NEW YORK - Satirist Mort Sahl, who worked with New Orleans District Attorney Jim Garrison as an investigator into the Kennedy assassination, will speak about Garrison, the case, and Oliver Stone's controversial new film "JFK" in New York City on Wednesday. Sahl's reactions to the case and the movie will form the centerpiece of the newest episode of his monthly television series, "Mort Sahl Live!"
The episode, which will be taped at Manhattan's Vineyard Theatre, is scheduled to run on The Monitor Channel on Jan. 18.
Convinced from the outset that the Warren Commission had erred in pointing to Lee Harvey Oswald as the sole killer, Sahl believed instead that a conspiracy involving the CIA and the Pentagon was at the root of the assassination. Putting aside his successful career, he worked for much of the four years without salary to help Garrison investigate a conspiracy theory that led to the trial of a New Orleans businessman, who was acquitted. Sahl's views led to the cancellation of his television series and his virtual banishment from television for nearly 20 years.
"Working on the Kennedy assassination caused people to accuse me of not being funny or beloved anymore. In the eyes of show business, those are the greatest crimes of all," Sahl says.
Talking about "JFK" is a natural subject for Sahl's new series, a freewheeling assessment of the contemporary scene in which Sahl invites the audience to consider with him how the country - as well as the world - got to be where it is today. Sahl uses current events as a springboard for comedy and satire. As part of a special segment for his January show, Sahl will interview five-time presidential candidate and 1992 Democratic hopeful, Eugene McCarthy.
"The essence of this show is the use of humor to investigate serious premises - what has happened to America, what is happening in the world," Sahl explains. "My show is one citizen's view of the world, and my approach is populist. I believe that ordinary people can make a difference if they expose sham and hypocrisy . . ."
Sahl revolutionized standup comedy. His topical satire, in which he poked fun at news and newsmakers, departed from the domestic and personal foibles that had been comedy's traditional targets. Sahl cleared a path for later sophisticated seminal influences that Sahl played in his work. Sahl's influence continues to be felt in "Saturday Night Live" and "Not Necessarily the News."