Shelley Berman

Inside Shelley Berman

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This Grammy-winning debut comedy album from standup Shelley Berman is a schizophrenic reflection of the impending neurosis apparent in the burgeoning post-World War II generation. Unlike the humor of his contemporaries and fellow satirists Lenny Bruce and Mort Sahl, Berman took his cues from the psychology of human behavior and its resulting reactionary nature. Owing to the somewhat universal target at which his parodies are directed, it is no surprise that Inside became the first comedy LP to sell in excess of 100,000 copies. The material is split between Berman's trademark one-sided phone conversations ("Department Store," "The Morning After," and "Dedicated to Parents") and more traditional observational humor ("Airlines," "Buttermilk," and "Embarrassing Moments"). Because the humor transcends genre, race, and to some degree generation, Berman is able to incorporate the audience's natural reaction into "A Little Game" that he calls Nostalgics. The game commences when a word or phrase is said that conjures up definitive "sweet" memories that recall a specifically good time or period in one's life. "Go to jail...go directly to jail...do not pass go...do not collect $200," is given as a timeless example. Equally as enlightened are the telephone bits, which again rely on the comedy of reaction. Arguably the best known of these is the "Department Store" sketch -- which gained national exposure via both Jack Paar and Steve Allen's Tonight Show in 1958 and 1959, respectively. Here an office worker -- presumably located in a metropolitan skyscraper -- attempts to rescue a woman who is hanging from the window ledge across the street. The series of well-meaning conversations that eventually lead to the woman's safe return inside the store are equally hilarious and thought-provokingly poignant.

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