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the otto files

where the classics never go out of style

This just in: Irv Benson, a man who became famous for saying everything we, the audience, felt has died at the age of 102.

Benson was one of the last living links to the age of Vaudeville and Burlesque in America. He worked in both circuits but his face became familiar to millions in the 1960s when Milton Berle hired him to “play a heckler” who would torment the comic from a balcony just above the stage. The character was named Sidney Schpritzer and his routine was based largely on how unfunny Berle was. That alone won him my affection for Berle indeed was not funny. But Schpritzer was.

There were some very creative and funny people who were watching this routine which went on for years who later helped introduce my generation to the concept of amusing hecklers. Remember these guys?

And here they are attacking the man who inspired their creation.

Mr. Benson’s obituaries all mention the 2010 documentary film, “The Last First Comic.” I’ve never seen it but I’d certainly like to. Sad to see a piece of entertainment history go but I’d say 102 years is quite a ride.