Thursday, March 20, 2014

My comedy gods

Phoef Sutton, an excellent comedy writer in his own right, posed this question recently on Facebook: Who are your comedy gods?

Here are mine… in no particular order.  Yes, there are a lot, but isn't it nice that so many people inspired me?   And I’m sure I’m forgetting a few.  If any of these names are unfamiliar to you, they're worth looking up. A few of them I have done posts on in the past and have provided the links.

Larry Gelbart
Jim Brooks
Allan Burns
Jerry Belson
Carl Reiner
Neil Simon
Nat Hiken (creator of Bilko)
Jack Benny
Elaine May
Mike Nichols
Sweet Dick Whittington (disc jockey)
Steve Gordon
Laurel & Hardy
Bob & Ray  (radio team)
Lohman & Barkley (radio team)
Carol Burnett
P.G. Wodehouse (author of brilliant farces)
Alan King
John Kennedy Toole ("Confederacy of Dunces")
George S. Kaufman (playwright)
Gilda Radner
Moss Hart (playwright)
Emperor Bob Hudson  (disc jockey)
Gary Larson ("The Far Side")
Phil Silvers
Jonathan Winters
Dan Ingram (disc jockey)
Glen & Les Charles
Jane Wagner
Billy Wilder
Bob Newhart
Preston Sturgess
Lucy
Treva Silverman
Mel Brooks
Woody Allen
Richard Pryor
Dorothy Parker
Elayne Boosler
Johnny Carson
Peter Sellers
Tina Fey
Don McKinnon (disc jockey)
Gary Burbank (disc jockey)
Gary Owens
Paul Rudnick
Albert Brooks
S.J. Perelman (humorist)
Robert W. Morgan
Tom Patchett
Jay Tarses
Jay Ward
John Belushi
Buster Keaton
Everett Greenbaum
Jim Fritzell
Bob Ellison
David Lloyd
Stan Daniels
Steve Martin
Daffy Duck
Danny Thomas
Andy Griffith
Fred Allen (network radio star)
Merrill Markoe
Jackie Gleason
Audrey Meadows
Art Carney
Stan Freberg (all around creative genius)
Ernie Kovacs (TV comedy pioneer)
Lloyd Thaxton (Ernie Kovacs of teen dance shows)
Gertrude Berg (radio writer and star)
Oscar Levant (noted curmudgeon)
Dale Dorman (disc jockey)
Garry Marshall
Bob Uecker (Mr. Baseball)
Sid Caesar (despite my personal dealings)
Louie Nye
George Carlin
John Cleese


Who are yours?

81 comments:

David J. Loehr said...

You've pretty much named all of mine. (The Venn diagram is huge.) Heck, Bob & Ray are a huge influence on one of the podcasting projects I'm working on right now.

I've got a few more though.

John Finnemore (British writer & actor, BBC radio's "Cabin Pressure"--an excellent farce--and "John Finnemore's Souvenir Programme"--sketch comedy series)
Peter Schickele (PDQ Bach)
Thorne Smith
Donald Westlake
Stephen Fry & Hugh Laurie (together)
Joe Keenan
Craig Rice
Carl Hiaasen
Michael Bond (specifically the Paddington books for children)

I keep thinking of names, but I go back and check, you've already named them...

ACrispo said...

I would also have P.G. Wodehouse, Dorothy Parker, and S.J. Perelman on my list, but I'd also have to include my favorite, Robert Benchley. Bob & Ray were great whether on TV or the radio, and I'd also add a humorist they shared the airwaves with at one time on WOR in New York, the great Jean Shepherd.

CCroom said...

W.C Fields is always at the top of my list, both as a writer and actor. Also Spike Milligan, Peter sellers and Harry Secombe of the Goon show.

Jim S said...

Bob Newhart
Bob & Ray (It saddens me that young people don't know who they are.)
Bill Cosby
Jack Klugman and Tony Randall (They have to be together)
Harvey Korman (best second banana ever)
Tim Conway messing with Harvey Korman
Don Knotts (His commitment to character is awe-inspiring)
Jerry Seinfeld
Richard Pryor (Most brutally honest stand up ever)
Abbott and Costello
Laurel and Hardy
Chris Rock
Michael Palin
Harold Ramis (So smart yet had heart and silliness)
David Letterman (For body of work. He's been phoning it in lately)
Tina Fey

Bill Slankard said...

I'd add Paul Rhymer, writer of the Vic and Sade radio show.

Scooter Schechtman said...

James Branch Cabell, Peter DeVries and Max Beerbohm. Back when books were on genuine vellum, not the electrified reading machines you punks all ride. Also Bob Uecker's light beer commercials were pretty funny, as was "Major League" but I suspect he had writers.

