CRANFORD, NJ — Cranford author Alex Bernstein recently published a book called “Plrknib,” pronounced “plurk nib,” a memoir of the late 1970s and early ’80s that tells the story of Bernstein’s early career as a comedian in the Cincinnati area. He performed with much more experienced comedians, which forced him to strive to tell “the perfect joke.”
“The memoir talks about my struggles as a young comedian,” Bernstein told Cranford Life in an email. “I was performing with comedians at least five years older than myself. I desperately tried to keep up with them, while finishing my senior year of high school.”
This struggle led to the idea for the title of his book, although he leaves the mystery of it for readers to ponder.
“As the year went on, comedy exploded in Cincinnati and the club became hugely popular,” Bernstein said. “And as the pressure to keep up with the older comics grew, I looked for something, some edge, to help me compete. And then I found one, ‘Plrknib,’ the perfect joke. But using that joke came with a terrible, terrible price.”
“Plrknib,” published by Prom on Mars, is Bernstein’s first full-length novel, although he has published other works, such as “Miserable Holiday Stories” and “The #$@!# Bicycle Boys Save Christmas, Again!”
“I have a long history of writing and performing comedy, but focused mostly on writing fiction for the last 10 to 15 years,” said Bernstein. “About 10 years ago, I was looking for a ‘big piece of meat’ story, to build a novel around, and decided to focus on my senior year of high school, because it was really rich with great, funny people and tremendously awkward teenage moments. And the big moments that the plot turns on are really kind of crushing in a lot of ways.
Lots of highs and lows, warts and all. I went back and forth, trying to decide whether to do it as a novel or memoir, and settled on memoir, because these were very real people at a real place in time and I thought they very much deserved all the credit.”
The memoir took Bernstein about 10 years to write, on and off, while he worked with an agent, who helped him through the process. One of the outcomes of writing the memoir included an opportunity to teach standup comedy to teenagers at Temple Sholom in Scotch Plains.
“ I wrote the story over that first year and spent the next year or two after that rewriting and shopping it around,” said Bernstein. “I then worked with a great agent, who pushed me to add the final section, which is a long, ‘30 years later’ segment, which sounds kind of awful, but actually works really well. One of the outcomes of writing the book was that I ended up doing standup comedy again, after a 25-year hiatus, and also began teaching standup and improvisation to teenagers at Temple Sholom in Scotch Plains.
So, the ‘30 years later’ section brings the book full circle, from me learning from a lot of adult comedian mentors to becoming the adult comedian mentor to a ton of brilliant local New Jersey kids.”