Friday, February 24, 2023
Thinking of one of the greatest comedians and comic minds of the 20th century today. With the exception of the Termite Terrace boys, he's the individual cited most often here at Way Too Damn Lazy To Write A Blog: the one, the only, the innovative, the unimaginably imaginative Ernie Kovacs.
We'll start with a clip from Ernie's first version of The Silent Show.
We raise that, from the NBC Kovacs shows, with Ernie's Howdy Doody sendup, The Howdy Deedy Show, featuring hard-drinking host Miklos Molnar.
LOVE the greatest children's show ever, "The Kapusta Kid in Outer Space," seen here on the NBC Morning Show that aired on December 19, 1955.
Amazingly, Ernie's NBC shows still exist, largely thanks to the tireless efforts of the late, great Edie Adams.
Edie, who married Ernie in 1954, was the intrepid co-star and musical guest throughout the NBC years and up through the unorthodox ABC game show, Take A Good Look.
Here's The Ernie Kovacs Show from July 2, 1956
And July 16, 1956
And July 30, 1956
And August 6 1956
And September 3, 1956
Have binge-watched Kovacs Corner, the YouTube channel of diehard comedy, classic movies and classic television enthusiast Richard Olko, on numerous occasions.
There is also a YouTube channel entitled Free The Kinescopes! Don't know who specifically is responsible for this portal, which includes literally hundreds of TV Shows, some dating as far back as the late 1940's.
Comedy geeks will be ecstatic perusing the numerous Ed Wynn, Jack Benny, Red Skelton, Sid Caesar, Olsen & Johnson, Uncle Miltie, Johnny Carson, Jack Parr and Ernie Kovacs shows on the Free The Kinescopes! channel, but disappointed that Kovacs' 1954 DuMont Network programs, as well as that elusive February 22, 1953 episode of The Colgate Comedy Hour starring The Ritz Brothers, remain lost kinescopes.
Monday, February 20, 2023
Presidents' Day here means jazz and swing.
That means an all-music post specifically paying tribute to the recording artist and Count Basie Orchestra star known as The President, Lester Young.
Fellow saxophonist Sonny Rollins elaborates:
As the accomplishments of JFK, FDR and Honest Abe a.k.a. Hot Rod Lincoln are all targeted by obnoxious "this channel has no content" YouTube trolls in 2023, might as well spend Presidents' Day listening to the innovative tenor saxophonist and clarinetist.
Lester Young a.k.a. Pres or Prez was a virtuoso among virtuosos at a time when the likes of Mary Lou Williams, Art Tatum, Benny Goodman, Duke Ellington, Django Reinhardt, Chick Webb and Charlie Christian were all still living and at the top of their game.
Here's Pres and an all-star swing ensemble in one of the greatest films about music ever filmed, Life magazine photographer Gjon Mili's Jammin' The Blues (1944).
He's among the many music luminaries who appeared on the 1957 CBS-TV special The Sound Of Jazz part of the The Seven Lively Arts series.
While few films of Lester Young exist, here's footage shot in October 1950 of what appears to be a Jazz At The Philharmonic (JATP) ensemble: Lester Young (tenor saxophone), Bill Harris (trombone), Hank Jones (piano), Ray Brown (bass), Buddy Rich (drums).
In a longer excerpt from this JATP film, the group is joined by Coleman Hawkins and Charlie Parker. As was often the case, Granz assembled quite a powerhouse lineup.
Raising that, from the superlative YouTube channel of music historian, teacher and saxophonist Loren Schoenberg, here's one of the rare interviews with Lester Young.
And also from Loren Schoenberg, who penned an eloquent article about Pres on the Mosaic Records website, here are several renditions of Three Little Words.
After an upbringing playing in the Young family band and other ensembles, Pres became a prominent player on the music scene in the 1930's as part of the dynamic Count Basie Orchestra.
Gotta love Basie, a bandleader with an eye for talent, seen in this shot from the Library Of Congress collection, snapped at NYC's Aquarium Club by gifted photographer William P. Gottlieb.
The power, expressiveness, creativity and eloquence of Lester Young's playing deepened as his career progressed from the early swing era through the 1950's.
Pres' last records, on the Verve label, remain some of his very best.
In closing, the gang at Way Too Damn Lazy To Write A Blog, realizing that a mere month for Black History during any year is way insufficient, extends a tip of the porkpie hat to the Lester Willis Young.
Pres was a one of a kind artist who could express love, pain, sorrow, wonder and the expansiveness of the universe with one note.
Sunday, February 12, 2023
Today's early tribute to Valentine's Day, which this year falls on the same day as the Super Bowl, begins with the hilarious George Burns & Gracie Allen.
Always marvel at the exquisite comedy timing of Gracie and George's skill as the greatest straight man ever.
As far as Valentine's Day goes, the question remains what's the single most romantic thing I have ever heard? Unquestionably, the answer is a bit I saw on the Burns & Allen TV show.
As far as love and romance go, this song and dance says it all. And George & Gracie could dance!
Wonder if, as their pal Benny Kubelsky's birthday was February 14, Burns and/or Allen ever performed this terrific song on The Jack Benny Show.
Transitioning from live-action to animation, am now thinking of favorite cartoons with a Valentine's Day theme. Since this blogger has received good-natured ribbing over unapologetic enjoyment of the Columbia cartoons by the Charles Mintz and Screen Gems studios, especially those featuring Scrappy for eons, here's a 1936 Columbia Color Rhapsody.
In our humble B-studio lovin' opinion at Way Too Damn Lazy To Write A Blog, IN MY GONDOLA, starring romance, Venice, canals, mischievous pups, insouciant lobsters, the underwater world . . . and (inevitably) Scrappy, with a rare supporting appearance by his girlfriend Margie, is genuinely charming and one of the best in the series.
