Wild and Crazy Guys by Nick de Semlyen

Wild and Crazy Guys

Nick de Semlyen

Wild and Crazy Guys is a fantastic insider account of the friendships, feuds, triumphs, and disasters experienced by beloved comedians. 

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The behind-the-scenes story of the iconic funnymen who ruled '80s Hollywood—Bill Murray, Steve Martin, Chevy Chase, John Belushi, Dan Aykroyd, and Eddie Murphy—and the beloved films that made them stars, including Animal House, Caddyshack, and Ghostbusters

“An enjoyable romp that vividly captures the manic ups and downs of the remarkable group of funny folk who gave us a golden age of small and big screen comedy, from SNL to Groundhog Day.”Peter Biskind, author of Easy Riders, Raging Bulls

Wild and Crazy Guys opens in 1978 with Chevy Chase and Bill Murray taking bad-tempered swings at each other backstage at Saturday Night Live, and closes 21 years later with the two doing a skit in the same venue, poking fun at each other, their illustrious careers, triumphs and prat falls. In between, Nick de Semlyen takes us on a trip through the tumultuous '80s, delving behind the scenes of movies such as National Lampoon's Vacation, Beverly Hills Cop, The Blues Brothers, Dirty Rotten Scoundrels, and dozens more. Chronicling the off-screen, larger-than-life antics of Bill Murray, Chevy Chase, Steve Martin, Dan Aykroyd, Eddie Murphy, John Belushi, John Candy, and Rick Moranis, 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. What's not to like?

Based on candid interviews from many of the stars themselves, as well as those in their immediate orbit, including directors John Landis, Carl Reiner, and Amy Heckerling, Wild and Crazy Guys is a fantastic insider account of the friendships, feuds, triumphs, and disasters experienced by these beloved comedians. Hilarious and revealing, it is both a hidden history of the most fertile period ever for screen comedy and a celebration of some of the most popular films of all time.

Advance praise for Wild and Crazy Guys

“Eminently readable . . . Children of the 1980s, take note: this is a fond, engrossing look back at the making of movies that became cultural touchstones.”Booklist (starred review)
“The irresistible Wild and Crazy Guys charts the roller-coaster ride of the groundbreaking comedy stars of the ’70s and ’80s, giving a fascinating look at the helium highs and crushing lows surrounding some of your favorite funny films. I couldn’t put it down. Although that may have been the glue.”—Edgar Wright, director of Shaun of the Dead, Hot Fuzz, and Baby Driver
“There is no shortage of excellent critical writing about the US comedy scene in the 80s, and Nick de Semlyen’s Wild and Crazy Guys is a terrific contribution to the genre.”The Guardian

Advance Galley Reviews

I received an advanced copy of this book. This is an interesting book about the male comedians from the 80’s. This book gives you all the details about the guys from that time from Bill Murray, Dan Akryod, John Candy, you name them, they are talked about in here. If you want to know ANYTHING about these guys, you should pick up this book!

Couldn't read it before download expired.

This is a very fun book for me, having grown up with so many of the movies — it was just the right amount of behind-the-scenes intrigue, context, etc. I’m not quite sure that there was a thesis as to how this changed comedy — maybe more connection to what came before and after. There was some mention of the before, and interesting to think about how rom-com, buddy cop, and other genres came from these folks. Inevitably things have to have a scope, but I was surprised Billy Crystal, Robin Williams, and a few other mega stars from comedy were only referred to in passing here; as well as some of the directors with sketch comedy sensibilities like the Zucker Brothers or the mockumentary genre from Christopher Guest (SNL alum) starting with Carl Reiner (mentioned for other things) and This Is Spinal Tap.

