The Best of the Uncle Floyd Show [DVD]

The release of The Best of The Uncle Floyd Show on DVD is likely to provoke feelings of excitement, shock, and disbelief in fans of the show; however, it's really not entirely surprising, coming as it does from Shanachie Entertainment, the company putting out The Abbott and Costello Show on DVD. For those not from the New York/New Jersey area, The Uncle Floyd Show has been an entertainment institution on UHF television, low-power television, public-access television, and just about every other below-the-radar broadcast/cable outlet that's come down the pike since 1974. Picture a totally unrehearsed, uncensored, and unbudgeted cross between The Soupy Sales Show, Saturday Night Live, SCTV, and The Lenny Clark Late Show (for any Boston-area viewers). Working with just a few props (and a puppet sidekick named Oogie), host/creator Floyd Vivino, a pianist, singer, actor, comic, and raconteur, and a handful of cast members and writers -- including future Tonight Show/Saturday Night Live writer Tony Desena -- did sketches aimed at television political commentators ("The Conservative vs. The Liberal"), television evangelists ("Brother Billy Bopper Booper"), ice-cream mogul Tom Carvel, nostalgia schlockmeister Joe Franklin ("Joe Frankfurter"), celebrity gangsters ("Don Goomba"), ethnic programming ("The Polka Show"), and Julia Child ("Julia Stepchild"). In essence, it was a kids show that was best appreciated by adults over the age of 20, and it made no bones about the cheapness of its sets or its laughs. The jokes (especially the puns) were frequently some of the worst imaginable, which was part of the program's appeal; yet, as this disc reminds us, many of The Uncle Floyd Show sketches have strangely penetrating resonances. This disc includes two samples from "The Conservative Versus the Liberal," a parody of a political commentary spot that ran for decades on The 10 O'Clock News on WNEW-Channel 5 in New York, pitting mild-mannered Professor Sidney Offit against mouth-foaming, apoplectic right-wing pundit Dr. Martin Bendit. Resident co-star Scott Gordon plays the well-meaning, nerdy, mild-mannered liberal professor, while Vivino is Dr. Martin Bendit, a savage burlesque of Dr. Martin Abend, as he seemed in the last few years of the two-minute spot, anger boiling up and spewing forth in personal invective. Vivino doesn't try to look like Abend, but he picks up on some of his ethnic/vocal characteristics and satirizes the man viciously. It is excruciatingly funny, yet also disquieting, seeing these clips again, and one need not even have seen the original to laugh over the nuttiness that Vivino captures in those eyes. Similarly, the "Joe Frankurter" sketch was a parody of longtime New York television host/nostalgia buff Joe Franklin that was so funny and also so on target -- capturing Franklin's almost surreally unintelligible run-on announcements and seemingly boundless (some would say bordering on mindless) enthusiasm for anything out of the past -- that Franklin began court action against Vivino. (He claimed it was because Vivino defamed his longtime sponsors, referring to "Martian Paints" and "Sunken Donuts," but one suspects the real reason was that it cut him personally.) Some of the other sketches are less obvious in their targets but just as funny for the mere fact that they were done at all -- the Tom Carvel parody is also a source of nostalgia now. The incessant laughing off-camera (courtesy of Looney Skip Rooney) takes a little getting used to, and one heartily wishes the producers had possession of (and could get rights to use) the clips of the Ramones and Cyndi Lauper (in her Blue Angel days) from the 1970s. But what's here is a lot of fun. The quality of the DVD is surprisingly good given the low-budget origins of the program; the mastering has no flaws and the material has held up well over the decades. Each comic bit and each song (Vivino loves to regale viewers every so often at the upright piano with some forgotten {\pop} tune from 1910 or so) gets its own chapter marker. The disc opens automatically to a simple two-layer menu offering "Play All" and individual chapter-selection functions.
$13.99
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