Friday, November 30, 2018

"The Deeper Reason"

It happens sometimes.

You think you are writing about onething, and then, pondering more intensely, it turns out it’s about something else.  Not that the first thing was wrong.  It’s that the second thing is just truer.

Clarifying example to follow.

I am watching an episode of Lawman(1958-1962) on The Westerns Channel.  Lawmanis a marginally better-than-average example of a genre Varietydismissively labels an “oater.”  As a kid, I made no qualitative distinctions.  There was a gun and a horse? – “Saddle Up!”

Numerous years later, I feel exactly the same way.

One thing, however, is detectably special about Lawman.

It’s theme song.

Specifically, the first half of the second verse.  Which is sensational.

The first verse, you would call, “serviceable”, offering no hint of the creative wizardry to come.

“The lawman came with the sun
There was a job to be done
And so they sent for the badge and the gun
Of the lawman.”

It’s fine.  It establishes the tone.  But then, it surprisingly “takes off.” 

Listen to this.

“And as he silently rode
Where evil violently flowed…”

Can you believe that?

“… silently rode…” “… violently flowed”?  

This was “exemplary workmanship.”  No “It’s only a western.”  Or the seeming “There’s the lyrics; where’s the money?” attitude of Yancey Derringer’s

“In every tale of derring-do
They tell of Yancey D.”

A writer I recently sang those remarkable Lawmanlyrics to said,

“You want to go find that guy and give him a hug.”

God bless her.  She gotit!

Enthralled by the consummate craftsmanship, I made a point of checking Lawman’sclosing credits for the name of the lyricist.

It was Mack David.

A respected journeyman lyricist, I Googlinglydiscovered.  (Unlike his more celebrated younger-brother lyricist, “Raindrops Keep Falling on my Head” Hal David.)

Some additional digging revealed that when Mack David wrote the Lawmantheme song he was forty-six years old, and had been working professionally for twenty-five years.  

Twenty-five years!

And he’s crankin’ out theme songs for passable westerns.  Except that he wasn’t“crankin’ ‘em out.”  

He did the best he knew how.

Which brought up something personal.  Changing the trajectory of this post.

It was my last job in show business – a one-day-a-week “Consultant” on According To Jim.  A Lawman-quality half-hour comedy.

I got the assignment because the show’s creators and I had the same agent, and my agent forced them them hire me.  Who cares? I had a job.  

And I did the best I knew how.  

Monday mornings, I’d arrive at the According To Jim’s  “Table Reading”, my script, bristling with scribbled suggestions, many of which found inclusion in the subsequent rewritten draft.  

Now originally, I thought that’s what this post was about – the physical act of capably doing the job.  

Only later, did I realize, “It’s more visceral than ‘capably doing the job.’”

Yes, I was – like lyricist Mack David – a longtime “professional.”  But this goes beyond the pleasing awareness of “knowing you can do it.”  It describes the innate nature of the process itself.

Bottom-Line Realization:

You fix a good clock.

You fix a bad clock.

It makes no difference.

You just love fixing a clock.

Thursday, November 29, 2018

"I'd Like To Meet This Guy Or Even Better, Be Him"

Sometimes in the past, I have presented excerpts from writing I like, because of its exceptional style, or synchronistical perspective.  (Meaning they think like me.  ”Why didn’t you just say that?”  I probably should have.  Maybe next time I will.  Anyway…)  

Today, I offer excerpts from a character I like.  Not a fictional character.  An actual person, recently interviewed in the paper.  I just appreciated his character… is why I said “character.”  

Promoting a new Netflix comedy series called The Kominsky Method, there was a transcribed interview with the show’s leading actors, Michael Douglas and Alan Arkin.

Michael Douglas seems all right. 

But it’s Alan Arkin I’d like to meet.  (And, possibly switch and become, in a conceptual variation called Freaky Jew Day.)

Alan Arkin, 84, performed with the Second Cityimprovisation group in the 1960’s. That naturalistic approach has always informed Arkin’s relaxed delivery of his lines, even when they’re totally scripted.

For reasons of, primarily, laziness, but also because I don’t want to learn things I’d rather not know, I shall refrain from exploring Arkin’s personal history, leaving me to imagine him, defined exclusively by this interview.

From which I shall now selectively quote.

