Mort Sahl, revolutionary comic who influenced comedians from Lenny Bruce to Dave Chappelle, dies


 Mort Sahl, revolutionary comic who influenced comedians from Lenny Bruce to Dave Chappelle, dies


OCT. 26, 2021 UPDATED 4:44 PM PT

Mort Sahl, who revolutionized stand-up comedy in the mid-1950s with his insightful political and social satire, has died at his home in Mill Valley, Calif., at 94.

Sahl, whose on- and off-stage preoccupation with a conspiracy theory on the assassination of President John F. Kennedy slowed his career in the late 1960s, died Tuesday, a family friend overseeing his affairs told the New York Times.

At a time when brash comics in suits and tuxedos typically were telling jokes about their wives and mothers-in-law, Sahl shattered the stand-up stereotype, beginning at the hungry i, a small, brick-walled basement club in San Francisco’s North Beach district.

Wearing a V-neck sweater and an open-collared shirt — and clutching a rolled-up newspaper — the dark-haired USC graduate with hooded eyes and a wolfish grin fearlessly zeroed in on Cold War-era targets such as President Eisenhower, Sen. Joseph McCarthy and the notorious House Un-American Activities Committee.

His casual, conversational style would influence a generation of comedians, from Lenny Bruce to Dave Chappelle.

Sahl, who frequently punctuated his punch lines with a dry, staccato laugh, spoke in a language that a writer for the New Yorker magazine in 1957 described as “a unique cross between a philosophy paper and the argot of modern jazz.”

Indeed, Sahl might leaven his monologues with allusions to the Oedipus complex or references to monotheism and then preface a new target by saying, “Dig this” — or, more often, “Onward!”

A 1960 New Yorker profile of Sahl enumerated the “persons, places, objects, institutions, and ideas” he disparaged during a 45-minute monologue, beginning with Charles de Gaulle and followed by Eisenhower, segregation, comedian Shelley Berman, trade unions, the film “Marty,” jazz, New York City, Berkeley, playwright Samuel Beckett, newspapers, coffeehouses, sandals, J.D. Salinger, soiled raincoats — and 62 other subjects.

“I don’t tell jokes, I give little lectures,” Sahl would tell his audiences. He’d generally conclude his shows by asking, “Are there any groups I haven’t offended?”

“He was a force of nature, a whirlwind whose ideas defined him; behind each joke lurked a sharply etched, cynical worldview,” Gerald Nachman wrote in his 2003 book “Seriously Funny: The Rebel Comedians of the 1950s and 1960s.”

Before Sahl, “it was heretical, even career suicide, for a comedian to discuss politics, much less to cut up a sitting president onstage,” wrote Nachman. While Will Rogers and Bob Hope were comfortable, non-offensive establishment figures, Sahl was straight grenade fire.

“When Rogers or Hope did political material, their jokes weren’t meant to wound or to make anyone squirm; Sahl’s were, and did,” Nachman said.

Moving on from the hungry i to clubs such as Mister Kelly’s in Chicago, Basin Street East in New York and the Crescendo in Los Angeles — as well as showrooms in Las Vegas and Miami — Sahl was in the vanguard of a new generation of comedians.

“He was like Charlie Parker in jazz,” said Woody Allen, an early fan. “There was a need for a revolution — everybody was ready for the revolution. He totally restructured comedy.”

Sahl was known to devour numerous newspapers and magazines every day to keep his topical act up-to-date. As for his ideological leanings, Sahl told the Associated Press in 2007 that he remained what he always was: “an independent, populist radical.”

During his heyday in the 1950s and early ’60s, Sahl recorded several pioneering live stand-up comedy albums, starred on Broadway in a short-lived revue, “The Next President” and played small roles in several movies and television shows.

A jazz connoisseur whose friends included Stan Kenton, Dave Brubeck and Paul Desmond, Sahl served as co-emcee of the first Monterey Jazz Festival with Dizzy Gillespie in 1958 and was master of ceremonies of the inaugural Playboy Jazz Festival in Chicago in 1959.

He even donned a tuxedo and co-hosted the 1959 Academy Awards show, along with Laurence Olivier, Jerry Lewis, David Niven, Tony Randall and Hope, who referred to Sahl as “the favorite comedian of nuclear physicists everywhere.”

Sahl’s stock as a political satirist was so high that Joseph P. Kennedy asked him to write jokes for his son’s 1960 presidential run, which Sahl agreed to do while stressing that — as a rule — he did not endorse candidates.


