The Sound of Laughter


Book: The Sound of Laughter

Author: Bennett Cerf

Illustrator: Michael K. Frith

Publisher: Bantam Book Club, republished 1972

ISBN-13: 978-0385071178

ISBN-10: 0385071175

Language level: 3

(1=nothing objectionable; 2=common euphemisms and/or childish slang terms; 3=some cursing and/or profanity; 4=a lot of cursing and/or profanity; 5=obscenity and/or vulgarity)

Recommended reading level:

Rating: **** 4 stars

(5 stars=EXCELLENT; 4 stars=GOOD; 3 stars=FAIR; 2 stars=POOR; 1 star=VERY POOR; no stars=NOT RECOMMENDED)

Category: Humor

Reviewed by Wayne S. Walker

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     Cerf, Bennett.  The Sound of Laughter (Published in 1970 by Doubleday and Company Inc., Garden City, NY).  Bennett Alfred Cerf (May 25, 1898 – August 27, 1971) was an American writer, publisher, and co-founder of the American publishing firm Random House. Cerf was also known for his own compilations of jokes and puns, and for his weekly television appearances for over 17 years on the panel game show What’s My Line?  And he published a weekly column, “The Cerf Board,” in the Sunday supplement magazine This Week.  In 1944, Cerf published the first of his books of jokes and anecdotes, Try and Stop Me, with illustrations drawn by Carl Rose.  In 1951, Cerf began appearing weekly on What’s My Line?, where he stayed for 16 years, until the show ended its run on CBS, in 1967. Until his death, Cerf continued to appear regularly on the syndicated version of What’s My Line? and other TV game shows.

     I grew up watching the original version of What’s My Line?  Then as a teenager and young adult I watched the syndicated version.  Recently, I have been rewatching some of the old TV game shows on You Tube.  On one of them, I think To Tell the Truth, Cerf appeared as a panelist and mentioned his then new book The Sound of Laughter.   I decided to see if I could find a copy.  In it, Cerf serves up some help for those who like a good joke or a bad pun, but especially those who have to do public speaking. The book is divided into various catagories — politics, history, wildlife (among others), and of course puns. There are history lessons as well as famous folks’ stories such as Dorothy Parker and Gertrude Stein.  Some of the material is dated and would best be understood by those who lived through the 1960s, but much of it is universal.  A few anecdotes are a bit racy, but nothing truly vulgar or obscene.  The “d” and “h” words are used occasionally, which doesn’t surprise me because I’ve heard Cerf use them in his television appearances.  I will say that the book is genuinely funny.

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