Thursday, 22 October 2015

Marty Ingels, Hopped-Up Squirrel, Lousy Dentist

If someone shouted the name “Marty Ingels” at me, the first word that would come to mind would be “unpredictable.” Growing up in the ‘60s, Marty was on TV quite regularly but whenever you saw him, you never quite knew what he was going to do. Other than it would probably be unusual.

Marty passed away last night and obituaries have all brought up his TV series that few people really paid attention to at the time—“I’m Dickens, He’s Fenster.” It co-starred John Astin, who went on to sitcom immortality on “The Addams Family.” Marty went on to, well, staying married to Shirley Jones. Frankly, I find the contrast between Ingles and Jones’ first husband, Jack Cassidy, funnier than anything any of them did on camera.

Plenty about Marty was written about the time he landed his co-starring gig. Let me pass on a couple of newspaper columns. The first is from the Philadelphia Inquirer of May 28, 1962.
Worry Over Keeps Comic HappyBy ALAN GILL
THE title of a forthcoming record album of humorous reminiscences is “Marty Ingels Arrives.” But Marty Ingels has not yet quite arrived. He was sitting in a show people's hangout in New York the other day and nobody was saying, “Hi there, Marty,” and no money was jingling in the young man's pockets. Just wait.
Ingels has more than a record album up his sleeve. He's got co-star billing in an ABC comedy series that will be unleashed in the fall under the bumbling title of “I'm Dickens . . . He's Fenster.”
The fellow is 26, a Brooklynite, a redhead and a worrier. His dark, snappy eyes are the eyes of a hopped-up squirrel. And whoever it was that carved out Marty Ingels' mouth—well, the band slipped. His mouth has as many curves to it as the Colorado River; and behind this topographical wonder, the teeth are effectively hidden.
“I have as much tooth as anyone else,” he said. “I just have more LIP than most people.”
The voice which spoke these words can only be approximated by dropping a handful of stones into your kitchen blender.
“You're billed as having bright red hair,” a table companion said, squinting in the gloom. Is it all that red?”
“Nah,” Ingels said He rolled up his sleeve. “But look it here. The real stuff, huh?” (The arm hairs were aflame, all right.) “If we go color, this arm will be a star.”
• •
HE WAS about to tape a TV guest stint and he was staying away from food. Because he's the nervous type?
“Nervous?” he said. “You haven't SEEN nervous. Look Are you ready? Here's nervous.” He tossed two blue-and-yellow capsules onto a saucer. “Lunch!” he announced.
Asked what kind of comedian he was, Ingels said, “Max Liebman broke my heart one day when he said the day of the reaction comedian was over and done with. I'm a reaction comedian.
“That's somebody who, when somebody else throws a pie in his face, he reacts. I react to audience, too. I get up there without any material. It all just comes out of me and my being there.
“The other comics, they're playing parts. Me, I just play myself. I AM this way. I'm a dopey Brooklyn kid that never got out of school except by being kicked out, because I was the class clown. I couldn't help it.”
In “I'm Dickens . . . He's Fenster,” Ingels plays Fenster, a carpenter—the sidekick type who has a hundred pockets in his coveralls, each pocket lined with the tools of his trade. He walks through the role bent double like Groucho Marx.
Most people who've seen the pilot think the show will be the making of Marty, but he worries.
He worries about all those millions of people from coast to coast who are about to be his judges. He worries about the house he one day will buy for his parents. He worries about the public relations people around him, because he doesn't like being a corporation.
“You know what I worry about most of all?” he says. “I'm scared that when the day comes when I don't have to worry any more, I won't know how to NOT worry.”
This is from the Buffalo Courier, November 15, 1962.
Marty Ingels Rated As Fine New Comic

