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Posts tagged as history

Watch Woody Allen's Incredibly Rare Short Film 'Men of Crisis'

One of the rarest pieces of comedy of the modern era, Woody Allen's short film Men of Crisis: The Harvey Wallinger Story, has appeared on YouTube. Originally made for PBS but deemed too critical of the Nixon administration to air, the film has never been officially released.

For more info on Men of Crisis, see the first installment of our ongoing column "From the Archives."

The Best of 'Army Man,' the Humor Magazine That Was the Foundation of the Original 'Simpsons' Writers Room

If there is such a thing as a cult comedy magazine, it's Army Man, America's Only Magazine. With a writing staff that included George Meyer, Jack Handey, Jon Vitti, John Swartzwelder, David Sacks, Ian Maxtone-Graham, Andy Borowitz, Roz Chast, Ian Frazier, Bob Odenkirk, and many many more, it's criminal that Army Man isn't more well known.

But the humor magazine ran for only three short issues and was never widely distributed. It was a homemade production, each 'zine photocopied and stapled by comedy genius George Meyer. The quality of the humor is only surpassed by the the caliber of the writing staff and their subsequent projects. Most famously, creator [...]

The Unsung Brilliance of Tom Lehrer

One of the sharpest wits of the 1950s and ‘60s was Tom Lehrer, the mathematician-turned-satirist who sang and performed blackly comic songs lampooning social norms, musical genres and the headlines of the day. In his foreword to the CD collection The Remains of Tom Lehrer, Dr. Demento calls Lehrer “the most brilliant song satirist ever recorded,” and “Weird Al” Yankovic has referred to him as “the J.D. Salinger of demented music.” Yet for all this, Lehrer remains little-known to many contemporary comedy aficionados. This is unfortunate, because though his catalog is relatively limited — a few dozen songs — each is a gem, brimming with biting humor and genuine musical [...]

There Will Never Be Another Jonathan Winters

There, in his eyes.

Controlled madness. Laser-keen in bursts. Pointed and precise.

Vulnerability, too. A certain tenderness. His eyes set the tone for his act.

I can't think of an American comedian more revered and respected than Jonathan Winters. (There's Jack Benny, for those who remember him.) Winters created a world where you were welcome, but you had to keep pace. His rapid-fire mind took hairpin turns. The inattentive might be left in his dust.

Winters was one of the more offbeat performers in mainstream comedy. He was as polished as Hope. As graceful as Gleason. As biting as Rickles. Yet Winters pushed it further. Breathed different [...]

'It's Garry Shandling's Show': Just as Influential as You Probably Don't Remember

Garry Shandling is one of the most innovative and influential comedians of all time. However, when Shout Factory released the entire Larry Sanders Show on DVD in the winter of 2011—concurrent with IFC’s decision to rerun the entire series—it seemed to set off a “Garry Shandling renaissance” that has carried over for the past 2-3 years; buoyed by Garry’s ever-bizarre and hilarious Twitter feed.

No matter how staunch of a Shandling supporter you’ve been over the years, you have to concede that there has been a certain heightened re-appreciation of his talents over the past few years. As a child of the 90’s I was slightly too young [...]

Watch Louis C.K., Stephen Colbert, and Conan Give the Gettysburg Address

Abraham Lincoln gave the Gettysburg Address 150 years ago this month, and documentarian Ken Burns has been asking people to film themselves reciting the famous speech and put it online at LearnTheAddress.org. Here's Stephen Colbert doing it in character as Lincoln with a beard and hat above and Conan O'Brien and Louis C.K., who does his with Jerry Seinfeld in the room, below (via Vulture):

Unearthing John Swartzwelder's 1996 Unsold Western Pilot

Antenna Free TV has a piece today on a near-mythical pilot from 1996 called Pistol Pete, written by the also near-mythical Simpsons scribe John Swartzwelder. A kooky, comic western, and an unmade show on par with cult lost gems like Lookwell and Heat Vision and Jack, it starred Brian Doyle-Murray and Steve Kearney, whom Harris tinterviews. Swartzwelder even makes a brief statement about the show, and shows up in a photo, both of which are remarkable, because if you know anything about the incredibly reclusive comic genius, it's that he's an incredibly reclusive comic genius.

