I was living in Britain and Australia when 'The Smothers Brothers Comedy Hour' aired in the States, so I didn't have a chance to watch it regularly. I'm aware of the controversies which accompanied this programme, and which only make me that much keener to track down all the episodes. Despite the 'Comedy Hour' title, this was actually a variety series featuring impressive guest performances by some major music acts across a wide range of musical styles and genres.
This synopsis is specifically a review of the 16th episode of the 3rd series of 'The Smothers Brothers Comedy Hour', one of the few episodes which I've seen ... and of such excellence, that I wonder if it was typical of the entire programme. I don't recall the Clinger Sisters, and my inability to recall them testifies to how unmemorable they likely were. Leigh French did her usual 'Share a Little Tea with Goldie' spot as a spaced-out hippie chick ('oh, wow!'). Bob Einstein, the underrated brother of the overrated Albert Brooks, showed up in his recurring role as LAPD motorcycle cop Officer Judy, who was perpetually trying to arrest Tom Smothers on various ridiculous charges. Einstein consistently played this role with a deadpan face, a deep monotone voice and sunglasses which concealed his eyes ... thus making it easier for him to keep a straight face during his often hilarious material. (Bob Einstein usually wrote his own scripts, and is equally as underrated as a gag writer as he is as a performer.)
I distinctly recall this episode's comedy guests: a very bizarre duo cried the Times Square Two. I've never seen this act anywhere else, but would gladly see more of them. As seen here, they were both thin and wore slick patent-leather hair and tight-fitting vintage clothes. Their turn here consisted of singing 'Hello, Hawaii', a novelty song from 1915(!) which they performed with weirdly inept dance steps and interpolations of 'yacka-hoola hickey-doola'. The Times Square Two are the only Yank act I've ever seen who remind me of those hilarious British performers the Nitwits. They also seem to have taken a leaf from Tiny Tim, the falsetto ukelele strummer.
What's especially interesting about this episode is the guest appearance of Andy Williams, crooning two consecutive ballads. Williams sang them in his usual easy ingratiating manner: what made these songs so interesting (visually, at least ... and atypical of Williams's material) was the manner in which they were staged.
Standing alone in the centre of a bare sound stage, Williams sang 'People' from the musical 'Funny Girl' ... a song not normally associated with Andy Williams. As Williams sang, he was gradually joined on the stage by more and more people, of widely differing appearances, most of them dressed in clothing conveying many different nationalities or professions. One of these disparate people is a centaur! (A very well-muscled man, bare-chested, was dressed from the waist downward in an impressively elaborate horse costume, his legs forming the centaur's forelegs. What spoilt the illusion was the fact that the hind legs of the centaur weren't articulated, and could only drag along stiffly behind the centaur's fore section.) The centaur stood, arms folded, near Williams as his song built to a climax. Williams was in his usual fine voice.
By the time Williams finished singing 'People', the sound stage was now, indeed, packed with a huge throng of people. The room is so crowded that we can't see any individual person clearly, not even Williams.
Now there was a brief pause, a key change, and Williams launched into his next song: 'Moon River', one of his biggest hits. Straight away, all the people around him start going 'Awww!' and making gestures of disappointment and annoyance; they've clearly heard Williams warble this song before, and they've no desire to hear him sing it again. As Williams tonsils his way through 'Moon River', more and more of that huge crowd of people go stomping off into the wings. Even the centaur drags his hindquarters off stage left.
SPOILERS COMING. As Williams nears the end of the number, there's now only one other person onstage with him: a nattily-dressed midget whose face is concealed behind the newspaper he's reading. We never saw this midget arrive during 'People': he must have slipped in after most of the others had entered. Williams reaches the closing notes of his lyric: 'Waiting round the bend, my huckleberry friend: Moon River...' Only two notes left in the song.
... and at this point, suddenly, unexpectedly, the midget lets go of his newspaper and drops to the floor, biting Williams in the ankle. Andy Williams mugs hilariously. I can think of only one midget who bit people in the ankle: sure enough, it's none other than Billy Barty! While Williams whimpers in pain, Barty grins broadly and walks offstage, singing the last two notes of the song: '...and MEEEEEEEEE!'. Billy Barty's high notes aren't as impressive as Andy Williams's, but this surprise ending made me bust a gut laughing. I hope that the other episodes of 'The Smothers Brothers Comedy Hour' are as imaginative and well-produced as this one. And as hilarious!
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