Comic Marty Allen is 94, but who’s counting? He’s laughing
NEW YORK >> The baby face and bug eyes were still in place. Ditto, the famous wasp’s nest of hair.
“It’s unbelievable to be 94 years ago,” Marty Allen told his audience. “My wife says, ‘What do you want for your birthday?’ I told her, ‘An antique.’ So she framed my birth certificate.”
Allen — who, more precisely, is 94-and-a-half years old — is still making his audiences laugh six decades after hitting the big time touring with the great jazz vocalist Sarah Vaughan. He made 44 appearances on “The Ed Sullivan Show” with his comedy partner Steve Rossi, and for more than 30 years has performed with his wife, singer-songwriter Karon Kate Blackwell, an able “straight man” in her own right who was by Allen’s side Tuesday night at the cozy Metropolitan Room for the first of several scheduled New York appearances.
Allen told her he had flown to New York for the gigs — peasant-class.
“PEASANT-class?!” exclaimed Blackwell. “I don’t know what that is.”
“A seat by the window,” Allen replied, “on the wing looking in.”
That wasn’t all. He described an odd encounter in an elevator that very morning.
“A woman keeps looking at me,” he reported to the gathering. “She says, ‘Oh, my God, I can’t believe it. I saw you on “Hollywood Squares”! I saw you with the Beatles on “The Ed Sullivan Show”! I saw you with Joan Crawford and Nat King Cole on “The Hollywood Palace”! But I can’t remember your name.’ “I said, ‘Brad Pitt.’” While Allen’s comedy is still as broad as his grin, the jokes were still gentle and, even when offered up as topical, they clearly qualified for landmark status.
During a bit where he pretended to be Blackwell’s ventriloquist’s dummy, she asked her husband, “Who would you like to see as your next president?” “Me,” Allen replied. “But you’re a dummy.” “I’d fit in!” Allen’s act has always been familyfriendly, somewhat of a rarity in the Vegas universe where he has long flourished. His raciest wisecrack Tuesday: “I remember the first time I had sex. I kept a receipt!”
For the record, only once during his act did he voice his timeless catchphrase, “Hello dere!” And then it was delivered as a sunny, earnest greeting when he first took the stage.
“Hello dere,” of course, has been Allen’s signature for more than a half-century. And beyond that, those once were household words that even Mercury astronaut Gordon Cooper radioed from space: “Hello, down dere!”
It was all a lucky accident for Allen, as he explains in his 2014 self-published memoir, aptly titled, “Hello Dere!”:
During an engagement at a Philadelphia nightclub, he zoned out in mid-routine while Rossi was asking him a question.
Allen swiftly covered for his lapse with a wide-eyed “Hello dere!”
“What did you say?” persisted Rossi, milking the moment.
In this Dec. 10, 1965, photo, the comedy team of Marty Allen, left, and Steve Rossi, now making their first film on the Paramount lot in Los Angeles. Allen, 94, is still making his audiences laugh six decades after hitting the big time touring with the great jazz vocalist Sarah Vaughan.