Varese Sarabande Records has started reissuing recordings by some of the old time comedy greats under the Varese Vintage label. As a fan, I cannot but applaud, salute, and encourage this move, especially since the label is doing things right. The Henny Youngman comedy CD Take My Album … Please!  allows stand-up comedy fans to discover or perhaps rediscover one of the early giants.

Comedy wise, Henny Youngman pretty much became a cliché of himself, Take my wife … please! being the line and joke he repeated over and over and over. Youngman was also famous for the size of his Johnson and stories about Youngman and his Johnson still make the comedy rounds. The two shows on Take My Album … Please! CD show why Youngman lasted for so long and was as big as … you got it.

Henny Youngman Take My Album … Please! features two shows recorded in the late seventies and released as records (records were vinyl playback devices the size of a dinner plate and about twice as thick as a CD) at about that time. Youngman was one of many comics who worked the Borscht Belt / Catskills circuit from the forties to the early sixties. Like his contemporaries, Youngman stole from many and specialized in one-liner jokes involving wives, ailments, bad luck, and sometimes racial and ethnic humor. You might hear a few of these in various Mel Brooks movies.

Take My Album Please is like a bride: something old, something borrowed, something blue. There are not that many blue jokes and they are sexual innuendo and not foul language. There are also Polish jokes (“A Polish terrorist wanted to blow up a car. He burned his lips on the exhaust pipe”) and mother in law jokes -one of which Margaret Smith rewrote a bit on her CD.

In fact, comedy fans will recognize a lot of the jokes on this Henny Youngman CD not only because many are old chestnuts (“My wife said, ‘I want to go somewhere I’ve never been before.’ I said, “Try the kitchen.'”) but also because many modern comics occasionally throw in a few of these bits with minor variations. Fans of the Prairie Home Companion joke show will also recognize some of the humor here.

This Henny Youngman CD was recorded in front of knowledgeable and appreciative crowds that knew exactly what it was going to get. The interaction between Youngman and the crowds is in retrospect quite touching at times. My favorite bit on Take My Album Please is Jewish Hit Parade and My Violin Favorites. I have to admit the entire CD is very enjoyable. The CD closes with some twenty minutes of so-called outtakes that sound just as crisp as the rest of the recording.

This is a solid comedy CD and a must for any serious stand-up and Borscht Belt fan.

If there is one thing I would really appreciate from future Varese Vintage comedy CDs is that there be a little more information and, if that is not possible, larger print is used on the tray and liner cards.

Shelly Berman on Varese Vintage

Take My Album, Please!
or Two Sets for the Price of One
Henny Youngman
Originally released late 70?s
Varese Vintage 2007
59 minutes

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