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.

Tuesday, April 17, 2007

Ernie Kovacs: The Nairobi Trio

Ernie Kovacs was a pioneer in early television comedy. In the Nairobi Trio sketch, he's the gorilla in the middle with his trademark cigar protruding from the mask. His friend Jack Lemmon is reported to have occasionally filled the gorilla suit on the left.

Monday, April 16, 2007

The Three Stooges

Widely regarded as low-brow comedians, the Three Stooges have some high-brow distinctions. Their short film Men In Black (1934) was nominated for an academy award. And their short You Nazty Spy! (1940) was the first Hollywood film to poke fun at Hitler. (It preceded Charlie Chaplain's The Great Dictator by nine months.)

Sunday, April 15, 2007

Abbott & Costello: Who's On First

In 1999, Time magazine named Abbott & Costello's "Who's On First" the best comedy sketch of the 20th century. A video of it plays continuously at the Baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown, New York. Variations of the sketch include:
  • Hu's On First
  • Video Rental On First
  • Abbott & Costello Learn Hebrew

  • Saturday, April 14, 2007

    Marx Brothers: Mirror Scene from Duck Soup

    In 2000, the American Film Institute announced the 100 funniest films of the century. Duck Soup (1933) starring the Marx Brothers was rated #5. In this classic scene, Harpo (dressed as Groucho) must avoid detection by the real Groucho. The routine was later repeated in the 1950s on I Love Lucy with Lucille Ball dressed as Harpo.