Political Humor Break

Mort Sahl

Mort Sahl, regarded by many as the father of modern political humor, emerged as a comedian during the early fifties, working the jazz/folk-club and college-concert circuits at a time when most stand-ups were still zinging one-liners about their in-laws and wives.



Political Humor Break CONTINUES...

Like Will Rogers, Jr., Sahl came out onstage with a newspaper tucked under his arm, riffing about current events in a free-form style that evoked the jazz musicians with whom he shared the bill. Together with Lenny Bruce, Sahl ushered in a "new, edgy, aggressive, unapologetically smart brand of satirical commentary that questioned every social and political assumption of postwar society," according to writer Tony Hendra. Steve Allen, host of both the original Tonight Show and an eponymous Sunday night variety show in the fifties, was a patron saint of comedians like Sahl and Bruce, and Sahl made frequent appearances on both shows, winning invaluable national exposure. In this clip from the 1962 program Bell & Howell Close-Up!: What's So Funny?, Sahl deconstructs President Kennedy's agenda. Ironically, Sahl was hired to punch up Kennedy's presidential campaign speeches with yuks, but the two had a falling out when Sahl refused to stop making jokes at the expense of Kennedy's father, Joseph.

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