Jerry Krull said...

You've named so many of mine. Here are a couple more but not a complete list of mine either;
Harold Ramis
Mel Blanc
Tim Conway
Bill Persky
Sam Denoff
Dick Van Dyke
Jerry Van Dyke
Harvey Bullock (writer of the Andy Griffith episode "Opie the Birdman")

At the risk of being called a brown-nose I include:

Ken Levine
David Isaacs

When I saw your names pop up on all my favorite shows as the writers, I was amazed. Meeting you both at the Sitcom Room 2012 is something I still talk about and influences my writing today.

Jerry Krull said...

How could I leave off:
Carl Reiner
Mel Brooks
Cheech & Chong (the 70's albums got me through Catholic grade school)
Buddy Hackett

Today's stand-ups:
Brian Regan
Jim Gaffigan
John Mulaney
Stephen Wright
Mike Birbiglia
John Pinette
the late Mitch Hedberg
Louis C.K.
Joan Rivers (saw her in the 80's in Vegas - was hysterical)

Stoney said...

Well you've singlehandedly answered a lot of questions I've had rolling around in my head.

Notably absent from your list is Abbott & Costello. Not that I have extremely high regard for them but there are many who would say that "Who's On First" was the birth of comedy in the era of sound recording and broadcast.

I would also give a tip of the top hat to Doctor Demento; not that he has comic talent himself but he did give exposure to lots who did! He was mainly responsible for finding an obscure funny record from the 1940's and turning it into a hit in 1975. "Shaving Cream" by Benny Bell. Also, he was instrumental in the issue of compilations of Stan Freberg, Spike Jones and His City Slickers, Tom Lehrer and one of MY comedy gods, Allan Sherman.

Erik said...

Don Knotts
The Monty Python gang
Edward Everett Horton
Charles Schulz
Jack Lemmon
Peter Sellers
Woody Allen
etc....

VincentS said...

The Marx Brothers
Laurel and Hardy
Abbott and Costello
Jackie Gleason
Art Carney
Larry Gelbart
Woody Allen
Tina Fey
Ken Levine
David Isaacs
Neil Simon
Mel Brooks
Carl Reiner
George S. Kaufman
Harold Ramis
Jonathan Lynn
Monty Python
Mike Nichols
David Letterman
Bob Hope
Bob Newhart
Bill Cosby
Hope and Crosby
Jim Hensen

Gary West said...

Love where your mind went:
Gary Burbank
Gary Owens

Early on - Gary Burbank kind of modeled himself after Gary Owens (Beautiful Downtown Burbank)...

I have a feeling - some of this is in list order.

What a list!

B.B. Callow said...

My list is basically anyone who made me laugh (writer and/or performer) on a regular basis when I was a kid -- and helped shape my understanding of "funny":

Carl Reiner
Red Skelton
Dick Van Dyke
Snagglepuss
Tim Conway
Art Carney
Bob Hope/Bing Crosby
Kenneth Williams (and most BBC Quiz show)
Buck Henry
Richard Pryor
John Byner
Mel Blanc
Alan Reed

Dodgerdog said...

Musical parodists: Allen Sherman and Weird Al Yankovic always make me laugh.

Stoney said...

I see Jay Ward on your list so you must have grown up with Rocky and Bullwinkle. I assume you have no desire to see and review the new Peabody And Sherman movie.

Dear friends, I'd be remiss in not including Proctor, Bergman, Ossman and Austin; collectively known as Firesign Theatre.

benson said...

Boy, I am way to slow on the trigger finger today. I got aced out of becoming a billionaire with the Warren Buffet bracket challenge, and now you folks have mentioned names that I would have.

@jerry krull. Big Yes on John Pinette. Go he makes me laugh, as does Frank Caliendo's stand up.

Since Ken mention radio folks. Fred Winston from WLS is one of my radio gods, and current WGN morning god Steve Cochran (who's done standup) says things I wish I was quick enough to think of.

Hamid said...

Sacha Baron Cohen

At the risk of sounding sycophantic, you, David and all the writers on Cheers, Frasier and the first decade of The Simpsons. I also have a soft spot for Big Wave Dave's. Kurtwood Smith is the man! When are we gonna get a DVD release?!

Eddie Murphy in his early days.

Bill Hicks

Lisa Lampanelli

Jeff Ross

Woody Allen

Michael Keaton (his performance as Beetlejuice is unmatched)

The writers of Futurama

Robin Williams (I know he can be a bit too much at times, but when he's at his best, he's flawless)

Dave Chappelle

Trey Parker and Matt Stone

Harold Ramis

Dom Irrera

And many more I can't think of just now.

Courtney F. said...

