is a passionate, stand-up guy, while Bill Maher is, ah, less so), but it's still compelling to read about how the network was A really enjoyable, quick-reading story of the start of the Comedy Channel, which would become Comedy Central, from the man who created it. It's a book that's more about boardrooms and executive infighting than about the shows themselves (although we have a few encounters with some of the channel's early stars, and they're exactly who you'd expect them to be - Jon Stewart is a passionate, stand-up guy, while Bill Maher is, ah, less so), but it's still compelling to read about how the network was created. Bell's voice is warm, and while he certainly remembers the doubters, the backstabbers and the comedy snobs, this never feels like a memoir written for vindication - the knives aren't out for his enemies from the 90s. He's just telling the backstage story about how Comedy Central was created, his role in it, and the many, many bumps along the way. Really interesting, and a lot of fun. I was fortunate enough to win a copy through a Goodreads giveaway.

  5. 4 out of 5

    Paula Barker

    This book was not constant comedy. However, it was hugely insightful into the world of cable TV. Rough and cut throat. It was a sad ending to me to learn how Art was replayed for all his hard work and genius.

  6. 5 out of 5

    Marlena

    I loved the quiet deadpan voice of the writer and protagonist that had me laughing out loud for two days non-stop. Good story about the world of comedy and corporate America. Honestly told. First class.

  7. 4 out of 5

    Lese Dunton

    I loved watching Comedy Central back in the day and I was riveted to read this behind the scenes look at how it all began. Art Bell’s storytelling is superb. A great writer and comedic pioneer. Totally delightful – and I learned a lot. Love listening to the audiobook too, which he narrated!

  8. 5 out of 5

    Sara Kelzenberg

    Written as it happened I liked that this was written in a strictly chronological order. I did not know how it would turn out. Reading this account was like living it with the author, Art Bell.

  9. 5 out of 5

    Sean M

    Self aggrandizing and misleading.

  10. 4 out of 5

    Sara Goldenberg

    Fascinating - loved it!!!

  11. 4 out of 5

    Harry Meredith

    A great behind the scenes memoir that is full of surprises and personality.

  12. 4 out of 5

    Carrie Bell

  13. 5 out of 5

    Vincenza Arnaud

  14. 5 out of 5

    Sheena Hsu

  15. 5 out of 5

    David A.

  16. 5 out of 5

    Ekky Pramana

  17. 5 out of 5

    Ronnie Poplock

  18. 5 out of 5

    Ak

  19. 5 out of 5

    Toms

  20. 4 out of 5

    Atkinson Carter

  21. 4 out of 5

    Terry

  22. 5 out of 5

    Catherine Dawson

  23. 5 out of 5

    Matt

  24. 4 out of 5

    Matt McBride

  25. 4 out of 5

    Thomas Mcdonough

  26. 4 out of 5

    Herbert Hernane

  27. 5 out of 5

    Jen Haltrecht

  28. 5 out of 5

    Ben

  29. 4 out of 5

    Daniel Mont

  30. 5 out of 5

    Tony

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