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Ladies and Gentlemen this is Alec why are reconvening the case for a comedy. Ma'am would you please make an opening statement. But I don't want to meet you poor material and bearing with it. Michigan State University radio presents the comic arts and essay in sound on the humor of our times featuring the comic the humorist the joke writer the clown the Dauntless individuals who work in the world of comedy. Comedy business like any other has its share of myths and more than its share of a.g. For instance how often we hear statements like so-and-so can come out on that stage and get laughs just reading a telephone book or people know he has a maid so well they will laugh at anything he sends. Audiences certainly like to be lieve that a comic
is improvising his lines on the spot even though in their hearts they know he's really not. When you are in the business you abandon that fragile myth you develop a considerable amount of respect for the writers who fashioned the comedy script and you find that major comedians generally share this view. Jackie Leonard made this clear when we talked about buying material. I have to I use the bible to have a great report and I have one. Particularly when I do regret it gosh it was like the other side of the show and I've got to condense things down to six or seven minutes. And I have a guy help it sometimes and maybe some particular topic you know. That I may not do much about. And I'll see what's going on top of the leader. Because somebody showed up today with them six months from now I did a show. Here tonight at the Hollywood Palace. Which I taped six weeks ago. I want to I want to get right. For seven weeks ago with my Japanese piano
players I do some things about you know grammar. And material is a very good thing that luckily I'm. I am not what they call a studied comedian Goma's study and they learn timing and. How to do their job somebody's going to do write some of the stuff I do most of mine I will say 90 percent of your own. Now there's a there's a saying that goes around like that. Think about it over Red Skelton say this kind of comedian or Jackie Leonard can come out and say anything you want Still no matter what it is and they'll laugh and made me laugh every moment and so then after that you better have some of. This already read as Oh. It's unsurmountable I don't know how many of this read read this governor probably got the greatest library on comedy but I used to have a. Whole past 10 12 right as what you should have when you get depends on of. Course is only a certified around the area without have to say which right is also would be silly not to. Read does happen but he also is a
good study and develops things his own way. Reza could offer comic. Books gets community to go stand up in one of the best plans we have in the world it is obvious that he's not the person you think is the greatest part of the class He's got here Jack Benny Thompson. You think it's a kind of a myth or are that somewhat easier for the average nominees that you want to weigh not just one set of people have traditionally. Made that made for a moment or two or five minutes but then you've got to come up with something that I just got you know. Yes the stuff has got to be funny. You had better have some jokes. But audiences are funny too in their own peculiar way. If your material lays an egg you alone absorb the stayers for writers remain unseen backstage during an interview with New York comedian Elouise Martin elaborated on this aspect of the performers
plight. As far as what what the audiences might be interested in today have you taken a look at how their tastes may have changed over the last 10 years and have you done much you know I've noticed they become much more critical they've been over entertained for free every night they see the finest entertainment in America just by flipping a switch and this eats up an exorbitant amount of material. And the thing that makes me the maddest is when I layman or thing wasn't wrong 4-Hour the last night. It wasn't the comedian who were out there last night it was the comedians writers who were allowed the last night. But no one stopped to give credit. Our blog where it is just we do and that is to the right of course there's a lot to be said for timing and delivery. But the material is the all important thing. I really believe that if you give me good strong material and I go out and put it over you give me poor material and I'm going to bomb and do the Brody every time. And you think this would hold true with most. Most people do not put their importance on material that they should this is my own personal
opinion you may find the next comedian will disagree but I don't think any comedian is so clever that they can take poor material and their whole house down with it. This then tends to compound the problem for the for the working comic. And that is his dependence on writers exist as it is and writers as I understand are not so easy to find that that you know I was working rounding up with all kinds of mind my hand trying to find a writer having the money is not enough. Finding a writer is very very difficult. And once you get a hold of the writer who sees your public image you should hang on to them. Didn't your spouse because you're a writer can make or break you. If a writer can make or break you places a premium on the services of a scratch you take out of this factor when you're working the comedy trade. The writer too has a point of view with regard to the working arrangement close harmony and the humor meal.
