80’s Movie Mania: Tubular Round 2

Welcome to Round Two of 80’s Movie Mania. This round will feature 20 films that we have yet to discuss, as five in each division received first round byes. I would really appreciate Manoverse participation, as all of these combatants have their own merits and it’s going to be very difficult to make certain choices. In situations where I am forced to decide a winner my own bias is a key factor. I appreciate the fact that some movies have been critically acclaimed, made lots of money at the box office, or won a plethora of awards. Those are all influential elements. However, at the end of the day it all comes down to one big question: If I am sitting around The Bachelor Palace on a lazy rainy afternoon with nothing else better to do than flip thru the channels or hop on Netflix and check out a good old movie what would I choose to watch?? That is the overriding guiding light. In many cases I can be persuaded in one direction or another which…theoretically…is where YOU come in. Let’s make it happen. At any rate, we’ll kick off the 2nd Round with the Tubular Division, and as always thanks so much for taking time to visit The Manofesto.

 

 

 

Tubular 2

 

The Blues Brothers               vs.              European Vacation

european_vacationbb31980’s The Blues Brothers received a first round bye and makes its Mania debut right now. Starring Dan Aykroyd & John Belushi as a couple of musicians/career criminals with a robust admiration for blues music, the idea sprouted from a Saturday Night Live skit in which Jake & Elwood Blues, clad in dark suits, fedoras, & sunglasses, would perform on the show. After three SNL appearances their popularity grew to the point that they were doing concerts and producing albums. The film finds Jake being released from prison and both brothers “putting the band back together” to save the orphanage in which Jake & Elwood grew up. It features fantastic cameos from the likes of Ray Charles, Aretha Franklin, James Brown, Chaka Khan, Joe Walsh, & John Lee Hooker, and has stars such as John Candy, Carrie Fisher, Steven Spielberg, & Paul Reubens (aka Pee Wee Herman) in bit parts. The soundtrack is amazing for those of us that like that particular kind of music. A sequel was made in 1998, but as much as I like John Goodman he’s no Belushi. European Vacation defeated Three Amigos! in Round 1 and is a lot better than people may recall. Taking the Griswold clan out of the car and putting them in different locations across Europe was a really interesting idea. The two actors portraying Rusty & Audrey are my least favorite of all that have inhabited the roles. It’s a tall order to live up to the original Vacation, but this one gives it a good go.

 

The Verdict:       The Blues Brothers. Great cast. Awesome music. Fun cameos. It’s a cult classic for a reason.

 

 

 

 

Lethal Weapon                      vs.              La Bamba

lw1987’s Lethal Weapon received a first round bye, while La Bamba got the decision over Three Men & A labamba2Baby. Lethal Weapon is an action flick, which is usually not my cup of tea. However, the cast is so good and the script is infused with enough humor & character development that it rises above the usual limitations of the genre. Mel Gibson plays a cop on the edge after the unfortunate death of his wife. He is paired with Danny Glover as an older officer pondering life after the police department. Riggs & Murtaugh are a classic film duo…one a loose cannon with nothing to lose and the other a by-the-book family man who just wants to ease into retirement. They are forced to put their differences aside and investigate an apparent suicide that develops into a much more sinister case. The supporting cast is superb, including Gary Busey as a crazy felon…a role he was born to play. The first film was followed by three sequels that I personally like just fine, but none quite recapture the original magic. La Bamba re-introduced the world to Ritchie Valens, a young singer who died tragically in a plane crash that famously also took the lives of 50’s rockers Buddy Holly and The Big Bopper. Valens was only 17 years old at the time of his demise and had produced a few hits, including Donna, Come On Let’s Go, & La Bamba. One cannot help but wonder what he could have become had he lived. It is my understanding that his influence on the Latino community has been immense and I am glad that, with the help of this film, he finally got some well-deserved recognition from the masses.

 

The Verdict:       Lethal Weapon. How can you not love it?? It’s got action, atmosphere, great characters, & lots of fun.