That's Not Funny, That's Sexist: The Controversial Legacy of Benny Hill

The Benny Hill Show towered over even Monty Python in terms of worldwide appeal and popularity in its hey day, which is just astounding. However, history rewards the victors and while Monty Python looms large over sketch comedy even today, Benny Hill has been reduced to a curious footnote in comedy history. While both share an enthusiasm for absurdity, Monty Python’s sketches often featured a healthy dose of cerebral satire buried within the anarchic foolishness. Hill, however, strikes modern viewers as broad and cartoonish, avoiding subtly altogether.

Make no mistake; Benny Hill was a huge comedic presence for twenty years (1969-1989) during the run of his titular The Benny [...]

It Worked Better: Dress Rehearsal Replacements in 'SNL' Reruns

The first Debbie Downer sketch on Saturday Night Live in May 2004 was a surprise hit, largely because of the cast’s inability to finish the sketch without breaking character, so it was expected that the character would be brought back for SNL’s season premiere in October. Unlike the first time around, the cast and host Ben Affleck managed to get through the sketch without laughing; the audience response was also comparatively tepid and the sketch came across as a disappointment. When the show was repeated, the rehearsal take was used, featuring the corpsing that made the first Debbie Downer sketch so enjoyable and a better response from the audience.

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The Short Films of Albert Brooks

The Paley Center for Media, which has locations in both New York and LA, dedicates itself to the preservation of television and radio history. Inside their vast archives of more than 120,000 television shows, commercials, and radio programs, there are thousands of important and funny programs waiting to be rediscovered by comedy nerds like you and me. Each week, this column will highlight a new gem waiting for you at the Paley Library to quietly laugh at. (Seriously, it’s a library, so keep it down.)

Albert Brooks, stand-up, author, actor, and comedy legend, was recently interviewed in the January issue of Vanity Fair which was guest edited by Judd [...]

Finding Long Lost Jack Benny Episodes

The last time on From the Archives that we checked in on Jack Benny, it was towards the end of his career, in 1973. While he was getting on in years, his oft-complimented timing was still just as sharp as it always was, and he still put on a good show. However, judging any comedian's performance at the age of 79 seems a little unfair, unless they're George Burns, so today we're going to examine Jack Benny at his peak, with the help of the new Shout Factory DVD The Jack Benny Show: The Lost Episodes.

I've spoken many times in this column about the various studios [...]

Big and Glossy and Wonderful: The Birth of the 'National Lampoon' Magazine

The first issue of the National Lampoon appeared in April 1970 and sold fewer than half of the five hundred thousand copies printed. Some readers may have thought they were buying yet another Harvard Lampoon magazine parody, understandably confused by a cover that was a variation on their recent Time parody; a dimly lit model in revealing costume posed against a muddy brown background with the caption “Sexy Cover Issue.” Less predictably, next to the model was a grinning cartoon duck — a Doug Kenney idea. “Henry would say, ‘Wouldn’t it be great to do an interview with [legendary New Yorker humorist] S. J. Perelman,’ and Doug would say, ‘We [...]

New Sketches in an Old Package: 22 Examples of New 'SNL' Content that Debuted in Reruns

Reruns of Saturday Night Live are usually edited somewhat from the original live broadcasts.  These edits are often just minor fixes of technical issues and improvements to the sound mix, but throughout the show’s history, the reruns have also cut entire sketches, or replaced them with dress rehearsal performances.

On rare occasions, a repeat of Saturday Night Live will feature new content.  This usually happens when another segment is cut from the rerun, and something is needed to fill time.  In the earlier seasons, sketches would often be added from different week’s shows, but even as early as Season 2, original content has turned up in an SNL rerun.  [...]

Timing is Everything: The Comedy of Bob Hope

For over half a century, Bob Hope was arguably the most famous and beloved comedian in America. Like most comics from his era, he started as a song and dance man in Vaudeville and slowly made his way up the ranks through radio, stage, and ultimately into the movies, where his brand of acerbic humor won him accolades as well as fame. Hope also became famous for his variety specials that aired on NBC as well as his unwavering commitment to entertaining American troops overseas through the USO. So what the hell is he doing in this series?

Just days after Hope’s death, Christopher Hitchens wrote what might be [...]