Everybody already mentioned plus the Smothers Brothers.

mmryan314 said...

Ken covered some of these women but I'll add a few
Rosalind Russell
Rosemarie
Betty White
Tina Fey
Carol Burnett
Mary Tyler Moore
Shelley long
Lucille Ball
Ellen DeGeneres
Rosie O'Donnell
Lily Tomlin

Courtney said...

Let us not forget that other Allen, Fred, who for sheer writing output alone could qualify as a comedy god, but whose wit and droll delivery ensures his deity, IMO.

Also, living east of the Mississippi, I knew nothing about Dick Whittington until I checked out this aircheck from 1968 at the Past Daily site. Fun stuff:

http://pastdaily.com/2014/03/08/personality-radio-station-stars-kmpc-1968-past-daily-pop-chronicles/

Gazzoo said...

Ken,

How you can leave The Marx Brothers off in lieu of someone like Gary Owens is inexcusable...

Covarr said...

My list:

Myself
Nobody else

I'm an egocentric bastard.

Dan Ball said...

Mel Brooks
Rodney Dangerfield
William Goldman
Harold Ramis
Ken Levine (wha?)
Buster Keaton
Charlie Chaplin
Charley Chase (not the pornstar)
The Three Stooges
Redd Foxx
Greg Daniels
Michael Schur
Conan O'Brien
Jerry Seinfeld
Bob Newhart
Zach Galifianakis
Tim Jones (a buddy of mine who went to Second City and taught me some of that)
Monty Python
Benny Hill
Graham Linehan
Woody Allen
Neil Simon
Andy Kaufman
Martin Short
Larry David
Mitch Hurwitz

Stoney said...

Ken, you saw fit to put a pic of Jack Benny at the top of the post; what about the man Benny played straight to dozens of times for huge laughs...Mel Blanc?

MikeFab said...

Ditto to most of the names already mentioned. Here are a few more....

Bill Murray
John Candy
Jack Handy of "Deep Thoughts" fame....(if he's even a real person)
Maury Langston (The Unknown Comic)

Mike McCann said...

I agree with virtually all the names you listed. But let me add this six-pack of wit:
Groucho Marx
Abbott & Costello
Mel Blanc
Sheldon Leonard
Robin Williams
Bob Hope

Anonymous said...

I couldn't agree with you more.

Rufus T. Firefly said...

Aiming only for those not mentioned yet (unless I've stupidly skipped over their names above):

The staff of MAD Magazine (Al Jaffee turned 93 this week and he's still a contributor)

Jake Johanssen

Charles Schulz

Michael Maltese
Chuck Jones
Tex Avery

Gene Wilder

Mae West

Stephen Colbert

Howard Stern (+ Fred Norris)

Spike Jones

Joseph Heller in "Catch-22"

Chris Morris
Steve Coogan
Armando Iannucci

Angry Gamer said...

Bob Hope
Johnny Carson
Jay Leno
David Letterman
Eddie Murphy
Weird Al Yankovic
Richard Prior
Ray Stevens (they call him the streak)
Bugs Bunny
Wylie Coyote (Genius)
Bob Hope
George Carlin
Ronald Reagan (Trust but verify... I like it)
Billy Crystal
Phineas & Ferb (I know what we're gonna do today!)
Sponge Bob
Mel Brooks
Bob Hope
Jerry Clower
Bill Engvall "Here's Your Sign"
Jeff Foxworthy "You might be a redneck"
Larry the Cable Guy
Ron White "I was once thrown out of a bar in NYC..."

And because they were ANGRY
Sam Kinison (the ex pentecostal preacher)
Buddy Hackett
George Carlin (yes again)

and
Bob Hope


David Russell said...

I agree with nearly all the additions, especially Dick Van Dyke. The Dick Van Dyke show was in reruns when I was in sixth or seventh grade and I would come home at lunch, watch an episode and just have time to run back to school as the final segment finished, then practice being funny all afternoon. I'm sure I was a joy to have in class.

Of course that includes, naturally, the brilliance of Carl Reiner.

I also have to add Walter Matthau. His comedic performances were always brilliant (I loved Klugman but Matthau is brilliant in the Odd Couple). Matthau could just walk out on stage to present an award or something and I would just start to laugh. I was only 30 when he died so my memories of him are kid and young man memories but man - he was a comedic acting genius.

Gordon said...

Somebody beat me to Michael Maltese...

so I'll add

Jack Douglas (author)
Douglas Adams (author)
Bill Watterson (Calvin and Hobbes)
Jack Kent (King Aroo)
Walt Kelly (Pogo)

Gordon said...

Oh and Rick Moranis who in addition to being funny, is a really nice man.

pilot joe said...

