Over on his website, Mark Evanier has a terrific piece here about what an important standup comedian Robert Klein was -- and how wonderful he still is in his mid-70s when Mark went to see him perform. Be sure to check it out.
I can bookend the fellow with Mark. He saw Klein the other night at age 75. I remember seeing him before his standup career even began, when he was part of the Second City troupe in Chicago. It was their road company which at the Ravinia Music Festival. It was probably around 1964. So, Klein was about 24.
I was a pretty young kidling, so don’t remember much of what he did – but obviously he was memorable enough that I actually remember him. The only specific thing about him that night which I recall was something that wasn’t comedy, and was him stepping out of character. There had been a very funny, very odd and very short sketch. Klein walked out on stage right after it, as the somewhat-stunned audience was still reacting and laughing. Rather than launch immediately into the next bit, though, he said, “I always liked that one, too.”
I do remember the sketch, though. There were people in an office deciding to throw a surprise party for “Pops,” the very elderly janitor. They hide, he shuffles in with his broom, they leap out and shout, “Surprise!!!” – and after a beat, he grabs his heart and collapses to the ground. Blackout. Trust me, it got huge, somewhat-stunned laughs. Now that I think of it, it’s possible that Klein played “Pops,” or maybe the guy who sets up the surprise. I can’t recall exactly, but I do remember his line that followed it.
Here he is in 1983 from of his many appearances on the Tonight Show.
Robert J. Elisberg is a political commentator, screenwriter, novelist, tech writer and also some other things that I just tend to keep forgetting.
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