As Robert Orban sees it obviously comedians do appreciate the function of the comedy right here in their lives. If they did they wouldn't pay the fantastic sums of money that are paid to comedy writers particularly in television but also in the areas of special material for a nightclub and live performance years. There's been a great deal. Myth surrounding the relationships between comic comedians and comedy writers I like to boil it down to this shit. If you design an airplane and you don't know how to fly it you engage a professional pilot to do the job. If you're a professional pilot and you don't know how to design an airplane and need one you get somebody to do it for you. And consequently it's a marriage and one side needs the other and you accept this situation that I have worked
for dozens of comedy performers through the years and overwhelmingly it's been a happy relationship. In one instance I was under contract to a major comedian for six years worked with him on a daily basis. In that six years I can't ever recall a harsh word passing between us and I just wonder how many how many marriages I've had this track. As far as the difficulties of. Translating written comedy into a live comedy before amens this is you know this is almost entirely the responsibility of the comedian and also the genius of the comedian. You first off the writer must know the style of the of the comedy performer. And it is impossible to write effective comedy material for somebody you don't
know or for somebody who has been a stylist for what I call a point of view. For instance if if you are being considered to do a job of comedy writing you ask what what what does a performer do what to style. And if he says that I work like Bob Hope or I work like Red Skelton or I work like Groucho Marx you know what mediately want that performer does at the point where he goes in front of an audience and you give him more of the same. He in turn also knows what he is. And when he goes through a piece of material a frequently used word is that this joke is a funny joke it's not me and by that it he is just saying that it's a joke. That may be inherently funny but it's not what his audience expects of him nor necessarily a joke that
his audiences would react to. One interesting aspect of this relationship between the comedy writer and the comedy performer is the fact that. In most cases the comedy writer cannot do the work of the of the performer but the performer can and has done the work of a comedy writer. I don't know of any comedy writer that has ever substantially created the comedy performer attitude or point of view. This man got to the top by writing his own material by developing his cat days comedy CAG there and has demonstrated his ability as a comedy writer in most cases. However the point where a person becomes a comedy star the demands on his time are overwhelming. If you look at A and a road schedule for the average comedy performer
between actual performances and public relations and the necessary stops. Publicizing the show the addition Archy's and giving interviews and then just sleeping and eating and keeping presentable. There just isn't the time to write comedy anymore so what a performer will do is once he achieves stardom he has already had a definite point of view a definite comedy character. He will then really go out and find competent writers and say to them you know who I am you know what I do. All I want is some more of the same. All along the Broadway beat is a man with his Eye on the show biz as writer of a column that features today's best laugh. He often gives exposure to young struggling jokes. Get an expert perspective on the comedy writing field.
You talk with Broadway columnist Earl Wilson what about material now back of the themes for many comics humorous than entertainers. Is the institution of the gag writer or the fellow who creates comedy do you have you have a comment concerning graves that if there were more difficult or different at least is it more difficult or different I don't think show I think it's more profitable to look at it now. When Robert was. Getting his big opportunity radio I think it he decided he said he decided I'm going to make it this time and I don't care if they're going to laugh at me for using general gag writers because you've got a stable of 10 or 12 I'm going to make it on radio. Or I have to do it and so we got all these comic comedy writers and then each one would write a show. Ridgeley as you know I mean you don't write a show or a team
of the writers you have five or six. You know of material or what you do and use room and threw out the bad stuff. Where we are as a writer preparing material form before we make should be age. If you go out do I think you got some good material on the nice brolly and exaggeration. Right he does have that supply of material need not the only one. But he said The pattern I think the performer depends on anonymous man does apply the material of his art and what she will stand or fall on. So the comic appreciates the comedy writer and pays him well for his work. It's an interdependent relationship basic within the trade. If your writer comes up with a good strong script comic you have it with me. Many thanks to our guests Jackie Leonard Elouise MARTIN Robert Orban and Earl
Wilson portions of this program were prerecorded. This is Al McGuire. I'll be back on the next program with another lively discussion on the comic arts. The comic art series with Alice wire is produced by Michigan State University Radio in cooperation with the humor societies of America program consultant George Q. Lewis theme music by Gerry Tallman. Your announcer can be charter. Can. This program was distributed by the national educational radio network.
The comic arts
Episode Number
Episode 6 of 13
Producing Organization
Michigan State University
WKAR (Radio/television station : East Lansing, Mich.)
Contributing Organization
University of Maryland (College Park, Maryland)
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Series Description
For series info, see Item 3293. This prog.: Jack E. Leonard, Eloise Martin, Robert Orben, Earl Wilson
Media type
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Producing Organization: Michigan State University
Producing Organization: WKAR (Radio/television station : East Lansing, Mich.)
AAPB Contributor Holdings
University of Maryland
Identifier: 68-12-6 (National Association of Educational Broadcasters)
Format: 1/4 inch audio tape
Duration: 00:14:49
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Chicago: “The comic arts; Episode 6 of 13,” 1968-01-01, University of Maryland, American Archive of Public Broadcasting (GBH and the Library of Congress), Boston, MA and Washington, DC, accessed March 3, 2024,
MLA: “The comic arts; Episode 6 of 13.” 1968-01-01. University of Maryland, American Archive of Public Broadcasting (GBH and the Library of Congress), Boston, MA and Washington, DC. Web. March 3, 2024. <>.
APA: The comic arts; Episode 6 of 13. Boston, MA: University of Maryland, American Archive of Public Broadcasting (GBH and the Library of Congress), Boston, MA and Washington, DC. Retrieved from