Category Archives: Humor

Hail and farewell: Sid Caesar, a legend, now gone


For a child growing up in a Kansas farm town in the 1950s, Sid Caesar came as a revolution. Along with Ernie Kovacs and Steve Allen, Caesar brought a brilliance to network television never quite seen since.

He gave us 90 minutes of scripted live comedy every week, written by a crew that included Mel Simon, Woody Allen, Carl Reiner, and Larry Gelbart — each of whom developed into stars.

His humor was nothing short of surreal, and his curfew of actors were sumply brilliant.

Caesar gave a farm town kid a whole new take on the world, daring, outrageous, and profoundly subversive.

And now he’s gone.

First, the story from Reuters:

Comic showman Sid Caesar, a pioneer of American television sketch comedy as the star and creative force of “Your Show of Shows” during the 1950s, died on Wednesday at age 91, according to his friend and former collaborator Carl Reiner.

Reiner told Reuters he learned of Caesar’s death from a mutual friend, actor and writer Rudy De Luca, who had recently visited Caesar at his Los Angeles-area home. He said the veteran entertainer had been ill for at least a year.

One of the most ambitious and demanding of all TV enterprises, “Your Show of Shows” was 90 minutes of live, original sketch comedy airing every Saturday night, 39 weeks a year. It is widely considered the prototype for every U.S. TV sketch comedy series that followed, including “Saturday Night Live.”

Some clips for your consideration of live, prime time comedy at its best.

From Kovacs Corner:

Sid Caesar: “Big Business” with Carl Reiner and Howard Morris

Program notes:

He is perhaps not considered as “avant garde” as Ernie Kovacs, nonetheless Sid Caesar (along with co-stars Imogene Coca, Carl Reiner, Howard Morris, and Nanette Fabray) created two of the most popular and funny comedy shows during the 1950′s, “Your Show of Shows” and later “Caesar’s Hour”. It is ironic that Sid was chosen by director Stanley Kramer to replace Ernie as the character “Melville Crump” in the movie “It’s a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World”.

And one his most memorable skits, based on a huge prime time hit, This is Your Life.

From Kovacs Corner:

Sid Caesar: “This is Your Story” with Carl Reiner and Howard Morris (Full Sketch)

Program notes:

[From “Kovacs Corner” on YouTube.com] – Before video tape, when a live prime time television series went on mid year hiatus, the networks would broadcast “summer replacements”. During the year 1957, “The Ernie Kovacs Show” was the summer replacement program for “Caesar’s Hour”. Earlier known as “Your Show of Shows”, it starred the legendary TV comedian Sid Caesar, with co-stars Carl Reiner and the late Howard Morris. With a writing staff that included among others Mel Brooks, Neil Simon, Danny Simon and Mel Tolkin, it was one of the premier comedy shows of it’s time. This particular sketch satirizes one of the most popular programs of it’s day “This is Your Life” which starred Ralph Edwards and it is, in my opinion, one of the funniest comedy sketches ever performed on television. Howard Morris’ over-the-top performance as “Uncle Goopy” put an audience in stitches 50 years ago and he can do it again with equal ease today! After Kovacs’ untimely death, Sid was called upon by director Stanley Kramer to replace Ernie in the role of “Melville Crump” in the1963 film “It’s a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World”.

Finally, and from Isabel Karp:

Sid Caesar: Health Food Restaurant

Program note:

Sid Caesar Performs Health Food Restaurant with Howard Morris, Imogene Coca, and Carl Reiner.

So farewell, Sid Caesar, the noblest comedian of them all. . .

They’rrrre Back!: Juice Rap News, Season 2


The Aussie dynamic duo at Juice Rap News [previously] is back for their second season, and they open with a lively omnium gatherum, covering everything from Max Kaiser to the NSA. . .plus our least-favorite villain de jour, the Trans-Pacific Partnership.

Without further ado, from The Juice Media:

“THE NEWS” ✇ JUICE RAP NEWS ✇ SEASON 2 EP 1

Program notes:

“The News”. It’s the most viral meme of reality on the planet: if it’s not on “the News” it didn’t happen – right? Welcome back to Season 2 of Juice Rap News, in which intrepid anchorman Robert Foster embarks on a new era of adversarial rap journalism by casting a critical eye on the paradigm that shapes our collective reality each night; featuring a smorgasbord of guests, from the stalwart General Baxter and Terence Moonseed having a friendly chat on about the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP), to our special correspondents in Russia and the Colonies. Meanwhile, what is going on in Finance, Show-biz and the Weather? Special surprise guests are in tow to cover all this and more, helping Robert delve deeper into this very odd phenomenon of ‘The News’ itself.