Indeed, the bipartisan Sahl joked on television during the race that the senior Kennedy had told his son John: “I’m putting you on an allowance. You’re not allowed one more cent than you need to buy a landslide.”

Sahl didn’t waste time targeting the new Kennedy White House.


But Joe Kennedy viewed the comedian’s continued potshots at his son as disloyalty and, according to Sahl, the Kennedy patriarch applied pressure to have him silenced. And when he didn’t, Sahl wrote in “Heartland,” his 1976 memoir, “the work began to dry up.”

But things grew worse for Sahl’s career after John F. Kennedy’s assassination in 1963.

In 1966, while hosting a talk show on KTTV Channel 11 in Los Angeles, Sahl heard a news report that New Orleans Dist. Atty. Jim Garrison claimed to have discovered evidence that Kennedy’s assassination was the result of a conspiracy — contrary to the Warren Commission’s conclusion that Lee Harvey Oswald was the lone assassin.

Sent to New Orleans to interview Garrison, Sahl wound up volunteering to help him in his investigation. Off and on over the next few years, Sahl worked for free as a deputized member of Garrison’s assassination investigative team.

His association with the controversial group so damaged Sahl’s reputation that it cost him TV, recording and club jobs. His gross income, he later wrote, went from up to $1 million a year to $13,000.

When he did perform, Sahl often generated laughs by reading excerpts of what he considered “the more ludicrous aspects” of the Warren Commission report and sometimes brought all 26 volumes of the report onstage with him.

“I had them on the stage so people could see the physical size of the deception,” he told the Rocky Mountain News in 2001. “A lot of people did not want to hear it. But I thought it was the end of the country. But you know, this country never ends. It’s like a bad television show that they keep picking up for the next season.”

The Warren Commission report, Nachman wrote in his book, “so traumatized him that he never recovered his footing and still struggles against an ancient stigma that he’s a head case.”

But the Nixon administration and ensuing Watergate scandal provided a new trove of material and helped turn the tide for Sahl.

“When I made fun of Eisenhower, the college audiences thought that I was making chaos out of order,” he wrote in his memoir. “Twenty years later the college audiences are asking me to bring order to chaos: Tell me what it means, man.”


Sahl had a stint writing screenplays and contributing to various films and continued to offer his caustic and satiric insights on America. In 1987, he returned to Broadway for a few weeks in 1987 with a one-man show, “Mort Sahl on Broadway!” Late in life, he taught a class in critical thinking at Claremont McKenna College.

An only child born to an American father and a Canadian mother, Sahl was born May 11, 1927, in Montreal. After a series of moves, the family settled in Los Angeles when Sahl was 7, and his father became an administrator for the FBI.

A member of the ROTC while a student at Belmont High School during World War II, the 15-year-old Sahl lied about his age and joined the Army, a patriotic move that ended two weeks later when his mother tracked him down at Ft. MacArthur in San Pedro.

After graduating from high school, Sahl enlisted in the Army Air Forces and served with the 93rd Air Depot Group in Anchorage, where he edited the post newspaper and reportedly spent 83 consecutive days on KP duty for publishing insubordinate comments about his commanding officer.

“A few months under the heel of authority,” Sahl said of his time in the military, “killed it for me.”

After his discharge in 1947, Sahl attended Compton College on the GI Bill and then transferred to USC. He earned a bachelor’s degree in public administration in 1950 and was working on a graduate degree when he dropped out.

Over the next few years, he made a number of stabs at show business. He and a friend rented a theater, where Sahl wrote and staged experimental one-act plays. He also made his first brief foray into stand-up comedy in strip clubs under the unlikely name Cal Southern.

“I did all the stuff other people were doing,” he recalled in 1989. “I got a tie and a coat, and I talked about the movies and did imitations of movie stars. I didn’t dare to talk about what was really on my mind. That took a while. That takes some trust.”

While working as a used car salesman and a messenger, he wrote an unpublished novel and several short stories. He also attempted to sell material to other comedians, who told him his offerings weren’t commercial enough.

After his girlfriend, Sue Babior, left to attend UC Berkeley, Sahl headed north. He and Babior married in 1955 and divorced two and a half years later but not before she suggested that he audition at the hungry i.

The small club featured only singers and musicians at the time, but owner Enrico Banducci agreed to give Sahl a shot in late December, 1953.


Although he received the requisite laughs, having filled the club with his Berkeley friends on his opening night, Sahl faced a far less accepting crowd the next night: The audience booed and yelled, and pelted him with peanuts and pennies.

