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Debra Hamel is the mother of two preternaturally attractive girls and the author of a number of books about ancient Greece. She writes and blogs from her subterranean lair in North Haven, CT. Read more.


Books by Debra Hamel:

THE BATTLE OF ARGINUSAE :
VICTORY AT SEA AND ITS TRAGIC AFTERMATH IN THE FINAL YEARS OF THE PELOPONNESIAN WAR
By Debra Hamel


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Kindle | paperback (UK)

KILLING ERATOSTHENES:
A TRUE CRIME STORY
FROM ANCIENT ATHENS
By Debra Hamel


Kindle | paperback (US)
Kindle | paperback (UK)

READING HERODOTUS:
A GUIDED TOUR THROUGH THE WILD BOARS, DANCING SUITORS, AND CRAZY TYRANTS OF THE HISTORY
By Debra Hamel


paperback | Kindle | hardcover (US)
paperback | hardcover (UK)

THE MUTILATION OF THE HERMS:
UNPACKING AN ANCIENT MYSTERY
By Debra Hamel


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Kindle | paperback (UK)

TRYING NEAIRA:
THE TRUE STORY OF A COURTESAN'S SCANDALOUS LIFE IN ANCIENT GREECE
By Debra Hamel


paperback | hardcover (US)
paperback | hardcover (UK)

SOCRATES AT WAR:
THE MILITARY HEROICS OF AN ICONIC INTELLECTUAL
By Debra Hamel


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ANCIENT GREEKS IN DRAG:
THE LIBERATION OF THEBES AND OTHER ACTS OF HEROIC TRANSVESTISM
By Debra Hamel


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IT WAS A DARK AND STORMY TWEET:
FIVE HUNDRED 1ST LINES IN 140 CHARACTERS OR LESS
By Debra Hamel


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Kindle | paperback (UK)

PRISONERS OF THE PELOPONNESIAN WAR
By Debra Hamel


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Epstein, Lawrence J.: Author interview

Lawrence Epstein is a professor of English and the author of The Haunted Smile: The Story of Jewish Comedians in America and Mixed Nuts: America's Love Affair with Comedy Teams From Burns and Allen to Belushi and Aykroyd. He frequently lectures on American popular culture.

Visit the author's web site at www.mixednutsbook.com or contact him at ComedyTeams@aol.com.

1. Tell us a little about your most recent book, Mixed Nuts.

Mixed Nuts is a celebration of comedy teams. I wanted to include the jokes and the routines, but also the sometimes sad stories behind the laughs. All of the major teams are included starting in vaudeville, through radio, films, and television. So, of course, there are Laurel and Hardy, the Marx Brothers, the Three Stooges and so on. But I included some unexpected teams, such as Lucille Ball and Vivian Vance. There was quite a tradition of women teams early on, and I wanted to show a modern example. I ended the book discussing how the teams influenced contemporary comedies such as Friends and Frasier.

2. You interviewed a number of celebrities when researching the book, including Sid Caesar, Steve Allen, and Avery Schreiber. In your acknowledgments you even mention that you were on stage in Beverly Hills with Jerry Stiller. You must have some good stories to tell about these interviews.

These comedians were very kind. Jerry Stiller provided a wonderful quote for the cover of Mixed Nuts. I interviewed Steve Allen about six months before he died. Somehow I got it in my head that if I could make him laugh, I could write this book. I'm glad to say he was very generous with his laughter. I ended up doing about 150 interviews for my last two books, and I found warm, generous people like Tom Smothers and many other people.

3. Was there anything you learned while researching and writing the book that surprised you?

Of course, the exciting part of research is uncovering what you didn't know and presenting it to readers. I didn't know that Gracie Allen never wore short sleeves. The story is sad. I didn't know the stories behind some of the teams. I certainly hadn't thought before about why some teams were popular for a short while and others for much longer. I was surprised at how much the teams reflected their times. The job of a writer is to capture this excitement and pass it on. That's what I tried to do.

4. Your section on the Road pictures of Bob Hope and Bing Crosby got me thinking about Aristophanes' Frogs, a comedy in which the god Dionysos and his slave Xanthias travel to the Underworld to retrieve a dead tragedian. Hope and Crosby would have made a great, funny adaptation of the Frogs. (Road to Hades?)

I'm not sure they'd have been ready to go to Hades, but there was a final Road picture planned that was never filmed. Hope was supposed to make a film with George Burns called The Road to the Fountain of Youth. Now that would have been a picture.

5. If they were just starting out today, which of the classic teams do you think would be most successful given the current social milieu?

The Marx Brothers and Hope and Crosby because Groucho and Hope did so many one-liners. Today's comedy focuses on the individual while teams emphasized community. Therefore comedians starting out today need to develop a personality.

6. You're an English professor. Who are some of your favorite authors, and how much do you read?

I read incessantly. I get nervous if there's not a book around. I read all kinds of literature. Suspense and mystery fiction is my favorite popular fiction.

7. If you had to pick any single comedian or comedy team to be stranded on a desert island with, who would it be and why?

Abbott and Costello because they could improvise so well. They'd always keep me laughing.

8. Are you working on a new project?

I'm still looking.

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