BPL Book Review: Thumbs Up to Wild and Crazy Guys


BPL Book Review: Thumbs Up to Wild and Crazy Guys


By William Anthony| Business, Science, Technology Department Central Library


Some of the definitive and most frequently quoted comedies from the late 1970s to the early 1990s took that era of Hollywood by storm and embedded themselves into popular culture forever.  From Animal House and The Jerk to Planes, Trains, and Automobiles and Groundhog Day to Ghostbusters and Beverly Hills Cop, all of these movies and many more continue to make us laugh really hard to this very day. As everything just seems uncertain nowadays, Wild and Crazy Guys: How the Comedy Mavericks of the '80s Changed Hollywood Forever encapsulates a creative, fascinating time period full of laughing, crying, pratfalls, quick wit, blockbuster hits, and the cost of fame itself. We could all use a good chuckle reading about the following wild and crazy comedians.


Nick de Semlyn not only explores why these movies have stood the test of time, but, more importantly, he details the ambitious, unpredictable, and fiery entertainers behind such exciting, nostalgic movies. He starts his book off by exploring how Saturday Night Live kickstarted the careers of actors such as Chevy Chase, Steve Martin, John Belushi, Dan Aykroyd, Bill Murray, and Eddie Murphy. Some of their most outrageous stories during filming and experiences in the limelight provide another surprising context to their onscreen personas.


Similarly, this book champions the success of some of Canada’s funniest actors such as Rick Moranis and John Candy, including their days on Second City Television. Their quirky but friendly personalities meshed well with their American costars’ drive. This is why it never gets old to watch Steve Martin and John Candy deal with every inconvenience possible in Planes, Trains, and Automobiles or when Rick Moranis puts up with a giant carnivorous plant in Little Shop of Horrors.


An essential highlight of this book is the recurring interactions between all of these leading men, especially when some of them were a part of a highly notable cast in movies such as Caddyshack or Ghostbusters. The friendship between Dan Aykroyd and John Belushi will make you miss Belushi bumbling around on the big screen. Bill Murray and Chevy Chase never exactly got along with each other, and this tension did escalate into violent confrontations. Thus, it is a miracle that they were able to film a scene together in Caddyshack. The 1980s reminds us of how all of these different onscreen personas can forge a comedy that stills resonates with so many different viewers such as aspiring scriptwriters, film scholars, the whole family, college students, or just people who miss the 1980s.


Wild and Crazy Guys never strays away from the highs and lows of all these leading comedians. John Belushi’s dangerous lifestyle makes his most iconic films feel like rock and roll concerts not just movies. Chevy Chase utilized his clumsiness to garner laughs while Steve Martin approached comedy from a more philosophical approach. Dan Aykroyd spent hours upon hours writing meticulously detailed scripts. Eddie Murphy became one of the most popular actors of the 1980s because of his unapologetic, fast-talking confidence and hard work. I honestly cannot think of another actor more lovable and jolly than John Candy. Bill Murray’s dry sense of humor is what makes him one of the coolest actors of his generation. It is also a part of the reason why he has become a national treasure.


By the time I finished this book, I felt like that I actually knew all these actors. It was as if we met up for a meal and talked about life itself. This fraternity of actors has not aged at all, and de Semlyn carefully weaves in the fruit of their labor while reminiscing on his time learning about the various legacies that these stars have left behind.


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Barbs Hut said…
Great review, can’t wait to read it.