Breaking Out of Show Business by Michael Paul Ziegfeld: A Review


It's been a long time since I've done a book review, but I'm excited to get back to it today with Michael Paul Ziegfeld's humorous and insightful memoir Breaking Out of Show Business: What I've Discovered By Not Being Discovered. 
Having spent most of my twenties trying to build my portfolio and gain traction as a writer and author, I understand the struggle that comes with attempting to make a name for yourself, especially now when we live in a digital world virtually saturated with creativity. So although Ziegfeld's journey is certainly different from mine, I understand where he's coming from and I think many of his readers will, too.

Breaking Out of Show Business: A Summary

"You have probably never heard of me. There may be a very slight possibility you recognize my name or maybe my face. But I have no delusions. I've always said, 'I’ve sky-rocketed to the middle.' It’s a very small percentage of those who become famous. But I never really wanted that. I’ve worked in over forty countries, comedy-toured with some “names,” done some television, a few movies, voiceovers, TV/film puppeteering, off-off-take-a-left-turn-off Broadway, producing, directing, writing, coaching, and I only did restaurant and temp work in my late teens. I haven’t gotten as far as some, but I've gotten farther than others who have tried to live a show business life. This is a little taste of my attempts to move up the ladder. I hope you like it. These are the highlights of my life...so far." 

Breaking Out of Show Business: What I Think

Ziegfeld approaches his "lack" of success in a way that I appreciate: he's self-deprecating and it doesn't come across like a humble brag or ploy to sell more books. It's his genuine approach to the life and career he's built and he owns it completely. At one point he even tells his reader (i.e. me) "These stories are probably only interesting to me, but screw you. Get your own book." Okay, then. Perhaps I will.

Breaking Out of Show Business is fraught with hilarity, barely-missed opportunities, and ill-conceived public relations nightmares (there's one story about pissing off Ben Affleck that switches on all kinds of mental lightbulbs regarding the truth behind Entertainment Tonight reports). But the anecdotal structure of this book is merely a tool to highlight the reality that Ziegfeld has done it all, and done it well. The only thing he hasn't done is be "discovered". He's been on television, in movies, on stage, in studio, behind the camera, and everything in between. His name might not conjure up a familiar face, but he is present nonetheless, and present everywhere. What Ziegfeld's book does best is showcase how success is a relative term. It doesn't really mean anything because success is in the eye of the beholder. If you're thinking success means Oscar wins and media frenzies every time you step out your front door, then you'll probably believe Ziegfeld is a failure. But if success, to you, looks like a challenging - even adventurous - life full of rich detail, laughter, and just enough adversity to keep things interesting, then Ziegfeld has earned himself the highest honors. And so has his story.

I'd like to extend a big thanks to Michael Paul Ziegfeld for reaching out to me and giving me the chance to review Breaking Out of Show Business. I wish you the best of luck (although something tells me you don't need it)!

If you want to learn more about Michael Paul Ziegfeld, please visit his official website. You can also connect with him on Twitter and purchase his book here.


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