Tag Archives: carl reiner

DVR Alert: Mel Brooks Night on TCM, 7/24

24 Jul

Mel-Brooks-mel-brooks-127540_300_379

One of the prime comic Voices In My Head, along with Phil Silvers, Jack Benny Groucho Marx and Spike Milligan (among a select few others) is that of Mel Brooks. There are lines spoken by/written by Mel Brooks that simply are not funny if the wrong people say them. But in the right hands, or larynges, or whatever, Golden Magic. Many will be said tonight.

Tonight (July 24)  at 8:00 p.m., TCM will broadcast the AFI Lifetime Achievement Award/ Salute to Mel Brooks (and again at 12:30 a.m.), as well as a few of the high points of his career, including the underappreciated The Twelve Chairs at 9:30 p.m., the can-never-be-appreciated-enough Young Frankenstein at 2:00 a.m., and the already-appreciated-on-this-site The Producers at 4:00 a.m.

In amongst those glories, TCM  has peppered the evening with pleasant little surprises like a Carson interview at 11:15 p.m. (promoting To Be or Not To Be, I think, if the date is any hint), a documentary on the 2000-Year-Old Man recordings with Personal Hero Carl Reiner at 11:30 p.m. (a picture of these two hangs in my studio, near a pair of pictures of Bert Lahr that are better explained at another time), and an hour-long Dick Cavett interview at 5:30 a.m.

Looking Backward: The Gazebo (1959) & Carl Reiner.

10 Jul

Gazebo_3While his noir work is pitch-perfect, I admit that I’ve never been sold on Glenn Ford in comedy. I think something like The Gazebo might’ve dated less with a) more of a comedy whiz-bang in the lead, someone who can comically unravel instead of just being twitchy and b) a more stylish directorial hand – Alfred Hitchcock is, from the phone anyway, a character in the film. Some visuals that conjure up suspense films could’ve made strength’s of The Gazebo’s implausibilities.

 

As a fan, and with half a century of hindsight, I suppose it’s useless to wonder whether Carl Reiner, who’s right there in the room, could’ve done either/both.

I should probably note here that Carl Reiner has been a personal hero of sorts since my first youthful viewing of Ten From Your Show of Shows, particularly the “This is Your Story” sketch, in which he’s the straight man among a crowd of madcaps. I assume the genetic coding that makes me a Straight Man was at least partially responsible.

“This is Your Story”, Al Dunsey”

 

For those who don’t use performance terminology regularly, I’m not referring to sexuality – though this is maybe a good place to mention that The Gazebo features what may be, historically speaking, the most gratuitous of all Debbie Reynolds production numbers, and the crew-cut guys in the TRON outfits are a prime reason the gay community was absolutely justified in the bloodless coup that gave it leadership of the musical theater – but to the Straight, the Feed, the Abbot to Costello, the Alice-if-you’re-Ralph, the Ralph-if-you’re-Norton. Or, to me, the Carl Reiner, since he was the first person who made me notice how this worked.

This is an athletic skill and a Zen mastery. The guys who dunk get the endorsement deals; frequently ignored is the guy who makes sure he gets the ball. In comedy there are people with an anything-for-a-laugh energy and while an audience thinks that’s what they want, Comics are potentially exhausting. The Straight Man is sometimes the balance pulling the routine back to center, sometimes the force of rigidity giving the Comic something to bounce off of, sometimes the blank night sky between the stars that allows you to notice that the stars are even there. Most comedy pairings toss this back and forth – it’s not a pure thing and hasn’t been since at least Burns and Allen – but generally you can still tell who’s the Authority and who’s the Nut.

BioPhotoCarlReinerIt wasn’t long after “This is Your Story” that I first saw The Dick Van Dyke Show, and not terribly long after that that I bought a 2000-Year-Old Man LP (at a record show at a Holiday Inn – it was 2013, the one with Reiner and Brooks sitting like two monoliths (or one stereolith) on the cover.) Sometime just before that I saw him interviewed by Steve Allen alongside Milton Berle and a young Billy Crystal circa 1983/4 (I still have the videotape).  I never looked back. I even went bald in his honor. Or such is my reasoning.

So what I’m saying is: any opportunity to watch Carl Reiner work, even in a minor supporting role like this, is an opportunity I’ll take…though all it does is make me want to retroactively increase his involvement. Unrealistic, perhaps, but it keeps me off the streets.