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Andy Griffith is so beloved in his incarnations as Sheriff Andy and Matlock that his early years as a stand-up comic are nearly forgotten. Emerging nationally in the early '50s, the North Carolina native quickly proved himself a triple-threat: As an actor, he demonstrated uncommon versatility with a dramatic portrayal of Lonesome Rhodes in Elia Kazan's classic A FACE IN THE CROWD and a hilarious bumpkin Army recruit in 1955's NO TIME FOR SERGEANTS. And Griffith popped up fairly regularly on television variety shows, declaiming his southern-skewed reconsiderations of literary classics. Actually, the term "stand-up comic" is inaccurate; Griffith was a storyteller nonpareil, who viewed the world through the prism of an ill-educated southern country boy befuddled by the nonsensical behavior of, say, Romeo and Juliet, or Anthony and Cleopatra, or even the participants in a simple game of football ("There were three convicts in striped shirts a-runnin' around..."). The latter observations form the basis of the monologue, "What It Was Was Football," one of the bits that established Griffith in the mid-'50s. It's included in this all-live collection, THE WIT AND WISDOM OF ANDY GRIFFITH, along with other timeless pieces such as "Romeo & Juliet" ("And Juliet says, 'Romeo, Romeo, wherefore are thou, Romeo?' And he popped up and said, "I's right here!"), "Andy and Cleopatra," and "Swan Lake." Typical of this kind of humor, the wisdom that shapes these observations elevates the routines to inspired satire. Its targets are the pompous and the prejudiced; its shots are always true.
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