Saturday, July 20, 2024

Vital Viewing (Stammer Glamour Edition)



Bob Newhart famously started out as an accountant, and looked and even talked like a James Thurber cartoon character come to life. Except Newhart did what no Thurber character in drawing or prose was ever destined to do, and that is quit his job and become a stand-up comedian. He explains how he managed to pull off such a transformation in this 2005 interview with Larry King. Watch:


King mentions an "album that took off", I believe he's talking about...

...this album, which hit number one on Billboard in August of 1960 and stayed there for the next 14 weeks. Up against Frank Sinatra, Harry Bellefonte, and Nat King Cole, it eventually won a Grammy for Album of the Year, the first comedy album to do so.

So what was so special about Newhart's style of comedy? First off, he was part of a late 1950s-early1960s alternative comedy movement that eschewed the vaudeville tried-and-true rat-a-tat-tat setup-punchline-rimshot drumbeat for something somewhat more thoughtful. And contemporary. At least it was contemporary 60 years ago. Newhart himself can describe it best: There was a big sea change in comedy. There was Mike [Nichols] and Elaine [May], Shelley Berman, myself, Jonathan Winters and Lenny Bruce. We all kind of happened at the same time and the humor was different than the humor before that, when there were a lot of wife jokes . . .and they had no relevance to college kids who picked up these albums, which were about their fears and their concerns about life. They would get the record albums and go to someone’s dorm room and get beer and pizzas and someone had a record player. Those were their nightclubs. I think they really created that demand.” 

Here's a good example of Newhart's style, which (like the aforementioned Berman) frequently involved the use of a telephone. The setup and punchline are still there, but no rimshot. You get to decide for yourself whether to laugh: 

I laughed, though in-between laughs I found it strange that this...

...goes unmentioned. Had only someone hung up the phone on Sir Walter.

George, Gracie, Bob, and Jack. Newhart may have been part of a new breed of comic, but he respected his elders, and they respected him. In particular, Newhart had a lot in common with Jack Benny when it came to drollery and deadpan reactions, the latter of which may have reached full bloom on...

...this show.

Bob Newhart plays Bob Hartley, a Chicago mental health professional. What kind of mental health professional? MTM Productions originally wanted him to play a psychiatrist (who can prescribe medication), but Newhart felt he'd better off playing a psychologist (who can't prescribe medication), as their patients have less severe problems, and thus the potential for comedy is, well, safer:

You really wouldn't treat that kind problem of problem with medication? Apparently not back in the 1970s.  As I type this, I've actually spent the last hour trying to find out what exactly the mental health establishment (of which through my own experiences I've come to have a great deal of respect) thought of The Bob Newhart Show, but nothing good or bad comes up. Whatever their diagnoses, what made the show truly funny wasn't the severity (or silliness) of the patients' problems but nice guy Dr. Hartley's well-meaning hesitancy in trying to do right by them. And it wasn't just in his professional life he tried to do right, but in his...

 ...personal life as well:

Remember that bedroom, as we move on to Bob Newhart's next...

...TV series.

Here Newhart plays a writer of  how-to books named Dick Louden who moves with his wife to Vermont and buys a Revolutionary War-era inn. Just how different was Dick Louden from Bob Hartley? Watch the now-legendary ending of the series finale for that answer: 

The deadpan remains the same.




Tuesday, July 16, 2024

Quips and Quotations (Civics Tested Edition)




We must cry foul, we must call out the hypocrisy of anyone who would try to condone one and not condemn the other.

--Raphael Warnock

Friday, July 12, 2024

A King Feature We'd Like to See

"Help me! Help me! Somebody help me!"

 "I'm strong to the finich, 'cause I eats me spinich..."

Shelly Duvall 1949-2024


Wednesday, July 10, 2024

Smart Art (Industrial Impressionism Edition)


Pont Boieldieu in Rouen, Rainy Weather, 1896

The theme is the bridge near the Place de la Bourse with the effects of rain, crowds of people coming and going, smoke from the boats, quays with cranes, workers in the foreground, and all this in grey colors glistening in the rain...what particularly interests me is the motif off the iron bridge in wet weather with all the vehicles, pedestrians, workers on the embankment, boats, smoke, haze in the distance; it's so spirited, so alive.

--Camille Pissarro, born on this day in 1830

Saturday, July 6, 2024

Fasten Your Snorkels


As if dangerous heat, dangerous wildfires, dangerous rip tides, dangerous flooding, dangerous spiders, dangerous mosquitoes, dangerous sharks, dangerous new strains of Covid, dangerous Boeings, and dangerous Supreme Court rulings weren't dangerous enough, this summer we also have to worry about a dangerous lifeguard shortage. So, how do we solve that problem? Raise the pay? GET REAL! If you want to talk some high school or college kid into risking their life over some idiot who didn't wait 30 minutes after eating and got the cramps while treading water, then what you need to do is provide that unformed young person with a role model.

What kind of role model? Well, take a job as a lifeguard as the young woman above did and someday you just might end up on...

...Turner Classic Movies.

That's right, back in 1926 Bette Davis was not only a lifeguard but the first female lifeguard at Ogunquit Beach in Maine. Imagine almost drowning and having her come to your rescue!

