[Dixielandjazz] HIS ROYAL HIPNESS

Steve barbone barbonestreet at earthlink.net
Sat Dec 10 07:07:08 PST 2005

Not OKOM but certainly Our Kind of Humor.

A few digests ago, Larry Walton asked what defined "hip". For those of us
who were around when Lord Buckley was, he was a hipster personified.

Plus he tied his act to jazz music.



And Jonah Said, 'Can You Dig Me Here in This Fish?'

By JASON ZINOMAN - December 10, 2005 - NY TIMES

My lords and ladies, cats and kitties, listen up! The swinging, hip messiah
has returned, and he wants to commune with your subconscious mind. Can you
dig that?

If not, then you've never heard of Lord Buckley, a largely forgotten
nightclub performer from the 1940's and 50's who may have been the hippest
man who ever lived. Buckley was one of a kind, a Californian ex-lumberjack
who invented an unlikely persona that was part English royalty, part Dizzy
Gillespie. By spinning stories using a caricature of African-American slang,
he did for comedy what Elvis did for music. An argument could be made that
he was as influential, inspiring a who's who of the counterculture,
including George Carlin, Lenny Bruce and Ken Kesey. Bob Dylan raved about
him in his recent memoirs, "Buckley was the hipster bebop preacher who
defied all labels."

Unfortunately, video of Buckley's act is scarce, but Jake Broder offers the
next best thing with his performance in "His Royal Hipness Lord Buckley in
the Zam Zam Room." Backed by a jazz trio and hewing closely to Buckley's
material, he faithfully recreates a performance. Mr. Broder, wearing a coat
and tails, looks a bit like Liev Schreiber and talks in growly cadences that
don't quite hit Buckley's smoky low notes but get as close to them as
Joaquin Phoenix does to Johnny Cash's baritone.

For comedy fans, the Lord Buckley persona is a fascinating historical
document, like a Rosetta Stone for the origins of so much shtick that later
emerged in the acts of Richard Pryor, Robin Williams and Whoopi Goldberg.
The material itself, however, is a bit of a drag. The funky retelling of "A
Christmas Carol" or the New Testament is fun for a while, but it lacks
enough satirical edge to hold our interest. Though it is amusing to hear
Jonah cry, "Lord, Lord, can you dig me here in this fish?"

Mr. Broder does a scrupulous job of mimicking the jazzy rat-a-tat delivery
and finger-snapping attitude, but there is something pinched about this
performance. Part of the problem is that allusions to drugs and to black
entertainers running the government are not as provocative as they once
were. Divorced from any context, this novelty act, staged simply by Phillip
Breen, has the odd feel of an inside joke.

Yet even if you're clued in, there is something disappointing about a
portrait of a riff artist - "Mr. Whoozer-wheezer, Mr. Whiser-whooser, Mr.
Woodhill, Mr. Beachhill an' Mr. Churchill and all them other hills" - that
seems so rigidly fixed. Mr. Broder looks as if he's trying too hard, which,
as any hipster knows, is not cool. He would be well served to stray from the
script and work off the audience more than he does. Or as Lord Buckley might
put it, Loosen up, baby.

"His Royal Hipness Lord Buckley in the Zam Zam Room" continues through Dec.
31 at 59E59 Theaters, 59 East 59th Street; (212) 279-4200.

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