Back in the 1960’s there was a popular television show called The Porter Wagoner Show that played mostly in the southern United States and in rural areas. This show had music by Porter Wagoner and his band The Wagonmasters. The show pre-dated the more mainstream Hee-Haw. The format was kind of a musical variety show with songs by Porter and the gang.
The guy on the standup bass was usually assigned the comedy role. Porter Wagoner had several different bass players/comic relief. One of the most popular was Curly Harris.
Curly had a long face and the demeanor of an undertaker. His comedy routine was real cornball humor for country music fans who are typical working-class rural Americans. Today they are the NASCAR fans.
One thing I can say about Curly Harris was he was FUNNY.
Nowadays, standup comics are expected to be sharp witted and quick. This probably started with George Carlin and his brand of observational humor. Carlin made ironic observations about the world. One memorable line was: “Have you ever noticed that, when driving, anyone going slower than you is an idiot, and anyone going faster than you is a maniac.” Stuff that makes you think as well as laugh.
Jerry Seinfield followed that tradition of wry wit. He has a very philosphical style of humor. But the intelligence is there right out in front.
So today we have comedians like Chris Rock and Dave Chappelle. You would not want to get into a battle of wits with these guys. They are too sharp and would tear you to shreds.
I think its safe to say that most standup comics are probably the smartest guys in the room, and they use humor to skewer their hapless victims. Think of John Stewart or Stephen Colbert.
Then we go back to the cornball comedy of Curly Harris in the 1950s and early 1960s. Basically he played the fool. Most of his jokes were self-deprecating and made fun of his bad looks, his poor talent, his lack of intelligence or his drinking, or those characteristics found in close family members.
Well it turns out they archeologists were digging through the basement of the old Ryder Auditorium in Nashville, Tenessee, which was the site of original Grand Old Opry. This would have to be ground zero for cornball country humor. They unearthed several scribbled pages pages of an authentic Curly Harris comedy routine. Saturday Night Live, you can’t touch this stuff. This is pure comedy gold, country style.
So without further ado, here is a transcription of one of Curly Harris’ original standup comedy routines. It’s old fashioned cornpone humor, but it is some funny stuff. There is nothing like this on television today, thank goodness.
Curly Harris (singing):
I want a girl
Just like the girl
That married Eddie Fisher…
Thanks y’all so much, it’s nice to be here.
Tell you the truth, with my kind of talent, it’s nice to be anywhere!
Uh, Eddie Fisher, who was that girl her married?
I forgot who she was.
I ain’t forgot what she looked like, though, I’ll tell you that.
Oh, I wouldn’t give her a second thought…
…guarantee you the first one will be enough!
I think she’s also known as the sweater girl.
If you don’t know what a sweater girl is, she’s a girl that pulls your eyes over the wool!
I used to go with a girl back home, down in Georgia.
She wasn’t exactly a sweater girl…
In fact, that’s the skinniest girl I ever seen.
In fact, that’s the only girl I ever seen that had two backs!
Instead of a sweater girl, we all called her a swatter girl.
Every time you’d see her you wanted to walk right up and swat her once upside of the head.
Speaking of being back home, I was back home there a while back, and got to visit there.
Ah, it’s nice to always get home, I walked down the road to home, there, and went up the path.
Got up there in front of the house and there laying on the front steps was my old dog.
There laying on the front porch was my old Dad.
Daddy’s layin’ there with his head in a trash basket.
He was, and I picked him up, stood him up, shook him
and said, “Daddy, what’s the matter here? What are you doing with your head in that trash basket?
He said, “Son, it’s my head I can throw it away if I want to.”
I propped him up, there and I said, “Daddy, You’ve been drinkin’ a little bit.”
He said, “Yes, but…”
I said, “Well Momma told me you didn’t drink but just seldom.”
He said, “That’s right, up in my room I got a whole case of I.W. Seldom!”
I said, “I thought you didn’t drink anymore.”
He said, “I don’t, and I don’t drink any less either!”
I left him awhile there and went on down the hall there to visit with Momma for a while, you know, she’s down there by herself, all the boys and girls and the family all of us have done left home, you know, with all my brothers and sisters married, all of them married except me.
I had a wife one time, but her husband come and got her!
I went in there and Mom was writin’ to one of my brothers, she was writin’ in shorthand.
She got two little bitty short hands…
She wanted to know where Daddy went. I said, “He’s up there back in his room.”
She said, “ Go down there and see about him, somethin’ might’ve happened to him.”
I went down the hall there, and just as I got to the door of his room. I opened the door and smoke come a-pourin’ out and I looks over there and he’s laying in the bed and it was on fire, you know.
I went and shook him and I got him up, I said there. “Daddy, the bed’s on fire, I warned you about smokin’ in bed.
He said, “I didn’t set it on fire. It was a-burnin’ when I got in it!”
I told him to take a few drinks once in a while to steady his nerves.
He can stay so steady most of the time he can’t move.
He told him down there at one time for drinkin’ and driivin’.
The police stopped him and said
“Mr. Harris what do you mean by drinkin’ and drivin’?
He said, “I got to drive, too drunk to walk!”
He says, “You’re going the wrong way on a one-way street. Where ya goin’?”
Daddy says, “I don’t know, looks like I’m late. Everybody’s a-comin’ back!”
Deputy says, “This is a one-way street, didn’t you see all them arrows?”
Daddy says, “I didn’t even see the Indians!”
“Mr. Harris, we’re going to have to take you down and lock you up.”
He took him down to the courthouse
And the judge he said, “Mr. Harris, you’re brought here for drinkin’ ”
Daddy said, “Well let’s get on with it!”
Judge said, “Order in the court.”
Daddy said, “I’ll have a beer, please.”
The judge said, “Mr. Harris, do you ever work?”
Daddy said, “Oh, I do now and then.”
Then the judge said, “Well what do you do?”
Daddy said, “Oh, I do this and that.”
Judge said, “Well, where do you work?”
Daddy said, “Oh, here and there.”
Daddy had him all confused there , he liked to give the jury thirty days.
He didn’t, the judge said, “You smart alec, I’m gonna lock you up.”
Daddy said, “Well, when I’m gonna get out, Judge?”
Judge said, “Oh, sooner or later.”
Thank y’all so much for your sympathy.
I’ve got to be runnin’ along to make room for some talent.
Before I do go I’d like to leave y’all with a little thought for the day.
Somethin’ to think about.
I’ll be back later, to help with Porter and all the boys
Here’s a little thought:
Remember, there’s more than one way to skin a cat.
But whichever way you use, the cat ain’t gonna think very much of it.