Wednesday, March 28, 2007

My Favorite Top 10 Comedy TV Shows

Well, being a child of the 50's and 60's, I can definitely say that I have been watching, absorbing and enjoying Comedy TV Shows pretty much since their inception. I can also say that, beyond a shadow of doubt, I have been heavily influenced by them and most probably they are partly responsible for me becoming an entertainer, which I have been for all of my life. With that being said, narrowing down my list will be next to impossible so I will just go through many shows I have loved, starting with the 50's, work my way to the present and then try to compose My Top 10 List somehow.

Let's Have Fun with Chuck McCann was a great Sunday morning show for kids and Chuck was a talented versatile performer. The show was always entertaining and very funny.
The Ernie Kovacs Show was a very funny and groundbreaking show. The things they did editing-wise was way beyond the technology of the 50's and Ernie was a comedy genius. He was taken from us way too early in a car accident. Who knows what he would have achieved if he had lived longer in a medium that was just in it's embryonic stages.
Sid Cesar's, Your Show Of Shows was a classic show whose form has been emulated ever since. The cast of writers are a literal Who's Who in The Comedy World: Mel Brooks, Carl Reiner, Woody Allen, Larry Gelbart and Neil Simon to name a few. How could a show like that not be great, not to mention Sid Cesar himself. He was a great performer that was a genius at dialects.
The Jack Benny Show was a terrific show with a great cast of characters. Benny was the master of the 'face' and no one could milk a laugh longer with just a mere look at the camera more than him. The unique thing about the show was that the laughter most often hinged on the 'Second Bananas' that fueled the comedy of the show.
Amos 'N' Andy was a great show with such a array of characterizations. Kingfish was always scamming Andy someway, which was such a treat to watch unfold. Amos was the cab driver that narrated the show and there was Sapphire, Lightning and of course, Algonquin J. Calhoun. Unfortunately, the show was eventually pulled because of NAACP pressure of wanting to show Black Americans in a better light. It was a shame because the chemistry between Kingfish and Andy was priceless to watch.
The Red Skelton Show was a fun show of skits and characters that Red would perform with infectious laughter and was one of the first shows to have a weekly guest who would perform in the skits. You could tell by watching the show that Mr. Skelton was a sweet soul and he is dearly missed. He always ended the shows with, "Good Night and May God Bless". Back at ya, Red.
The Original Tonight Show with Steve Allen was one of my favorite shows of all time. Steve created the Talk Show format as we know it today and had a cast of unforgettable characters that were used in many ways. Steve was a man of so many talents with a terrific laugh. I got the opportunity to meet him in Las Vegas once during a Comedy Convention and he was just as funny and gracious as I thought he would be.
The Tonight Show with Johnny Carson was a one of a kind show with so much clout. If you appeared on that show, your career was in tact and doors would open and your phone would ring off the hook. You could tell that Johnny was heavily influenced by his idol, Jack Benny, by the way he could just make a face into the camera and the crowd would explode with laughter. I had the honor to appear on the show and all I can say is that no talk show has ever approached it's popularity since. I think it was the chemistry between Johnny and Ed MacMahon and I also believe that interviewing guests on a show is an art form in itself and Johnny was definitely the master at it. He knew how to make moments!
The Honeymooners was and still is one of the most watched syndicated shows of all time. I don't think that there is anyone, that knows anything about comedy, that hasn't been influenced by this show. Many people can quote, word for word, many of the most popular scenes that emanated from the series. Besides the greatness of Ralph and Ed in the show, you had Audrey Meadows playing Alice. She was simply the best and I don't think the show would have worked as well without her. In fact, in later years when they did the show with some other people playing the part, it wasn't as funny. She had the best deadpan face and to paraphrase Ralph, "Alice, you're the greatest!"
The Dick Van Dyke Show was another great ensemble show, as well as The Mary Tyler Moore Show. Both had fantastic cast members and strong story lines that propelled their popularity for many years. Neither show had a weak character in their cast. Everyone was equally funny and shined.
Monty Python's Flying Circus was a fantastic show for anyone going through their teen years in the 60's. It was so different than anything else on American television back then and they were like the Comedy Beatles in a way. It was comedy for the Boomer's generation. It also became responsible for opening the door to English Comedy on American TV. Of course, it was on PBS back then, which made it even more underground in the psychedelic era.
MASH was a groundbreaking show in that it's setting was The Korean War and during this country's time of The Vietnam War. Plus it had to overcome the popularity of the movie itself, which was no easy task, and be funny. It also had to survive cast changes throughout the series. It did all of that and more.
Saturday Night Live is amazing in it's survival. It has had so many terrific seasons and bad ones but one thing has always remained constant: a barrage of many, many talented performers that have gone on to be very prominent in the comedy mainstream. You have to give Lorne Michaels credit for having such an accurate comedic eye for talent. What a track record!
Whose Line Is It Anyway? is one of my absolute favorites of recent times. I love improvisational comedy and these people are superb at it. The chemistry between Ryan Stiles and Colin Mocharie is a blast and Wayne Brady is phenomenal with musical comedy. Add in guests Brad Sherwood, Chip & Greg Proops and the show is a no-holes barred extravaganza.
The Cosby Show was a great family show when families were out of fashion on TV. All other shows were about dysfunctional families and situations but Cosby's show was about the love for each other and a warmth that you could see while you were busy laughing.
The Carol Burnett Show was one of my favorites. To watch Harvey Korman, Tim Conway, Carol, Lyle Waggoner and Vicki Lawrence break up during the skits was well worth the time. I loved watching Tim doing his best to make Harvey laugh and lose it, which was almost inevitable.
Seinfeld was another character driven show that was so well crafted and constructed, which I contribute to the genius of Larry David. Larry is one of the most prolific writers I have ever met and his talent for bringing different story lines and somehow weaving them together in the end is amazing to watch. He does the same thing on 'Curb Your Enthusiasm' today. I used to work with Larry at the Improv in NYC during the 80's and he was the only one that would have a complete new 20 minute set each week....and a brilliant 20 minute set at that. That is almost near impossible to do, unless you write constantly all the time like he does. The only other person I ever saw like that was Steve Allen.
The Abbott & Costello Show was a great show for any age. The chemistry of the two of them and the surrounding cast was a hoot to watch. Abbott was a great straight man and controlled the whole tempo of the comedy and don't forget about Sidney Fields, Bocciagalupe, Mike the Cop, Hillary Brooks and Stinky.
Frasier is one of the best written comedy shows of present times. Even though it was a spin off of Cheers, I think Frasier was so much better and I think it was a casting coup to have Niles, David Hyde Pierce, on the show. To watch the two of them try to 'out snob' each other was so much fun and so superbly acted.

