I was listening to a new podcast from Gilbert Gottfried the other day where he was interviewing Dick Cavett. The whole program was basically these guys recalling funny stories from Cavett’s show in the 60s & 70s. It got me thinking about old school comedians and variety shows. I am a huge fan of comedy, particularly stand-up comedy. I love all types of comedy from fun and clean like Brian Regan to down and dirty like Andrew Dice Clay. I have always felt that funny is funny – no matter what the subject matter is about. One thing I can tell you is that I laugh the hardest when listening to the golden age of comedy and entertainment from the 60s & 70s. The showmanship of the people from this era is just incredible.
If you haven’t seen the Dean Martin Roasts or the Dean Martin Variety Show from this era you need to get your a$$ on youtube and start watching them right away. I’m only 35 but these two programs got me hooked on this era of entertainment. All the big comics from this time were tuxedo wearing, scotch drinking class clowns, constantly poking fun at each other and trying to come up with zingers any chance they get. The best part about it was that anything was at their disposal in terms of material, to include things that would be insanely politically incorrect today. Funny was the a universal language and everyone applauded if you insulted someone, as long as it was funny. Here is my ranking of comedians/entertainers from this era with a few quick notes by each:
- Don Rickles aka “The Merchant of Venom” – he’s the quickest comedian of all time in my opinion. This guy makes me cry every time I hear him.
- Dean Martin – Probably one of the most charismatic entertainers of all time – he was really funny too.
- Jonathan Winters – he was a silly, silly dude and had great timing.
- Sid Caesar – Just check out his program called “Your Show of Shows”.
- Milton Berle – very dry, very funny.
- Phyllis Diller – She was one of the first self deprecating female comedians.
- Foster Brooks – this guy did the best “drunk guy” bit I’ve ever seen.
- Jack Benny – played the old curmudgeon shtick to perfection.
- Bob Newhart – very soft delivery but very funny.
- Johnny Carson – he’s just an all around funny guy, and obviously he did the tonight show.
My favorite modern day comic is Bill Hicks, but he was what I call a thinking man’s comedian – he wasn’t funny to be funny, he was funny to raise awareness and consciousness. I also like modern day comics like Jerry Seinfeld, Tom Segura, Hannibal Burress and Bill Burr. Funny is funny, but the golden age of funny had so many good comics at the same time and showmanship was a big part of the act. Too many comics today are too polished and look like they spend more time marketing themselves instead of perfecting their material.