Sunday, February 3, 2008

George Carlin

A legendary stand-up comedian, George Carlin may be best known for his routine about the seven dirty words you can't say on radio or television. It was the subject of a U.S. Supreme Court case. His observations about politics, religion and modern culture have kept him on comedy's cutting edge for several decades. A love of language and wordplay are a constant theme throughout his work. You can see it on display in this bit about the difference between baseball and football.

Sunday, January 27, 2008

Woody Allen

Known now primarily as a film director, actor and writer, Woody Allen has devoted his life to comedy. As a a teenager he gained fame contributing one-liners to Walter Winchell's influential newspaper column. He then became a TV comedy writer working on Sid Caesar's legendary "Your Show Of Show's." Taking a giant risk, he abandoned the high paid world of television writing to try his luck as a stand-up comedian. The rest, as they say, is history. Here's a typical Woody Allen stand-up routine from an appearance on "The Dean Martin Show."

Thursday, June 7, 2007

Rodney Dangerfield

Best known for "I Don't Get No Respect," the catch-phrase that summed up his comic persona, Rodney Dangerfield was a marvel to watch. His bulging eyes and nervous mannerisms were the perfect complement to his rapid-fire, self-deprecating jokes about his looks, sex life, kids, wife and every other aspect of his life. Many comedy aficionados consider the "no respect" persona the most brilliant comic device since Jack Benney's "cheap" character. It served as a justification for many of Dangerfield's jokes and tied his whole act together.

Thursday, April 26, 2007

Jonathan Winters

Jonathan Winters special comic genius was his ability to improvise. If he reminds you of Robin Williams that shouldn't be a surprise. Williams grew up watching Winters TV show and has often acknowledged the impact that Winters had on him. In this clip, Winters is handed an object and expected to be funny.

Monday, April 23, 2007

Jean Shepherd

Jean Shepherd was a popular radio personality in New York City during the 1950s and 60s. His late night show featured several hours of him "riffing" about the world and telling stories about his childhood. The now classic Christmas movie "A Christmas Story" was based on books of stories that Shepherd wrote about his experiences growing up in Indiana. The voice narrating the movie is Jean Shepherd himself. This clip comes from a performance he did for college students.

Thursday, April 19, 2007

Victor Borge: Phonetic Punctuation

Victor Borge combined comedy with his training as a classical pianist. He's best known for playing classical music that gets interupted by jokes and shtick. But one of his most famous routines didn't include music. In Phonetic Punctuation, Borge shows us what it would be like if punctuation marks had their own special sounds.

Wednesday, April 18, 2007

Lily Tomlin: Ernestine the Telephone Operator

In the late 1960s, Lily Tomlin became one of the breakout stars of the breakout comedy show "Laugh-In." One of her classic characters was Ernestine, an obnoxious telephone operator who wielded the power of the phone company as adroitly as any corrupt CEO.