Sunday, August 26, 2007

".. a mere chant of the mediocre"

"... your report on the reaction to my life interview doesn't surprise me. i am afraid that it doesn't take much to arouse a torrent of opinions at the hillcrest round table. berle's opinion doesn't bother me. it must be someone else's that he is using secondhand. berle is the moron's messiah - a mere chant of the mediocre - a sorry mime who mistakes gusto and thyroid condition for talent and ability. he has been around for twenty years and has never been first in anything. if he is first in television, either our standards have disappeared or there is something wrong with television."

- Fred Allen to Groucho Marx, July 14, 1949

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5 Comments:

Blogger Pat Cashin said...

Aaron,

I discovered your blog about a week ago and I think it's absolutely fantastic!

I've got a blog completely devoted to circus clowning and would like to add your site to our links.

Thanks,
Pat Cashin
clownalley.net

3:49 AM  
Blogger Aaron Neathery said...

Thanks for the kind words, Pat! I'll return the favor immediately. Any fan of Bill Irwin is a friend of mine. Besides, I think I've been leeching off your YouTube videos.

9:48 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I always preferred the Fred Allen of letters to that of radio

6:59 AM  
Anonymous Nick Santa Maria said...

I must say that Allen's assessment is pretty right on. Berle's,"take no prisoners" brand of comedy was not so much a performance as an assault. His TV show was loud, raucous, and lively, but was it really funny? I had the pleasure of seeing him work live twice, once in 1974, and again about 11 years later. His two crimes were, 1.) Throwing everything into the pot, not just the good stuff, and 2.) not knowing when to get off. It was as if his life depended on our attention. He made Jerry Lewis look like a slacker. Was anyone else embarrassed by most of his later appearances, or is it just me? It wasn't for nothing that Lorne Michaels (ANOTHER overrated fun guy) had the Uncle Miltie hosted SNL episode banished to Bogeyland.

On the other hand I am very influenced by him. Once in a while I perform as Max Bialystock in the stage musical The Producers (I'm an understudy), and I use LOTS of Berle. Not all of The Producers is funny, either, but Berle sense of energy and delivery come through for me every time. Berle was a master of schtick, but a flawed one.

11:52 PM  
Blogger Aaron Neathery said...

Berle had the energy and the timing, but my personal opinion is that the man was a shell of a comic. There's something grim about those Texaco kinescopes, and grimmer still about his later TV work.. anger boiling just beneath the surface.. sheer ruthlessness and a total lack of joy. I wish I could remember where I saw that clip of Berle blowing his stack at Arnold Stang on live TV.

8:22 PM  

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