NEW! Listen to Ritch Shydner talk about KICKING THROUGH THE ASHES on “WTF with MARC MARON” and “Fitzdog Radio” podcasts!
The Huffington Post loves Ritch Shydner’s Kicking Through the Ashes!
“Shydner’s memoir is a wild romp through the tumultuous comedy boom, as it’s best known in the period of the 1980’s through the early 90’s. Making the story more wild is the fact it does not progress in an expected linear fashion. It’s more like you’ve jumped aboard a comedy time machine…
“Kicking Through The Ashes is a fascinating chronicle of one performer’s life and perspective during the 20th century’s most intense and memorable period of stand-up comedy.” — Marc Hershon, The Huffington Post
Once this book was completed, it occurred to me what tremendous chutzpah it took to write a memoir. Especially when no one was asking for it. This book could have easily been titled, “Memories From a Comic No One Remembers.”
I started and finished this book because of my late mentor, Vic Anderson. When I met Vic in the spring of 2011, I was dead in the water. A year earlier, my stand-up comeback in Jordan Brady’s documentary, I Am Comic, fizzled like a wet bottle rocket.
Applications to more than a few straight jobs finally led to an interview to be a Hollywood tour van driver. The Chinese owner dismissed me with a wave of her hand and broken English, “You too old.”
I came to Vic after a 13-day stint of staring at the ceiling in the UCLA Psychiatric Unit. I thank Alan Bursky for recommending Julian Neil, and Julian for sending me to Vic. At some point Vic asked what I once did to pay my bills. I said stand-up and comedy writing. Vic suggested I do them again, but for fun and for free.
Like with no other person in my life, I did everything Vic suggested. The stand-up path was clear — free local performances soon led to pay-ing out-of-town gigs. I didn’t know what to do about the writing. Vic thought the stories I told about my past might be the sort of thing people would enjoy reading on Facebook. No one ever moved me like Vic. His very presence gave me a contact high.
When he was dying of liver cancer in April 2015, Vic was typically thinking of everyone else. One day he said to me, “You’re going to finish the book, right?” Right. — RITCH SHYDNER, author, Kicking Through the Ashes: My Life As A Stand-up in the 1980s Comedy Boom
Comedian Ritch Shydner is one of America’s funniest and most enduring stand-up comics, a wry observer of life around him and a survivor of the 1980s comedy boom.
Besides becoming a comic’s comic over the decades, he has starred on television’s “Married With Children” and won awards for his writing as a member of the “Roseanne” staff.
The book’s introduction is by Bill Maher, host of HBO’s “Real Time with Bill Maher.”
In “Kicking Through the Ashes,” Shydner collects all of his 1980s life experiences — the good, the bad, and El Brookman’s — in one hard to put down memoir. He tells stories about Jay Leno, Jerry Seinfeld, Tim Allen, Carol Leifer, Richard Belzer, Johnny Carson, Andrew Dice Clay, Rodney Dangerfield, Tom Dreesen, Budd Friedman, Gilbert Gottfried, Bill Hicks, Sam Kinison, David Letterman, Bill Maher, Steve Martin, Jackie “The Jokeman” Martling, Rick Overton, Phyllis Diller, Kevin Rooney, Robin Williams, Richard Pryor and more!
But don’t believe his publisher; consider what some of the world’s funniest people think of Shydner:
“Ritch Shydner is one of the best comedians I’ve ever seen. He is Seinfeld good, Kinison good, Pryor good. Ok, maybe not Pryor good, but still an absolute killer. Every time I’ve seen Ritch on stage, he always took the audience to a place where all the other comics in the room had no idea they could go. I’m sure this book is in a section of the bookstore with books written by other famous comedians; well, Ritch might not be the most famous but he’s definitely one of the funniest.” — Chris Rock
“Ritch Shydner is one of my comedy heroes. I remember watching him kill in the ’80s and thinking that he is one of the greatest comics ever. Though the years we have written and worked together many times. He is a fabulous writer. Ritch’s journey as a stand-up is a fascinating story. I know, I was there for a lot of it!” — Jeff Foxworthy, “Blue Collar Comedy Tour,” host, “Are You Smarter Than a 5th Grader”
“I don’t think ‘Comedy Veteran’ really describes what Ritch Shydner is. He was a Comedy Warrior. He’s been through all the battles in all the trenches of the comedy boom. Now Ritch is an aging sage, spinning his Homeric tale and the tales of others in this personal history of the job and the art of stand-up.” — Marc Maron, host/creator, “WTF with Marc Maron” podcast
“This book is hilarious and heartbreaking, packed with stories that move and shake, much like the author.” — Margaret Cho, Comedian!
