Over the years, as part of our “Christmas Week” vacation in Hawaii, we would traditionally ring in the New Year attending a stage show at some Waikiki performance venue. I recall, with a remembering chuckle, regular appearances by “Bobcat” Goldthwait, whose act, always comedically reliable, finished with a closing joke which never failed to trigger a guffaw. He’d say,
“If you see the police beating me up, put down the video camera and help me.”
Other memorable New Year’s Eve performances included the incomparable Ray Charles, pounding the “ivories”, ecstatically chanting “Goodbye, ’95… Goodbye, ’95… Goodbye, ’95… Goodbye, ’95…” There were also shows featuring James Brown, Howie Mandell, a “Rock ‘n Roll Fifties Revival”, including the “Platters” featuring one original “Platter”, and a hugely entertaining indigenous “Lounge Act” called “The Society of Seven.”
At that latter performance, while they were belting out the “Coasters’” “Charlie Brown (… He’s a clown)”, I had the unforgettable experience of having a microphone thrust in my face so that at the appropriate moment, I could intone the iconic,
“Why is everybody always pickin’ awn me?”
The ensuing applause was deafening. I’m tellin’ you. They loved me imitating a surly African American teenager with an extremely deep voice. You could hear them thinking, “And he’s not even black!”
This past New Years, welcoming 2016, we found a show headlined by Bill Maher, including preliminary “sets” by David Spade and Jeff Ross, who I had to Google because I did not know who he was.
Jeff Ross is a young – compared to the stylistic prototype Don Rickles who is pushing ninety – “Insult Comic”, featured on Comedy Central “roasts” that I have never seen because garnering laughs at somebody else’s expense is somewhat less than my favorite genre of comedy.
The family agreed to attend, more out of tradition than any enthusiasm for the comedians. On the other hand, how much had we been dying to see “Bobcat” Goldthwait.
For the third time.
But hey, it’s New Years Eve and you go. (The alternative being hotel “Room Service” and “Scrabble.” When you’ve been solidly trounced earlier in the week, you’ll go out and see anyone.)
So we went.
The most noteworthy part of the experience was that the three comedians were billeted at our hotel, and we caught sight of them all earlier in the day. It’s amazing how excited you get spotting celebrities you have no interest in whatsoever.
David Spade walked right past my lounge chair, in the company of two – I am no expert in this area, I am just speculating – anorexic young ladies. He even spoke to me.
“Hey, boss,” he said jauntily on his way by.
To which I wittily replied,
“Who am I the boss of?”
Earning a laugh from one of the skinny girls.
My daughter Anna immediately challenged me. “Dad, do a ‘Comedian Joke.’” Top of my head, I said,
“David Spade asked for a hundred and eighty pound woman. They couldn’t find one, so they got him two ninety-pound women instead.”
Earning a laugh from my daughter.
And feelings of exploitational disgust from myself.
The show we attended felt congenitally lazy. Like three comedians on a Hawaiian vacation, interrupted by having to go onstage for twenty minutes and do something. Then it was back to their vacations. At the end of which they took their generous paychecks and went home.
The comedians felt “sun-drained.” Like they had spent a little too long at the beach. And not enough time polishing their acts.
Headliner Bill Maher, delivered excerpts from his HBO show monologues, none of which I can currently remember. What I do remember, however, was Maher, along with “Special Musical Guest” Eddie Vedder ending the evening with the Charlie Chaplin song “Smile”, and Maher sloppily forgetting the words.
“Too many afternoon Mai Tai’s”, came to mind. Maher appeared to be on “Automatic Pilot.” With a splash of rum and a twist of pineapple.
Though I am, as mentioned, no enthusiast of “Insult Comedy”, Jeff Ross did one humorous bit in which he forced the show’s simultaneous “Sign Language” interpreter to deliberately “sign” filth. Which – Hawaiian good sport that she was – she gamely and hilariously did.
David Spade, it turned out, was the best of the trio, offering ideosyncratic material, including a bit about performing at Washington D.C’s Ford’s Theater before an audience that included President Bush, and being told as he was about to go on that “For security purposes”, throughout his performance, a sniper would have a rifle trained directly at his head.
The show was okay. Head and shoulders above “Scrabble.” But what came to mind – and I apologize because of the inevitable “baggage” that goes with this – was the awareness that none of the comedians who performed that night could hold a candle to a “Master” I had once seen, who took his time, commanded the stage, and for two solid hours, held an hysterical audience in the palm of his hand.
That of course was Bill Cosby.
Who now performs only in depositions.
I understand someone not being the best.
What I do not understand is not trying.