Friday, July 25, 2008

Goosestep Through The Tulips

The current ACLU bid to stop the Bush/Mukasey plan to "make the entire globe — including the United States itself — a 'battlefield' where the president decides who will be locked up forever," is a noble effort, and about six/seven years too late. And of course, several libloggers are leaping on chairs, squealing about how this once law-abiding, respected nation is in danger of losing its democratic soul, etc. The same old routine. Naturally, I have thoughts about this and related matters. But that is a Monday or Tuesday post. This is Friday. You want ACLU vs. Adolph Bush, come back next week. (I'm enjoying how after years of portraying Bush/Cheney as Nazis, liberals are outraged that reactionaries are doing the same with Obama. Karma, kids!) Today, I'm talking comedy.

I don't give enough love to "SCTV," and I really should, given that I own two box sets of the show, and that I used to watch it alongside "Fridays" in that fevered, creative period of my young life. As much as I love "Fridays," the fact is "SCTV" was a superior show. There, I said it. As much as it stings, I must confess the truth. Yowch! No wonder so many people prefer lies.

Of all the "SCTV" bits I've seen, here's one that escaped my notice until now. Arthur Miller's "Death of a Salesman" as performed by Ricardo Montalbán (Eugene Levy), Margaret Hamilton (Andrea Martin), DeForest Kelley (Dave Thomas), George Carlin (Rick Moranis) and John Belushi (Tony Rosato). Normally, I can take or leave celebrity impression sketches, as they tend to rely on familiarity instead of actual jokes for laughs. But "SCTV" often took celebrity impressions into strange areas, and this piece is a perfect example of that.

Thomas' Kelley stands out, and I like how he steadily slides into his "Star Trek" persona. Martin's Hamilton plays on that actress' coffee commercials of the time, but that is the chief hook, little more. Moranis' Carlin is funny, but essentially one-joke. Levy, as always, is marvelous. Rosato beautifully captures Belushi's essence, and I'm guessing that this was taped before Belushi's death, but who knows. Many of the "SCTV" cast worked with Belushi at Second City, so I wonder if they'd parody him after his overdose. Comedians can be overly sentimental or simply cannibalistic. Depends on the room.

And now, jump back in time with me, won't you, to 1950 and NBC's "Colgate Comedy Hour." In this brief bit with partner Dean Martin, Jerry Lewis displays his elastic, physical gifts. It was live TV, and Lewis took full advantage of the fact. No one in those early days stretched the small screen like he did: he's in perfect control of his body and his timing is excellent. (You can see where someone like Jim Carrey got his initial cue.)

I wasn't planning to deluge you with more "Fridays" for at least another week or so. But this morning in my mail, my pal Tom Kramer sent me a filmed piece he wrote and directed for the show in early 1981 -- introduced by Mark Blankfield and narrated by Brandis Kemp. I mentioned this piece in my George Carlin obit, which I saw only once and pulled from deep memory. I got most of it right, suggesting that perhaps my mind may stick around for a few years more. The sorry bastard.