Monday, October 28, 2019

"Mr. Smarty Pants"

I don’t know why I write these.  They only seal my fate as a curmudgeonly “Grumpy Head.”  

I say I’m just curious.  But though you seal it up tight, the whiff of condescension and judgment inevitably seeps through the cracks.

I just can’t seem to help it.

I had dinner with a friend who praised Rene Zellwellger’s performance as Judy Garland to the heavens. And I could not stop myself.

“You know who’s a better Judy Garland than Rene Zellwegger?” I asked.


“Judy Garland.”

I didn’t needto say that.  I could simply have said,

“I’m glad you enjoyed it.”

And hoped it did not sound like,

(WITH STEVE MARTIN-LIKE SARCASM)  “Well I’m gla-adyou enjoyyyed it.”

I do not meanto behave that way. 

At least, I don’t thinkI mean to. 

But I am always worried it’s there.

With good reason.  

Like sometimes, someone telling me it is.

Here’s one that’s been eating me half a century.

I was trying standup comedy in Toronto, my first “Open Mic Night” effort earnring the memorable heckle,

“You’re not funny!”

For those “Sensitive of Nature:, that one’s tattooed right onto your marrow.  Though you try “standup” again, your “True Self’s” going,

“You’re finished.”

Anyway, I come outside, and I bump into the comedian who preceded me onstage, whom my older brother told me got his material from Reader’s Digest.

We said hello.   And I mentioned – because I was curious, not because I felt superior writing my own material, which had recently stunk up Metropolitan Toronto and nearby Niagara Frontier – 

“I hear you get your material from Reader’s Digest.”

To which he said, “Yes.” 

To which Isaid,   

“Hm!”  (Meaning a neutral “That’s interesting.”)

To which he angrily replied,

“You know your brother made fun of me for taking my act fromReader’s Digest.  But at least he was honest about it!”

You see how that works?

The man had taken my “Hm!” personally.  


I just wanted to understand.

Though I could easily have said nothing.  

And now… here I go again.

Following a recent post in which I said people who write network sitcoms today work hard and do the best that they know how – which itselfcarries hints of studied evasion – I risk a similar gaffe, when I again, probably ought to say nothing.

Except I’m curious, and I want to find out.

Okay – and I know there are now numerous otheroutlets for new writers can excitedly imagine working for – but my interest exclusively in this:

Network television.

Half-hour comedies.

Preambling “In my day…” sentence.

In my day, watching The Mary Tyler Moore Show, I was genuinely inspired.

New writers, harboring secret or maybe notso secret dreams of working in television, watching network sitcoms today:

Are they equally inspired?

Did you see that?

The easily inferred “How couldthey be?”

I can’t help it!

I ask a curious question. 

And it just subtly sneaks in.

I’m not trying to be critical.

I’m just trying to understand.


Aren’t I?


Mike Barer said...

I think viewer who go to biopics, do not want to learn anything new about the subject. I think in the viewer's mind, they want their perceptions confirmed.
Hence, the critics are not friends of those movies, but the ones adhering to that formula generally seem to be more successful.

Wendy M. Grossman said...

Aspiring writers today can be inspired by the entire history of comedy via streaming services and syndicated reruns. I bet this generation, when they're in their 40s or 70s will say they were inspired by watching FRIENDS, SEINFELD, the DICK VAN DYKE SHOW, THE HONEYMOONERS, FLEABAG, George Burns, Lucille Ball, and a mix of stand-up comedians like John Mulaney, Hannah Gadsby, and many others. There has rarely been better access to a wide variety of comedic approaches.

As for biopics, a friend of mine once observed that they always feel like the colorized versions of their subjects' lives. (Which I took to mean, carefully done, but always somehow "off".)


Lord Lillis said...

Mr Pomerantz, So what's wrong with being a crotchety alter-cocker? You've earned the privilege.

Hope you are feeling better