Tuesday, July 23, 2013 | 4:07 p.m.
Editor’s Note: While Robin Leach takes his traditional summer vacation under the Tuscan sun in Italy, many of our Strip personalities have stepped forward in his absence to pen their own words of wisdom. We continue today with Las Vegas entertainer Sandy Hackett of “The Rat Pack Show.”
I found this article from The New York Times by Warren St. John in May 2005. In it, he declared “the joke” dead and wrote an obituary for it. It’s been eight years, and the joke is not dead. It never died.
It may dress differently, but, underneath it all, there’s still a joke and comedy. People approach humor in ways that work best for them. There are amateurs and professionals using all kinds of methods to get a laugh. As long as there is laughter, the joke will never die.
There is, of course, the joke, a short story with a setup and a punch line. The goal is a response of laughter from the listener. Once I asked my dear friend comic impressionist and Marine veteran Tony D’Andrea what he did in World War II. He said, “I saved a whole platoon in Okinawa — I shot the cook!”
There is the riddle. This is the rhetorical question with the asker giving the listener little if any time to answer so that they can respond and give the punch line and hopefully get the laugh. “Why do men want to marry virgins? Because they don’t like criticism.”
There is the quip. “I want you to know that also I will not make age an issue of this campaign. I am not going to exploit, for political purposes, my opponent’s youth and inexperience.” —Republican Ronald Reagan during a 1984 presidential debate with Democratic opponent Walter Mondale.
There is the aside. “If life was fair, Elvis would still be alive and all the impersonators dead.” —Johnny Carson, after seeing a bad Elvis impersonator.
There is the jab. “That, Marco Rubio, is how you take a sip of water.” —President Obama, after pausing to drink water, in a jab at Florida Republican Sen. Marco Rubio, who was widely mocked when he desperately gulped water during his State of the Union response.
There is the story engaging the listener at every moment along the way to its conclusion. My father, comedian Buddy Hackett, was the best at this. “When Neil Armstrong walked on the moon, he not only gave his famous ‘One small step for man, one giant leap for mankind.’ Just before he re-entered the lander, he made this remark, ‘Good luck, Mr. Gorsky.’ Over the years, many people questioned Armstrong as to what the ‘Good luck, Mr. Gorsky’ meant, but Armstrong always just smiled.
While answering questions after a speech, a reporter brought up the 26-year-old question to Armstrong. He finally responded. Mr. Gorsky had died, so Armstrong believed that he could finally answer. When he was a kid, he was playing baseball in the backyard. His friend hit a fly ball that landed in the front of his neighbor’s bedroom windows. Mr. and Mrs. Gorsky were his neighbors.
As he leaned down to pick up the ball, young Armstrong heard Mrs. Gorsky shouting at Mr. Gorsky, “Oral sex? You want oral sex?! You’ll get oral sex when the kid next door walks on the moon!”
Funnyman Jackie Martling bills himself as Jackie the Jokeman. He’s always in demand and always working. He’s as good as they get when it comes to telling jokes. He’s a Joke Jenius!
And finally to honor and thank Robin Leach for asking me to fill in whilst he is on holiday. There is the barb and the insult. Lady Astor to Winston Churchill: “'Winston, if you were my husband, I would flavor your coffee with poison.” Churchill: “'Madam, if I were your husband, I should drink it.”
Bravo, Sir Winston, master of the insult.
Check out our other guest columns today from Las Vegas producer and manager Seth Yudof and Lisa Dawn Miller-Hackett of “The Rat Pack Show” and Wednesday hypnotist Marc Savard, photographer Jeff Mitchum, who just opened a gallery at MGM Grand, and Charissa Davidovici of Sugar Factory.
Robin Leach has been a journalist for more than 50 years and has spent the past decade giving readers the inside scoop on Las Vegas, the world’s premier platinum playground.
Follow Robin Leach on Twitter at Twitter.com/Robin_Leach.
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Follow VDLX Editor Don Chareunsy on Twitter at Twitter.com/VDLXEditorDon.