Granted, we all have a lot of stuff, but in the end, ya gotta laugh
While listening to a homily earlier this week, the crux of the story caused my mind to wander back to the days of some of the great comics of our time. Strange connection, I know, but nonetheless, interesting.
The message told of how much “stuff” we as a nation accumulate over our lifetimes and that every so often, we should perhaps weed some of it out and give it to people or organizations that could put it to better use.
Shockingly, there are over 50,000 storage companies throughout the United States, with locations numbering more than some fast-food chains, securing Lord knows how many dollars-worth of “stuff.”
That word “stuff” is what gave me flashbacks and a topic for this column.
It brought me back to the late great comedic icon George Carlin, often playing “The Hippy Duppy Weatherman” who drafted a whole routine discussing the topic of “stuff.” His classic line was, “I have so much stuff, I had to buy stuff, to put my stuff in, so I could buy more stuff!”
And of course, thinking of Carlin triggered memories of many of the other great comics of the era who were also quite talented and seen almost weekly on shows like Ed Sullivan.
Jackie Mason was a brilliant comic, who was made famous by Mr. Sullivan as well as scorned by him later in his career. Legend has it, Mason was in the middle of his act when Ed began signaling him to cut it short due to a scheduled Presidential live speech. Annoyed, Jackie began to make fun of Ed’s gestures and according to Ed, gave him the middle finger. Jackie denied it but was banned from the show and his career was ruined for years. Thus, the power of Mr. Sullivan.
Another Jackie who made his mark in the 60’s was Jackie Vernon. Most of us know him as the voice of Frosty the Snowman, but he had a schtick that used his rotund figure as a talking point, often pretending to show slides from a recent vacation (“Here I am on the beach where someone painted Goodyear on my side.”)
London Lee, aka, “The Rich Kid” was a standup comic whose dad was a wealthy garment industry executive, thus the moniker “The Rich Kid.” He joked that he was born in London and named after the city. He was born in Brooklyn, and he had a borderline annoying laugh as part of his act.
I can remember a lesser-known comedian named Timmie Rogers who was hilarious. His mantra was the exclamation, “Oh Yeah!” every so often just to prompt a laugh. The legendary Flip Wilson and his alter ego Geraldine consistently brought down the house, while Richard Pryor tickled funny bones wherever he appeared.
The Merchant of Venom, Don Rickles applied his sharp-tongued insults to many a leery guest, anxiety ridden Shelly Berman told his tales of woe, while “rookies” Carol Burnett and Bill Cosby were just getting started.
Other famous comics of the era included Alan King, “button-down” Bob Newhart, whose prop was a simple dial phone and Jack Carter, a Vegas favorite.
Impressionists were huge in the 60’s and 70’s with the likes of the most famous of all, Rich Little, topping the charts. Vaughn Meader parodied the Kennedy White house via several top selling records, including Grammy winning, “The First Family.” Unfortunately, his career was over after the death of JFK. David Frye satirized the First Family during the LBJ years. Both were spot on with their renditions of the commander-in-chief of the time.
All these great stars made the talk show circuit a regular thing, not only frequenting The Ed Sullivan Show but the popular shows of the time including, The Tonight Show Starring Johnny Carson, The David Frost Show, The Joey Bishop Show, The Mike Douglas Show and The Merv Griffin Show
There are many more comic geniuses of the era. These are just some of the ones I remember who impacted me.
As a good friend of mine once said, “Ya gotta laugh!” And I believe he too had a lot of stuff. …
Don Canney is a freelance writer and professional voice artist. He was born and raised in downtown Nashua with great interest in Nashua history circa 1950-1970. He now resides in Litchfield.