Good-bye, Anna Russell (or, When Comedy Was Smart)

To take a very brief break from pharma, just learned today that the comedienne extraordinaire, Anna Russell, died yesterday in Australia.  Her comedy career spanned from the 1950s through the 1980s. I'm sure that most people under the age of 27 might find her work, at best, "quaint."  After all, we live in an age of short attention spans, and brilliant, but chameleon-like comedic actors like Robin Williams and Jim Carey who shift in seconds from persona to persona, or from gag to gag. Her work drew from a wellspring of knowledge (a deep knowledge of music history, theory and performance) and didn't patronize its audience. Listening to Ms. Russell's parody of Wagner's Ring Cycle is as good an introduction to that formidable work as any "serious" music appreciation class, and her "How to Write Your Own Gilbert and Sullivan Operetta" stands on its own.   For an audio bio of Ms. Russell (roughly 30 minutes long) narrated by the great Lilly Tomlin, click here. Ms. Russell wasn't all that well known, outside of hard-core classical music circles, so I include a smattering of some very brief audio clips and some parody lyrics . Better known, but operating in the same vein, was the great Danish pianist Victor Borge.  Both, clearly, must have inspired Peter Schickele and PDQ Bach. They also showed that comedy doesn't always have to aim for the least common denominator, to work. -AMS