Later On

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Archive for the ‘Comedy’ Category

The Smothers Brothers: Laughing at Hard Truths

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I well recall the Smothers Brothers and at one time could recite by heart a considerable portion of their albums. David Bianculli has a good story on them in the NY Times as part of the Times series on the Vietnam war 50 years ago. He writes:

On Sunday nights at 9, 50 years ago, more than a quarter of American households were watching NBC’s “Bonanza.” That comfortable and comforting western series was so dominant that CBS felt it had nothing to lose by taking a chance and giving that time slot to two brothers, musical satirists who interrupted songs like “Boil That Cabbage Down” and “Dance, Boatman, Dance” with ridiculous bouts of sibling rivalry.

The brothers, Tom and Dick Smothers, had had a successful run of appearances in nightclubs and on television variety shows with subversive takes on folk songs. When “The Smothers Brothers Comedy Hour” made its premiere on Feb. 5, 1967, CBS figured the two men in their late 20s, clean-cut and appealing, might find a niche.

Two weeks later, the “Comedy Hour” beat “Bonanza” in the ratings. After a few weeks more, the brothers who had seemed so nonthreatening became more daring, making political and topical references and booking musical acts with new, often anthemic songs to sing. Censors in the network’s standards and practices office began cutting jokes, comments, even entire skits. The brothers’ challenges to President Lyndon B. Johnson’s administration and comments on other political issues became sharper. Battles with the network censors became more frequent. The brothers took their dispute to the press and became national symbols of countercultural resistance. A little more than two years after the show’s debut, CBS fired Tom and Dick Smothers and canceled their still-successful show.

But for the new generation coming of age in the late 1960s, “The Smothers Brothers Comedy Hour” represented their view of the world, the only place on American prime-time TV where George Harrison would pop in unannounced to provide moral support for the brothers’ righteous struggle. There would be no other show on TV quite like it until “Saturday Night Live” had its premiere, in late night, in 1975.

Continue reading the main story

Dick Smothers, now 77, says he still encounters fans who say he and his brother were ahead of their time.

“Not correct at all,” Dick said in a telephone interview. “We would have been ineffective if we were ahead of our time. We were on time.” But, he added, “the time was right for us, too. It was like a big crane just dropped us down right at the start of the bubbling part of the ’60s.”

You wouldn’t get a sense of why the program caught on, or think that it would end up causing such a fuss, by looking at Tom and Dick in their matching red blazers on their earliest shows, hosting such guests as Jack Benny, Bette Davis and Jill St. John. But in the days when most homes had only one TV, which the whole family would watch together, the brothers and their writers started out by trying to appeal to multiple generations, then increasingly sought younger viewers.

“Tom and I had a bachelor pad together before the show started,” said Mason Williams, 79, who became the program’s head writer. “I remember watching TV with him, and Tom asking why there was nothing on for us and our friends.”

And there were a lot of folks like them. Thanks to the postwar baby boom, 90 million Americans — almost half the population — were under 25 years old. And stodgy network TV — about all there was on TV then — didn’t reflect their culture or the turmoil they were experiencing.

At the beginning of 1967, the State Department announced that 5,008 Americans had been killed in Vietnam in 1966, fueling nationwide protests. Also at the start of that year, Muhammad Ali, perhaps the most prominent athlete in the world, fought induction into the Army on religious grounds and condemned the war. Timothy Leary, Jerry Rubin, the Grateful Dead and others held the Human Be-In in San Francisco’s Golden Gate Park, where Leary told people to take psychedelic drugs and “turn on, tune in, drop out.”

For the younger audience who looked longingly at the San Francisco scene, the “Comedy Hour” began presenting new bands like Jefferson Airplane and the Electric Prunes and hip comics like George Carlin. The show’s sketches and jokes might seem tame now, but they signaled that the program was at the center of the social hurricane.

Buffalo Springfield appeared in the third episode, singing “For What It’s Worth,” with its refrain that would make it a counterculture anthem of resistance: “There’s something happening here.”

