Category Archives: comedy

RIP Jonathan Winters

April has been terrible with loss. Today we have lost another of the greats. Award winning comedian, actor, writer, impressionist, and recording artist Jonathan Winters passed away today. More of my childhood has gone away.

When I was a kid, Jonathan Winters was everywhere. He was always a guest star on various sitcoms and variety shows, even game shows and talk shows. I’m pretty sure he even had a few short-lived shows of his own as well. His manic improv and madcap characters were always a treat for me.

I loved him in It’s a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World and it was a family event whenever the film aired in our household. We always couldn’t wait for him to tear the gas station apart. Classic classic comedy. Below you can see that scene, as well as Winters talking a bit about it, and how it helped him come back from a breakdown.

Later in life, he played Mearth, the son of Mork and Mindy in the final season of that sitcom. Being Robin Williams’ idol and inspiration, it is wild to watch him work with and against Winters in a comedic battle of wills.

Later I loved the man in the 1994 version The Shadow, playing it straight as he also did in the dark comedy The Loved One and an episode of “The Twilight Zone” called “A Game of Pool.”

Winters also did voice acting in animation, recorded dozens of comedy albums, wrote poetry, and appeared in television programs as myriad as “Hee Haw,” “The American Sportsman,” and “The New Scooby-Doo Movies.” His final movie role will be the voice of Papa Smurf in The Smurfs 2. We have truly lost another of the legends.

Going Overboard

Going Overboard ~ I used to use Adam Sandler as a litmus test for how bad a movie was. I really hated his early work that much. This flick is his earliest, his first, and the one that Adam Sandler wants you to forget. I really don’t blame him.

Sandler is a gawky cruise ship waiter with a bad jewfro who wants to be the ship’s comedian after the real one drops dead. His routine is that of a bad Catskills comic from the sixties, and he acts like a whiny and unfunny Jerry Lewis clone when off stage.

Billy Zane, Milton Berle, Terry Moore and in an early cameo, Billy Bob Thornton all embarrass themselves in this mess that was filmed entirely on a cruise ship, with the wrong lenses. Thankfully for them, and unluckily for me, Sandler and Burt Young are on the screen the most. The ‘heavy metal’ band, I think called Croaker, that sings “I’m gonna slap your cat, upside his head” is probably the only real laugh in the whole movie.

Wow, this sucked. Now I remember why I hated Adam Sandler so much years ago.

A Thousand Words

A Thousand Words ~ Eddie Murphy doesn’t have much luck in the movies any more, Shrek and Dream Girls excepted. Whenever he releases a theatrical starring vehicle, even one like this that is actually pretty good, it fails. At least theatrically and critically. I, on the other hand, liked A Thousand Words, just as I’ve liked more than a few Murphy films of the last dozen or so years.

A Thousand Words is a fantasy flick with a simple premise. Eddie plays a publishing agent who is cursed by a client to only be able to speak 1000 words before he dies. This forces Eddie to be very selective in his words, and he must use other ways to communicate. It is fierce physical comedy, something Murphy loves and excels at, and he is a delight to watch here. He is supported by a wonderful cast, including in terrific parts – Clark Duke, Jack McBrayer, and John Witherspoon.

It doesn’t help the film that much like the infamous Pluto Nash that this movie was made a few years ago and was just released this spring. It’s sad that had this been forty or fifty years ago, this would have been a perfect vehicle for Jerry Lewis, one of Murphy’s idols. It’s also a matter of being out of favor with Hollywood – think about it, this would have been a hit if it starred Jim Carrey or Ben Stiller, right?

I liked it. It’s a good comedy with a happy ending, a good message, and an excellent flick for the family with humor for kids of all ages. Some scenes might be a bit risqué however. Recommended.

Andy Griffith 1926-2012

Andy Griffith was the multiple award-winning and nominated star of television, film, stage and song. The actor, writer, director, producer, comedian, musician and singer passed away this morning in North Carolina. He was 86.

Back in my preschool days, “The Andy Griffith Show” was my favorite show, second only to “Batman.” The opening of the program with Andy and his son Opie, played by Ronny Howard, going fishing and walking in the woods reminded me of my father and me. Especially the bit with that kid throwing rocks. I was that annoying kid throwing rocks whenever we went fishing or went for walks in the woods. My imaginary friend was even named ‘Opie.’ Hey, stop judging. I never said I was a bright kid. The point is, from an early age, “The Andy Griffith Show” and its spin-offs were a family tradition.

Just as I watched little Opie grow into Richie Cunningham and later a successful director, I also watched Andy in the largely forgotten but also fondly remembered ABC series “Salvage 1,” and later on the more palatable “Matlock.” When my brother-in-law gave me all his 45 RPM records (for the kids out there, think single MP3 iTunes purchases, only round and on vinyl), I discovered another facet of Andy Griffith with his down home comedy spoken word hit, “What It Was, Was Football.”

As an adult I discovered how his humor led to Andy’s role on the stage and then in film with No Time for Sergeants. The film not only firmly established his persona for the next few decades but also was the direct inspiration for later television spin-off “Gomer Pyle, USMC.” Andy also did a flick at this time called Onionhead, that was so bad, he stopped doing movies.

However, before that, he made the film that for me, earns Andy Griffith the most respect. 1957’s A Face in the Crowd, written by Budd Schulberg and directed by Elia Kazan, is one of my favorite films, easily in my top five, and Andy Griffith, as the charismatic but evil entertainer Lonesome Rhodes, is the star. This is an acting tour de force, and Griffith is a whirlwind. If you have not seen this phenomenal drama, I can’t recommend it enough.

We have lost not only one of our most beloved television icons, but also a visionary in the way TV is done, as well as one of America’s greatest actors and comedians. Rest in peace, Andy, we will miss you.

Bedazzled 1967

Bedazzled ~ This Faustian tale from 1967 features the comedy duo of Dudley Moore and Peter Cook, at the time very popular on British television and film. They also wrote this film. Bedazzled was their only starring performance in a movie, although they do appear in and steal a number of other films, Those Daring Young Men in Their Jaunty Jalopies springs to mind immediately.

Cook is the real star here as The Devil tempting Moore and doing dastardly deeds throughout the film. Quite often it’s difficult to pay attention to the dialogue and plot watching and laughing at the deviltry of Cook done in the background. Moore plays Stanley Moon (an alias he would use in his own life for years afterward), a mild mannered short order cook who sells his soul for seven wishes all designed to garner the affections of a waitress he adores. Each wish is given a separate skit like vignette.

The real fun however is the verbal swordplay between Cook and Moore, and the skewering humor aimed at organized religion. One wonders how they got away with it back in the day. Raquel Welch is also fun as Lust. She is barely in the film, but as you can see by the advertising, they took full advantage of her appearance, and her popularity at the time.

It should be noted that even though it shares a title and a plot with its reputed remake in 2000 starring Brendan Fraiser and Elizabeth Hurley, it is a completely different kind of movie. So different that comparison is pointless, they are both terrific in their own way.

This Bedazzled is a wonderful time capsule of its irreverent generation in the late 1960s, and great fun. Recommended.