2004-09-03 / Community

Aging Comedians Rock Westbury Music Fair

A Wave Review By Howard Schwach


The large crowd that attended the Westbury Music Fair on Saturday night was definitely not on the young side. The average age of the concertgoers appeared to be somewhere between 50 and 70 – not your usual concert crowd.

That was not surprising, however, when you consider that the two headline acts for the evening were the Smother’s Brothers and Joan Rivers.

The Brothers celebrated their 45th year in show business this year, a testament to the longevity of their unique brand of humor.

Tom and Dick made their first professional performance at the Purple Onion in San Francisco in 1959 and their first television performance on the Jack Paar Show in January of 1961.

Forty-five years later, they are still performing the same “mom liked you best” shtick with a lot of political comment thrown into their comedy.

In fact, their stated political opposition to President Nixon and the Vietnam War got them fired from their regular comedy show on CBS in 1968. They did not return to regular television until the 1980’s.

While they’ve keyed their humor of late towards topics such as the war in Iraq and Donald Rumsfeld, their wit is no less biting than it was in the 1960’s when they helped to form public opinion about many political issues.

One expert said of the duo, “The Smother’s Brothers Comedy Hour is now studied in universities across the nation as an important factor in the revolutionary changes undergone in the United States during the 1960’s.”

As a concertgoer and a collector of the brother’s records (yes, Virginia, there really were vinyl records at one time), I would have much more enjoyed the show had they done some of their famous old bits, such as “I Fell Into A Vat of Chocolate,” but many of those in the audience did not know the duo and had no idea of what they were singing about when they added their own verses about their problems with CBS to the tune “Those Were The Days.”

In fact, many of those who were at the Music Fair had never heard of the Smother’s Brothers, and were there only to see the star of the night – Joan Rivers.

I have to admit at this point that I was there to see the Smother’s Brothers, and thought that River’s was just another QVC pitchwoman out to make a buck on her celebrity.

Was I wrong.

The dynamic 70-year-old comedian came out like a whirlwind and remained so for an hour and fifteen minutes as she roamed the small, round stage like a leopard looking for her prey.

She had the audience literally rolling in the aisles and I wish that I could recount some of the jokes, but there was only one that was fit for a general audience. The rest of her bits were somewhere between politically incorrect and obscene.

That one joke was about her penchant for face lifts.

“I have so many facelifts in California that my granddaughter watched the original version of “The Mummy” on television last week and she ran up to the set yelling ‘grandma, grandma’”, Rivers said.

At one point she taunted a young couple in the first row about their sex life to the point where the man gave her the proverbial “finger” in return. Rivers, never missing a beat, threw a potted plant at him, missing by inches. He threw the plant back towards the stage and sat there, grumbling at his wife for the rest of the show.

The daughter of immigrant Russians, Rivers has her own brand of irreverent, unconventional comedy that does not come through in her appearances on television or when she is selling her jewelry on the QVC shopping channel.

You have to see her in the raw to really enjoy her act.

All in all, it was a good evening if you wanted a lot of belly laughs and a dose of humor that is definitely not mainstream.

The Westbury Music Fair seems to be the kind of venue that is perfect for this kind of show. It has no bad seats, being a theater in the round with a rotating stage. It is centrally located on Long Island, about 45 minutes from Rockaway, just blocks off Northern State Parkway at Brush Hollow Road.

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