"An unceasingly vivid portrait of an obsessed artist, a fertile, flickering new medium—and how they were nearly always perfect for each other." — Cleveland Plain Dealer
"Rico's writing style is as breezy and entertaining as her subject's skits." — Houston Chronicle
“A worthy monument to one of TV’s most creative forces." — Variety
“Delightfully well done life of American TV’s wackiest, most original and bizarre comic genius.” — Kirkus Reviews
Behind his signature black mustache and Havana cigar, Ernie Kovacs possessed the most surreal, anarchic mind in 1950s TV. The comedy Kovacs created couldn’t exist in vaudeville or radio, wouldn’t work on the oversized movie screen. It exploited TV’s intimacy with the audience, its throwaway nature, and its new electronic potential for subversive silliness. Kovacs pioneered now-familiar forms like music videos, blackout gags, pop-culture parodies, and talking directly to camera and crew. (Watch some clips below.) Saturday Night Live and Laugh-In, David Letterman and Garry Shandling, Conan O’Brien and Billy Crystal and Chevy Chase—all have acknowledged debts to Kovacs’s early TV work.
Kovacs was a man of extremes: a brilliant workaholic, a compulsive gambler, a beloved father, friend, husband. His personal life was filled with dramatic highs and devastating lows: a Hungarian immigrant childhood in Trenton with a cop-turned-bootlegger dad and smothering mom, his ex-wife’s devastating kidnapping of their daughters, a tax debt so huge the IRS came to his Beverly Hills home and tagged the furniture. He was at the height of his creative powers when he died in a car crash in 1962, at 42. His was a unique personal vision of life’s absurdities, created as commercial entertainment but rooted in 1950s cutting-edge artistic experimentation.