Thursday, June 21, 2007


No comedy duo ever made me laff it up like Dean Martin and Jerry Lewis. As a youngster glued to the TV in the sixties I had plenty of chances to watch their movie output (which in actuality only consisted of 15 movies from 1949-1956), as all of it was regularly televised. The new collection, The Dean Martin & Jerry Lewis Collection, Vol. 2 (Paramount Home Entertainment, $30), is made up of their last five films together (without 1954’s 3 Ring Circus), Living It Up(’54), You’re Never Too Young (’55), Artists and Models (’55), Pardners (’56) and Hollywood or Bust (’56), all in wondrous Technicolor. As I kid I was all about the wackado Jerry, as an adult all about the deadpan Dean, but buried in the midst of godawful plotting, and a bunch of vaudeville spritzing are expanded moments of true comic chemistry, a yin and yang alchemy that can dropkick you in the gut, despite the fact Martin/Lewis bond was seriously fracturing in real life. As a kid I adored Pardners, a truly dopey comedy western and Hollywood or Bust, a broad Frank Tashlin (ex-Warner animator) directed Hollywood satire, but adulthood reveals the real treasures lie in Living It Up,(click on link) wherein the duo is undeniably operating on all cylinders, You’re Never Too Young, which allows Dean, with his infamous asides and hilarious reaction shots, to put the movie in his pocket, and Artists and Models, a bountiful bit of fifties escapism peppered with director Tashlin’s surreal bits and an almost refined burst of Martin/Lewis energy, plus it’s an astoundingly good looking film in general, with both production values and directorial acumen far above the typical Martin/Lewis fare.


Charlie Drago said...

Get to youtube immediately, type in "Charlie Callas," and click on the the "tells a joke" and then the "completely ad libbed" links to see the comic who sends Lewis into convulsions.

Don't blink during the first one or you'll miss Jerry wetting himself in the wings (it was recorded during a MD Telethon).

The Callas impression of Georgie Jessel has been pulled down from the site; it is beyond belief.

But the first clip referenced above is Callas's trademark joke. I'll share the premise:

A guy with a terminal stammer calls his friend, who suffers from Saint Vitus Dance, and invites him to go hunting.

The link:

The funniest shit I have ever seen.


dino martin peters said...

Hey pallie Scotty, dude you are so right on that as an adult these flicks are "all about the deadpan Dean. Most children gravitate to the broad humor of the jer, while it takes bein' an adult to truly understand and appreciate our Dino's real talents. Never was, never will be anyone as cool as the King of Cool. Oh, to return to the days when Dino walked the earth!

Scotty D said...

This one is short buy purty goddamned brilliant:

Scotty D said...

Of course, while we are swapping youtube bits, this infamous bit of aural hilarity is well known among Martin & Lewis fans, yet still worth it's weight in pure laughter :

Charlie Drago said...

During the '60s Charlie Callas was a regular on the Carson-Griffin circuit, where he performed THE joke scores of time.

It never got old.

Callas also was sued by Georgie Jessel -- who, for those too young to think outside the Paulie Shore box, was an ancient vaudevillian who took to wearing military dress garb during the Viet Nam crime and set out to out-Hope Hope with numerous visits to the front -- for his spot-on, devastating impression.

Jessel also was known as the Toastmaster General because of his standing as first-call eulogist to the stars of his era.

Callas would walk out wearing a chestful of Juan Peron medals and break into the Jessel voice.

Too bad that youtube pulled a Jessel-and-Hide number on Callas's appearance in character at the Don Rickles Roast.

As for Lewis on talk shows of the period: Merv Griffin's archives must contain the show on which Jerry and a young, inspired Richard Pryor ended up in a water spitting contest.

Jonathan Swift, eat your heart out!

And oh yeah, Second Place on the Long Joke short list of the period belongs to Guy "Loving You Has Made Me Bananas" Marks for his "Singing Indian" bit.

Gary Cooper as cavalry commander, Humphrey Bogard as scout, and an opera-loving redskin.

Third place? Richard Dawson for what today we'd label his "Chunnel" joke.

Charlie, Guy, Dickie -- an all-too-serious nation turns its dry eyes to you.

skylolo99 said...

I checked out Charlie Callas on you tube. He was riffing about center folds in Penthouse and how their profiles and personal interests don't jibe with the pictorial layout. It was genius. His dead pan delivery along with his physical humor had me crying. It was on the old Tonight Show and I find it hard to believe that it would be allowed on regular TV in this day and age.

