It was an era of the general entertainer. Ronny Graham’s parents were both vaudeville players towards the end of that epoch and Graham was a multi-talented performer: comedian, composer, lyricist, actor. Like his contemporaries which were Mort Sahl, Lenny Bruce and Shelley Berman his stage persona was the dismayed at the state of the world man, but he shied away from direct political commentary and testing the boundaries of obscenity and morals at the time.
Two of his well-known characters were a literary creation named Truman Kaput, introduced in the New Faces of 1952 on Broadway and a deranged pianist known as the bop professor; an affectionate tribute to the berserk cabaret performer Harry the Hipster Gibson.
aFrom his mother, he acquired a feeling for the grotesque. She was fond of reading to her children particularly graphic newspaper accounts of murders, and she rid herself of a maid by appearing wailing and gibbering, in the girl’s bedroom late one night with a bed sheet over her head. He was influenced by Robert Benchley with regard to narration, and Dwight Fiske for musical construction. Lastly, Danny Kaye accentuated his affinity for pure nonsense, a kind of logic laid over meaninglessness.
Mel Brooks:Let me tell you one more story, about Ronny Graham. Have you ever heard of Ronny Graham? He was the star and the MC back in 1952 when I had my first sketch on Broadway. It was called New Faces Of 1952, and Leonard Sillman was the genius behind it. He discovered a lot of people. He did New Faces Of 1934 and found Henry Fonda and Imogene Coca. And then he did New Faces Of 1952, and he discovered Paul Lynde and Eartha Kitt and Carol Lawrence and Robert Clary and Alice Ghostley. All wonderful, talented people. But the MC was Ronny Graham. And like I waited for Buster Crabbe, people would wait for Eartha Kitt, and Paul Lynde and Alice Ghostley to some degree, and they’d sign autographs. There was always a big tumult at the stage door of the Royale Theater at 45th Street. And for some reason, Ronny Graham would come out much later, and there was never anybody waiting for Ronny Graham or his autograph. But that didn’t bother Ronny. He would burst out of the door, saying, “Let me live! I have a life, too, you know! I can’t sign autographs every night! Give me a break! I can’t breathe here!” [Laughs.] He’d do this whole bit as if he was surrounded by an audience. It really had me on the floor. Every night, he’d say, “I’m just like you! I’m just an ordinary person!” So, anyway, fans, I’ve never been ungrateful. I’ve been assaulted by press and fans, but for me, it’s fine. It’s like chocolate pudding with whipped cream. Thank you, and thank you again. I’m glad to do it as long as I can. Read More:http://www.avclub.com/articles/mel-brooks,61517/