Richard Nixon inspired a slew of comedy albums that were more acerbic than previous ones (I’ve noticed) in part because his paranoid personality was an easier target than Lyndon Johnson’s more amiable public persona. Of course, years of domestic turmoil from Vietnam didn’t help matters, so with the growth of FM radio, comedy albums took more chances. By the time the early 70’s rolled around and Nixon was caught up with scandals, the good-natured ribbing of earlier comedy albums I’ve uploaded on this blog gave way to sharper edged razors.
Such is the case with this great album, Funny Farm. In it, Alen Robin, who had previously recorded the extremely popular comedy album Welcome to the LBJ Ranch! (it was, at the time, the second most popular comedy album in recorded history–only The First Family with Vaughn Meader sold more), used snippets of politicians’ voices in order to pattern a skit he’s used a number of times. He plays a psychiatrist with a roster of men who need his help for any number of conditions, most of them challenging their manhoods, you might say. This masterpiece has Robin deftly communicating with several clients all at once and even has each of them “talking” to each other as well.
Robin is one of the unsung heroes of political comedy. At one time the head writer for The Tonight Show, he’s recorded a few good and a few great political comedy albums (Funny Farm being the best IMHO) with his cohort Earle Doud and also solo using his snippets to “interview” anyone from Mayor Ed Koch to Ronald Reagan. Jay Leno uses this type of edited technique for his “interviews” on the current format of The Tonight Show. It all goes back to Robin.
Don’t worry about whether you know much about these political figures. The comedy works even with limited knowledge, although a quick check in Wikipedia will give you the info you need. I’ll help you out by listing the order of appearance of each voice heard. Listen carefully as you will hear each one of them continuously interrupt each other battling for the doctor’s attention. At the end of the album, note the special disclaimer from the record company. Funny that such a warning is almost more necessary for political satire recorded today than it was back then.
Alen Robin (as the psychiatrist) and Catherine Robin (as Nurse Blinitz)
John Lindsay (mayor of New York City)
BTW: This is the unedited version of Robin’s performance at John Hart’s “Open Mind” in SoHo, New York City. A slightly edited version of this album was later released under the title Naked, Really Naked.