My honorable mentions are Fawlty Towers, The Simpsons, Perfect Strangers, The Tracy Ullman Show, The Dean Martin Show & The Dean Martin Roasts, Everybody Loves Raymond, Friends, Sanford and Son, The Burns and Allen Show, The Danny Kaye Show, Make Room For Daddy, The Andy Griffth Show, Boston Legal, Perfect Strangers, Bosom Buddies, Married With Children, Andy's Gang, The Muppet Show, The Soupy Sales Show, Laugh-In, The Addams Family, The Munsters, The Colgate Comedy Hour, I Love Lucy, The Phil Silvers Show, In Living Color, Fridays, Will & Grace, All In The Family, Mork and Mindy, Happy Days, Laverne and Shirley, Two and A Half Men, The Bob Newhart Show and Taxi.

So after serious thinking he it is:
My Favorite Top 10 Comedy TV Shows
1. The Tonight Show with Johnny Carson
2. The Dick Van Dyke Show
3. Monty Python's Flying Circus
4. The Mary Tyler Moore Show
5. Seinfeld
6. The Abbott & Costello Show
7. The Original Tonight Show with Steve Allen
8. Whose Line Is It Anyway?
9. The Honeymooners
10. The Carol Burnett Show, MASH, The Jack Benny Show & SNL (Tied For 10th)

I have played with this list so many times already and no matter how much I change it, I am not happy with it because I always seem to be leaving something off the list that definitely belongs there. I really should have made it a Top 20 list or even better, a Top 50 List. But that's my problem and not yours. As always, thanks for reading, from THE COMEDY TORNADO!!

