Morey Amsterdam

The Next One Will Kill You!

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Actor and comedian Morey Amsterdam -- perhaps best known for his role of Buddy Sorrell on the Dick Van Dyke Show -- issued a pair of musical comedy long-players during the early 1960s. Each uniquely capture the self-proclaimed "human joke machine's" quick wit, as well as his impeccable sense of comedic timing and delivery. The Next One Will Kill You! (1963) -- chronologically the second of the two -- features Amsterdam reeling off a non-stop cascade of one-liners and punch lines behind an uncredited studio orchestra. By modern (or even hip mid-'60s) standards, the jokes are admittedly corny and the instrumental backing has all the personality of ersatz elevator music. However, that lack of pretension is a portal to a much simpler and less profane era -- which is precisely what makes it so appealing. The happy-go-lucky opener "Yuk-A-Puc" might be most notable for its retelling of a joke that is familiar to anyone who has seen the film Caddyshack (1980). In the movie, Ted Knight's character of Judge Elihu Smails gives a small toast before his wife christens their new sloop "The Flying Wasp." Beginning with the immortal phrase, "It's easy to grin when your ship comes in..." a variation of the same gag opens the album. The effervescent melody is used effectively, as the lack of singing during what would typically be considered the verse allows Amsterdam plenty of room to weave his compact yarns and otherwise tall tales. On "My Psychiatrist Says," the artist offers his take on an evergreen comedic topic of psychoanalysis. The sheer amount of material makes it the longest bit on the package -- clocking in at nearly seven minutes. Granted, the vast majority of the zingers date back to Amsterdam's vaudeville days. Yet his uncanny conversational style and the everyman aspect he brings to the performance punch the hackneyed bits up for an undeniable freshness. "Big Molly O'Toole" is more laugh-infused with a melodic take-off of the traditional Irish melody "Cockles and Mussels." Two of the more surreal selections are much more in line with Amsterdam's slightly off center personality -- the observational "I Wonder What a Baby Thinks" and the uptempo musical poem "A Man's Best Friend Is His Nose." "Drunks, Inc." tackles another topic that -- in pre-politically correct America -- was a perpetual source of funny stories of the Nation's soused constituency. "Baby Down the Drain" dates back to English cabaret reviews, although classic rock fans might recognize the contents via Cream's "Mother's Lament." Wrapping up the festivities is "Onions" aka "Onions and Enchiladas." Amsterdam takes listeners south of the border for some good natured ribbing that -- again, to politically correct ears -- might not be deemed suitable to the easily offended. In 2009, Collectors' Choice Music issued The Next One Will Kill You! on CD, making it available for the first time in well over four decades.

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