Ernie Kovacs Retrospective Book Ernie in Kovacsland Announced


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Ernie Kovacs Book cover
Book cover

(It's Alive) The Estate of Ernie Kovacs and Fantagraphics books announced today that a new career retrospective Ernie in Kovacsland: Writings, Drawings and Photographs from Television's Original Genius will be released on Tuesday July 18. Fans can pre-order the book here.

The 284-page coffee table book celebrates the cockeyed genius and prolific career, life and creative output of never-before-seen material from the Ernie Kovacs archive. Kovacs fans, including entertainer Ann Magnuson and musician Ron Mael of Sparks both contributed new essays for the book.

Best known for his wildly imaginative, gleefully absurdist television show in the 1950s, Ernie Kovacs (1919 - 1962) was also a notorious illustrator, novelist, essayist, newspaper columnist, and poet. In celebration of this off-kilter genius and his prolific creative output, Fantagraphics presents a career retrospective featuring never-before-seen photos from Kovacs' archive; excerpts of his magazine articles, columns and books, hand-notated TV scripts: a smattering of his "illustrated profuselies," the wacky improvisational sketches he drew on air; and more. Curated by Josh Mills (son of Edie Adams, Kovacs' wife and a performer on his show), Edie/Ernie archivist Ben Model, and counterculture historian Pat Thomas, the book offers a unique glimpse into the mind of a pioneering comedian.

"As the archivist for the estates of Ernie Kovacs and Edie Adams for more than a decade, it's immensely gratifying to have contributed to preserving both legacies in Ernie in Kovacsland from Fantagraphics," said Ben Model, Archivist for the estates of Ernie Kovacs and Edie Adams. "Having worked to bring Ernie Kovacs video and audio projects to life over the past 15 years, this is the first book sanctioned by the estate that both new and old comedy fans will enjoy and won't believe still exists."

"Ernie Kovacs brilliant "high" meets "low" hijacking of mid-century television programming ignited a spark in my teenage brain and the fire spread fast," said Devo co-founder Gerald V. Casale. "Could Devo have ever existed without the Nairobi Trio? I think everyone knows the answer."

Ernie Kovacs inspired countless comedians, musicians, humorists, and writers in the latter half of the 20th century and beyond. He is cited as a direct influence by the creators and stars of such innovative comedy series as Saturday Night Live, Monty Python, and Mystery Science Theater 3000. An award in his name has been granted to uproarious humorists like Amy Sedaris (Strangers with Candy) and Harry Shearer (This is Spinal Tap) at the Dallas VideoFest. A true visionary, Kovac's iconoclastic approach has forever made its mark on the world of comedy.

Ernie Kovacs was an influential figure for late night entertainers like Steve Allen, David Letterman, Jimmy Kimmel and Conan O'Brien, whose work has been cited appreciatively by Martin Scorsese, Harold Prince, Matt Groening (The Simpsons), Robert Smigel (Saturday TV Funhouse, Triumph: The Insult Comic Dog), Joel Hodgson (Mystery Science Theater 3000), Paul Reubens (Pee-wee Herman), Andrea Martin (SCTV), Alec Guinness and author Jonathan Lethem, among others.

A pioneer in early television whose inventive use of the medium inspired countless performers, directors, and video artists, Ernie Kovacs created indelible characters such as Percy Dovetonsils, Matzoh Hepplewhite, and Uncle Gruesome, Kovacs invented a distinctly modern form of comedy that playfully subverted the television medium. Edie Adams was his on-screen partner as well as his wife. After his death in 1962 Adams was instrumental in not only saving but also preserving Kovacs' body of work during the 1960s when she bought all existing Kovacs materials - including the masters that the television networks were planning to destroy them due to cost and storage issues. It is through her efforts that this book exists.

Retrospectives on Ernie Kovacs and his work have also been feted at such prestigious institutions as Turner Classic Movies, The Paley Center for Media, British Film Institute, UCLA Film & Television Archive, National Comedy Center, Grammy Museum, Anthology Film Archive, Museum of the Moving Image, National Gallery, AFI Silver Theatre and Cultural Center, American Cinematheque, Long Beach Museum of Art, Delle Association in Budapest and the Museum of Contemporary Art in Barcelona, Spain.

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