Make ‘Em Laugh Review
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Unabridged Digital Audiobook
Runtime: 5 hours, 51 minutes
Read by Judith Ivey

With the sudden death of Debbie Reynolds on December 28, 2016—just one day after daughter Carrie Fisher’s death—Hollywood lost a true legend. Though she was best known for her starring role in Singin’ in the Rain, she spent more than 60 years on stage and screen—and in tabloids. And in the audio edition of Make ‘Em Laugh: Short-Term Memories of Longtime Friends (co-written with Dorian Hannaway), she looks back at the people she met along the way.

This 2015 release isn’t really a memoir; that’s 2013’s Unsinkable. Instead, it’s a collection of stories about the people Reynolds knew, loved, or just met through the years—more like the outtakes from her more formal memoir. Here, she relates anecdotes about her travels and her run-ins with foreign royalty. She gives tributes to her dearest friends—some famous, others not. She talks about the famous comics she’s known. And she offers little tidbits of stories that can only come from a lifetime in the spotlight as a beloved Hollywood legend.

From its stories to its narration, Make ‘Em Laugh feels like an afternoon listening to your favorite grandma recount her favorite stories from her life. It’s filled with random anecdotes and asides that ebb and flow and meander and ramble right along with her train of thought. At times, you’ll wonder why she included certain stories—and your mind may wander a bit during stories about people and places that you know nothing about. But it still makes for a fun listen. And Judith Ivey’s narration is appropriately filled with the kind of energy and sometimes random inflection that you may get from Grandma’s stories, too.

But, then again, your favorite grandma probably isn’t a Hollywood legend—so instead of stories about her crazy cousin Mabel, you get stories about being groped by Prince Philip...or the one about Eddie Murphy stealing her pen. They’re not all wild and crazy tales, but they certainly have their share of madness—and a little bit of gossip, too.

Of course, now, after her death, the conclusion of the book is bittersweet, written with all of the hopefulness of a woman who truly loved her family and was looking forward to (finally) enjoying her retirement with them. But, tragedy aside, it’s still a charming—and sometimes laugh-out-loud funny—walk through the life of a Hollywood great.

Whether you’re a fan of Debbie Reynolds or just a fan of Hollywood, Make ‘Em Laugh is an intriguing insider’s look at showbiz through the years. It isn’t a structured, organized memoir, but you’ll find plenty to enjoy in this anthology of behind-the-scenes adventures.

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