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Summary

Wild and Crazy Guys is the larger-than-life story of the much-loved Hollywood comedy stars that ruled the 1980s. 

As well as delving behind the scenes of classic movies such as Ghostbusters, Beverly Hills Cop, The Blues Brothers, Trading Places and dozens more, it chronicles the off-screen, larger-than-life antics of Bill Murray, Eddie Murphy, Chevy Chase, Steve Martin, John Candy et al. It’s got drugs, sex, punch-ups, webbed toes and Bill Murray being pushed into a swimming pool by Hunter S Thompson, while tied to a lawn chair.  

It’s akin to Peter Biskind’s Easy Riders, Raging Bulls, following the key players through their highs and lows, and their often turbulent relationships with each other. Nick de Semlyen has already interviewed pretty much all the big names for Empire, as well as directors such as Walter Hill, John Landis and Carl Reiner, and is sitting on lots of unseen material. 

Taking you on a trip through the tumultous ’80s, Wild and Crazy Guys explores the friendships, feuds, triumphs and disasters experienced by these iconic funnymen. Based on candid interviews from the stars themselves, as well as those who entered their orbit, it reveals the hidden history behind the most fertile period ever for screen comedy.

©2019 Nick de Semlyen (P)2019 Penguin Random House LLC

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  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars
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    5 out of 5 stars

A supremely in-depth ‘behind the scenes’ of an iconic era in movie comedy.

This is a lively, colourful and detailed document of the men behind some of the funniest movies of the Eighties, brought entertainingly to life by Curtis Armstrong’s engaging narration.

As a teenager throughout the mid to late 80s, I grew up loving the majority of the films covered in this book, and all but idolising some of their chief stars. Naturally I took an interest in the Saturday Night Live roots of my comedy idols, having only discovered them solely through their respective breakout movie roles.

I’ll admit though to having not been wholly impressed by the various clips of SNL material I later discovered a few years after - as a Brit, having been brought up on the likes of Blackadder and Monty Python, I guess there was always going to be something lost in translation when it came to TV sketch humour from the US. I guess I didn’t have a radar for the more US-centric references at that time, but regardless of the reasons, I just didn’t appreciate the humour. All that said, I’ve remained fascinated with the TV platform where my heroes first cut their comedy teeth nonetheless.

I was thoroughly delighted then to discover Nick De Semlyen’s book, which has proven to be a revelation (or rather, a litany of them!) Covering not just those pivotal early years of SNL, National Lampoon and also Second City TV, but the evolving careers of Dan Aykroyd, John Belushi, John Candy, Chevy Chase, Steve Martin, Eddie Murphy, Bill Murray and Harold Ramis, it delves into the many highs and lows, bitter rivalries, endearing comic partnerships, serious passion projects, bizarre and expensive flops, and the dizzyingly unexpected, mega-success stories.

It is also layered with a seemingly endless number of insights into the movie-making business, the wheeling and dealing, initial casting choices, radical script changes, heated on-set exchanges, and countless other asides... it just keeps on giving.

With candid quotes from not only the comedy talents themselves, but a panoply of movie insiders, producers, and indeed the directors (John Landis, Frank Oz, Carl Reiner Ivan Reitman), who helmed many of the films that form the bedrock of this narrative, there is such a wealth of detailed, anecdotal information to absorb here, that I shall be cueing it up for repeat listens for many more days, weeks, and months to come!

If you’re a fan of such films as The Blues Brothers, 48 Hours, Trading Places, Ghostbusters, Fletch, Planes Trains & Automobiles, Uncle Buck, and the many holiday trials and tribulations of one Clark Griswold, then I cannot recommend this audiobook strongly enough - you truly owe it to yourself to give it a listen. Or three.

2 people found this helpful

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American Movie Comedy

If you're a fan of American comedy movies from the Eighties such as Caddyshack, 48 Hours, The Jerk, The Blues Brothers, Ghostbusters, Planes, Trains and Automobiles, Groundhog Day then you'll find a lot to enjoy in this audiobook. If you're a mega-fan, you might be disappointed because you might have heard a lot of the material and anecdotes before. With a focus on specific comics and their movies, a narrative is built out of stories and quotes that you feel you could quite easily find via Google or back issues of Empire or Premier. The trick has been to pull all these together in a neat way, and in a style where I think that this author never directly interviewed any of the key players - but I'm not sure that he didn't. Steve Martin, Eddie Murphy, Bill Murray, Chevy Chase are all liberally cited but, as I say, their comments seem to have been lifted from other interviews. However, if you enjoyed these films and enjoy podcasts like The Rewatchables, you'll find a lot to enjoy here. (For the record though, I never got Saturday Night Live.)

1 person found this helpful

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Class act!

I was recommended this by a friend and it didn’t disappoint - it was so eye opening to some of my comedy legends and explained a lot about the characters they are along with inside information - a must listen to!

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Excellently written and very witty

Great listen. Well researched and interesting film history of the greats of 80s comedy. Very good narrator.

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Clash of the comedy Titans

The 1970s and ‘80s saw the rise of movie comedy giants who’d started out on TV, mainly Saturday Night Live. This comprehensive book charts the shifting fortunes of these stars - their successes and flops. There were certainly some turkeys among the hits, better left forgotten… but from Groundhog Day to Ghostbusters there were also classics, and some of the stars crossed over into dramatic acting, perhaps most notably Bill Murray. It was a time of manic creativity, though one or two of the comedy titans paid a heavy price for hell-raising lifestyles, including John Belushi. There were animosities and rivalries. The book reminds us of an era when big-budget, big-screen comedy could top box office charts, and of course it can still do so, but perhaps not as much. The book also reminds us that there are plenty of comic actors around who took up the baton from Murray et al - eg Ben Stiller. But overall film comedy seems pretty moribund these days, by comparison to the ‘70s and ‘80s. Wild and Crazy Guys is the story of an era when stars like Chevy Chase ruled the roost - but it’s perhaps at its most powerful when it examines what went wrong, illustrating that every golden age, supposed or otherwise, has its fair share of tragedy and failure - a necessary by-product of commercial success on this scale. The narration fits the material well - slightly breathless at times and maybe a little OTT, but then so was a lot of the comedy. Recent interviews with some of the big names, and behind-the-scenes revelations about the making of the movies, make this well worth a listen, even if you’re not a disciple of any of these stars. I admired a few of them, and knew quite a lot of the films, but wasn’t an expert on any of them - at least before listening to the book. It should appeal to anyone with an interest in comedy, as opposed just to hardcore fans of this era and these stars. It’s a compulsive listen; towards the end I slightly speeded up the narration to 1.5 and enjoyed it more - it is arguably on the slow side at times, despite the generally animated delivery.

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As compelling and funny as the actors it's about.

I burned through this book. Brilliantly read by Curtis Armstrong and wonderfully written by Nick De Semlyen. In depth but cracks along. Funny, interesting, sad. A fantastic book.

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Book excellent, narrator takes getting used to.

The book is fantastic, really really good.

I would however try the free sample before purchasing the audiobook as the narrator does take getting used to. He annunciates every word a bit too deliberately for me and it comes across quite unnatural.

I did get past that ( I held off on purchasing due to this ) and am glad I did.

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My new favourite film book

Perfect nostalgia for a kid from the 80’s who was a fan of all these movies.

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fantastic book

absolutely loved this book, covering the 80s comedy icons , my heroes of Belushi , Aykroyd and Murphy. For anyone who loves these movies I would highly recomend this book

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Engrossing and informative

Devoured this in 2 weeks. Incredible research and well spoken by Curtis Armstromg. Made me nostalgic for an era I wasn't alive for...