On aging:

“There are glorious things about getting old.  Like I can’t hear about two-thirds of what people are saying to me.  It makes me so happy.  People getting up and giving you a seat.  That’s a nice thing.”

On staying physically active:

“My days, there’s no time for boredom.  I get up in the morning, I take my pills, that takes care of I think until about 10 A.M.  If I drop one on the floor my morning is gone.  I’m looking for the pill and, having somebody help me get up.”

Arkin’s response to the types of roles he is offered:

“I look to see what page I die.  That’s the first thing I look for.  And when I’m going on a gurney.  I like when I’m on a gurney, because you don’t have to talk very much. You just lie there and people feel sorry for you.”

On filming in the South in 1968 (shooting “The Heart is a Lonely Hunter”)

“What happened was we got there six month after the march and so the whole town of Selma went out of their way to try and change their image (and) bent over backwards to be decent to us.”

On issues concerning political correctness:

“There was a poem a few years ago talking about different minorities.  What he ended up saying was something that I absolutely, fully support.  Words don’t matter.  The words are not going to cure anything, they’re not going to help anything because you can say beautiful things but if you heart is closed, it’s going to come through.  If people can sense your love, your concern, then the words don’t make a damn bit of difference.”

On still working in his eighties:

“People give you enormous accolades for just being able to stand up.  ‘Look at him!’  Here’s a standing ovation.  ‘He’s standing up.  Give the guy a hand.’”

And that’s it.

While taking in Alan Arkin’s printed remarks, I felt, at various moments, a reverberating compassion, a genuine, calming sense of grace (the guy meditates, just like me), an innate courage facing challenging conditions, a warm and welcome ironic twinkle, and an intuitive wisdom, if you agree with him, (or an annoyed irritation if you don’t. I happen to do.) 

One might perhaps wonder what Alan Arkin is like when he’s notbeing interviewed.  I say, paraphrasing my mother, about people’s troubling behavior:

“Let his family worry.”

All I know is, I got a kick out of this Alan Arkin character in the paper.

And I thought I would pass him along to you.

Wednesday, November 28, 2018

"That's Not What He Meant"

“Nobody knows anything.”

That familiar – to many, though not everyone – quotation recently resurfaced, due to the passing of two-time Academy Award-winning (Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid and All The President’s Men) screenwriter, William Goldman, who famously invented it.  (Including it in his respected exploration of Hollywood, Adventures in the Screen Trade (1983.)

Today, I put fingers to keyboard to clarify that oft-quoted pronouncement.  Why?  Because there is a serious misunderstanding of what William Goldman was actually saying.

Most people don’t care about that, enjoying the quotation exactly the way it is.  Why again? Because it’s fun to deflate the egos of lavishly-living people residing in a warm place year-round and when it drops below 70 they go to Hawaii.  (Note: This does not include us.  Except the “go to Hawaii” part.  Which, I now belatedly realize, does include us.)



Before proceeding further, let me provide the complete quotation accompanying the commonly assimilated, “Nobody knows anything.”

“Not one person in the entire motion picture field knows for a certainty what’s going to work.  Every time out, it’s a guess, and, if you’re lucky, an educated guess.”


The “unabridged” version of the quotation, which when you examine it closely reveals telltale suggestions of Goldman’s underlying intention.


As a veteran screenwriter, William Goldman excelled at writing for that medium.  Not everyone writes like him – adhering tightly to the narrative, with limited “off-story” flights of “imaginatorial fancy.”  But in the style he wrote in, he was the acknowledged best of the bunch.  In his particular era.

So when William Goldman memorably opined that “Nobody knows anything”, you can be sure he was not saying, “Nobody knows anything about screenwriting.  Including myself.”  

Though that sounds obvious, the truncated “Nobody knows anything” leaves the inaccurate impression that nobody in show business knows what they’re doing, which I have appointed myself the necessary assignment of straightening out.

You’re welcome.

When William Goldman proclaimed that nobody “for a certainty knows what’s going to work”, he was alluding not to “what’s going to work” in the script, but to what will successfully work at the box-office, rather than ignominiously “tanking”, causing you to have to sell your house and your boat.  (Shameful Confession:  I just mistakenly wrote “… sell you wife and your boat.”  Try to keep that under your hats.  As I, too guiltily, could not.)

