Introducing The Guests In Song

Here’s a clip I found that showcases a fun way of introducing the guests on a talk/variety show. At the start of Milton Berle’s colour prime-time special from 1963, instead of using an announcer, he sings the introductions of all his guests, and has each one of them sing a parody of a popular song to introduce themselves. (Laurence Harvey singing “Put On a Happy Face,” and so on.) It can’t be an original technique, because it’s Berle and nothing he ever did was original, but it’s so wonderfully full of the style, music and clothes of the era.


Although Milton Berle’s popularity was on the decline by then (NBC gave him specials because they’d canceled his series), this is the kind of show the Mad Men were watching on TV. And it’s very different from the way celebrities are treated on today’s variety and talk shows. Even Leno’s 10 o’clock show will have to have a little less respect for celebrities than was common in the ’50s and ’60s.  Every celebrity who made a guest appearance in those days was given a certain amount of deference to their on-screen images (the idea is that if you’ve seen Laurence Harvey on the screen, this is the way you’d assume he would be in real life), whereas a celebrity who goes on a show today is expected to cut through the on-screen image and create a new, more down-to-earth image (which may be just as fake as the one on the big screen).

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