Mort and co-star Dick Gregory will be appearing for a week in San Francisco, July 21-26 at

The RRAZZ ROOM at the Hotel NIKKO. One show nitely @ 8PM - except Sunday's show, which is 5 PM.....

Mort's completing his teaching gig at Claremore. He's sometimes come in for a weekend at McCabe's and other venues, but these California dates are on fairly short notice, and not part of an extensive tour..we'll try and announce dates here whenever possible, but generally the venue puts up the announcement and seats are taken so quickly it would just be frustrating to mention them on the site. ("well that's as good an explanation as you've had so far...")

MORT in the L.A. Times, Oct 17th 2008

By Amy Kaufman, Special to The Times

Mort Sahl stands before a classroom of college students, his eyes widening as he watches images of old Hollywood. He walks in front of the movie projector for a moment, his shadow interrupting a fiery on-screen embrace between Faye Dunaway and Steve McQueen.

"This is probably the best love scene I ever saw in a movie," he said, shaking his head.

Yes, Sahl, 81, the legendary stand-up comedian and writer who famously skewered the politicians of his time with his trademark cranky outrage, has a new gig -- trying to convince Gen Y to believe in love.

"I just want to teach those kids about the kind of thing that Jimmy Stewart represents -- decency," he said. "If you stick with it, you can save America and get the girl. That's really what I'm teaching. It might be a lie, but it's the only reason I get out of bed every day."

Since last fall, Sahl has been a visiting professor at Claremont McKenna College, where he teaches screenwriting -- in which he screened the original "The Thomas Crown Affair" recently -- and a course titled the Revolutionary's Handbook. Content for the latter includes tales from Sahl's own experience during the investigation of President John F. Kennedy's assassination led by New Orleans Dist. Atty. Jim Garrison.

From the outset of his career, Sahl approached humor differently than most other comedians. He went onstage with a newspaper in hand and spoke to his audience about the most pressing issues affecting his era -- events including the McCarthy hearings and the early tremors before the Cold War.

It would seem that with the impending election, there couldn't be a better time for one of America's leading political satirists to be at the helm of the classroom. Many see Sahl as the predecessor to figures like Jon Stewart and Stephen Colbert, who target politicians with the aid of humor. But Sahl finds the comparisons between himself and the Comedy Central stars unflattering, drawing stark differences between their methods of delivery.

"You have to have a point of view, sift everything through it and look for the irony," said Sahl, who still does comedy gigs on weekends at local clubs. Even the recent "Saturday Night Live" phenomenon surrounding Tina Fey's impression of Sarah Palin is more parody than satire, Sahl believes.

"The other day, Palin spoke at the Home Depot in the parking lot in Carson. So you could say, 'She's the only one in the parking lot I wouldn't hire.' And you'd be right at the joke," he said.

Sahl spent his own collegiate days at USC, where he gained a degree in urban planning to "try to keep my father happy." Soon after, he moved to San Francisco, where he got his start performing stand-up at the hungry i club. There he began a longtime friendship with Clint Eastwood, whom he still sees frequently.

"He was very hip," Eastwood recalled in a recent interview. "Nowadays, a lot of comedians try to satirize politics, but they don't do it as well as he did. He played straight out to the audience."

Later in his career, Sahl was a speechwriter for many politicians, including Kennedy, Ronald Reagan and Ross Perot. "I'd say, 'If you kid yourself, it'll humanize you to the press.' There's nothing divine about them, they can all take a little kidding," Sahl said, chuckling.

If he had the choice, he'd rather work for Democratic presidential nominee Barack Obama than for Republican John McCain, who he believes "comes across as Mr. Magoo," though he's still not sure who he'll vote for, if at all.

Before his screenwriting class, Sahl was camped out at the school's student center, sipping from a coffee mug and sifting through the day's newspapers. The generation gap between him and his students, he said, can be frustrating. "The first thing I try to get them to do is read the [New York] Times and be curious," he said, sighing. "And they say things like, 'How easy is the website to navigate?' I ask a kid a question in class and he looks at the Apple [laptop] instead of me."

Sahl approaches his classes in a way similar to his comedy acts -- with no preparation. His teaching style is straightforward -- just go in and tell them the truth, he said.