What Goldman implied with “Nobody knows anything” was that no one can insure a guaranteed hit. Which should alsobe obvious, but people are paid millions of dollars to act like they can.  (A lot of which goes into therapy, because they know that they can’t.)

This leads to Goldman’s subliminal message.  Since nobody can insure a guaranteed hit – 

“Hey, movie executives and superstar actors with their names ‘about the title’!  Stop telling us (screenwriters, and, yeah, specifically two-time Oscar award-winning mewhat to do!!!”

There is this incredible pretense that… wait.

Lemme hit this from another direction.

Some of which comes from personal experience.

Here’s what makes us all crazy.

When executives (or superstar actors) give writers “notes” on submitted material – or after watching a “runthrough” in half-hour comedies – there is this underlying assumption that if we assiduously follow those received “notes” – rather than our own writerly instincts – there will be an increased likelihood of commercial success.

The truth is, they can’t possibly know that, because, when it comes to predicting commercial success – all together now...

“Nobody knows anything.”

Thank you.

What Goldman was – implicitly, because he wanted to keep working – demanding was the following:

“Hey, movie “Big Shots!”  Instead of carelessly throwing your weight around because you can – ‘Trust the professionals!’  (The “Educated Guessers” of Goldman’s extended quotation.)  And please, since no one in the world can predict box-office success, stop embarrassing us both by pretending you can.”  

That’s what should be remembered about “Nobody knows anything”:  

Respect for professionals. 

And reasonable humility.

Of course, if William Goldman literally didmean “Nobody knows anything”, that would entirely invalidate this blogatorial excursion.

And I am sincerely sorry for wasting your time.

Tuesday, November 27, 2018

"An Unusual Case Of Boldness - Conclusion"

Recapitulating… but only a little…

I had awaited a bus for two hours in 97-degree temperature.

I had hailed a cab in a city that does not habitually hail taxis.

Oh – and a new one –   

When I arrived at the UCLA “Registration Office”, (for my 8-week stay studying acting at the Bertolt Brecht Summer Theater Workshop) I was informed that my name, certifying my acceptance to the program, was nowhere on the list.

To which I confidently replied, 

“Well I’m here.”

In a persuasive authoritative tone.  (You see that?  The class had not even started and I was alreadyacting.)

All of these obstacles, it turned out, were trivial “warm-ups” for the enormous challenge to come.



Good on me.  That was my shortest summary of a “Part One” to date. Whoo-hoo!  I can do it!



They finally locate my “Acceptance Notification” and assign me a dorm room located in Dykstra Hall, sharing with an engineering student whose classes started at eight, and, since mine began later and I generally did not return “home” till after eleven, the only time we saw each other after a first-day introduction was when one of us was asleep.

The auditions were that evening.  It was from those critical “tryouts” that the  “Teacher-Directors”, sitting in a darkened theater, would cast the roles for the four Bertolt Brecht productions – performed thankfully in English – we would be offering the L.A. public that summer. 

I had chosen a speech from Inherit the Wind(written by Jerome Lawrence and Robert E. Lee), the stage (and later filmed) fictionalized depiction of the historic “Scopes ‘Monkey’ Trial”, deciding the fate of a Tennessee schoolteacher who taught Darwin’s “Theory of Evolution” to his high school students in a prohibiting, devout “Bible Belt” community.

The climactic speech I’d selected culminated with the school teacher’s defense attorney, Henry Drummond’s – a dramatized “Stand-in” for the renowned real-life attorney Clarence Darrow – cross-examination of an acknowledged “Expert on the Bible”, who – with predictable “fireworks” – was also the trial’s prosecuting attorney, Matthew Harrison Brady.  (“Surrogating” the renowned orator and three-time candidate for president, William Jennings Bryan.)

I love that play.  I particularly love that speech.  And I was additionally excited that it was delivered (in the movie) by Spencer Tracy, my – along with Paul Muni – co-favorite actor of all time.

The speech, a strong but thoughtful repudiation of “… the pleasant poetry of Genesis”began,

“In a child’s power to master the multiplication table there is more sanctity than in all your shouted  ‘'Amens!’, ‘Holy, Holies!’ and ‘Hosannas!’” 

And it gets better from there.

