The Primitive Sounds of Henny Youngman

Henny Youngman

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The Primitive Sounds of Henny Youngman Review

by Greg Adams

Henny Youngman had a very distinctive style of standup comedy that alternated rapid-fire one-liners with conventional jokes of the "a guy walked into a bar" variety. Youngman filled the space in between by dissonantly sawing on a violin -- another one of his trademarks. Many of his jokes have become comedic standards or even clich├ęs ("Take My Wife, Please!"), but even when his material was inconsistent, the fast pace held the audience's attention. The Primitive Sounds of Henny Youngman was recorded live at St. Louis' Celebrity Club in 1959 and features Youngman's shtick in all its glory. The absurd album cover is itself something of a kitsch classic, featuring a jungle shot of Youngman-as-Tarzan bowing his fiddle with a baseball bat. As suggested by titles such as "A Funny Thing Happened to Me" and "People Are Crazy Nowadays," Youngman's act covers well-worn territory, but his style makes it unique. Youngman was a memorable and influential comedian, and his influence is particularly felt with that latter-day King of the One-Liners, Rodney Dangerfield.