"You can really tell how passionate he is about what he's teaching," said Steve Pontius, a junior who has taken two of Sahl's courses. "He doesn't guard himself or seem elitist. He ... really tries to relate to the students -- he likes them and believes in them, sometimes at his own expense."

Mostly, Sahl just wants his students to believe in something. In his screenwriting class last year, he says, the students wrote "some terrible screenplays." They wrote what they thought could be commercial material -- one story, he recalled, was about a bunch of people who were competing on an "Apprentice"-style show to work for the Lakers.

"My students haven't seen women like Grace Kelly in a long time. Everybody's running around here in sweat pants. The men are like peacocks -- they don't think about saving up to give something to a girl for Christmas," he lamented.

"I just want to encourage people to follow their own heart and listen to their conscience -- to be that free," he said. "I don't feel like any kind of legend, really. I just want to find a place to drink some coffee and read the paper."

Mort took a break from his Claremont-McKenna teaching gig for a pre-81st birthday celebration, May 2008

a return to New York for a show at B.B. KING's

Backstage, congrats from Elaine May, Woody Allen, Dick Cavett and a host of others...

Before the gig, Mort dropped by Keith Olbermann's show for a chat.

Some photos from the SAHL-UTE ON JUNE 28th, 2007.

Read (and listen to Mort) via the Brent Hopkins article in the L.A. Daily News

An interview with Mort in download form (or listen on line): April podcast from Schnauzer Logic For more info on Schnauzer Logic: Schnauzer Logic: Mort Sahl = intellectual crack And on a need to know basis...

Mort will be returning this fall to Claremont McKenna College. Purpose: Teaching young people about politics and keeping it fair and balanced by allowing them to laugh equally at both sides. Actually, two courses, one on politics and one on writing.

MORT - 50 years ago

An article on Mort from the L.A. Times is new to the "Documents" section

Two "Johnny Cool" screen caps added to the Mort Movie page


From December 2004: Interview with Mort


This site will be celebrating its 10th anniversary in August 2007, continuously on the Net first through Geocities, then as, then back at Geocities when in December 1 '04 we re-directed to for Q&As, tour dates etc., then on Dec 2, 05 back as Any questions? "Which is the left sock?"

Mort's as funny as ever. When Mort appeared in Boston at Jimmy Tingle's, here's what Dean Johnson of the Boston Herald had to say (July 8th, under the header, . "Sahl shines as he skewers American politics' dimmest bulbs."

What better way to start a month-long political comedy series than with a living legend?
That seems to be the logic behind Mort Sahl's five-night stand at fellow comic Jimmy Tingle's Somerville theater. Sahl is serving as the table-setter for the venue's "Unconventional Comedy Convention," a July event that includes Barry Crimmins, Lewis Black and Janeane Garofalo among others.
Sahl is the godfather of the political comedy movement, and even now at 77 he managed more hits than misses during his 70-minute set.
He walked out in a trademark (pink) V-neck sweater and talked non-stop without so much as a cue card. Sahl made his mark over the years by walking onstage with the day's newspaper and skewering most of the people in it.
He had a certain New York newspaper with him last night but never opened it or even referred to it. Instead, Sahl riffed on politics, politicos and religion.
Sahl wasn't especially au courant with all his bits. Within 10 minutes, he'd mentioned Richard Nixon, Eugene McCarthy, Dave Brubeck and George Romney, all indicative of a set that included names being dropped and scattered about like so much grass seed.
He also rambled a bit and took several side trips to share an anecdote or story. But Sahl still has his A game, even if it isn't always with him. He recalled a recent meeting with the president when Bush told him, "This is a dirty job, but that's what you elected me to do." Sahl's retort: "We didn't elect you that much."
Some more of Mort's mots: "If you had the opportunity to be born again, why would you come back as George Bush?" Referring to a recent Kerry speech where the candidate said, "I see a new day. I see shining cities," Sahl remarked, "I think he saw Switzerland."
Tingle opened the night and also followed Sahl with a brief set and left no doubt he's part of Sahl's comedy progeny. Tingle spoke about government waste and asked, "Do you know how many houses you can build with a billion dollars?" After a perfect pause, he said, "Three houses in Newton!"

