Because of Nick at Nite and TV Land, Marlo Thomas will be known to many as the adorable Ann Marie, an unemployed, struggling actress trying to make it in the Big Apple. The show is cute and its star is certainly enjoyable, but it’s not a classic like Mary Tyler Moore or I Love Lucy. Along with her acting career, Thomas made a name for herself as the spokeswoman for the ERA and 1970’s second-wave feminism, otherwise known as Women’s Lib.
Because her dad was famed legendary comic, Danny Thomas, comedy is in Thomas’ genes. So it’s no surprise that she chose to title her memoirs Growing Up Laughing. What is surprising is that instead of devoting the book solely to her memories of growing up a Hollywood babe, she also includes interviews with working comics today, including Chris Rock, Whoopi Goldberg, Phyllis Diller and Joy Behar.
Thomas’ story of growing up as a celebrity offspring has been written before – and with more engagingly by Mia Farrow in her book What Falls Away and Candice Bergen in Knock Wood. Still, Thomas’ life of growing up with family pals like Lucille Ball and Bob Hope is fitfully interesting as she gives a first-hand account of growing up around that sort of rarified environment. But it’s the interviews that are better reads, because the subjects are more interesting than Thomas (though a faux “interview” between the author and comic writer Elaine May is priceless). Rock and Behar have far more interesting and profound insights to offer on the subject of comedy, than Thomas, who while a sprightly and able comedienne, isn’t really on their level.
Still, it’s not a terribly taxing read if you need to kill a couple hours on a plane ride or train trip.