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Five Minutes to Kill: How the HBO Young Comedians Special Changed the Lives of 1989’s Funniest Comics (Kindle Single)

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My Seinfeld Year author Fred Stoller returns with a memoir about life, death, and stand-up. In the 1980s and the 1990s, HBO’s annual Young Comedians Special was the ultimate launching pad for emerging comics looking to break into the world of show business. The Young Comedians Special produced some of the most recognizable—and bankable—comedic stars of all time, includi My Seinfeld Year author Fred Stoller returns with a memoir about life, death, and stand-up. In the 1980s and the 1990s, HBO’s annual Young Comedians Special was the ultimate launching pad for emerging comics looking to break into the world of show business. The Young Comedians Special produced some of the most recognizable—and bankable—comedic stars of all time, including Sam Kinison, Bob Saget, Jerry Seinfeld, and Judd Apatow. But what about the ones who didn’t exactly make it?In Five Minutes to Kill, actor and comedian Fred Stoller—the Kindle bestselling author of 2012’s My Seinfeld Year—tells the story of the Young Comedians Special in 1989. He and five other talented, then-unknown comics took the stage with the hopes that their five-minute sets would propel them to fame and fortune. Some, like David Spade and Rob Schneider, hit it big; others didn’t. By turns hilarious and heart-wrenching, Five Minutes to Kill is the bittersweet story of what happened to six of America’s funniest people after their first big breaks.


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My Seinfeld Year author Fred Stoller returns with a memoir about life, death, and stand-up. In the 1980s and the 1990s, HBO’s annual Young Comedians Special was the ultimate launching pad for emerging comics looking to break into the world of show business. The Young Comedians Special produced some of the most recognizable—and bankable—comedic stars of all time, includi My Seinfeld Year author Fred Stoller returns with a memoir about life, death, and stand-up. In the 1980s and the 1990s, HBO’s annual Young Comedians Special was the ultimate launching pad for emerging comics looking to break into the world of show business. The Young Comedians Special produced some of the most recognizable—and bankable—comedic stars of all time, including Sam Kinison, Bob Saget, Jerry Seinfeld, and Judd Apatow. But what about the ones who didn’t exactly make it?In Five Minutes to Kill, actor and comedian Fred Stoller—the Kindle bestselling author of 2012’s My Seinfeld Year—tells the story of the Young Comedians Special in 1989. He and five other talented, then-unknown comics took the stage with the hopes that their five-minute sets would propel them to fame and fortune. Some, like David Spade and Rob Schneider, hit it big; others didn’t. By turns hilarious and heart-wrenching, Five Minutes to Kill is the bittersweet story of what happened to six of America’s funniest people after their first big breaks.

30 review for Five Minutes to Kill: How the HBO Young Comedians Special Changed the Lives of 1989’s Funniest Comics (Kindle Single)

  1. 5 out of 5

    Mickey Tompkins

    Found this in my kindle app, and started it today at work, and finished it. This was an interesting story about one comic's retelling about his spot on an HBO Young Comedian Special with 5 other comics. No spoilers, but 2 of the 6 comics went on to be pretty big stars, and the writer and another comic had brief cameos on Seinfeld. I love these kind of stories that tell all the dirt, be it sex, drugs, and rock n roll or just hobnobbing' with celebrities off the stage.....this book had all of that Found this in my kindle app, and started it today at work, and finished it. This was an interesting story about one comic's retelling about his spot on an HBO Young Comedian Special with 5 other comics. No spoilers, but 2 of the 6 comics went on to be pretty big stars, and the writer and another comic had brief cameos on Seinfeld. I love these kind of stories that tell all the dirt, be it sex, drugs, and rock n roll or just hobnobbing' with celebrities off the stage.....this book had all of that, and more.

  2. 4 out of 5

    Brandon Mounce

    Funny, bittersweet trip through the lives of 6 Comedians. I wasn't sure what to expect, I expected to chuckle and learn some interesting trivia. I did not expect to be moved several times throughout the story. Very enjoyable read covering the journey of six promising young comedians on different paths. I highly recommend it.