Don Rickles, and what about your daughter and her partner.

Anonymous said...

Funny, no one has mentioned the man many of the British and some of us Americans consider the funniest man of the last two generations, Peter Cook.

Bob Claster said...

Yes, I was just about to nominate Peter Cook as well. And every member of Monty Python (not just Cleese) who were all as strong in the writing department as in the performances, and all the SCTV people. And Tom Lehrer. And from left field, the brilliant Brother Theodore. Today, Louis CK, Eddie Izzard, Billy Connolly. Andy Kaufman. Robert Benchley. Douglas Adams. Joe Keenan, not so much for his brilliant farces of FRASIER but for his amazingly hilarious books (don't even think about it, just get them). And above all, the magnificent Marxes.

Jim said...

You've covered the English speaking world pretty well (but am I the only one who knew most of those whose job titles you gave - well apart from the DJs - but didn't recognise quite a few of the others), so here are a couple of foreign ones.

Leonid Gaidai. Russian director of the 60s and 70s who did what I don't think any other maker of comedy films has done. His first full length feature, Operation Y and Shurik's Other Adventures, sold almost 70 million tickets to become the number one all time box office hit. The next year his second, Kidnapping, Caucasian Style, sold 76.5 million tickets, knocking Operation Y down to second spot. And then another two years later his third, The Diamond Arm, sold 76.7 million, knocking his previous two films down to numbers 2 and 3. I'm not sure what sort of baseball analogy you could make to that. He never quite hit those heights again, but those three held the top three places for well over a decade, and were only ever beaten by one film in the following two decades that the Soviet Union existed. Visually, the closest American director would be Frank Tashlin, but a lot of the humour derives from silent era stuff, Keaton et al. There were official copies up on You Tube a couple of months ago complete with English subtitles, but for some reason they've gone and been replaced by short extracts.

Yuri Nikulin. He featured in all three of those Gaidai comedies, but did lots more, even though he only had two real jobs in his lifetime. After leaving school in 1939 he got called up into the Soviet Army where he stayed until 1946. Then he went to clown school and joined the circus. When he died in 1997 he was the Director Emeritus. This short 2 minute clip will give you some idea of what he was like. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rfEr8MLwH2U

Erik Balling & Henning Bahs. Creators of the Danish Olsen Gang movies, thirteen great comedies between 1968 and 1981 (and a really horrible later addition in 1998 when everyone really was past it - one cast member even died during filming). Comedy, Rube Goldberg style, is the best description. A sort of sellotape and string version of Mission Impossible. But from the side of the baddies. Get an idea of the sort of thing from these clips, the first two minutes long and silent, the second seven, and you don't need to know what they say to get the joke. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=squxkHIaIdY http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1Mu5V5V6nLE

Jeffrey Mark said...

Let's not forget the brilliant animators and directors at WB during the 40s and 50s.

Michael Maltese
Chuck Jones
Robert McKimson
Bob Clampett
I. Freleng
Tex Avery

Unknown said...

The only names I have to add are Tom Lehrer and Garfunkel and Oates. Jake and Amir may join the pantheon in time.

Unknown said...

Fuggit, put those two crazy dudes Jake and Amir in the pantheon now. I didn't think a 1-3 webisode was a viable comic format until I saw their stuff.

Oh, and Adam Carolla.

Unknown said...

Meant a 1-3 minute webisode... do not post after three shots of vodka are words to live by.

Wendy M. Grossman said...

You got most of mine, but:

- All the Marx Brothers, but especially Groucho, who shone at the highest form of comedy, spontaneous wit. (Harpo's autobiography is also very funny.)

- Harvey Korman and Tim Conway, as others have said, ditto W.C. Fields, Edgar Bergen and Charlie McCarthy (and his daughter's none too shabby either),

- The late, great Nora Ephron (who besides writing some very funny movies, columns, and novels *also* was good at every *other* area of writing she tried)

- The Firesign Theater

- You left out the many British comedy teams (though mentioning some of their members) that have inspired so many since - the Goons, Monty Python, Peter Cook and Dudley Moore (Cook was a genius; look him up on YouTube), Jonathan Lynn and Antony Jay (who wrote YES, MINISTER).

- Also British: Alan Ayckbourn.

- You did mention Elaine May, but I'd like to add that there are few things funnier than the dress scene with her and Walter Matthau in A NEW LEAF (wrote, starred, directed).

- And how can no one possibly have mentioned Douglas Adams? Now, there's a man who really knew where his comedy towel was.

wg

Unknown said...

Ok, a couple more... Martin Amis for MONEY, probably the funniest novel I've ever read besides A CONFEDERACY OF DUNCES, and Terry Southern, for his contribution to possibly the best comedy film of all time, DR. STRANGELOVE.

jcs said...

