Blog Archives

Women’s Comedic Monologues – Introducing Jenny Yang

And here it is, folks. The last in our monologue series for Women’s Comedic Monologues That Are Actually Funny! Watch Jenny Yang perform her original monologue, “Asian Goggles.”

Be sure to check out more from Jenny at her website  and don’t forget to follow her @jennyyangtv

Women’s Comedic Monologues – Introducing Jamie Brunton

Another video in celebration of the release of Women’s Comedic Monologues That Are Actually Funny! Here is Jamie Brunton performing her monologue “Jury Duty”.

 

 

Excitingly, Jamie has also just joined the writing team for Ellen! Congratulations, Jamie.

For more funny bits from, follow her on twitter @jamierbrunton.

Women’s Comedic Monologues – Introducing Carla Cackowski

Another video of another funny lady! Here is Carla Cackowski, whose monologue “Manic Pixie Dream Girl” can be found in Women’s Comedic Monologues (available now!).

Carla also answered some questions about the book, and why she thinks it will be such an important resource for actresses and comedians:

Q:What makes something funny? 

A: Patterns, particulars, and pratfalls.  And alliteration.

Q: Write a bit about why you think actors NEED this book.

A: Every actor needs this because “funny” monologue books featuring the likes of O’Neill, Strindberg, and Shaw does not a balanced bookshelf make.

See more from Carla on her website.

James Sheridan at Lucy Fest 2014

Today marks the first day of the 2014 Lucille Ball Comedy Festival in Jamestown, NY! The festival, which is designed to showcase the best in the comedy biz, will feature acts such as Lucie Arnaz, Jay Leno, and Tom Cotter. James Sheridan, author of the Lucille Ball FAQ will also be there to sign copies and to give his expert opinion on America’s favorite redhead. Below, James tells us a bit about the history of the festival and what to expect. We hope you all have your tickets!

On August 6, 1911, Lucille Ball was born in Jamestown, New York. On August 6, 2014, the annual Lucille Ball Festival of 00314841Comedy will commence in Jamestown, New York. Lucille Ball spent her formative years in Jamestown and this was evident in her work. Her long running sitcom characters Lucy Ricardo, Lucy Carmichael, and Lucy Carter all hailed from Jamestown and there were many references to the city, its surroundings, and its inhabitants throughout the years. For instance, nearly every woman in Lucy Ricardo’s women’s club on I Love Lucy was named after a citizen of Jamestown who Lucy knew in her youth. Since Lucille Ball was described as Jamestown’s greatest export, it was only natural they would honor her in some way.

In the late 1980s, the city approached Lucy about hosting a festival for new comedy in her honor. Lucy loved the idea of promoting rising young comedians, but passed away one month before she was scheduled to attend the first such event in May of 1989. The festival officially launched in two years later with Lucy’s daughter, Lucie Arnaz, as guest of honor. The festival expanded, but with the opening of the Lucy – Desi Museum in 1996, its focus became more about Lucy and less on comedy. In the past few of years, the event has struck a happy medium by going back to the original idea of promoting comedy that pleased Lucy so much, but with enough Lucy themed events to enthrall the hundreds of fans who attend every year. A Comedy Hall of Fame is currently in the planning stages.

This year’s festival will feature Lucie Arnaz, Jay Leno, Caroline Rhea, and America’s Got Talent finalist Tom Cotter. I will be on hand to sign copies of Lucille Ball FAQ: Everything Left to Know About America’s Favorite Redhead. Events will include a Lucille Ball fashion show hosted by costume designer Ret Turner, an I Love Lucy trivia contest, a masquerade ball, and various screenings of Lucy programs. Hundreds of fans from all over the world are expected for the five days of events, which is sure to be a laugh riot.

Happy Birthday, Bob Elliot!

Today is Bob Elliot’s 91st Birthday! Along with his partner, Ray Goulding, Bob was an huge game-changer in the entertainment industry. His humor and personality has impacted TV and radio broadcasting (as well as the big screen and Broadway itself) to a legendary degree. Thanks for entertaining us all, Bob!

