Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Earl Pomerantz Speaks At The Mark Twain Prize For American Humor Award Ceremony Honoring Lorne Michaels"

(I’ve been told that this one sounds mean. They could be right. But after some seven hundred posts, maybe I'm due for a mean one.

What can I tell you? Even a “Good Boy” has his prickly side.

Okay. So here we go.)


Lorne Michaels’ recent showcasing in Rolling Stone prompted me to write this speech, which I was never invited to give, but if I had been, my address on that special night might have gone something like this.


Good evening. I’m Earl Pomerantz. I’ve known Lorne since college.

I’ll tell ya, I’m a little confused. Help me out here. Mark Twain was one of America’s greatest writers, arguably, the best writer this country ever produced. And his specialty was writing humor.

Now, it seems to me, in order to be honored with The Mark Twain Prize For American Humor, I mean, it’s just seems logical, that, first:

The honoree would have to have written something.

And second: That “something” would have to have been

Really funny.


I’ve known Lorne Michaels for over forty years. And, to be totally honest with you, I don’t recall him writing

Much of anything.

And, of the paltry amount Lorne has written – I mean, you could stack his entire body of work on a table in the lobby, and people going by would say, “There is nothing on that table!”

Of that meager output of Lorne’s writing – I don’t mean, “Change this!” or “Shorten that!”; I mean actual writing – I don’t remember any of it


Really funny.

There may have been some. I just don’t remember.

The question then arises

If a a man has written almost nothing

And none of what he’s written is

Really funny

How does that man get awarded

The Mark Twain Prize For American Humor?

I’m just asking.

I mean, Lorne Michaels unquestionably has many, impressive attributes.

Though none of the attributes you would think would be required for him to earn The Mark Twain Prize For American Humor.

And yet…

Here we are.


Lorne has an amazing gift for structuring his show. Similar to the gift Ed Sullivan had, strategically ordering the acts for maximum effect on the TV classic, “The Ed Sullivan Show.” Lorne does that to perfection as well.

But Lorne is not getting The Ed Sullivan Prize.

Lorne’s getting the Mark Twain Prize.

For American Humor.

Lorne also possesses the indispensable gift – especially in the jittery world of show business – of inspiring confidence. Lorne says to the people, “I know what I’m doing. Trust me.” And, sensing his wizard-like understanding of a world they know nothing about, they do.

But Lorne is not getting The Bernie Madoff Prize.

Lorne’s getting the Mark Twain Prize.

For American Humor.

Maybe it’s this. Mark Twain, especially in his later years, became recognized for his sartorial spiffiness. Twain famously appeared before Congress, dressed in a spectacular eye-catching white suit.

I guess that’s why he’s being honored tonight. Anyone who’s seen him knows

Lorne Michaels looks really nice

In a suit.

Maybe I’m missing something.

I mean, I haven’t been around Lorne for some time. Maybe, after I knew him, he really got down to business. But if that’s the case, and Lorne ultimately cranked out some brilliant comedic material…

Where is it?

You know, the way I see it, Lorne Michaels deserves a much loftier award than The Mark Twain Prize For American Humor. He deserves – I don’t know who you’d name it after, opinions would probably vary – but Lorne Michaels deserves the

Somebody Somebody

Miracle Award.

I truly believe that. I mean, here’s a man, who never wrote anything funny in his life, and he’s being awarded The Mark Twain Prize For American Humor.

If that’s not a miracle,

I don’t know what is.

I’m absolutely speechless.



A. Buck Short said...

It’s been way too long Earl, but I check back in this morning in brotherhood as another board certified Twainiac of the first order. OK maybe not the first order. The first order arrived cold so I sent it back, and now also fully expect a complimentary drink or dessert.

My comment is to reassure you I have been reading you fairly religiously, OK on occasion agnostically; but haven’t been able to respond since sinking pretty much everything I had into this failed typesetting device called a smartphone with a keyboard smaller than even Lorne Michaels’ seat-filler slot on Dr. Eliot’s Harvard Five Foot Shelf.

No actually I have been tied up attempting so many things I really shouldn’t even be expected to know how to do, I should get the Pauly Shore Prize for American Humor.

No wait, that wasn’t my comment. My comment actually was you’re not coming off mean; you’re coming off Jeffrey Ross. OK, what I really wanted to let you know that this brought back wonderful memories of a presentation I was asked to give at the dedication of a college chair in musical theater named for a late friend turned into what can only be described as a memorial roast. And as I recall sort of a blue memorial roast at that.

Oh that wasn’t it either. What I wanted to say was don’t be so circumspect. Maybe the Mark Twain Prize for American humor means it is presented to someone only on behalf of American humor. You were just being whimsical out of friendship – but c’mon, tell me that presenting a prize named after a great America writer to someone who -- and I’ll have to take your word for this – never actually wrote anything, isn’t in itself innately humorous. And sartorially, wouldn’t the actual successor to Mark Twain really be either Tom Wolfe or John Travolta?

Actually what I have is a question. That being, who would have thought anyone could know of not one but two iconic figures in American Television named Lorne – and that both would turn out to be Canadian Jews? OK, maybe that was just a rhetorical question.

Maybe the question was, who would be the first to say that one of them really should never ever attempt to sing in public or on a record again? And that the other is Lorne Greene? OK that’s three. But isn’t a Canadian Jew named Lorne pretty much the same as all those American Jews named “Scott?”

OK, here’s my real question. What are the responsibilities of the runner-up in the Mark Twain Prize competition, should Mr. Michaels for any reason at any time during the coming year be unable to carry out his duties as Mark Twain prize winner?

Thanks, and I’ll take my answer off the air. This was really pretty funny.

Joe said...

Wait. THAT was mean?