“Progress has never been a bargain.  You’ve got to pay for it.  Sometimes I think there’s a man behind the counter who says, ‘All right, you can have a telephone; but you’ll have to give up privacy, and the charm of distance.  Madam, you may vote; but at a price; you lose the right to retreat behind a powder-puff or a petticoat.  Mister, you may conquer the air; but the birds will lose their wonder, and the clouds will smell of gasoline.”       

Isn’t that wonderful?

I had practiced that speech (with my friend Alan) over and over.

And I believed I was ready. 

Arriving at the theater, we are presented with forms to fill out, calling for identifying “Vital Statistics”, to distinguish the numerous candidates, and imaginably help with the subsequent casting.

I am extremely nervous. And when I get nervous, I get silly.  (Or angrily combative.  In this case, it was silly.)

Completing the identifying forms, I put down “Hair – ‘Brown’”, “ Eye Color – ‘Brown.’”  Then, under “Additional Information”, I write, “Sore Feet.” On a duplicate application – apparently, each “Teacher-Director” was accorded their own – I write down,  “Hair – ‘Brown’.” “Eye Color – ‘Brown’.”  “Additional Information”:  “Chapped lips.” 

I do not know why I did that.  Perhaps, I was unconsciously angling for an “edge.”  Or perhaps, as previously described, I was just mortally terrified.

About fifty “actors” auditioned, proceeding in alphabetical order.  Nearing the “P’s”, I lined up in the “wings” with my alphabetical neighbors. I had trouble breathing.  So I focused intently on my speech, which I knew backwards and forwards.  I had to remember to deliver it forwards.

Then, when it was almost my turn, I remembered something essentially important.

My selected scene required two people.  

I was desperately “short” one guy!

I do not know why I had not thought of that before, but I hadn’t.  I guess I was just thinking about my acting.  Only now – at that dauntingly late date – did I realize there were necessary lines to deliver that would set the speech up.  Without them, my performance made no sense.  (I gave no thought to farcically playing both parts myself.)

In a panic, I turned to the “auditioner” behind me – imaginably a “P”, though possibly a “Q” or and “R” – a burly presence, reminiscent of John Goodman in his prime.  Pointing to the script I was holding, in a chilling tone that allowed for just one possible answer, I asked,

“Would you read these lines?”

And he did.

Though my knees – and I mean literally – were shaking, I proceeded onstage with this absolute stranger – who to that point had been focused on matters of his own – and I “killed” at the audition.  Nobody else got applause.  Nobody else was cast in more Brechtian productions.  

I am not sure why this story returned to me recently.  I just know, whenever I feel afraid, I don’t whistle a happy tune.  Instead,

I remember a time when a lion roared.

And the job got done.

Written as a reminder.  For whoever may need it.

Monday, November 26, 2018

"An Unusual Case Of Boldness"

“Hot town, summer in the city…“ (John Sebastian (1966)

Los Angeles, same year as above, same season as well.

Let’s start with this.

I am embarked on my very first trip to “The Coast.”  Wait. It is even bigger than that.  This is the first time in my life I have gone anywhere alone.

(As well as the first summer I did not go to camp since I was 9 years old.)

I am now 21.

We “open” – if this were a movie – with a lonely sojourner, sitting on a bench on a Sunday morning early in July, waiting for a bus to carry me to UCLA, to attend the Bertolt Brecht Summer Theater Workshop.  

I will spend the summer there. 

As an actor.

Days before, I had no idea if I’d been accepted.  I had submitted an application but had not heard anything back.  The reasonable “move” was to call them and find out.  But I was too scared.  Too scared to hear “No.”  Too scared to call “Long Distance.”  That’s a pretty far call.  Which, in practical terms, means nothing.  Unless you’re a wimp.



Let’s pick this up a little. I am already past 200 words.  (Appreciative Note:  My friend Alan called for me.  They told him I was in.)

Though I was unaware of it at the time, buses do not run frequently in Los Angeles.  Especially on Sundays.  People take pictures of them when they show up.
That’s how infrequent they are.  Comedically speaking.

A nearby clock registers the time, telling me I have waited two hours for this bus.  Above it, is an electronic “Temperature Indicator.”

It reads “97 degrees.”