Mort's Village Theatre booking in NYC (Apr 21-May 2) was a tremendous success, near-capacity crowds at every show. Guests in attendance on opening night included Woody Allen and Dick Cavett, and at the final show, Sunday matinee, Bob Costas, Jerry Stiller and Anne Meara


From the New York Times, "Still Simmering After All These Years" by Bruce Weber:

"Mort Sahl was riffing on the military record of President Bush the other night from the stage at the Village Theater, where he performed many times in the 1950's and 1960's, when the place was known as the Village Gate. He could only imagine, he said, the version of the conversation Mr. Bush had with his daughter Jenna that so many fathers have had with their children.
"What did you do in the war, Daddy?" Mr. Sahl, as Ms. Bush, asked. Then, assuming a presidential manner, he answered himself:
"I started it."
The choir to which he was preaching guffawed. Not that Mr. Sahl is any fan of Mr. Bush's presumed opponent, Senator John Kerry, whom he calls a Social Democrat. That's the political category Mr. Sahl disdainfully fills with a whole range of self-labeled liberals, from Hollywood to inside the Beltway to the Upper East Side, who "domestically are sentimental and internationally are fascists."
"Liberals aren't liberals, not the way Roosevelt and Kennedy used the term," he said. "Kerry doesn't even want it. I know he hasn't earned it."
Mr. Sahl himself (is) an unregenerate skeptic, not so much a liberal as a radical, a perch that keeps him above the run-of-the-mill political fray, allowing him, as ever, to lampoon the insensitivity of Republicans, the smugness of Democrats and the self-interest of all of them. It's not politics he talks about so much, he says, it's truth; that's what makes his work abrasive.
"That's what the truth is for," he told the crowd. "It's supposed to be a high colonic."
Mr. Sahl has been shocking the system for half a century...A challenger of audiences as well as the powerful, a pained citizen, a romantic, an idealist, he is a complicated guy who resists labeling, even by himself.
"I work as a disturber," he said after the show in a dressing room interview in which he also referred to himself as a populist, a Puritan and a dreamer.
From the beginning, he said, "I thought of myself as an attorney for the audience, because everybody was going to discriminate against them and give them their worst � and in many cases they have."
Mr. Sahl may not be the lean, sly fox of a man he once was. Physically he looks a bit like Jerry Stiller these days...but he still carries the same old facial expression onstage: incredulous, anguished, impassioned, the look of a professor in despair for his students, the look of someone who feels he should be preaching to the converted but is afraid he has lost them. The largely gray-haired members of the audience, appreciative and nostalgic, also seemed to Mr. Sahl to have lost their edge.
"The act was about conformity then, and it still is," he said. "That's what I was trying to tell them tonight. I wanted to say: `You felt good when you worked for the left wing of the party. Don't you want to feel good again?' I wanted to remind them of that."
Wearing his trademark pullover and holding, as ever, a rolled-up newspaper in one hand, he has kept his stage persona remarkably intact since he first appeared at the Hungry I nightclub in San Francisco on Dec. 23, 1953, a debut that effectively changed the course of stand-up comedy....
It wasn't so much politics that Mr. Sahl brought to comedy as it was iconoclasm... He has always been less a comedian than a comic commentator, less often provoking gut-busting laughs than thoughtful chortles. Lenny Bruce, George Carlin, Tom Lehrer and Mark Russell were all in his debt.... "

At the final NYC show, Jerry Stiller raised his hand during the audience question and answer session. He said, "Mort, in the New York times review by Bruce Weber, he said 'Mort Sahl today looks a little like Jerry Stiller.' I just had to say -- I always thought you were a pretty good looking guy!"

Jerry described the joy of Stiller & Meara meeting up with Mort in Chicago around the time Mort was on the cover of Time Magazine, and he added, "You're better now than you ever were!" The crowd agreed with a tremendous burst of applause

And here's another backstage snapshot, Kenslea & Mort, Jerry & Anne

Thanks to all the fans who e-mail the website, mentioning that they'll drive anywhere to see Mort perform.