Sunday, September 23, 2012
This is Show Business with guest Artie Dann (1949)
This is remarkable footage. And as the title of the program promises, this is show business. It really is. Artie Dann was a typical - albeit obscure - nightclub comedian of his day. When I write of the Mob-run nightclub era, in which comedians of all stripes could make a steady living, from Seattle through Hollywood, New York through Miami Beach, and everywhere in between - I'm talking about comics like Artie Dann. Lowbrow compared to the Dick Gregory and Woody Allens that would follow, it's clear how (and why) a smokey, drunken, dolled-up supperclub audience would respond to this kinda stuff. Furthermore, it may come as little surprise after viewing the footage that Dann's downfall (according to surviving family) was an addiction to pills; pills of the speedy variety (something not uncommon for the time). Here is Artie Dann in his element, giving it his drug-induced all, in front of a panel of Broadway wits that include Abe Burrows, Clifton Fadiman and the greatest of them all (also a Woody Allen hero) the sardonic George S. Kaufman.
At the 9:40 mark you saw another Artie Dann appearance, this one from the 1954 Dorsey Brothers program Stage Show. Jack Carter later became a regular on Stage Show, so apparently someone at the network was fond of showbizzy nightclub comedy. One major difference between supperclub comedians like Artie Dann as opposed to radio and television comics like Jack Benny and Fred Allen was volume. Artie Dann, accustomed to bellowing over the noise of a drunk crowd, screams his act at the home viewer. Here's another appearance of his on This is Show Business. On the panel this time round are the charitable Steve Allen, Jacqueline Susann and Sam Levenson (whom is rumored to have lost much of his act to a thieving Alan King).