This brings the Valentine's Day post to Rudy Ising, MGM and the 1941 cartoon, The Dance Of The Weed. Here, Mr. Ising's production crew created a very ambitious attempt to go toe-to-toe with Fantasia. It is beautifully animated and designed - and loses a great deal viewed on the small screen, as opposed to in 35mm, presented in big screen theatrical glory.
A LOT less elegant and romantic than the Rudy Ising crew's The Dance Of The Weed but equally entertaining is a classic cartoon starring the ultimate leading man. . . Popeye the Sailor.
Here's the Fleischer Studio's version of Popeye in FOR BETTER OR WORSER. By any definition, this cartoon is not just unromantic but downright anti-romantic! Popeye is "strong to the finich" but can't cook the simplest meal to save his life and, for that matter, do anything around the house successfully, so he consults a matrimonial agency to find a spouse. Unfortunately, so does Bluto, his perennial adversary - and also a hulking brute who can't cook, clean or do the most basic housekeeping functions to save his life.
In the following superbly animated Tom & Jerry cartoon from 1946, the tomcat's incessant and extremely unsuccessful wooing involves a rendition of Louis Jordan's hit "Is You Is Or Is You Ain't My Baby." Was it Bill Hanna, Joe Barbera or the crew's exceptional animators (Mike Lah, Irv Spence, Ed Barge, Ken Muse) who were big time fans of Louis and the Tympani 5?
While this blogger has posted a good number of Valentine's Day cartoons over the years, the best being Tex Avery's LIL' TINKER, somehow have neglected this 1942 classic directed by Bob Clampett, THE HEP CAT. The gag with the crazed girl-chasin' feline protagonist comparing himself quite literally to Victor Mature gets me ROFL every time.!
And speaking of creating a cartoon featuring a horny bastard as the star, here's the guy who Chuck Jones referred to as "the Charles Boyer skunk," Pepe Le Pew, as always utterly deluded, irritatingly romantic, alarmingly self-assured and less than picky about such matters as. . . species.
Continuing the Valentine's Day theme: the following Merrie Melodie directed by Friz Freleng. The star is a not-terribly-swift canine (voiced by either Pinto Colvig or Mel Blanc doing a dead-on impersonation of Pinto Colvig - must check Keith Scott's Cartoon Voices book to confirm) who falls madly in love with. . . a statue of a dog.
Bugs Bunny hits the dating scene with his usual aplomb and panache in Hare Splitter (1948), also directed by Friz Freleng. It helps that Bugs' rival is as dumb as a sack of rocks.
In THE STUPID CUPID, one of the funniest and wildest Daffy Duck cartoons, Frank Tashlin both got his two cents in on the topic of "dangerous wooing" and cast Elmer Fudd as Dan Cupid!
While DON'T LOOK NOW (1936) is definitely not among Tex Avery's top 100 cartoons but, as far as the often pedestrian mid-1930's Merrie Melodies go, remains quite entertaining - and has a very funny ending. Love the bit in which the main character, who has similarities with the star of 1950's Harvey Comics, Hot Stuff, has fire instead of water in his shower. Nothing will accelerate one's efforts to freshen up in the morning quite like a 97,000 degrees Celsius blast!
In closing and unrelated to the rest of today's post, we are saddened by the passing last week of the outstanding and prolific tunesmith Burt Bacharach. Been watching YouTube videos all weekend of Burt's numerous terrific songs, performed by everyone from Dionne Warwick to The Hollies to Dusty Springfield to Tom Jones, Ron Isley, Trintje Oosterhuis and (especially) key collaborator Elvis Costello.
Rest In Peace and THANK YOU to Burt Bacharach, one of the all-time greats.
Saturday, February 04, 2023
Continuing an extended joyride on the classic comedy route, Way Too Damn Lazy To Write A Blog pays tribute to one of the very best comedians and comic actors from the last half of the 20th century, the hilarious John Candy.
Here, co-star and frequent collaborator in TV and movies Eugene Levy remembers John.
John's daughter Jen, host of Couch Candy, elaborates.
Kicking this tribute off will be a lesser known part of John Candy's illustrious career: his work as an animated cartoon voice artist. While John starred in the animated television series, Camp Candy, the prime example of his cartoon voice work is as Wilbur the albatross in The Rescuers Down Under.
In addition to many movies, John appeared on a slew of TV shows, including the short-lived but funny The New Show - which, along with The Dana Carvey Show a decade later, was an attempt to bring unfettered sketch comedy to prime-time - and Billy Crystal's comedy specials.
First became familiar with John Candy back in the 1970's via Second City Television, so today's post will consist primarily of lots and lots and lots (and we mean it, LOTS) of all-time favorite SCTV sketches. In particular, Monster Chiller Horror Theatre's House Of Cats is a favorite!
Without a doubt, SCTV's Johnny LaRue was quite the legend in his own mind.
John Candy & Eugene Levy co-starred as polka kings Yosh and Stan Shmenge, intrepid leaders of The Happy Wanderers.
The polka-crazed Shmenges subsequently worked their "cabbage rolls and coffee" magic at one of the Comic Relief benefit shows.
The appearances of SCTV cast members on Late Night With David Letterman are frequently memorable - and John's are no exception to this.
Inevitably, John transitioned from sketch comedy mastery to a prolific career starring and co-starring in feature films.
Particularly memorable is his "big lug" role in Planes, Trains & Automobiles.
Today, we tip our worse-for-wear Max Linder top hat to Johnny LaRue, Harry (The Guy With The Snake On His Face), William B. Williams, Dr Tongue, Gil Fisher (The Fishin' Musician), Mr. Mambo and many more.
The Candy Man can!
For more, a slew of John Candy sketches from Second City Television can be found on The Official SCTV YouTube channel.