Born: February 8, 1942
BlueMeter: Tame

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1992 New Teeth
1990 The Best Of Comic Relief '90

This album is a compilation, featuring multiple comics.

1990 Let's Not Make Love
1974 Mind over Matter
1973 Child of the 50's

Specials (and other video)

2010 Robert Klein: Unfair and Unbalanced
2005 Robert Klein: The Amorous Busboy of Decatur Avenue

Collected on "Robert Klein: The HBO Specials 1975-2005"

2000 Robert Klein: Child in His 50's

Collected on "Robert Klein: The HBO Specials 1975-2005"

1995 Comic Relief VII

Benefit show that features multiple comics.

1995 Robert Klein: It All Started Here

Collected on "Robert Klein: The HBO Specials 1975-2005"

1986 Robert Klein on Broadway

Collected on "Robert Klein: The HBO Specials 1975-2005"

1984 Robert Klein: Child of the 50's, Man of the 80's

Collected on "Robert Klein: The HBO Specials 1975-2005"

1982 Robert Klein at Yale

Collected on "Robert Klein: The HBO Specials 1975-2005"

1977 Robert Klein Revisited

Collected on "Robert Klein: The HBO Specials 1975-2005"

1975 An Evening with Robert Klein

Collected on "Robert Klein: The HBO Specials 1975-2005"

Books (by and about)

2006 The Amorous Busboy of Decatur Avenue: A Child of the Fifties Looks Back


Usually appearing glum and annoyed, Robert Klein began his career as an Alan King for the college crowd. In the 60’s, while King was raging about doctors and airlines, Klein was chagrined recalling the indignities of teachers and parents; the misery of being “a child of the 50’s.” He bitterly recalled not being able to go to the men’s room alone at 5, and enduring the stares of women as his mother marched him into the ladies room. Twenty years later he was still seething: “If I had the moxie to say, ‘Relax, lady, I’m only five, I’m essentially impotent, I have no desire for you…’ It’s humiliating enough to be in here!”

His first and best album, “Child of the 50’s,” was loaded with bits of trauma, from air-raid drills and meeting a drunken baseball idol, to watching “Our Gang” and reading confusing stories about historical figures: “Garfield was assasinated. Shot by a disappointed office seeker, right? Don’t they always say that same sentence? It’s crazy. Every time you read his name: James Abram Garfield, “Shot by a disappointed office seeker…” You look in the Encyclopedia Britannica under Garfield, James Abram. It says, “See Office seeker, disappointed.’”

Klein had gone from the Bronx’s De Witt Clinton High School to the Yale Drama School. While struggling as an actor (he appeared on Broadway in “The Apple Tree” in the late 60’s) he taught school. Briefly a member of Second City (1965-66), Klein found his best success in stand-up, but these were strange times for a newcomer. The old school of comics were still in power, typified by Alan King appearing on “The Ed Sullivan Show.” There were few “counter-culture” young comics like George Carlin, and these worked mostly in front of college crowds or opening for rock acts. Klein did not fit into either category. He was too straight-looking for the Carlin crowd, too brash and hip for the older audiences.

This was reflected in his comedy style. His one-liners had the caustic bitterness of Alan King and the attacks were against safe targets: “Hawaiian Punch is 10% fruit juice. What’s the other 90%? You’d be better off with paint thinner!” His more cartoonish humor, the kind of thing George Carlin’s crowd might like, included his hysterical sound portrait of a car trying to start on a cold morning. The key hit the ignition with the motor whispering “please-don’t-try-to-start-me” and when it turned, the motor let out a high-pitched “Leave me a-loooooone!”

While making his perilous way through the generation gap, Klein always looked to widen his appeal with acting roles, though he avoided TV sitcoms and turned down the role of Trapper John for the video version of “MASH.” His dramatic training was appreciated. Not only did he get occasional sitcom guest spots, he appeared in several films and starred opposite Lucie Arnaz in the hit Broadway musical “They’re Playing Our Song.” Always a frustrated singer, Klein insisted on performing some comic versions of 50’s doo-wop and 60’s crooning in his shows.

In the late 70’s and through the 80’s, the once fierce battle lines between young performers and old-timers eroded. Young fans were responding to Rodney Dangerfield, Joan Rivers and Jackie Mason. Older audiences warmed up to Carlin, David Brenner and Jay Leno. The aging Klein fit into a new category: Yuppies. He hosted a talk show on USA cable in the mid 80’s and performed in a one-man show as the “Child of the 50’s, Man of the 80’s.” Klein was now the voice of the disillusioned hippies who cut their hair short and joined the establishment, as well as the middle-class who already were mired in the lives of their parents, and the middle-aged looking for someone to sympathize with them—someone who still had enough energy to gripe to them about the frustrations of married life, exercise, childbirth, and such old Alan King favorites as air travel:

“On an airplane, order kosher food. Jew and Gentile alike. It throws them into chaos and they deserve that. There’s Kosher—the meat must be killed in a certain ritualistic way. And then there’s Glatt Kosher, which is ultra conservative. The animal must be killed in a certain way and the person who kills the animal must be killed a certain way. You have to put up with a little self-conscious banter: “Will the Jew who ordered the kosher meal please make himself known to flight attendant Vicki? Will the Jew…may I see your genitalia, sir? We have the Jew here…’”