Going on Ed Sullivan details a dynamic life dedicated to comedy.
Wednesday, November 21, 2007
Larry Wilde recalls an instance early on in his prolific career as an entertainer when he was the opening act for the Girlies Galore Strip Club in Eugene, Ore.
“To get in [the club] you had to be a horny lumberjack with bad breath, a beard and at least one hickey from a bull moose,” Wilde says to a packed house at Carmel’s intimate Carl Cherry Center. “I knew I was in trouble when they started booing me before I even opened my mouth.”
To give the audience a true taste of that Oregon fiasco, Wilde instructs half the audience to yell, “Bring on the broads” and the other half to yell, “Get that bum off the stage,” intermittently as chainsaw sound effects blare from the surrounding speakers.
There are three layers to Wilde’s one-man-show, Going on Ed Sullivan. The first stars an ambidextrous entertainer performing Al Jolson song-and-dance numbers and Jack Benny-brand comedy. The second features a storyteller sharing anecdotes that straddle the line between legend and fact. The third spotlights a reflective man completing a personal and sentimental journey through memories that are beautiful and painful. The New York Times best-selling humor author—one of the last remaining vaudevillians—performs this autobiographical comedic hodge-podge every Friday, Saturday and Sunday through Dec. 9. It’s not a short show, approaching two hours in length.
Wilde’s epic tale is a reflection on his life and his search for the answer to the philosophical question: “What does it take to be a comedian?” For Wilde, it took everything from appearances on Sanford and Son and Rhoda to a Lucky Strike cigarette commercial featuring laughing Bassetts hounds.
The answer to Wilde’s question remains open-ended, but an unquenchable thirst, endurance and a threshold for pain are deemed some of the important qualities for a comedian to have, according to Wilde’s peers and mentors, who include Milton Berle, Groucho Marx and Phyllis Diller.
Wilde says one of his most imperative comedic epiphanies came as a young man working at the Carlton Hotel in Miami. “You can’t beat real life when it comes to comedy,” Wilde exclaims.
Wilde noticed that Miami’s population was predominately made up of seniors, which gave him a barrage of humorous material with which to work. “The average age [in Miami] was deceased,” he says. “An 84-year-old married an 89-year-old; their entire honeymoon was spent getting out of the car.”
Wilde spent hours listening to the broken-English conversations of Jewish immigrant housewives lounging at the hotel pool.
“ ‘What do you think of sex?’ said a woman with a thick accent to another woman lying beside her. ‘It’s the finest department store in New York,’ the woman responded.”
As Wilde continues his autobiographical romp through his struggles and achievements as a comedic troubadour, he intertwines personal memories of his mother, Gertrude, who always told him that an appearance on “The Ed Sullivan Show” was all he would need to gain great fame.
“Why don’t you go on The Ed ‘Solomon’ Show?” Wilde’s mom would ask him, matter-of-factly, as if it were his choice.
Wilde’s mother was clearly a significant part of his entire comedic journey. He reads from a letter she wrote him three days before her passing: “You didn’t need Ed Sullivan after all.”
GOING ON ED SULLIVAN continues 7pm Friday and Saturday, 2pm Sunday through Dec. 9 at the Carl Cherry Center for the Arts, Guadalupe and Fourth, Carmel. $30. 917-6933 or ticketguys.com.