Sunday, February 16, 2014

What Might've Been: The Comedy Shop (1978)

Talk & variety shows have been havens for stand-up comics since the dawn of television. Mounting a show strictly about stand-ups, however, is a different animal altogether.

HBO had its annual Young Comedians specials, showcasing up and coming talent. In syndicated broadcast television, veteran comic Norm Crosby was tapped to host The Comedy Shop, the title of which was a riff on the real-life Comedy Store club in Los Angeles. The guests were a mix of veteran and future stars, the latter of whom were already making the rounds.

Comedy Shop lasted three seasons (1978-81), but where I live, the local station kept moving the show around, throughout the three years, so there was no stable time slot, which proved costly. In recent years, an independent distributor, The Peter Rodgers Organization, acquired the rights, and was able to place the series on Retro a couple of years back as a Saturday afternoon entry, but then Retro was pulled from local cable before I'd get a chance to reflect back on this show.

Ageless malaprop master Crosby found room for as many as 5-6 guests for each show. Let's take a step back in time for this sample episode, with Rip Taylor (The $1.98 Beauty Show) as the opening act. The lineup otherwise is dotted with early appearances by the likes of Gallagher and Jay Leno.

A year later, the game show Make Me Laugh was revived, with entertainer Bobby Van as host, but that was dumped after just 1 season. In the late 80's, MTV launched the Half-Hour Comedy Hour, which revived the same concept of Comedy Shop, and lasted about as long. Fox tried out Comic Strip Live, but that was a one year wonder as well.

Rating: B.

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