Milton Berle’s 1974 documentary, “Mad Mad World of Comedy”

Here’s something for your (TBT) Throwback Thursday files.

Within the opening minute of Milton Berle’s Mad Mad Mad World of Comedy (made and aired in 1974-1975), we see Laurel & Hardy in their later years do a classic joke in public, followed immediately by Milton Berle doing the same joke on TV. Uncle Miltie at least had the chutzpah to call himself out for joke-stealing in his own documentary, didn’t he?

That’s not all that’s amusing and amazing about this hour-plus TV special Berle hosted on comedy from The Masquers Club in Hollywood.

“Was that funny? Did you laugh? Why do any of us laugh? Some of my friends and I will be answering these questions very shortly,” Berle says, sitting and staring straight us through the camera lens. “You’ll also be seeing some of the funniest men and women in the world.”

As of the mid-1970s, that is.

You’ll also see footage from Charlie Chaplin, Laurel & Hardy, Groucho Marx and the Marx Brothers, Bob Hope, Nichols & May, Lenny Bruce, Burns & Allen, Jackie Gleason, Martin & Lewis, Will Rogers and Buster Keaton.

Between clips, Berle interviews Dick Martin about Laugh-In, silent film comedian Eddie Quillan, Mort Sahl on political satire, and Pat Buttram on the concept and emergence of country comedy.

As my friend Kliph Nesteroff pointed out on his site, Classic Television Showbiz, “This is surely the only time you’ll ever see Milton Berle interview Mort Sahl about Lenny Bruce.”

How can you pass that up? Set aside 65 minutes and check this out.

Sean L. McCarthy

Editor and publisher since 2007, when he was named New York's Funniest Reporter. Former newspaper reporter at the New York Daily News, Boston Herald and smaller dailies and community papers across America. Loves comedy so much he founded this site.

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