As a kid, I used to watch The Ed Sullivan Show every Sunday. I was no fan of the highbrow and the circus stuff, and the musical acts ranged from great to uninteresting. But the one thing I always looked forward to were the comedians, and my favorite of them was Jackie Vernon*.
Vernon worked his way up from strip clubs to becoming a TV headliner with by creating a persona that always brought laughs. He was a short, dumpy man, and Vernon worked off that by using the deadest of deadpan styles. His voice was always a monotone, and he would do his routines without showing any noticeable expression other than hangdog.
My favorite was his "vacation slides" routine. Vernon would come on with just a little clicker and would pretend to be doing a slide show of his trip to the Everglades:
- <click>Here's the guide I got. His name was Guido. Very famous guide, in fact he was known as Guido the Guide.
- <click>Here's Guido the Guide leading me around a bed of quicksand.
- <click>Here's Guido the Guide from the waist up.
- <click>That's his hat right there.
- <click>Here's the rescue party rushing to his aid.
- <click>Here's the rescue party from the waist up.
- <click>And here we have a lot of hats and ropes and things.
- <click>Here's my next guide, Son of Guido the Guide.
- <click>That's his hat.
Vernon did record a couple of albums, A Wet Bird Never Flies at Night and A Man and His Watermelon, which sold adequately but didn't make a big splash. He also never managed to break into films, other than a few bit parts.
But he did make one indelible mark. The team of Rankin/Bass chose him to do the voice of the main characters in one of their perennial Christmas classics: Frosty the Snowman. I'm not a big fan of Frosty,** so I rarely watch it, and it is hardly representative of Vernon's comedy.
Vernon was very successful on the various "Celebrity Roasts" of the 70s, his style making the most out of all his material.
Vernon continued his career in clubs and nightclubs, but by the 70s, with the death of the variety show, he was seen less and less on television. He died in 1987, leaving behind memories of great comedy.
*Not to be confused with Jackie Mason, who was banned from the show, supposedly for giving Ed the finger on air, though he denies it.
**Rankin/Bass were very uneven and usually awful, with the exceptions of Rudolph and The Last Unicorn.