Saturday, November 28, 2009

CAROL BURNETT: GENIUS


When I think of funny women on film I think of Imogene Coco and her work with Sid Caesar, of Madeline Kahn as Eunice in "What's Up, Doc?", and of Carol Burnett in her best TV sketches from "The Carol Burnett Show" in late 60s and early 70s. That's her in the video above playing Joan Crawford in a parody of "Mildred Pierce."



The problem with Burnett's show was that the sketches were sometimes too long. There weren't as many commercials on TV in those days, and you had to stretch out ideas to fit the longer time slot. That's okay when the ideas were as good as the ones here, but that wasn't always the case.



Burnett was hilarious when she was working on all cylinders. She had a real talent for playing feisty, low rent characters like Eunice (above) in the family sketches. Those sketches struck a chord with audiences, maybe because so many people actually lived that way.



So far as I can tell, domestic arguments used to be a lot more common than they are now. Couples would argue about who came from the more high class family, the man's drinking, dinner not being ready on time...things like that. Nobody ever attempted to answer what the other person actually said, or look for a solution.

If you were accused of drinking too much you would respond by saying your wife kept a dirty house. Arguments like that never end, they just recur and recur, a chance to blow off steam I guess, or a ritual to reconcile the two to the fact that neither of them will probably ever change. Anyway, there was a lot of that going on, and Burnett was really good at making fun of it.


One more quick sketck...it only takes a minute and twenty seconds and in that short time it succeeds in explaining everything that's wrong with modern music.


On a completely different topic, I thought I'd put up a sequence from "The Miracle Worker." I posted about that film a few days ago and was surprised to find that nobody had seen it. I thought it was one of those films like "Citizen Kane" that everybody sees. Well, if you haven't, then here's an eight-minute clip to enlighten you. It's hilarious.


Above, an SCTV parody of the same film. Thanks much to Anonymous for sending me this. But who sent me the "Mildred Fierce" parody at the top of the page? I need to know who to thank!






13 comments:

Hans Flagon said...

Umm Sampling error on the folks seeing The Miracle Worker. Those that were familiar with it merely must not have said so. Only those that said "Whats That?" may have spoken up at all.

I used to think Helen Keller Jokes were a common part of everyones childhood, but just recently realized, not everyone had those as part of their childhood; the jokes were much more prevalent in the Northern Alabama area where Keller was from, where entire classrooms may have gone on field trips to see her home, or watched the film in class.

The Film itself is something I would bet would be much less likely to have been seen by someone raised in the age of Cable Television. It was a staple of local broadcasters 16mm film libraries, along with wonderful films like The Bad Seed, night of the Hunter, All About Eve, and countless Horror B Movies as well.

Cable introduced Movie channels, which tended to concentrate on Color Films less than 10 years old (Classic Movie Channels often were as narrow, and on premium tiers where they might not be seen. Local Broadcasters had their airtime taken away by infomercials and free feeds of CNN headline news.

So actually quite a bit of cultural literacy was flushed down the tubes when Cable Television became the norm. i saw more classic films, and more obscure films BEFORE there was cable.

talkingtj said...

yes! yes! yes! that is my all time favorite tv skit! i howled with laughter the first time i saw it! i was just a kid and that skit was sooo like my own family! everything you said today is gospel! people forget there used to be standards, a code of conduct, all gone now, but burnetts comic genius still shines! thanks eddie!

talkingtj said...

also thanks to hans, i agree, cable tv sucks, weve lost so much more to technology than weve gained, remember when watching the magnificent 7 or the wizard of oz, ben hur, the ten commandments, west side sory, march of the wooden soilders, were all events the whole family would get together and watch!? remember when a hitchcock film on tv was nothing more than a revelation? gone, all gone..

Pete Emslie said...

I miss "The Carol Burnett Show" and all variety shows in general. They were such a staple of the 60s and 70s, showcasing not only great ensemble comedy, but also splashy song and dance numbers. Today, all we get are crap talent contests like "American Idol" and likeminded pop/rock/rap dreck. Ah, if only we had such wonderful real entertainment shows again like those hosted by Carol Burnett, Ed Sullivan, Dean Martin, Andy Williams, etc....

Eddie Fitzgerald said...