-Written & created by Giordano Nanni & Hugo Farrant in a suburban backyard home studio in Melbourne, Australia, -on Wurundjeri Land.

Gangapreneurs: Rocky Mountain high-flyers


Well, at least that’s the trhrust of this AC360 segment on the Colorado folks raking it in following the legalization of pot by legislators in the Mile High City.

But the clip is just as much about reporter Randi Kaye and Anderson Cooper’s reaction to her sudden onset of good humor.

It’s enough to make you smile.

Via Truth Revolt:

CNN Reporter Gets Contact High Covering Colorado Pot Story CNN

Program notes:

In a must-see-to-believe segment in CNN’s “Gone to Pot” series covering the historic legalization of recreational marijuana in Colorado, CNN reporter Randi Kaye interviewed pot entrepreneur “Grandma Barbara” (72) and took a limousine tour of marijuana dispensaries with a few weed enthusiasts. Unsurprisingly, the fellow passengers on the “Cannabis Tours” trip, enjoyed some now perfectly legal, “small canon”-size joints. The result was an increasingly giggly CNN reporter who admitted later to Anderson Cooper that she “got a little bit of a contact high.”

Over in Old Blighty, the CNN clip rated a feature for The Independent, topped by this headline:

‘Everything was funny’: CNN Reporter gets high during Colorado marijuana legalisation report

Philly.com, the website of Philadelphia’s daily newspapers, played it this way:

VIDEO: Anderson Cooper calls out CNN reporter for being high during pot segment

CNN’s own press website is more circumspect:

AC360′s Gone To Pot – Randi Kaye’s piece on Businesses Cashing in on Pot Sales

BBC3 Comedy: The Israeli Embassy’s Extension


Simply brilliant, and certain never to be seen on U.S. network television:

The Israeli Embassy’s Extension

From a report on the video from the Times of Israel:

A recent BBC television sketch lampooned alleged Israeli policies by telling businesses located near the Israeli Embassy in London that their properties were to be taken over to make way for an extension of the embassy.

In the sketch, actors dressed as workmen inform property owners that the embassy did not require paperwork to seize their assets because the embassy had a God-given right to appropriate their land.

The candid camera sketch was broadcast on BBC 3 in December, as part of the channel’s “The Revolution Will be Televised” show, which according to the BBC’s website “bring[s] corruption, greed and hypocrisy to the fore. Politicians, multinationals and tax-shy corporations who have been taking the public for a ride for years are now on the receiving end.”

Tom Lehrer: A Christmas Carol


Nothing better captures the spirit of the 21st Century Christmas than Tom Lehrer, even though the song was recorded way back in 1959 during esnl‘s freshman year of high school:

Tom Lehrer – A Christmas Carol

Oh, that Herald-Tribune he mentions? Twas a once-mighty New York City daily newspaper, graced with the work of some of America’s brightest wits. It died seven years after Lehrer recorded his song.

Quote of the day: Commodification of humor


From Lewis H. Lapham , writing at Tomgram:

We have today a second Gilded Age more magnificent than the first, but our contemporary brigade of satirists doesn’t play with fire. The marketing directors who produce the commodity of humor for prime-time television aim to amuse the sheep, not shoot the elephants in the room. They prepare the sarcasm-lite in the form of freeze-dried sound bites meant to be dropped into boiling water at Gridiron dinners, Academy Award ceremonies, and Saturday Night Live. “There is a hell of a distance,” said Dorothy Parker, “between wisecracking and wit. Wit has truth in it.” George Bernard Shaw seconded the motion: “My way of joking is to tell the truth. It’s the funniest joke in the world.”

Twain didn’t expect or intend his satire to correct the conduct of Boss Tweed, improve the morals of Commodore Vanderbilt, or stop the same-day deliveries of Congress from Washington to the banks in New York. Nor did he exclude himself from the distinguished company of angry apes rolling around in the mud of their mortality. He knew himself made, like all other men, as “a poor, cheap, wormy thing… a sarcasm, the Creator’s prime miscarriage in inventions,” easily seduced by the “paltry materialisms and mean vanities” that made both himself and America great.

A man at play with the life of his mind overriding the decay of his matter, his laughter the digging himself out of the dung heap of moralizing cowardice that is the consequence of ingesting too much boardwalk taffy. His purpose is that of a physician attending to the liberties of the people shriveled by the ambitions of the state, his belief that it is the courage of a democracy’s dissenting citizens that defends their commonwealth against the despotism of a plutocracy backed up with platitudes, billy clubs, surveillance cameras, and subprime loans.

