Rudy Panucci On Pop Culture

Sunday Evening Video: The Subversive Comedy Of Dean Martin

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The Dean Martin Variety Show was one of the highest-rated shows on TV in the 1960s, but people forget how progressive and subversive the comedy on the show was. Martin introduced American audiences to Monty Python and Marty Feldman, and at a time when the racial divide in this country was rarely breached, the Dean Martin show regularly featured stand-up comedy from the then-young Bill Cosby and Flip Wilson. The show also addressed what could have been touchy social issues in the patented Rat Pack “who cares as long as nobody gets hurt” manner.

In the above clip, a recurring bit where Nipsy Russell and Dom DeLuise played the “NBC Barbers” who would be cutting the hair of that week’s guest, the guest is Peter Sellers, who discovered earlier in the day that he could reduce Martin to tears by doing a campy “gay” voice. Without any prior warning, he began the sketch, in which he was supposed to be speaking normally as himself, using that voice. You can see how it caught Russell and DeLuise off guard, but when Dino enters the sketch it really takes off.

The cool thing about The Dean Martin Show was that Martin never rehearsed. He’d walk in at the last minute and read his lines off the cue cards, often ad-libbing just to mess with his well-rehearsed co-stars. After the jump check out some more clips from The Dean Martin Show, featuring Goldie Hawn, Don Rickles, and more. This was the heyday of the show, not the last few years when the show was reduced to cranked-out celebrity “roasts.” These are examples why, in the history of comedy, Dean Martin matters.


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Finally, here’s Dom DeLuise and Orson Welles on The Dean Martin Show, doing a sketch originally written by Marty Feldman and Tim Brooke-Taylor for “At Last, The 1948 Show” for the BBC.

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6 Comments

  1. Elvis Capone

    Dean Martin was, like, super-gay, or so I’ve heard.

    Not that there’s anything wrong with that.

  2. Elvis Capone

    Dean Martin was, like, super-gay, or so I’ve heard.

    Not that there’s anything wrong with that.

  3. dino martin peters

    Hey pallie, like thanks so much for liftin’ up the name of our Dino and sharin’ such classic clips from the Dino-show. Indeed as you state, “in the history of comedy, Dean Martin matters.” Very true Dino-words pallie! Never was, never will be anyone as cool as the King of Cool…oh, to return to the days when Dino walked the earth….

  4. dino martin peters

    Hey pallie, like thanks so much for liftin’ up the name of our Dino and sharin’ such classic clips from the Dino-show. Indeed as you state, “in the history of comedy, Dean Martin matters.” Very true Dino-words pallie! Never was, never will be anyone as cool as the King of Cool…oh, to return to the days when Dino walked the earth….

  5. Rememberthe70s

    “You Skinny Hebrew”
    By: Dean Dino Martin
    Never before Available to the General Public
    (A 1953 humorous & satirical birthday tribute song from Dean Martin to Jerry Lewis)

    Dean Martin (June 7, 1917 – December 25, 1995), born Dino Paul Crocetti in Steubenville, Ohio to Italian immigrant parents, Gaetano and Angela Crocetti.

    Martin and Lewis’ official debut together occurred at Atlantic City’s 500 Club on July 24, 1946 and they were not well received.. More than a few people dubbed them “The Organ Grinder and the Monkey”.

    Lewis and Martin agreed to “go for broke”, to throw out the pre-scripted gags and to improvise. Dean sang and Jerry came out dressed as a busboy, dropping plates and making a shambles of both Martin’s performance and the club’s sense of decorum until Lewis was chased from the room as Martin pelted him with breadrolls. They did slapstick, reeled off old vaudeville jokes, and did whatever else popped into their heads at the moment. This time, the audience doubled over in laughter. This success led to a series of well-paying engagements on the Eastern seaboard, culminating in a triumphant run at New York’s Copacabana.

    The act broke up in 1956, 10 years to the day from the first official teaming.

    Dino made a public reconciliation with Jerry Lewis on Lewis’ Labor Day Muscular Dystrophy Association telethon in 1976. Frank Sinatra shocked Lewis and the world by bringing Martin out on stage. As Martin and Lewis embraced, the audience erupted in cheers and the phone banks lit up, resulting in one of the telethon’s most profitable years. Lewis reported the event was one of the three most memorable of his life. Lewis brought down the house when he quipped, “So, you working?” Martin, playing drunk, replied that he was “at the Meggum” – this reference to the MGM Grand Hotel convulsed Lewis. This, along with the death of Martin’s son Dean Paul Martin a few years later, helped to bring the two men together. They maintained a quiet friendship but only performed together again once, in 1989, on Dean’s 72nd birthday.

    Martin died of acute respiratory failure at his home on Christmas morning 1995, at the age of 78.

    “You Skinny Hebrew”
    By: Dean Dino Martin
    Never before Available to the General Public
    (A 1953 humorous & satirical birthday tribute song from Dean Martin to Jerry Lewis)

    If you go to the Apple iTunes Store and type “You Skinny Hebrew” in the search line, you will see the Dino to Jerry song.

  6. Rememberthe70s

    “You Skinny Hebrew”
    By: Dean Dino Martin
    Never before Available to the General Public
    (A 1953 humorous & satirical birthday tribute song from Dean Martin to Jerry Lewis)

    Dean Martin (June 7, 1917 – December 25, 1995), born Dino Paul Crocetti in Steubenville, Ohio to Italian immigrant parents, Gaetano and Angela Crocetti.

    Martin and Lewis’ official debut together occurred at Atlantic City’s 500 Club on July 24, 1946 and they were not well received.. More than a few people dubbed them “The Organ Grinder and the Monkey”.

    Lewis and Martin agreed to “go for broke”, to throw out the pre-scripted gags and to improvise. Dean sang and Jerry came out dressed as a busboy, dropping plates and making a shambles of both Martin’s performance and the club’s sense of decorum until Lewis was chased from the room as Martin pelted him with breadrolls. They did slapstick, reeled off old vaudeville jokes, and did whatever else popped into their heads at the moment. This time, the audience doubled over in laughter. This success led to a series of well-paying engagements on the Eastern seaboard, culminating in a triumphant run at New York’s Copacabana.

    The act broke up in 1956, 10 years to the day from the first official teaming.

    Dino made a public reconciliation with Jerry Lewis on Lewis’ Labor Day Muscular Dystrophy Association telethon in 1976. Frank Sinatra shocked Lewis and the world by bringing Martin out on stage. As Martin and Lewis embraced, the audience erupted in cheers and the phone banks lit up, resulting in one of the telethon’s most profitable years. Lewis reported the event was one of the three most memorable of his life. Lewis brought down the house when he quipped, “So, you working?” Martin, playing drunk, replied that he was “at the Meggum” – this reference to the MGM Grand Hotel convulsed Lewis. This, along with the death of Martin’s son Dean Paul Martin a few years later, helped to bring the two men together. They maintained a quiet friendship but only performed together again once, in 1989, on Dean’s 72nd birthday.

    Martin died of acute respiratory failure at his home on Christmas morning 1995, at the age of 78.

    “You Skinny Hebrew”
    By: Dean Dino Martin
    Never before Available to the General Public
    (A 1953 humorous & satirical birthday tribute song from Dean Martin to Jerry Lewis)

    If you go to the Apple iTunes Store and type “You Skinny Hebrew” in the search line, you will see the Dino to Jerry song.

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