A Comedian’s Comedian: Mort Sahl (1927-2021) | Tribute

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By December 1953, that would all change forever, almost entirely through the efforts of a seemingly unassuming man who took the stage of the San Francisco nightclub the Hungry i Armed with nothing more than a proto-preppy wardrobe, a rolled-up. Newspaper and a will to challenge the social conventions of the time and the joke-joke-joke nature of comedy. The man was Mort Sahl, who died yesterday at the age of 94, and what he did alone would revolutionize American comedy forever. There is perhaps not a single notable comedian who has emerged in his wake who has not been influenced by his efforts in one way or another.

He was born Morton Lyon Sahl in Montreal on May 11, 1927, and later moved with his family to Los Angeles, where his father tried to break into the show business as a writer before working as a court reporter for the FBI. When America entered World War II in 1941, the 14-year-old Sahl joined his school ROTC program to earn awards for marksmanship and “Americanism” and next year dropped out to enlist in the Army, lying about his Age to enter. – a ruse that fell apart two weeks later when his mother found out and revealed his true age. After high school, he joined the Air Force, but was soon disappointed with the service’s compliance, rebelling by growing a beard and writing articles critically about the military for a local newspaper. After graduating in 1947, he studied at USC, with the majority in traffic engineering and city management, but after graduating in 1950, he decided to leave the master’s program to try to make it as an actor, playwright and comedian. .

In the beginning, he had little success – at one point, he and a friend rented their own theater to set up experimental one-act plays, but struggled to find an audience – and did odd jobs while they continued to write. He then came up with the idea of ​​presenting his plays as comic monologues, but this approach initially attracted little attention. Finally, he convinced the owner of the San Francisco nightclub the hungry i to let him audition and he deserved a regular performance. After a few weeks, lines from his act began in the work of influence San Francisco Chronicle Columnist Herb Caen. With that seal of approval, the audience started dropping out to see what all the colors were.

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