Funny Business

Because you can never have enough vacuum cleaners in your blog...

Because you can never have enough vacuum cleaners in your blog...

My last post roamed over a virtual never-ending plain of topics, from the intolerance of some Christians in Kansas to the chaotic working of my mind to vacuum cleaners (and despite one attempt at persuading me to the contrary, I still say it’s canisters over uprights). I also reflected on the appeal comedy records once had for me and wondered if people still listen to them.

I assume they do, because comedians are still releasing them, with Jon Stewart and Chris Rock among the recent Grammy winners for comedy albums. What I should have asked, I think, is do kids still listen to them. You know, when they’re hanging out with their friends. And maybe not even stoned.

I know that from about 8 to 16, comedy recordings entertained my friends and me on countless afternoons and evenings in somebody’s basement or playroom. The first ones that made our hit parade included Allan Sherman (not the traditional comedy routine, true) and Bill Cosby. With Cos, it was the voices and sound effects that pulled me in. Sherman lured me in with the word plays and parodies, even if I didn’t always know exactly what he was referring to (Jewish reference would have meant nothing at the time). I still cannot hear “God Rest Ye Merry, Gentlemen” without singing to myself Sherman’s version:

God bless you, Jerry Mendelbaum
Let nothing you dismay
This May you had a rotten month
So what is there to say
Let’s hope next May is better
And good things will come your way
And you won’t have a feeling of dismay
Next May

Next up in my recorded comedic development came George Carlin and Robert Klein. Carlin was mostly reserved for my older sister’s house, where her husband gleefully turned my other sister and me onto the Seven Words and the farting routine (SBD, baby).  Once again, hearing a certain phrase always triggers a memory of one of my personal favorites from that era. With Carlin, it’s the words “good sport.”  Here’s a rough approximation of the bit:

A guy gets a phone call.

Guy: Hello?

Jane: Hello. This is Jane.

Guy: Jane? Jane who?

Jane: Jane.

Guy: Jane Jane?

Jane: Jane. We met at a party six to eight weeks ago and you said I was a really good sport.

Guy: Oh, Jane. How are you, Jane?

Jane: Pregnant. And I going to jump out the window.

Guy: Say, you are a good sport!

OK, a little nasty, but remember I was about 11 or 12 at the time.

Actor and author too

Actor and author too

Klein came just a little bit later. The record I owned was Mind and Over Matter, and as I alluded to in the last post, it featured some Watergate-inspired political humor, but also less topical stuff that cracked me up. I always loved the opening bit, as a fast-talking TV huckster promised, “Now you can get every record ever recorded. In this once-in-a lifetime TV offer…We drive a truck to your house.” Including Lithuanian language records.

Action figures?!

Action figures?!

Next up came the stoner humor, with Cheech and Chong. My sister and I had several records, but one bit that always stuck out for me was set at a drive-in, and there was a pirate movie playing, and a lisped-voice victim taunts his attacker, “Oh, rip the shirt, how cliché.” I’m not sure I knew the meaning of cliché or the significance of the speaker’s speech pattern, but thinking about it always made me laugh. Then a voice  cut in over the soundtrack, through the tinny little car speaker: “Snack bar closes in 15 minutes, 15 minutes for the snack bar.”  Along with that was the phrase, “My back teeth are floating,” which I’d never heard before. Still think of it whenever I’m running to a urinal at some public place (which doesn’t say much for my maturation process over the decades, I know).


Classic bits - naughty and otherwise

For my circle of friends, though, the ultimate stoner comedy act was Monty Python. I have some small claim to fame among my fellow derelicts. I found Monty Python’s Previous Record in the cut-out bin at a local grocery store (in the days when grocery stores and other unlikely places had cut-out bins with mostly obscure and awful records, which I sometimes bought, like Davy Jones’s solo record released before he joined the Monkees. Sheesh…) I must have read about the Python gang in Rolling Stone. This was around the time PBS began airing their TV show, but before our local outlet did, so none of us really knew much about them. I brought the record to an afternoon bonefest (yeah, we sometimes talked like that back then), and about 8 of us laughed ourselves silly. From “Our you embarrassed easily? I am. But it’s nothing. It’s all part of growing up, and being British” to Australian table wines and “The Money Song,” we died. Not sure we got all the way through the second side, though; I think the munchies kicked in. And I know we did not get all the Britishisms. But so what. We knew agonizingly beautiful absurdity when we heard it.

In this walk through the recorded comedy Hall of Fame, I have to mention the National Lampoon Radio Hour. I have met no one who listened to the show every Sunday night as religiously as my friend Dave and I did. Then we would go to school on Monday and recap the best parts. “What if Ed Sullivan were tortured? And when I say tortured what I mean is, what if steel needles, say six inches long, were plunged into Ed’s eyes? I think it would go something like this…Aggh! Aggh! Aggh! (repeat until throat becomes hoarse).” My wife – my girlfriend at the time – scored big points after she heard me mention the show once and then tracked down a 3-CD set of highlights for a Christmas present. Her sense of humor, thankfully, is about as juvenile as mine.

Writing this, a few things strike me: So many of these bits are really wedged tightly into the ol’ noggin. And kids and teens today can turn to DVDs of movies and comedy concerts to get their humor fix. But I grew up on radio, listening to sports and news as well as music, and creating images in mind to go with the words was part of the allure. It still is. I don’t have any of the old comedy records with me in Chicago. So I guess the aural memories will have to do.

“Tonight’s forecast: dark. Continued dark over night, with scattered light by morning…”

PS–An unsolictied plug: If you like comedy and are close to Montreal, the city’s annual Just for Laughs festival in July is a must-see.  Being closer to that wonderful city will be one of the perks of getting back  East next year.


~ by mburgan on December 9, 2008.

5 Responses to “Funny Business”

  1. OMG..this brings back memories for sure…hello mudda hello fadda…and I still have that Davy Jones album…

  2. Hey, that was my album!

  3. Funny, I was thinking about hearing that Monty Python record for the first time recently. I saw 2 of my boys laugh like that when I showed them the Random Garfield Generator on the web, so there is still good humor out there.

    Was that the album that was cut with 2 different tracks at the very start of the record? So you would hear 2 different beginnings depending on where the needle fell? Or am I imagining that? Help!

  4. As I informed Radion privately, I think it was another MP record that had the dual tracks. If it was Previous Record, I never found the second one!

  5. i just heard about that album today as I was watching Monty Python….The Monty Python Matching Tie and Handkerchief (1973)
    Charisma 1080 (U.K.) Ansta AL 4039 (U.S.) [REAR COVER ART]


    About the Album

    Released as the world’s first three-sided record, one side actually contains a pair of grooves cut into it, each containing different material; the material that played depended on where the needle dropped. Subsequent pressings have not included the double groove.

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