Comedy Tonight: Beware of Greeks Bearing Gifts

Continuing on the theme of political comedy albums (hey, this is an election year, you know), here’s one that centers on the marriage between Jackie Kennedy and Aristotle Onassis. For those of you not around or unaware at the time, the exchanged vows between a former First Lady (only months after the assassination of Robert Kennedy) and a Greek shipping magnate, who was known to have a long-running affair with opera diva Maria Callas, was not met with a lot of public gratitude at the time. I can’t help but think some of this animosity runs through this album. The title is pretty mean-spirited and the tracks were recorded on November 24, 1968–exactly 5 years and a day from when Jackie became a widow for the first time.

In Beware of Greeks Bearing Gifts, Susan Anspach plays Jackie Kennedy Onassis and Joe Silver plays Aristotle Onassis. Admittedly, this is one of the weaker entries from producers Bob Booker and George Foster, the ones responsible for the monumental The First Family comedy albums starring Vaughan Meader. Joining in the writing credits with Booker and Foster are long-time gag writers Sheldon Keller and Howard Albrecht. Keller was an Emmy-nominated writer for Sid Caesar’s classic comedy show Caesar’s Hour and also contributed to other shows like M*A*S*H. Albrecht’s main contribution was as a writer of one-liners for Dean Martin’s celebrity roasts. However, both men were involved in writing and (Keller) directing the brain-melting, jaw-dropping, logic-defying TV special Paul Lynde at the Movies from 1979, in which the has-been comic appears in skits parodying the top movies of the day. Hunt that one down–it’s truly one of the worst comedy specials of the 1970’s.

Much of the humor for Beware of Greeks Bearing Gifts derives from Jackie’s social status and Catholicism–by 1968, very well worn topics–and Aristotle as being extremely rich and penny-pinching. Anspach and Silver come out the best here, proving they’re very capable actors, even with mediocre material. Anspach has made many movies, most notably Five Easy Pieces, and still appears on screen. Silver has also made many appearances on stage and screen (Tony-nominated for Lenny in 1972 and appeared in the movie Shivers) with a memorable “foghorn” voice. He died of cancer in 1989.

The Bride to Be
Momma
Getting Ready for the Wedding
The Wedding
The Press Conference
The Disagreement
The Tailor
The Telephone Call
A Quiet Evening at Home
The Big Fix
The Paparazzi
Sisters
Chairman of the Board
A Typical Morning
My Husband, the Captain
The Dinner
Gratitude
A Visit to New York
The Games People Play
Man of Action

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