Mort Sahl and Dick Gregory: True comedy legends at The Rrazz Room, July 21–26
By Bruce Bellingham
Not all of Dick Gregory’s and Mort Sahl’s comedy is all that deadly serious. A while back, Mort said to me, “Did you hear that Hefner had an accident in Brentwood? The paramedics immediately put him on a Viagra drip.”
But as philosopher kings of stand-up, much of their material is thoughtful, biting mockery of the political landscape. We certainly need it in these times that defy explanation. Perhaps that’s why people tune into Jon Stewart to get a take on what’s going on.
All the more reason to go to the Rrazz Room at the Hotel Nikko to see Mort Sahl and Dick Gregory from July 21–26. Mort was one of the first to make a comedy album, and the first nonmusician to win a Grammy. He got his start in San Francisco, where Herb Caen was greatly responsible for Mort’s rise to fame. “I signed a movie contract on a pile of wine boxes backstage at the hungry i,” Mort once told me. In 1959, he appeared on the cover of Time magazine. He wrote jokes for three American presidents and wrote 18 screenplays.
Dick Gregory also became a cultural fixture during the 1960s. Hired as a fill-in performer by Hugh Hefner at the Playboy Club in Chicago, Gregory stayed on for three years. He’s a crusader for racial justice, good nutrition, and the elimination of drug addiction. Because his material was always substantive, audiences soon learned that black comedians could escape the limitations of racist stereotypes. Both Sahl and Gregory garnered reputations for being “thinking man’s comics.”
They both make the connection between what a myth means and what a man stands for. Sahl is always referring to the movies – that is, he’s always referring to the people who wrote the great movies – the ones who were sent to the wilderness for being Commies or cast out for being outcasts.
We once talked about his old friend, Sam Peckingpah, who would take Mort into a bar and order four drinks for himself just to get started.
In Peckinpah’s Ride the High Country, an aging Joel McCrea explains to an aging Randolph Scott, “All I want is to enter my house justified.”
These two great artists have entered their houses justified. Check out the house in the Hotel Nikko.
Political satirist Mort Sahl & activist-comedian Dick Gregory: The Rrazz Room, Hotel Nikko, 222
Mason Street (at O’Farrell); July 21–26, 8 p.m. (Sunday at 5 p.m.); tickets $45–$50 at www.therrazzroom.com, 866-468-3399, www.ticketweb.com.