Cy? Si! Mel Blanc and Jack Benny

May 22, 2009

One of my favorite comedy routines from the Master of Voices, Mel Blanc, and his accomplice Jack Benny:

We were talking about this old routine today, and sure enough, we could find it on YouTube.

In 1974, they repeated it for old times’ sake, on the Tonight Show with Johnny Carson:

Note:  May 22 is the anniversary of the last time Johnny Carson hosted the Tonight Show, in 1992. George Bush the elder was president then; the Soviet Union had been out of existence only five months.  Osama bin Laden was a little-known, former ally of the U.S. in the Russo-Afghanistan war.  E-mail was just coming on, cell-phones were rare and expensive, as well as analog, wireless broadband hadn’t been invented.  Apple was still making computers far, far behind the IBM-compatible PCs — new chips like the 486 promised a revolution in computing.  A lifetime ago.

Why is this post tagged “animation?”  You remember, don’t you? Blanc was the guy who did almost every voice in the Warner Bros. cartoons from the classic era.  Bugs Bunny, Daffy Duck, Foghorn Leghorn . . . as someone noted, remarkable to think Yosemite Sam and Tweety Bird are the same guy.

Update, 2014:  Mel Blanc’s birthday was May 30, as Richard Daybell reminded us; sweet, short tribute to Blanc at ‘Tis Pity He’s a Writer.


Pete Seeger → banjo → Steve Martin

November 17, 2007

Comedian Steve Martin has a couple of new books out, and the New York Times tracked him down for an interview. One may learn a lot from these interviews. In this case, we learn how far is the reach of Pete Seeger’s banjo, and the reach of instruction:

His [Steve Martin’s] early acts were a hodgepodge — some juggling, some magic, some balloon tricks, some banjo-playing — and to a great extent his style remained eclectic, with the crucial addition of irony; the act became in some ways the parody of an act, with no punch lines, and audiences found it even funnier.

“It was a great discovery,” Mr. Martin said. “There I was making fun of what I was doing, and yet I was still getting to do it.”

The only relic Mr. Martin keeps from those days is his banjo, which he taught himself to play as a teenager from a Pete Seeger instruction book, practicing alone in his car with windows rolled up even on hot summer nights. Waiting for the knock on the trailer door, and the summons to don his epaulets and marry again, he picked up the banjo and played a bluegrass song he had been learning. “When I play music, it’s like an alternate form of living,” he said.


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