Watching veteran comics Harvey Korman, Shelley Berman, Bill Dana, Ronnie Schell and Pat Harrington in “Yarmy’s Army,” at the University of Judaism’s Gindi Auditorium is like watching the annual Old-Timers Game at Dodger Stadium. You’re amazed that, even if Sandy Koufax has lost a lot of smoke off his fastball, that classic high-kick delivery is still there.
So, Saturday night, even if Dana was still doing Jose Jimenez, he’s still funny. And Berman is still a genius.
Berman is a reason to see this show--beyond paying the ticket price that benefits the Lucy Adams Fund for Cancer Research. The show’s title refers to this group of comics, and their circle, who entertained their friend actor-director Dick Yarmy in the months and weeks before he died of cancer. You sense that if Yarmy was kept alive by the power of laughter (curiously, his name was mentioned only once in passing during the evening), it was Berman who was his life preserver.
One of Berman’s classic monologues, in which he plays his chiding but caring father, capped the evening’s first half, and it’s the one piece of theater in the show. Berman trundled on stage casually, gave the illusion of not being ready to be in front of an audience, yet in moments had us in his crafty little fist. His Borscht Belt sense of timing combined with a Shakespearean actor’s voice is unique; if America had Japan’s honorary list of “national living treasures,” Berman would be on it.
Dana’s routine built to a fine, relaxed finish when he made a brilliant offhand note that “humor is the shortest distance between two points.” Harrington’s bit felt stiff and forced, but he cleverly showed off his way with dialects. Schell is the one man in the “army” who still works the stand-up circuit, and his routine was the slickest, if the slightest, accented with his inimitable Cheshire Cat grin. Korman emceed, and except for some fleeting moments when he had to improvise, the classic Korman wasn’t on view.
“Yarmy’s Army” at the Gindi Auditorium, University of Judaism, 15600 Mulholland Drive, Los Angeles. Performances are at 8:30 p.m. Saturday and 2 and 7:30 p.m. Sunday. Tickets are $20-$25. (310) 476-9777, Ext. 201 or 203.