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Sunday, September 26, 2010

They don't make 'em like they used to.

I still have these book & record sets.

I went to a used music sale this weekend for the local university's radio station. Guess it was time they cleaned house. I can't even begin to tell you how many thousands of LPs, cassettes, CDs, 78s, 45s, and books of sheet music I saw there. And get this: "Fill a bag with LPs for only $5! As much as you can carry!" Oh, bliss and heaven.

So among the huge stack of LPs I purchased were a few comedy albums. Several Firesign Theater platters (whom I've never really "gotten," but I wanted to try again anyway), a George Carlin record (which includes the original "seven dirty words" bit), an old Cosby one and an older Bob Newhart one.

As a kid I loved playing records on my record player. I listened to music all the time, just like now. I didn't have enough records to satisfy my thirst, so I naturally scoped out whatever was in the house. That led me to my sister's K-Tel gems and my parents' extensive collection of country & western and sock hop tunes. And a few comedy albums. There was the payoff.

My folks had a good half dozen each of the Smothers Brothers and Bill Cosby albums. It was an easy warm-up; I had already grown up with Fat Albert, picture pages, pudding pops and Himself. There was no introduction needed to the Cos. I was already a fan. I remember being fascinated listening to those familiar Cosby speech patterns, hearing stories of ol' Weird Harold and chicken hearts and go karts. Funny stuff.

And these Smothers Brothers . . . I had to investigate them, man. Since this was decades before wikipedia, I had to do the old-fashioned thing when it comes to finding information--the oldest-fashioned thing, as a matter of fact: I had to ask someone who knew. That meant Mom. She was happy to fill me in on Tom and Dickie, sibling rivalry, "Mom always liked you best!" and folk music with a twist. I took a listen, and I was hooked. Since then I've loved the Smothers Brothers.

They don't make comedy albums today like those treasures of the '60s. They don't make comedians anymore like the ones in those albums. These albums were before my time, but give me a 40-year-old Bob Newhart LP over a brand-spankin'-new Adam Sandler CD any day of the week. That old stuff all seems more cerebral to me. Maybe it's the lack of extensive profanity; maybe it's the way the comedy speaks for itself rather than relying on gimmicks; maybe it's the fact that jokes which are stale now sound so much fresher and even funnier in the setting of their day.

That's why I love hitting garage sales, thrift stores and sales like the one this weekend. I never know where I'm going to be able to procure my next golden oldie, whether it be a Peanuts paperback from Fawcett or a Flip Wilson LP.