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Monday, January 14, 2013
Dane Cook! Ha, ha. Not. I've been a little (okay a lot) obsessed with Dean Martin lately. Not because I admire his singing, but his in between song banter is hilarious. It's a sort subtle, metaphorical rapid fire non sequitur Borsch Belt style of delivery, which well, just doesn't exist anymore. Not only is it cleverly laden with metaphor and nuance, but HE TALKS ABOUT BLOWJOBS ("If you cut a woman in half, with my luck, I'd get the half that eats. I'll drink to that."), cheating on his wife, homosexuality (to Ken Lane, "We've been together 15 years, have I ever asked you to hold it?? Strike that."), being a drunk (obviously), pedophilia ("Nothing could be finer than to shack up with a minor"), drug use (looking at his cigarette, "There ain't no printing on this one at all! Anyone wanna go anyplace?"), references to his cock ("Ladies and gentlemen, I'd like to introduce you to my wonderful pianist") Basically everything that Lenny Bruce was talking about around the same time, only Bruce used a more brackish (some would say bratty), INYOURFACE approach. So, how did Martin get away with it and Bruce got arrested? It was clearly all in the delivery. And the context. It is well known that at least toward the middle of his career, Dean would pretend to be drunk when he was onstage. It was a popular character of a politically incorrect time-- The Lovable Drunk-- (also employed by Martin's friend Foster Brooks). But also, it was sort of genius because it gave him license to say really fucked up shit. Also, since many of his jokes are plays on words, he had added defense, "I'm confusing terminologies, you people are taking it all wrong!" He also frequently blames his pianist for supplying lyrics with inappropriate sayings. He employs all these devices to cover up how much of a filthy mind he had. Devices he most likely learned from comedians he worked closely with- Jerry Lewis (wait, maybe not him), Joe E. Lewis, and Jimmy Durante.
I'm sure no one reading this is surprised that a member of the Rat Pack was bawdy. I also know that I'm not alone in my romanticization of the early 60's. I find the whole Mad Men phenomenon to be quite annoying (Guys! Stop wearing fedora's! It's only cool on girls, seriously...) but I can understand wanting to sit in a smoke-filled room, drinking scotch out of crystal tumblers, watching showgirls dance behind a greasy-haired crooner who fills the spaces between songs with slurred one-liners while gulping his drinks on the house. Fat, hairy, nefariously associated "gentlemen" in the best seats, talking loudly and grabbing their clownishly painted female companions. I actually do think that would be swell. But only if I could actually travel back in time. Any attempt at a modern reproduction would be an impotent overly self-conscious study in abject hipsterism, which clearly is abhorrent.
So what the fuck happened when Bruce came along? You could say that he was a reflection of the times. Of the social/political awakening that Baby Boomers love to remind every subsequent generation that they were a part of. This was a great thing, I'm not saying that it's not. He was fighting for his First Amendment rights, although I don't think he set out intentionally to do that, or even to piss people off. Maybe he was. Probably was. Anyway if you are unable to listen to his material in the context of his time, which I am not, as I am not old enough to have seen him-- he sounds like any comedian around since the 70's or 80's who have been swearing their asses off to swells of laughter and applause. His confrontational delivery style was intended to shock, whereas Martin's is friendly and accessible. Martin was not trying to make a statement, he was just entertaining people. The one thing I do like about Bruce though is not his "shock jock" persona, but that he-- perhaps for the first time in popular culture-- was exposing his pain on stage and making it funny. Perhaps it was this that made him so offensive, aside from the fact that he fought to say Fuck, Shit, and Pussy. This is one of my favorite things of his: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8TrQxeNEPLo
Take another comedian of the time, Bob Newhart. In my opinion, his shit is just not funny anymore. It was revolutionary because he was the first American absurdist stand-up that gained any sort of notoriety. But he was also employing similar devices that Martin did-- a disbelief at what he just said, linguistic misunderstandings, (I'm sure there are plenty of proper comedy nerd phrases for all the things I'm describing, but whatever) a cultural unawareness that mirrors Martin's drunkenness... This begs the question of what makes something timelessly funny. I don't think anyone has been able to pin that down, anyway. Newhart was using similar devices as Martin and Bruce was utilizing similar topics. So crystallizing what is timelessly funny on these bases seems impossible, making it even more intangible. Unless the only things that are timelessly funny are those things that are bawdy in a metaphorical sense. Are you confused? Me too.
Why the hell am I even bothering to write about this shit? Who cares? It's all subjective. Is it even worth discussing? Why am I bothering to post this on my blog which is supposed to be about kinky stuff? Aren't you pissed that there has been nary a phrase for you to jerk off to yet? Ha, as if. I guess because all of the things I listed in the first paragraph linger on or are blatantly taboo. A subject which relates intimately with kink stuff.
Ha, no, that's bullshit. I just wanted to write about Dean Martin and comedy. It surprised me to read that he was rarely part of the Rat Pack's late night antics, but would often leave when Sinatra and the rest of the boys partied far into the early morning. He also had custody of his children from his first marriage- something unheard of for the time, and a fact he was not terribly open about. He is, of course, known for being a womanizer and a lover of drink, but some facts make you wonder whether the image he wanted to project got in the way of the real story. But even if that's true, does it really matter? I prefer to think of him as a calm, collected devil-may-care raconteur. I don't need the inside track. It's probably tragic in it's own way anyway, just like Bruce's.
On to the good stuff. This is one of my favorites, Dino Live At The Sands (it's an hour long, but even the first few minutes is hilarious). I highly recommend listening to the whole thing when you get a chance:
This is also another classic, a portion of Live And Swinging, with the rest of the Rat Pack. They brought Johnny Carson in at the last minute, as Joey Bishop could not be there: