Sunday, June 01, 2008

Harvey Korman

I loved Harvey Korman. Long before the Not Ready for Primetime Players were dressing as bees, doing pratfalls, and selling Bass-o-matics, Harvey Korman was performing brilliant sketches every week on the CAROL BURNETT SHOW. Impeccable comic timing, great accents, the ability to play both comic and straightman -- Korman had no peer. And paired with Tim Conway, they were the funniest comedy team on television in the 70s.

I went hunting around on YouTube to find a great sample of Harvey Korman's work. I found any number of sketches along with some of his scenes from BLAZING SADDLES (he played Hedley Lamar). The clip I've chosen however, features Conway more than Korman (although just watching Harvey try not to lose it is priceless) but is such a brilliant piece of comedy I couldn't pass it up.

What a joy to watch two comic masters. Harvey Korman will be forever missed.

24 comments :

Tim W. said...

I loved watching the Carol Burnett show as a kid and was very sad to see Korman had died. Quite frankly, I have never been much of a fan of a lot of American comedy, especially pre-80's. I never found people like Lucille Ball or the 3 Stooges very funny. The Carol Burnett Show always made me laugh, though. Harvey Korman and Tim Conway made a great team and you could see that they genuinely loved working together. However bad Korman was a keeping a straight face, despite usually playing the straight man, it just added to the comedy.

Joshua James said...

I miss him, too, he was really a demented genius. . . I put up a couple of classic Korman scenes on my blog as well - check 'em out.

Dave Lifton said...

I used that same clip on my blog's tribute to him. Nothing was better than watching Korman failing to keep it together.

Paul Duca said...

By a twist of fate, I got Disc 2 of the first season of THE MUPPET SHOW from Netflix...which has Korman's guest appearance on the program (where he dresses up as a chicken).

Max Clarke said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Dr. Leo Marvin said...

This clip is bitter-sweet for obvious reasons. But Tim Conway brings up an unrelated question I have for Ken.

When I see TV that used to make me laugh, most of it still does. But a lot doesn't, including some sacred cows, like The Dick van Dyke Show, Steve Allen, Ernie Kovacs, the Smothers Brothers... and Tim Conway. I won't ask why they haven't held up, because I realize that for most people they're probably doing just fine. My question is, more generally, whether you know what accounts for some comedy just losing it eventually, at least for some people. And maybe you're also aware of examples I can't think of off hand that went down our collective toilet all at once.

I think I've ruled out the most obvious explanation, i.e., that it's because of dated cultural references. The stuff I still laugh at doesn't seem any less topical than what leaves me cold. Finally, if you do have some idea what's behind this, do you do anything pro-actively to inoculate your own material against it? (Just curious. I'm not a writer.)

Sherrie said...

I completely agree with you Ken. My office spent Friday morning trying to one-up each other with the best Harvey you tube clip.

The Milner Coupe said...

I know what Dr. Marvin means. But I'm not sure that it's the comedy that doesn't hold up, but ourselves. Sometimes when I'm watching something with my dad, he'll lament how 'corny' something is now that he thought was hilarious at the time it first came out.

Anything that was topical, hip, or pushing the morals boundries of the day is now seemingly tame. Not because it changed but we have. We've seen it all. It's like how you look at your favorite hot sauce after a while and wonder why you evr thought it was so spicy.

I think that's why some of the old stuff that was relationship oriented, or situational like 'Lucy' still hold up. Dick Van Dyke was hip. Not so much now. But Carl Reiner's scene are still hilarious.

Harvey Corman was a funny, funny man. Tim Conway was/is a Chaplin, but what makes those old Carol Burnett skits still funny to me is HC in the back trying to hold it together. If you withdraw him from the scene, it doesn't hold up as well.

He'll certainly be remembered in our house.

ajmilner said...

And unlike Lorne Michaels, Carol Burnett and co. knew exactly when to quit instead of running on fumes for decades at a stretch.

Korman was also very good in a 1970s dramatic TV-movie as Bud Abbott to Buddy Hackett's Lou Costello. It's a cliche that it's easier for comedians to to drama than for dramatic actors to do comedy... but I would have liked to see Korman do more dramatic work.

And in case you were wondering, I have NO connection to the poster calling himself "the Milner coupe" (though a college friend who died a few years ago would invariably greet me by quoting AMERICAN GRAFFITI dialogue involving my surname)...

Barefoot Billy Aloha said...

I loved his work. When he'd laugh, he give the rest of a glimpse behind the fourth wall, and I think that's what helped make him so appreciated by all of us.

Gnasche said...

I think I know the answer, Dr. Marvin. When a particula schtick is successful, it gets copied. Since television gives us more and more every year, we get inundated. Tim Conway would probably hold up better if there had been no "Three's Company" giving us similar Jack Tripper antics for so many years. The old Woody Allen comedies would hold up better had they not been copied so much.

Shows will never maintain unique qualities if they are successful. In order for something to hold up for decades it has to be grounded in universal, timeless drama.

Anonymous said...

Didn't Korman also play Bud Abbott in the Abbott and Costello (played by Buddy Hackett)made-for-tv bio? To me that made sense, as he was a seminal straight man, meaning he could do comedy if he needed, but he really knew what to do to support the other person's turn to shine. And that shows in that he enjoyed himself at it as well.

Sean Williams said...

I had the honor of meeting Harvey Korman when he and my mom, Beth Peters, were doing the musical "Little Me" at the Dallas State Fair Musicals in the 1970s (Dorothy Collins and Sherry Spillane co-starred). He was playing a role originally written for Sid Caesar (and revived with Martin Short recently) and was marvelous. He could sing, dance, and carry a show -- just a great performer!
Sean

Paul said...

Holy crap. This scene was ripped off by Mr. Bean. Or at least the part about poking the dentist with the Novocaine. Every time I watch older comedy, I find at least a few things that were "borrowed" by modern comedy.

Hallie said...

I love this blog. I rarely see anything anymore that is funny enough to make me cry, but this blog has done it twice. I'm hooked. (sniffle)
Now, I'm off to YouTube to find the Conway/Korman newscaster skit featuring the whistling booger.

dentednj said...

I loved him also... One of my favorite later bits was his part in Mel Brooks movie History of the World Part III. He was fabulous as Count DeMoney!!!

Paul Duca said...

That's DE MONET!!!

vandrop said...

Harvey was truly hilarious. He was a giant in our home in the 70s - I remember dad just crying in the den watching Harvey on the Carol Burnett show. Then, twenty years later I had that curious Ohio Kid in Hollywood experience of working with the man - he played a character on an animated series I did. There I was, in the control room, watching Harvey read my lines. My mind was blown. He was one of the best. RIP.

Dennis said...

I sincerely hope that Tim Conway reads these comments. It's probably the only time in his life that anyone anywhere will ever compare him to Chaplin. (Chester Conklin or Snub Pollard, maybe.)

Patricia Korman said...

I wouldn't ever put Conway in the same sentence of Chaplin.Tim was invented but he isn't Peter Sellers John Ritter was for me the closest thing to Chaplin,Lloyd as was Dick Van Dyke.All the people I mentioned also could make my dad laugh without breaking character as well as the incredibly versatile comedian/impressionists John Byner.

Anonymous said...

I wouldn't ever put Conway in the same sentence of Chaplin.Tim was invented but he isn't Peter Sellers John Ritter was for me the closest thing to Chaplin,Lloyd as was Dick Van Dyke.All the people I mentioned also could make my dad laugh without breaking character as well as the incredibly versatile comedian/impressionists John Byner.

Christopher Korman said...

For those living in los Angeles and nearby areas here is a heads up on a great once in a lifetime event.Wesley Hyatt author of the Carol Burnet Show book I'm so glad we had this time together is doing a book signing.The event is july 16th at 4 pm at Book Soup in W.Hollywood.Were hoping many hollywood luminaries will be there to celebrate this iconic show and writer.I will be there to field questions about my dad and celebrate the greatest part of my childhood.If you do come please indentify yourself to me when you get there so I can give you some acknowledgement.Ken is a class act and doing him a favor is like going a fav for my brother.

Christopher Korman said...

The quote by Patricia Korman was meant to be attributed to me and not my wife in case someone decides to get mad at her.That wasn't her sentiment that was mine.C.Korman

Chris Korman said...

The quote from Patricia Korman wasn't from her it was from me I accidentally signed in with her account.The sentiment about Tim came from me not her.