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Monday, March 26, 2007

My Travels

This past weekend was a lot of fun for me. Friday I performed a 2 hour show for The Howell Elks Club in Howell, New Jersey. I do tons of Comedy Fundraiser Shows for Elks Clubs all over the country and I absolutely love doing them. The crowds are always in a cheerful mood because they are raising money for their organization and plus it is a comedy event and social gathering. To make this show even better, Paul, the cook, and the rest of his staff prepared a wonderful meal that was served 'family style'. How could the crowd not be in a good mood after that? The Elks are great clubs also because they give so much back to the communities in which they belong. They are constantly raising funds for all sorts of noble causes and it always has been and will continue to be, an honor to do shows for them.
On Saturday, I got to work back in my old stomping grounds of Long Island, New York. I was born and raised there and it is always a treat to go back. I hate the traffic but I love the place and miss the pizza. I performed a 2 1/2 Hour Comedy & Music show at The Gateway Comedy Cellar in Medford, where I always have a terrific time. Mike & Donna Dillon manage the club and I consider them friends and a pleasure to work for. Rita, the bartender, and her sister Mary, the waitress are such funny ladies in their own right and always make the trip something else to look forward to also. But the best thing thing about this show was that many of my cousins, my son Jeff and my godson John were there. Plus my sister, Joan, flew all the way up from Florida to surprise everyone. It was a ball! If you knew my family, you would appreciate it even more. Let's put it this way, I'm the sane one....hehehe. They are all so funny and are all great laughers. They are from my Mother's side of the family, known as The Migliore Clan. We have family picnics each year with themes and the things that happen at them could be put in a movie. On top of that, the men always have to put on a show each year. Look at the picture above and you might have some idea. We were lunch ladies that year. What a bunch of nuts. I love them all so much. So needless to say, I love playing on Long Island. I get to see my family, and friends that I grew up with. It's like going to a private party every time I am there. What a feeling. The funny thing is that no matter how loud the crowd's reactions were, you could still hear my sister's hysterical laugh above it all. She's a pistol. On the show with me this time out were Janie Robinson (She's great), Ralph Murphy (He did a fantastic job) and newcomer Mike Thomas from Ireland did a guest 5 minute spot. (Great accent and a lot of promise)
So once again, a great weekend and I wasn't far from home and that is always a plus for me. Keep close to your families and keep on laughing my friends, because in the end, that is what life is all about. Thanks again for reading, from THE COMEDY TORNADO!!

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Thursday, March 22, 2007

My Favorite Top 10 Stage Comedians

There are so many different styles of comedy and everyone has their own, at least the ones that stand out do. You have the standard monologists that stand with a microphone and use words to craft their humor, musical type acts that either use instruments or sing and have musical accompaniment, prop acts that use visual aids to make the crowds laugh and improvisational acts that do comedy off the cuff. They are all great in their respective ways and I will not begin to categorize each and every style here. I will simply go through many stage performing comics and state why they are my favorites and then try to put it in a Top 10 list. There may even be some on here that you never heard of....yet! But that doesn't mean that they aren't amazingly funny. It just means that they aren't a household name. There are thousands of great comedians out there performing all the time on the world stage that haven't been discovered yet and just because you are great, it does not preclude that you will be a star. So here we go:

Robin Williams is a terrific example of comedy that has no boundaries. High energy and uninhibited with a flair for the dramatic and with a good percentage of improvisation thrown in.
Jerry Seinfeld is a monologist that uses very well crafted words and sentences in observations on topics that everyone can relate to. Nothing comes out of his mouth that isn't carefully thought out beforehand.
Richard Pryor was one of a kind when it came to stand up. You never knew what he was going to say but you knew sure as hell that it was going to be delivered in his irreverent style and that you were gonna laugh your ass off!
George Carlin is the best of both worlds. He is a monologist, a wordsmith and his facial expressions are to die for. He is very animated in his approach and you can't help but get caught up in the show.
Brian Regan also fits the same style of monology with animated goofy facial expressions. His material is all very relatable and makes him one of the most enjoyable acts working the circuit today.
Howie Mandel is one of the best ad-libers in the business today. His wit and likability is flawless and when he first appeared on the scene in the late 70's would sometimes work in props to add to the experience.
The Amazing Jonathan, like Howie, uses the audience to make a 'no two shows the same' kind of atmosphere. He uses props as aids and sort of does magic in a unique way.
Steven Wright has a classic style. He uses well thought out and creative observational humor and puts it all in a very deadpan and deliberate delivery with his very own slant on things. I remember working with Steve at the old Improv in NYC. He was about to go on and looked very introspective and I asked him if he was okay. He looked up and in his low key voice said, "I'm very hyper." He kills me.
Bill Cosby is the classic storyteller. No one can deliver them like he does. The best thing is that no matter how long the story is, you never get bored listening to him tell it. Great style and many have been influenced by him over the years.
Victor Borge was definitely a master musical comedian. He started as a classical pianist, who later evolved into a consumate comedian. Known as 'The Great Dane', he surely was and is terribly missed.
Otto and George is a Triple X rated ventriloquist that is very dirty and hysterically funny. He is one of a kind and one act that I absolutely love to watch when I am off and can get to a show. He makes me hurt from laughter. You never know what Otto is going to make George say.
Sam Kinison was a comedian with a very irreverent style as Pryor was. You never knew what topic he was going to rant about but you knew he was going to attack it with full force. A great, loud and funny stage persona.
Jay Leno is a fantastic monologist. Don't go by what you see on The Tonight Show either because that is written material that has to be put together quickly by a staff of writers all of the time. Go see his live show and you will see the real Jay Leno. Like Seinfeld, he uses carefully crafted words to construct a very visual image for the audience to imagine.
Abbott & Costello were one of the best comedy teams of all time. As I mentioned in other articles, they had the unique ability to mix cerebral material and slapstick together as one and present it in one of the most enjoyable presentations you could ever see.
Don Rickels is a great crowd working comedian that uses the audience for his humor. He breaks down all stereotypes and barriers and makes people realize that in the end we are the same. And even though his stage persona may come across as insulting in a comedy way, you know that in his soul he is sweet, genuine and a very nice man. He is all of those things.
Martin & Lewis were a great comedy team that mixed slapstick with music. Dean had a great, warm and loving personality on stage and Jerry was the hyper wild kid that might do just about anything for the laugh. They were the show to see in the 50's and well worth any price of admission.