  3. 5 out of 5

    Chris

    What a lovely little ebook. Fred Stoller was a stand-up comedian in the 1980s. You recognize him, I’m sure of it. Google image him; find him on Youtube. He’s been on a hundred sitcoms as the awkward friend or the well-intentioned but odd stranger. But in 1989, he was one of the five funniest up-and-coming comedians in the country, at least according to HBO. The annual Young Comedians Special was like Christmas for comedy fanatics. In the days before cable would run six+ hours of stand-up a night What a lovely little ebook. Fred Stoller was a stand-up comedian in the 1980s. You recognize him, I’m sure of it. Google image him; find him on Youtube. He’s been on a hundred sitcoms as the awkward friend or the well-intentioned but odd stranger. But in 1989, he was one of the five funniest up-and-coming comedians in the country, at least according to HBO. The annual Young Comedians Special was like Christmas for comedy fanatics. In the days before cable would run six+ hours of stand-up a night on Saturday nights (A&E’s Comedy on the Road, followed by Evening at the Improv, Stand-Up Spotlight, Stand Up Stand Up, Caroline’s Comedy Hour, etc. etc.), and even during it, the Young Comedians Special was the premier place to get your look into the people that were going to blast out of the small clubs and into big careers and national prominence. Sometimes it did work like that. Jerry Seinfeld got his break there. Sam Kinison. Plenty of others. Of the five comics on the 1989 special, two are certainly household names: David Spade and Rob Schneider. But what about the other three? Well, there’s Fred Stoller. As he himself notes, he didn’t exactly get the stretch limo and the bathtub full of money after the special, and neither did his three other compatriots, Warren Thomas, Jann Karam, and Drake Sather. So what happened? Stoller takes you into the feelings and experiences of the special itself (Dennis Miller hosted), the buzz in the coming days, and the varying career tracks after that. Stoller wrote for Seinfeld and became a character actor. Karam and Thomas kept at it in the clubs. Sather concentrated on writing for the movies and TV, and got very good at it. Spade and Schneider you know about. Considering the (understandable) reputation comedians have for jealousy and self-pity, Stoller doesn’t indulge in either. He’s not only loving and enthusiastic about his fellow almost-rans, but very sweet to two people who haven’t always made it easy to like them, human smirk David Spade and Roger Ebert’s personal chew toy, Rob Schneider. Stoller interview those comedians still with us (Thomas died of AIDS, Sather took his own life) and those around them to piece together exactly how the chance of a lifetime can turn into a lifetime of success or just another tour of Motel 6s and one-nighter gigs. Stoller reveals his close friendship with Warren Thomas during his illness, his current close friendship with Sather’s widow and their children, and meets up with Jann Karam (who looks a bit like Julia Louis-Dreyfuss and basically ran up against another type of sexism in her career, namely men telling her “nobody wants to see someone as hot as you telling jokes”), who has been working in catering for years. He finds resolutions in sometimes misery-filled stories and silver linings in clouds that envelop whole careers. In short, he gets an awful lot done for a 60 page Kindle Single. If you’re a comedy fanatic and love the how-the-sausage-gets-made talk (the type which has proliferated exponentially in the podcast era) and want the insider’s perspective on another time, there’s no way you won’t love this. I liked My Seinfeld Year, his memoir of working on that show, but I loved this one. It’s got a lot of heart, a lot of drama, and it’s beautifully, engagingly written. And hey, now that everything’s available all the time, why not throw some of these names into youtube? A good chunk of the 1989 Young Comedian’s Special is posted there. What a time to be alive.

  4. 5 out of 5

    Simon Sweetman

    another great mini-memoir w/ substance; Stoller is great in this role - a man who is finding peace with himself and exploring some interesting pop-cultural moments all at the same time.

  5. 4 out of 5

    Jeremiah

    I feel like this could have been a much more expansive book rather than a single. I was going to give this four stars, but I've docked him a star for not trying to interview Dennis Miller. Don't be a chicken Fred.

  6. 5 out of 5

    Holly

    Right Time, Right Place...Maybe Why does Success elude some and consume others? Fred Stoller (Maybe We'll Have You Back) examines this with a look back at six young comics on the cusp of their Big Break in 1989. Some would get huge, some would continue to struggle, some would tragically come full circle. This feels like having coffee at the farmer's market and hearing stories of the Old Club Days without being too dishy or mean.

