- The Washington Times - Thursday, August 18, 2005

Comedy ain’t comedy if you’re doing it by yourself. That’s perhaps why comedians have traveled in herds — forming repertories, starring in television variety shows and collaborating on movie projects. Here are Our Gangs:

Rat Pack — There wouldn’t have been Brat, Frat or Slap Packs if it weren’t for the original Pack: Frank Sinatra, Sammy Davis Jr., Dean Martin, Joey Bishop and Peter Lawford. Bigger than comedy, bigger than music, bigger than movies, they were, in their day, the kings of all media.

The Second City — From the same institution that gave us Straussian neocons came the most esteemed comedy troupe ever assembled. Alums (of the troupe, not the University of Chicago) include Bill Murray, Harold Ramis and John Belushi, as well as Toronto imports Dan Ackroyd, Gilda Radner, John Candy and Eugene Levy. Lorne Michaels went a-poaching among Second City-ites for “Saturday Night Live.” Television — and movie — history would never be the same.

Monty Python — Graham Chapman, Terry Gilliam, Eric Idle, Terry Jones and Michael Palin: the snarky, blasphemous Brits whose “Flying Circus” made the Boring Broadcasting Corporation funny and who produced beloved movies such as “Monty Python and the Holy Grail” and “The Life of Brian.” Frankly, there’d be no “SNL” without them.

Woody Allenites — The muses have changed — thank you Louise Lasser, Diane Keaton and Mia Farrow; now kindly step aside — but the highbrow comedy remains the same. Orbiting around the Allen films’ inevitable Woody surrogate has been a succession of sidekicks played by a shifting cast of recurring straight men, from Tony Roberts to Alan Alda.

The Mel Brooks Players — For his string of hit feature-length genre parodies that reached its commercial peak in the mid ‘70s, Mel Brooks drew repeatedly from the same deep well of comedy talent — Gene Wilder, Marty Feldman, Dom DeLuise, Madeleine Kahn, Cloris Leachman and Harvey Korman, to name a few. These people could be funny without uttering a word — and in “Silent Movie” (1976), a few of them proved it.

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