Dawn Reader

Dawn Reader
from Open Door Coffee Co.; Hudson, OH; Oct. 26, 2016

Tuesday, June 21, 2016

Mort Sahl, Still with Us ...

August 15, 1960
I don't know why I thought of comedian Mort Sahl the other day, but I do remember that I could not think of his name (coming up with names--an issue that has, well, deepened as I've grown older). I still couldn't think of it after a reasonable time, so I hit Google with "1960s radical comedians," and there he was, along with some others whose names I can't remember right now.

Mort Sahl. Sharp wit. Biting political satire. Politically incorrect. Bright as a brass button in the sunshine.

I Wikipediaed him and was surprised to see he's still alive (born in 1927)--and even more so to learn that he's still performing fairly regularly.

There was a time when Sahl was on TV a lot as a guest; his comedy albums sold very well; then things went sour when he began regularly going off on the Warren Report (the official account of the JFK assassination). He didn't believe it. He smelled conspiracy. And his audience, tolerant at first, gave up, drifted away, found other voices to listen to. While he'd stepped off the train for a moment, he realized that no other train would stop for him. And he found himself limited to small clubs in small places with small audiences.

And it was in just such a setting that I saw him perform in 1966 or 1967, down in Columbus, Ohio, where a great college friend, Claude Steele, was starting to work on his Ph.D. I drove down to visit him and wife Dorothy, and they took me to the oddest bar/club I've ever been in. I think it was called "The Bedroom," and it featured servers dressed in pj's, bedroom decor, etc. Some rather feeble searching on Google and newspapers.com did not turn up anything about it, so I'm going to rely entirely on Traitor Memory.

I don't remember anything specific Sahl said that night--though I do remember that he was still ranting a lot about the Warren Report.

I do remember that I laughed a lot; I remember loving his biting, intelligent humor. And I think I remember marveling at how ... professional he was, even performing in this odd, odd place to a room either half-full or half-empty. A long fall from The Tonight Show and other prestigious venues where he'd once been a welcome guest.

Sahl still has a considerable presence on YouTube--and here are a few links to some bits he did.

1. explaining politics (1967)
2. Mort and Milton Berle (not sure the year)
3. With Steve Allen (1960)
4. With Smothers Brothers (1969)

I'm glad Mort Sahl is still out there--still saying those outrageous things that need to be said. He's kind of a Jiminy Cricket, chirping away even when we don't want to listen. And listen we should.

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