Thursday, November 20, 2014

Goodnight Jack Ego - Mike Nichols z"l

This was the album I found in my mother's stash of non-classical music when I was about 11. She had seen Nichols & May on Broadway, and bought it as a souvenir. The record was moved to its new home in my bedroom next to my father's Woody Allen, Mort Sahl and Nina Simone albums. There were only four tracks from the show, but I memorised them all, and waited for moments in my life when I might quote them. 1970's England wasn't quite the place, although I had a close shot with the spelling gag … "K as in knife, A as in aardvark, P as in pneumonia, L as in luscious, A as in aardvark again, N as in newel post". However, not knowing what a newel post was, I didn't have enough conviction, and it all went a bit flat.

A couple of years later, visiting our friends Bob & Elizabeth in Hamden CT, I discovered there were 2 more albums:  Examine Doctors and Improvisations to Music. I also discovered that there were no more albums, as the duo went their separate ways after 4 or 5 years.

Now Mike Nichols is dead. When the news broke, most of the online reports referenced the same opus:  The Graduate movie. It may well be his most well-known work. I've even seen it seventeen or eighteen times. I'd love to think, though, that the obituaries might introduce people to the improvisational comedy. It's (mostly) timeless and absolutely humorous even if you don't know what a newel post is.

I'm off to listen to "Disc Jockey" & "Telephone". Here are a few links to the obits. If you only have time to look at one item, the Vanity Fair interview with the duo is excellent.

Who's Afraid of Nichols & May - Vanity Fair
Vanity Fair obit
The Guardian obit
New York Times obit
Telegraph obit
BBC online obit
Daily Mail report
The Independent obit

Telephone - sketch
Mother and Son - sketch
1959 Emmy Awards speech
(from a man who actually won a Grammy, an Oscar, Emmys and Tony awards)
It's Not Nancy - sketch
$65 Dollar funeral - sketch

ok, am going a bit mad here but whatever - here's an 1960 ep of What's My Line that featured N & M. They show up at 16:47. Of course Bennett Cerf guesses who they are.

15/1/5 UPDATE

all the links to the sketches are down - they appear to have been removed due to copyright infringement. The company noted as making the complaint is named as Hamilcar & Icarus. They don't appear when Googled, although I have learned that Hamilcar is apparently a Carthaginian name and a version of it was a given name of Mussolini. Sigh. And then of course there's our old friend Amilcar Hasenfratz.

Apart from the famous Icarus, the only other cultural reference that comes to mind is that the spaceship whence came Charlton Heston in the original Planet of the Apes movie was called Icarus I think.

The What's My Line link, however, is still working as of today.

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