 

 

 

 

Ghostbusters                         vs.              Mr. Mom

ghostI know there is a remake coming out soon, but who cares?? It can’t possibly live up to the original 1984 mr momGhostbusters, which enters this contest after having a 1st Round bye. Starring Dan Aykroyd, Bill Murray, Ernie Hudson, & Harold Ramis as a team of ghost hunters way before such a profession became fashionable and the paranormal evolved into a widespread cultural fad, the cast also includes Rick Moranis, Annie Potts, & Sigourney Weaver as well as cameos by Larry King, Casey Kasem, Bill Walton, & Ron Jeremy (yes…THAT Ron Jeremy). The movie also features an infectious theme song by Ray Parker Jr., who hasn’t done anything notable since. Mr. Mom defeated Porky’s in the first round. It was the ninth highest grossing movie of 1983, ahead of competition like Risky Business, National Lampoon’s Vacation, The Big Chill, Scarface, & A Christmas Story. Impressive indeed. Michael Keaton did about a half dozen good movies in the 1980’s and this is probably my second favorite.

 

The Verdict:       Mr. Mom. It’s another upset for the underrated Mr. Mom. I know there are Ghostbusters enthusiasts out there that would strongly disagree with the decision, but again it comes down to repeat viewings and what I would choose to watch while channel surfing, and the fact is that I’ve seen Mr. Mom a hundred times and would likely always choose it over Ghostbusters.

 

 

 

 

Dirty Dancing                         vs.              Moonstruck

dd2After receiving a first round bye 1987’s Dirty Dancing enters the fray. Mostly what people remembermoonstruck2 about Dirty Dancing is A) it starred Patrick Swayze, B) the fantastic soundtrack, & C) the dancing…of course. That is probably enough to qualify it as a quintessential 80’s time capsule movie, but it also had a storyline. It takes place in the early 60’s at an exclusive resort in New York’s Catskill Mountains and features Jennifer Grey as a young woman who receives forbidden dance lessons from the resort’s dance instructor Johnny Castle (a really cool name) and falls for him. The romance is classic Romeo/Juliet, good girl/”bad” guy, right/wrong side of the tracks stuff, but the formula works as long as there is a creative spin. Moonstruck beat out Flashdance in Round 1 and interestingly runs up against more musically inclined competition here. Having grown up in an Italian family I appreciate the broad strokes in Moonstruck, and really enjoy the performance of Nicolas Cage. It was the 5th highest grossing film of 1987, ahead of La Bamba, Lethal Weapon, and yes…Dirty Dancing. Cher may be nuttier than a fruitcake but she has been in some damn fine movies.

 

The Verdict:       Dirty Dancing. Moonstruck is undoubtedly the “better” movie by almost any metric. However, Dirty Dancing is the more memorable movie. For anyone who came of age in the 1980’s it is one of the signature films of that era, and it seems to be that the things we enjoyed as teenagers…movies, songs, TV shows, etc…leave an indelible mark on our soul.

 

 

 

 

 

The Big Chill                          vs.              Scarface

1983’s The Big Chill is undeniably a commentary on 60’s rebels facing the perils of adulthood in the scarface2“greedy” Reagan era. But it is also a universal story about growing up and understanding that, though college may have been the best time of your life, there comes a time when it is necessary to move forward. The cast…featuring stars like Jeff Goldblum, Kevin Cline, Glenn Close, Tom Berenger, & William Hurt…is unsurpassed. They gather together to mourn the suicide of a close friend who was to be portrayed by Kevin Costner, but his flashback scenes got cut, which is unfortunate. The Big Chill may have been the genesis for my appreciation of the dramedy, because goshdarnit I like to have some laughs mixed into my tragedy. Scarface easily beat out License to Drive in Round 1 because Al Pacino will kick the snot out of as many Coreys as you can throw at him. It was only the 16th highest grossing film of 1983, behind stinkers like Jaws 3-D, Superman III, & Staying Alive, which perfectly illustrates both the pitfalls of sequels and exactly why they get made in the first place.

 

The Verdict:        The Big Chill. Some movies appeal to a very specific target audience. Scarface fits that bill, and I am not the kind of moviegoer that really enjoys violence, rampant drug use, & abundant gunfire. I prefer to laugh. The Big Chill isn’t a comedy, but it is well-written with great performances and really speaks to me on a deeper level.