For my honorable mentions I would love to list Steve Martin, Jack Benny, Henny Youngman, Jim Carrey, Monty Python, Burns & Allen, Red Skelton, Bob Nelson, Eddie Murphy, Dom Irerra, Richard Jeni, Ellen DeGeneres, Bob Hope, Pudgie, Buddy Hackett, Pat Cooper, Danny Kaye, Woody Allen, Mel Brooks & Carl Reiner, Jackie Mason, Jeff Dunham, The Great Ballantine, Lisa Lampanelli, Mario Cantone, Rosie O'Donnell, Senor Wences, Foster Brooks, George Wallace, Lewis Black, Bobby Collins, Burns & Schreiber, Phyllis Diller, Patti Rosborough, Greg Hahn, Alan Stephen, Dennis Blair, Carrot Top, Pee Wee Herman (Paul Reubens), Jackie Vernon, Charlie Callas, Larry David, Nick Di Paolo, Denis Leary and Allen & Rossi.

So here we go:
My Top 10 List Of Favorite Stage Comedians
1. Abbott & Costello
2. Martin & Lewis
3. Robin Williams
4. Otto & George
5. Richard Pryor
6. George Carlin
7. Bill Cosby
8. Howie Mandel
9. The Amazing Jonathan
10. Jerry Seinfeld, Jay Leno & Brian Regan (Tied for 10th)

That's it for my Favorites List. Believe me, that was difficult for me to do. Being a comedian myself for so long it is obvious that I have been heavily influenced by the genre and there is just so many acts that I have loved to watch in my life. For me to mention them all would take entirely too long. If you have any favorites that I haven't mentioned, let me know because I might have forgotten a few myself. Once again, thanks for reading, from THE COMEDY TORNADO!!

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Wednesday, March 21, 2007

My Favorite Top 10 Comedy Venues

Being a Comedian for more than 20 years now, I can honestly say that I have performed in the worst places and the best places in the country. I will concentrate on the best places because I believe comedy should be a happy event and not a downer. What makes a Comedy Club fun and successful is the proper setting. It is all about atmosphere, seating arrangement and most of all, the intimacy factor. Comedy is an intimate medium that always works best in smaller venues of 400 seats or less. The bigger the venue, the less the crowd is part of the experience. I believe that Comedy Clubs and Small Theaters are the best, especially for a crowd worker like myself. With all that being said, here is my list:

