Podcast Roundup

Schnauzer Logic: Mort Sahl = intellectual crack

Schnauzer Logic PodcastSchnauzer Logic, Episode 51

Date: April 12, 2007

Full episode: Schnauzer Logic, Episode 51

Summary: Mort Sahl is the cool, cerebral comic, a man whose brand of social and political commentary only went out of style when Americans decided they’d rather shop at the mall than question authority.

It’s a wonder a guy like that was ever in style.

Talk to me: Select the comments link at the end of this entry!

“You’re right about the line shifting,” Sahl told Schnauzer Logic host Robin Goldstein. “It’ll get closer until you won’t be able to say anything, and you’ll forget what you believed in. Because you’re afraid of getting your throat cut.”

He recounted “the great American disclaimer — my opinions are not necessarily my own.”

Opinions just get people in trouble

Or better to have no opinions at all. Witness a frightened Rich Little, the sacrificial entertainer at Saturday’s White House Correspondents Dinner, serving up crude Osama jokes along with the flop sweat. “Is the President laughing?” Little asked rhetorically.

Mort Sahl on cover of Time MagazineSahl first walked onstage at the hungry i in San Francisco in 1953 and began to talk about the stories in the San Francisco Examiner. He made the cover of Time Magazine, wrote speeches for John F. Kennedy, and most agreed he was very funny until suddenly, he wasn’t funny. He was just a sharp-tongued pain in the ass.

“I think if Mort represents anything to me, it’s that first voice that says, Let’s speak truth to power,” said Sean Meehan, in studio with Robin.

“We’re stuck in the middle of the keyboard like Dave Brubeck!,” Sahl said, working in a razor-sharp jazz reference. “There’s not a lot of devastating, wicked political satire that draws blood. The idea’s to sell you the myth that it’s dangerous to think for yourself, when in fact it’s the only hope!”

Target: Richard E. Nixon

Mort Sahl on stage“It starts with deep belief. Kennedy said to me once, ‘We started this thing because my father could afford it. And once I met (Richard) Nixon, it became like the Holy Grail!'”

So here’s why Sahl, who will turn 80 on May 11, still takes the stage with a copy of the New York Times (his current news Bible):

“Performers always succeed when they say what’s on the unconscious mind of the audience. The audience knows all this is true but they’re not poets and they don’t know how to say it!

“You’re supposed to be able to do that or you shouldn’t be on the stage addressing them. If they’re smarter than you, you shouldn’t even be there!”

The hits keep coming

Sahl, notably absent from popular media during the past few decades, was clearly pleased with the opportunity to exchange ideas with the Schnauzer Logic Morning Zoo. And the giddy hosts were justifiably delighted with their guest.

“The more you talk, the more you want to to talk,” Robin said. “This is kind of like intellectual crack!”

Speaking truth to power  (0:53).

Mort’s first political joke  (0:16).

The unconscious mind of the audience  (0:16).

America’s stuck like Brubeck  (0:38).

The line is shifting  (0:11).

My opinions are not necessarily my own  (0:21).

The myth of dependence  (0:16).

JFK and Nixon  (0:35).

What’s ‘excuse me’?  (1:18).

Mort’s like intellectual crack  (0:27).

Mort hears the name Ken Turetzky  (0:14).

Posted in: Profiles at 1:00 am Sun, Apr 22, 2007.

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