When I was growing up, my family adopted two dogs and we named them Jake and Elwood. Decades later, when my brother and his wife decided to get married in Chicago, they wanted to have the ceremony at the Triple Rock Baptist Church. That didn't pan out, so they decided to have a civil ceremony in the middle of Daley Plaza - the scene of the big climax at the end of The Blues Brothers. I could go on with a list of ways that the comedy mavericks of the '80s influenced my childhood and my life, but instead you can just take my word for it that there's a special place in my heart for all of the actors discussed in this book - John Belushi, Dan Aykroyd, Bill Murray, Chevy Chase, Eddie Murphy, Steve Martin, John Candy, Rick Moranis, and Dave Thomas. Their work has given me so much joy that if a stranger said "I am Gumby, Dammit!" I'd be amused for hours. Any reference to something that I hold so dear will automatically entertain me. For me, the real entertainment value in this book is all of the reminders of things I hadn't thought of for years. I learned the most about the SCTV guys (Candy, Moranis, and Thomas), just because I didn't know as much about their backgrounds. Strangebrew is a film that's on my classic comedy list, and I own Bob & Doug McKenzie action figures, but otherwise I didn't know much about them and that was the most informative part of this book for me. As far as the SNL alums and Steve Martin, there wasn't much behind-the-scenes stuff that I didn't already know. However, the reminders of things I had forgotten, or hadn't watched in years was a lot of fun. It should have taken me far less than three weeks to read this, but it was delayed because I kept putting the book down and going to YouTube to watch the music video that Paul McCartney did for Spies Like Us because I had completely forgotten about it. A similar interruption came when the author reminded me of the classic video for Paul Simon's You Can Call Me Al. I hadn't seen that in years and had to go back and re-watch. The author doesn't just talk about the classics either. I had forgotten all about the Belushi/Aykroyd film Neighbors. There were so many references in this book, it was a nice trip down memory lane. The real fun here is nostalgia, so I don't know how this book would land for a reader who didn't grow up with SNL and the same films that I did. There's a pretty niche audience who are going to enjoy this book, and I am definitely one of them.

I enjoyed learning the back stories from these comedians and how they felt about each other. Also what they went through to get where they were in their ups and downs. I would recommend this book to fans. I received a copy of this book to give honest review.

Loads of detail but much of it didn’t seem new or particularly different from other assessments of the individuals or the era. I don’t know what I was hoping for but this wasn’t it.

Wild and Crazy Guys is a very fun read, that looks at the careers of Bill Murray, John Belushi, Steve Martin, Eddie Murphy, Chevy Chase, John Candy, and Rick Moranis in the 1980s. If you enjoy any of those actors' work, you will be entertained by this book. There are a lot of fun and interesting nuggets of information about all of their work. The author also does a great job of not getting too bogged down into one film and keeps the book moving at an excellent pace. I would highly recommend this book to anyone who considers themselves a comedy aficionado.

I am a HUGE fan of the original SNL cast, and this behind-the-scenes peek into their career development paths was a fascinating - as well as thoroughly entertaining - one. Martin, Murray, Chase, Belushi, Ackroyd, Murphy - these are THE men of comedy in my mind, given that I was born in 1973 and came of age as their careers did. The backstory on how they moved from stand up artists and sketch comics to media powerhouses was engaging, interesting, and of course full of the side notes and tidbits that make such "this is how it all began" books so fun to read... I never knew about many of the interpersonal conflicts and only heard hints of many of the bad-boy antics, so it was cool to read about them - particularly since they were written factually and not melodramatically. This isn't a tell-all in the classic sense; I got the impression Semlyen respects these guys, warts and all, and wanted to share their stories for that reason, as opposed to out of a desire to lambaste or embarrass or tattle on them for their (occasional) bad behaviors. It made the book a pleasant read rather than a titillating or guilty one, and I enjoyed it WAY more than I would have if he'd gone the other way and focused on cheap thrills by (over)dramatizing everything... What he delivers instead is an informative look at a particular moment in time - that just happened to be populated by some of the funniest men in television/movies.

You can tell Semlyen really admires the comedians he writes about and that he did tons of research to give readers as true and authentic a picture of them as possible. It's also a fantastic guide to awesomely good and so-bad-they're-good movies from the late 70s and 80s that I constantly stopped my reading to either watch in full or find clips of online. It's an engaging read in the way that gossipy insider news about pretty much anything in Hollywood is and I really like how well it shows the very different temperaments that each "guy" has and how that affected their choices and where they ended up. Where it fails a bit for me is that I never really felt like I just had to keep reading. I was always happy to put it aside and watch the movies it was talking about. How can a book so full of gossip, feuds, addiction, death, insane lives, redemption, and so much more, fail to keep my attention? I don't even have an answer to that. I know it's a bit that I was annoyed by the constant presaging of the bad things that were to befall certain comedians, but that's just a personal peeve and it's not something particularly big within the telling of the tale. In the end, this is a nice information dump for a fan of the era's many and varied comedian-driven films and a good introduction for those of us who were too young to enjoy them originally but still manage to appreciate them nonetheless.