But Banducci let Sahl continue, and within a few months the outspoken comic was generating standing-room-only crowds.

Through the years, Sahl’s brand of humor remained unchanged.

When George W. Bush became president, Sahl pushed Eisenhower, Kennedy and Nixon aside and zeroed in on a new target.

“He’s born again, you know,” Sahl told a crowd in 2007, referring to the president newfound religious fervor. “Which would raise the inevitable question: If you were given the unusual opportunity to be born again, why would you come back as George Bush?”

Sahl was married and divorced three times. His only child, Mort Jr., died from a drug overdose when he was 19 in 1996.

Betty Lynn, Thelma Lou on ‘The Andy Griffith Show,’ dead at 95

Betty Lynn died peacefully on Saturday after a brief illness, The Andy Griffith Museum in Mount Airy, North Carolina, announced in a statement

Betty Lynn, the film and television actress best known for playing Barney Fife’s sweetheart Thelma Lou on "The Andy Griffith Show," has died. She was 95.

The star died peacefully on Saturday after a brief illness, The Andy Griffith Museum in Mount Airy, North Carolina, announced in a statement.

Lynn appeared as Thelma Lou in the hit series from 1961 until 1966. She reprised her role in "Return to Mayberry," the made-for-TV movie where she and Fife (Don Knotts) got married.

Born Elizabeth Ann Theresa Lynn on Aug. 29, 1926, in Kansas City, Missouri, Lynn began studying dance and acting at a young age. In 1944, she started performing as a part of USO Camp Shows.

Lynn took her talents overseas, performing in the USO for servicemembers during World War II. According to the museum, she was "thought to be the only American woman to have traveled the dangerous Burma Road during the war."

She moved to New York in the late 1940s and began acting in film, and later, television. While she had led a successful decadeslong career as an actress, fans remember her best for her role in "The Andy Griffith Show

Director and actor Ron Howard, who played Sheriff Andy Taylor’s son, Opie, paid tribute to Lynn in a tweet on Sunday stating she "brightened every scene she was in & every shooting day she was on set."

In her later years, Lynn participated in reunions with fellow cast members and various Mayberry-themed festivals. Knotts died in 2006 at age 81.

Lynn moved from Hollywood to Mount Airy in 2007 following a series of break-ins at her home. She expressed her love for the city to The Associated Press in 2015.

 "I think God’s blessed me," Lynn said at the time. "He brought me to a sweet town, wonderful people, and just said, ‘Now, that’s for you, Betty.’"

The museum shared that Lynn had been working on an autobiography before her death. The book is now expected to be released posthumously.

Lynn is survived by several cousins. A memorial service will take place in Culver City, California.  Details are to be released at a later date.

Abandoned in space in 1967, a U.S. satellite started transmitting again in 2013

 Abandoned in space in 1967, a U.S. satellite started transmitting again in 2013

Nov 28, 2017 Stefan Andrews

After learning that a satellite that’s been silent for decades has suddenly started sending out new signals you may, of course, suspect that the device has been hijacked by aliens now trying to communicate with Earth. Perhaps they’re warning us that they are planning an invasion!

It’s possible such thoughts ran through the mind of Phil Williams, an English amateur radio astronomer based in Cornwall, who was the first person to pick up the strange signals coming in as “ghostly sounds” in 2013. It turned out that the transmitted messages were coming from an abandoned LES1 satellite, but experts needed three more years to authenticate that this was indeed the American satellite that was “lost” in 1967.

LES1 was one of several units produced and launched into space by the Lincoln Laboratory at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), in between 1965 and 1967. These units, primarily designed for testing new satellite communication technology, were each labeled with numbers, running from LES1 to LES9.

As it turned out, the launch of the first four satellites did not go that well. LES1, in particular, failed to reach most of its planned objectives. Contact with the satellite was completely lost two years after its launch, and it has ever since revolved around our planet, staying entirely out of touch. Things went better for the later four, LES5 to LES9 units; the LES7 unit was canceled as the program was then coming to an end and there was no more funding for it.

What surprised everyone in 2013 is that LES1 started sending signals in repeats of every four seconds. Phil Williams has suggested that a failure in one of the device components is what perhaps caused it to start sending signals again.

The designated frequency of the signal is 237 MHz. However, the satellite manages to send the transmissions only when its solar panels are directly exposed to light. The signal reportedly ceases once the craft’s panels fall into the shadow of the satellite’s own body. “Tension in the solar panels jumps, and it can do the phantom signal,” Williams has stated.

