Anybody who wrote for Jack Paar, Bob Hope, Danny Thomas and Sid Caesar in their heydays, palled around with Mel Brooks and Carl Reiner and lived to tell funny stories about it deserves all the kudos this biz has to offer. So good for the Humanitas org for giving its Kieser Award to Larry Gelbart. His resume includes everything from radio and Broadway shows to the small-screen adaptation of “MASH” to HBO’s “Barbarians at the Gate,” “Weapons of Mass Distraction,” Showtime’s “Mastergate” and another very funny HBO telepic from a few years back, “And Starring Pancho Villa as Himself.” He’s good at slaying pomposity and mendacity, without being mean or vulgar, and his work almost always has something deeper to say about whatever slice of the human condition he’s examining at the time. One piece of Gelbart-ana that’s ripe for DVD revival is “Mastergate,” his 1992 parody of the Iran-Contra hearings (or more accurately a parody of TV coverage of Iran-Contra hearings). The 90-minute pic boasted a dynamite cast, including James Coburn, Tim Reid, Ed Begley Jr., Buck Henry, Hy Averback, Bruno Kirby, Ben Stein, Robert Guillaume, Pat Morita, Dennis Weaver, David Ogden Stiers, Jerry Orbach and Henry Jones. Variety at the time called the telepic’s dialogue “priceless” and noted that “underneath this satire is the very serious point that Washington is engaged in an endless series of shenanigans followed by a pointless series of hearings to investigate the shenanigans.” Sound familiar? Here’s a clip, courtesy of YouTube.
So congrats to Larry, and let’s hope he brings a good anecdote or two about his long, long career to this year’s Humanitas awards luncheon on June 26.