So, two hours sitting on a bus bench in 97-degree heat.  (The bus bench advertises Groman’s Funeral Home.  I hope they don’t think I’m dead if I just faint.)

The night before, I had taken a “Complimentary Shuttle” from the L.A. airport, transporting me to the downtown L.A. Hilton, where I would spend the night, before going to UCLA.

(Uh-oh.  This is starting to feel like a two-parter.  I’m really sorry.  I seem unable to write short.  Okay, back to our story.)

I chose the L.A. Hilton for two reasons.  One, I had heard of the Hilton.  (I had actually stayed in one once in New York.)  It was “pricey” but I splurged.  (Plus, there were no “Complimentary Shuttles” to anywhere else.) The second reason I chose to stay there was because the downtown L.A. Hilton is downtown, and I imagined that UCLA was downtown as well.  Why did I think UCLA was downtown?  Because the University of Toronto is downtown.

I thought t hat’s where they put the universities.

It turns out UCLA is not downtown.  UCLA is in the L.A. community of Westwood. 

Which is, like, fifteen miles from downtown.

That’s why I was taking the bus.  

Which – in the context of my wait and this extended narrative – finally arrives.

Lugging my overstuffed suitcase up the stairs, I board the bus, and ride, seemingly endlessly, down Wilshire Boulevard, heading for UCLA.

Reaching the intersection of Wilshire and Westwood, after a near hour-long bus ride, the driver tells me to get off.

So I do.

But I do not see a school.

Imagine, if you will, an untraveled Canadian, standing at the corner of “I-Have-No-Idea-Where-I-Am” and “What-Am-I-Supposed-To-Do-Now?”, in the company of a forty-pound suitcase before suitcases had wheels.

Woe was I.

A Yellow Cab drives by. I hail the taxi.

I did not know you do not hail taxis in Los Angeles.  In L.A., taxis are only dispatched.  (This was before Uber and cell phones, so you can forget about that.)

The cab pulls over. Never before or since have I seen an automobile look genuinely surprised. 

“We don’t dothis!”

I get in, dragging with my suitcase, say, “I’m going to UCLA”, and we’re off.

Two minutes later, the driver announces,

“We’re here.”

I sheepishly pay, and climb out, pulling my suitcase.

After a trans-continental flight, an almost three-hour bus trip – including the wait – and a subsequent two-minute cab ride, I have arrived at my coveted destination.

I am at UCLA.

Mustering all the strength in my Olive Oylarms, I hoist my suitcase off of the ground – barely – and I head off, searching for the college’s “Office of Registration.” 

Unaware, though not for the first time on this adventure,

The UCLA campus is huge

Stay tuned for our thrill-packed conclusion.

Friday, November 23, 2018

"The 'O'-Word' In Action"

I hear the signals, loud(ly) and clear(ly) at a recent dinner with a friend.

“Baseball today is just ‘homers and strikeouts.’”

“Football’s a brain injury waiting for a gurney.”

“There are no movies to see anymore.”

“I am totally off potatoes.”

At that moment, I stop, taking stock of my blizzard of negative pronouncements.  I then proceed to offer a summarizing reaction to those grumbling assertions, which is the following:

“This is what ‘old’ sounds like.”

You may rest assured, 

I was not delighted with that sound.

It’s been happening a lot lately.  Last week, in a single conversation, I heard myself utter four insistent, personal “Do not’s”

“I do not order clothing online.”

“I do not use meal-delivery services.”

“I do not download books onto my cellphone.”

“I do not ‘scan’ signatures on my computer.”

Four adamant “Do not’s”, in, maybe, ten minutes, all of them collectively confirming, 

“I’m old.”

know I am getting “up there.”

But is it necessary to reiterate that with every action I take?  Or, more specifically, every action I don’t take?

Apparently, it is.

It is very rare that I scrupulously examine an “adjective.”  It’s like studying some particular behavior under a microscope, and going,

“Come here, Watson!  (RE:  THE SLIDE UNDER THE MICROSCOPE)  Do you see that?  I have successfully isolated ‘Old’!”

