Ralph And Mort
This weekend, while being interviewed by Brian Lamb on C-SPAN’s Q&A, former Nixon White House speechwriter Ben Stein announced that he planned to vote for Ralph Nader; his main reason for doing so, from what I could gather, is that he disapproves of Sen. John McCain’s budget plan.
Meanwhile, old Ralph himself was back in the news. This afternoon he telephoned the offices of Politico to offer a little handicapping concerning the Democratic veepstakes. Is the author of Unsafe At Any Speed buying the current speculation that Sen. Joe Biden’s foreign-affairs expertise gives him the advantage? Or that Sen. Barack Obama might select Sen. Evan Bayh or Gov. Tim Kaine? Nope. Ralph is sure that Obama plans to name Sen. Hillary Clinton to the running-mate spot later this week. He draws an analogy to 1960, when John F. Kennedy, facing an uphill battle in the South, chose Lyndon Johnson for the ticket. At the time, a lot of LBJ’s supporters, who thought that he could have gotten the nomination instead of settling for second place, were enormously upset; at first, House Speaker Sam Rayburn refused to take his calls. JFK’s partisans were not that happy, either. But after a few days, both camps got over it and got together to campaign. Could history repeat itself?
Frank Gannon’s post below about Mort Sahl reminds me that, no matter how superannuated the octogenarian comic might seem during his rare appearances nowadays on venues like Larry King Live and Keith Olbermann’s show, a half-century ago he created most of the concepts that still define standup comedy today. Here are two other clips of Sahl. One finds him thoroughly in his element (although minus his sweater), introducing the Dave Brubeck quartet in the late ’50s at the Blackhawk in San Francisco. (This is the opening to an unsold pilot, produced by none other than Rocky and Bullwinkle creator Jay Ward!) The other finds Mort just as completely out of his element – singing along (in his sweater) with the Smothers Brothers, Peter, Paul and Mary, Jennifer Warnes, and…..Donovan as the latter performs “Atlantis” in 1969. Another marvelous moment from the lost world of television variety shows.