Comedians: Alone on the Telephone

In Shelley Berman's closet, a dozen $325 suits hang in a row, the right sleeve of each bent at the elbow, recalling a cocked arm holding a telephone. Short of a medieval armorer, no tailor could keep a jacket from taking on the prime characteristic of its owner, the comedian who has risen to fame by talking to imaginary people on imaginary telephones.

Ordering new clothes in $1,000 lots, Berman fights the problem with money. His nightclub dates, his cross-country tours of one-night stands, and his three long-playing, long-talking records, which have sold over $1,000,000 worth of copies, round out...

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