Ain't it Funny

"60 Minutes" was chatting up The Great One---and I don't mean Wayne Gretzky---and they had a simple yet probing question.

This was Jackie Gleason, of course---the original Great One, and the question came as he relaxed with the ubiquitous drink nearby.

"Why do you suppose," the query began, "The Honeymooners is still so popular, after all these years?"

Gleason smirked beneath that pencil-thin mustache of his.

"Why? Because it's FUNNY."

Well said.

Gleason is another of those entertainers that no mother has been able to spawn since he was a part-owner of the television airwaves back in the 1950s. And he's right; The Honeymooners has stood the test of time because it was, as Gleason said, funny. As hell.

And to think that most of the action took place on a sound stage so small that the camera barely had to pan left or right during any given episode.

Gleason and Audrey Meadows and Art Carney performed in a phone booth, pretty much, and they made raucous fun. To this day, I get a certain thrill when I see The Honeymooners pop up on the tube.

Gleason as beleaguered---and funny---Ralph Kramden

Legend has it that Gleason, when he did his self-named TV show in New York, would leave the studio during the credits---the show was done live---and walk across the street to a bar for a nightcap. The story goes that sometimes a patron at the bar might look up at the TV above the bar, see the credits rolling, and look to his right and see The Great One, well into his first Scotch.

Gleason might have been the only entertainer to own his own train.

Years after closing the door on his television career, Gleason settled in Miami. And he bought a train and traveled around the country---clearly not in a hurry to get wherever he was going.

"60 Minutes" wanted to know about the train, too. And again they asked a silly question, as it turned out.

"Was there a bar on the train?" they wanted to know.

Gleason was incredulous.

"Was there a BAR on the train? The whole TRAIN was a bar!"

Why bring up Gleason? We finally broke out a Christmas present the other night---an entire season of The Mary Tyler Moore Show on DVD---the fifth season, specifically.

Moore's show still appeals now largely because of Jackie Gleason's logic: Because it's funny.

They're all still with us---with the exception of Ted Knight---and that's nice to know, too. Even Betty White, over 80 years old, is still doing it. She was marvelous in Sandra Bullock's The Proposal last year.

From Mary Richards always calling her boss "Mr. Grant" to Knight's brilliant portrayal of dumb-as-a-box-of-rocks anchorman Ted Baxter, to the razor-edged tongue of Murray Slaughter, The MTM Show is just as funny now as it was in the early-to-mid-1970s.

I don't remember what episode in the series it was, but one of the funniest moments was when Mary was so angry at "Mr. Grant" that she said, "You don't even deserve to be called 'Mr. Grant.' You're....LOU!!"

I bet Jackie Gleason would drink to that. He did to everything else.


  1. Yes, I've said much of the same myself! Many of today's "comedies" provide nothing but a series of non-funny lines that are accented with a laugh track. They seldom make you laugh out loud and you seldom find yourself repeating chosen lines for years afterward ("To the moon, Alice!").

    Shows like the Honeymooners, Mr. Ed, I Love Lucy, etc., provided real writing talent, real comedians, and even some real acting - in other words, it was a craft that was honed and improved upon throughout the years. Today, anybody who is good looking can probably get on TV, recite a few dumb lines, make a few bucks, and then head toward oblivion! (The same can be said for the so-called "Music" of today, but we'll save that for another day!).

    Ah yes, bring back the good AND FUNNY ol' days!!



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