From 1963 to 1967, Danny Kaye’s weekly variety show on CBS served as an Emmy Award-winning showcase for the versatile performer’s rich range of musical comedy talents. This DVD brings together six episodes, offering a wealth of surprises ranging from Rod Serling doing a brilliant self-parody of his “Twilight Zone” persona to Jack Benny making an unbilled guest spot in a “Cleopatra”-inspired sequence.
Kaye is in his element sharing the musical spotlight with the likes of Ella Fitzgerald, Harry Belafonte (doing a “Hava Nagila” duet and waltzing together in a riff on “Shall We Dance?”), a young Liza Minnelli, Greek singing star Nana Mouskouri (in her U.S. television debut) and Gene Kelly. Comedy skits feature then-unknowns Jamie Farr, Harvey Korman and Joyce Van Patten as part of Kaye’s ensemble, with the star shining in mayhem where he is a too-nervous character who is steamrolled by rambunctious strangers (including Art Carney as an overbearing repairman and Jackie Cooper as a too-loud airplane passenger).
While Kaye veered into self-indulgent shtick on more than a few occasions, he was clearly enjoying himself and his sense of fun carried over to his co-stars – indeed, the funniest moment on the DVD involves Belafonte flubbing a line and laughing uncontrollably thanks to Kaye’s clowning. Hopefully, more DVDs of Kaye’s variety productions will find their way into release in the near future.