The name Milton Berle meant absolutely nothing to me prior to doing this workout. So in case you’re me, Milton Berle was an actor, comedian and the first major US television star. I don’t think you’re me, though. I’m me over here. You’re you. That’s how individual reflective consciousness works. Without that we might as well be living in a Charlie Kaufman movie.
If you’re an American then you are (a) definitely not me (I’m not an American. I’ve been tested) and (b) likely to be more familiar with Uncle Miltie, “Mister Television.”
Mister. Goddamn. Television.
I’m certainly not looking to disparage the man. He appeared on the Muppet Show for goodness sake. The proper one back in the 1970s. This makes him approximately 80 bazillion times more famous than any other celebrity we’ve featured here. Did Marky Mark ever get to do a duet with Fozzie Bear? Did Cher? Well, Milton Berle did AND he sang with Rowlf the dog. Of course, fast-forward 17 years and he’s making this rubbish fitness DVD but you can’t peak forever.
The epitome of human achievement.
I really had no business watching this workout at all. At the beginning of the DVD, Laura Gladwin of the Aerobics and Fitness Association of America introduces us to a couple of charts – one to check our heart rate and the other showing how we can assign a number to how puffed out we are. I say “we”. The charts only cover the ages from 60 to 100. Anyone younger can fuck off back to Kim Kardashian’s “Fit in your Jeans by Friday” workout as far as Uncle Miltie is concerned.
You know descriptions are supposed to be descriptive, right?
Milton was 86 when this workout was made. This would be impressive if he actually took part in any of the exercises but he doesn’t. He confines himself to watching from the sidelines mostly offscreen occasionally addressing a humorous remark to camera. Sometimes he offers advice while trapped inside a floating rectangle like one of the bad guys in Superman II.
Just don't let it smash, for god's sake.
Milton’s other contribution to the workout are a couple comedy sections where he dresses up as celebrity fitness gurus Richard Simmons and Jane Fonda and makes some terrible jokes. “I don’t allow any of my pupils to drink, smoke or have sex.” says ‘Jane Fonda’, “at least until the workout is over.” His posse don’t actually fall about laughing but this is largely because their hips wouldn’t be able to take to take the strain. They’re doubled up with mirth, though. I suspect this is because they are delighted to have been invited along and are far too well mannered not to laugh at Berle’s gags.
Tell me I'm funny. Please.
The interesting thing about the comedy segments is that we are encouraged to carry on working out while they are going on. “Remember to keep moving during this next segment!” admonishes trainer Merrily Smith who then demonstrates some workout moves we can do whilst watching the hilarity unfurl. Thing is, once you have introduced the idea that you can exercise while watching something other than an exercise DVD, it raises the question of why you need to bother with the workouts at all. Why not just follow Merrily’s exercise tips and then watch the whole of Milton’s Muppet Show episode instead?
Because it's got Zelda Rose's Singing Owl in it.
That way you wouldn't have to watch Berle’s clumsily deliver baffling lines like “Oh God, I’d like to have the prune concession for this lot.” and “Were you a lifeguard at a waterbed motel?”
Instead you could enjoy Berle being heckled by Statler and Waldorf which is much more fun.
“I have been a successful comedian half my life!” Berle tells them. To which Waldorf replies “How come we got this half?”
Berle: I’d like to see you come down here and be funny.
Waldorf: You first!
This workout is aimed at users aged up to 100 years old who may have limited mobility so it is safe to say that this is the easiest workout we’ve reviewed at CLCW. Good thing too. If it had been like Josie Gibson’s workout from a couple of weeks ago, not all of the OAPs would have made it out.
The best bits
Would I do this workout again?
Maybe once I become a senior, this workout will make all kinds of sense. I’m sure I’ll appreciate a workout which enables me to jog on the spot while sitting in a chair. If not, I’ve got a few decades yet to source out an alternative.
Berle includes what he calls the cookery section and is in fact one recipe for baked fish and steamed vegetables. It is cooked by chef Patricia Hill who looks so uncomfortable in front of the camera that it is painful to watch. She looks moments away from running in the opposite direction while screaming at the top of her lungs. She is clearly utterly terrified of Berle. I think he may threatened to kill her entire family if she didn’t take part. I wouldn’t put it past him.
Scream and I will cut you.
Milton Berle was in show business for most his life. He started in music hall as a child and was still working a couple of years before his death in 2002. So I guess the guy must have been doing something right. In this video, however, he is absolutely terrible. The one thing worse than the quality of Berle’s gags is his delivery of them. He stops and starts. He messes up punch lines. Did the man learn nothing from his time working with Fozzie Bear?
One of the greatest comics of our time and his performing human.
The group of seniors doing this workout absolutely delightful. They range in age from 62 to 91 and are keen and enthusiastic. It’s like watching a session at a very upbeat Old People’s home. They’re like the guys in Cocoon who were pretty sprightly even before they got alien-juiced up.
Berle couldn't afford these guys prices, though.
As the credits roll, Milton, Merrily, and Milton’s non-exercising cameo-appearing brother, Phil are shown first and then each of the participants’ picture, name and age - starting with the oldest. On one hand it makes sense – highest billing based on seniority. On the other it makes the later entries seem very unimpressive. You nod an admiring head at Warren Helvey and Esther Prezant as their ages appear on the screen. “Still doing sit-ups at 91, Mr Helvey? Good on you sir. 81 years old, Mrs Prezant? Well I never! You don’t look a day over 78.”
It makes the septuagenarians look less remarkable by comparison and by the time you get to those in their sixties, you have to stop yourself berating them for daring to look like actual old people. “Why do you need that chair, eh Margaret Berry? You’re only 62. Warren Helvey’s not using a chair and he’s old enough to be your father!”
She's having a lovely time, mind.
Even the youngest amongst them will be over 80 by now. I wonder how many of the Milton Berle seniors are still with us. I hope there are plenty of them still going enjoying their lives to the full. Maybe hanging out with their grandchildren and asking them if they want to hear about the time Grandma made a fitness video.
“You tell me every time I come over. Are you going to make me do the Charleston workout with you again?”
At the end of the DVD, Berle delivers what may be his only non-excruciating line of the whole workout.
“It’s people like you,” he says “that give aging a good name.”