Co­me­dian ar­gues all busi­ness is like show busi­ness

Hard work, nice per­son­al­ity keys to be­ing a suc­cess

Calgary Herald - Calgary Herald New Condos - - Books - LYNN ELBER

LOS ANGELES — Co­me­dian and writer Carol Leifer has some­thing se­ri­ous to say in her new book, How to Suc­ceed in Busi­ness With­out Re­ally Cry­ing.

Why lis­ten to a comic? First, it’s im­por­tant to re­mem­ber that with show busi­ness, the ac­cent is on “busi­ness.” If Leifer could make it in that un­for­giv­ing in­dus­try, she may be able to help oth­ers make it any­where.

Sec­ond, she has le­git­i­macy on the topic. In her 37th year in the in­dus­try, Leifer is an Emmy-nom­i­nated writer for shows in­clud­ing Se­in­feld and a string of Os­car cer­e­monies, has starred in five ca­ble com­edy spe­cials and is co­ex­ec­u­tive pro­ducer on Life­time’s De­vi­ous Maids.

Third, it’s more fun to read a how-to guide with anec­dotes about Jerry Se­in­feld, Bryan Cranston and Frank Si­na­tra than one with­out them. Even the dozen- plus jacket blurbs are a kick.

“Funny and sage. A great read. I even loved the parts that weren’t about me,” is Paul Reiser’s com­ment on the book, pub­lished this week by Quirk Books.

And from film­maker Judd Apa­tow: “The best mem­oir of the year (not writ­ten by the vic­tim of a hor­ri­ble crime).”

Leifer, who wrote the best­selling book When You Lie about Your Age, the Ter­ror­ists Win, was ini­tially ap­proached to write a straight-ahead mem­oir.

“But the theme that kept pop­ping up was ‘Wow, what I learned from this ex­pe­ri­ence,’ or the take­away from an­other,” she said.

For ex­am­ple, it was a thrill to per­form on Johnny Carson’s The Tonight Show. But the valu­able back­ground: It took 12 years and 22 au­di­tions for her to get there.

“So much of suc­cess in any ca­reer is tenac­ity and per­sis­tence. Af­ter 18 au­di­tions I could have said, ‘No, thanks, I’m not show­ing up for au­di­tion No. 19,’” she said.

But she did. She also hung in with a man­ager who vowed he would book her to work with Si­na­tra but in­stead had her play­ing restaurant­s on the New Jersey turn­pike. She com­plained to him, he re­as­sured her, and she worked the unglam­orous jobs.

“Then it turned out he knew Jilly Rizzo (Si­na­tra’s close friend), and he got me to open for Frank in Ve­gas,” Leifer said. “That was an­other les­son to share: Keep your head down and keep work­ing hard, and you can have the great­est mo­ment of your ca­reer out of the deep­est val­ley.”

Other tips Leifer gained from the school of hard knocks:

— Don’t take a “no” per­son­ally be­cause that “will de­stroy you,” she said. “There could be a lot of rea­sons for be­ing re­jected, and it could be that it’s un­fair, but you just keep sail­ing for­ward.”

— Be a per­son that oth­ers want to be around. In hir­ing new writ­ers for Se­in­feld, Se­in­feld and Larry David looked for what they called “the easy hang.” As Leifer sees it, “It doesn’t mat­ter how tal­ented you are if your per­son­al­ity is a drag.”

— Al­ways im­press the top boss. When she worked as a writer on Satur­day Night Live, Leifer failed to bond with Lorne Michaels and fo­cused on pleas­ing her di­rect su­per­vi­sors, in­clud­ing Al Franken. “Well, the No. 2s liked me great, and at the end of the sea­son I wasn’t in­vited back,” she said.

— Em­u­late the ap­proach of Bryan Cranston (Break­ing Bad) to seek­ing work. When Leifer told him how much she fret­ted be­fore, dur­ing and af­ter au­di­tions, he set her straight: “You’ve got it all wrong. I pre­pare for the au­di­tion like you wouldn’t be­lieve, I give them my best shot, and when I leave it’s gone.”

“He con­trols what he can con­trol, and the stuff you can’t,” for­get it, she said. “That’s the big tent pole of my book, and that’s a per­fect ex­am­ple of it.”

Quirk Books/The As­so­ci­ated Press

Carol Leifer’s book of­fers lessons that can be ap­plied to life, not just show busi­ness.

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