Category Archives: comedians

I Love to Laugh

“Mickey, why can’t you be more serious the way smart people are?”

“Well, now, my dear, I think I take humor very seriously.”

“How can you say that?  You never seem to be serious for more than a few seconds in a row.”

“I can say it in a high, squeaky, falsetto voice so I sound like Mickey Mouse.”

“You know that’s not what I mean.”

“I can also burp it… well, maybe not so much since I was in junior high.”

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“I distinctly remember getting in trouble in Mrs. Mennenga’s third grade class in school for pantomiming pulling my beating heart out of my chest and accidentally dropping it on the floor.  She lectured me about being more studious.  But I made Alicia sitting in the row beside me laugh.  It was all worth it.  And the teacher was right.  I don’t remember anything from the lesson on adding fractions we were supposed to be doing.  But I remember that laugh.  It is one precious piece of the golden treasure I put in the treasure chest of memories I keep stored in my heart.”

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“I always listened to the words Groucho Marx was saying, even though he said them awfully fast and sneaky-like.  I listened to the words.  Other characters didn’t seem to listen to him.  He didn’t seem to listen to them.  Yet, how could he respond like he did if he really wasn’t listening?  In his answers were always golden bits of wisdom.  Other people laughed at his jokes when the laugh track told them to.  I laughed when I understood the wisdom.”

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“Laughing is a way of showing understanding.  Laughing is a way of making yourself feel good.  Laughing is good for your brain and your heart and your soul.  So, I want to laugh more.  I need to laugh more.  I love to laugh.”

 

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David Mitchell is Genius!

Yes, David Mitchell is a very smart man… a very smart English man.  (That isn’t to say that his genius is any less genius than an American Genius.  Just that he is a genius who also happens to be English)

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And I, of course, don’t mean this David Mitchell either, though this David Mitchell is also a genius and also from England.  I have to tell you, though I have always loved British humor, this particular tongue of silver fascinates me enough to make me binge on hoards of old episodes of “Would I Lie to You?” from the BBC on YouTube.  He’s a quick-wit, Brit-wit, smooth-talking  bit-wit who can make you laugh even when he’s playing a thick-wit… which he is certainly not.

Anyway, that is the wrong English genius David Mitchell.

I mean the other English genius David Mitchell.  The one who wrote Cloud Atlas.  Also the one who wrote The Bone Clocks.  And, of course, the one whose book Black Swan Green which I just finished reading early this morning.

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Yes, I mean this David Mitchell.  The absolute genius writer who creates exactly the kind of books that I long to read.

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Now, this post should probably be more of a traditional book report than it is.  This book I just read is swimmingly, swannishly excellent in a David-Mitchell-is-GENIUS! sort of way.  It is about an English boy from Malvern, England undergoing the trials and tribulations of his thirteenth year of life.  The boy is a stutterer and secretly a poet.  The girl he pines for is the girlfriend of his greatest enemy, the boy who relentlessly bullies and taunts him.  One even suspects that this portrait of a Margaret Thatcher-era boyhood written in exquisitely horrible detail might be based on the author’s own boyhood somehow, so vivid is its detailing.

But this is already too cacked-up to be a proper book report just because of the two David-Mitchell-English-genius thing.  If you really want that sort of book review, read it elsewhere, or read the danged book yourself.  This report is more of a vow of fealty.  I must now turn my hoarding disorder sufferer’s exacting zeal on the matter of reading everything this living author writes.  I did the same thing to both Michael Crichton and Terry Pratchett because they are geniuses too.  But they are both now no longer living and writing new books, at least, not unless there is new meaning to the term ghost writing that I don’t know anything about.  So now it is David Mitchell’s turn to be the object of my intense fan-boy love of good writing.

Here are some David Mitchell books that I now must stalk and make my own;

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And hopefully, there are many more yet to come.

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Sometimes Humor Isn’t Funny

He isn’t the funniest late night comedian.  But he is, in my opinion, one of the top three.  I rarely watch him anywhere but on YouTube, well after the fact.  But his monologue about the birth of his son had me riveted.  Is it possible to dry yourself out completely and turn yourself to powder just by crying?  That’s what it felt like.

If you haven’t already seen it, you should.  But having a heart means you will need something to mop up the tears.  The people whose job it is to make you laugh sometimes make a more important point by making you cry.  True, I may be more affected by his story about spending time in an ER in agony over what happens next to your child because I have been there with my own children.  I have lived it.  And the story he tells brings it all back like the storm has started raining sledge hammers instead of rain.  But anyone with at least a little bit of empathy will get the point he is trying to make.

Humor is like that.  It makes you laugh to soften the pain.  But it also makes you cry because that is how it changes you for the better.

In Mark Twain’s classic The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn,  I find a lot of things to laugh it.  The schemes of the King and Duke are ridiculous and they get what’s coming to them by the end.  Yet, I cried at the part where Huck finds the dead body of his young friend Buck Grangerford shot to death in the creek by the feuding Shepherdsons.  It was a totally brutal and senseless death.  And we learn more about the hypocrisy of slavery and its injustice and cruelty by the sadder, more painful things that happen to Jim along the journey.  Humor is meant to be weapon against the things that harm us.  And sometimes the people who harm us.

