Simply put, the three-DVD set of PBS’ six-part special on comedy in America is a must-have for any fan of comedy. Hosted by Billy Crystal and narrated by Amy Sedaris, “Make ’em Laugh” traces the origins of the wiseguy, the oddball, the breadwinner, the satirist, the pratfaller, and the groundbreaker in incredible detail, combining footage of the masters at work (both movies and TV) with interviews of dozens of comedians, writers and producers. (Holy cow, was Jack Benny’s writing staff an All-Star lineup of funny.) It’s all very informative, but if the set has one flaw, it’s in each show’s tendency to stop the timeline around 1989, which results in the omission of several prominent modern-day comedians (Bill Hicks, Patton Oswalt and Sarah Silverman, to name a few). That will happen, of course, when trying to condense 80 years of comedy into six hours. Each disc also contains extended interviews with dozens of comedians, and a couple bits of guys telling their favorite jokes. Great stuff, across the board.

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