  7. 5 out of 5

    Patrick

    A nice quick read (and a free one of you are an Amazon Prime member). Fred was one of six comedians on the the 1989 HBO young comedians special. Two went on to fame and fortune. But what about the others. What happens when your big break is not your big break after all? Nice quick read, not super dead, but still entertaining.

  8. 5 out of 5

    Graceann

    I watched the 13th Annual Young Comedians Special so many times - I got cable in 1990 and it seemed as if the then-named Comedy Channel was playing it on a loop. Not that I'm complaining. Thirty years later, I now know that I was present at the dawning of something very exciting. David Spade, Rob Schneider, Warren Thomas, Jann Karam, Fred Stoller and Drake Sather each presented five minutes of comedy for HBO. A couple of those names may not be instantly familiar, but anyone who was watching stand I watched the 13th Annual Young Comedians Special so many times - I got cable in 1990 and it seemed as if the then-named Comedy Channel was playing it on a loop. Not that I'm complaining. Thirty years later, I now know that I was present at the dawning of something very exciting. David Spade, Rob Schneider, Warren Thomas, Jann Karam, Fred Stoller and Drake Sather each presented five minutes of comedy for HBO. A couple of those names may not be instantly familiar, but anyone who was watching stand-up in the late 80s and early 90s would recognize all the faces, and what happened to and for each of them after those critical 30 minutes of television makes for compelling reading. Some saw great success, some saw middling success that was hard-fought and ultimately fleeting, and others struggled, hard, to continue to be heard in a drastically changing comedic landscape. Let me say this about Fred Stoller: I know that name, and that face, because I watch a lot of television and he turned up in some of my favorite shows. He was (and is) always a welcome presence for a short burst of absurdity among the Friends or on Murphy Brown. What I did not anticipate, however, (though I should have) is what an excellent writer he is. Of course it follows that a good comedian should be a good writer, especially if they're writing their own jokes. So, in hindsight, it makes perfect sense that "Five Minutes" is written in a way that drew me back to when I first saw these folks and, critically, remembering exactly what lines of each of their sets made me roar with laughter then, and again now. Not all of the stories are happy ones. A comedian's life is not an easy one, and not everybody navigates the pitfalls and finds peace on the other side of them. In these instances, Stoller writes with respect and sensitivity; that can't have been easy to do, and I admire him for it. If he lives the way that he writes, he's a classy man.

  9. 4 out of 5

    f

    Having read his previous books, My Seinfeld Year and Maybe We'll Have You Back, and being a major fan of Seinfeld (and have even seen the episode of Wizard of Waverly Place featuring him alongside Selena Gomez, which he references right at the end, courtesy of having a daughter who watches it), this was an interesting insight into an HBO Special I'd never even heard of. Apart from Stoller I'd only really heard of the two breakouts from it, Schneider and Spade (sound like a gravedigger company), Having read his previous books, My Seinfeld Year and Maybe We'll Have You Back, and being a major fan of Seinfeld (and have even seen the episode of Wizard of Waverly Place featuring him alongside Selena Gomez, which he references right at the end, courtesy of having a daughter who watches it), this was an interesting insight into an HBO Special I'd never even heard of. Apart from Stoller I'd only really heard of the two breakouts from it, Schneider and Spade (sound like a gravedigger company), but I'm now going to investigate the other three comedians featured. Stoller breaks the work into two halves: the leading up to and the performance of the HBO Special, and the lives of its comics afterward; their different levels of mainstream success, wealth and happiness. This is perhaps the most interesting portion of the book. Overall the Kindle Single could easily be expanded into book-length, similar to I'm Dying Up Here which charted the early days of Mitzy Shore's The Comedy Store (and subsequently became a middling television show). Good effort from Stoller, he has parlayed his experiences as a nondescript slightly-known comic and channeled it into three excellent works so far.

  10. 4 out of 5

    Douglas Castagna

    I did not know Fred Stoller wrote a memoir until reading this book. Previously I read his other single, My Seinfeld Year, and thoroughly enjoyed it, even though I am not a fan of the show. I am a fan of Stoller, and have been since I say this comedy special many years ago. Since then I have seen him on some of the other shows he has been on and remember some of his act, it is a great routine by the way, as is his parts on some of the shows I have seen him on. This show takes us through the speci I did not know Fred Stoller wrote a memoir until reading this book. Previously I read his other single, My Seinfeld Year, and thoroughly enjoyed it, even though I am not a fan of the show. I am a fan of Stoller, and have been since I say this comedy special many years ago. Since then I have seen him on some of the other shows he has been on and remember some of his act, it is a great routine by the way, as is his parts on some of the shows I have seen him on. This show takes us through the special and the comedians that were on it and how their lives were changed, some meteoric, some not so much. Throughout the book there are laughs, and some bittersweet moments, and all of it is well worth reading, and well worth your time.