I'd like to add a few guy from the UK:

Armando Iannucci who created the superb TV series "The Thick Of It" with the incredible Peter Capaldi

Stephen Fry and Hugh Laurie for "A Bit of Fry and Laurie"

Graham Linehan for "The IT Crowd" and "Black Books"

Charlie Brooker for mercilessly dissecting the news

DBenson said...

Somebody mentioned Charles Schulz. There are a lot of great cartoonists who shaped me and countless others. Just a few:

-- Mad's original "Usual Gang of Idiots." Even their radio show parodies are still a rude delight.

-- Charles Addams, who taught us to really study a drawing and find that one sinister detail, like a single guy grinning in an audience of horrified moviegoers, or the feathers around a barber chair as the barbershop staff all look off after an unseen departing customer.

-- George Booth, George Price, Ros Chast and others whose drawings are always funny on their own. Any actual gag is a bonus.

-- Jules Feiffer, a 1950s prodigy who keeps renewing his street cred.

-- Kelly, Watterson, Larson and other retired jerseys.

-- Trudeau, Scott Adams, Stephen Pastis, Pinero, and others still keeping up the quality.

-- "Mutts". Often more cute than funny, but visually irresistible.

-- "Zits." Even a big commercial success can be sharply written and wonderfully drawn.

Jim said...

Good call on Armando Iannucci. I don't think there's ever been a better political "Gotcha" than his Jeremy Hanley stunt. For the probably 95% of you who've never heard of Jeremy Hanley, at the time he was Chairman of the British Conservative Party, and through that also sat in Cabinet meetings. Think Deputy Under Secratary for Agriculture. Or Vice President if you want to go Gershwin. In other words a politician known only to the political geeks. Iannnucci took a group of stage school kids pretending to be his fan club along to Downing Street (think White House). This is what happened next:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OmFeXBQcucs

Would Colbert get away with someting similar?

Klee said...

Howard Stern, Joan Rivers, Johnny Carson, Larry David, Kathy Griffin and the writing staff of Lucy, MTM, Cheers, Raymond!

Klee said...

Forgot JENNIFER SAUNDERS!

Canda said...

And where is the GrandDaddy of all American
Humor, MARK TWAIN.

RCP said...

In addition to many already listed (and repeating some particular favorites):

Lily Tomlin, Eric Blore, John Cleese, Laurel & Hardy, Wanda Sykes, Tina Fey, Jane Krakowski, Madeline Kahn, Kenneth Mars, Gilda Radner, John Belushi, Mel Brooks, Jack Benny, John Candy, Andrea Martin, Divine, Bea Arthur, Mae West, Carol Burnett, Harvey Korman, Laurie Metcalf, Vernon Dent and Symona Boniface (favorite 30s foils to the likes of The Three Stooges), W.C. Fields, The Marx Brothers, Jennifer Saunders, Joanna Lumley, David Hyde Pierce

Mark Murphy said...

I just read your essay on Steve Gordon. Thanks for doing that -- I am a great admirer of his but hadn't known much about him.

I've been watching episodes from The Practice on Warner Archive Instant. (Maybe Netflix has them too.) It's as funny as I remember it being. I'll keep an eye out for your episode.

D. McEwan said...

It's Comedy God Carl Reiner's 92nd birthday.

Well, I was happy to see four names on your list that I have written for, six names that are or were friends of mine, and 7 names of people I've worked with.

I'd include most everyone on that list. And some of the few names that would not be on my list are just folks whose work I know little (Molly Goldberg) or not at all (Dan Ingram, Don MacKinnon, others).

I would have to split my Comedy Gods into two groups: Writers and performers. Obviously, there are many who straddle both categories.

Performers: Barry Humphries is #1. No one else is ranked. So after Barry comes: Jack Benny, Stan Laurel, Oliver Hardy, Buster Keaton, Groucho Marx, Harpo Marx, WC Fields, Mae West, Bud Abbott & Lou Costello, Sweet Dick Whittington (My first and most-important mentor), Lohman & Barkley, Bob & Ray, Carol Burnett, Gilda Radnor, John Belushi, Jackie Gleason, Rowan Atkinson, Jonathon Winters, Sid Caesar (Fortunately, I never met Sid. Currently reading his book Caesar's Hours: My Life in Comedy, With Love and Laughter), Peter Sellers (someone else I'm glad I never met), Lenny Bruce, George Burns, Gracie Allen, Daws Butler, Stan Freberg, Tom Lehrer, Bob Newhart, Tom Poston, Jon Stewart, Stephen Colbert, all of Monty Python. Others. (I've omitted a large group of currently working comics and comedy actors that are all friends of mine, as listing one or six while omitting others, well, the morass. The horror. The recriminations at Christmas.)

