Cover image for Show and tell : New Yorker profiles
Show and tell : New Yorker profiles
Lahr, John, 1941-
Personal Author:
Publication Information:
Woodstock, NY : Overlook Press, [2000]

Physical Description:
xiii, 335 pages ; 24 cm
General Note:
Includes index.
Format :


Call Number
Material Type
Home Location
Item Holds
PN2285 .L34 2000 Adult Non-Fiction Non-Fiction Area

On Order



In Show and Tell, John Lahr, "probably the most intelligent and insightful writer on theater today" (The New York Times Book Review), reinvents the celebrity profile to get at the essence of performance. Lahr's utterly winning and incisive profiles probe some of the most compelling, elusive, and irresistible public personas of our time, among them: Woody Allen, David Mamet, Ingmar Bergman, Frank Sinatra, Roseanne, Irving Berlin, Bob Hope, Mike Nichols, Wallace Shawn, Arthur Miller, and Neil LaBute. In these, and the moving autobiographical portraits of his father, Bert Lahr, the Cowardly Lion in The Wizard of Oz, and his mother, a former Ziegfeld girl, Lahr charts the geography of fame.

Lahr's gift is to get inside both the art and the artist, to show how the work and the life intersect. He has had unusual access to his subjects who talk to him with rare candor. In prose "as lively as good conversation" (Robert Brustein), he arrives at truths of uncommon clarity, a claim seconded by Arthur Miller, who said that Lahr's essay on him is "by far the best thing about my stuff I've ever read". These very special profiles, the product of eight years' work at The New Yorker, deepen our understanding of their subjects and the culture that they profoundly reflect. Show and Tell, like the icons whose lives and work it so meticulously chronicles, corrupts an audience with pleasure.

Author Notes

John Lahr writes for The New Yorker, where he was for 21 years the Senior drama critic of the magazine. A veteran of all aspects of the theatre, Lahr has contributed behind-the-scenes portraits, reviews, and Profiles, and has expanded the magazine's drama coverage beyond Broadway to include the work of international theatre and regional companies.

A former theatre critic at The Nation, The Village Voice, and British Vogue, among other publications, Lahr has published seventeen books on the theatre and two novels, "The Autograph Hound," and "Hot to Trot." His book "Dame Edna Everage and the Rise of Western Civilization," won the 1992 Roger Machell Prize for best book on the performing arts. His other works include "Light Fantastic: Adventures in Theatre," (1996) and "Show and Tell: New Yorker Profiles," (2000). In 2001, he edited "The Diaries of Kenneth." His expanded New Yorker article on Frank Sinatra was made into a book with photographs, "Frank Sinatra: The Artist and the Man." Lahr's most recent book is "Honky Tonk Parade: New Yorker Profiles of Show People," published in 2005.

Lahr served as literary adviser to the Tyrone Guthrie Theatre in Minneapolis in 1968, and as Literary Manager of the Vivian Beaumont Theatre from 1969 to 1971. He was the co-producer of the 1987 film "Prick Up Your Ears," based on his Joe Orton biography of the same title, and was the editor of "The Orton Diaries." Lahr has also written numerous movie scripts. His short film "Sticky My Fingers. . . Fleet My Feet" (directed by John Hancock) was nominated for an Academy Award in 1971.

Lahr is a two-time winner of the George Jean Nathan Award for Dramatic Criticism. In 1968, he became the prize's youngest recipient; he was honored again in 1993. Lahr has written many stage adaptations, which have been performed in England and the United States, including:"Accidental Death of an Anarchist," "The Manchurian Candidate," "The Bluebird of Unhappiness: A Woody Allen Revue," and "Diary of a Somebody," which began at the Royal National Theatre, played the West End, and later toured England. He co-authored the Tony Award-winning "Elaine Stritch at Liberty," which won the 2002 Drama Desk Award for outstanding book of a musical. Lahr, who was the first drama critic to win a Tony Award, is the son of the comedian Bert Lahr, whom he wrote about in his biography "Notes on a Cowardly Lion." He divides his time between New York and London and maintains a Web site at

Reviews 2

Booklist Review

Lahr is that rarity among American entertainment journalists, a polished and graceful writer. Others may research their subjects as exhaustively as he does, but few who are as fixated on fame and celebrity as he take as much care to produce balanced, witty, readable prose. Of course, he admits that profiles such as those collected here generally take four months each to write, and each is a distillation of "about fifteen hundred pages of transcribed interviews." Also, Lahr is a New Yorker writer, and that journal has always put a premium on exceptionally good writing. Lahr's subjects in these late 1990s pieces include both celebs like Woody Allen, Frank Sinatra, and Ingmar Bergman, and obscurer, rising stars like director Neil Labute and cross-dressing comedian Eddie Izzard. Bonuses come in the form of moving meditations on Lahr's famous father, Bert, the subject of his son's popular memoir Notes on a Cowardly Lion (1969), and mother, Mildred, who is less famous but no less worthy. --Jack Helbig

Library Journal Review

According to Lahr, New Yorker profiles are exercises in biography that average 10,000 words and take four months to research and write. Here, the two-time winner of the George Jean Nathan Award for Dramatic Criticism and author of several biographies, plays, and novels turns in 15 of his New Yorker profiles dating from 1995 to the present. Thirteen cover such celebrities as Woody Allen, David Mamet, Frank Sinatra, and Roseanne; two are devoted to Lahr's parents. All 15 profiles are extremely well written and offer insights into their subjects. Unforunately, the sum of the whole does not equal its parts; the book does not cohere, and it is doubtful whether any single reader would find all profiles of interest, as some of the subjects are not household names (e.g., Liev Schreiber, Neil LaBute). With this in mind, libraries might want to think twice before purchasing, but those collecting compilations of writing by New Yorker contributors should consider.ÄNeal Baker, Earlham Coll., Richmond, IN (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.

Table of Contents

IntroductionWoody Allen and David Mamet and Frank Sinatra and Arthur Miller and Liev Schreiber and Roseanne Irving and Berlin Wallace and Shawn Eddie and Izzard Neil and Labute Bob Hope and Ingmar Bergman and Mike Nichols and Bert Lahr and Mildred Lahr