  11. 4 out of 5

    W. Frazier

    Comedian and character actor Fred Stoller does a “Where are they now?” update to his appearance with five other rising comics at the 1989 Young Comedian’s Special. This is an insightful, honest, and at times frustrating and depressing short story that follows the career paths of Stoller and the five other comics. Stoller’s narrative exposes the familiar Hollywood juxtaposition of high highs and low lows - precarious success measured by appearances, paychecks, the who-you-know crowd and compariso Comedian and character actor Fred Stoller does a “Where are they now?” update to his appearance with five other rising comics at the 1989 Young Comedian’s Special. This is an insightful, honest, and at times frustrating and depressing short story that follows the career paths of Stoller and the five other comics. Stoller’s narrative exposes the familiar Hollywood juxtaposition of high highs and low lows - precarious success measured by appearances, paychecks, the who-you-know crowd and comparison culture, and a comic’s uncomfortable place. This book is not all happy, and mostly quite somber, as defeat and self-destruction are recurring themes. It’s best if you have a working knowledge of 80’s and 90’s comedians.

  12. 4 out of 5

    Kristy

    This Kindle single by comedian and character actor Fred Stoller explores his experience on HBO's 1989 Young Comedians Special, hosted by Dennis Miller. Stoller looks back on the experience and its impact on the future careers of himself, Dennis Spade, Rob Schneider, Jann Karam, Drake Sather, and Warren Thomas. Obviously, reading through this list, some of the young comedians on that show had much bigger breaks than others. Stoller's writing is a little uneven, but obviously heartfelt, and using This Kindle single by comedian and character actor Fred Stoller explores his experience on HBO's 1989 Young Comedians Special, hosted by Dennis Miller. Stoller looks back on the experience and its impact on the future careers of himself, Dennis Spade, Rob Schneider, Jann Karam, Drake Sather, and Warren Thomas. Obviously, reading through this list, some of the young comedians on that show had much bigger breaks than others. Stoller's writing is a little uneven, but obviously heartfelt, and using the comedy special as a way to explore the careers and feelings of himself and his fellow comedians provides a good structure. Not mind blowing, but certainly entertaining and with a good heart.

  13. 5 out of 5

    Bill Williams

    Actor and comedian Fred Stoller tells the story of his appearance on the HBO Young Comedian's Special in 1989 and how it changed the lives of the six featured players. Back in the days before Comedy Central, there were few places where an up-and-coming talent could catch the eye of agents, fans, or producers. Some of the comics were successful, think David Spade and Rob Schneider, while some were not. By turns funny and heartbreaking, this slim volume reflects the grim realities of life in the ar Actor and comedian Fred Stoller tells the story of his appearance on the HBO Young Comedian's Special in 1989 and how it changed the lives of the six featured players. Back in the days before Comedy Central, there were few places where an up-and-coming talent could catch the eye of agents, fans, or producers. Some of the comics were successful, think David Spade and Rob Schneider, while some were not. By turns funny and heartbreaking, this slim volume reflects the grim realities of life in the arts.

  14. 5 out of 5

    Karla

    I enjoyed this book a great deal. It provided a glimpse behind the comedic curtain and answers the question 'what if I got that one big break?'. That one big break paves a different path for each person and along the way integrity, friendship, and perseverance is tested. For those brave enough to pursue a career in comedy, it is no laughing matter. There were plenty of interesting tales about well known celebrities and established comedies Fred met along the way. I found the stories that dealt w I enjoyed this book a great deal. It provided a glimpse behind the comedic curtain and answers the question 'what if I got that one big break?'. That one big break paves a different path for each person and along the way integrity, friendship, and perseverance is tested. For those brave enough to pursue a career in comedy, it is no laughing matter. There were plenty of interesting tales about well known celebrities and established comedies Fred met along the way. I found the stories that dealt with those chasing the spotlight and fighting off the demons far more compelling. If you have ever dared to dream, you've feared to fail and learning which entity to feed is a complicated balancing act. Our commonality had me thinking about their journey well after I turned the last page.