 

 

 

 

Bill & Ted’s Excellent Adventure   vs.     WarGames

Bill-and-TedNeither of these opponents had a first round bye. Bill & Ted beat out Mel Brooks’ History of the World wargames2Part 1, while WarGames got a Round 1 victory over The Best Little Whorehouse in Texas. WarGames was the fifth highest grossing film of 1983. Bill & Ted ranked 32nd at the 1989 box office. A more useful indicator may be Rotten Tomatoes, where WarGames has a 93% Fresh rating and Bill & Ted has a 79% Fresh rating. Well okay…maybe that isn’t quite as helpful as I’d hoped.

 

The Verdict:       WarGames. It’s a tossup, and I am tempted to leave it in the hands of The Manoverse, but I am resisting the temptation. WarGames might be a tad bit dated and a candidate to be remade with more modern technology, but that is part of the charm that definitively marks it as an 80’s film. The Cold War is a relic of the past and we face new dangers nowadays, but the fear & paranoia felt by many back then can’t be matched. WarGames is the perfect blend of subtle social commentary and edge-of-your-seat fun. It is the rare action-adventure flick without much violence. A masterstroke indeed.

80’s Movie Mania: Tubular Round 1

Welcome back to 80’s Movie Mania!! Unfortunately I’m still not getting the interactive response I’d hoped for, so I am forced to make decisions on the polls I posted for the first round of the Bodacious Division. To that end: Weekend at Bernie’s conquers Bachelor Party, Cocktail beats Stripes, and Iron Eagle defeats An Officer & A Gentleman. Now we move on to first round matchups in the Tubular Division. I am persistent so there will be more polls. Please vote. Enjoy!!

 

 

 

Tubular – Round 1

Bill & Ted’s Excellent Adventure   vs.   History of the World Part I
btdThis is a matchup for all you history buffs!! Bill and Ted are two California stoners destined to do great History-of-the-World-Part-1-mel-brooksthings in the future…if only they can pass their high school history exam. To help them in their 1989 epic adventure George Carlin travels back in time in a phone booth and introduces the two mindless teens to historical figures like Billy the Kid, Napoleon Bonaparte, Socrates, Sigmund Freud, Beethoven, & Abraham Lincoln. As you might imagine it’s a pretty funny trip thru the ol’ space-time continuum. A sequel came out a couple of years later but it lacks the magic of the original. The 1981 epic History of the World Part 1 is written, produced, & directed by the legendary Mel Brooks. It is comprised of short segments parodying events set in The Stone Age, The Old Testament Biblical era, The Roman Empire, The Spanish Inquisition, & The French Revolution and stars some pretty big names like Orson Welles (who narrates), Dom Deluise, Sid Caesar, Shecky Greene, Harvey Korman, Bea Arthur, Cloris Leachman, & Brooks himself. The humor is kind of old school vaudeville mixed with Americanized Python-esque zaniness…and it works.

The Verdict: Okay Manoverse…I’m giving you another shot here. Can we get atleast 10 votes on this one??

 

 

 
WarGames   vs.   The Best Little Whorehouse in Texas
wargamesWhat would happen if a precocious teenage computer hacker inadvertently started World War III?? best-little-whorehouse-texas-dolly1983’s WarGames addresses that idea. It was the first starring role for both Matthew Broderick & Ally Sheedy and is a fun, entertaining, vaguely conceivable, well written thrill ride. 1982’s The Best Little Whorehouse in Texas is based on a Tony Award winning Broadway musical and stars Dolly Parton as the madam of a brothel whose…activities…are largely ignored because the madam is in a relationship with the local sheriff, portrayed by Burt Reynolds (still one of the biggest actors in the world at the time). Things get riotously complicated when a Springer-esque talk show host portrayed by Dom Deluise decides to expose the “chicken ranch”.

The Verdict: WarGames. The Best Little Whorehouse in Texas is an amusing yet forgettably frivolous comedy we recall only because of its above average cast. WarGames is really well done, taking a heavy subject and spinning it into enjoyable entertainment.

