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Book Review: ‘Comic Genius: Portraits of Funny People’ by Matt Hoyle

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Comic Genius is a collection of over 100 new photos of comedians, show-business legends like Bob Newhart and Lily Tomlin and up-and-comers like Patton Oswalt and Kristen Schaal, taken by photographer Matt Hoyle over a year and a half. He has an impressive list of credits on his website that include accolades such as Photographer of the Year at the Photography Masters Cup and Best of Show at International Photographer of the Year Awards.

Hoyle, who is proudly supporting the Save the Children charity by donating 100 percent of his net proceeds from the book, reveals that “for each comic icon, I set out to create visual concepts that either said a little bit about their character or revealed a completely different side.” When going for the latter, Hoyle created much more interesting photos. Highlights are Jim Carrey looking into a broken mirror, Neil Patrick Harris posing as Buster Keaton, and Robin Williams, who I didn’t recognize at first, as a garden gnome.

Mel Brooks wrote the Introduction in which he explains how “comedy is like an egg,” but it’s silly rather than illuminating. Hoyle credits him with helping get people to take part because “once we had Mel Brooks it was a little easier to get a response from others.” It would have nice to have gotten “a completely different side” of Brooks. Instead, he once again appears as Hitler, using a German military hat and a comb. Carol Burnett is also seen in conjunction with a familiar image but there’s creativity in using it that was lacking with Brooks. Playing off her iconic ear-tugging, and presumably through the use of prosthetics, Burnett pulls her lobe down to her shoulder.

While editing software is just another tool, I find it to be a slight disappoint when the images are have been altered after the fact rather than captured on the scene. Kathy Griffin looks sweet while her shadow, which has been manipulated reveals a devil. Michael Palin popping out of a manhole looks like he was pasted into the photo. Those aren’t the only ones, but without notes I am not clear what is and what isn’t fake.

Even with that minor complaint, Comic Genius is a fun, coffee table book for fans of both comedy and photography.

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About Gordon S. Miller

Gordon S. Miller is the artist formerly known as El Bicho, the nom de plume he used when he first began reviewing movies online for The Masked Movie Snobs in 2003. Before the year was out, he became that site's publisher. Over the years, he has also contributed to a number of other sites as a writer and editor, such as FilmRadar, Film School Rejects, High Def Digest, and Blogcritics. He is the Publisher of Cinema Sentries. Some of his random thoughts can be found at twitter.com/ElBicho_CS