Mel Brooks, Will Smith and the cast of the Sopranos audiobook reviews

‘All About Me! My Remarkable Life in Show Business,’ by Mel Brooks

Mel Brooks delivers the story of his life in his familiar old-New-Yorker voice, one which has remained vigorous for 95 years — or 2,000, depending on your source. Born Melvin Kaminsky, he grew up in a Brooklyn tenement, lost his father to tuberculosis, survived being run over by a car and got his start in show business as a stand-up comedian in the Borscht Belt. He went on to write for Sid Caesar in the ’50s, and from there to performing “The 2000 Year Old Man,” co-creating “Get Smart,” and writing, directing and acting in movies and Broadway musicals. Brooks acknowledges the role of serendipity in his career, but he also is not shy about taking pride and pleasure in his own audacious self, his anarchic sense of humor, penchant for blowing up sacred cows and numerous awards and accolades. Here’s a man seemingly untroubled by second thoughts and entirely free of what he has called “a psychological defect called modesty.” This is an ebullient book, filled with anecdotes, triumphant laughter and asides delivered with perfect timing and an air of festivity. (Random House Audio, Unabridged, 15 hours)

‘Will,’ by Will Smith

Will Smith — rapper, stand-up comedian, actor, producer and songwriter — has added memoirist to his resume. Smith tells us about his early years of him: He was brought up in a middle-class home in West Philadelphia, raised by a mother for whom education was paramount and a violent father whom Smith credits for his own ability to overcome adversity — of which his father provided plenty of him. He also delivers a useful rundown of the evolution of rap and a lot of inside information on the music business and his time performing as part of DJ Jazzy Jeff & the Fresh Prince. Thanks in great part to his narration, the book is high in energy and very funny — there’s a great deal of comic power and buoyancy that takes this story well beyond the printed page. Smith puts on the voices of various people, provides samples of music and frequently reminds us that he is “the undisputed biggest movie star in the world.” His jubilation of him over his own greatness of him is so relentless it becomes amusing. Smith was aided with the book by self-help author Mark Manson, which may be why this otherwise exhilarating audiobook is burdened at times with passages of hokey advice on self-empowerment. (Penguin Audio, Unabridged, 16 ¼ hours)

‘Woke Up This Morning: The Definitive History of the Sopranos,’ by Michael Imperioli and Steve Schirripa

This thoroughly engrossing behind-the-scenes exploration of the popular television series is based in part on the podcast “Talking Sopranos” by Michael Imperioli (Christopher Moltisanti) and Steve Schirripa (Bobby Baccalieri), with some assistance from writer Philip Lerman. Here the two actors interview each other and 60 other people who worked on the show. Chiefly because of the friendly banter and (annoying) bickering between the two actors, the production sounds more like a podcast than a book. But there is also great weirdness here. Familiar audiobook narrators provide the voices of the actors interviewed by the real voices of Imperioli and Schirripa: Thus, when Imperioli and Schirripa ask Edie Falco about her role de ella as Carmela, it’s startling to hear voice actor Christina DeLaine answer. Still, the audiobook is endlessly fascinating, filled with arcana and insight. We find actors fearing and arguing against the deaths of their characters and hear how viewers still erupt in outrage at Imperioli when his character kills Adriana’s dog. Creator David Chase (voiced by Jason Culp) also weighs in, as do many of the directors, writers, casting directors, sound engineers and other experts and technicians who made the show the work of art that it is. Throughout the interviews, James Gandolfini is remembered and celebrated, making this strange production a heartfelt memorial to a brilliant actor and generous, supportive colleague. (Harper Audio, Unabridged, 13 ¾ hours)

Katherine A. Powersreviews audiobooks every month for The Washington Post.

Best celebrity-voiced audiobooks

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published.