My Favorite Comedy Venues Of All Time
1. The Original Improv(NYC, NY)- This club was the Grandaddy of all Comedy Clubs. It was the first and truly the best. It was nice and small, about 100 seats, intimate, and had such an aura about it. When you were on that stage, you knew that the likes of George Carlin, Richard Pryor, Lenny Bruce and anyone else you can think of in Comedy, had performed there before you. What a great place it was. I miss it dearly and the owner, Silver Friedman, was great to me.
2. Rascal's Comedy Club(Ocean Township, NJ)- This became my home base for many years and it was the perfect Comedy Club. It held around 225 seats comfortably and there wasn't a bad one in the house. It was a rectangular room with the stage on one of the long walls, so every seat was close to the stage.
3. Rascal's Comedy Club(West Orange, NJ) - This was a great 400 seat club that was downstairs of one terrific restaurant (I miss the Chicken Francais)and was the Flagship of The Rascal's chain. We used to do a Comedy TV Show there every Thursday night called 'Rascal's Comedy Hour' and it was so much fun. Being a headliner myself, I never get to see other headliners unless we are all on the same bill doing a benefit of some kind. But with the TV show, I was the Musical Director and writer for the show and I got to see everyone that came through each week. I really had a blast and the show lasted for about 9 years.
4. The Strand Theater(Lakewood, NJ) - What a terrific landmark and a great place to perform since they renovated it about 7 years ago. The acoustics are unbelievable and it is just the right size for a theater to perform comedy in.
5. Uncle Vinny's/Ferrara's(Point Pleasant, NJ) - This is a new club and has only been open for about 1 and a half years. It reminds me of The Original Improv with it's intimacy of only around 100 seats. It's a great restaurant also and the owners, Dino & Jerry, are a pleasure to work for.
6. The Comedy Stop at The Trop(Atlantic City, NJ) - What a terrific place. It is like a mini theater of around 250 seats with all of the casino showroom aura that a comedian loves to perform in. The room has since moved to the new Quarter Wing upstairs and is a little bigger and even nicer than before. Great atmosphere.
7. Catch A Rising Star at The Hyatt(Princeton, NJ) Another perfect setting for comedy. Only around 180 seats and nice and close to the stage. All views have no obstructions whatsoever and it is located in one beautiful hotel.
8. Penn's Peak(Jim Thorpe, PA) - This is one of the most unique places that I ever performed in. It looks like a giant 1800 seat chalet on top of a mountain and that's basically what it is. I generally don't like large venues like this but they have large screens everywhere for all to see that aren't close and their sound system is second to none. Plus there are balconies all around the stage. So even though it is 1800 seats, 1000 of them are still pretty close to the stage. Definitely a performers dream venue!
9. Viva DeBris(Syracuse, NY) - I truly miss this place. It looked like a little theater bowl of around 200 seats and they were all close. There was also around 20 seats that were right around the stage. No place to hide for those patrons. I also miss the owner, friend of mine and fellow comedian & magician, Joe DeLion. It broke his heart, and a lot of comedians', when the Hotel Syracuse was sold and forced it to close down.
10. The Improv on Melrose(Hollywood, CA) - A great club with lots of show biz aura. As a patron, you never know who is going to walk in and do a set and as an entertainer, you never know who is going to be in the audience. One of the great Comedy Clubs of all time.

On my list for honorable mentions are Jokers Wild of New Haven, CT, Catch A Rising Star at Resorts in Atlantic City, NJ, The Brass Rail of Sekonk, MA, East Side Comedy Club of Huntington, NY, Tracy's Comedy Club at The Bowman's in Carney, MD, The Comedy Stop At The Tropicana in Las Vegas, NV, Banana's Comedy Club in Poughkeepsie, NY, Wisecracker's Comedy Club in Scranton & Wilkes-Barre, PA, Konkoma Komedy of Ronkonkoma, NY, Club Casba in Wildwood, NJ, The Music Box Theater at The Borgata in Atlantic City, NJ, Zanies in Chicago, IL and the College of DuPage in IL, that had the perfect state of the art theater I ever saw at a school.

Now there are surely many, many more fantastic venues for Comedy to be held but these are my favorites and if you ever find yourselves in those areas and you need a laugh, don't hesitate to walk in and take a seat. You're guaranteed to have a good time and if you don't, it won't be because the comics didn't try their hardest for you. Thanks for reading, from THE COMEDY TORNADO!!

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My Favorite Top 10 Comedic TV Characters

There have been so many Comedic TV characters over the years but I am going to try and narrow it down to my absolute 10 Favorites. This is going to be difficult because I have so many Favorites and I hate to leave so many off of the list. So, I will start by just presenting all of them in any order and then give my Top 10.

