Hulu.com has the first two seasons of “Miami Vice” online for your viewing pleasure.
Young’uns who don’t remember “Vice” might wonder what all the fuss was about. I kinda wonder that too.
I’ve embedded a 1984 episode, “Cool Runnin’,” at the bottom of this page. You can stream and watch it right here. It was written by Joel Surnow, who later made his fortune as co-creator of “24.”
But what’s really interesting about this episode? It features Charlie Barnett as “Noogie,” a small-time hustler and snitch. Barnett parlayed that role into a semi-regular gig on “Vice.”
His performance raises a question as to the difference between “cooning” and “clowning.” I say Charlie Barnett was a gifted clown. And he was obviously doing a lot of improvising in this episode... to the very end, when he breaks out with some “Rapper’s Delight.”
Barnett, who died of AIDS in 1996, made his reputation performing in New York City parks. He come close getting hired for “Saturday Night Live” in 1980... but the “black” slot went to Eddie Murphy instead. The rest is pop-culture history.
Charlie Barnett did have an impact on comedy, though. Dave Chappelle thought so highly of him, he tried to get a movie made based on Barnett’s life.
Embedded below is vintage video of Barnett in his natural habitat: Washington Square Park in Greenwich Village. It’s broad humor, yes, but the man knew how to work a crowd. Check him out...