Welcome to Spit Take Saturday, courtesy of Brown Paper Tickets’ Comedy Doer Julie Seabaugh and her professional comedy criticism site The Spit Take. Julie’s goal with the site is to “elevate the public perception of stand-up comedy to that of a legitimate art form, and to enable comedy criticism be taken as seriously as that of theater, film, music, food, even video games. No a**-kissing. No bias. No mercy. Just honest, unfiltered, long-form reviews written by professional, knowledgeable comedy critics.”
Every week Julie will select an entry from the site to be included on our blog and hand-pick some related events happening that week that she feels all you comedy lovers out there will appreciate.
So, without further ado, let us introduce you to this week’s Spit Take Saturday!
Carl Reiner has always been good in support. He was fantastic jumping along with Sid Caesar and Howard Morris as “The Three Haircuts” on “Your Show of Shows.” He was the quintessential straight man to Mel Brooks’s “2000 Year Old Man.” He created and produced a hit sitcom based on his own experiences, and then made Dick Van Dyke the star. He directed Steve Martin to his first box-office success in “The Jerk.” He’s been responsible for some of the most profoundly silly moments in comedy history. And he is no less generous in his retelling of these moments in his memoirs “My Anecdotal Life“and his latest, “I Remember Me.”
“Remember” is an extension of “Life,” both warm and adoring appreciations for Reiner’s funny friends and a celebration of some of the less well-known personal and professional stories. He recalls a party where Mel Brooks nonchalantly dragged a chair into an open fireplace and sat with his head up a chimney when all other seats were taken. He reveals how he and Martin shoe-horned the “shit from Shinola” joke into “The Jerk,” having thought of it on their shared daily commute to the set. And there is a deep appreciation for the work of other comics and performers. At one point, Reiner admits that Mel Brooks has accused him of over-praising performances. Reiner often writes that he or a whole audience was doubled over or almost died laughing. It always seems like an exaggeration, hokey and trite, but when Reiner invokes the phrases, they seem like medals of honor. He says he had to run into his kitchen because he could have died laughing at a young Albert Brooks, a buddy of his son Rob, doing his Houdini impression in the Reiner living room. He has similar praise for seeing Jerry Lewis and Dean Martin do an early version of their act in the Latin Quarter in Boston, watching Mel Brooks on “The Tonight Show” and witnessing an impressive improvisation from an angry Shecky Greene. In Reiner’s avuncular manner, these stories seem less like phony Hollywood ego-stoking and more like someone who, as Billy Crystal says in his forward, loves a good laugh more than just about anything, and has seen and been responsible for a lot of great moments.
As a side note, some of these experiences will get fleshed out a little more in the near future, when Reiner plans to release a version of “Remember” designed for the iPad with multimedia content like audio and video.
He does allow himself, and especially his late wife Estelle, ample time in the spotlight. Reiner tells the loving story of his courtship, and there is a tense exchange with FBI agents questioning him during the McCarthy era. And not everyone gets praised – Reiner lets his politics show more than in “Anecdotal Life,” and was no fan of his fellow actor Ronald Reagan. He also calls Al Jolson and Greene to the carpet for boorish behavior.
But this is a warm book, mostly, not laugh-out-loud funny but funny in a way that, as Reiner says of one story, might make one smile broadly. Reiner is 90 as of its writing, he’s had an amazing life, and he’s fond of it. He should be. He’s still willing to indulge any idea that might be harboring something funny, and his scrapbook is full of them.
Comedy luminary Carl Reiner was recently featured in Jerry Seinfeld’s web series “Comedians in Cars Getting Coffee.” Upcoming shows starring performers who have also appeared in top web series include:
Monday, February 4 I Hot Tub with Kurt Braunohler & Kirsten Schaal (“Penelope Price of Pets”) – Los Angeles, California
Thursday, February 21 I The Super Serious Show with Paul F. Tompkins and featuring Andy Haynes (“Modern Comedian”) – Los Angeles, California
Saturday, February 23 I The StaticDog Show with SAM TRIPOLI (“The Naughty Show”) Featuring Tony Hinchcliffe – Columbus, Ohio