Saturday, September 09, 2017

And This Blog Loves "The Old Philosopher"

There are many philosophers of the standup variety this blogger loves - Will Rogers, Bill Hicks, Richard Pryor and George Carlin - as well as satiric writers Mark Twain and Jonathan Swift, and illustrators William Hogarth and Honoré Daumier. None of them will be the topics of today's post! For the September 9, 2017 post, this jet-lagged but undaunted Blogmeister tips the cap to actor, playwright, comedian, recording artist, singer and cartoon voice ace Eddie Lawrence (1919-2014).

A bit of background: Your Blogmeister's mom, an accomplished professional woman who, off-work, possessed a delightfully goofy sense of humor, would ask her at times sad, isolated and discouraged son, "Is That What's Bothering You, Bunkie?" Only later did I realize that mi madre was referring to Eddie Lawrence, the Old Philosopher, A.K.A. monologist/comic Lawrence Eisler - and, most importantly, attempting to steer me in the direction of LAUGHS. It was her way of trying to cheer me up and help.

Eddie Lawrence, it turned out, was not just The Old Philosopher, as funny and iconic as that character was.

As much as that "theme with many variations" was key to Mr. Lawrence's fame, as the obituary in the New York Times duly noted, he was also a multi-talented director-writer-actor (onstage and in movies) and a musician.

There were numerous versions of The Old Philosopher, all funny.

Lawrence even carried The Old Philosopher persona to radio ads.

A couple of decades after the records were first released, Eddie's Old Philosopher recordings received frequent airplay on the Dr. Demento radio show. When the radio host presented the performers of the program's most requested records in a concert, Eddie, of course, was invited. He did not disappoint.

Still later, I realized that Eddie Lawrence wrote and provided voices for many Paramount cartoons and often wrote the stories as well. It turned out they were animated versions of his routines.

The following Famous Studios cartoon visualizes one of Eddie's records, Abner The Baseball.

A few of these non-prototypical Famous Studios efforts found their way to television's New Casper Cartoon Show, but this writer, much more a fan of Warner Brothers and Tex Avery MGM cartoons than of Casper The Friendly Ghost as a child, did not see any of Eddie Lawrence's cartoons back then. This is for a good reason: most of the Eddie Lawrence cartoons and other mid-1960's Paramount/Famous cartoons had not been produced yet when the six year old version of Your Correspondent was watching The New Casper Cartoon Show on TV.

The Eddie Lawrence cartoons, including the Swifty & Shorty series which re-imagined many of his routines, were in movie theaters at the time; unfortunately, I did not get the pleasure of seeing them on the big screen before a Jerry Lewis flick.

It was not until even later, the early 1990's, when this animation buff actually saw Famous Studios cartoons from this period, courtesy of a Nickelodeon program titled Cartoon Kablooey. Surprise - the 1964-1967 Paramount/Famous cartoons, directed by Howard Post, Shamus Culhane and Ralph Bakshi, in this writer's opinion, are more often than not fresh, original and funny in an unorthodox way. Unlike the 1950's Harveytoons, they do not come across as repetitive and formulaic, even though the animation and design is more minimalist.

For more information on The Old Philosopher, check out the wonderful tribute to Eddie Lawrence posted by Mark Evanier on his News From Me blog, as well as the superb interview conducted by Kliph Nesteroff, author of The Comedians: Drunks, Thieves, Scoundrels, and the History of American Comedy and posted on his Classic Television Showbiz page.



rnigma said...

Eddie Lawrence would have one more go as the Old Philosopher in PBS' "Square One Television" series (best remembered for its "Mathnet" segments spoofing Dragnet).

Dejael Long said...

Great fun for all, and no fun for anyone named Butinsky.