Consider the magnified “Blow-Up” of a recent personal occurrence:

Owing to Dr. M’s scattershot work schedule, Tuesdays are the only available weeknight we can go out. Tuesday afternoon, I am about to depart for my bi-weekly pedicure appointment (resulting from two troublesome toenails that began suddenly misbehaving after I turned 70.  I just thought you’d like to know about that.)  After deciding to take in a movie that night, I suggest we discuss which film she has found worthy of our attendance after I get back.

I return around four. Rejecting films that are too violent, too depressing, too stupid and too “therapy-oriented” (because “That is not how it works.”), it comes down to a choice between two movies – the Melissa McCarthy movie about a celebrity letter forger – or is it letter forgerer? – and A Star Is Born.

The Melissa McCarthy film, which we are actually interested in, does not work for us “schedule-wise.”  Leaving us A Star Is Born, which is fully acceptable on the standard of “We’ve got to get out of the house”, though scoring less favorably on the grid of “Are we really excited to see it?”

Our facial reactions reveal it all:

“We should probably go out. But A Star Is Born?  Again?”

Shamelessly “punting”, we agree to defer our decision, adopting what turns into a “Three-Step Determining Process.”

Step One:  We agree to put off our decision until after we’ve had dinner.

Step Two: After finishing dinner, we agree to “make the call” after a post-prandial rest.

Step Three:  We confer again after our post-prandial rest…

and we decide not to go.

Surprising neither of us, but disappointing us both.

We got close.  What it ultimately came down to was that A Star Is Born was good enough to see but not good enough to go to.

Perhaps if they made better movies, this wouldn’t have even come up.  But – See:  “Complaint Number 3” – they don’t.

(Rebutting Disclaimer:  The Oxford Experience.  Proving, “If you really, passionately want to do something…”) (But how many of those are there?  {Placed in non-contaminating separateparentheses.}

I cannot truthfully blame the movies.  It seem like there is some kind of deliberative “Balancing Act” going on.  You take the amount of physical energy needed to fuel your trip to A Star Is Born for which there is tepid enthusiasm, the “Moment of Truth” arrives, you weigh your level of energy against your honest enthusiasm… 

and you end up watching The Great English Baking Show on your iPad (Dr. M) or reliable Law & Order reruns on TV.  (That would be me.)

I am not fooling myself. I have mirrors and numerous doctors appointments.

I understand where I’m headed.

But do I have to go there so predictably?

Thursday, November 22, 2018

"Thanksgiving Wishes"

I actually eat turkey all year round.

But only today, wearing an Indian head-dress.

Which leaves me two choices, concerning consistency.

Restricting my turkey consumption to only Thanksgiving.

Or wearing an Indian head-dress whenever I eat turkey.

I have all day to figure that out.

Other people watch football.

I deal with the thorny "Turkey-Head-Dress" conundrum.

Have a wonderful Thanksgiving.

Think of something that makes you feel grateful.

Then let the feeling melt into your heart.

Oh yeah...

I send an annual check to the "St. Joseph's Indian School."

I figure it's the least I can do.

Because we owe them.

Big time.


Only a thought.

Wednesday, November 21, 2018

"Strictly For Laughs"

Just as, like, a “Thought Experiment”, I wonder, “What would a post be like that involved no criticisms and no complaints?”  And then it hits me.

It would be like a post written by somebody else.

Nobody said it better than Popeye:

“I yam what I yam, and that’s all what I yam.”

So here comes me, sounding inevitably like me. 

A lot of times, people ask me what comedies I watch on TV, to which my candid response is, 

I don’t watch anycomedies on TV.

Why not?

I don’t know. Probably meaning I doknow, but there is no one definitive answer.  Or else, there isone definitive answer, but I choose to bury it in a flurry of viable alternatives, only one of which – Ding!  Ding!  Ding! – is the explanatory bull’s eye.

“Today’s comedies don’t make me laugh” is a rationale that comes easily to mind.

So does, “They are geared to a younger demographic.”

Then there’s the legitimate, “I have seen it all before.” 

And the professionally assessing, “They don’t do them right.”

And, of course, “Vindictive Spite” (for cruelly casting me aside) is also a credible option.

(I know that last one carries an emotional wallop, so it feels like, “An inveterate ‘Grievance Collector’ – that’s the one!” And maybe it is.  Though I truly believe, if a show genuinely tickled my funny bone, I would abandon “Personal Animus” and laugh my sagging patootie off.  There is just currently no such rib-tickling animal.)

