Thursday, August 13, 2015

Running For President

The Smothers Brothers Comedy Hour on CBS was a popular show during the mid 60's.  It began in 1967, the official summer of Love and ended in 1969 the year of Woodstock. At the height of their success, the Show was cancelled when Tom and Dick Smothers refused to bow to the CBS network censorship policies. However, for three years The Smothers Brothers Comedy Hour was the only show doing political satire on a regular basis. It was a time of public protests and demonstrations against the Viet Nam War.  
Pat Paulsen was a regular on the Smothers Show.  His dead pan hang dog, Buster Keaton delivery was a staple on the Smothers Brothers show.  Pat would often portray politicians as the foil for the Smothers Brothers satirical humor.  
Pat's stand up routines were generally in the form of a political speech in back of a podium. I remember clearly one sketch with Pat portraying a Politician answering questions at a news conference.  During his close up they used a split screen to have him talking out of both sides of his mouth.   It did not compare to the high level of a John Stuart Daily Show satire, but it was the cutting edge of the day.  
As a stunt for his comedy act in 1968, Pat declared himself to be an actual candidate for the President of the United States.  At the time there were only three networks and the rule was they had to give equal time for each announced candidate for President.  Even though Pat Paulsen wanted to be booked on talk shows for his comedy, he was considered an actual candidate.  No show would book him because they would have to give equal time to Richard Nixon and Hubert Humphrey.  Pat's career took a dive and he never really regained a footing.  
One of his most satirical routines was cut from the Merv Griffin show because it was "not acceptable" enough to be broadcast at the time and still isn't.  However, if you can get past its total lack of political correctness there is a satirical message in the concept of the routine dealing with political correctness.  Here it is saved on YouTube for you to judge. (Spoiler Alert.... if you are offended by the picture of a man in black face makeup don't bother watching.)

I worked with Pat at the Comedy Magic Club in Hermosa Beach.  He wrote this on the wall of the green room: "The best club I have worked on my way down."
He closed his act by telling the audience he would channel the spirit of his celestial guide. It was the soul of an old Indian Chief who took over Pat's body on stage. He did some jokes based upon the idea that were funny.  Then the spirit guide said, "Pat a funny man.  He never gets standing ovation. It would be good for him to get one... would help his mood. Me say good bye now and I return you to Pat."  Pat wakes up like he has been in a trance and says he never remembers what the Indian guide has to say, but the audience should heed his requests.  He takes his bow for the set to...(of course) a standing ovation.
Clowns still to this day run for President of the United States... they just aren't as funny nor as clever as Pat Paulsen. 
Pat died on April 24, 1997 at the age of 69 while living in Mexico.  His life is a testament to the old chestnut "Dying is easy... Comedy is hard".
As you were,


P. Grecian said...

I remember Pat Paulsen. And, of course, the Smothers Brothers were forced off the air because of their political satire. As you say, there were only three networks then, and none of them wanted to offend much anybody...especially anybodies with money or power.
Then came cable.
My, how times have changed.
For the better, mostly.

رضا رمضان said...

Thanks a lot for sharing the post. I loved reading it!
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