Wednesday, 21 September 2016


Rip Taylor is “a comic who is best when he’s subtle,” wrote John Pagones of the Washington Post.

Rip Taylor? Subtle? Is there another Rip Taylor I don’t know about?

If you think of Rip Taylor, you think of a chubby guy with a tousled rug, screaming around and throwing confetti. Well, that’s how he is today. Pagones’ comment was made in 1961. Years ago, Taylor had a different gimmick when he was on the cabaret circuit. As Variety described it in its March 2, 1960 edition from New York:
His wrap-up is a sobbing commentary from a high stool on foibles, mothers-in-law, horseracing and miscellany in which he establishes a fine rapport with aud, especially distaff contingent.
He threw in impersonations, too, including Pearl Bailey and Louella Parsons.

Taylor was working the Clover Club in Miami as early as May 4, 1955. But his big break came on the Ed Sullivan show in 1961 and he was tagged with the nickname “The Crying Comedian” (one trade paper called him the “Clown Prince of Wales [Wails]”).

Here are a couple of columns from his early years of success. First from the Philadelphia Inquirer of March 15, 1963.
A Look at TV
Boo-Hoo Comic To Sob Anew on Gleason Show

RIP TAYLOR, who weeps so that others may laugh, pays a return visit to CBS' "Jackie Gleason Show" Saturday at 7:30 P. M. (Channel 10). The boo-hooing comic, who has been making repeated tearful treks to both Gleason's variety hour and that presided over by Ed Sullivan, this time joins a guest list that includes Jackie Miles and singer Jack Jones.
Long before he stumbled across his lachrymose formula for getting laughs the woeful way—an offbeat gimmick that has made the 30-year-old performer a "hot" property, he worked for years as a U. S. Senate page boy.
He credits his comedy career to some advice from a member of that august body.
"He taught me the secret of comedy," says Taylor. "He said it didn't make any difference what you said to an audience, just so they liked you. If they like you, he claimed, they'll like what you tell them."
Born Charles Elmer Taylor, the son of an ex-vaudevillian, Rip quit George Washington University during his junior year to try show business.
• • •
IN ATLANTIC CITY, he says, he sales-talked a night club owner into hiring him.
"I was fired at the end of the first night," he recalls. "The owner didn't laugh or cry — he was numb! And I couldn't blame him. There wasn't a customer in the joint."
Another trait Taylor claims he picked up in the Senate is imperviousness to criticism. He went back to the same club the next day with a new act — a Yiddish record to which he did pantomime — and stayed 13 weeks.
Was business any better? "No," says Taylor, "but the club owner was crazy about that record. It had been his mother's favorite when he was a kid."
As a GI in Korea, Taylor reports, he had similar sentimental success with a Japanese record and a night club owner—using precisely the same pantomine!
At one point he had a co-pantomimist, fellow named Steve McQueen, who went on to TV and movie fame.
He was compelled to use his own voice, says Rip, "when one of the records became stuck." To his surprise, people laughed. He's been talking — and crying — every [sic] since.
And here’s Earl Wilson’s column that appeared in papers around September 26, 1964:
Success Makes Rip Cry

NEW YORK—I was sitting in Lindy's with Rip Taylor, the crying comedian, whose tears are his fortune, when a middle-aged lady clattered to our table.
"Excuse me, Mr. Torn!" she declared.
Rip Taylor's wince was only internal. He's been addressed as Rip Torn so often, he almost expects it. He leaped chivalrously to his feet. His seersucker jacket, bearing insignias of Monaco and Monte Carlo given to him recently by Grace Kelly after a Red Cross show for her domain, stood out prominently in Lindy's.
"I saw your show at the Copacabana," the lady uttered. "And ... I'm still crying."
"M-m-me, too-oo-oo." Rip Taylor began blubbering. The woman bounced off happily. Rip looked at me.
"That's why I'm crying," he said. "Everybody calls me Rip Torn. I expect them to ask me how Geraldine Page is. I'm going to shoot that guy if I ever meet him!"
Former Senate Page
Rip Taylor, a former bus boy at the U.S. Senate kitchen and dining room in Washington, and later a Senate page, declares the crying gimmick enabled him to get his foot in the door ...but:
"I've had to start a laughing thing as a change of pace.
"Because the crying thing could be so damn corny. It's just a bunch of one-like jokes....
"But, knock on wood, people like it. Take the Robert Goulet movie, 'I'd Rather Be Rich.' I'm an airline clerk and I get more and more distraught as he keeps changing his reservations. F-f-finally I say, 'Here,' and I burst into tears."
"How was Goulet in the picture?" I asked.
"W-w-was he in it?" replied Rip, always the comic. "I just went to see me. Album of Monologues
Rip's making an album of crying-and-laughing monologues. "But I don't expect to get rich, you know," he warned.
"A singer I'm not and nobody's gonna buy a straight singer anyway," he said. "But let me tell you, I made a record a few months ago. I got the Pick of the Week in Billboard and Cashbox—AND NOT ONE RECORD WAS SOLD!"
"You're kidding!” I said.
"Kidding!" he shouted. "I'm-m-m miserable!"
On his visit to Monte Carlo recently, Rip performed outdoors on a rainy blustery night, with Princess Grace and Rainier sitting through it.
"It was blowing my toupee," Rip says. "So I turned to the Prince and said, 'Would you mind if I turned sideways? Otherwise my hair is going to be right in your lap?'
"Oh, it got a great laugh. How did I know it got a big laugh because the Prince is going to get a toupee and is very sensitive about it? OHHH, I'm miserable again!"
So where did the confetti come from? Well, we can do no better than to direct you to Kliph Nesteroff’s interview with Taylor.

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