Before the ninth show, the network censors for the first time banned the broadcast of a sketch, written by the guest star Elaine May, which they considered objectionable because it made fun of censors.  [Whose ox is gored? – LG]

Continue reading.

Other articles in the series are listed on this page.

 

Written by LeisureGuy

5 February 2017 at 10:57 am

How Louis C.K. tells a joke

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Interesting video by Nerdwriter via Jason Kottke:

Written by LeisureGuy

18 January 2017 at 11:23 am

Posted in Comedy, Video

Pathology in the Hundred Acre Wood: a neurodevelopmental perspective on A.A. Milne

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Researchers:Sarah E. Shea, Kevin Gordon, Ann Hawkins, Janet Kawchuk, and Donna Smith

Their report begins:

Abstract

Somewhere at the top of the Hundred Acre Wood a little boy and his bear play. On the surface it is an innocent world, but on closer examination by our group of experts we find a forest where neurodevelopmental and psychosocial problems go unrecognized and untreated.

On the surface it is an innocent world: Christopher Robin, living in a beautiful forest surrounded by his loyal animal friends. Generations of readers of A.A. Milne’s Winnie-the-Pooh stories have enjoyed these seemingly benign tales.1,2 However, perspectives change with time, and it is clear to our group of modern neurodevelopmentalists that these are in fact stories of Seriously Troubled Individuals, many of whom meet DSM-IV3 criteria for significant disorders (Table 1). We have done an exhaustive review of the works of A.A. Milne and offer our conclusions about the inhabitants of the Hundred Acre Wood in hopes that our observations will help the medical community understand that there is a Dark Underside to this world.

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We begin with Pooh. This unfortunate bear embodies the concept of comorbidity. Most striking is his Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD), inattentive subtype. As clinicians, we had some debate about whether Pooh might also demonstrate significant impulsivity, as witnessed, for example, by his poorly thought out attempt to get honey by disguising himself as a rain cloud. We concluded, however, that this reflected more on his comorbid cognitive impairment, further aggravated by an obsessive fixation on honey. The latter, of course, has also contributed to his significant obesity. Pooh’s perseveration on food and his repetitive counting behaviours raise the diagnostic possibility of Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD). Given his coexisting ADHD and OCD, we question whether Pooh may over time present with Tourette’s syndrome. Pooh is also clearly described as having Very Little Brain. We could not confidently diagnose microcephaly, however, as we do not know whether standards exist for the head circumference of the brown bear. The cause of Pooh’s poor brain growth may be found in the stories themselves. Early on we see Pooh being dragged downstairs bump, bump, bump, on the back of his head. Could his later cognitive struggles be the result of a type of Shaken Bear Syndrome?

Pooh needs intervention. We feel drugs are in order. We cannot but wonder how much richer Pooh’s life might be were he to have a trial of low-dose stimulant medication. With the right supports, including methylphenidate, Pooh might be fitter and more functional and perhaps produce (and remember) more poems.

I take a PILL-tiddley pom It keeps me STILL-tiddley pom, It keeps me STILL-tiddley pom Not fiddling.

And what of little Piglet? Poor, anxious, blushing, flustered little Piglet. He clearly suffers from a Generalized Anxiety Disorder. Had he been appropriately assessed and his condition diagnosed when he was young, he might have been placed on an antipanic agent, such as paroxetine, and been saved from the emotional trauma he experienced while attempting to trap heffalumps.

Pooh and Piglet are at risk for . . .

Continue reading.

Written by LeisureGuy

23 October 2016 at 10:30 am

Posted in Books, Comedy, Science

War of the Roses in the US

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This interesting piece by Benjamin Wallace-Wells in the New Yorker, which that our political leaders are devolving into a kind of titled aristocracy and royalty in the context, say, of the War of the Roses, during which great struggles were undertaken within the public on which party to support. And those leading the parties might be purely a fiction of position: the person designated to be “x”, but of course succession is never, as we’ve seen, certain. It’s going to make a fantastic miniseries by some future Shakespeare interpreting (and thus shaping) the preceding history of the culture. They have power, but otherwise they are placed by position and cultural role and family connections (just as with royalty and titled artistocrats) and so on. Looking at it from that perspective US political history since (say) 1932 has been extremely interesting.