Read the rest.

Mark Fiore: Drones come to Techopolis!


Corporations! Drones! What a Brave New World!

From Mark Fiore:

Drones come to Techopolis!

Program notes:

Between the driverless car, internet balloons and Amazon’s delivery drones, it seemed like high time to take a closer look at the technology industry in a cartoon. Now don’t get me wrong, I’m all for the internet and technology — it’s how I’ve made my living for the past twelve years or so — but I definitely have some luddite-induced skepticism in my bones. (More at http://www.markfiore.com)

A seasonal song: The NSA is Coming to Town


From the American Civil Liberties Union:

The NSA is Coming to Town

The lyrics:

You better watch out,
You better not Skype,
You better log out,
Yeah you better not type,
The NSA is coming to town.

You’re making a list,
They’re checking it twice;
They’re watching almost every electronic device,
The NSA is coming to town.

They see you when you’re sleeping
They hear while you’re awake
They know who you call and who you write
So encrypt for goodness’ sake!

With Congress in the dark and a cloak-and-dagger court
We’re lookin’ for answers, they’re comin’ up short
The NSA is coming to town.

They’re making a list,
Checking it twice;
They’re watching almost every electronic device,
NSA is coming to town
The NSA is coming to town,
The NSA is coming to town.

A Public Service Announcement: Going up!


From cartoonist Mark Fiore, the talking point de jour:

A Message from the Health Insurers of America

Program notes:

After Obama announced his temporary fix to the Affordable Care Act, the health insurance companies were up in arms about how this would destabilize the market and cause people’s premiums to rise. Um, when was the last time the health insurance biz cared so much about raising premiums? Methinks there are other motives at work. This week’s cartoon is a little reminder of health insurers’ favorite refrain.

Holiday PSA from esnl: Thanksgiving Etiquette


With the appropriate dark spin from the redoubtable Ze Frank:

Thanksgiving Etiquette

 

A video delight: A History of English


Way back in the eighth grade, in 1958 or thereabouts, we discovered the delights of Richard Armour, a Harvard-educated poet who also wrote delightfully funny subversive little books about history, science, and, among other things, Shakespeare. One snappy little line burned into memory came from Twisted Takes from Shakespeare‘s chapter on McBeth and his description of the scene in which the murdered Banquo cries out to son as he expires,  “Fly, good Fleance, fly, fly fly.” To which Armour added, “but Fleance gained altitude only by leaps and bounds.” It may not seem like a show-stopper, but to a seventh grader, struggling with the Bard’s prose, it was the funniest thing ever.

In this delightful video, the same dry wit and love wordplay applies. We smiled throughout its elev all-too-brief minutes:

The The Open University via 3 Quarks Daily:

The History of English

Breaking Bad: The alternate ending


Via Salon, a scene from, apparently, the coming boxed set of Breaking Bad, in which Bryan Cranston discovers it’s all a bad dream as he wakes up back in her earlier and much lighter series, Malcolm in the Middle:

It’s all a take on the final scene of another television series, Newhart [1982-90], a comedy about a writer/innkeeper in Vermont which ended with the star, Bob Newhart, waking up from a bad dream in his role in his previous hit series, The Bob Newhart Show [1972-78]:

From Ze Frank: True Facts About The CuttleFish


From his vlog. Enjoy!

And a Happy Halloween to you all, scary edition


From the YouTube Channel SA Wardega, where the motto is “Insane People are the Best!,” we bring you the truly terrifying. . .

Mr. Pumpkin – Halloween [SA Wardega]

And now for something completely different


Madeleine Kahn was one of the all-time comedic greats, as well as a singer endowed with a magnificent soprano.

Best known for her work as part of Mel Brooks’ ensemble and featured in films ranging from Young Frankenstein and Blazing Saddles to Nixon and A Bug’s Life, she was equally at home on stage or screen.

She won Oscars, Emmys, Tonys, Golden Globes, and more, and she could sing an aria as easily as a barroom ballad. But the one thing she could always do was make people laugh.

Here’s her debut on the silver screen, as Sigfrid in a 1968 short, satirical take on the films of Swedish director Ingmar Bergman [the subject of endless coffeehouse discussions amongst 1960s college students, esnl being one]. George Coe, a co-director of the 1968, stars as Viktor.

From vlogger TbirdsOf1965:

Madeline Kahn – DE DUVA (The Dove) – 1968 Funny!

The program notes:

Very short film directed by George Coe (who plays Viktor), and Anthony Lover. It was Madeline Kahn’s first film and was written by Sidney Davis. Great parody of some of Ingmar Bergman’s best known films, including Wild Strawberries (Smultronstaellet) and The Seventh Seal (Det Sjunde Inseglet). Couldn’t find this on youtube, and thought it deserved to be here!

His Girl Friday: From Bromance to romance


Via Public Domain Movies:

His Girl Friday [Howard Hawks, 1940]

One of our favorite films, Howard Hawks transformed a stage play based on the banter between two male journalists into a romance — and all because the director liked the way his secretary recited the lines in a reading.

It’s a classic newsroom story, set in the days when print was king.

Starring Cary Grant and Rosalind Russell [who only got the part after Ginger Rogers, Claudette Colbert, Irene Dunn, and at least three others turned it down], the film revolutionized on-screen dialogue, both for the speed at which the words were spoken and because it’s the first film where actors repeatedly spoke over each others’ words.

Based on The Front Page, a stage play by Ben Hecht and Charles MacArthur, the script was adapted for the screen with the help of Charles Lederer — though some of the best lines were delivered as ad libs.

Gray, who plays editor Walter Burns, is arrested at one point and told by the mayor, “You’re through,” to which he responds, “Listen the last man that said that to me was Archie Leach just a week before he cut his throat.” The name of Grant’s birth certificate is Archibald Leach.

In another scene he tells Russell her finance “looks like that fellow in the movies — Ralph Bellamy.” The actor playing the role was Bellamy.

So nuke some popcorn, sit back, and be prepared to be entertained. . .

He’s baaaccckkkk! Simon’s Cat for Halloween


Without further ado, the latest offering from Simon’s Cat:

Scary Legs – Simon’s Cat (A Halloween Special)

Program note:

“An attention-seeking cat spins a web to catch his owners attention”

Russell Brand lacerates BBC’s Jeremy Paxman


The confrontation on BBC’s Newsnight is intense, with Paxman declaring that Brand is “trivial,” excoriating the comedian for his refusal to vote.

Brand’s reasons for skipping the ballot bow:

“You don’t have to listen to my political point of view. But it’s not that I’m not voting out of apathy. I’m not voting out of absolute indifference and weariness and exhaustion from the lies, treachery, deceit of the political class that’s been going on for generations now and which has now reached fever pitch where we have a disenfranchised, disillusioned, despondent underclass that are not being represented by that political system, so voting for it is tacit complicity with that system.”

From the BBC:

NEWSNIGHT – Paxman vs Brand.

The program note:

Newsnight’s Jeremy Paxman talks to Russell Brand about voting, revolution and beards. . .

Headlines of the day: Econ tremors, Fukushima


Even with Greece pulled out for an earlier set of headlines, there’s still lots to note, and after the jump, the ongoing debacle in Southern Europe, growing concerns in India and China, and lots more bad news from Fukushima [some of it really bad], where today Hitler adds his own inimitable voice.

We open with a rationale, from the London Telegraph:

Fed recoils from 1937 tightening error as jobs evaporate

The American economy has shed 347,000 jobs over the past two months, roughly comparable with the rate of loss seen during the Great Recession. It is remarkable that the US Federal Reserve should even have been thinking of phasing out life-support in such circumstances.

Not-so-Great Expectations, from On the Economy:

The Fed Marks Down Their Growth Forecast…Again

The Los Angeles Times reports a major shift:

Advantage of buying a home slipping away

The financial edge Southern California home owners have over renters has rapidly shrunk in recent months as home prices and mortgage rates have risen, according to a new report.

One piece of California residential real estate attracts the attentions of the London Daily Mail:

UC to spend up to $6m on crumbling  mansion for new president Janet Napolitano despite tuition fees doubling and teacher layoffs due to budget cuts

  • Despite recent cutbacks University of California has asked for millions from private endowment board to renovate historic Blake House

  • It will cost $3.5- $6m to completely renovate the run-down abode, that for decades housed university presidents

  • Napolitano, former Homeland Security Secretary and the first female UC president will live in rented house costing  $10,000 a month while mansion repaired

  • Napolitano’s base salary will be $570,000, and she’ll receive $142,500 in moving expenses

  • Plans also call for adding a laundry, kitchen and upgraded bathrooms to the 4,300-square-foot private living quarters

Banksters burned [well, at least singed a little] for behaving badly, from the New York Times:

JPMorgan Is Fined $920 Million Over Huge Trading Loss

More than a year after a multibillion-dollar loss at JPMorgan Chase, government authorities on Thursday extracted fines and a rare admission of wrongdoing.

