“Old Faces: Innocent Delight”

Time – April 19, 1963

In the ten years since his last Broadway revue, Danny Kaye has made ten movies, formed his own charter airline service, traveled through some two dozen countries as ambassador at large for the U.N. Children's Fund, gained some weight and lost some hair. As he proved last week at the start of a month-long stand at Manhattan's Ziegfeld Theater, he has kept all of his charm.

Kaye's special quality is a generosity of spirit that is contagious. He plainly likes people, and even when he mimes their foibles, he does it with delight and affection. His jokes demand no butt and draw no blood; he neither (like Benny) lets himself play the fool, nor (like Hope) does he mock the foolishness of others.

He intends no social criticism (like Sahl), finds no side to comedy but the comic. He has never (like Bruce) depended on Negro or Jewish dialect for laughs, knowing that the vulnerable do not enjoy being kidded. His comedy is eager and innocent; he plays to the child in Everyman, allowing no room in his spectrum for the off-color, no time in his world for anything but the basic games of laughter, song and pantomime. While others find subject for sport in drugs, dames, madmen and sit-ins, Danny Kaye looks around, beyond and behind him toward a world where a Pinocchio of a man, his tongue cast in quicksilver, can get people laughing simply by reminding them of the children they used to be.

Kaye's best are still his standards, the git-gat-gittle song like Minnie the Moocher and Ludwig von Shtickfritz; no one but the D'Oyly Carte's Martyn Green has ever pattered half so perfectly. Though he laces his act with impossible puns and games ("That's the way De Gaulle bounces," or "Under the spreading psychiatry"), nothing diminishes the pure delight of his tour in a thousand dialects through the world's locker rooms, or his Begin the Beguine as sung by a matinee idol who can do everything but carry a tune. His routines include six chimpanzees and ten singers (the humans are taller), but mostly Kaye depends, as he always has, on his audience, elicits the responses he wants as surely as if he were playing a keyboard instead of rows of strange and private souls.

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