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Jackie Vernon - A Wet Bird Never Flies At Night 1964

On: Saturday, July 9, 2011

Jackie Vernon
Ralph Verrone
New York City, New York, USA
Mar 29 1924 – Nov 10 1987 age 63
Official Site

Vernon was known for his gentle, low-key delivery and self-deprecating humor. He has been hailed as "The King of Deadpan." He was obviously a major influence on current sardonic stand-up comedians such as Steven Wright and Mitch Hedberg. His signature opening line was, "To look at me now, it's hard to believe I was once considered a dull guy."
Early on in the 1950s, according to Dick Brooks, Vernon bounced around the country working whatever jobs he could find, mostly in strip joints. Even then he had a unique style, often cracking up members of the band with his inside humor. He decided to give New York a try, and hung around Hanson's Drug Store, a meeting place for small time comedians and acts in the theater section of New York, where we would meet after making the rounds of agents who had their offices in the area. Brooks says, "I saw the original draft of the 'I used to be dull' routine that was written by Danny Davis, a hang around writer, who was later killed in a freak car crash while he was in a florist shop." He was picked up by manager of comedians, Willie Weber, who was my manager as well at one time. We would follow each other in and out of clubs we were working in New York, Baltimore, etc. There were a lot of small jobs booked by agents like Irving Charnoff. Weber was an influential manager who also helped catapult the careers of Don Rickles, Jackie Gleason, Pat Henry, Pat Cooper and others. Rickles mentions him fondly in his biography, "I was fortunate to find a manager who really cared. God bless Willie Weber. He was a second father..." Jackie tried out for a comedy TV talent show that was popular at the time, and his career went into overdrive." Brooks says, "As I recall, he was married eight or nine times." Brooks then went on to open two successful venues, The Magic Towne House in New York City, where he also published Hocus Pocus magazine, and the Houdini Museum in the Pocono area of Pennsylvania.
In the 1960s, Jackie occasionally worked as the opening act for Judy Garland and was a regular fixture on the Merv Griffin show, where he informed the host that his original stage name had been "Nosmo King," which he had seen on a sign. He would take up a topic like prisons in a monologue and begin with, "Hello, prison fans."
Vernon was also known to perform unique and darker sketches, such as his ultimately tragic attempt to turn a watermelon into a housepet. Plagued by strange occurrences and misfortune, Jackie would tell of traveling all the way to see the Grand Canyon, only to find it was closed. Then there was the time he went to see a fistfight, and it broke out into a hockey game. Vernon liked to quote an ersatz philosopher named Sig Sakowitz with the unexplainable motto, "A wet bird never flies at night." There actually was a Sig Sakowitz, a Chicago-based radio talk show host.

One of his early bits was the "Vacation Slide Show." There were no slides visible; they were presumably offscreen as he described them, using a hand-clicker to advance to each "slide": :(click) Here I am, tossing coins at the toll booth. :(click) Here I am, under the car, looking for the coins. :(click) Here I am, picking up a hitchhiker. :(click) Here I am, hitchhiking. :(click) Here's the hitchhiker picking me up with my own car. Luckily, she didn't recognize me.
He also told this story, an inspiration to scam artists and "phishers" everywhere: :One day I saw an ad in the paper that said, "Send me a dollar and I'll tell you how I make money." I sent the guy a dollar. I got a postcard back that said, "Thanks for the dollar. This is how I make money!"
Jackie was once a trumpet player and often carried a cornet with him as a prop during his stand-up routines. As with Henny Youngman and his violin, it was seldom actually played. When he guested on a summer variety program hosted by Al Hirt in 1965, he came on with his cornet and said, "I play like I'm Hirt."
Vernon was a popular figure on The Ed Sullivan Show and other variety shows, where he often ended his act by blowing a cornet and saying, "I think I hurt myself!"
Vernon often appeared on the "Celebrity Roasts" that were a staple of 1970s television, as well as being a fixture on the dais at the original live Friars Club Roasts before and after the televised versions. Vernon's signature "deadpan" expression and delivery often had the roast audiences laughing hysterically, long before the punch line of the jokes. Vernon's X-rated story-style jokes about people engaging in extreme sexual depravity became legend, often with the added tag line, "and I thought to myself... what a neat guy!"

Vernon also memorably starred in Wayne Berwick's 1983 cult film Microwave Massacre, in which he plays a lascivious builder who kills his wife for bossing him around and making him too many microwaved "gourmet" meals. The film makes good use of Vernon's comic abilities, and is celebrated for his one-liner upon preparing to cut off a prostitute's head with an axe: "I'm so hungry, I could eat a whore!" Source: wikipedia

01 Recitation
02 Darwin's Theory
03 Dracula
04 The Dull Guy
05 Childhood
06 The Vindictive Complex
07 Lone ranger And Tonto
08 The Old Wise Man Or A Wet Bird Never Flies At Night
09 The Man Who Changed My Life
10 Tribute To Sig Sakowicz
11 My Grandfather's Last Words
12 The Strange Dream
13 Slides
14 The Parade

 

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