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It is relatively easy to laugh at the mutant racist orangutan we accidentally elected to lead us.  But the laughing part is not the part we need right now.

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The damage he is doing may be permanent and irreparable.  He is trying to profit off of health care reform and destroying it in ways that may kill many of us.  He may have already done permanent harm to the environment by removing regulations with executive orders.  There is reason not only to be moved to tears, but to be horrified to the point that we need to take immediate action.

Jimmy Kimmel has been through a hard thing and deserves our empathy.  But even more that that, if you heard the appeal at the end of his monologue, the tears he made us cry are reason to take action, and thank him for his courage in using his tragic moment to lead the way.

 

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May the Bird of Paradise Fly Up Your Nose!

I was planning to write a piece about insult humor for a while, and then Don Rickles had to up and die… that danged old hockey puck!’Don-Rickles-tribute

So the master of insults is gone, and it will be even harder to explain why calling someone a proud and prissy poo-poo head is not a bad thing to do.  Because, really… strong language is not really strength and it takes intelligence to be a mean little picky-wit. (No pun intended… because no pun was used,  Duh!  How slow are you compared to molasses around Christmas time?)

You may have heard me say that I don’t like hurtful humor.  I don’t believe bad words are required to make something funny. I don’t think humor should be weaponized.  Jokes that make you die laughing are too much like murder, and people who have no sense of humor can’t be hurt by them anyway.

It is true that some people can’t be touched with insult humor.  Republicans and conservatives generally never get the joke.  Unfortunately for them you have to be at least a little bit smart to even know when you are being made fun of.

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I have heard that Kim Jong Un and President Orangutan in a Bad Wig recently attempted to assassinate each other.  Trump had a specially trained batch of a dozen Easter chicks sent to Kim Jong Un.  They were trained as mini-ninja assassins specializing in the death-peck attack.  Kim had a dozen plump Korean beauties dressed up in bikinis and poisoned lipstick sent to Trump with orders to make him fall in love.  Shortly thereafter Kim sent a thank you note to Trump for the delicious chickens.  He had kept one as a pet and you can still see it sitting on top of his head if you look carefully enough.  (It hasn’t killed him because it mistaked his head for an egg, adopted it, and is trying desperately to hatch it.)  Trump, in turn, re-gifted the bikini babes to Mike Pence, and it is likely they will die of cold and exposure while waiting in his outer office.

Stupid people are immune to insults, karma, and consequences.

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So you don’t insult people as a form of humor  to hurt anyone physically… or even psychologically.  You only do it metaphorically to pay them the compliment of thinking them worthy enough to bestow the gems of your wit upon.

And if you believe any of that bull-puckie, I may know of a Bridge in Brooklyn I’d be willing to part with cheaply.

So, there you have it.  Cheap laughs at the expense of doody-heads.  And calling into question the self-importance and the ridiculous-but-strongly-held political beliefs of others… especially the dumb ones can be a public service… of sorts.

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A Pair of Pertwees

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When I was a teenager in high school, PBS began running episodes of the BBC sci-fi show Doctor Who.  And back then, the show had already gone through two doctors before I ever saw it.  So the first Dr. Who Doctor for me was Jon Pertwee.

Now, for those of you unfamiliar with the whole idea of Doctor Who, a time-travelling fixer of plot holes in history who goes about appropriating young women as companions and travelling through time and space and other dimensions by using a T.A.R.D.I.S. that manipulates “timey-wimey stuff”, I am afraid there is no hope for you here.  I am a Whovian and am not inclined to be a chief explainer  of all things Whovian to basically non-Whovians, and especially not never-will-be-Whovians.

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I was in college already by the time Jon Pertwee was no longer Dr. Who.  And though I also loved Tom Baker as the Doctor, I was forever caught by the heart with the first Doctor I watched and will forever hold in my heart the notion that Pertwee is the real Doctor.

And he was a gifted comedic actor that had a long career stretching back to Vaudeville and would also come to be identified with British comedies like Worzel Gummidge.

He had a prehensile face, capable of many comic contortions, and an ability with voices and characterizations that made you think “multiple personality disorder”.

Jon left us in 1996, but he has had a new life for me through his son, Sean Pertwee.  His little boy is practically a clone, though as far as I can tell, a very serious clone.  The comic DNA was apparently forgotten on the laboratory shelf.

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Sean Pertwee is now playing the ninja butler in the pre-Batman show on Fox called Gotham.  He has stepped into the role of Alfred Pennyworth, Bruce Wayne’s butler, and it’s like having my first Doctor back again.

Now, I admit that this post is mostly just fan-gush about people and characters that are mostly forgotten now.  But Jon Pertwee lives on in me.  I saw him play the Doctor back when some things in life could still be absolutely perfect just as they were.

