Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Mel Tolkin

The group assembled in the above photo along with Lucille Kallen, Sam Denoff, Bill Persky, Danny Simon, Joseph Stein, Sylvester L. Weaver Jr. Tony Webster, Woody Allen and Carl Reiner represent the most influential collection of comedy writers to ever work in television. At a time when all of the entertainment industry is focused on writers, we lost a master of the craft. Mel Tolkin died at the age of 94. Mr. Tolkin was the head of Sid Caesar’s famous television writing team for Your Show of Shows from 1950 to 1954 and later went on to write for Danny Kaye, Danny Thomas, Bob Hope and also wrote for the TV sitcom All in the Family.

Mel Tolkin was interviewed for the Archive of American Television for four hours. This what he had to say about comedy,

"First I'd say that humor cannot be taught. Humor is an attitude towards life. It's a rather cynical approach. It's a negative approach. It's saying people misbehave. People put on shows. People wear masks. People are proud of what they shouldn't be. People compete unfairly. If you think life is wonderful, you don't belong in comedy. Of course, there's a lot that can be taught and at UCLA I taught very detailed things. Some of the things I mention here: how people recognize themselves on the screen and so on. What people are funny? And I quote the opening line of Anna Karenina by Tolstoy when she says, happy people are alike in their happiness. Only unhappy people are different from each other, and that's all there is. Because she proceeded to have one of the unhappiest marriages of all time, Karenina. But she left him. So that's an important lesson. Happy people are dull conversationalists -- no fun to be with and probably vote Republican."

To quote Mel Tolkin when his writer's pace slackened, . “Gentlemen, we’ve got to get something done!” Jews all over America will be watching Saturday night!”

Good Night Mr. Tolkin

In Solidarity

Tony Figueroa
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