Ronnie Benson, 88, is an old-time comedian. “Not vaudeville,” he says. “Just after that.” He still enjoys comedy but some of the ‘new stuff’ leaves him cold. “If I wanted cold I never would have moved to Florida,” he says.
Yeah, I’m a comedian. Go figure. ‘Make ‘em laugh, make ‘em cry.’
Hey, I didn’t say I was funny. I just said I was a comedian.
I’ve always been able to make people laugh. Sometimes it was even intentional. I don’t mean just ‘chicken crossing the road’ stuff, either.
That is so Grade Four. Well, for me it was Grade Four. I may have been held back a couple grades.
I didn’t mind. All the Grade Four girls looked up to me. Literally.
But it all balanced out in the end. Those two years came in handy later. Now I can say I dropped out of high school in Grade 11 instead of Grade Nine.
So people ask me: How do you get into comedy? Well, I’ll tell you. You don’t. Comedy gets into you. It gets into your blood. Then you can’t get it out. It is like a disease. A blood disease. The only way out is a blood transfusion and who can afford one of those these days.
I like to think of myself as being part Jerry Seinfeld and part Lenny Bruce. No one else agrees, but that is what I’d like to think.
These days you need a catch. Remember Sammy [Davis Jr., ed] What did he call himself, the black one-eyed Jew? Something like that.
And Morty Sahl? Who remembers him these days. But he was funny, man. Political and smart and funny.
He once said: “Reagan won because he ran against Jimmy Carter. If he ran unopposed he would have lost.”
Right? Funny stuff.
And there was Dick Gregory. Funny, funny man. Topical and funny. He once said: “If it wasn’t for Abe Lincoln, I’d still be on the open market.”
Hell. You would not even get away with that these days.
And George Carlin. His Seven Words. He was a genius. A true genius.
Those were the days, my friend. Comedy meant something in those days. Now? Not so much.
Some of the new guys are funny, but tell an actual joke every now and again.
Saturday Night Live? Funny as hell, just so long as you know which inane TV show they are making fun of. Who will know if 50 years?
And the ‘topical’ comedy slash news shows? Not for me, to be honest. Sure they are good with a jab, but they are not comedians. They are babysitters. Comedy for lazy people. It is like saying, ‘don’t take a stand. Just sit on your couch and pretend you are in the know.’
Fine, but it is not for me. It is not funny ha ha. I like funny ha ha.
Why? Because comedy should mean something. And it should be universal. And not just our universe but the entire universe.
In the old days you told a real joke and everyone laughed. The humor was universal. Everyone had a mother-in-law. Or a partner. Or a fly in their soup. It was universal.
I miss that. I miss a lot of things these days but I miss that the most.