The Pablo Picasso on a Bicycle sketch.
Thanks to YouTuber Chadner
Johnny Carson had a lot of great long-running character bits on The Tonight Show, but my favorite was “Carnac the Magnificent.” The premise, of course, was that the great mystic seer from the East would divine the contents of a hermetically sealed envelope.
I wouldn’t be surprised if Carson, a fan of magic and a magician himself (see here for my interview with Lance Burton where Burton talks about Carson), took the character from these guys.
Some of Carson’s jokes are very topical and don’t land anymore (two Leon Spinks jokes?), but the audience knew the format and eagerly responded. In my opinion, Ed McMahon earned his keep here as a terrific straight man in this routine. Now you, too, can partake of the wisdom of the great mystic seer by clicking on the video above.
Thanks to YouTuber Richie Cunningham
The Patty Duke Show overlapped The Beatles first coming to America and somehow she was part of that era for me. The television show which ran from 1963–1966 was perfectly tailored to Patty Duke’s acting talents, where she played two cousins, a demure Scottish girl, Kathy, and Patty, a swinging teen from Brooklyn Heights. A great supporting cast too, with William Schallert as the mildly acerbic father and Paul O’Keefe as her annoyingly nerdy younger brother.
Duke’s greatest role, however, was as Helen Keller in the stage and screen versions of William Gibson’s The Miracle Worker. Later on in her career she got to act in the play again, this time playing Annie Sullivan to Melissa Gilbert’s Helen.
Watching the opening titles again made me laugh when I saw the mirror sequence. Of course, that mirror bit had been done a number of times before, including most famously the Marx Brothers in Duck Soup (and I recently ran across the Chaplin short The Floorwalker where there is a kind of an ur-version of the routine) but what made me laugh was considering that the joke inherent in most mirror routines is that of two people acting as one; but in The Patty Duke Show it was one person in the mirror acting as two.
In a strange turn of irony, later in life, Patty Duke was diagnosed as bipolar, and she devoted much of her later years to mental health causes. But she was a really wonderful actor who died just this past March.
Thanks to YouTuber TeeVees Greatest
One day, someone will write his or her Ph.D dissertation on Pee-Wee’s Playhouse, the most imaginative, mind-bending children’s show ever.
Here’s the intro and outro of the weekly television show that ran from 1986-1990.
And that’s Cyndy Lauper singing the theme song!
Thanks to YouTuber thatsclassicofficial
When I was an adolescent, I delightedly stumbled across a book in my local library called Marked Cards and Loaded Dice, a volume which purportedly exposed the tools and methods of crooked gamblers. The book was written by an excellent magician named Frank Garcia, who I later learned often held court at the local magic establishment, Tannen’s. His genial manner was very smooth and convincing.
At that time in NYC, David Susskind, a theater, film and television producer, had a late night television program called Open End that seemed to go on for hours. Susskind was often derided as being insufferably pompous, so it was with some happiness that I came across this video of Garcia with his magic rendering Susskind nearly speechless.
Click on the video to play. Thanks to YouTuber MrMagicbymax