FUNNY MAN – Maybe it's the face. Or is it the gravely voice? At any rate, Marty Ingels makes you laugh.
The new comic star of ABC-TV’s “I’m Dickens—He's Fenster” (Marty is Fenster) is a genuinely funny man. In these days of manufactured comics, situations and laugh tracks on TV, he's a rare bird.
And Marty's life story is rarer. He told it to us the other day in a torrent of 10,000 choice phrases, piled rapidly one atop the other in as wild a fashion as he and partner John Astin work as TV's zaniest carpenter.
BORN CLOWN — “I don't turn on the comedy,” Marty said. “It turns me on. It comes from a little machine inside. It got me in perpetual trouble in school and fired from a lot of jobs. I can't control it.”
As a red-haired, freckle-faced lad at Brooklyn's Public School 167, Marty unwittingly became an instigator.
“Every time I raised my hand in class to ask a legitimate question,” complained Marty, “the teacher would say, ‘What are you, a wise guy?’ and send me to the principal. As I quaked before him, he'd say, ‘Cut out the acting, smart aleck’.”
HOT WATER — Marty stayed in hot water through Erasmus High School and Queens College on his way to dental school. His uncle, cousin and two brothers are dentists, and 26-year-old Marty is still rebuked by his mother for not continuing the practice.
But the wide-eyed comic gave up dentistry, took a variety of jobs. He distributed peanut samples in Times Sq., was patrolman at a Harlem dance hall, a longshoreman, a bartender, and magazine salesman. People still thought Marty was an instigator and a “goof-off.”
“In eight of 11 jobs," he said, “my application and severance papers were processed at the same time. And they never gave me any reason for the boot.”
SAD SACK — Marty joined the U.S. Army, and became its biggest sad sack. “The sergeant would say, ‘Hey Bendix, stop staring at me.’ They thought I looked and spoke like William Bendix, the actor.
“I'll compare my record for KP duty and push-ups with any company foul-up ever persecuted in the Army.”
But Marty's unforgettable face and unwitting comedy gave him one break.
A WINNER— “A woman visited our mess hall one day,” said Marty. “She remarked that I had a funny face. I said, “Look, miss, isn't it bad enough I'm in the Army?’ But she turned out to be a people-getter for the TV quiz show, 'Name That Tune,' I went on the show, won $6,000 and about 1,000 letters from viewers asking if I had any teeth.”
Marty left the Army, figured If people thought he was so funny, he should try acting. He took his quiz show winnings to California, and enrolled in the Pasadena Playhouse.
GREEK DRAMA — “There they tried to make me a John Gielgud,” said Marty. “They kept me like a mascot for months. They taught me ballet, voice discipline and a thousand other things to, as my director put it, ‘tear that ever-present comedy compulsion from this otherwise sensitive actor’.”
“But it didn't work. They put me in a Greek chorus as a spear carrier. When I stepped forth and spoke my one serious line, the audience broke up. Then I was in a morbid Russian drama called ‘He Who Gets Slapped.’ The reviewers called the play a satire and I was expelled from the cast.”
ON HIS WAY— Eventually, Marty played summer stock, won guest appearances with Phil Silvers, Steve Allen and other TV comedians. He flopped at Las Vegas, where his clean, visual comedy found no takers in an audience accustomed to “blue” humor and intellectual comedians.
“I thought I was born 20 years too late for the comedy field,” said Marty. “With the Newharts, Bermans, Sahls and Gregorys crowding the field, where were the new Danny Kayes, Red Skeltons and Jerry Lewises?”
Finally Marty caught on with Lewis, after crashing the Paramount lot to see the star, and he was on his way in movies and television.
OWN SHOW—He's seen now on Friday nights on Ch. 7, in a comedy show many describe as the brightest of the new season. The new team of Astin and Ingels evinced mutual distrust at first sight.
“I expected a Dean Martin-type straight man,” said Marty.
“And I guess John expected David Niven. But we hit it off beautifully now.
“A series is hard work, but I love it. It's the first steady work I've had, and it seems like a dream. But we're up against tough competition in 'Route 66' and Mitch Miller. I hope the Nielsen ratings don't bust the bubble.”
So do we. Marty Ingels' arrival is long overdue. And he'd make a very poor dentist.
Long after I abandoned the watered-down world of Saturday Morning Cartoons in the early ‘70s, Engels moved into the arena and had the impossible task of trying to put personality into a cartoon based on a video game character with no personality, on a programme hamstrung by network restrictions. Kids deserved better. Marty did, too. A cartoon show based on a guy trying to make a living selling magazines, peanut samples, watching over a dance hall in Harlem and being confounded learning dentistry strikes me as something far funnier. Marty Ingels may have been funnier in real life than anything he put on television.


  1. I vaguely remember liking “I’m Dickens, He’s Fenster" when it originally ran, and learning the meaning of 'cancellation' from it and a couple of other shows, like "The Jetsons" at the time, because suddenly -- and for no good reason in my mind -- they weren't on anymore when the fall of '63 and first grade rolled around. RIP Marty.

  2. Thirteen years before Pac-Man, Ingels also voiced the gearhead feline title character in the "Motormouse and Autocat" segments on The Cattanooga Cats. One of the last of the made-for-Saturday- A.M. cartoons to contain "slapstick violence".

  3. Marty Ingels should have tried voicing Flintstones opr Top Cat episodes when still much younger in the early 1960s. His three series don't really come off as "cartoon classics"-the one mentioned (though the title show that top_cat_james mentions was really showing the ridiculous new thing of Scooby/Pebbles-Bamm Bamm lame musical numbers, and why did every early 70s show of this nature (and Scooby) hafta have a red headed teenage or in C.Cats's case, apparently early 20s type red head chick being kidnapped anbd looking the same.

    The other was 1975's Grape Ape where Marty's Beagley Beagle..actually his appearances on those 70s ones are sometimes good...on OTHERWISE WATERED DOWN TV shows...(agreed on Yowp's final comment that Ingels deserved bettered.)

    And finally we have the Pac-Man one mentioned...won't even go into that.