So I have this story to tell that happened to me and it seemed like a post.
The thing is it’s kind of close to “the Line.”
The line between “I feel comfortable telling this story”, and “I don’t.”
The decision “Yes” or “No” is entirely personal. It did not used to be. Once, it was a cultural decision. As in,
“That sir, (or madam) was in extremely poor taste.” (Sniff, sniff.)
In comedy back then, there were rules regarding “Acceptable” and “PU.” All that is now gone. The cultural “Standards and Practices” office has vacated the premises, and is now a flourishing “Nails” salon.
Today, it is entirely up to us.
That last sentence made me stop for a second, realizing the acquired personal responsibility, which I would not exaggerate to call “onerous.”
I have mentioned elsewhere but it bears repeating so I am repeating it, that today, every comedian defines for themselves the boundaries of “acceptable material.” (Though if the audience does not laugh, they have to define them again, or enter an alternate line of moneymaking endeavor.)
I am thinking, for example, about Larry David. Not the Larry David, co-creator of Seinfeld, whose generic impulses, I sense, were tempered by Jerry’s sunnier “Maybe there is a nicer way of putting that.”
I am referring instead to the undiluted Larry David of Curb Your Enthusiasm, whose “Persona”, at least, appears virtually shameless, and, therefore, pushing the boundaries of comedic acceptability, is to some, hilariously funny. (And to others, repulsively cringe-worthy.)
This may not be the best “Larry David” example, but it is the best one I can think of at this typing.
I believe I saw this in the extended HBO Curb Your Enthusiasm “Pilot.” In the sequence I am about to inaccurately relate, Larry stands at the desk, settling his bill at a fancy New York hotel, buttressed by his fully accommodating manager, Jeff.
(Note: The following dialogue is “pure paraphrase”, but you can hold me to the gist.)
Jeff explains that his Personal Management company will be covering Larry David’s entire hotel bill.
“Including ‘Room Service’ and ‘Incidentals’?”
“Including all ‘Room Service’ and ‘Incidentals’”, asserts a loudly magnanimous Jeff.
“Including the ‘Porn.’”
“We are absolutely covering the ‘Porn’”, proclaims Jeff, for the entire lobby to hear.
Larry stands between the hotel Desk Clerk and Jeff, looking sheepish, though not as sheepish as I would. In a voice echoed by the reverberating lobby, Larry says,
“I’ll pay for the ‘Porn.’”
To which Jeff insistently replies,
“No way. The ‘Porn’ is entirely on me.”
And off we go.
“It’s okay. I can pay for the ‘Porn.’”
“Larry, you are being ridiculous. (TO DESK CLERK, Re: Larry)) The ‘Porn’ goes on my bill.”
“No, no. I’ll take care of the ‘Porn.’”
“Larry, trust me. It is my supreme pleasure to pay for the ‘Porn.’”
It may have gone on a bit longer than that, but you get the idea.
“Hotel Porn Payments” are regularly not the subject of loud lobby conversation.
But they did it, because they thought was funny. And the prevailing culture said,
“We don’t decide that anymore.”
Which brings me to me and my story. Equally embarrassing in its own regard.
The difference is my wavering qualms about telling it. (I’m not sure you can have one “qualm”, but if you can, one would generously suffice.)
I am sure, hearing it, Larry David would say, “That’s nothing!”
But I am not Larry David.
Though not dissimilar in age, we have disparate placements of “The Line”, and I am not sure what to do.
I mean, it is not really that bad.
Still, I fear edging perilously towards the abyss.
See what all the fuss is about tomorrow. Unless I wimp out and talk about baseball instead.