Kramer on Seinfeld is high on my list. His physicality and mannerisms are totally captivating and hysterical to watch. I laugh everytime I see him. Michael Richards will always be known for that character no matter what else he ever achieves in his career and he should be proud of that accomplishment. While I know, as an actor and comedian myself, how hard it is to deal with being 'pidgeonholed' in this business, it is still incredible to become so strong in the mainstream consciousness and to become a household name.
Ralph Kramden and Ed Norton are classic characters and so relatable. They will live on for eternity. They were supposed to be The Bensonhurst version of Laurel & Hardy but they surely surpassed that by creating their own paths. Jackie Gleason & Art Carney both achieved so much more in their careers as actors but those characters will live on forever.
Sidney Fields from The Abbott & Costello shows was a tremendous talent. He was so instrumental in that shows humor and plus he would play other parts too. When the boys had to go to the employment office or somewhere else, Sidney Fields would play his cousin or brother and all it was, was him with a toupee on and maybe a mustache. A very funny man indeed.
Abbott & Costello, of course, were so great on the TV stage. Whether they were doing their classic vaudeville bits or not, it didn't matter. Their chemistry was terrific and a joy to watch in any situation they would put themselves in.
Hawkeye Pierce was one of my favorites to watch. Alan Alda's timing was impeccable and you could tell that he was very influenced by Groucho Marx in his delivery. Pierce was impish, cute, clever and smart. As much as I loved everyone on MASH, his character was the catalyst for everything. MASH was one of the few shows that survived constant cast changes during its' run but I don't think it ever would have survived without Hawkeye.
Basil Fawlty of Fawlty Towers is one of my absolute favorites of all time. John Cleese has always been one of my Favorite Pythons but with Basil Fawlty he absolutely struck gold. Fawlty was so loud and over the top and his interaction with the other characters like Manuel, his wife Sybil, the Major and everyone else that appeared on the show as guests was great to watch. It was so unfortunate that there were only 12 shows. I hungered for more but after Cleese's divorce from Connie Booth, who played Polly the maid, the show had an unavoidable demise.
Reverend Jim of Taxi is a TV classic. Christopher Lloyd must have really enjoyed playing him to the hilt. He didn't have to shave or dress up and he just had to act like an old druggie that never really completely recovered. He was so lovable and you just couldn't help but like Jim no matter what he did. The scene at the DMV where he is taking his written test is one of the best TV moments of all time.
Barney Fife was a great character and Don Knotts played him better than anyone else could have done. You just can't imagine anyone else in that role. Don Knotts first came into the Television mainstream as one of Steve Allen's second bananas on The Original Tonight Show. He was always the nervous guy on the street and you could see how he developed that character to later become Barney Fife. Barney was always a guy who you would have sympathy for and couldn't help but laugh at him for his screwups. He was always trying way too hard and building himself up bigger than he was to impress girls or other people and it always seemed to backfire on him.
Now here are a few characters that I had to mention but I don't know if they fit into this because they weren't real. So, even though I am not going to put them in my Top 10, I have to honor them. There used to be a show on in the 50's called 'Andy's Gang' and there was a rubber puppet on the show called Froggy the Gremlin. I remember laughing my head off as a little kid at the things this Frog would say and make people do. He had power over guests with the power of suggestion. Whatever he would say they would ultimately do and it was hysterical to watch as a boy of 3. So even though Froggy wasn't real, per se, he was real enough for me and a character I loved to death. On the old Soupy Sales Show in the 60's was a man named Frank Nastasi and he played all of the charcaters on the show. Black Tooth, White Fang, Pookie, Rheba and the hand at the door. He was brilliant and I think all of those charcters should be mentioned as one, Frank Nastasi. He was terrific and he made coming home from school a race for me. I only had 15 minutes to get back in time to watch the show so the challenge was to get home as quickly as possible.
Where would any list be without the incomparable Archie Bunker? He was a one of a kind character that broke so much ground on race relations in this country during a time when it was needed. And as bigoted, racist and stupid as the character was, Carroll O'Connor made Archie able to still be loved by the viewing public. That was amazing in of itself. A tribute to Carroll's talent as an actor.
Alfalfa was a great character that everyone knows, no matter what age you are. Every kid is introduced to the Little Rascals during childhood and Alfalfa is definitely one of the most memorable of the cast. He was always the one that was getting himself in trouble and it was always over Darla or some other girl. And how could you not love that squealing singing voice. 'Just an echo.....yoo hoo!(ribbitt ribbitt)'.
Ted Baxter was a great 'love to hate' kind of charcter and Ted Knight played him superbly. He was always the stingy, egotistical, idiot fool. But even with all of those foibles, Ted Knight made you laugh, enjoy and sympathize for him. You somehow knew that it was all a front and that deep inside was a caring human being that was just afraid to let his guard down. You could see Baxter's vulnerablity.

My honoroable mentions on the list are Louis DePalma, Latka, Fonzie, Lucy, Rob Petrie, Newman, Mike The Cop, The Three Stooges, Alice Kramden, Lou Grant, Sue Ann Nivens, Frasier & Niles Crane, Sgt. Bilko, The Kingfish, Edith Bunker, Meathead, Robert Barone, Klinger, Homer Simpson and of course, Jerry Mathers as the Beaver.

So here they are:
My Top 10 List Of Favorite Comedic TV Characters
1. Ralph Kramden & Ed Norton
2. Kramer
3. Basil Fawlty
4. Sidney Fields
5. Abbott & Costello
6. Reverend Jim
7. Ted Baxter
8. Hawkeye Pierce
9. Archie Bunker
10. Barney Fife

Now I know that Abbott & Costello and Kramden & Norton are 4 people, but I count Comedy Teams as one person because I feel each team is one and without each other, the comedy doesn't work.
So, if I left out any of your Favorites, please let me know. There are so many to choose from in this category and I am sure that some have fallen along the wayside in my mind over the years. Thanks for reading, from THE COMEDY TORNADO!!

