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Monday, March 4, 2024
The Observer

The Hollywood Secrets No One Cares About

Television head writer and stand-up comedian Trustin Howard knows famous people. That is the general gist of Howard's autobiography called My Life with Regis and Joey and Practically Everyone Else. Throughout the chronically unorganized novel, Trustin Howard takes the reader on an interesting, yet lengthy journey through his life working first as a comedian and then as head writer for "The Joey Bishop Show" (the late night show that competed with Johnny Carson's "The Tonight Show"). The book is a quick read and has some funny anecdotes, but overall it just seems like Howard takes himself a bit too seriously, so seriously in fact that he chose to write an entire novel on just that subject: himself.

"My Life with Regis and Joey and Practically Everyone Else" is generally one-third interesting, one-third boring, and one-third just plain irrelevant. Howard has a voice in his writing, but he also jumps around a lot, with numerous chapters beginning "Which reminds me..." He then proceeds to jump into an entirely random story that completely disturbs any illusion of "flow" that the writing may have possessed. Approximately twenty of the last pages of the novel are dedicated to Howard's dealings with his comedian friend, Lenny Bruce. If you are one of the few familiar with Bruce or have seen him perform, these chapters may interest you. As for the rest of the readers, the story of Lenny Bruce is by no means one that is remarkable enough to elicit interest Howard is clearly of an age of older Hollywood stars, which he admits in his novel. This reality makes it very hard for any college student who is not well versed in the players of an older generation of Hollywood to relate to and be interested in Howard's tales of meeting the "stars." A story pertaining to a show he wrote about Bette Davis is not going to impress any college age student, because the student is too busy trying to remember any famous Bette other than the redhead actress from "Beaches." While most students recognize the name of Johnny Carson, not many have a clue who Joey Bishop is. Because of this generation gap, overall the book is harder to relate to for college age students and is generally more appropriate for an older audience.

Howard's work is not entirely without merit. Besides going into two page explanations of certain jokes he wrote for "The Joey Bishop Show", his explanation of the time he spent with the show is intriguing. Howard lets the reader into the world of a comedy writer who never knows if they are going to have a job in three weeks. The reader sees the backstage reality of "show-biz," and Howard has a lot of great insights into the nature of "show-biz" and the ways it has changed. In one chapter Howard points out the difference between the need for raw talent today and in those old days when if you weren't quick and witty you would be booed of the stage. He compares the two saying, "Today, you have non-talents painting their faces, putting on freak outfits, switching on some lasers and lights, singing the same one line of a supposed song about 58 times, mixed in with a couple of spastic steps, breaking a guitar or two, and really overwhelming an audience of brain-dead children". There are interesting insights of this nature throughout "My Life with Regis and Joey and Practically Everyone Else." However, there are also some extremely strange parts. On page 226 Howard offers tapes of some of his sci-fi shows on reincarnation, meditation, and voodoo for $25, along with his address so you can send the check there... Unique, but not in a good way.

As the title promises, Regis Philbin is one of the main characters in the autobiography, and it does seem that Howard and Philbin were in fact good friends. The University of Notre Dame even gets a mention while Howard is describing Philbin's parents. Regis is presented well and worked with Howard for a good part of Howard's career.

My Life with Regis and Joey and Practically Everyone Else by Trustin Howard is vaguely interesting and an overall quick read. Howard makes some good points here and there, but the majority of the novel is fluff about his life in "show-biz" and is generally not entertaining. Howard's autobiography is worth reading if you are really interested in being a stand-up comic or working in the television industry, but if you are just looking for a good read or even some insight into the "real" Regis Philbin; your time would be better spent watching Regis on TV with Kelly.