Like Mrs. Maisel? Check out real 1960s stand-up comedy…on vinyl

In 2023, Emory added about 2,300 vinyl LPs to the online catalog; these LPs were from a gift cataloging backlog and had been sitting on shelves for many years, unsearchable. Thanks to the work and dedication of many students and library staff over several years, especially Head of Resource Description Sofia Slutskaya, these LPs are now findable in Library Search. Among this vinyl, there was a notable collection of about 40 LPs featuring stand-up comedy from the late 1950s to the early 1970s—remarkably, the same period covered by the award-winning Amazon Studios series The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel, created by Amy Sherman-Palladino, which recently aired its fifth and final season in 2023.

While none of Emory’s stand-up comedy LPs feature Lenny Bruce or Joan Rivers (the inspiration for Mrs. Maisel), they do feature both comedians and (in the term of the 1950s) comediennes that are referenced or parodied in the show: Mort Sahl, Bob Newhart, and Phyllis Diller (one of the inspirations for the character Sophie Lennon). And there are many more comedians (and comediennes) not mentioned in the show such as Billy Gray, Phil Foster, Jack de Leon, Jack Paar, Woody Woodbury, Selma Diamond, Fannie Flagg, Marie Wilson, and Elsie Griner. One of the strangest recordings is titled The Royal Family: The Lives and Loves of “King” Richard and “Queen” Elizabeth (DISC 6001), a set of comedy sketches based on the lives of the movie star couple Richard Burton and Elizabeth Taylor. There is also a “blue comedy” (again, 1950s term) record from Rusty Warren titled Knockers up! (DISC 7502), which sounds a lot like one of Mrs. Maisel’s catchphrases. Some notes on the content of these LPs: 1) as one might expect (especially after watching Mrs. Maisel), racism, sexism, and narrow white 1960s perspectives are present throughout these routines, and 2) it’s amazing how many of these 1960s comedy routines involve one-sided phone conversations, a style pioneered by Bob Newhart.

Front covers of The Focus on the South by Elsie Griner and The Royal Family by the Triangle Players

Most of these LPs cannot be found in any other form for listening, including streaming; recorded audio stand-up comedy is in a weird place that doesn’t really fit into music streaming platforms or audiobook platforms. In fact, some of these recordings are hard to find even on LP, with some only listing 2 holdings libraries on WorldCat. To browse Emory’s collection of comedy LPs, follow this link, or navigate to the Advanced Search screen of LibrarySearch, and enter “comedy” in the subject and “DISC” in the local call number field.

Separate from this vinyl collection, Emory Libraries has a CD box set that features a smattering of routines from many American standup comedians from 1915–1994, including Lenny Bruce, Joan Rivers, Moms Mabley, and more. Is this box set on streaming platforms? Again, no.

How does one play LPs without owning a turntable? Emory Libraries has several available for Emory community use: there are two turntables in the Music and Media Library on Woodruff level 4, and there are two portable turntables available for checkout at the Library Service Desk on level 2. All of these have detailed instructions for vinyl beginners on how to use the machines.

All LPs are in closed stacks and should be requested in advance to be picked up at the Library Service Desk in Woodruff. To request LPs from the collection, follow these instructions. Many LPs are housed in the Library Service Center, so they may take a day or two to arrive at Woodruff, after requested.

Happy listening!

Front and back cover of Rally Round the Flagg by Fannie Flagg (1967); Flagg (also known as the author of Fried Green Tomatoes at the Whistle Stop Cafe) made often made jokes about her home state, Alabama.

–Peter Shirts, Music and Dance Librarian