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Tag Archive: Marilu Henner

May 07

Remembering Dom DeLuise

“I’m actually a thin, serious person, but I play fat and funny, but only for the movies.” – Dom DeLuise.

It is said that a baby laughs 300 times a day, but an adult only 15.

And that could be 15 less times for many of us who loved and laughed with Dom DeLuise, popular actor, comedian, author, and chef who died May 4, 2009, after a long illness.

We will not be LOL quite as much anymore without his side-splitting comedy and good-natured humor.

I know I won’t. I am still laughing about the Shagungala sketch he performed in the 60s.

Anyone remember that particular comedy bit? Googled it and searched YouTube like crazy but no luck so far finding an old video of this hilarious comic routine.

But first, more about Dom DeLuise. I will get back to Shagungala in a minute.

It is important to note, when critiquing any performer, how rare it is for an entertainer to appeal to all age groups as Dom DeLuise did. Three generations came to know and appreciate this masterful comedian through three different mediums.

Baby boomers’ grandkids know him from his delightful and hilarious children’s books.

Boomers’ young adult offspring remember his riotous Cannonball Run movies from the 80s and his unrestrained Cannonball Run character, Captain Chaos. If you don’t remember this bright orange-and-yellow caped crusader, you can find him under this title on YouTube, the “Cannonball Run Music Video”.

As for my baby boomer generation, we remember Dom DeLuise from television in the 60s and 70s. Although he performed on many variety shows (including the Gary Moore Show, The Entertainers with Carol Burnett, and the Glen Cambell Show), it was the Dean Martin Summer Show I recall best.

The funnyman, Dom DeLuise, played the role of Dominick the Great, a bad magician who spoke in a fake, broken Italian accent and botched his magic tricks. Dean Martin, host, was the straight man. (You can find this sketch on YouTube titled Dean Martin & Don DeLuise.)

Martin sat in the audience and pretended to be a volunteer for Dominick the Great’s disastrous magic acts. Sometimes, Dean stood there smiling at DeLuise while smoking and crunching his cigarette butt under his foot (yes, they actually smoked on live TV in the 60s). Mostly Dean Martin tried to stay out of the comedian’s way.

Dom himself once explained, “Sometimes I get a little manic and you can’t stop me. I’m all over the place. I have fun.”

Marilu Henner, co-star of the 1984 Cannonball Run II (sequel to the original hit movie released in 1981) met Dom for the first time on set and was instantly astonished at Dom’s comedic genious and ability to ad lib.

She commented online about his death, “He had that kind of Robin Williams, non-stop crazy brain that would try anything if he thought it would get a laugh. I loved the relationship between Burt and Dom because you could see they were so yin and yang. Burt was so cool and easy and laid back, and Dom is just a ball of crazy kinetic energy that just doesn’t stop. They were each other’s complements. Because you don’t get smoother than Burt Reynolds, especially during the Cannonball Run period, and you don’t get wilder than Dom DeLuise.”

But, back to Shagungala as promised.

When Domminick the Great made his female assistant disappear in another magic trick gone awry, he couldn’t find her anywhere on stage. He began beating the curtain hunting for her and yelling, “Shagungala, you in there?”

Pardon the expression, I died laughing.

Over the years, when I went hunting for my kids inside or out and whether they understood me or not, I would shout, “Shagungala, you in there?”

I don’t think they got it. But they remember the Cannonball Run.

R.I.P. dear Dom.