Lunedi Lunacy

While searching for a video clip I stumbled upon one that featured the late Mel Blanc – “the man of  a thousand voices”.  As these things do that led to randomly clicking on videos from a few of the many programmes that featured one of the greatest of “second bananas”.

Blanc was a regular with Jack Benny both on radio and television as a cast member and part of Benny’s creative team.   He play everything from Sy the Mexican to Professor LeBlank, Jack’s long-suffering violin teacher to Benny’s decrepit old Maxwell automobile.  Apparently the audio of the old clunker (the car not Jack) sputtering didn’t work during a live radio broadcast day so Blanc quickly imitated it with such success that it was added to his long list of characters.

Benny and he had a chemistry on stage that was one of the best in the business as this little sketch goes to show:

In the 1960s CBS tried to duplicate the success of their I Love Lucy by casting the gamine Belgian actress Annie Fargé in Angel.  Though Fargé was a huge success the show rated low and only ran for one season.  However it gave Blanc one of his funniest cameos in a long string of sit-com appearances:

And by the way Blanc’s name was Melvin Jerome Blank (thanks to Laurent for catching that one.)

Many people wouldn’t recognize Blanc but they’d recognize the voices of Bugs Bunny, Daffy Duck, Porky Pig, Tweety Bird, Sylvester the Cat, Yosemite Sam, Foghorn Leghorn, Marvin the Martian, Speedy Gonzales, Wile E. Coyote, Road Runner, the Tasmanian Devil, Pepé Le Pew and many of the other characters from Looney Tunes and Merrie Melodies during that golden age of American animation.

I once had a French teacher tell me that if I wanted to get the proper cadence of French then listen to Pepé Le Pew – and that was part of Blanc’s success, he understood the rhythm, flow and stress of language.  And he knew how to make us laugh:

At his request his gravestone is inscribed:  THAT’S ALL FOLKS”.

On this day in 1905: Las Vegas is founded when 110 acres (0.45 km2), in what later would become downtown, are auctioned off.

Lunedi Lunacy

They called it the “Golden Age of Television” and looking at this clip you can understand why. It was live – including the commercials, it was without teleprompter and it was in front of a studio audience. There were not second takes, no laugh track – just talents that had been honed on stage in vaudeville, musical comedy and drama. And with a repertory company that included Imogene Coca, Carl Reiner, Howard Morris, and Nanette Fabray, Sid Caesar delivered a wild mixture of slapstick, pantomime, sophisticated take-offs, satire and laugh from 1949 until 1958 on The Admiral Broadway Revue, Your Show of Shows and the Sid Caesar Hour.    It didn’t hurt that over the years his stable of writers included Lucille Kallen, Mel Brooks, Neil Simon, Woody Allen, Michael Stewart, Mel Tolkin, Sheldon Keller and Larry Gelbart.  All that talent suggests that it was indeed a “golden age”.

The one thing none of these talented people ever did – oh current producers take note – was under-estimate the intelligence of their audience.  Here’s Caesar and Fabray in a brilliant piece of mime set to a familiar piece of classical music.

And then you ask why I don’t currently own a TV?????

01 October – 1908: Ford puts the Model T car on the market at a price of US$825. (Thanks Mr Ford!)

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Lunedi Lunacy

The unsinkable Betty White is still going strong and proving that comic timing is a gift and an art. Here she is with Johnny Carson in a sketch from The Tonight Show in the late 70s.

One of the running jokes – though he may not have appreciated it in real life – on the Tonight Show was the amount of money Carson forked out in alimony payments. Of course he thought of divorce lawyers as the Devil!

29 novembre – San Giacomo della Marca

Lunedi Lunacy

Until my blog buddy Sling posted a wonderful item last week about the Smothers Brothers, I had forgotten how funny and talented a pair they were. I got a few of their earlier albums when I was a member of some record club – remember record clubs? And then as Sling recalls they got their own TV show and every Sunday night we were treated to some of the funniest, and most subversive, comedy on TV. That and the music – often the comedy hide what superb musicians they were. After you’ve finished laughing just give it another listen for the music. Those guys knew what they were doing – big time.

16 febbraio – Santa Giuliana di Nicomedia

Lunedi Lunacy

A week or so ago I posted a clip from Cabin in the Sky featuring the great Ethel Waters and Eddie “Rochester” Anderson. Anderson was a memeber of one of radio and TV’s most brilliant repertoire companies: The Jack Benny Show. Benny was the star of the show but more often than not as the straight man to some of the funniest comics of the time: Mel Blanc, Frank Nelson, Don Wilson, Dennis O’Day, Phil Harris, Mary Livingston, Verna Felton and Anderson. Benny was quoted as saying: I don’t care who gets the laughs on my show, as long as the show is funny.

For more than 30 years Anderson played Benny’s valet but from the eary years on racial stereotyping was something Benny wouldn’t allow. The two performers respected and admired each other and it shows in their work together.

11 agosto – Santa Chiara