Writers: #1 Patrick Dennis. Not ranked: Aristophanies (Whom I once play doctored for, adding a bunch of jokes and physical gags to a production of Lysistrata at the director's request, earning me the wonderful program credit: "Written by Aristophanies; additional Dialogue by Douglas McEwan." Nothing like collaborating with someone who's been dead for 2500 years), William Shakespeare, Charles Dickens, Oscar Wilde (wrote the single greatest stage comedy ever), Thorne Smith, E.F. Benson, Douglas Kinney, Michael O'Donaghue, Joe Orton, George Kaufmann, Feydeau, Joe Keenan, Douglas Adams, Herman Mankiewicz, Al Boasberg, Larry Gelbart, Carl Reiner, Billy Wilder, Preston Sturges, Mel Brooks, Woody Allen, Joseph Heller, Sir Noel Coward.

And let us not forget that, along with his massive historical novels and his brilliant books of essays, that the great Gore Vidal wrote a string of the greatest comic novels ever, including Myra Breckenridge, Myron, Duluth, The Smithsonian Institute and the marvelously, merrily blasphemous Live From Golgotha.

D. McEwan said...

"Courtney said...
Also, living east of the Mississippi, I knew nothing about Dick Whittington until I checked out this aircheck from 1968 at the Past Daily site. Fun stuff:"


Living east of the Mississippi, you've made a very common but nonetheless enormous mistake: You've confused Dick Whittinghill with Sweet Dick Whittington. They are not the same person. Boy, are they not, but the confusion of names coupled with the fact that both were radio comedians and had the same time slot, resulted in a fierce, unfriendly rivalry between them. (It is also why Whittington established the name "Sweet Dick" for himself, to make the confusion less.)

It was Sweet Dick Whittington who was on Ken's list and was my first mentor, boss, and remains my friend to this day. Whittinghill was, in my clearly-biased opinion, not anywhere near in Whittington's class. There's another profound difference between them these days. Whittington is still with us, Whittinghill is dead.

D. McEwan said...

Reading through everyone's lists I see names I must add: Robert Benchley (Been reading him since childhood), Kenneth Williams, Buck Henry. (You try making a coherent screenplay out of Catch-22! Buck actually managed it)

While I wouldn't list Allen Sherman as high as a "Comedy God," he was very, very good, and I MUST recommend the striking new biography of Sherman: Overweight Sensation, to all Sherman fans. Fascinating book telling one hell of a wild story. I was prepared to skim it but it was too riviting to put down. (Come on, Allen went to four different high schools just in his junior year because his gangster step-father was on the lam from the Feds!)

Betty White, Lily Tomlin, (Lucy, like Charlie Chaplin, is a Comedy God, but not one of my personal comedy gods), and Andy Kaufman (How could I omit Andy? I worked with him, emceeing one of his wrestling-with-women bouts many, many years ago), Eddie Izzard.

"Unknown said...
Oh, and Adam Carolla."


Ew. I can see why you're anonymous.

MikeN said...

Question, Martians have invaded the earth and will take over the planet unless you can beat them in Jeopardy. You have to pick one celebrity you've worked with to play for the fate of the planet. Who do you choose?

Jim Russell said...

Some fifty-odd comments in, it's going to be tough to mention someone not yet covered, and yet still a "comedy god" to me.

Great to see Jay Ward here, but his writing partner Bill Scott should share the glory.

Even better to see Michael Maltese get some love. The other Looney Tooms writer that belongs in the same class is Tedd Pierce.

Bruce Jay Friedman should be on the list. I can't read "The Lonely Guy's Book of Life" without laughing out loud.

Comic Fan said...

Another worthy comic panel that's been running for decades...

Dan Piraro's Bizarro

mmryan314 said...

We've not forgotten Billy Crystal I hope (:

Cap'n Bob said...

Well, that covers everyone who has cracked a joke since The Flood.

Powerhouse Salter said...

For their touches of humor...

Film director Ernst Lubitsch (1892-1947).
TV writer/producer Joss Whedon.
Radio writer/host Garrison Keillor.

Rob said...

Edie McClurg

-bee said...

It seems to me sometimes combinations of talent will ignite around particular particular projects - especially in TV - so will name TV series instead of the names of the writers/actors.

- William Shakespeare
- Mark Twain
- Charlie Chaplin
- Buster Keaton
- Monty Python
- Ernst Lubitsch/Samson Raphaelson
- Harold Lloyd
- George Bernard Shaw
- The Simpsons for about first 10 years or so
- The original Honeymooners cast & writers
- M*A*S*H - the entire series!
- Frasier
- The Office/Parks & Rec
- Steve Martin when he did stand-up
- SCTV
- How I Met Your Mother
- All In the Family - especially Jean Stapleton
- Neil Patrick Harris as an Emcee

Pat Reeder said...

