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Thursday, March 28, 2013

The Telephone Hour.

I'm taking an excursion from writing about the MeTV shows that I watch.
I will return to them anon.
I'm doing this because I listened to a podcast yesterday that was so strange in its ontent that I had to yell "Stop the presses!" to myself, and NOT write about "Make Room For Daddy" at this time, and replace it with this entry.
The great comedian, Marc Maron, hosted this podcast, and his guest was the great comedian Shelley Berman.
I have been in Shelley Berman's presence a few times, and found him to be a most unpleasant man to be around.
Maron, in segueing into the pre-recorded interview with Berman, also expressed that Berman was unpleasant, daunting, nervous, and nervous-making.
And he was all of that in this interview.
What he also was, was compelling.
Maron is about sixteen years younger than I am, thus his experience with Berman's comedy was rather limited to recently listening to his albums, which are brilliant.
Berman is undoubtedly a very bitter man.
This bitterness was expressed quite frequently during the interview, which lasted about an hour.
For those of you also about sixteen years younger than me, Berman's act, which he performed in major nightclubs and TV variety shows, consisted exclusively of telephone monologue sketches, where he put his hand up to his ear to simulate being on the phone.
And the material was brilliant, and brilliantly performed.
Now, who else can we say this about?
Class?
Does the name Bob Newhart ring a telephone?
It had and has with Berman.
He tried to put it in the past, but it seemed obvious to me that Berman resented, and still resents Newhart for "Stealing his act"
And the much greater subsequent success that Newhart experienced throughout his career.
Berman copped to past resentment, but not current.

All because Newhart used an imaginary phone in his hand and did monologue sketches with it.
And as we all know, Berman invented the telephone monologue, and was the first to give it national exposure.
Sure he was.
As far back as the 1920's George Jessel was doing phone conversations with his mother in vaudeville, with the opening line "Hello Mama? This is Georgie."
In the 30's and 40's there was this radio comedienne named Arlene "Chatterbox" Harris, who did telephone monologues to one of her "friends"
The only reason I know about this is that she was featured doing one of them on an episode of "The Dick Van Dyke Show that featured many old radio entertainers.
And she performed one of them. Brilliantly.
Then, in the 50's, a great comedienne, Betty Walker, made about a zillion appearances on the Ed Sullivan Show, doing essentially the same kind of act as Arlene Harris, talking to her friend Ceil.
Only it was intensively Yiddishified.
They talked about marriage and children, and how impossible it was to maintain both.
Whereas Arlene Harris was white bread, Betty Walker was challah.
Betty Walker's catchphrase was "Ceil....Ceil....Ceeeee--ullll!!!!
Really, really funny.
Also brilliant.
All of this pre-dated Shelley Berman.
Even Mike Nichols and Elaine May, who were contemporaries of Berman's at Second City, engaged in telephone dialogues, with very similar styled material.
And who's more brilliant than them?
So Berman did not exactly corner the market on the telephone, or brilliance.
Yes, Newhart worked in a very similar style to Berman, but his material was completely his own, and completely original.
So who does Berman think he is?
Alexander Graham Bell? Don Ameche?
Who?
Next time, the real lowdown on why Berman's and Newhart's careers went in divergent directions.

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My books ,"Show Runner" and it's sequel,"Show Runner Two", can be found at the Amazon Kindle Store.
Along with the newer ones, "The Man Is Dead", and "Report Cards".
You can search by typing in my name, Cindy Williams, Laverne & Shirley, The Odd Couple, or Happy Days.
Check them out.
You don't need a Kindle machine to download them.
Just get the free app from Kindle, and they can be downloaded to an IPhone, IPad, or Blackberry.
The paperbacks, "Mark Rothman's Essays" and my new novel, "I'm Not Garbo" are not
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I have many readings and signings lined up for those, and the thing about Kindle is you can't sign one. If you'd like one of the paperbacks, personally autographed, contact me at macchus999@aol.com.
And now, we've got my reading of my "Laverne & Shirley Movie" screenplay on YouTube.

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6 comments:

  1. And they all stole it from Cohen on the Telephone. Who I heard of before Berman or Newhart, or anybody else for that matter, just because there was this ancient 78 around the house that I had nearly memorized by the age of 8 in 1954. "Not the Devil, the vind!"

    ReplyDelete
  2. "Cohen on the Telephone" WAS George Jessel, opening with "Hello Mama? This is Georgie"

    ReplyDelete
  3. No, it's about Cohen calling his landlord about wind damage to the shutters on his shop. I just checked the record - I still have it - and it's the Joe Hayman version, recorded in London in 1913. There are several copies YouTube, both with Hayman and also later "covers."

    ReplyDelete
  4. You might be eligible to get a Apple iPhone 7.

    ReplyDelete

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About Me

Hi. I am, according to my Wikipedia entry,(which I did not create) a noted television writer, playwright, screenwriter, and occasional actor. You can Google me or go to the IMDB to get my credits, and you can come here to get my opinions on things, which I'll try to express eloquently. Hopefully I'll succeed. You can also e-mail me at macchus999@aol.com. Perhaps my biggest claim to fame is being responsible, for about six months in 1975, while Head Writer for the "Happy Days" TV series, for Americans saying to each other "Sit on it."