Saul Auster­litz is the author of Anoth­er Fine Mess: A His­to­ry of Amer­i­can Film Com­e­dy. He will be blog­ging all week for MyJew­ish­Learn­ing and the Jew­ish Book Coun­cils Vis­it­ing Scribe.

Being on tour for a book is simul­ta­ne­ous­ly an exhil­a­rat­ing and a ter­ri­fy­ing expe­ri­ence. Exhil­a­rat­ing because, after toil­ing so lengthi­ly in the mines of autho­r­i­al soli­tude, it is a plea­sure of no small import to emerge to the sur­face, book in hand, and talk about it with friends, fam­i­ly, and total strangers. Ter­ri­fy­ing because, as all authors who have ever done a book tour can attest to, the mid­night pan­ic that occa­sion­al­ly bub­bles up, con­vinced you’ll give a read­ing and no one — lit­er­al­ly not a sin­gle per­son — will show up.

Thank­ful­ly, that did not hap­pen to me dur­ing my tour for my new book Anoth­er Fine Mess: A His­to­ry of Amer­i­can Film Com­e­dy, but I’d be lying if I said it wasn’t some­thing I occa­sion­al­ly broke out into a cold sweat at the prospect of.

Some writ­ers are also good talk­ers, but many writ­ers — myself includ­ed — would pre­fer to gath­er their thoughts in front of a com­put­er, with unlim­it­ed time to gath­er my ideas and refine them before releas­ing them to the world at large. Speak­ing in pub­lic offers no such assur­ances. Like an actor, you must deliv­er on the spot. Act­ing is actu­al­ly a fair­ly good com­par­i­son to giv­ing a read­ing; there were times where I felt like an actor of whom a per­for­mance was required, and like an actor, there were times when I felt like I was play­ing a role, play­ing the author.” But I end­ed up sur­pris­ing myself at times with my capac­i­ty to per­form. Shake­speare, here I come!

The thing about a book tour is that each stop is com­plete­ly dif­fer­ent from the pre­vi­ous one, even if the talk you give is the same every time. Some of my read­ings, like those in my home­town, Los Ange­les, and New York, where I live, were filled with friends and fam­i­ly, while oth­ers were com­posed entire­ly of peo­ple I didn’t know. (Weird­ly, I felt more con­fi­dent in front of the strangers.)

The best part of the tour, hands down, was the peo­ple I met along the way. In San Diego, I got to hang out before the read­ing with the shop’s own­er and some of his friends, who were devo­tees of 1940com­e­dy, and had some ter­rif­ic rec­om­men­da­tions for films I hadn’t even heard of. In Philadel­phia, I had a long talk after the read­ing with a guy plan­ning a blog devot­ed to the tele­vi­sion shows his wife watched. In Raleigh, I got quizzed thor­ough­ly by the won­der­ful stu­dents at North Car­oli­na State Uni­ver­si­ty, who want­ed to talk about Tyler Per­ry and whether I thought The Hang­over was any good (I loved it, in case you’re won­der­ing). Best of all, in New Haven, I got to share the stage with one of my favorite teach­ers from col­lege, whose class on com­e­dy had helped to inspireAnoth­er Fine Mess.

Tour­ing for Anoth­er Fine Mess was a won­der­ful oppor­tu­ni­ty for me to engage with com­e­dy fans of all stripes — every­one from col­lege pro­fes­sors teach­ing cours­es on Char­lie Chap­lin to casu­al fans of Will Fer­rell, and all points in between. I sur­prised myself by espe­cial­ly enjoyed the ques­tion-and-answer ses­sions after my read­ings, when I faced a vir­tu­al fir­ing squad of rapid-fire ques­tions on every­thing from the impor­tance of Pre­ston Sturges to the comedic canon to the charms of Bill Murray.

I had expect­ed to find the bar­rage intim­i­dat­ing, and tongue-tying, and was pleas­ant­ly sur­prised to find the air of ner­vous expec­ta­tion (what will they ask next?) deeply enjoy­able. Even the guy in North Car­oli­na who asked me, apro­pos of noth­ing, about my feel­ings about Schindler’s List (and lat­er revealed him­self to be a Jew for Jesus), man­aged not to throw me entire­ly off my game. Bring on the questions!

Anoth­er Fine Mess: A His­to­ry of Amer­i­can Film Com­e­dy is now in stores.

Saul Auster­litz is the author of four pre­vi­ous books, includ­ing Just a Shot Away and Sit­com. His work has been pub­lished by The Boston Globe, The New York Times Mag­a­zine, Esquire, Rolling Stone, Slate, and the Los Ange­les Times. He is a grad­u­ate of Yale and NYU’s Tisch School of the Arts and is an adjunct pro­fes­sor of writ­ing and com­e­dy his­to­ry at NYU.