Written by LeisureGuy

24 May 2016 at 1:08 pm

Donald Trump Performs Shakespeare’s Soliloquies

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Aryeh Cohen-Wade writes in the New Yorker:

“Hamlet”

Listen—to be, not to be, this is a tough question, O.K.? Very tough. A lot of people come up to me and ask, “Donald, what’s more noble? Getting hit every day with the slings, the bows, the arrows, the sea of troubles—or just giving up?” I mean, smart people, the best Ivy League schools.

But I say to them, “Have you ever thought that we don’t know—we don’t know—what dreams may come? Have you ever thought about that?” Ay yi yi—there’s the rub! There’s the rub right there. When we shuffle off this mortal whatever it is—coil? They say to me, “Donald, you’ve built this fantastic company, how’d you do it? How?” And I say one word: “leadership.” Because that’s what it’s all about, is leadership. And people are so grateful whenever I bring up this whole “perchance to dream” thing. So grateful.

And on and on with the whips and the scorns of time and the contumely and the fardels and the blah blah blah.

Then I see a bare bodkin and I’m like—a bodkin? What the hell is this thing, a bodkin? Listen, I run a very successful business, I employ thousands of people and I’m supposed to care whether this bodkin is bare or not? Sad!

And when people say I don’t have a conscience—trust me, I have a conscience, and it’s a very big conscience, O.K.? And the native hue of my resolution is not sicklied o’er, that’s a lie! If anyone tells you that the native hue of my resolution is sicklied o’er, they’re trying to sell you a load of you-know-what. And enterprises of great pith—listen, my enterprises are so pithy. So pithy. Fantastic pith. But sometimes, hey, they lose the name of action, right? I mean, it happens—it happens.

“Romeo and Juliet”

Quiet, quiet—shut up, over there! What’s coming through that window? A light, it is the east, and Melania—you know, people are always telling me, they say, “Mr. Trump, you’ve got a wonderful wife”—Melania, she’s sitting right there. Stand up, sweetheart. Isn’t she a beautiful woman, Melania? Gorgeous. I love women, they love me—and I think we all know what I mean, folks! I’m gonna do so well with the women in November. So well.

Melania’s the sun, is what a lot of people are saying. Hillary Clinton? I mean, with that face? She looks like the moon! She’s very envious, if you ask me, very envious, but can you blame her? Visit Trump Tower on Fifth Avenue—which is the best street in New York, by the way—I mean, who wouldn’t be envious? This moon, Hillary, is sick and pale with grief when she compares herself to Melania, who is a very beautiful woman, I have to admit.

Melania, she’s got a great cheek, it’s a wonderful cheek, a bright cheek, everyone knows it, the stars ought to be ashamed of themselves, ashamed. The brightness of her cheek would shame those stars. As daylight doth a lamp! Look at this, folks, how she leans her cheek upon her hand. If I were a glove upon that hand—first, let me tell you, I think we all know what I would do, because I bought the Miss Universe Pageant, very successful, so I know a thing or two about gorgeous women. And all this stuff about the gloves, and my hands—I have great hands, O.K.? Gimme a break.

“Julius Caesar”

. . .

Continue reading.

Macbeth” is particularly telling, so click the link.

Written by LeisureGuy

11 April 2016 at 10:07 am

Posted in Comedy, Election, GOP

Nice appreciation of Bob & Ray

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In the NY Times, Jason Zinoman has a nice appreciation of Bob & Ray.

Written by LeisureGuy

7 February 2016 at 9:47 am

Posted in Comedy

Bob Elliott, Half of the Deadpan Bob and Ray Comedy Team, Dies at 92

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Written by LeisureGuy

3 February 2016 at 4:27 pm

Posted in Comedy

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