It must be acknowledged, though with bewildering confusion, that the definition of  “comedy” has recently greatly expanded, until it abuts shoulder-rubbingly with “tragedy.”  I cannot give you examples, because I do not watch those shows.  Ask Ken Levine.  He knows what I’m talking about.  (He also knows what he’s talking about.  Check out, if you are not already a follower.)

The networkcomedies do not do it for me.  Especially comedies “Filmed in front of a live studio audience” – the ones Iused to write – which feel to me like precocious children, donning their elders’ attire.  The rhythmic intention is there.  It just doesn’t seem to fit.

Note:  I do not understand how this works, but somehow, later generations are less adept at doing what previous generations did naturally. Could be, it was always that way. I imagine veteran Egyptian artisans carping, “You call those ‘hieroglyphics?’”  The ability seems to go hand-in-hand with the times.  As the times move on, they do other things well, but the gifts of the past appear thuddingly mimicked.  

End of note. 

In my (dauntingly extending) lifetime, something in comedy has radically changed.  And I believe it is substantially about this.”

At some point –  he professorially opines – “I date it back to The Graduate (1967)” – cinematic comedy (including television), more than sidesplittingly funny, had to be intrinsically “about something.”  (I know many earlier comedies were also “about something”, but those thematic “somethings” were not as dominantly “front-and-center.”)  

The Graduateconcerned the awkward transitioning into “adulthood.”  (Along with having an affair with your girlfriend’s mother.  They’re not stupid.  It’s like westerns.  It wasn’t the traditional “Barn Dance.”  It was the traditional “Barn Dance”, morphing into a bone-crushing donnybrook.  Providing something for everyone.)

After The Graduate, “Agenda Comedy” permanently displaced “comedy for the sheer sake of comedy.”  (Say thata few times fast, if you dare.)

Okay, here’s where I’m concerned that I am inevitably “writing old.”

“The ‘Good Old Days’ – when audiences laughed!

(This vituperative pronouncement followed by an uncontrollable coughing fit, a crimsoning complexion and “Do you think we should call the paramedics?”)

I can’t help it.  I just think something is missing.  

Along with – not replacing; I also love comedy that is “about stuff”, regularly indulging in such satirical shenanigans myself  – we need to, sometimes, 

Laugh without thinking.  

My favorite-movie-of-all-time The Court Jester comes to mind.

“The pellet with the poison’s in the Vessel with the Pestle,
The Flagon with the Dragon has the brew that is true.”

Nothing to get angry about. Nothing to learn.  (Other than the location of the punitive pellet with the poison.)

“Who’s on First?”

The “Niagara Falls” routine.   (AKA: The “Floogle Street” routine.  AKA:“The Susquehanna Hat Factory” routine.)

The “Paper Hanger (who can’t get the gluey wallpaper off his fingers) Sketch.”

Everything from Buster Keaton.

You just laughed.

And, perhaps more importantly, there was no segregating division, based on gender, religion, race, economic status, education level or “Country of Origin.”

Everyone laughed at the same thing.

Until they cried, doubled over and threw up.

Can you imagine that phenomenon?  You would haveto imagine it, because it no longer exists. In recent times, “Agenda Comedy” has booted “comedy for the sake of comedy” right off the stage.

And I think that’s a shame.

As with earlier turbulent eras in our history,

Waiting for “President Tape Worm” to pass through our systems,

We could use an untainted belly laugh.

But it is nowhere to be found.

Tuesday, November 20, 2018

"You Don't Have To Be A Solomon - Conclusion"

Here’s a story pertinent to the situation that cannot be told too often – unless it is told when it is notpertinent to the situation in which case it can– about a moment in television so exposingly revelatory I heard myself saying, possibly out loud though there was no one else in the vicinity,

“Did he just say that?”

As did, without doubt, the people on the TV show he was saying it to.

Somebody once opined, “A ‘gaffe’ is when a politician tells the truth.”  Though not delivered by a politician, this public, “letting-the-cat-out-of-the-bag” easily rises to the opiner’s definitional level of “gaffe.” 

Here’s what happened. And it would not be overstated to say that anyone who witnessed it – their lives were altered forever.  All right, maybe a little overstated, but look at me.  It happened years ago and I am still writing about it.

