Do you remember seeing or hearing a piece of comedy that made you laugh long and hard? What a treat that is when it happens! As I delve into the Top Five of my favorite comedy bits, I can’t help but think I’m forgetting one or some. For instance, I marveled at the hutzpah of Mel Brooks in his film, The Producers, when he presented the number Springtime for Hitler. A hilarious, jaw-dropping moment that was. I could name so many more, but let’s get started on the rest of this list!
SNL’s sketch with Will Ferrell and Christopher Walken in the recording studio doing Blue Oyster Cult’s cow bell rich Don’t Fear the Reaper is a classic in my opinion for its perfect blend of homage to detail of an iconic rock song and its lampooning of a rather subtle piece that lent to the greatness of the production. They pushed Walken’s demand for more cowbell masterfully to tap maximum laughter from the audience without taking it too far. As a result, countless would-be comics have taken it upon themselves to raise the call for more cowbell whenever the opportunity presents itself.
I don’t get no respect
Who out there hasn’t heard this line by Rodney Dangerfield? He made an entire career based on this concept and persona. He fashioned more jokes around it than perhaps any comedian has around any one line. That’s pure speculation, but he may have used it to apply anyone in his life. His wife: “My wife and I were happy for 20 years. Then we met.” His parents: “In my life I’ve been through plenty. When I was three years old, my parents got a dog. I was jealous of the dog, so they got rid of me.” His doctor: “I tell you, with my doctor, I don’t get no respect. I told him, ‘I’ve swallowed a bottle of sleeping pills.’ He told me to have a few drinks and get some rest.”
Hi, my name is Larry. This is my brother Daryl and this is my other brother Daryl
This bit from the Newhart show was priceless and never-ending, as I recall. They ran it and ran it and ran it. Audiences knew it was coming, but they kept laughing. It’s a simple routine akin to Kramer bursting through the door on Seinfeld. Simplicity is good in comedy. Deadpan delivers a simple bit with an unassuming brilliance that’s hard to beat. I love cleverness in comedy without a doubt, but there’s genius in uncomplicated humor too. This particular line has a lot of both and it worked so well with Bob Newhart’s style that these characters played off each other beautifully.
Speaking of Seinfeld, there are lots of special moments of comedic genius to select. How many themes were originated and produced on Seinfeld that became part of pop culture? The show about nothing, Bubble Boy, Man Hands, The Bro, Festivus and yada, yada, yada. I’m just getting started here, but one that stands out to me is being master of your domain. In 1992, masturbation wasn’t a common subject for prime time television. Never referred to directly by name, the subject did become the focal point of the story when Jerry challenged George, Kramer and Elaine to a bet about who could remain master of their domain the longest. One of the highlights of The Contest was when the guys were watching a woman in an apartment across from Jerry’s walking around in the nude with open curtains. Kramer watched for a while, then left. Soon he returned and laid down his money, saying, “I’m out!”
Who’s on first?
What other comedy bit from about 80 years ago is still quoted regularly today? It’s still fresh, clever and funny. The comedy team Abbott and Costello were doing it in vaudeville. As it is with the best routines, the laughter builds as it progresses. Here’s a small sample.
Lou Costello: All I’m trying to find out is what’s the guy’s name on first base.
Bud Abbott: No. What is on second base.
Lou Costello: I’m not asking you who’s on second.
Bud Abbott: Who’s on first.
Lou Costello: One base at a time!
Bud Abbott: Well, don’t change the players around.
Lou Costello: I’m not changing nobody!
Bud Abbott: Take it easy, buddy.
Lou Costello: I’m only asking you, who’s the guy on first base?
Bud Abbott: That’s right.
A writer’s delight, a comedy lover’s feast and a baseball fan’s howl.
As I’ve said, there’s a tremendous amount of outstanding comedy to choose from and you could probably find your own Top Ten. Feel free to take a shot at it and let me know what you find. It’s about laughing and sharing a laugh.