Marxist Theory

It’s no coincidence that Samm Levine’s character on the fabulous but now defunct television series Freaks and Geeks was obsessed with the comedic masterwork of the Marx Brothers. Growing up a severe asthmatic, the actor spent a wealth of his childhood indoors and sick in bed, where the New Jerseyan found ample time to watch all the vaudevillians’ movies.

His health condition didn’t allow for cigar smoking, nor were his hormones enough to grow sufficient hair on his upper lip, but Levine’s admiration for Groucho, Chico and Harpo (not so much Zeppo) inspired him to hit the comedy club circuit at a precocious 12 years of age. The young man recently shared his Brotherly love with us by putting in his two cents on a few books on his heroes released this year.

Coffee with Groucho
by Simon Louvish
(Duncan Baird, 2007)

This rather lengthy conversation between a “fictionalized Groucho and an imaginary interviewer” is pretty funny, though
I can’t help but think the mustachioed brother wouldn’t have been especially pleased to have so many words put in his mouth. The man did have quite a unique way of expressing himself, much like this reviewer. Fart. Poop. See?

The Music of the Marx Brothers
by Michael A. Yahn
(PublishAmerica, 2007)

Manage to trudge through the dauntingly “brief” history in the opening, and you’ll be treated to a music nerd’s paradise—a
259-page listing of virtually every song ever recorded that has anything to do with the Marx Brothers. Unless you have a burning desire to know that “Formal Night in Harlem” was performed by Henry Dankers and His Orchestra in 1937, this probably isn’t the book for you. Or anyone you know.


The Comic World of the Marx Brothers Movies
by Maurice Charney
(Fairleigh Dickinson University Press, 2007)

Need to fake your way through discussions of Marx Brothers’ films? Then this is the book for you. A bit too clinical and not especially funny, the hardcover does a fine job recounting all the best scenes and jokes. Though, I do recommend you see these films, lest someone ask you to do your best Harpo impression. Good luck with that one.


Hello, I Must Be Going
by Charlotte Chandler
(Simon & Schuster, 2007)

For an actual interview with Groucho, look no further. Charlotte Chandler spent the last few years of the legend’s life asking him about everything from his vaudeville days to his views on the afterlife. “When you’re dead, you’re dead,” he says. “I don’t want either of you coming to my funeral. I want you to go out and find a Marx Brothers fi lm and laugh a lot.” Talk about a guy who always left them wanting more.

Son of Harpo Speaks!
by Bill Marx
(Bearmanor Media, 2007)

I’m sure the author is a swell guy, but my God, who wants to read about the life and times of Harpo’s adopted son? The few stories directly involving his hilarious dad are good for a laugh or two, but Son of Harpo Speaks! mostly recounts Bill’s not so exciting endeavors as an entertainer and a Marx. Think I’ll shelve this one in between my Nancy Sinatra records and Lorenzo Lamas videos.


What do you think?

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Brian Abrams

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