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Tuesday, March 20, 2007

My Favorite Top 10 Comedic Movie Actors

People are always asking me, "What are your Favorite Comedy Movies?", "Who is your favorite Comedian or Comedic Actor of all time and who is your Favorite working today?" and questions such as that, as if I have a better take than they do. But that is not true. We are all affected in the same ways from the same stimuli. I guess the only difference is that maybe it influenced me in some way, maybe even subconsciously and very possibly shaped my own stage personna somehow. So anyway, here we go.

My absolute Favorite Comedic Movie Actor of all time was beyond a shadow of doubt, Groucho Marx. I used to laugh out loud so hard watching The Marx Brothers movies as a kid and still do 'till this day, which probably explains why my Favorite Comedy Movie of all time is 'A Day At The Races'. The scene with Groucho as Doctor Hackenbush on the phone driving Mr. Whitmore absolutely nuts is hysterical. And of course, who can forget the notorious operating room scene when all three Marx Brothers are examining Margaret Dumont and all the mayhem that ensues. The physical comedy of Harpo, the musical comedy of Chico and the lines that Groucho would get away with in those glorious movies are still so memorable and still hold up today. The most amazing thing to me was the double entente insults and sexual innuendos that Groucho would say, especially for that era. I mean it was, after all, the 30's and 40's and the censors must have been pulling out their collective hair.
I also don't want to forget about some of my other Favorite Acts of those great comedic times. Abbott & Costello were the best of both worlds in Comedy. They were Cerebral and Slapstick at the same time and their routines will live on as long as there are people living and laughing. Bud Abbott, even though he was labeled the best straight man in the business, was an incredible comedian with flawless timing. Without him the comedy would not have worked. Their chemistry together was impeccable.
Let's also add in Laurel & Hardy. How could one not love them. They had a sweetness about them and it came across in their comedy, no matter the situation they were in. Does anyone, besides me, remember the movie in which Laurel gets his head banged by a closing window in a college dorm room and he becomes a super intelligent, strong sports hero. Apparently that was who he was until a similar accident happened many years before while he was attending Oxford and he became the Stan Laurel we were all accustomed to. Oh, don't worry he hits his head again at the end and becomes himself again.....Classic!
During the 50's & 60's I loved to watch Jerry Lewis movies. I know people like to throw the word 'genius' around a lot but he truly was. I loved 'The Errand Boy'. The premise being that he was an errand boy for Paramutual Movie Studios and all he had to do was what he was told to do. But of course, he screwed that all up and somehow ruined all the movies being made at the studio by either accidentally being on the set at the wrong time and getting into the movie. Or how about the time he goes into a sound studio and by playing around he unintentionally does a voice over of a song that on the soundtrack, was supposed to be a woman singing. Well, to cut to the chase, as all of the studio executives are watching all the dailys and previews of all the studios movies ( One of my Favorite Comedy Scenes), people are laughing their respective heads off watching and listening to this fool. They think it is part of the plan and of course, a star is born. I loved the old Martin & Lewis movies also. The Stooge was terrific with many great scenes. It was almost biographical in a way.
Gene Wilder in The Producers with Zero Mostel is absolutely brilliant. What a terrific performance, as always. And that was just the beginning of his body of classic work. Blazing Saddles, Young Frankenstein, Lady In Red, and the fabulous movies partnered with greatly missed, Richard Pryor: Stir Crazy, Silver Streak, Another You (One of my Favorites they did together) and See No Evil Hear No Evil. Gene Wilder and Richard Pryor together were so much fun to watch. I know it's a term that gets used a lot, but I simply loved their chemistry together. They had perfect timing, which is so essential in Team Comedy.
Now on to another one of my Favorites, Peter Sellers. What an amazing body of work this man created. The masterpiece Dr. Strangelove in which he played more than one character is timeless and such a tour de force. He played Dr. Strangelove, The President of The United States and an English Soldier and played them all brilliantly. Then you have all of the Pink Panther Movies as Inspector Clouseau. I loved watching that bumbling character that everything seemed to work out for and how that drove Inspector Dreyfuss insane, literally. Great Physical Comedy at it's best! One of my favorite scenes in those movies was the one where he is masquerading as a dentist and has to pull out Inspector Dreyfuss' tooth (Herbert Lom). He proceeds to give him Nitrous Oxide, laughing gas, and the result is hysterical. He pulls the wrong tooth and the both of them are completely overwhelmed by the gas and are laughing continiously throughout the scene. Fantastic!! I also loved his last performance in Being There. That really showed his talent as a Comedic Artist. The character was so simple yet the plot was so deep on many levels and still was funny at the same time. He owned the rights to that story for quite a while and I am so glad that he finally got the chance to do it before his demise. It would have sad not to have that movie in his credits.
My Favorite Comedic Actor of today is a 4-way tie between Bill Murray, Jim Carrey, Robin Williams & Tom Hanks. Bill Murray gets the edge here for me because as soon as I see him on screen, I am smiling and then laughing. He always has that smirk on his face that conveys that he is putting you on. Stripes, What About Bob, Caddyshack & Groundhog Day are so wonderfully funny. I could never imagine anyone else playing those parts. Jim Carrey is the modern day Jerry Lewis for me. He is absolutely so rubbery and animated but most importantly, so over-the-top. I love comedians and comedic actors that are fearless and aren't afraid to let go and he is one of the few......Chris Farley also comes to mind in that respect. It is a real shame that we lost him so early. I can only wonder what he would have achieved in the years to come. I really respect Tom Hanks & Robin Williams tremendously because not only are they great comedic actors but also can deliver drama equally as well. They can make you laugh and then make you cry in the next moment. That is a rare gift and a great talent.
And then there is the imcomparable Eddie Murphy, who I think is a Fantastic Comedic Actor with incredible presence on stage and on screen. Not many compare with his consistency. He stole the show in Trading Places, 48 Hours 1 & 2, and Beverly Hills Cop 1 & 2 and as Peter Sellers did, was brilliant portraying all of the characters in Coming To America and of course, The remake of The Nutty Professor. I loved all of those people he created in his family. 'Hercules, Hercules, Hercules!'

