God, I love Debbie Reynolds. She has the status of a legend with the spirit of a fan, which makes this book a hugely enjoyable read.
In her final memoir, Debbie focuses the majority of the book telling amazing stories about her famous friends and her life in Hollywood. In between stories about Bob Hope and Groucho Marx, she would talk about her many talk show appearances and the delightful gowns she wore. While she mostly had fun anecdotes and praise for celebrities, there were a few dishy stories about the people she didn’t like—and those were just as delightful to read.
But the book wasn’t only about her famous friends—she wrote several eloquent pages about her dear friends and assistants, Donald and Jenny. Debbie really had a huge heart and a deep love for everyone around her. You can see that through the loyalty she inspired in her friends and fans.
I mainly read this book through the Kindle ebook and the audiobook, read by Judith Ivey. Make Em Laugh was incredibly well-written—I could hear Debbie’s voice through the pages as I read. However, I have mixed feelings on the audiobook.
I first listened to Judith Ivey read The Year of Magical Thinking, and I thought she had the perfect voice for Joan Didion’s work. Maybe it’s because I’m so familiar with Debbie as a person and performer (she recorded the audiobooks for her two previous memoirs), but I felt Judith’s voice didn’t really capture Debbie’s spirit. I was still able to engage with the stories, but I basically replaced Judith’s voice with Debbie’s in my mind. That being said, Judith really nailed the different accents and impressions throughout the book.
Overall, I really loved both reading and listening to this book. If you love Debbie Reynolds or Old Hollywood, this really is a necessary read. Debbie captures her favourite stars as real people—not just names in neon lights.