Michael O’Donoghue

By: Jason Grote
January 5, 2010

MRMIKE

No one personified the knotty relationship between comedy and brutality quite like MICHAEL O’DONOGHUE (1940–94), the man responsible for the funniest (and most unnerving) comic bits from the golden ages of both Saturday Night Live and National Lampoon. O’Donoghue was a popular absurdist befitting the American malaise; his still-funny legacy includes sketches, comics, and prose with titles like “The Little Engine That Died,” “Underwear for the Deaf,” and my personal favorite, “The Churchill Wit.” A brief excerpt: “When the noted playwright George Bernard Shaw sent him two tickets to the opening night of his new play with a note that read: ‘Bring a friend, if you have one,’ Churchill, not to be outdone, promptly wired back: ‘You and your play can go fuck yourselves.'”

HUMORISTS at HILOBROW: Michael O’Donoghue | Jemaine Clement | Andy Kaufman | Danny Kaye | George Ade | Jimmy Durante | Jack Benny | Aziz Ansari | Don Rickles | Godfrey Cambridge | Eric Idle | David Cross | Stewart Lee | Samuel Beckett | Jerry Lewis | Joanna Lumley | Jerome K. Jerome | Phil Silvers | Edward Lear | Tony Hancock | George Carlin | Stephen Colbert | Tina Fey | Keith Allen | Russell Brand | Michael Cera | Stan Laurel | Ricky Gervais | Gilda Radner | Larry David | Chris Pontius | Dave Chappelle | Jimmy Finlayson | Paul Reubens | Peter Sellers | Buster Keaton | Flann O’Brien | Lenny Bruce | Sacha Baron Cohen | Steve Coogan | PG Wodehouse | A.J. Liebling | Curly Howard | Fran Lebowitz | Charlie Kaufman | Stephen Merchant | Richard Pryor | James Thurber | Bill Hicks | ALSO: Comedy and the Death of God

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Each day, HiLobrow.com pays tribute to one of our favorite high-, low-, no-, or hilobrow heroes on that person’s birthday. Click here for more HiLo Hero shout-outs.

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  1. I don’t think you can understand his sometime colleague and collaborator George W.S. Trow’s agonized nobrow disposition without first grokking O’Donoghue’s no-holds-barred nobrow. A great place to start is with his two early books: “The Adventures of Phoebe Zeit-Geist”, a graphic novel drawn by Frank Springer and published by Grove Press in 1968 (it was first serialized in Evergreen Review), and “The Incredible, Thrilling Adventures of the Rock” (1968), a sorta children’s book. Both were around the house when I was a kid — the former carefully locked up, the latter mixed in with my Richard Scarry and Maurice Sendak books. Both blew my young mind.

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