“Ritch is one of the best comics I’ve ever seen. His descriptive gift for storytelling is what made him great onstage and now in print.” — Billy Gardell, star, “Mike & Molly”
“My favorite period of stand up comedy is the ’70s and ’80s. So many comics broke out during this time that had a tremendous influence on my love of the art and my dream to do it. Ritch Shydner is one of the comics I watched before I became a comedian, and I’m so glad he took the time to share his stories and insights in this amazing new book!” — Bill Burr, writer/co-creator, “F Is for Family”
“Kicking Through the Ashes is surely one of the best books ever written about the experience of becoming a stand-up comic and an artist. Each chapter is better than the last. Personal and provocative. A thrilling memoir.” — Mike Binder, writer/director
“Ritch Shydner’s dad told his friends that Ritch had joined a religious cult rather than have to admit that his son was pursuing a career as a stand-up. Though an argument could be made that the two things have more in common than his dad could have imagined. Ritch tells the story of the millions of small battles and ground skirmishes he fought as he morphed from law student into real live working comedian in a compelling way. I enjoyed reading it.” — Merrill Markoe, author/humorist
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
In the 1980s, Ritch Shydner made numerous appearances on TV, in-cluding Late Night with David Letterman and The Tonight Show with Johnny Carson and The Tonight Show with Jay Leno. He did an HBO half-hour special, One Night Stand.
You may also recognize him as Al Bundy’s co-worker on Married with Children and from guest appearances on many other TV shows, such as Designing Women and Roseanne. He wrote for sitcoms such as Roseanne, The Jeff Foxworthy Show, and HBO’s The Mind of the Married Man.
Shydner translated his modest success on TV into an obscure film career, appearing in Steve Martin’s Roxanne and Eddie Murphy’s Beverly Hills Cop II before moving on to minor roles in smaller pictures.
He wrote material for Jeff Foxworthy’s Grammy nominated comedy albums Totally Committed and Big Fun. He also wrote for Ron White and Jay Leno.
In 2006, Shydner was co-author with Mark Schiff of a book on stand-up, I Killed: True Stories of the Road from America’s Tom Comics. Four years later, he produced and performed in Jordan Brady’s award-winning documentary on the world of stand-up comedy, I Am Comic.
KICKING THROUGH THE ASHES Interviews:
By Mark C. Miller
You were married to comedian/comedy writer Carol Leifer, who is now married to a woman. Did that turn of events surprise you?
Two women falling in love might have surprised me in junior high school but by the time I heard about Carol and Lori, I had seen a rodeo, a World’s Fair, and a moon landing. There were a few hacky nozzleheads who joked that I turned Carol gay. If I had that kind of power over people, I would have dropped comedy, started a church and made some real money a long time ago. I only wish Carol happiness, as I do any woman unfortunate enough to tangle with the younger me.
You’ve done the Carson, Letterman and Leno shows? What was your overall experience doing each? Which was more fun? More nerve-wracking? Better for your career?
There was nothing more nerve-wracking than my first Carson shot in 1984. I broke out in shingles – painful, open sores – and couldn’t sit down for days before the show. When I walked on that stage for the first time my right hip and butt were covered with medicated pads. I think Carson gave me credibility with my parents and Letterman with my peers. I was probably most comfortable with Jay because I knew him off stage. I don’t think any particular talk show appearance meant more to my career than any other. It was just a totality, with each appearance saying, “Here I am. Still here. Here.”
RITCH SHYDNER being RITCH SHYDNER