No? Then we’re glad to introduce you:
Looking back at Ernie Kovacs
by Neil McNally
“Television. A medium. So called because it’s neither rare nor well done.” Ernie Kovacs
More than fifty years ago, with a flick of his trademark cigar, Ernie Kovacs took a proverbial sledge hammer to the new medium of television. Amid the wreckage, he pushed television further through ground breaking visual effects, music videos, and surrealistic comedy. Along for this wild ride were a stable of nutty characters like Percy Dovetonsils, The Nairobi Trio, Chef Miklos Molnar, Eugene, Wolfgang Von Saurbraten, and Auntie Gruesome. His influential footprints still reverberate in places like the mad worlds of The Muppets, Monty Python, David Letterman, The Simpsons, and Terry Gilliam. In fact, Gilliam allegedly told the other Pythons “This is a guy you stole everything from, but never heard of before!”
Generations in the United States always seemed to find their way back to Ernie. “Best Of” television specials, museum retrospectives, and home videos were there to help guide a new crop of fans to Kovacsland. However, rather than eliciting strong laughs and fond memories, Ernie Kovacs’ name over the past fifteen years has elicited blank stares and quizzical looks. It seemed his large body of work had begun to fade into the world of television’s past. How do you re-introduce a television icon who at one time needed no introduction?
Enter Josh Mills. As the son of famed entertainer Edie Adams, Mills knew of Kovacs, not just by his wild reputation, but as his mother’s first husband. During our recent conversation, he spoke of his mother’s passing in 2008, and the realities of Ernie’s reputation “It was very hard to inject Ernie into conversations. I realized right around the month that she died, there was something on PBS about the history of comedy and Ernie wasn’t included.” He continued “I just realized I had to really make an effort to kind of bring him back in a way that we hadn’t done in a really long time.”
LB made us read this article, but, armed with our new knowledge, we watched every Kovacs video we could find on YouTube. All we can say is, “Awesome.” Brilliantly funny stuff, and the foundation of so much of the humor still riding the airwaves today.
Welcome to the Wonderful World of Paying It Forward.