Unless your last name happens to be Crawford, in which case you might want to think twice before going into the water.


Wednesday, July 3, 2024

Graphic Grandeur (Firecrackup Edition)


Don't know exactly what illustrator J.C. Leyendecker had in mind when he came up with this cover one hundred years ago, but it sums up my fears for our nation in July of 2024: napping away, completely unaware that your ass is about to get blown off.

Monday, July 1, 2024

Vital Viewing (Comedy 2 Night Edition)


Comedian, actor, musician, and, having spent part of his childhood in the area, Cleveland booster Martin Mull died this past Thursday. Here he is sometime in the 1980s as a guest on David Letterman's NBC late night talk show. As it turns out, Mull was something else other than just a comedian, actor, musician, and Browns fan:

"Representational" doesn't quite describe Mull's retro-photorealistic collage-like paintings. Not that "retro-photorealistic collage-like" describes the artworks all that much better, but I like 'em:

The Ides of August

Sunday Morning

Carpe Diem


Band on the Run

Some noted celebrities have taken notice of Mull's artworks, and used them for their own endeavors:

So was painting just Mull's hobby? Actually, it was his main line of work. Or rather, it's what the Rhodes Island School of Design Bachelor of Fine Arts (1965) and Master of Fine Arts (1967) graduate would preferred to have been his main line of work, but fine art doesn't always pay the bills, thus the comedy, acting, music, and boosting. A closer look at how he paid those bills:

Martin Mull first came to public attention in 1977 playing wife-beater Garth Gimble on the late-night black comedy soap opera Mary Hartman, Mary Hartman. Doesn't sound too pleasant, I know, but if it's any consolation his character got his comeuppance when he was fatally impaled on an artificial Christmas tree. Mull's stint on MHMH didn't end, however, as he soon returned as Garth's identical twin show biz brother Barth. This led to the spinoff Fernwood 2 Night, the titled small town's local TV station's misguided attempt at a talk show that had host Barth spending as much time fending off announcer/sidekick/buttinski Jerry Hubbard (Fred Willard) as he did interviewing guests:

Fernwood 2 Night eventually morphed into America 2 Night, which had Barth and Jerry moving to California and interviewing real-life celebrities but with the same disastrous results. That show ended its run in 1978, but it wasn't the end for Mull or Willard, who nearly two decades later would make...

...sitcom history. Martin Mull had for some time been appearing on Roseanne where he played the title character's boss and later business partner Leon Carp, who was eventually revealed to be gay. Fred Willard played Scott, Leon's old flame, and the two eventually decided to get married (some 20 years before the Supreme Court ruled same-sex couples could do so.) Now, Mull and Willard were straight in real-life, but here at Shadow of a Doubt we hold no objection to heterosexuals playing homosexuals as long as it's done with some understanding of what that state of being must be like (or at least as much understanding as you're likely to get on a sitcom.). And they did. Unfortunately, all I could find on YouTube was the following clip in which someone very obviously pointed a video camera at a TV screen and started recording. It's still very watchable, but just not listenable. Turn up the volume all you want. All you'll hear is a mutter. Undaunted, I went to the website IMBd and found out just what  muttering went on between Mull and Willard. It's just below the video. Watch (that's Norm Crosby officiating) and then read:  

  • Scott: I love you in a way that is mystical and eternal and illegal in 20 states.
  • Leon Carp: That's the most beautiful thing I've ever heard.

 Martin Mull did a lot of movies and TV guest shots in his lengthy career, but it was as a stand-up, or rather sit-down, comedian that I found him at his funniest:

That ended kind of abruptly, but who else but God always leaves them wanting more?

Finally, a hometown promo:

That was from the early 1990s. These days we have two downtown stadiums, one for the Browns and one for the Guardians, as well as a casino and a Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, but even if we didn't, Mr. Mull still would have convinced me to stay, just as long as he made me laugh in return for doing so.









Saturday, June 29, 2024

Nominee Anomaly


Anybody expecting...


...should run out and get me several months' supply of...





Wednesday, June 26, 2024

Smart Art (Surf's Down Edition)


There ain't no cure for the summertime blues.

Sea Watchers, 1952. Edward Hopper

Friday, June 21, 2024

Quips and Quotations (Unordinary People Edition)



Acting is not about being someone different. It's finding the similarity in what is apparently different, then finding myself in there.

--Donald Sutherland

MASH (1970)

Klute (1971)

Don't Look Now (1973)

National Lampoon's Animal House (1978)

Invasion of the Body Snatchers (1978)

Ordinary People (1980)

JFK (1991)

Six Degrees of Separation (1993) 

The Hunger Games (2012)

Wednesday, June 19, 2024

This Day in History

 Proclaiming it was one thing, ensuring it something else. The North had to win the war first!

On June 19, 1865, that war finally having been won in the North's favor, Union Major General Gordon Granger arrived in Galveston, took command of 2,000 federal troops in Texas, the last place in the former Confederate States of America where slavery still was practiced, and informed the people in that state that the practice was now over: 

The people of Texas are informed that, in accordance with a proclamation from the Executive of the United States, all slaves are free. This involves an absolute equality of personal rights and rights of property between former masters and slaves, and the connection heretofore existing between them becomes that between employer and hired labor. The freedmen are advised to remain quietly at their present homes and work for wages. They are informed that they will not be allowed to collect at military posts and that they will not be supported in idleness either there or elsewhere.

