peter sellers

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Peter Sellers; The Trumpet Volunteer (1958)

Peter Sellers; The Trumpet Volunteer (1958)

There has been a long tradition of mocking the pretentions of rock and pop singers, which isn't that hard. Many of them take themselves very seriously. When National Lampoon for example got stuck into a Pink Floyd-like musician who wanted to create a massive rock opera (on their '75 album Goodbye Pop, helmed by Christopher Guest of Spinal...

Dean Martin: My Rifle, My Pony and Me (1959)

Dean Martin: My Rifle, My Pony and Me (1959)

As Nick Tosche revealed in his remarkable biography Dino: Living High in the Dirty Business of Dreams, Dean Martin didn't have to try hard at anything: he was good looking, could sing whatever was put in front of him, was a natural straight man and comedian, and he'd just turn up on a movie set and do his lines with charm, ease and utter...

Gary Lewis and the Playboys: This Diamond Ring (1965)

Gary Lewis and the Playboys: This Diamond Ring (1965)

The offspring of Hollywood were just as swept up in Beatlemania as anyone. The two sons of comedian Soupy Sales -- Hunt and Tony, drums and bass respectively -- were in Tony and the Tigers who appeared on Hullabaloo and had a couple of records out . . . although went on to more interesting things later when they joined Todd Rundgren, Iggy...

Stan Freberg: The Old Payola Roll Blues (1960)

Stan Freberg: The Old Payola Roll Blues (1960)

While British commentators congratulate their culture on its history of comedy and satire (Peter Sellers, Spike Milligan, David Frost, Peter Cook, Monty Python et al) they conspiciously fail to note that America had a similar, but often darker and more biting, tradition. Stan Freberg was -- although at the time of this writing he is still...

Alfred E Neuman: It's a Gas (1963)

Alfred E Neuman: It's a Gas (1963)

There's the widely held if rather snooty view that fart noises and belching are only amusing to adolescent boys. This rather ignores the obvious: that there will always be adolescent boys, and even more people who have been adolescent boys. Which perhaps explains the enduring if low appeal of this outing by Mad magazine's Alfred E Neuman....

Victor Borge: Phonetic Punctuation (1955)

Victor Borge: Phonetic Punctuation (1955)

Denmark-born pianist Victor Borge was a child prodigy who could have had a distinguished career playing concert halls. Fortunately for us he chose another direction. Born to Jewish parents in 1909, he studied and played the classics, but in his late teens began adding stand-up comedy to his repertoire. He married an American (Elsie Chilton)...

Anna Russell: Folk Songs (1952)

Anna Russell: Folk Songs (1952)

With her beautifully modulated tones and remarkable voice -- which went from a soprano squeal to a screech quite effortlessly -- Anna Russell was an enormously popular comedy-cum-classical act in the Fifties. She would poke fun at Wagner and contemporary classical music equally: of the latter she said it was music for the singer who was tone...

Mel Brooks: To Be Or Not To Be; The Hitler Rap (1984)

Mel Brooks: To Be Or Not To Be; The Hitler Rap (1984)

Very few people -- and arguably only Jewish comedians? -- can get away with making fun of Hitler and the Nazis. Mel Brooks has been relentless in his ridicule which some find tasteless and others say is a necessary corrective. Whichever way you cut it, it is dark humour which Brooks makes seem genuinely funny. By way of comparison, is...

Mr Flotsam and Mr Jetsam: Is 'e an Aussie, is 'e Lizzy (the Thirties?)

Mr Flotsam and Mr Jetsam: Is 'e an Aussie, is 'e Lizzy (the Thirties?)

This is one of those songs which, once heard, is never forgotten: how can you ever erase lines like "seems this digger likes my figure" or "he being well-born, lived in Melbourne". Mr Flotsam and Mr Jetsam (not to be confused with the metal band of similar name, of course) were a UK-based comedy duo of the Twenties and...

Tiny Tim: We Love It/When I Walk With You (1968)

Tiny Tim: We Love It/When I Walk With You (1968)

If you were there at the time, Tiny Tim was novelty act: the long-haired eccentric with a ukulele singing Tiptoe Through the Tulips in an impossibly high falsetto. But that was the late Sixties for you, a time when the retro sound of Winchester Cathedral by the New Vaudeville Band and I Was Kaiser Bill's Batman by Whistling Jack Smith could...

Ronnie Ronalde: If I Were a Blackbird (1950)

Ronnie Ronalde: If I Were a Blackbird (1950)

Roger Whittaker does it, and so does Bryan Ferry when he sings John Lennon's Jealous Guy. They whistle on stage, which isn't the easiest thing to do -- least of all if, as with Roxy Music playing in Auckland earlier this year, it's a breezy night and the wind is in your face. Whistling was once a commonplace and every now and again in the...

Stan Freberg: Rock Island Line (1956)

Stan Freberg: Rock Island Line (1956)

Because a parody only works if you know the original it might be useful to check out the video clip here (kinda cute in its own way) before playing American comedian Freberg's poke at it. The original of Rock Island Line was by Leadbelly in the Thirties but Donegan's version of 1955 was emblematic of the skiffle era in Britain where young...

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