Vietnam Punchline: Leo Durocher's Munster Gap
Leo Durocher listens to Herman Munster in The Munsters episode Herman the Rookie

Vietnam Punchline: Leo Durocher's Munster Gap

Less than a year after the Gulf of Tonkin "Incident," the veteran comedy writing team of Joe Connelly and Bob Mosher decided that the Vietnam War was ripe for a one liner on their bizarre Mutated Television show "The Munsters." Disregarding the "tragedy plus time" rule of humor, the duo gave the unusually topical joke to guest star Leo Durocher[1] who was playing himself in an episode about Herman Munster's ambition to become a power hitter for the Los Angeles Dodgers (Herman the Rookie, original airdate 04-08-1965).

The set-up for the 'Nam gag is a sequence in which Herman demonstrates his freakish ability to slam baseballs out of the Chavez Ravine ZIP code. After witnessing the kind of spirited slugging US Casualties Now Total 455 in Vietnam - Los Angeles Times, April 9, 1965 that would make Barry Bonds double his alleged steroid dosage, Coach Durocher unleashes his joke with just the right degree of awe: "I don't know whether to sign him with the Dodgers or send him to Vietnam." The line— which is somehow still shocking today— is followed by an eruption of canned laughter normally reserved for one of Al "Grandpa" Lewis's bat stew references.

One can only wonder whether the people involved with the program (or at the network) noticed the following headline from the Los Angeles Times that appeared the day after this wacky episode was broadcast: "U.S. Casualties Now Total 455 in Vietnam."

Cue laugh track...


FOOTNOTE:

1. Leo Ernest Durocher (1905-1991), one of the most famous figures in baseball, served as coach for the Los Angeles Dodgers from 1961 to 1964. He also played for the team when it was still in Brooklyn during the late 1930s and early '40s. It should be noted that Mr. Durocher's think-outside-the-box scouting technique was not limited to the historic try-out he gave a "young" Herman Munster in 1965. In the 1963 (television) season, he also gave Jethro Bodine ("The Beverly Hillbillies" episode The Clampetts and the Dodgers) and Mister Ed ("Mister Ed" episode Leo Durocher Meets Mister Ed), a homerun-hitting horse, their respective shots at diamond glory. [ BACK ]


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