  15. 5 out of 5

    Lonna Cottrell-Thompson

    I was slightly disappointed by this. Slightly. I expected it to be funny, even though it doesn't claim to be. Stoller was one of the 90's comedians that I found funny, and I just assumed that would naturally, unintentionally, come across on paper. It turns out comedians are not just humorous. They are human. This backstage pass that included life information about other comedians was interesting and sad. It was well-written, but I didn't find it overly enjoyable.

  16. 5 out of 5

    Ronnie Cramer

    'Semi-retired' comedian Fred Stoller seems to have found another niche as an author of short and interesting books (see MY SEINFELD YEAR). This one traces the paths of of six comics after their appearance on a 'star-making' TV showcase. It's funny here and there (when he gives brief examples of their sets), but mostly it's just sad.

  17. 4 out of 5

    F Thomas Andino

    Comedy and Sadness Make Life Easier to Cope With Friends A book about real life and friendship. Fred Stoller is a true friend and an excellent writer. The book provides evidence that comedy is just not to be funny but also a road in our life's journey. Thank you for sharing your trip and your friends Warren and Drake with me.

  18. 4 out of 5

    Rae

    I've been reading these free Kindle shorts to help me get back to sleep when I wake up in the middle of the night. While this book served well in that capacity, not sure soporific is an adjective I'd want used on something I wrote. Stoller is just as whiny and self-centered as he was in his other short, My Seinfeld Year. It did help me get to sleep a couple of nights, so hooray for that?

  19. 4 out of 5

    Samuel Martinez

    Superb in depth analysis I've off been an admirer of Fred Stoller's work. This book really makes you think. It really highlights how a big event in a person's career can have an effect, both positive and negative. And it's this type of insightful musings that made me much more appreciative of the stand up craft

  20. 4 out of 5

    Lynn

    Boring Brief Memoir Fred Stoller sounds like a gossip most of the time and his writing just isn't that interesting. I'm not convinced that the show brought out the best comedians but I'm glad that their lives became better and famous.

  21. 5 out of 5

    Mike Shaw

    Interesting insights to the world of comedy It was interesting to see how some of the big names in comedy started. Even more interesting was learning about very talented people that never made it. I recommend it to anyone interested in a behind the scenes look at comedy.

  22. 4 out of 5

    Joe King

    I like Fred Stoller as a comedian and remember watching the special, but I did not expect to like this book as much as I did. He has a great writing style and the book is a very easy read. In fact the only problem with it is that it's too short.

  23. 5 out of 5

    Michael Beaumont

    Short and Very Sweet I grew up an 80’s kid, and remember so many of the names and shows in this sweet retelling of a captured moment in comic history. It’s an insightful, honest, and at times sad little read that will make you smile.

  24. 5 out of 5

    Mitch

    A touching, honest look at being a comic Stroller snags you early with his tale of the 1989 HBO Young Comedians special. He captures all the different personalities involved, and then lovingly follows each through the years. There is succ

  25. 5 out of 5

    Danny Guthrie

    Outstanding writing and insight Anybody that has ever seen a tv or movie screen has probably seen Fred Stoller, you just don't remember. This is the second Amazon book of his that I've read and he has great stories and a great style.

  26. 5 out of 5

    Trina B.

    New Perspective This book gave a candid, backstage, albeit sometimes sad, look at the lives of comedians struggles to make names for themselves in the industry. Comedy, sadly, sometimes has a dark side.

  27. 4 out of 5

    Daniel J. Lackaye

    Fun This was great if you are a fan of comedy, especially if you started following it in the '90s. Recommended. He's not the best writer but the stories are compelling and enjoyable.

  28. 5 out of 5

    Nick Safonov

    Touching and thoughtful Fred Stoller fits a touching outlook on a group of comedians in a way that helps bring to light their personalities while giving a sense of their respective impacts on the world of comedy.

  29. 5 out of 5

    David Blaylock

    Interesting that I don't remember hearing of 1/3 of these comics before.

  30. 4 out of 5

    Greg

    Kind of a strange, very specific event to unpack but I am finding I enjoy Stoller's approach to telling these stories.

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