This review of the CD entitled "George Bettinger's Mom & Pop Variety Shop" was written by Marle Becker and appeared in Volume II, Issue 1 (March, 1998) of Applause! Applause! published by Dr. Thomas Robert Stevens.
"George Bettinger's Mom & Pop Variety Shop" - George Bettinger, Lizette Amado & Ron Dyszler
(Original Cast Records, OC-9803)
In what's very often referred to as the "Golden Age Of Comedy", in order to get a good laugh, great comedians never relied on performances showered with obscenities or tasteless material intentionally offensive to some parts of a population already predisposed to differential treatment. Laughgetters back then often included a roll of the eyes, the twirl of a Havana cigar, the fluttering of a pair of out-of-control eyebrows, or the perfect delivery of just one word, such as Jack Benny's long, drawn out "Weeeellll". Coupled with strong material and split-second timing, it was more than enough to elate audiences and keep them coming back for more.
Curious as to how great comics of yore might react to modern day situations? Wonder no more! Here's where impressionist George Bettinger comes into the picture. The result is "George Bettinger's Mom & Pop Variety Shop" and, thanks to Bettinger's talent and know-how, it works like a charm. Other impressionists are probably popping their fists against their foreheads in bewilderment wondering why they hadn't thought of the idea first!
With the variety shop as the common denominator and young Bettinger as the soda jerk/proprietor cum jack-of-all-trades, the impressionist's alter egos romp through a series of clever routines complete with sound effects and appropriate musical backgrounds. We find W.C. Fields relating to health food, Curly of the Stooges involved with gourmet coffee, and Laurel and Hardy not only facing down a gang in the Bronx, but also questioning what a CD might be. Favorite cuts are bound to be the whole gang getting into a rousing rendition of "Jeepers Creepers" and his almost perfect guest spot on the Joe Franklin Show with the infamous blue ribbon panel consisting of George Jessel, Jack Benny, and Jackie Mason.
While some of the characters come off better than others, he's pretty consistent and most of his pals are right on target. Where Jerry Lewis and George Burns perhaps could use a little fine tuning, his W.C. Fields, Jack Benny, Ed Wynne, Jackie Mason, and Joe Franklin are right on the money; we even get a few bars of Groucho doing "Lydia The Tatooed Lady" to unqualified perfection by this impressive impressionist.
While Bettinger is deftly supported by Ron Dyszler as Action Hero Arnold Ham'n Egger and Lizette Amado in the female parts, it is clearly Bettinger's show and steal it he does! It's unclear just how popular comedy CD's are these days, but one thing is certain - particularly if they're good - they deserve a life of their own. Better than chicken soup, "George Bettinger's Mom & Pop Variety Shop" is good for what ails you. No one who enjoys a good laugh should be without this one.