 

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Shakespeare Knows Fools

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The fact that Shakespeare was a master of the art of creating and mocking fools does not really help decide the question of who Shakespeare really was.  A stage actor who owned a theater in Elizabethan times and apparently focused on being the bit player, the butler, the second man on the castle wall in the great plays, would certainly know enough of flim-flam, being a con man, or artfully throwing turds at kings and queens in ways that get rewarded rather than beheaded.  But a nobleman who has unpopular and unwelcome-but-probably-wise insights into the back-stabbing-goings-on of the royal court of England would equally be capable of putting the most memorable of critiques of humanity into the mouth of the fool or the clown in the great stage-play of life.  Even the most depressing and violent of the Shakespearean tragedies is enhanced and made pointed by the presence of the fool and the comic relief.  In some ways everything that Shakespeare wrote was a comedy.

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Whoever Shakespeare was, he shared Mark Twain’s overall assessment of “That damned human race” and often declared all men fools in the eyes of the playwright.  Puck’s observation on humanity is delivered about not only Bottom and the other poor players who carry on their vain attempts at performing Pyramus and Thisbe while Bottom magically wears the head of an ass, but also the easily fooled lovers who mistake their true loves for one another, and even the clueless mortal King Theseus of Athens.

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In the play within a play, Nick Bottom wants to be not only his own role, Pyramus the romantic lead, but argues that he should be Thisbe, the lion, and Pyramus all at once, making a satire of human nature and its overreaching ways that we could only pray Donald Trump will one day watch and magically understand.  In fact, Shakespeare’s entire body of work is an extended investigation of foolishness versus wisdom, and with Shakespeare, the verdict always goes to the fool.

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The plays of William Shakespeare are filled with fools doing foolish things… and fools being accidentally wise. (Think Jacques in As You Like It giving his famous “All the world’s a stage” soliloquy in which he elucidates the seven ages of man.)  There are fools too who prove to be wise.  (Think of the ironic advice given by the jester Touchstone in As You Like It, or the pithy commentary of King Lear’s fool).  The fools in Shakespeare’s work are not merely the comedy relief, but the main point that Shakespeare makes about humanity.

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Whoever the man was who wrote the plays of Shakespeare, he was someone who had a deep understanding of the basic irony underlying all of human life.  And someone with that vital sense of the bittersweet, a philosophy of life that encompasses the highest heights and lowest depths that a soul can reach, is someone who has suffered as well as known great joy, someone who has experienced loss as often as profit, and has known real love as well as real hatred.  It is the fool that Shakespeare shakes us by the neck with to make us recognize the fool in all of us which makes the plays resonate so deeply within us.  It is watching the path of the fool unfolding that makes us shake our head and say to ourselves, “Yes, that is what life is really like.”

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Happy Belated Birthday, Lucille Ball

Iranian scientist Shahram Amiri speaks to journalists as he arrives at the Imam Khomini Airport in Tehran

On Lucy’s birthday the “Scary Lucy” statue of her in her hometown of Celeron, New York was finally replaced with one that actually looks like her.

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In this Wednesday, July 20, 2016 photo, artist Carolyn Palmer prepares to apply a cold patina to her bronze statue of Lucille Ball in Saddle River, N.J. The sculptor was chosen to create a replacement statue for one dubbed “Scary Lucy,” in the late actress Ball’s hometown. The much-maligned statue of Ball will be replaced after it drew worldwide attention as “Scary Lucy,” according to the mayor of the western New York village where the 1950s sitcom actress and comedian grew up and her life-size bronze has stood since 2009. (AP Photo/Mel Evans)

On Saturday, August 6th, Lucille Ball turned 105.  While it is true that she has also been dead since 1989, we never-the-less must acknowledge the fact that this comedienne and her singular body of work have been influencing life on Earth for over a century.  Perhaps we could even use more like her.

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She has been subtly guiding my own life since the days of black-and-white television and the genre-establishing sitcom, “I Love Lucy”, where she has been advocating for a woman’s right to work and have a career of her own by making us laugh at the situation over and over until it becomes a mirth-filled, easy-to-swallow fact-of-life.  She was the first female film producer to run her own production company, Desilu Productions.  She is the producer behind such television milestones as Star Trek and Mission: Impossible.  Being a child of the 60’s, raised by television almost as much as by my parents, she is a big part of who I am as a person.  To this day she still influences how I feel about things.  She is one of the primary reasons I can laugh at life’s troubles and, by laughing, overcome them.

So, I want to wish Lucy a happy 105th birthday.  And I find it amusing and ironic that “Scary Lucy”, the bronze golem of Celeron, New York, has finally been replaced on her birthday with a statue that pictures her more accurately.  We all need to see Lucy more accurately.  We all need to laugh more and love more and live better lives.  It was the “Golden Age” of television not because of the technology and the craft, but because of the essential goodness we can still get from it, that has stood the test of time for a century.

And I don’t think that I am merely looking at the whole thing through the colored lenses of my own affection for things in the past.  I think more modern and definitely younger people than I can benefit from getting to know Lucy too.  Lasting  105 years is a pretty big thing, even if you are dead when you do it.

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