Idleness? Jeez, stereotypes start early, don't they? If they're as lazy as all that, what was the point in making them slaves in the first place? However, let's end this on an audaciously hopeful note with a quote by a man who was anything but idle:

Juneteenth has never been a celebration of victory or an acceptance of the way things are. It’s a celebration of progress. It’s an affirmation that despite the most painful parts of our history, change is possible—and there is still so much work to do.

--Barack Obama

Saturday, June 15, 2024

Back to Bataan



WASHINGTON (Reuters) - At the height of the COVID-19 pandemic, the U.S. military launched a secret campaign to counter what it perceived as China’s growing influence in the Philippines, a nation hit especially hard by the deadly virus.

The clandestine operation has not been previously reported. It aimed to sow doubt about the safety and efficacy of vaccines and other life-saving aid that was being supplied by China, a Reuters investigation found. Through phony internet accounts meant to impersonate Filipinos, the military’s propaganda efforts morphed into an anti-vax campaign. Social media posts decried the quality of face masks, test kits and the first vaccine that would become available in the Philippines – China’s Sinovac inoculation.

Good job of reporting, Reuters. Of course, it's just another reason for the rest of the world to hate our guts, but it's not morality that concerns me at the moment. What perhaps Reuters could investigate next is all the antivaxxing and antimasking sentiment that occurred here in the United States at the same time our enforcers were encouraging it in another country. Was what happened by design in the Philippines just happenstance in the land of the free and the home of the brave? Or was it also by design? If so, who did the designing? The Pentagon? The Octagon? And for what purpose? I doubt it was to curb Chinese influence in Alabama.

Thursday, June 13, 2024

Senatorial Pride


A week and a half ago I did a post on the Pride march held in Downtown Cleveland. Well, that's not the only LGBTQ event of note in the great state of Ohio. Case in point, a smaller but still jam-packed (up to 1600 people) Pride festival took place in Cleveland's far-flung southern suburb of Broadview Heights this past Saturday, one with a special guest star, three-term Senator and straight ally Sherrod Brown, who's up for a fourth term this November. Now I've said the place was packed with people, and the crowd surrounding Senator Brown was especially thick, but I still managed to shake his hand anyway. It occurred to me afterward that this was as close as I've gotten to a celebrity since 1982 when General Hospital's Jacklyn Zeman (who died last year) made a personal appearance at the now defunct Parmatown Mall. At the time mightily laboring under the queer-free delusion that I was nothing less than a normal red-blooded healthy American male, I told Ms. Zeman that I thought she was the prettiest girl on GH (sorry, Genie, but you weren't there), to which she smiled and replied, "My mother would agree with you." As erotically charged as that response may be, in the end it just wasn't enough to keep me out of the club with the shirtless bartender and poster of Rita Moreno as Googie Gomez in The Ritz. The road not taken. Or rather, the road taken. Whatever. Getting back to Senator Brown, I had hoped to spend 30 to 45 minutes discussing with him everything from the Gaza Strip to the border situation to my suggestion that FDR's Supreme Court-packing bill be reintroduced into Congress. Unfortunately, standing right behind him was a burly man in a dark suit and dark glasses who looked like he was getting ready to smash me with his right thumb, so I hastily skedaddled out of there but not without first assuring the senator that he had my vote this fall. A long-time Democratic Party mainstay of Ohio politics, Brown has a very good progressive record, but I probably would vote for him even if he didn't, as the present-day GOP is as evil as any soap opera villain faced by Luke and Laura. Stay tuned.  


Saturday, June 8, 2024

Photo Finish (Not of This Moon Edition)


Earthrise, 1968

 The most influential environmental photograph ever taken.

--Galen Rowell, wilderness photographer

We came all this way to explore the moon, and the most important thing was that we discovered the Earth.

--William Anders

Apollo 8 astronaut William Anders job on Christmas Eve, 1968 was to snap pictures of the lunar surface in preparation for the first manned landing sometime the next year, when he noticed this:

Black-and-white film was cheaper and more commonplace in the 1960s, which is why the first picture of the Earth taken in lunar orbit is monochromatic. However, a few rolls of color film were on board in case of a special occasion. Anders figured this was a special enough occasion and beckoned his fellow astronauts Frank Borman and James Lovell:

Anders: Oh, my God! Look at that picture over there! There's the Earth coming up. Wow, that's pretty.  

Borman: (joking) Hey, don't take that, it's not scheduled.                                                                    

Anders: (laughs) You got a color film, Jim? Hand me a roll of color, quick, would you?                            

Lovell: Oh, man, that's great!

And that's how the famous color photo at the top of this post came to be, though Anders, Lowell, and Borman would have seen it from this angle:



Anders, 90, died yesterday when the plane he was piloting alone plunged into the waters off the San Juan Islands in Washington state.                 

Lovell, Anders, and Borman