“Would you get to it already, please?”

Okay.  Sorry.  It just still, you know, makes my head spin around.

Okay, so here it is.

Political commentator John McLaughin is hosting one of his popular adversarial mud-wrestling programs, on which a panel of pugnacious pundits from both sides of the ideological spectrum go “Head-To-Head” over some transient-though-seemingly-vital-at-the-time “Issue of the Day.”

Suddenly, “Host Commentator” McLaughlin crashes the verbal cacophony and says, concerning the issue under passionate debate:

“The question is not‘Is is good for the ‘Left’? or ‘Is it good for the ‘Right’?  The question is… (“HOLDING” FOR HEIGHTENING TENSION)… ‘Is it good for our show?’”

I sat there, utterly dumbstruck, my faculties under sufficient control only to weakly go, “Wow.” (The “on-air” contributors look like they just swallowed their gum.)

That’s the whole ballgame, right there.

“Is it good for our show?” 

A reverberating mantra that applies, I think, everywhere.  

Including the issue in yesterday’s post.

The Dodgershave no prayer of defeating the Red Soxin the 2018 World Series.  The evidence behind that assertion is indisputable, and, more importantly, staring everyone interested right in the face.  (And everyone not interested.)  Yes, there is always the possibility of an “upset”, but as I said yesterday, although not in these exact words, “upsets” are “upsets” because their unlikelihood as an outcome are demonstrably apparent.  (This seems like a duller version of what I said yesterday.  Though I may be dealing in a “haloing” nostalgia for the past.)   

Despite this supportable certainty –  in a seeming parallel universe – you watch the pre-game prognostications, or the game itself, even nearing its end when the contest’s winner is no longer in doubt, and, from what they are telling you on the air, 

You would think it was still close.

It is notclose.

It was predictably – and you do not have to be some great “Wizard of Wisdom” to see it – never going to be close.  (And, by the way, I do not in any arena, claim that I am one.)

You can detect the transparent mismatch with your unlying eyes.

Yet the announcers keep telling us it’s close.

“The Red Soxhold a commanding lead here in the eighth (inning, out of nine, for those unfamiliar with baseball),but the always-explosive Dodgers are only a grand-slam home run, a couple of more home runs, some singles and doubles and maybe another home run from climbing back into this game.”

Why do they do that?

“Is it good for our show?

(Likely Unnecessary Translation:  So we will continue to watch.)

Ditto – feeding his argumentative fire – with the recent mid-term election coverage.  (Validating Side-Note:  When asked my opinion concerning some surprisingly tight races in traditional “Red” states, my studied prediction was, “The Democrats will lose by less.”  Not being a “smarty-pants.”  Just saying “What is.”) 

Yet they kept telling us what our clear-eyed understanding said otherwise.

Why did they do that?

All together now…

“Is it good for our show?”

I will now use the word “confluence” without looking it up to see if it’s right because I like how it sounds.


Okay, I looked it up and it’s close.  “Confluence” refers to rivers flowing together,  which, if not exactly, then “in-the-general-neighborhood” fits the bill.

People believe what they choose to believe, even if it’s wrong.  Some are natural optimists whose  inborn proclivities send them in that sunny direction. Others are devoted fans – if its baseball – or unwavering partisans – if it’s the political bacchanal.

“Facts, Shmacts!”  

They want it to be the way they want it to be.

Then they see people on television saying, in the case of the political arena, diametrically opposite things – there is no “Fox News of Baseball”, proclaiming, “The score is ‘Fake news.’” – the boiled-down version of their broadcast pronouncements being,

“Despite the mountain of proof suggesting the contrary, you may actually be correct.” 

And there’s your word “confluence”, right there.

River One:  People desiring a highly unlikely outcome, encouraged to believe in the possibility of that highly unlikely outcome by – River Two: – people who – at least according to an eye-opening John McLaughlin, and his ad-libbed assertion’s “Ring of Truth” made me an immediate Believer – have an alternate purpose for stringing us along.




Punk.  (Because I couldn’t think of a fourth one.)

I say,

Believe whatever you want for whatever reason you want to.

Except one.

Do not be persuaded by people whose interests stem from an entirely different agenda.

“Is it good for our show”?

That’s not our issue.

It’s theirs.