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"Wow! That Was Funny, Man!" A Look at Hippie Comedy

By John Saleeby
November 1st, 2012

Those Hippies may not have added up to hill of beans - A hill of moldy, rotten, smelly beans - but at least they were FUNNY -Wacky, kooky, crazy beans!

George Carlin, King of hippie comedyGeorge Carlin was The King Of The Funny Hippies and, since no one wanted Yoko Ono to be Queen Of The Hippies, Carlin may have beat out even John Lennon as King Of The Hippies in general. I'm so old I remember George Carlin BEFORE he was a Hippie! He had short hair, wore a suit and tie, and was on Black And White TV. TV? I remember when Carlin was on Black And White Radio! That's what we used to call AM. But as soon as we had Color TV - BAM! George Carlin suddenly had long hair, a beard, dirty clothes and good thing we didn't have Smell-O-Vision. George Carlin was The Funniest Man In The World back then and, if he had died not long afterward, would probably be regarded as The Funniest Man Of All Time today. Unfortunately Carlin didn't pass away until he turned into the same kind of miserable old crank everybody turns into when they get old and GODDAMMIT, MY KNEE IS KILLING ME!!! HEY, GET THAT KID AWAY FROM MY DENTURES!!! LEAVE MY CHOPPERS ALONE!!! SHIT!!!

You probably haven't heard of The Committee but you probably haven't heard of John Saleeby either, so eat me. The Committee was a San Francisco Comedy Group that featured a bunch of freaks who spent a lot of time commuting to LA to play Hippies in Hollywood Movies and TV Shows. LA Hippies were too busy listening to The Beatles' "White Album", reading Revelations, and preparing for Helter Skelter, the Apocalyptic Race War to do Comedy. The Committee featured a bunch of cut ups whose names may not be familiar but whose faces are very familiar, like that little guy with the big ears on "The Bob Newhart Show" and that tall loud guy on "Maude" and "Sanford And Son". Howard Hesseman was in The Committee before he became famous as the Crazy Rock And Roll Radio DJ on "WKRP In Cincinnati" and then wound up on "Head Of The Class" as a High School Teacher who . . . I dunno, I only watched it for THE GIRLS - Robin Givens before she got Married to Mike Tyson, that adorable redhead who Married some guy in INXS, I don't know who the other girls married but I'm jealous anyway. For authentic Hippie Comedy in it's natural habitat check out the Box Office Smash Hit Movie "Billy Jack" which features Hesseman and The Committee as a group of happy Hippies who practice Conflict Resolution through Improvisational Comedy. If only Neville Chamberlain had tried that with Adolf Hitler! The Second World War would have never happened and Neville And Adolf would have been bigger than Abbott And Costello!

Yeah, everything was "Far Out!", "Groovy!", and "Wow!" until overnight Hippie Comedy Megastars Cheech And Chong came along and then The Committee got all CRANKY over Cheech And Chong supposedly stealing all their material. "Billy Jack" has Hesseman and another guy doing a sketch about two stoned dudes riding around in a car which will be suspiciously familiar to any Cheech And Chong fan so there may have been something to Cheech and Chong, hippie comedy upstartsthese complaints. Hippies raging war on Hippies! No wonder The Beatles split up! Sounds to me like those Committee people spent too much time with those Show Biz Squares in LA. What's the point in being a Hippie and turning your back on The Squarehead Life if you're gonna get all hung up on getting ripped off, man? Why couldn't they accept Cheech And Chong as being part of The Scene, man? One hand washes the other! Oh, sorry about that "washes" bit. I forgot we were talking about Hippies. SHIT!!! MY KNEE!!! IS THAT KID WALKING AROUND WITH MY DENTURES IN HIS MOUTH!?! GODDAMMIT!!! C'MERE, YOU LITTLE PUNK!!! WHEN I WAS YOUR AGE I WAS SCRAPIN' RESIN OUTTA JERRY GARCIA'S BONG FOR TWENTY FIVE CENTS AN HOUR!!! CRAP!!!

There are Beloved American Entertainers today that you never would have suspected were once pot smoking Hippie Comedians. Look at a Baby Boomer Comedian today and if he is a horrible old crank that you would never want to talk to in a hundred thousand years he was probably once a Hippie Comedian. Channel One was a New York Comedy Group and Commune that put on shows in the same East Village loft they all lived in. Ken Shapiro, who considered himself the leader of the group since he owned the Prehistoric Videotape Machine they used to record Comedy bits, scammed a deal to make a Feature Film of their best routines and "The Groove Tube", the product of Shapiro's decidedly un-Hippie like networking, became a commercial success of genuinely Cheech And Chong proportions. Too bad Shapiro not only gave himself credit for all the material the group had created but also kept every penny of the Movie's profits, leaving everyone else in Channel One feeling very old and cranky before their time. Two prominent "Groove Tube" cast members, Chevy Chase and Richard Belzer, eventually cleaned up to become Big Comedy Stars and Internationally Notorious Cranks. But at least griping about Ken Shapiro is more interesting than bitching about Cheech And Chong! Or . . . DID THAT KID DROP MY CHOPPERS INTO THE AQUARIUM!?! GET MY GODDAM DENTURES AWAY FROM THEM FISH!!! GIMMEE MY DENTURES, BOY!!! NOT THE LITTLE PLASTIC FOOL IN THE DIVING SUIT!!! MY DENTURES!!! MY KNEE!!! AAARRRGGGHHH!!!

You never heard The Firesign Theater whining about Cheech And Chong. Not only were The Firesign Theater the most creative and original Hippie Comedians but one day they will be recognized as some of the most creative and original Comedians ever. Did any of The Firesign Theater guys - Phil Austin, David Ossman, Phil Proctor, and Peter Bergman - ever turn into a cranky old jack ass? NO WAY, MAN!!! Peter Bergman died of cancer just a few months ago and he's still a million times more fun to hang around with than Howard Hesseman or Richard Belzer. How did The Firesign Theater stay so light and lively after all these years while other Comedians all seem to turn into those horrible old bastards you see wandering around mumbling about the Government and that goddam article they gotta write for the next Acid Logic about George Carlin and Cheech And Chong? Never getting mixed up in Big Time Hollywood Show Biz might have helped. The Firesign Theater were a bunch of Hippies who got their start in San Francisco FM Radio, made a bunch of crazy records that a bunch of cool people liked, and if they never got to do a Big TV Show, Star in Hit Movies, or sell a Zillion Albums it was probably because being on the Radio and making records was a whole lot of fun. Yeah, FUN, man! That's what it's all about - FUN!!! Cause if you're not - GODDAMMIT!!! THAT KID HAS SCOTCH TAPED MY DENTURES TO THAT POOR DOG'S ASS AND NOW THE MUTT IS SITTING IN THE GRASS PULLING HIMSELF FORWARD WITH HIS FRONT LEGS IN A VAIN ATTEMPT TO SCRAPE MY TEETH OFF OF HIS ROVER REAR END!!! THAT AIN'T FUNNY!!! AND WE'RE GONNA HAVE CORN ON THE COB FOR DINNER TONIGHT!?! I'M GONNA MURDER THAT KID!!! MY KNEEEEEE!!! AAAARRRRGGGGHHHHHH!!!

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John Saleeby wrote for The National Lampoon while he was in high school, was a stand up comic in New York, and has contributed to the net humor zines, Campaign Central, and the legendary American Jerk. He's on medication now so he's probably a little nicer now than he was when you met him earlier. Email -