You mentioned many of mine (Kaufman, Keaton, Kovacs - wow, it's true, things with "K" in them ARE funny! - Bob & Ray, Freberg and more) and the other commenters have filled in the gaps (Peter Cook, Robert Benchley, W.C. Fields, the Marx Brothers, Monty Python, the SCTV cast, etc.)

The only one I can think of who has yet to be mentioned is the writer I discovered in the third grade and read everything of his I could find until I could quote it from memory: James Thurber.

Hamid said...

No one else here likes Sacha Baron Cohen? I know his brand of gonzo comedy isn't to everyone's taste but you have to give credit where it's due, the way he pulled off the Ali G, Borat and Bruno characters bordered on genius, and he proved with The Dictator he can be just as funny in scripted comedy.

Barry Traylor said...

Great post Ken. There are so many on your list that have made me laugh and for a brief time made life a little easier. Bob Newhart, man did I love his work in high school I memorized some of his stuff from his first album to entertain my friends until of course the figured out that was just "borrowing" the material.
Wow! I just noticed that you included my all time favorite cartoon character also, none other than Daffy Duck.
I would add Jean Shepherd as when I first came across his work in Playboy magazine so many years ago my wife said she never heard anyone laugh so hard while reading.

Andreia Blue said...

I find it incredibly depressing that P.G. Wodehouse needs to be identified.

Carolyn said...

Thank you, Jim. I found Operation Y And Shurik's Other Adventures (the full movie) here -- http://tinyurl.com/l39saqr -- with subtitles.

John Pearley Huffman said...

All those mentioned and no love for..

Jerry Lewis - His lows are very low, but his peak was tremendous.

Steve Allen - Invented the Tonight Show

Ernie Kovacs - Who made the TV world safe for David Letterman

Jonathan Winters - Surrealism

Fred Allen - Practically invented situation comedy

Abraham Lincoln - Not just President, but one of the best, most humane, and funny writers of the 19th century.

Dr. Seuss - Who has taught generations what funny is.

Cary Grant - Made comedy seem sophisticated.

Norman Lear - Saved the sitcom by making it relevant

Emmett Kelly - Still the greatest circus clown ever.

Cicero - Who practically reinvented latin and irony.

Winston Churchill - Saved civilization and the master of the put down.

D. McEwan said...

"Andreia Blue said...
I find it incredibly depressing that P.G. Wodehouse needs to be identified."


Just because he was indentified doesn't mean he needed to be identified, only that that poster felt so.

"John Pearley Huffman said...
All those mentioned and no love for..
Steve Allen - Invented the Tonight Show"


That'll be news to Sylvester "Pat" Weaver. At most, Steve co-created The Tonight Show.

Love was most definitely expressed for Steve Allen, Jonathon Winters and Fred Allen.

"Abraham Lincoln - Not just President, but one of the best, most humane, and funny writers of the 19th century."

Abraham Lincoln was a great, great man, and could be very funny, but a Comedy God he was not. Same for Churchill.

"Norman Lear - Saved the sitcom by making it relevant"

One does not "save" the sitcom by making it "Relevant." In fact, that's a very good way to kill a sitcom unless you really understand how to balance relevance with comedy, as Lear did. You save the sitcom by making it FUNNY! Lear also did that. Meanwhile, at MTM, Grant Tinker was "saving" the sitcom by making ones that were totally non-relevant but very funny.

Tom said...

Okay, now that everyone short of Amos 'n Andy who ever cracked a joke has been deemed a Comedy God....

Rashad Khan said...

David Lloyd.
Treva Silverman.

Jimbo said...

Sadly, only one person said Paul Rhymer, the author of almost 3500 radio scripts of Vic and Sade. A little research on the man will surprise you about just how wonderful a writer he was. In my opinion, he was the best comedy writer of the 20th century. By far.

Walter said...

Many (actually most) of those previously mentioned)including
the whole Beyond The Fringe cast: Peter Cook, Dudley Moore, Alan Bennett and Jonathan Miller. Steve Allen, Tom Poston, Howard Morris, Calvin Trillin, the cartoonists J. B. Handelsman, Charles Addams and Bob Thaves. Marshall Brickman, David Lloyd.

Dick Cavett devoted two shows to Brickman and Lloyd and I wish that someone would find the shows in their VHS collection and post them on Youtube, one of the best hours of TV I've ever seen.

Bill Murray if only for his appearance on Bob Costas' late night show when he came on with a boombox playing Van Morrison.

Rich Hall, and Dara O'Briain. And the writer/director of three of my favorite movies: Bill Forsyth (Gregory's Girl, Comfort and Joy and Local Hero).

John Pearley Huffman said...

D. McEwan,

I didn't see the names I mentioned anywhere in the comments. I wasn't referring to Ken Levine's original post.

If I missed them, I stand corrected.

As to the comedy godliness of Abraham Lincoln and Winston Churchill, keep in mind that Lincoln's letters and speeches and Churchill's books, speeches and debates will be remembered and studied long after most of the others have faded under the mass of mass culture. Their wit is eternal in a way that made history. So they deserve their godly standing in my book.

And I still can't believe I'm the only one who mentioned Jerry Lewis and/or Cary Grant.

Pete said...

In the grand old internet tradition of missing the point, these comments ceased a long time back to be about "comedy gods" and tutned into an exercise in listing anybody who ever said, did or wrote anything funny on television,.radio, print media, or in the movies.

CRL said...

Gahan Wilson.
Rowan Atkinson.
Chris Elliott.

Ex Lady said...

French & Saunders!

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XQmm8N48YwA

and:
Vivian Vance
Julia Louis-Dreyfus
Kari Lizer
Kathy Kinney
Barbara Pym
Wendy Malick
Julie Delpy
Kathy & Mo
Ruth Donnelly
Jean Arthur
Irene Dunne
Marie Dressler
Polly Moran
Zelda Sears
Anita Loos
Beatrice Lillie

chuckcd said...

Mel Brooks
John Cleese
Michael Palin
Eric Idle
Graham Chapman
Terry Jones
Terry Gilliam
Woody Allen
Robin Williams
Jonathan Winters
Richard Pryor
George Carlin
Ken Levine
Chuck Lorre
Larry Gelbart
The Charles Brothers
James Burrows

the list goes on...

D. McEwan said...

"John Pearley Huffman said...
As to the comedy godliness of Abraham Lincoln and Winston Churchill, keep in mind that Lincoln's letters and speeches and Churchill's books, speeches and debates will be remembered and studied long after most of the others have faded under the mass of mass culture. Their wit is eternal in a way that made history. So they deserve their godly standing in my book.

And I still can't believe I'm the only one who mentioned Jerry Lewis and/or Cary Grant."


No one disputes that Lincoln and Churchill are great men and had sharp funny wits, but to be a Comedy God, requirement number one is: you work in comedy. World Leaders, no matter how chuckle-worthy, don't count. No one ever said: "Let's go see Abe Lincoln do some stand-up and then catch that new Churchill rom-com at the cineplex."

Cary Grant was a very wonderful actor, highly skilled at comedy acting, but it takes more than that to get on a list with Buster Keaton. As for the absence of love for Jerry Lewis, I take that as further evidence of the good taste of Ken's readership. Besides, it's not necessary to love Jerry Lewis. He loves himself enough for everyone on earth together. Biggest ego in show biz.

Here's a link to a review posted of Jerry's recent live appearance in La Mirada. The review is hilarious. Jerry, not so much. I LOVE the title: Jerry Lewis is Still Alive, and Still a Piece of Shit."

http://m.vice.com/read/jerry-lewis-is-still-alive?utm_source=vicefbus

Anonymous said...

Yes, I agree with commenters who have listed Ken Levine. I know I keep coming here because I love his humor. Julie, Burlington, Iowa

Mortie Tashman said...

I always defend Jerry Lewis (the comedian, not the man) to his detractors. Many of the Martin/Lewis comedies hold up really well and they were great vehicles for the duo's star power in that era. And Lewis's collaborations with Frank Tashlin are often terrific (especially Artists and Models).

There are some movies he directed that are boring to me (though cult favorites for some, like The Ladies Man). And sometimes he gave lazy, off-the-cuff performances that are painful to watch (such as with Tony Curtis in Boing Boing).

But overall an original, significant comedic body of work that can't be overlooked.
His earliest three films as a director are all very innovative, with sublimely silly moments (amid some dross): The Bellboy, Errand Boy, and Nutty Professor. And the brilliant sequence of de-transformation in NP when Jerry the playboy reverts back to his nerd self, speaking to a crowd and explaining how it was hard for him to be just himself, is a classic, hitting a note of soul amid the slapstick.

Sometimes Jerry Lewis seems to be living on his own planet, which may be both his strength and weakness. I think it was Martin Scorsese who once said that to get Jerry Lewis you have to understand that he's essentially surreal.

Little Miss Smoke and Mirrors said...

I think I've got every book Merrill Markoe has ever published, she is fantastic!