View some images of Bob from Bob and Ray: Keener Than Most Persons HERE

And read more about Bob Elliot in:

Bob and Ray: Keener Than Most Persons
David Pollock
ISBN: 9781557838308
6″ x  9″
320 pages

00314926

Bob and Ray, Keener Than Most Persons

Enjoy an excerpt from Bob and Ray:Keener Than Most Persons by David Pollock, as posted by HumorOutcasts.com.

Prologue

He reached over to the shelf in his cramped dressing room and, with a little tap, launched the handcrafted wooden Italian clown into another round of perpetual somersaults. The mesmerizing, brightly colored figure, a gift from his wife, Lee, had done all that Bob Elliott could ask of it to keep him nicely distracted from the anxiety-filled realities of that sweltering, September 24, 1970, opening night of Bob and Ray—The Two and Only.

The large, brightly lit make-up mirror he seated himself in front of symbolized the alien world in which he now found himself. Elliott had been informed by the conventions and rhythms of broadcasting—radio guys did not slap on make-up and become Broadway actors; they performed comedy bits mocking Broadway actors, a responsibility he never shirked. Could tonight, he wondered, be some kind of cruel payback?

In AM radio’s twilight decades, Bob Elliott and Ray Goulding were snapped up by every major network still standing, some stretches on the air seven days a week. Their comedy, said Groucho Marx, reminded him of Robert Benchley: “They have that same Alice in Wonderland philosophy. . . . I’m just crazy about them.” Johnny Carson called them “two of the funniest—and most influential—humorists of their time.” But that was history now, as was their original nightly fifteen-minute NBC television series. Only some of the Broadway first-nighters in the John Golden Theatre would remember that Elliott and Goulding had been TV pioneers, on NBC five nights a week.

Next door, in equally Spartan quarters, separated only by a common bathroom, sat Ray Goulding, mindful of his voice—all of his voices, in fact. As there were no understudies, if he had a cold, all of his characters had a cold. “It becomes an epidemic,” he liked to say. And he was in a  constant state of worry that he might catch one. According to his widow, Liz, “He lived on Vitamin C.” For Goulding, it would take more than a somersaulting toy clown to allay anxiety.

Like every New Yorker that night, he and his partner were victims of the fiendish Indian summer heat wave. Johnna Levine, co-producer of the show, had advised the two that if it got impossible to keep the theater comfortable, “Take off your goddamn jackets and tell everybody in the audience to do the same.”

To keep reading, please visit HumorOutcasts.com.

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Bob and Ray, Keener Than Most Persons traces the origins and development of the pair’s unique sensibility that defined their dozens of local and network radio and TV series, later motion picture roles, Carnegie Hall performances, and hit Broadway show Bob and Ray – The Two and Only.

Together for 43 years (longer than Laurel and Hardy, Burns and Allen, Abbott and Costello, and Martin and Lewis), the twosome deflected all intrusions into the personalities behind their many masks and the dynamics of their relationship, and rarely elaborated on their career trajectory or methodology. Now, with the full cooperation of Bob Elliott and of Ray Goulding’s widow, Liz, together with insights from numerous colleagues, their craft and the culture that made them so relevant is explored in depth.

Funny: The Body 2

Funny: The Book is by David Misch

“FUNNY: THE BODY 2”

— They picked the wrong kid.

— Let’s face it, there’s nothing funnier than a nail in the eye.

— Unless it’s a mechanical rhino excreting a movie star.

— Testicle’s beast friend.

Funny: The Book

Funny: The Book is an entertaining look at the art of comedy, from its historical roots to the latest scientific findings, with diversions into the worlds of movies (Buster Keaton and the Marx Brothers), television (The Office), prose (Woody Allen, Robert Benchley), theater (The Front Page), jokes and stand-up comedy (Richard Pryor, Steve Martin), as well as personal reminiscences from the author’s experiences on such TV programs as Mork and Mindy.

Funny: The Standups

Funny: The Book is by David Misch

                                                      “FUNNY: THE STANDUPS”

— Richard, from the greatest standup performance ever filmed.

— Lenny is maybe more provocative today than ever before.

— Perhaps if it had been carefully explained that “Who” was the man’s actual name, all that confusion could have been avoided.

— Steve Martin brings existentialism to standup.

— Woody was probably the smartest comic in history; this joke made Carson collapse.