4.5 stars I can't remember the last time I read a nonfiction book all in one day. I guess I shouldn't be all that surprised I practically devoured this one as I love behind the scenes pop culture stuff like this and anything 1980s related automatically peaks my interest. I couldn't believe how many things I learned from the book considering how much of my head is already full with random celebrity/tv-film industry tidbits. (I'm the person you want on your trivia team because I always bring my A game for the entertainment portions.) So basically this is a good read for those who have a casual interest in the topic and also the die-hard pop culture fans. The book follows the careers of Dan Aykroyd, Bill Murray, John Belushi, Chevy Chase, Eddie Murphy, John Candy, Rick Moranis, and Steve Martin with much of the focus taking place during the 1980s which was when most of the careers were at their highest point. There's a ton of good behind the scenes info of the movies and tv shows they were a part of as well as projects that each person was close to working on but in the end a deal wasn't made. It was particularly interesting to see just how many films originally had John Belushi as the first choice but because of his death ended up going to another actor. And while much has been written about classic films such as Animal House and Caddyshack, this book manages to provide details not just about hits but also the pretty crappy ones most of us haven't thought about in ages like Neighbors and Nothing but Trouble. The author also manages to provide a good look into the personalities of each person featured as well as what others have to say about what it was like working with them. I really can't say enough good things about this book as it was a terrific read. If the subject matter interests you, for sure pick this one up! Thank you to First to Read for the opportunity to read an advance digital copy!

Wild and Crazy Guys: How the Comedy Mavericks of the ‘80s Changed Hollywood Forever was a lot of fun to read. I grew up watching the original cast on Saturday Night Live and then watching their movies as they moved on to their movie careers. The book is well researched and written and gives entertaining behind the scenes stories about the characters and skits from the show and how the movies were made. We get to see the roller coaster their various careers have taken from the highpoints of a film like Ghostbusters to low points like Beverly Hills Copy 3. If you grew up watching the Blues Brothers, Bass-o-matic, Weekend Update, and Mr. Robinson’s Neighborhood like I did, I think you will enjoy it like I did.

This collection of behind-the-scenes Hollywood tales is well written and intricately researched, focusing on some of Hollywood’s funniest, most endearing movies. Ultimately, I was drawn to this book because of those stories, so some of the extraneous background stuff could be a little less interesting. In some cases, I really had fun with those deep dives—the story of Eddie Murphy’s rise to fame was immensely entertaining. But that wasn’t always in the case. Earlier in the book I found myself trying to speed past who John Belushi’s parents were so I could get to the parts about how Animal House was made. This was an unedited early copy, which was often difficult—chiefly because entire paragraphs and/or pages were missing, so I occasionally only got half a story. I have no idea, for example, what led Hunter S Thompson to duct tape Bill Murray to a chair and throw him in a pool. Overall, this is well worth a read for anyone interested in the stories behind some of comedy’s biggest names and movies. It’s rich in detail, told from the combined perspectives of a Hollywood historian and the people who were there.

I received an advance uncorrected proof ofthis from the publisher through First to Read. For those who watched the greats of Saturday Night Live and Second City TV blow up...and out...and back on/off, this will be a treat. Chase, Ackroyd, Belushi. Murray, Martin, Murphy, Moranis. Short, Candy (short, obviously, as was Belushi). And behind the scenes, Landis, Hughes, Spielberg, Ramis, Oz. They had rocket rises, meteoric crashes, blockbusters and bombs. It’s (mostly) all here. Well, mostly because this stops in the mid-90s when they were supplanted by others who couldn’t replace but made their own ways (those are different stories and not included here because these are not their stories) Nick de Semlyn did some great research and put together a substantive chronology. There can’t not be gaps, too many players, each deserving his own story (yes, it was only the “hes“ ... the women were big on their own, but didn’t command the star power of the men) but de Semlyn does well condensing. Have fun reliving...if you lived through it.


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