Saturday, November 22, 2014

Mike Nichols & Elaine May

With the passing of Mike Nichols this week, the world lost a superstar talent. He'd won Oscars, Tonys, Emmys, everything. But many younger people might not know that in the late '50s/early '60s he and Elaine May were a comedy team. They both came out of an improv background in Chicago, and the scenes they did together just clicked in a magic way. As a comedy team they were a sensation. Number one selling albums, numerous TV appearances, and even a stint on Broadway.

So I thought today I would show some of their routines. They're dry, subtle, but very funny and very character based. Enjoy watching two budding geniuses.

Now the first one is from the 1959 Emmys and begins with Richard Nixon of all people. Stay with it though.



12 comments:

MikeK.Pa. said...

Vanity Fair did a lengthy piece last year interviewing Nichols and May. http://www.vanityfair.com/hollywood/2013/01/nichols-and-may-reunion-exclusive

I loved the timing on the funeral sketch how Nichols held his line for what seemed forever, not wanting to step on the laughs, and also how they built the anticipation up for the closing bit on $10 burial. The laughter was starting before the punch line.

BTW, Ken, I was out of pocket most of the week and just catching up on your blogs from earlier this week. I loved your Tuesday column and hope you can do that at least once a month. I agree about Sims. He used to be th sports director at one of the TV stations in my market and still does pre-season NFL games here. I also think John Lynch, who works with Kevin Burkhardt, is one of the best NFL commentators working today. Certainly better than Phil Simms.

Finally, I popped a question to you about a month ago about David Schramm and was glad to learn that he wasn't doing TV by choice. He nailed Roy Biggins and he's one of the reasons "Wings" is one of my all-time favorite sitcoms.

Aaron Hazouri said...

Oh god the last line of the $65 funeral sketch, I totally lost it. I needed that since my Grandmother's funeral was just last week and I'm still in the dumps. Funny stuff is funny forever.

ScottyB said...

I think of Nichols & May every time I hear Garrison Keillor's "phone call with mom" sketches on 'Prairie Home Companion. While funny (sorry; I'm Great Lakes Midwestern, not Noo-Yawk Jewish), Nichols & May did it way earlier and best.

Mark Legan said...

They are both comedy heroes of mine. I still listen to their comedy sketch CD in my car and LOL. He was one of a kind- his family barely made it out of Nazi Germany in 1939. And listen, they just didn't have a "stint" on Broadway - it was a sold out smash Tony Award winning hit - but after 300 performances, they had had it with each other & broke up as a team. Took a year apart from each other & then of course Nichols almost always used her as a writer and/or script doctor on his projects. There never was anyone like them.They and Woody Allen brought smart neurotic comedy to the masses.

D. McEwan said...

I've loved Nichols & May for ages. Several of their LPs are still on my shelves. I quote from the mother-son sketch often.

RCP said...

"You're very sarcastic" - oh man, that gave me the chill of recognition from Mom.

What a pleasure to watch these and laugh.

Mark Frankel said...

New to your blog, but thanks for the Nichols and May injection. Great stuff, still smart and funny and relevant. And can I just add that Elaine May was a total babe?

Ron Rettig said...

Ken, It seems networks and showrunners take the Total Mediocrity Award clip as a how-to for current TV programming.

Acrononymuscle said...

This is quite a hoot, too. Elaine May speaking at an AFI celebration of Mike N.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=AgjBxiDmJyU

The two, together were terrific. Elaine, on her own, superb!

Alan Gollom said...

They were a brilliant comedy team. They really set the standard for improv and sketch comedy. For me the beauty of their performances was that they didn't rush through a piece. I love watching May in the Water cooler sketch. It was almost like you could see the wheels turning in her head. They were a joy to watch.

Wendy M. Grossman said...

My father had a small but select set of comedy albums when I was growing up: Brooks and Reiner's 2000-Year-Old Man, Nichols and May's Doctors. I don't think he gve them to me, but I still have them and they're still as funny as when I was 10.

wg

Pat Reeder said...

The entire "American Masters" episode about Nichols and May is on YouTube:

http://youtu.be/yS79m4sHack

And a friend shared a Dropbox address where you can download a bunch of rare sketches from places like the old "Monitor" radio show:

https://app.box.com/shared/ldhlrsvmd9