A Comic Giant Passes On

Jonathan Winters died today.  A native of Dayton, Ohio, he was one of the greatest comedians in my lifetime — astonishingly creative, matchless at improvisation, able to switch from character to character in a split-second, a born mimic with a rubbery face that just made you laugh.

If you’ve never seen anything with Jonathan Winters, do yourself a favor:  go on YouTube, run a search of his name, and watch some of his stuff.  He was an amazing talent, and this clip from The Jack Paar Show in 1964 gives you a very small taste of his brilliance.  May he rest in peace.

That Classic Dry British Wit

A competition in Great Britain picked the ten best one-liners of the year, as determined by public vote.

The winner?  Canadian comedian Stewart Francis’ jibe:  “You know who really gives kids a bad name? Posh and Becks.”

If, like me, you don’t know who the heck “Posh” and “Becks” are, you just don’t get this quip.  With a little digging, however, you learn that “Becks” is British soccer star David Beckham and “Posh” is his wife, former Spice Girl Victoria Beckham, and that they have named their unfortunate children Brooklyn, Romeo, Cruz and Harper Seven — and suddenly you think that the one-liner is pretty funny.

Two other personal favorites from the top 10:  Will Marsh’s comment that “I was raised as an only child, which really annoyed my sister” (number 3) and Chris Turner’s jest, “I’m good friends with 25 letters of the alphabet… I don’t know Y” (number 5).

The Disappearing Drunk Act

Times have changed.  Years ago, comedians who feigned drunkenness, and milked their inebriated state for laughs, were commonplace — and successful.  Now, the increasing sensitivity about the societal costs of alcoholism and the focus on drunk driving, among other changes in our cultural mores, have made the drunk comic a thing of the past.

In my view, there was no better drunk comic than Foster Brooks.  If you ever watched a Dean Martin celebrity roast, you saw him — and I bet you laughed out loud.  This clip of Brooks at a Don Rickles celebrity roast is a vintage illustration of his act.