— Mel and Carl’s improvised routines made literal and figurative history.

Funny: The Book

Funny: The Book is an entertaining look at the art of comedy, from its historical roots to the latest scientific findings, with diversions into the worlds of movies (Buster Keaton and the Marx Brothers), television (The Office), prose (Woody Allen, Robert Benchley), theater (The Front Page), jokes and stand-up comedy (Richard Pryor, Steve Martin), as well as personal reminiscences from the author’s experiences on such TV programs as Mork and Mindy.

Happy Birthday, Danny Kaye

The following is an excerpt from I’m the Greatest Star: Broadway’s Top Musical Legends from 1900 to Today by Robert Viagas.

Danny Kaye
Geet-Got-Gittle-Oddle-Got-Go-Say

There are a lot of photos of Danny Kaye, and not one does him justice. Oh, he looked like that, all right. But Kaye existed in a frenzied world of scats, squeaks, pops, thrums, oofs, and gargles delivered at rat-tat-tat velocity and with Olympic-class mug- ging no still image could hope to capture. Sharp-featured, with an explosion of red hair and a manner that could be sweet and shy and retiring one minute and wildly bombastic the next, his specialty was high-speed verbal and physical gymnastics performed with almost supernatural energy. Cole Porter, Ira Gershwin, and Kurt Weill were intrigued enough by his special abilities that they wrote musicals to showcase him. Adorable onstage, Kaye had a tendency to temperament and temper offstage, vigorously encouraged by his wife and frequent writer, Sylvia Fine. He was beloved by audiences for decades and was such a tireless fundraiser for UNICEF that the children’s organization chose him to accept its Nobel Peace Prize. Yet in the end his restless running from one form to another left him not only with a spotty record on Broadway (just four musicals and two special concert appearances), but overall a career in film, variety, and television that was great, but not as spectacular as everyone who experienced him live in those early years would have predicted.

★ ★ ★

Kaye was born Daniel David Kaminsky (“Kominsky,” according to some sources) on January 18, 1913, into a family of Ukrainian Jews who immigrated to Brooklyn three years earlier. His father was a tailor, not much different from Motel in Fiddler on the Roof, and like Motel, he made sure his family didn’t starve—but couldn’t do much beyond that.

The family had the immigrant’s near-worship of doctors, and young Daniel harbored a lifelong dream of becoming a surgeon. But there was no hope, financially, of medical school, so he dropped out of Thomas Jefferson High School when he was fourteen and worked at a soda fountain before creating a little singing vaudeville act called Red and Blackie, with his friend Louis Elison. They sang and danced, and Kaye began displaying his facility with physical comedy, silly voices, and funny faces.

But his entry into vaudeville came just as the art form was expiring, partly due to the Great Depression. He toured the United States, adopting the shortened name “Kaye,” and even traveled to East Asia, where he developed his unique style of double-talking gibberish, which, combined with his nonverbal clowning, helped him transcend the language bar- rier. It would become his trademark.

Returning to the United States, and finding little employment in vaudeville, he took his skills to the ’Skills—the Catskill Mountains northwest of New York City, where middle-class “campers” with any money at all retreated to leafy resorts to escape the pre-air- conditioning summer heat. His job was to serve as “tummler,” a combination emcee, social director, and street performer, who kept things lively by bringing people together for out- door activities by day and entertaining onstage by night. It was a good training ground for Kaye.

In his quest for employment, Kaye traveled to London to perform in music halls there, beginning a lifelong love affair between Kaye and the British. Back in New York in 1938, he auditioned for Saturday Night Vanities, a small-time revue. There he met a dark-haired pianist and songwriter named Sylvia Fine. She penned parodies of classic songs, along with original material of her own. “I walked in and saw Danny doing a song called ‘Vultures of Culture,’” she later told a magazine interviewer. “He terrified me. I was never naive and before I had left that day, he made offers of a suggestive nature.”

They were married within a year. It was the turning point for both of them. She understood his abilities, and they matched her satirical instincts. For the rest of their lives she was his most reliable writer and he was her most reliable interpreter. She crafted (sometimes with help) many of his signature songs, like “Anatole of Paris,” “Lullabye in Ragtime,” and “Melody in 4-F.” She also served as his business manager, earning a reputation for as- sertiveness (and sometimes brusqueness). Later, she coproduced his films The Five Pennies (earning an Oscar nomination for her songs) and The Inspector General. They also produced a daughter, Dena.

