Now. Something vaguely interesting. Barely qualifies, but it’s one of those glimpses at a time that falls between the cracks. A 1958 Friar’s Club “Man of the Hour” show. Let’s take a look at the famous folk on the panel:
This made sense to viewers, right away. That’s Julia Meade, who appeared on the Ed Sullivan show gesturing at automobiles.
Next on the panel: well, you can ID the fellow on the left; the Rat Pack guy who never got any unless the groupie was trying to sleep her way up the chain to Frank. On his right: a boxer named Rocky.
Next: Morey Amsterdam on the right. Who’s on the left, with the cueball look and the black-rimmed glasses, drinking in half a cigarette?
There’s a guy whose entire line of work consists of words spat out with crisp derision, reduced to the opposite. 3:10 is priceless.
Of course, this being America, you have Jack Carter and Senator Jacob Javits:
Jack Carter’s recent roles include a voiceover on Ren & Stimpy (!!), Family Guy, work on iCarly, which my daughter watched, and Parks and Recreation.
That’s a career.
Abbie Lane, Italian sexpot now forgotten.
She was married to Xavier Cugat. Finally, at the end of the table:
Which brings me to something else I found - same genre, worlds apart.
The Dean Martin Roasts. It's a special kind of hell. It's got wide lapels and ruffles and cutaway shots of everyone laughing like their mouths would split over the stupidest of jokes. It's got that sickly-sweaty videotape look. It's got old great actors and the Hot Comics of the Day. The format is all-insult, all the time, which seems odd when it's obvious that the people they're roasting are very successful. I mean, jokes at Bob Newhart's expense because he has a lousy show no one watches. Ha ha ha - hey, wait.
They did this fellow, who I recall from childhood: the big fat detective guy who solved crimes and was fat.
The jokes are all fat jokes. All of them. Because he’s fat. Because his entire career, including his magnificent run as one of the greatest radio actors of the medium, was forgotten or ignored.
He did note to Nipsey Russel that the Nipster was always behind the civil rights movement. “About ten years behind. You make Steppin Fetchit look like Stokey Carmichael.” And Nipsey, who’d just done a routine about a honky who went to Harlem and got mugged, ROARS.
Oh, there’s no end to these things. And they do have their moments: you see people together you never thought of being together anywhere.
That may be the most awesome picture I will put up on the internet this week.
If you think her appearance was controversial in the Seventies, you have no idea what the Seventies were like.
She was roasting this guy.
Because that makes sense, right? The old roasts had starlets and newbies giving Ed the needle, but there was a show-biz connection. This one just throws in whoever was available, and there's no sense - as with the Sullivan roast - that they knew anything about the person they slamming. I suppose that goes with the genre, but the Sullivan roast had guys who were doing clubs and shows, and that was Sullivan's meat.
Dean's show had the same format as the 50s roast - mostly unattractive middle-aged men lashing out at successful people , to the amusement of all - but there’s something more solid about the 50s version, more grown-up. Edgier, too. The best parts just crackle. There’s one moment in the Dean Martin roast that comes close to the class, to use a word I hate, of the 50s version. The comic is informed he has only four minutes and makes the most of them by spending the entire time complaining about the four minutes. Doesn't really lay a glove on the subject of the roast.
Oh, this guy?
Donald O'Connor. He was still drinking during this phase. In the same episode - a Monty Hall Roast - they have this fellow get up to say a few words.
The show declines to give us any footage of the two interacting. Yeah, who'd be interested in that.
Finally, look who shows up to roast:
Of everyone on these shows, he's the one whose voice my daughter's heard on TV.