Scotty D said...

That aforementioned clip is the one I put up a few comments back. To die for. Let's start up the Callas Brigade! What was the name of the rather large, deadpan, sarcastic comic who usedto knock 'em in the aisles on Merv Griffin? I think he was a Jack something, one of the guys who caused Rudy cheeks to come up with the infamous term "Jackies" for old school showbiz comic types.

Charlie Drago said...


You're probably referencing Jackie Leonard, whose insult comedy long predated Rickles' perfected version.

"You little cocker!" was one of Leonard's trademark asides.

"Nice suit, Merv."

"Thanks, Jack. I just got a new tailor."

"Well your new tailor had too much Old Taylor!"

By the way, the term "Jackies" was in use long before Rudy was.

There was also Jack Carter, deep-voiced tumult comic decidedly of the second tier.

Toward the end of his run, Griffin would regularly host a round table of comics who simply would tell jokes for 90 minutes.

This highly subjective judgment is offered in the "for what it's worth" vein: Charlie Callas is the ONLY comic who can make me laugh before he says word one.

During the heyday of Jacques Cousteau's TV specials, Callas would walk out wearing a red knit cap (we used to call them "tokes," until the word took on a new, delightful meaning) and simply say, "Ah Cah-LEEP-so!"

Callas was used by Jerry Lewis in a number of the latter's movies. And he was a regular on the Dean Martin Roasts -- usually portraying Georgie Jessel. He also did a devastating turn as Frank Sinatra's former bodyguard.

Callas is in his 80s now and living well in Las Vegas. He's an accomplished photographer, and if you visit his website you can purchase signed prints of his work. The Sinatra portraits are quite good.

He began his career, by the way, as a jazz drummer.

Charlie Drago said...

Then again you may be recalling Jackie Vernon, the fat, deadpan, play-to-the-band comic who on occasion would work God-awful trumpet playing into the act.

Vernon did the following bit on a Lenny Bruce tribute laser disc (hear it as delivered in his dreadful monotone):

Lenny and I were in Chicago between gigs and we were down to our last fifty cents.

Lenny said, "Jack, let's take the half a buck, go to the market and buy a big knockwurst. We'll eat for free for the whole week we're off."

I asked him, "Gee Lenny, how will that work."

And he said, "It's easy. See, we'll go to the best restaurants in town, order great meals, and at the end, I'll whip out the knockwurst, you'll go down and suck it, they'll think we're a couple of gay guys and we'll get thrown out before we pay."

So I said, "Great idea, Lenny." And it works. For a week we eat for free in all the great places, at the end of the meals Lenny gets the knockwurst, I suck it, off we go.

Finally it's our last night before payday, and we sit down at the best French restaurant in Chicago. After we order, I say, "Hey Lenny, since tonight is the last time we use the scam, do you think for once I can hold the knockwurst?"

And Lenny says, "What knockwurst?"

Vernon, on the Griffin show, also told a lighthearted joke about the widow of a man who had hanged himself the night before. He delivered it, replete with horrendous gagging and choking sounds, in the presence of the host and one other guest: the delicate flower of opera, Lily Pons.

Vernon died around 20 years ago.

john k said...

Jackie Vernon was the voice of the original Frosty the Snowman. He had a funny bit on the Sullivan show where he would pretend to be doing a slide show.
Here I am doing this.
Here I am doing that.

Scotty D said...

Yeah, those indeed were the three Jacks, or Jackies of Cheek's lore-Carter, Vernon, and Leonard,but it was leonard who I was thinking off, who, as a youth, I used to watch on Merv and think he looked and acted more like a (movie) ganster than a comic.

Charlie Drago said...

I know the slide show bit.

"Here's Guido the guide taking us through the jungle.

"Here's Guido the guide taking us around a pool of quicksand.

"Here's Guido the guide from the waste up.

"Here's a hat and a bunch of ropes and things ... "

Charlie Drago said...

Of course there's Jackie Gayle. He had a good supporting role in Mazursky's "Tempest," playing Trinc, the court jester to Vittoria Gassman's billionaire Alonz.

One of Cassavetes' late-stage and overlooked turns, I'd say.

Also, Gayle is on the dvd included in the new Sinatra in Vegas box set -- which, Scottso, you either own or you give me three damn good reasons why you don't.

Jackie Mason ... Well, that's another story.

By the way, Gayle wasn't even his real first name. (Apologies to Jan Murray).