There's been a recent revival of interest in American comedy of the 1980s. For example, books on the films National Lampoon's Animal House (1978)and Caddyshack (1980) and the TV show Saturday Night Live have come out.
Empire features editor Nick de Semlyen's new book is wider in scope, dealing with many of the stars and the films that dominated the 1980s. If you fondly remember Eddie Murphy in Beverly Hills Cop, Chevy Chase in Fletch, or Dan Aykroyd, Bill Murray and Harold Ramis in Ghostbusters, this is the book for you.
Whether all this '80s focus is simply nostalgia or some sort of comment on where comedy has gone in recent years is arguable.
It might seem heretical, but as someone who grew up in this era, I thought some of the films - and stars - weren't all that funny and they haven't necessarily aged well.
Chase's smarminess and Murphy's expletive-laden verbal volleys seldom struck me as hilarious, and the deadpan title characters of The Blues Brothers (1980) seemed way too thin to carry a movie better remembered for its music and action scenes.
Still, it's hard to deny the commercial success and prominence of these men (it was a boys' club).
De Semlyen draws on his own interviews and other research to build up a vivid picture of an era when new stars were coming to the fore and movie sets - often infested with drugs, booze and rampant egos - were sometimes wilder than the movies themselves.
It's interesting to be reminded that Steve Martin - who's long been known as a versatile writer and actor - struggled for some time to match his 1970s success as a stand-up comic and his hit debut feature The Jerk (1979).
And that Murray, amid his comedy successes, desperately wanted to star in a film version of W Somerset Maugham's The Razor's Edge (1984). It flopped: Murray would have to wait quite a while before being taken more seriously as an actor.
De Semlyen obviously has a soft spot for some of the actors, especially Rick Moranis, who essentially withdrew from stardom at the height of his fame to focus on his family.
There are also sympathetic portraits of John Candy, a sensitive man who died far too young, and John Belushi, a wild talent killed by drugs.
You could argue about some of the omissions here as well as some of the grander claims made for the stars and their work.
However, Semlyen's book is a useful source for anyone interested in the comedy of the period. It's also a lot of fun to read.
- Wild and Crazy Guys: How the Comedy Mavericks of the '80s Changed Hollywood Forever. By Nick de Semlyen. Picador. $33.