From, 2006 Swami makes one last stand…A little bit of Mort Saul, Dennis Miller, Professor Irwin Corey but mostly himself, Swami is one of a kind. Unfortunately, home videos weren’t around in the ’70s like they are now…so we have only this at least and a tribute from the mayor of Los Angeles, below… It’s not vintage Swami – and hard to hear – but at least one gets a glimpse of the man they call the ‘wrold’s best sidewalk comedian’ with which we agree.
SWAMI X Lives
Swami X is an American boardwalk performer and stand-up comedian. Active from the 1970s to 1985, he performed in Los Angeles, San Francisco, Berkeley, and New York. He was known for bawdy sexual humor and political invective.
Swami X’s act was a monologue mixing pithy sociopolitical observations with poetry, sarcasm and humor, which typically included blasphemy, profanity, and attacking “sacred cows”—producing “pleased shock and delighted outrage” in observers. His notable lines include:
- “Sex is not the answer. Sex is the question. ‘Yes’ is the answer.”
- “How do we know Jesus Christ was Jewish? Because he went into His Father’s business.”
- “If I had known I would live this long, I would have taken better care of myself”.
He was known for appearing on the Venice Boardwalk, at the UCLA and U.C. Berkeley campuses, in San Francisco, and at Washington Park in New York City. He retired in 1985. In 2009 the mayor of Los Angeles, Antonio Villaraigosa, presented him with an official proclamation.
Swami X appears as a character in Roger L. Simon‘s mystery novel, The Straight Man and is referenced in Pat Hartman’s volume of Venice vignettes, Call Someplace Paradise.
While attending UCLA I was lucky enough to see the Swami dozens of times between 1971-1975 at Meyerhoff Park at UCLA. No, it wasn’t a formal thing. He didn’t get paid and we never knew when he was ‘performing.’ But, if you were lucky you’d catch him a couple times a week, at least. He’d usually show up in his unique apparel – tie die one day, tshirt another, his long beard , sunglasses all adding to a mystique. After five or ten minutes of ‘getting settled in the batters box’ (which was a little lecturn right in the park) , Swami X would take off.
A lot of the material was somewhat juvenile and sexist but most of the stuff was just so funny you had to overlook the garbage. Compared to Howard Stern he was an angel – and a heck of a lot funnier – AND FREE! You’d hear a lot of the same lines repeated time and again -afterall, if you see the same guy 2-3 times a week you can’t expect him to have new material every time- but it didn’t matter. With Swami it was just as funny, or moreso, the second or thrid or fourth time around.
He’d usually open with something like,
“I could be living in the lap of luxury at any mental institution in the country and I’m here working for peanuts in Meyerhoff Park.’ Then he might make a sexist reference about Patty Hearst, who was in the news at the time, having been kidnapped by the SLA. Or maybe he’d tell us for the umteenth time why people become Jesus Freaks (‘Because they can’t get laid and their semen backs up to their penial gland in their brain, causing a mental fog and worse.)
He would go after the cops, ‘You can tell the captains from the sergeants because the captains have a quarter inch neck. The sergeants have no necks.’ One of his most popular lines was , while introducing himself, ‘ I come from Uranus (pronounced ‘Your Anus,’ where women’s heads only move one way, up and down (as in ‘Yes”) and their asses move sideways.’ He then demonstrates the movements, as he does a little hop-skip; Swami was in good shape and his physicality is an essentiall part of the show. One could actually hearn history and current events form Swami. He was well read and would drop names at the drop of his hat…from Patty Hearst to Henry Kissinger.
After a couple years Swami became so popular he did appear in a couple commercial shows, but it wasn’t him and the next thing you know he’s back at Meyerhoff UCLA. He lives in Venice but would occassionally go north to UC Berkeley, where his politics were , of course, a big hit. I remember seeing him there a time or two, but UCLA and Venice Beach were his home where he is beloved to this day. SEE BELOW HONOR
July 17, 2009
The Beachhead and Mayor Villaraigosa Honor Swami X at Beyond Baroque
Swami X is hard to put into words . Maybe he is an acquired taste. Most of his audience were men , to be expected. But, there was nobody like him – and never will be. Perhaps MICHAEL SAVAGE, on the right side of the dial, would be sort of akin to Swami with his wordsmanship, stories and offbeat humour. Professor Irwin Corey would be another great one in the same vein, now 97 and now panhandling in New York(see his story elsewhere int hese pages.) So, politics aside, funny can be funny. And I was lucky to be going to school at UCLA just about the time when Swami got started on his independent , off the cuff ‘comedy tours.’ There were guys like Holy Hubert, s religous nut, who was funny only because of the way he delivered his Jesus sermons, of which people made fun. But Swami was and is loved and it’s so good to find he is still with us. I’m sure if Swami went commercial it wouldn’t be the same. But he seemed happy to just make enough money to get by and live his free lifestyle. Ah the memories. Would love to hear from any others who were lucky enough to see and hear Swami during his prime. And, now, for a rare, YouTube glimse of the Swami in action (not like being there but a sample nonetheless)…
SWAMI X LIVES
WHERE ARE THEY NOW?
Coming Soon. Let us know who you’re looking for. eg Professor Irwin Corey? He’s still around, 97 years old and panhandling in the streets of NewYork…we already did a story on him , searchable in these pages