- Category : Entertainer
- Type : GE
- Profile : 2/4 - Hermit / Opportunist
- Definition : Split - Small (1,20,22,35)
- Incarnation Cross : RAX Explanation 2
Canadian-American entertainer, comedian and political satirist. He was an intellectual superstar, shaping modern political satire in the '50s. He developed his biting satirical skills in Canadian clubs before expanding internationally. Sahl gained his fame in the 1950s when he based his comedy routine on the Eisenhower presidency, J. Edgar Hoover and the FBI, and later the Kennedy administration, Vietnam and the Nixon White House. Sahl had no sacred cows and he criticized conservatives, Republicans, Democrats and liberals alike, finding material from the ongoing murkiness of public life. To some, Sahl is the late twentieth century social commentator in the same vein as Will Rogers, a viewpoint he encourages. He wrote his autobiography in 1976, "Heartland."
Sahl's father was an embittered unsuccessful playwright who took a job as a government clerk to feed the family. Sahl was enchanted by the entertainment world and at age two began to imitate news broadcasts from the radio. His father warned his son about the hardships and disappointments in show business, telling him, "They don't want anything good."
Sahl applied and was accepted at West Point but he turned down his appointment, enlisting instead in the Army when he was promptly sent to Alaska. His attitude toward the discipline of the military immediately earned him 83 days of K.P. duty. In 1950, Sahl earned his B.A. in public administration. For the next two years, he hung around the University of California at Berkeley going to the coffeehouses. He moved to San Francisco and was hired by Enrico Banducci, manager of the "hungry i" nightclub, Christmas 1953. Sahl became a hit at the club with his anti-establishment jokes and commentaries. The FBI leaned on Banducci to fire Sahl but the cash register receipts were going through the roof. Down the street from Sahl, Lenny Bruce was packing the crowd in at the Purple Onion. Both men enjoyed bringing down the conservative establishment and the crowds of San Francisco were the largest crowd of admirers.
Sahl continued to enjoy success in the 1950s with nightclub dates and guest appearances on television while cutting nine comedy albums. He was earning $1 million a year. He continued to find material for his act during the Kennedy, Johnson, Nixon and Carter administrations. Becoming obsessed with the assassination of JFK, he harped on it until he became tiresome and lost his biting edge. After years on the lounge circuit, Sahl wrote screenplays for Hollywood. By 1985, Sahl lingered in semi-obscurity. He dined with President Reagan in the White House, leaving the liberal American left feeling confused. In 1986, Sahl performed to enthusiastic audiences in Australia. He criticized his fellow comedians in 1985, believing Robin Williams and Steve Martin would not be around in 30 years. On 5/09/1985, Sahl appeared in the TV movie "Inside the Third Reich." After two decades playing little clubs he made a vivid comeback with a one-man Broadway show in mid-October, 1987 and in 1988, debuted on Broadway in a theatrical show "Mort Sahl." In the early '90s his social commentary was aired for the Christian Science Monitor's "World Monitor" TV broadcast.
In the 1950s, Sahl married his college sweetheart. In 1970, he married his second wife, China Lee, a former 1964 Playboy Playmate. Lee was in charge of training Playboy Bunnies around the country. The couple separated in 1974 but remarried in 1975. They live in Beverly Hills, CA with their son, Mort Jr. born in 1980. Lee works as Sahl's manager with his nickname for her being "the warden."
Sahl wrote on individuality, "The enemy, I have found, is the group. Even if it's your group - if you're lucky enough to find a group. I rarely did, if ever. I think it's the individual versus the group. The idea is to keep your state of mind independent, which is a war. Lonesome as hell. And you get deflected along the way."