While both Kaye and Fine bristled when one commentator snidely remarked that Kaye “has a Fine head on his shoulders,” the truth remains that the Danny Kaye known to the world was in a great part the creation of Sylvia Fine. He was her masterpiece. But it’s not easy being someone else’s masterpiece. Though they stayed married until death, there was no small amount of friction in their relationship. They even separated for four weeks in 1947. There were rumors of affairs over the years, with Kaye, at various times, being connected with Eve Arden and even the pre-Fosse Gwen Verdon.

The most sensational claim came in Donald Spoto’s 1992 biography of British master actor Laurence Olivier, with whom he alleged Kaye carried on a ten-year homosexual relationship—an assertion backed by Olivier’s wife, Joan Plowright. However, in a 1994 biography of Kaye, Nobody’s Fool, Martin Gottfried rebutted the story, saying, “There is no evidence of, and there are no witnesses to, a Kaye–Olivier sexual relationship.”

Whether the stories are true or not, the Kaye–Fine alliance survived the difficulties and lasted more than forty years.

Danny Kaye in Wonder Man:

I’m the Greatest Star: Broadway’s Top Musical Legends from 1900 to Today by Robert Viagas (Applause Books)

Here is the first major survey of Broadway musical theatre stars, telling the life stories of 40 stage luminaries from Al Jolson, Fanny Brice and Gwen Verdon, to Nathan Lane, Patti Lupone and Audra McDonald. Author Robert Viagas describes each star’s most important stage roles as well as the triumphant, tragic, inspiring, and cautionary tales of how they achieved – and maintained – their status as top Broadway stars. I’m the Greatest Star is available on Amazon, B&N, independent bookstores, and from Applause Books.

Interview with Robert S. Bader, Editor of Groucho Marx and Other Short Stories and Tall Tales

Read on for an interview with Robert S. Bader, editor of the book Groucho Marx and Other Short Stories and Tall Tales. Bader reveals his wonderful insights on Marx’s Illustrious writing career. Be sure to check out the full interview, as well.

1) How did you become interested in Groucho Marx?

The Marx Brothers were going through a bit of a revival when I was growing up, so in the late 1960s and early 1970s I discovered them on television. I was an inquisitive kid and after seeing a couple of the films I checked out everything I could find on them in the local library and was surprised to learn that Groucho had written several books. So I became interested in him as a writer and a performer almost simultaneously. And his writing was as enjoyable to me as everything else he did from the beginning.

2) What would you like people to know about Groucho’s writing career?

Groucho was mostly self-educated and sought acceptance from writers more than film critics. Writing was very important to him. He wasn’t just a movie star who wrote some books and articles. He was a formidable enough writer to have succeeded at it without his other more successful endeavors…

Keep reading here on Out of the Past.

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Groucho Marx and Other Short Stories and Tall Tales: Selected Writings of Groucho Marx An Updated and Expanded Edition

Groucho Marx was a comic genius who starred on stage and in film, radio, and television. But he was also a gifted writer – the author of a play, two screenplays, seven books, and over 100 articles and essays. This newly expanded collection presents the best of Groucho’s short comic pieces, written over a period of more than fifty years between 1919 and 1973 for the New York Times, the New Yorker, the Saturday Evening Post, Variety, the Hollywood Reporter, and other newspapers and magazines.

Here is the one and only Groucho on his family, his days in vaudeville, his career, World War II, taxes, and other topics from his love of a good cigar to his chronic insomnia, from “Why Harpo Doesn’t Talk” to “The Truth About Captain Spalding.” The familiar irreverence, wordplay, and a dash of self-deprecation bring Groucho’s wisecracking voice to life in these pages, firmly establishing him as one of the world’s great humorists.

Groucho Marx and Other Short Stories and Tall Tales (a title of Groucho’s own choosing) is essential reading for Marx Brothers fans, and a hilarious and nostalgic trip through the twentieth century. Available for purchase here.