Donna Lenz Wright/The Week
(Published Oct. 10, 2007, 3:24 p.m.)
“Nobody tells jokes anymore.”
“It’s mostly standup—people talking about real-life situations and human nature.” That’s Rich Little’s take on the trends in comedy.
He oughta know; he’s seen it all over his 40-year comic career.
In the beginning of his career, his circles were dotted with Judy Garland, Ed Sullivan, Jackie Gleason, Lucille Ball, Johnny Carson and Dean Martin.
Forty years later he regularly headlines at the Golden Nugget in Vegas, has recently appeared on the David Letterman Show, toured with USO/Armed Forces Entertainment, the White House and tours regularly.
And he’s coming to Whitewater for one night only Oct. 19 for Rich Little Live! From the Red Carpet, at 7:30 p.m. at the Young Auditorium at UW-Whitewater.
Little has seen it all and chosen his niche purposefully. Sometimes it invites critics to fault him for being old school, but that doesn’t bother him.
“I am,” he said.
“I really don’t like the gross comics and I don’t like to hear nothing but profanity through the whole routine.”
That is precisely the allure of a Rich Little show. Audiences know they are going to get a classic show with Little poking fun at politicians and other famous people and doing dozens of his over 400 impeccable impressions of them.
“I think (today’s trends) make you appreciate the great comedians of years gone by.”
Just the thought makes examples fly out of him.
“Jack Benny, George Burns, Don Rickles, Redd Foxx—the greats I worked with at the Dean Martin roasts. They were the best.
“Then there’s other kind of comedy in Red Skelton, Lucille Ball; they were the sketch comics. There just aren’t that many today that are really icons. There are a few, but not many, not like there used to be.”
When Little recently toured with the USO, the feedback got him right in the funny bone.
“A lot of them didn’t know who I was,” he laughed. “I heard some thought they were getting Little Richard. After the show I talked to some of them and they said they didn’t know who I was (impersonating) but it was funny.”
Little has toured with the USO repeatedly over his career. And even though it means being away from his family at home in Las Vegas, he always accepts the invitation.
“I wanted to do my bit for the guys that are fighting ... cheer them up a bit because, God, that’s a terrible experience to go through for everybody.
“I can’t do enough for those guys.”
“Comedy is pretty serious if you take it seriously.”
Little takes it seriously.
“You have to dissect everything, figure out what’ll work, what won’t and why.’
“‘It’s funny but takes too long to get it.
“‘It’s too clever—they’ll never understand that.’
“‘That’s too gross—it’ll get a laugh and groan, so you’ll get letters on that, so take that out.’”
Hidden in the bad ideas are the keepers that make up his shows.
“Sometimes it’s so stupid that it works. I love those.”
Choosing which jokes will work is the hard part, he says. But running out of material certainly isn’t.
“Politicians are great to do,” Little said. “They say stupid things and do stupid things but we all like to laugh at people with authority.”
The approaching presidential election is already giving him new material nearly every day.
“Some of these candidates we have this time. Whoa, it’s going to be an interesting race that lends itself to great comedy. It should be a great next couple of years.”
Little’s innate comedic and openly friendly personality will no doubt make for a great show.
Tickets for Rich Little Live! From the Red Carpet on Friday, Oct. 19, 2007 at 7:30 p.m., are $28-$48 and available by calling 472-2222 or by visiting www.uww.edu.
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