He was a genius. After seeing Mort Sahl on stage, Woody Allen, whose writings were often about his personal life, decided to give it a try: "I'd never had the nerve to talk about it before. His social satire performances broke new ground in live entertainment, as a stand-up comic talking about the real world of politics at that time was considered "revolutionary." " But unable to attract a large enough audience, they eventually closed the theater.  He was dubbed "Will Rogers with fangs" by Time magazine in 1960. So he phoned the head of the TV network at 3 a.m. to complain. One Los Angeles Times critic wrote, "Sahl is a man with a country but not a stage. :62 Caen began inviting his own friends, such as film comedians Danny Kaye and Eddie Cantor, to watch Sahl's performances. , In 1988 Sahl was back in New York and performed a one-man Off-Broadway show, Mort Sahl's America, which, despite getting good reviews from critics was not a box office success. Smothers later claimed the network had killed off the show under pressure from the Nixon administration. Arthur M. Schlesinger, Jr. said his popularity was due to the public's "yearning for youth, irreverence, trenchancy, satire, [and] a clean break with the past. Sahl spent his early years in Los Angeles and moved to the San Francisco Bay Area where he made his professional stage debut at the hungry i nightclub in 1953. Interested in how Pennsylvania is shaping the 2020 election? :97, Sahl is #40 on Comedy Central's list of the 100 greatest stand-up comedians of all time, ranked between Billy Crystal and Jon Stewart.  When Woody Allen saw him perform in 2001 at one of his rare New York club appearances, Allen told him, "this is crazy—you should be working all the time. For income he wrote for a few avant-garde publications. , However, the level of success he once had now eluded him. ", By the 1970s the rising tide of counterculture eventually fueled Sahl's partial comeback as a veteran comedian, and he was included along with the new comedians breaking into the field, such as George Carlin, Lily Tomlin and Richard Pryor. He told me to quit going to those places. He noted that all the previous successful comics dressed formally, were glib and well-rehearsed, and were always in control of their audiences.  Its owner, Enrico Banducci, took an immediate liking to Sahl's comedy style and offered him a job at $75 a week (About $720 in 2020 money), which became his first steady job as a stand-up comedian. :56 He returned to Los Angeles where he appeared at some clubs but his new style of monologue comedy received little attention. The art of medicine consists in amusing the patient while nature cures the disease. ", In 1976, Sahl wrote an autobiography called Heartland. The new president wasn’t amused. , Sahl would discuss people or events almost as if he were reporting them for the first time, and would digress into related stories or his own experiences. , Sahl's humor is based on current events, especially politics, which led Milton Berle to describe him as "one of the greatest political satirists of all time. He recently tweeted about a rerun of an SNL skit: “It’s truly incredible that shows like Saturday Night Life, not funny/no talent, can spend all their time knocking the same person (me), over & over, without so much of a mention of ‘the other side.’ … Should Federal Election Commission and/or FCC look into this?”, The Trump tweets are in sharp contrast to that letter Lyndon Johnson sent to the Smothers Brothers in 1968. , From the 1990s on he has performed, but less often and mostly in theaters and college auditoriums. A hospital bed is a parked taxi with the meter running.  He even offered to perform free during intermissions for the chance to show his talent. He won a medal for marksmanship and an American Legion Americanism award. :55, When the U.S. entered World War II after Pearl Harbor, Sahl, then fourteen, joined the school's Reserve Officers' Training Corps (ROTC). It was replaced by, of all things, an ad for Republican presidential candidate Richard Nixon. ":64 The speed with which Sahl gave his monologues was also notable. :67 His naturalness on stage was partly due to his preferring improvisation over carefully rehearsed monologues. Sahl claimed that Joseph Kennedy, a onetime Hollywood mogul, blacklisted him in clubs across the country, causing his income to plummet. But like Trump, Nixon hated the press and comics who made fun of him. The Smothers Brothers weren’t the first humorists to be targeted by a White House. He would often recite some news stories combined with satire. The weekly show hosted by folksinging brothers Tom and Dick Smothers regularly skewed Johnson and his Vietnam War policies. " As a result, he decided to try something different, by performing his plays as monologues. In 1973, a jury found in their favor and ordered CBS to pay the comedy duo more than $776,000. degree in 1950 with majors in traffic engineering and city management. I write adulterated rot.”, Mort Sahl was a top stand-up comedian in 1960 when he got a phone call from Joseph Kennedy, the father of Massachusetts Sen. John Kennedy who was seeking the Democratic nomination for president. Unable to break into the writing field they moved to Canada where he owned a tobacco store in Montreal. When I was born I was so ugly the doctor slapped my mother. We should be concerned not only about the health of individual patients, but also the health of our entire society. "Things were simple then," he says. He recalls that period: "Despite all the folklore about the faith of friends in the struggling young artist, my friends constantly discouraged me. If you love a woman it'll make her a better woman. Woody Allen, who saw his show at the Blue Angel in 1954, commented that "he was suddenly this great genius that appeared who revolutionized the medium. Morton Lyon Sahl (born May 11, 1927) is an American comedian, actor, and social satirist, considered the first modern stand-up comedian since Will Rogers. For income, Sahl began doing odd jobs and writing. :50 And although Sahl acquired a reputation for being an intellectual comedian, it was an image he disliked and disagreed with: "It was absurd. :55 Wanting to express his patriotism, he wore his ROTC uniform to school and in public and, when he turned fifteen, he dropped out of high school to join the Army by lying about his age. :55, Upon graduating from high school, his father tried to get him into West Point and had received his Congressman's help. "With no writers, he just did what he had seen in the afternoon paper. Mort was the vanguard of the group. I told the doctor I broke my leg in two places. They call him 'Doctor.'. ":56 He and a friend then rented an old theater, which they called Theater X, for "experimental," and he began writing and staging one-act plays. :62, After a year at the hungry i, Sahl began appearing at clubs throughout the country, including the Black Orchid and Mister Kelly's in Chicago, the Crescendo in Los Angeles, and the Village Vanguard and the Blue Angel in New York City.