So, here it is:
My Top 10 List of Favorite Comedic Movie Actors
1. Grouco Marx with The Marx Brothers
2. Abbott & Costello
3. Jerry Lewis
4. Laurel & Hardy
5. Bill Murray
6. Jim Carrey
7. Peter Sellers
8. Gene Wilder
9. Richard Pryor
10. Robin Williams, Tom Hanks & Eddie Murphy (Tied for 10th)

Alright, so there's more than 10 people on there. So sue me.
Well, that's it for today and for my Favorite Comedic Actors of All Time in Movies. Of course, there are so many more great ones that I have loved to watch over the years but those are the ones that have made me laugh the hardest consistently and sometimes until it hurt! Who are your Favorite Top 10? Good luck narrowing your list down. It is very difficult.
In the days to come, I will write about my Favorite Comedy TV Actors & Shows, Favorite Comedy Movies, Past & Present Day Comedians (Ones that are famous and ones that people should know about but might not), Comedy Albums and anything else I can think of. Thanks for reading, from THE COMEDY TORNADO!!

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Monday, March 19, 2007

My Comedy Perspective

I am a working comic and I am always traveling all around this great country, mostly in the northeast, and one thing I enjoy the most, outside of performing, is meeting so many new and nice people. I have always been a people person and being a comedian/musician my entire life has afforded me this great pleasure. There are so many nice people out there. I especially find so many fantastic people doing such great things all of the time because most of my shows are Comedy Fundraisers for all sorts of organizations. I do tons of Firehouses, PBA's, Elks Clubs, VFW's, American Legions, First Aid Squads, Moose Lodges and hundreds of youth organization program fundraiser shows. Well, you get the idea..........I mean these people that attend these shows and the people who organize them have a cause and are genuinely concerned about raising money for a great many reasons. So it goes without saying that everyone is in the best of moods. What better situation to perform comedy in than that? And to be on stage is so electric in that setting and enviornment. It's like being tapped into the heartbeat of the world. I know it sounds hoaky and all but that is what it is like for me. I absolutely love doing what I do and I wouldn't trade it for anything in the world. People sometimes ask me if someday I will retire. Why the hell would I do that? People in life retire to do something that they always wanted to do. I already do what I love to do and have always been doing it since I was 9 years old. I will do it until I drop or am not able to do it anymore, which will be when I am dead. That is when I will retire, and not by
Anyway, I will blog on here as much as I can and I will give you my honest opinions on any subject, comedy-wise. I will keep a diary of my travels and observations and critiques of movies and other comedians and shows. I will only concentrate on the positive though. I don't like to slam people unless they deserve it, and even then I really don't like to do that unless they do something really rotten. I am an optimist mostly and like to believe in the best of people. Please feel free to ask me anything or talk about whatever you want to here. Thank you for your time and welcome to THE COMEDY TORNADO'S, 'THE COMEDY SPOTLIGHT'!!

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