You could picture him (Dan Tomasulo) 30 years ago, standing on the stage at The Improv in Hell's Kitchen, telling these stories, people rolling in the aisles.
It was the late '70s, early '80s. All the aspiring comics would hang around after hours, swapping lies. One time, Tomasulo stayed until 4:30 a.m. Andy Kaufman was holding court, you had to stay. He was talking about how he came up with his Foreign Man character. He was in the midst of getting mugged, he explained. Thinking he was crazy, the muggers fled.
Foreign Man would morph into Latka Gravas, Kaufman's unforgettable character on "Taxi," tank you veddy much. At the time, Tomasulo was writing jokes for Rodney Dangerfield, for Phyllis Diller. He was young. He was finishing up his Ph.D. He was teaching at Brookdale. There was no pressing need for him to examine his feelings. That would come later, when he got married, when his daughter was born, when his parents died, when life began to take on new meaning for him.
But when he began jotting down his observations, he found he had a bunch of stories that were only vaguely connected to one another.
Dani Shapiro, the well-known author and his adviser at The New School, began prodding him at this point. "She kept asking me "What are you trying to say with these stories?' " he recalls. "And I really didn't know."
Ten years and 30 revisions later, Tomasulo found his thread.
Now, he explains himself fully, in only 186 pages.
You read the book, you feel you know the author. You meet the author for the first time, you recognize him right away, because you've read the book. Everything is connected, past, present, his experiences, your experiences.
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