It is probable that the satellite’s on-board battery is entirely diminished by now, so what powers the transmission of the signals is a bit of a mystery. As to whether LES1 poses any threat, there is apparently nothing to fear. This is yet one more piece of space junk spinning around in orbit.

What’s more striking is that the electronics used in LES1 were produced five decades ago and though they’ve been exposed to the severe conditions of space, they still appear to be in some sort of working order. And five decades ago is a long time in terms of the technology and its development.

LES1 was launched more than a decade before the probe Voyager-1 was launched into space to explore the outer realms of the solar system. And the electronics used back in the 1960s were way simpler than those used since, hence, perhaps, their durability.

The news of this out-of-date satellite coming back online after so much time staying silent has certainly surprised everyone within the scientific community. The satellite was launched February 11, 1965, from Cape Canaveral. It ceased sending signals just two years later. Still, this is not the only case of a satellite having been lost and then found again.

It also happened to the much more costly Solar and Heliospheric Observatory spacecraft (SOHO), which disappeared without a trace back in 1998. SOHO stopped sending signals while conducting its mission of observing the sun. NASA astronomers eventually located the lost craft and re-established contact with it as it was helplessly spinning in space.

In the case of SOHO, it was reportedly a glitch in the software that led to the craft’s malfunction. The satellite was eventually fully recovered, and it continued its set mission. But in the case of LES1, it all seems a lot more strange and way more unexpected as such an old piece of equipment had been long forgotten.


‘Lost in Space’ stars Angela Cartwright, Bill Mumy explain why hit ‘60s series ended: ‘There was no closure’


'Lost in Space' stars Angela Cartwright and Bill Mumy released a book about the series

By Stephanie Nolasco | Fox News

Angela Cartwright and Bill Mumy have reunited for a very special reason.

The former castmates from the ‘60s sci-fi series "Lost in Space" have teamed up to release a new book for fans titled "Lost (and Found) in Space2: Blast Off Into the Expanded Edition."

The pictorial memoir, which commemorates the 55th anniversary of the show’s second season debut, features over 925 photos including more than 600 newly found images. All the photographs were hand-selected by the TV siblings and many of them come from their collections.

Mumy, 67, and Cartwright, 69, spoke to Fox News about working together again, growing up in the spotlight, as well as their favorite memories from the set.

Fox News: What inspired the both of you to release this book now?

Bill Mumy: We’ve collaborated on quite a few projects over half-century and we have a close relationship… It just seemed like a natural time. So much has happened in the six, seven years regarding "Lost in Space" with the new Netflix series.

We were both fortunate enough to be a part of a show like this one. And honestly, the pandemic pretty much kept us in lockdown at our homes so we needed a good project to work on. We wanted to help others get through these times and make people happy.

Fox News: Looking back, what do you believe was the secret behind the show’s lasting success?

Angela Cartwright: I think it was a very interesting time in history. It was the psychedelic ‘60s. When we started the series, The Beatles were at the top of the charts with "I Feel Fine." And when we ended the series, they were recording "Helter Skelter."

And the show never stopped airing all over the world. It’s been in nonstop syndication since 1965. So a lot of people still tune in and watch it. I get letters all the time about how they grew up watching the series and they’re now sharing it with their families. I think it brings back a little bit of innocence from our childhoods. There’s not a lot on TV today that you can sit and watch with the whole family.

Fox News: Bill, what was your initial impression of Angela when you first met her on set?

Mumy: I was quite a seasoned professional before we started filming "Lost in Space." I started working when I was 5 and I was just shy of 11 when we started filming. And I had always had a crush on my female co-stars, such as Shirley Jones, Connie Stevens, Bridget Bardot, Elizabeth Montgomery and Barbara Eden. They were all beautiful blondes. But I must admit, when I saw Angela for the first time, it was powerful *laughs*… And I caught up. I’m taller than her now, so it all worked out.

Fox News: What about you Angela, what was it like working with Bill? You were also a child actress at the time.

Cartwright: Oh, it was great. I had just finished "Sound of Music." I had been working with other kids, which I loved. And in "Sound of Music" it very much felt like a family. So I just loved the energy that Bill had. And the two of us just hit it off. We were very adventurous together and we had a great time filming the show. I mean, to get up every morning and do what you love for a living, what more could someone ask for?

Mumy: One of the things that you might be alluding to is the fact that we started dating each other [long] after the series ended. And that was a nice phase in our history. We’ve been friends for a long time now. Many years.

Fox News: What’s your favorite memory from your time on set?

