Tuesday, October 11, 2016

'Finally: The Best Example (Of What I Am Unable To Do)"

Sometimes, I write about something and the quintessential example of what I am talking about does not occur to me until after the post has already been published.  At that point, I can do one of two things: I can forget about it (slamming myself punishingly on the forehead a couple of times), or I can write it over again (because who wants to slam themselves punishingly on the forehead?) 

I am writing it over again, this time including the example that occurred to me too late. 

I have presented this clip to you before, but not in this context, or I would not be humbling myself publicly with this “re-do.” And humbling myself even further with a rerun.  I apparently have to do this, notwithstanding the compound humbling.        

In the past, I have offered examples of the kind of writing I prefer to do.  Whether this is an actual preference or it is the only kind of writing I am capable of – I do it because I like it – I do it because I am incapable of writing any other way – I have no idea. 

It’s the old – for me, at least – story:  Did Gandhi employ “passive resistance” because he believed in it or because the Mahatma didn’t have any muscles?  

Who cares?  The guy liberated India, and less people got shot.  (Unfortunately, not him.) 

My style of comedy?  At least two components of it?

One approach:

Things I notice, either through personal experience or assiduous research.  Yielding:

ELVIRA  (A “Southern Belle” alien to pioneer living):  “I can’t seem to get the dirt of this floor.”

SAM  (Her inordinately patient husband):  “Elvira, it’s a dirt floor.”

Another personal proclivity:

The comedy of “whimsical connection”:

(A TERRIFIED CHARACTER, UNEXPECTEDLY MARRIED):  “I always believed they were connected – you get married, you have kids, you get old and you die.  It’s like, if you didn’t get married you wouldn’t die.”

Completing the picture, I have delineated types of comedy I couldn’t do, including the casual coarseness that bounced me permanently out of the business.    

Flipping around the dial recently, I heard a characters from Two Broke Girls remark, “You can spackle my hole.”  (Though not personally offended, I felt a visceral sympathy for viewers who were.)

I additionally acknowledged the limits of my comedic approach.  (For I am nothing if not honest and forthright, negative consequences be damned!)

Committed unilaterally to comedy grounded in identifiable reality, I am (with rare exceptions) incapable of imagining the unreal kind of comedy that has you squirting almond milk out of your nose.  (I am avoiding dairy these days.)

Consider (my belated quintessential example):  The “What does a ‘Yellow Light’ mean?” routine from Taxi.

(Which I have provided in the past, hence, the double-humbling.)

The congenital burn-out “Reverend Jim”, taking his written “Driver’s Test” surreptitiously asks his cab-driving compadres, “What does a ‘Yellow light’ mean?” and the whispered response is, “Slow down.”  Misunderstanding, “Reverend Jim” proceeds to ask the same question again, this time, “as instructed”, speaking more slowly.  And so it goes.  Every time he hears “Slow down”, “Reverend Jim” repeats the same question, each time more slowly than the last.

That isn’t real.     

In the real world, becoming aware of the “misunderstanding”, the cab-driving crony would eventually reply, “A ‘Yellow Light’ means ‘Slow down.’”  But they didn’t.  Allowing the sublime foolishness to continue. 

If I had found myself in that rewrite room, I might have objected that… no, I wouldn’t have.   It was simply too hilarious.  (And my fellow-writers would have pummeled me with insult, derision and abuse.)  I might have questioned the number of repetitions.  And I’d have been wrong about that too.  The multiple repetitions is what made it hilarious.  There is a limit, of course; you would never repeat it twelve times.  Four times is arguably precisely the right number.

“Earnest Earlo” would never have imagined the “Yellow Light” scenario.

But I am happy somebody did.

Enjoy it again. 

The way I see it,

You cannot convulse in laughter too often.

1 comment:

JED said...

Sidney Crosby is a superb athlete. He can skate around other professional hockey players while maintaining control of a small puck at the end of a stick. David Ortiz is an amazing athlete who is able to rise to the occasion (except for three recent games) to wait for a good pitch and hit a small ball with a bat to places where the fielders cannot get to. They are both great athletes but I'll bet they can sit back and watch each other and admire what they can do in their respective sports but it doesn't diminish how good they are at their own game. Remember how Michael Jordan tried to become a baseball player? I would hate to think that he left basketball just because he thought that was all he could do. He was an OK baseball player but then came back to basketball and was great again.

If we only had one kind of comedy, it would be a boring world and I would not be happy if the best "things I notice" and "whimsical connection" comedy writers decided be would try out for the Dodgers.