Friday, October 22, 2010

The Wizard Of Comedy (1978)

Found this one at Golden Oldies in the summer of 1990, with the cover drawing of Richard's face in place of the Wizard Of Oz (must be tied in with The Wiz , which I haven't watched all the way through--rather, couldn't be bothered to). The CD reissue had a different, even hokier cover drawing of Richard dressed as a wizard.

This one was recorded solely at the Troubadour, although with a rather pesky amount of echo added to the tracks, making it sound like he recorded the routines in an echoey men's room.

Side one open with Richard thanking the crowd and then bantering with them, using corny accents and dialects (something he seemed to do a lot during those shows). He then goes headlong into "Hank's Place", reminiscing about the pool hall he used to sneak into and hang out at, even though he was a bit young to be there. He tells about the local carpenter giving an estimate to Hank on fixing the craps table; Big Black Irma, the local hussy who seems to tell everyone to kiss her ass (a little less harsher here than on the Craps album); Cool Breeze, the hustler who can sell someone anything, mostly by busting on someone who didn't have what he had to sell; Cold Blood, the pimp, and Torsey, the cop who busts in to beat up Cold Blood (who gets a little too mouthy) and to throw Richard out. A great, heartfelt routine.

After a piece on churches (where he compares his fire-and-brimstone preacher to the snooze-inducing White Protestant churches), he does a routine called "Heart & Brain", which is a little odd to listen to, considering how many heart attacks he would have in years to come, and the one that took him from us in the end.

Side two starts out with a routine about being in the elementary-school production of "Rumpelstiltskin", complete with voices of the school principal, and all of the kids in the play (this would have been fun to have watched!). "Worms" sounds like a re-write of Bill Cosby's "Hoof & Mouth" routine off of his first album. The next bit, "Country & Western Show", features an old singing cowboy (early shades of Mudbone) called Hank Tudds, who songs a country/western lament about why he killed a tractor, complete with an out-of-tune guitar to accompany him.

The last bit, "Japanese Movies", is a routine that was probably more of a visual thing that doesn't quite work for just listening to it; it consists mostly of a samurai who has to commit hari-kari. It's interesting to consider that Richard did this many years before John Belushi did this on Saturday Night Live. On that note is where the album ends.

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