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Old July 18th, 2011, 04:47 PM
AR AR is offline
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I can't think of many successful comics who work clean these days. Some of the new folks are funny, but seldom as consistently funny as the breed you mentioned, along with Bob Newhart, Allen Sherman, Shelley Berman (who came close to the edge many times). Also, Carlin only worked clean in his early days. He pretty much crossed over with the "seven words you can't say on TV." And I believe Flip Wilson was only clean on TV; his club act was pretty raw. There's a famous audiotape (I have a copy) of the Friar's Club roast of Don Rickles. You have to put an asbestos blanket on your speakers to play that one, but it is soooooo funny. Emceed by the one and only Jack E. Leonard, if you can imagine Ed Sullivan doing absolutely blue material, along with Carson, Phyllis Diller, Flip Wilson, Pat Paulsen and others, the laughter comes as much from these more or less "clean" acts getting absolutely raw as it does from the material itself.

One of my favorite comics as a kid was Sam Levinson, who appeared on all the big TV shows with a standup act, characterized by his good-natured chuckling at his own material. It worked, because it was evident that he was a nice guy commenting on the human condition. No rancor, no anger, and very low key. When Red Buttons did his one-man show in New York called "Buttons on Broadway," a good friend was Red's musical director, so we were invited backstage after the show to meet Red. I mentioned Levinson and Red smiled broadly. He said he was one of the nicest guys in the business. Levinson was also brilliant. . .when he wasn't doing his act he was a teacher in the New York public schools, and was one of the people responsible for writing the New York Regent's exam. . .back when you actually had to prove you'd learned something before you got to graduate.
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