3. Jimmy Riddle and Jackie Phelps, “Hee-Haw." Remember the guy who made monosyllabic noises and mashed his hands together to squeeze out air as his partner slapped a thigh and his chest to provide a frenetic backbeat, smiling and staring into the camera all the while?
If so, you’ll know why their "Effen and Hambone" routine made Punditty’s list. If not, you’ve missed out on one of the great acts in American television history.
If space aliens ever come in peace to visit the Earth, it is likely they would be interested in learning about our most profound expressions of creativity. Let Punditty be the first to go on record with the proposition that the clip embedded above should be shown to these hypothetical aliens at the earliest possible moment after their arrival.
Our most gifted poets, orators and all-around braniacs could reach for words for years and still never convey the deeply complex simplicities and intensely meaningless meanings communicated so clearly by Riddle and Phelps.
No one else on “Hee-Haw" could enthrall audience in quite the same way they did. Not Stringbean, not Gunilla Hutton, not Lulu Roman. Not Grandpa Jones, not Archie Campbell, not even the legendary Junior Sample himself.
And that is how it should be. For in their wordless display of transcendent wisdom aimed at a pre-disco America still hopeful that the irreverent yet respectable meme being spun by the crew at “Laugh-In" might one day penetrate and soften the self-imposed harshness of Southern Culture, Riddle and Phelps gave unto to the world an art form. For this, we owe them an unending gratitude.
Up next: Before revealing the No. 1 and No. 2 finishers in the TV Greats in a Secondary or Lesser Role Countdown, Punditty will release the 15 honorable mentions who filled out spots 11-25 on the list.
The Punditty Pantheon of TV Greats can be viewed in full at: