The Ron Kane Files

Writing About Music

Tuesday, February 19, 2008


2-19-08 Comedians

In addition to collecting phonograph records – I have had an interest in comedians for a number of decades. Probably, this is a result of my having been introduced to the work of Spike Jones by my father, in the early 60’s.

Some of my favorite comedians are Australians and New Zealanders. Fortunately for me, these guys all made excellent phonograph records – John Clarke (as Fred Dagg), Garry McDonald (as Norman Gunston) and Barry Humphries (as Dame Edna Everage, Sandy Stone, Sir Les Patterson etc.)

John Clarke did three LP’s as a kiwi farmer known as Fred Dagg – who had seven sons, all named Trevor. Believe it not, I have a ‘god record’ for “Fred Dagg’s Greatest Hits” – no, it’s not really gold – could it be brass? All are on EMI NZ. Clarke moved to Australia from New Zealand, where he has continued working.

Garry McDonald did at least three LP’s as Norman Gunston, who was a popular Aussie TV comedian / interviewer. His schtick was to interview celebrities ‘in character’, acting stupid / inept – I’ve seen some of his TV shows on videotape, and it is so funny, it’s actually physically difficult to watch (laughing too lard). McDonald also starred in an Aussie comedy TV series called “Mother and Son”.

Barry Humphries is, of course, better known as Dame Edna Everage. I’ve seen Edna live a few times, and I have a near-complete record collection of the works of Barry Humphries. Oddly, one of his very best records is his debut album, “Sandy Agonistes” – performed not as Edna, but as the aging Sandy Stone, reciting his memories of a 1930’s / 1940’s Melbourne, in a dream-like haze. Hard to innumerate Humphries’ albums – there are lots of ‘em.

Maybe I took to these comedians because we share a language – almost. Some of the language they use is very ‘exclusive’, as in you won’t have a real idea of what they’re talking about unless you’re from Australia or New Zealand – and, by now, presumably – over the age of 40…50…etc.

I also collect the audio works of Monty Python, The Firesign Theatre, Peter Cook & Dudley Moore, Martin Mull, Spike Milligan, The Smothers Brothers and nearly countless other comedians who decided to further their careers by making phonograph records. There’s a book that I once saw that professes to be a near-complete discography of comedy records – numbering them at roughly 3,000 – but upon closer examination, I saw that this book didn’t list British records – so there must be a few thousand more than 3,000. No, I don’t have anywhere near that many comedy records (perhaps more like 1,200 or so? Definitely a percentage of my overall record collection!).

So, when I am ‘off’ music, I sometimes head for my spoken word and comedy LP’s. Gotta have your Charles Bukowski, William S. Burroughs and John Cage LP’s!


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