‘Funniest of them all’: tributes paid to Mort Sahl after death aged 94

Tributes have been paid to the trailblazing standup comedian Mort Sahl after his death at the age of 94.

The Canadian-born comic was credited with revolutionising American comedy in the 1950s thanks to his acerbic political satire.

Sahl was known for performing with a rolled-up newspaper as a prop and would frequently ask the audience: “Are there any groups I haven’t offended?”

He died at his home in Mill Valley, near San Francisco in Northern California, on Tuesday, a friend told the New York Times.

Sahl became an influential figure during the 1950s, when he recorded what the US Library of Congress described as “the earliest example of modern standup comedy on record”.

By the end of the decade he had appeared in films, hosted the Oscars and written jokes for John F Kennedy’s presidential campaign.

However, the 1960s brought a career lull for Sahl. He became convinced Kennedy was killed as part of a conspiracy and would read lengthy passages from the Warren Commission report into the president’s killing.

In 1996, Sahl, who was married three times, was devastated by the death of his only son, 19-year-old Morton Jr.

After moving from Los Angeles to Mill Valley, Sahl became friends with Robin Williams and appeared in a documentary about his fellow comedian’s death.

Sahl has been hailed as “pound-for-pound, the funniest, most innovative comedian of them all”.

Robert B Weide, the executive producer of acclaimed comedy Curb Your Enthusiasm who filmed a documentary about Sahl said in tribute: “#MortSahl (1927-2021) was not only the most influential standup comic in the history of the medium, he remained, pound-for-pound, the funniest, most innovative comedian of them all, throughout his entire career.

“He was also a good friend. RIP, Pal.”

The Simpsons star Harry Shearer, who voices characters including Mr Burns, Waylon Smithers, Principal Skinner and Ned Flanders, also paid tribute.

He said: “RIP Mort Sahl. He just invented modern American political satire, is all. Was still doing great standups on Periscope until very recently. And while he was best known for stinging wit, he was always an expert joke writer.”

The actor and comedian Albert Brooks tweeted: “Most young people have no idea who he was but he was one the few comedians who yanked comedy out of vaudeville-type humour into the modern age. One of the very first to just talk to the audience. We’ll miss you Mort.”

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