Over the years, Alan King has toned down the angry-middle-aged-man persona he cultivated to great comic effect on The Ed Sullivan Show and elsewhere. This savvy actor-writer-producer seems to have relaxed a bit without losing any of his invaluable skepticism. All of which makes him an ideal host for Inside the Comic Mind, which features King interviewing a different comedian each week.
King's guests so far have ranged from Milton Berle to Jerry Seinfeld, from Carol Burnett to Steven Wright. With the older performers, King can be a bit too chummy; veterans like Berle and Burnett have told the stories of their lives and work hundreds of times, and King is content to sit back and let them gas on. He's better with the younger comedians; he has to do some homework to be prepared for these whippersnappers, and he peppers them with questions from a clipboard full of notes and research.
King always tries to elicit detailed answers about the origins of each comedian's style and point of view. Sometimes, as with Seinfeld, he doesn't succeed Seinfeld's modesty seems to extend to a refusal to analyze himself, so he has little to say. Wright, on the other hand, is as pensive as he seems onstage he talks knowledgeably about the influence that Surrealist painters had on his surreal one-liners. Still, King had the best line in this show: ''You know who you are?'' King asked the comic after laughing at a clip of Wright in concert. ''I just realized it: You're Henny Youngman with brains....'' B