For National Spouses Day: The Funny Side

A post to jointly celebrate National Spouses Day, and the 50th anniversary of a show called The Funny Side (1971-72).

This short-lived sketch comedy/musical revue show seemed very much inspired by Dave Berg’s “The Lighter Side Of…” series for Mad Magazine, mixed with Rowan and Martin’s Laugh-In. It featured five sets of married couples in black-out sketches illustrating the trials and tribulations of modern life, all within the timid tv standards of the day. Most of the episodes were hosted by Gene Kelly, although one was hosted by Jack Benny, and one by Alan King. Each episode would have a theme (i.e. consumers, advertising) for the sketches and songs to riff on, and each couple represented a stereotypical demographic: Burt Mustin and Queenie Smith were an elderly couple, Cindy Williams and Michael Lembeck (Harvey’s son) were a teenage couple, John Amos and Teresa Graves were a black couple, Warren Berlinger and Pat Finley were a working class couple, and the team of Dick Clair and Jenna McMahon, who were known for doing a similar husband-and-wife act on The Ed Sullivan Show and The Dean Martin Show, were a wealthy couple.

Clair, who was gay, later died of AIDS, and was cryogenically preserved. That sad, true fact is an example of how real life can be much more interesting than formulaic, tame television comedy, at least in those days. Folks did not tune in to The Funny Side, and it went off the air in just 13 weeks.

To find out about  the history of variety entertainment, including TV variety, consult No Applause, Just Throw Money: The Book That Made Vaudeville Famous,