Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Ernie Kovacs

I finally got through the "Best of Ernie Kovacs" disc I had. As it turned out this was not a new compilation of Kovacs routines but a 1977 PBS TV show of his work that was compiled from the series of specials he did for ABC in 1961-62 just before his death.

Watching this material again I was struck by not only Kovacs' inventiveness and knack for satire but also his reliance on visual humor, which is something that is really a lost art in American TV today where the comedy overwhelmingly depends on dialogue.  Something I else really noticed for the first time was his use of music. He did several bits in these shows of just objects moving around in a setting like an office or a kitchen choreogrpahed to Bartok or Tchaikovsky, nothing overtly humourous but a fascinating way of "illustrating music" as he puts it on one show. Here is one example set in an office to the fizzy arrangements of Juan Carlos Esqueviel.

Of course a lot more "lost" old television clips show up on YouTube and other websites these days, so earlier Kovacs programs are out there for viewing. This is a piece I found of a quiz show he did called "Take A Good Look" where he somehow managed to work in his familiar characters like the poet Percy Dovetonsils. The same person who put this up, rolko52, has also uploaded a couple of complete episodes of a morning show Kovacs did for NBC that actually predated "The Today Show".

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