And that wasn’t their only hit. From Reuters, the source of a $320 million hit:

JPMorgan told to fix credit card practices, pay refunds

From Reuters again, more bad news for banksters:

Wells Fargo cutting 1,800 jobs in mortgage business

A headline that makes us ask “What about those funny balloon voices?” From The Guardian:

Global helium shortage in prospect as US reservoir in line to close next month

Makers of medical equipment and electronics face rising prices and supply disruptions if Federal Helium Reserve in Texas shuts

From EurActiv, we hope they find the right connection:

EU policymakers push for action on obesity

Obesity-related illnesses have become such a problem in Europe that they have reached the top political level, with even the EU council’s Lithuanian presidency vowing to raise the issue at upcoming ministerials.

From The Independent, the unspeakable consequences of imposing a tax on spare bedrooms [including bedrooms in family homes still occupied by parents after the children have gone]:

Exclusive: Bedroom tax – now 50,000 people are facing eviction

One council tenant in three has been pushed into rent arrears since April, while tens of thousands in housing association properties are also affected

There’s a parallel housing problem as well, exposed by The Bureau of Investigative Journalism:

The Housing Crisis

Thousands of affordable homes axed

  • Housebuilders and councils in Britain’s biggest cities are failing to comply with affordable housing targets, and even ripping up legal commitments to build cheaper homes.

  • A three-month study by the Bureau has established that 60% of the biggest housing developments currently in the planning system are falling short of local affordable housing targets, preventing thousands of cheaper homes being built.

And from the London Telegraph, class fissures:

NHS bosses pocket big rises amid cutbacks, figures show

More than 10,000 NHS managers have seen their pay rise by 13 per cent in four years, with increases last year at three times the rate for nurses, official figures disclose.

The Independent reports a worrying number:

Economic recovery in doubt as figures show UK workforce produces 20% less than other major economies

‘Bad news’ for British productivity leads to questions over George Osborne’s claims we are in ‘early stages of recovery’

On to the emerald Isle, a qualified endorsement from The Guardian:

Ireland officially exits recession

GDP, which includes the multinational sector, grew 0.4% in the second quarter – although the domestic economy shrank 0.4%

From the London Telegraph, green, but German, and faring poorly:

Germany industry in revolt as green dream causes cost spiral

Germany’s top economic adviser has called for a radical rethink of the country’s energy policies, warning that the green dream is going badly wrong as costs spiral out of control.

New Europe, reporting the Iron Chancellor says Germany will take more profit — and less loss. Via New Europe:

The German Chancellor promised to continue the same bailout loan policy

Merkel promises to reject joint Euro debt

Some Merkelian motivation from Europe Online:

German opinion poll shows eurosceptic surge ahead of election

The Fiscal Times highlights one of Angela Merkel’s most notable failures:

Germany’s Drone Program Crashes and Burns

From SINA English, another class division:

Amazon workers go on strike in Germany

The consequences of those low German wages draw attention from a neighbor, via the BBC:

French minister attacks German wage policy

Days before Germany goes to the polls, a French economy minister has called for German wages to be raised in order to ensure fairer competition.

Indeed, Germany has no minimum wage, while France does. This headline from RFI is a response to a problem caused, in part, by those low German wages:

France to fine bosses over factory closures

France’s government wants companies planning to close factories employing more than 1,000 in France to look for a buyer or face a fine.

Dutch neoliberalism, Tea Party style, spotted by Policy Network:

The Dutch social laboratory: From progressivism to populism?

The Netherlands reputation as a ‘progressive guide land’ is being turned on its head as the pillars of the post-war order – party democracy, the welfare state and European integration – shake from their foundations

On to the Iberian Peninsula, starting with this headline from El País:

Senior holds up bank to get prison bed in crisis-hit Lisbon

More Portuguese inmates remaining in jail due to harsh economic conditions on the outside

Lots more from SOuthern EUrope, Asia, Latin America, and the latest edition of Fukshimapoclypse Now! [with added Hitler] after the jump. . . Continue reading

Major league prankage: Now that’s home brew


Russell Brown of Auckland, New Zealand, come home to a surprise a few days ago: Every tap in the house delivered not H20 but icy lager.

His brother, Sean and four colleagues in the building trades, pulled off the prank, installing hidden video cameras as well to capture the reaction

Without further ado, the video:

Guy finds his house plumbed with beer

The program notes from vlogger/co-sonspirator LittleJohnnyNZ:

Me and the boys played a bit of a joke on our mate Russ. Kegs of beer have been plumbed into every tap in the house, with loads of cameras to catch the action. Took us all day to set up but it was worth it when the icy cool beer came pouring out.

All we can say is, Take me to your liter!