Thursday, December 1, 2005

A Subjective Short Laugh List

A local radio talk show -- with their telephone lines cut by a construction accident -- did what any good/bad/indifferent radio talk show would do, when faced with the need to fill hours of caller-interactive programming with no callers: it went improv, and sought out material online to talk about.

It found a list. A list of the top 100 TV sitcoms, rated by their "ground-breaking" formats.

Like most lists, this one is subjective, based on the opinions of the list assembler, and fraught with all kinds of debate: for example, WKRP in Cincinnati is rated much worse than The Brady Bunch; Ellen is rated better than Friends or Seinfeld, or Frasier.


Then there are the lists that are popular on blogs nowadays, such as 25 Things About Me and 13 Things I Don't Like About Things, or some such.

And there are lists like that of the Titanic, but that would be non sequitur.

At any rate, as I listened to the TV sitcom list -- remembering one show and groaning at the placement of another show ahead of it -- I was inspired to come up with my own subjective list. One I don't expect is complete, as I went strictly with those shows or skits I could recall readily to mind; one I don't expect will be agreed to by some, perhaps many. One that might draw more demands of precise clarification and justification of ("name names") from buffoons like Tom, crusader against waskily conservative humor and sanctimonious defender of silly things liberal.


At any rate, I selected ten of the funnier moments of TV history that I personally recall as among my favorites down the years. The list is not in any particular order of preference; it's pretty much as I recalled the selected moments:

1. Frasier: in the episode when Niles fakes being pushed in a coffee room 'brawl', and afterward complains of landing on a fork.

2. WKRP in Cincinnati: who couldn't remember and howl about the infamous "turkey drop from a helicopter", reported in emotional Hindenburg style by Les Nessman? That episode, about 24 years old me thinks, is a classic.

3. Rowan and Martin's Laugh-In: while there are many skits from that show that still crack me up, my personal favorite remains the dirty old man and the spinster on the park bench (Artie Johnson, Ruth Buzzi), where in he asks her "Do you believe in the hereafter?", to which she replies, "of COURSE I do!"; whereupon he says "heh...then you know what I'm here after.." and she beats the snarf out of him with her purse...

4. The Carol Burnett Show: again, two skits stand out above so many other hilarious ones for me. One is the famous Tim Conway/Harvey Korman dentist skit; the other is a 'Mama's Family' scene wherein Tim Conway is going off on some tangent about an elephant with a sinus problem or some such, and Vicky Lawrence breaks up the scene and the crew with a short sharp expletive at Conway.

5. The Tonight Show: Carson's 'Carnac' routine was a hoot anyway, but the one that stands out for me was the answer: "siff, boom, bah". The question: What's the sound a sheep makes when it explodes? Another favorite was the answer: "kumquat". The question: how do you call your quat?

6. Hee Haw: the country duet (their names elude me just now, though I think one was Archie Campbell) who sang, at least once a show, "Where Are You Tonight?", with new lyrics but the same ending refrain, which one or both could barely get through straight-faced.

7. Ellen: the lobster rescue episode with Mary Tyler Moore.

8. All In The Family: the episode when Sammy Davis Jr. comes to visit Archie & family.

9. Red Skelton: the skit on live TV, when the cow stole the scene -- and the olfactories -- from Red and Jack Albertson, with some improv "pie" production.

10. I Love Lucy: this was a toss-up, but for me it's between the wine vat fight scene and the candy factory scene. They still crack me up.

Agree or not, pitch me your own favorite TV's funniest moments; I'm sure you'll come up with a few I've forgotten.


Blogger Monica said...

You listed my two favorite funny ladies...Lucy and Carol Burnett. CB and I share a birthdate...(not the year, thank you very much). Something else we share...our beloved Lucille Ball died on our birthday. Not so cool.

02 December, 2005 07:47  
Blogger FTS said...

Carol Burnett was one of my all-time favorite shows, and that scene about the elephant still makes me laugh just thinking about it. Johnny Carson never failed to crack me up; the man was an icon and the best at what he did. His humor is sorely missed (who can top him with the animals and kids?). I also remember Red Skelton fondly, and no one was better at eliciting an entire range of emotions from an audience. I also like how he closed every show with "Goodnight and God bless."

I would have to add Dick Van Dyke to my own list, but can't think of any scene in particular. Alas, the mind is the first thing to go... forgot the second...

02 December, 2005 10:21  
Blogger Karen said...

I used to watch WKRP all the time, thanks for reminding me of that episode!

M*A*S*H is one of my all time favorites. There are too many to list here, I liked the first couple of seasons the best, with Trapper and Henry Blake.

Thanks for bringing back memories. I watched all of those except Frasier (have caught a few eps) and Red Skelton. I've seen some of Red's works but not all. One funny guy!

02 December, 2005 14:13  
Blogger phoenix said...

#1 on my list is the Dentist scene with Tim and Harvey... those two could never get on stage together without cracking up.

Red was a man who none can be compared to... add to that Soupy Sales who always made me laugh.

Today the only show that cracks me up is "Whats my line" with Drew Carey and his bunch. The rest I can do without.


07 December, 2005 18:08  
Blogger Little Lamb said...

I found Frasier a really funny show.

24 December, 2007 18:36  

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