Monday, October 15 , 2018, 9:33 am | Fair 62º


Comedy Legend Rip Taylor Kicks Off Comedy Festival with Arlington Theatre Documentary Debut

Live Q&A follows the screening of Rip Rip Hooray, documenting his life and career

Comedy legend Rip Taylor kicked off the Santa Barbara Laugh Out Loud Comedy Festival this week with a live Q&A session at the Arlington Theatre for the premiere of Rip Rip Hooray, a film documenting his life and career.

Rip Taylor

Since making his debut as the “Crying Comedian” on The Ed Sullivan Show, Taylor has charmed audiences with more than a dozen films and television appearances, including popular 1970s TV shows like Hollywood Squares and The Gong Show, though younger audiences may know him from more recent appearances in films like Jackass the Movie.

The idea for the film was sparked by a conversation between Matthew Perniciaro and fellow producers Scott Mosier and Frank Kelly, who knew Taylor personally.

The comedian's story spans eight decades, and in spite of the silly and high-flying nature of Taylor's public persona and performances, the documentary paints a picture of a man who struggled with and overcame physical and psychological abuse as a child, and survived the cutthroat world of early television. 

Though Taylor said he doesn't intend to watch the documentary because he "already knows his own story," he said the teary-eyed standing ovation he received after the film's climax was wonderful. 

"When I filmed it I didn't do it with the intention of others seeing it. I was shocked that so many people came and their response," Taylor told Noozhawk. "And when someone told me about the responses on Twitter, I thought 'my god,' that was so flattering."

The film documents Taylor's early professional life before comedy, starting out as a page for the U.S. Senate.

Taylor recounted the harrowing story of asking Sen. Harry Cain, a Washington representative in the 1940s, for his first job. Taylor said that outside of comedy, it was one of the most important jobs he ever had, because it taught him how to seize opportunities.

"To this day, I still don't know where I got the balls to do that," Taylor said. "I had nothing to lose. The worst he could do was say no, but he didn't and I got to witness history."

Taylor became famous for flinging gratuitous amounts of confetti at audiences, wearing bedazzled suits and frequently removing his toupée in faux-outrage just to get a laugh.

Perniciaro said he think audiences will be surprised to learn just how much pain Taylor endured before becoming the fun and rowdy character he's know as today.

"I think the thing that people will be most surprised by is his humanity and endurance," Perniciaro said. "You'd always think his life was all confetti and a mustache, but his story is much deeper than that. He's endured unbelievable obstacles to get to where he is."

The outpouring of emotion and adoration continued into the Q&A session that followed the film's screening, including an appearance from contemporary comedian Eric Schwartz, who paid homage to his fellow funnyman by putting on Taylor's trademark wig over his bald head, saying he was flattered to be "wearing God's hair."

The documentary is still a work in progress, with the preliminary version having been completed only hours before Tuesday's screening.

Plans for future screenings featuring appearances by Taylor and the film's producers are being planned for Hollywood and New York.

The Santa Barbara Laugh Out Loud Comedy Festival continues through Sunday. Click here for more information.

Noozhawk intern Shaun Kahmann can be reached at [email protected]. Follow Noozhawk on Twitter: @noozhawk, @NoozhawkNews and @NoozhawkBiz. Connect with Noozhawk on Facebook.

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