Thursday, February 23, 2012

SHELLY BERMAN'S BIRTHDAY



Today is Shelly Berman's 86th birthday. When I was a kid, Shelly Berman was my all time favorite comedian. I used to play his records over and over gain and then I would imitate him for friends and relatives. His bits on an imaginary telephone were absolutely priceless pieces of robust comedy. Today some of the phrases he used to use are simply not around any more. Like on an airplane there is no longer a stewardess. It's a flight attendant. And when was the last time you heard one of those guys ask you "Coffee, Tea or Milk". There is one monologue where he is trying to call a department store head office to inform them that "there is a woman hanging from your window ledge." It's hysterical because none of these stoops can find a woman hanging precariously from their very own window ledge. I got to meet Shelly once at the Jewish Home for the Aged in Woodland Hills where we doing a benefit. What a sweet man! Berman started as a straight actor, receiving his training at the Goodman Theater in Chicago, honing his acting skills in stock companies in and around Chicago and New York. In the mid-1950s, he became a member of Chicago's Compass Players which later evolved into The Second City. While performing improvised sketches with Compass, Shelly Berman began developing solo pieces, often employing an imaginary telephone to take the place of an onstage partner. In 1957, Berman landed his first job as a comedian at Mister Kelly's in Chicago, which led to other nightclub bookings, and a recording contract with Verve Records. His comedy albums would earn him three gold records and he'd win the first Grammy Award for a non-musical recording. He was the first standup comedian to play Carnegie Hall. Berman would go on to appear on numerous TV specials, and all of the major variety shows of the day.Berman's success as a comedian enabled him to continue with his first love - acting. He starred on Broadway in A Family Affair and continued to do stage work in productions of The Odd Couple, Damn Yankees, Fiddler on the Roof, I'm Not Rappaport, La Cage aux Folles, and Guys and Dolls, among many others. He still teaches comedy at USC where Danny Simon did the same. If you want to be really moved (and laugh) listen to the dialogue stand up bit he that he does about talking to his father Nathan sometime. It's an absolute classic. It will move you to tears and also make you laugh like hell. Happy Birthday, sir. Many more years for you!

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