Mumy: Every day after lunch, the great Jonathan Harris, who played Dr. Zachary Smith, would hand out Tootsie Pops to the entire crew and cast, every day, to give us a little sugar perk, to keep our energies going. That was something I always looked forward to. We had such nice chemistry with the cast.

Bobby May, who was locked inside that claustrophobic robot, was very enthusiastic. We had a lot of fun together. I have nothing but great memories and feelings for the years we worked on the series. We still have a wonderful relationship years later. We’re still one big dysfunctional family. We’ve always kept in touch aside from making personal appearances at conventions. Our numbers may have dwindled a bit, but we’re still very much connected as a family. We still communicate with June Lockhart, who is 96.

And I love June Lockhart. She’s an amazing human being for sure. She was such an incredible wordsmith. She loved "Password" and she was even a guest on that show. She’s a very smart lady. She was so inquisitive all the time. She loved opera, the space program and rock ‘n’ roll. She brought the Allman Brothers to the studio when they were in a group called Hour Glass. She took me and Angela to the Whiskey-A-Go-Go. She got us tickets to see Simon & Garfunkel. June is truly a rock ‘n’ roll gal.

Fox News: What caused "Lost in Space" to end?

Mumy: That’s an interesting historical debate. There was no closure. There were no goodbyes. We had all been verbally told after the third season that we’d be back for a fourth season. In those days, a season was about 30 episodes. So there was no wrap party. We just said, "See you in six weeks" and went our way. There’s a lot of different theories about it, but ultimately the network wanted [TV producer] Irwin Allen to turn in a bunch of treatments for the fourth season and he didn’t get around to it.

There were some budget misunderstandings and it just got, well, lost in space. It went to the cornfield. We got the phone call around April 1968 that after a little over three years of working together that we wouldn’t be working together anymore. Angela and I continued to attend school together for another year and of course, we stayed close. But we didn’t see everybody else in the cast regularly for quite a long time. Luckily, we [later] reunited and have been hanging out a couple of times a year, pre-pandemic.

Fox News: Angela, was it difficult growing up in front of the camera?

Cartwright: No, I think it was easier because there wasn't social media at the time… There wasn’t this pressure to be a certain way. It was very different. There was a kind of innocence about that. I started when I was 3 and continued to work all through my teen and young adult years. I bowed out a little bit because I wanted to be a mom. It was never a drag. There wasn’t this competition. Now everybody wants to be in showbiz even if they haven’t studied acting. It’s a whole different scene these days.

Fox News: So it was easier to be a child star in those days?

Mumy: I don’t think that’s true. I’m not saying anything negative about my experiences at all because I very much enjoyed doing what I did. But whether it’s 1965 or 2021, that’s still a minor who has to go to work for nine or nine and-a-half hours. A minor has to get a minimum of three hours of schooling within that time and have a lunch break. Then you have to memorize your dialogue in advance and deliver it.  I don’t think it’s much different now.

Fox News: It’s been said the series inspired some fans to pursue careers in NASA.

Cartwright: Absolutely. Bill and I were invited to go and see the liftoff of the Discovery, which was an amazing experience… So many of the technicians told us how much they loved "Lost in Space" and how it inspired them to go into the space program. That’s something we hear over and over again. And I think that’s part of the show’s success.

Fox News: What do you make of the new Netflix revival?

Mumy: I think it’s great. It’s very much in sync with the original tone of "Lost in Space." If you look back at the first half of the first season, it was a pretty dark, science fiction story. But the network CBS aired the show during family hour so they started getting a lot of letters from parents saying it was too scary for little kids.

So "Lost in Space" started changing its tone somewhere around mid-Season 1. And the new Netflix series is very much in tune with the original vision. I got to play the original Dr. Smith in the Netflix series and Angela played Parker Posey’s mother… It was exciting for us to be a part of it and revisit the story again.

Fox News: What do you hope readers will get from the book?

Cartwright: A good time, some good memories… I hope it puts people in a happy place and I hope it satisfies the hardcore "Lost in Space" fans with seeing new photos and hearing new tales.

Mumy: … I think we’ve done a really good job of sharing our experiences of what it was like filming the show. I think it’s an interesting little pocket view into a show that has made people happy for over 50 years.

the Monkees press conference in Brisbane, Australia,

 the Monkees press conference in Brisbane, Australia, Sept. 22, 1968. When a reporter who clearly disliked the group started asking questions like ““When do you think you might break up and try something like music?” Davy got fed up and poured a glass of water over the reporter’s head. The reporter then poured a glass of water over Davy’s head. 

A must to have