Hans, Talking, Pete: Well, Turner Classic Movies does its share to keep things going. If you have a recorder you can assemble a whole library of good stuff on the cheap. You can make free requests on their site and they'll send you an email with info on the next time it'll be on.

Jack G. said...

Your taste in female comedians matches mine.

The Carol Burnett show was a comedy show that I could actually laugh at. I haven't seen too much of Your Show of Shows, but the bits I've seen were great.

I don't seem to care for the situation-comedy stuff.

How 'bout doing a post on Jewish comedy?
There's so much of it from The Three Stooges to Jack Benny, to Mel Brooks, to Seinfeld and even Mad!

Hey Eddie, what happened to the acting pamphlet that you wanted to release?

Amanda H. said...

Yeah, I've never seen "Miracle Worker" either because I'm a know-it-all young person, haha.

Pete Emslie said...

Actually, Eddie, TCM is about the only channel I do watch on TV these days, as I love the older classic films as you do. As for TV shows, I've been buying up all these DVD sets of the shows I used to love in the 60s and 70s, like "The Rockford Files", "The Bob Newhart Show", "Columbo", etc. Pretty soon I figure I can just create my own program schedule and cancel TV service altogether!

Jorge Garrido said...

Yeah! The acting pamphlet! I'd actually pay good money for that! I was gonna start taking acting classes to help my writing and was hoping to bring in some Delsarte and Eddie and John's strong individual performance and word music theories into my own style.

Also, remember that post you made that you said was so good you would only sell it to someone to get published? Well, if it was about some sort of advice or some really helpful theories about art or film or something, I would pay you for a personal copy of that, too!

Eddie Fitzgerald said...

Jack, Jorge: I'll put up The Theory Corner Store sometime in the next month or two or three, and pamphlet-length books will be available there with the theories I just couldn't bring myself to give away for free. Lots of other interesting things, too. I'm really looking forward to writing the ads. I only wish I had more Photoshop skills. I'll have to learn as I go.

I'm really excited about the store. What I picture has no precedent on the net...it's something new. Call it food for the mind. I can't bear to gouge people so the prices will be as low as I can make them. I don't expect to make much money on this. I'm just scared to death that I'll lose money.

My plan is to accept cash or money orders only. That means the potential exists for lost money. if my dog runs away with your envelope before I have a chance to see it, then you're out a few bucks. I doubt that will ever happen, but...well. you know.

Jennifer said...

Uncle Eddie, the store is a great idea.

Why don't you also set up a PayPal account so you can accept PayPal and credit/debit cards?

I'm actually looking into creating some documents and tutorials to sell as well. Scribd has a good program where you can publish documents to sell and you keep 80% of the price. I'm looking to start using them for the tutorials that I want to sell.

Eddie Fitzgerald said...

Jennifer: Scribd? Thanks for the idea! I just took a look at their site and I don't know what to make of it. It seems seller friendly but not buyer friendly.

I couldn't find the price of anything. Also no information about the page count, number of illustrations, etc. No indexing by subject on the home page. Maybe you have to become a member just in order to find out what things cost.

Google Documents hosts things for free (including videos) and you can sell the code that allows access to them. You only have to figure out a way to advertize.

Me, I like to hold a book in my hand. The best books create an all-important ambience for the text. For technical subjects a computer book is fine, because you can back up text with links and videos, and update easily. For literary subjects I prefer a book.

Aaaargh! I probably sound more close-minded than I am. Honestly, I'm open to all possibilities, in spite of what I said. Maybe a way can be found to introduce ambience into computer books.

Many thanks for the helpful tip.

Jenny Lerew said...

I'd strongly suggest you set up Paypal for yourself if you want to sell anything, especially if you want to make a go of a continuing Theory Corner store.

No matter what the downsides seem to be to you now, I guarantee you that if you have a Paypal button for people to click you'll stand a 300% better chance at anyone ever buying anything.

There are sites where I will often spontaneously buy things(like on Etsy, for instance) because using the Paypal button makes it dead easy. But if they required me to send cash in an envelope or a check-forget it. I've actually passed on Ebay sellers who require that(and they usually do cash or check only because they hate giving up a few percentages to Paypal from the price). It's just too cumbersome to do it that way nowadays.
Anyway, jmho. Best of luck with it!