 

 

Scarface   vs.   License to Drive
scarface1Al Pacino is still one of the best actors in the world and has been for over four decades, with 1983’s coreysScarface being one of his most treasured films. Pacino stars as Cuban drug lord Tony Montana in a violent story about cocaine & organized crime that was written by the infamous Oliver Stone and helmed by heralded director Brian DePalma. License to Drive is a 1988 comedy starring The Coreys…Haim & Feldman…about a 16 year old kid who takes his grandfather’s vehicle out for some misadventures despite having failed his driving test. The cast also includes Carol Kane, Heather Graham, & One Day at a Time’s Richard Masur.

The Verdict: Scarface. It isn’t necessarily my cup of tea, but considering the competition this is a no brainer. Even The Coreys made better movies than License to Drive.

 

 
Three Amigos!   vs.   European Vacation
Three-AmigosIt’s Chevy Chase vs. Chevy Chase!! In 1986’s Three Amigos! Chase co-stars with Steve Martin & Martin euroShort as dimwitted silent film actors in the early 20th century who inadvertently become involved in a battle against a bandito who is terrorizing a small Mexican village. They think they have been recruited to simply put on a show, but the young senorita who has enlisted their help mistakenly believes they are genuine heroes that can save her neighborhood. Hilarity ensues. Three Amigos! has never won any awards, but it is a quirky showcase for the inimitable talents of a trio of comedy legends. European Vacation is a 1985 follow-up to the original Vacation wherein the wacky Griswold clan wins an all-expenses paid tour of Europe on a goofy game show. As usual things go horribly yet hilariously wrong for Clark, Ellen, Rusty, & Audrey. It isn’t as funny as the first film or 1989’s Christmas Vacation, but European Vacation has its charms and upon further review is better than the first impression it might have left back in the day.

The Verdict: This one is in your hands too Manoverse. I’m counting on you!!

 

 

 
Three Men & A Baby   vs.   La Bamba
3menOnce again we have a trio of big name co-stars…in this case Tom Selleck, Ted Danson, & Steve Guttenberg. labambaThree Men & A Baby was the highest grossing film of 1987, beating out the likes of Fatal Attraction, Good Morning Vietnam, Moonstruck, The Untouchables, Dirty Dancing, Lethal Weapon, and Planes, Trains, & Automobiles. The story finds three NY City bachelors suddenly tasked with taking care of an infant that one of them has fathered. The men have no clue what they are doing and therein lies the comedy. The film was directed by Star Trek’s Leonard Nimoy and was followed a few years later by an unremarkable sequel. Word on the street is that a third film…three decades after the original…is in the works. La Bamba was also made in 1987 and is a biopic of Richie Valens, a Latino rocker in the 1950’s who had a few big hits before his life was cut short on The Day the Music Died in a plane crash that also killed Buddy Holly and The Big Bopper. La Bamba has an awesome soundtrack and Lou Diamond Phillips is mesmerizing as Valens.

The Verdict: 1987 was a really good year in film!! I’m also leaving this one up to y’all. Let’s get those votes in!!

 

 

 

Porky’s   vs.   Mr. Mom
porkys1982’s Porky’s is the quintessential teen sex comedy. Actually it is a forefather to movies like Superbad, mrmomRoad Trip, & American Pie in a genre that keeps on keepin’ on with decidedly uneven results. Porky’s is set in the 1950’s and has a group of Florida high schoolers on the typical quest to lose their virginity, ticking off a local nightclub owner in the process. There are no big stars in the film, but it was directed by Bob Clark, who would use the success of Porky’s to launch his passion project…a little ditty called A Christmas Story. You may have heard of it. 1983’s Mr. Mom is amongst the early works of Michael Keaton, still one of the most underrated actors out there to this day. Keaton co-stars with the lovely Teri Garr as an engineer downsized from Ford Motor Company who becomes a stay-at-home Dad while Mom re-enters the work force at an ad agency. It is Keaton at his funniest.

The Verdict: Mr. Mom. The basic plot of Porky’s has been done better in other films. Meanwhile, Mr. Mom is an oft overlooked gem that really showcases Keaton’s comedic talent.

 

 

Moonstruck   vs.   Flashdance
moonstruckI have long opined that Cher is a much better actress than singer, and the 1987 rom-com Moonstruck is flashdanceone of her more memorable performances, earning her an Oscar for Best Actress. Olympia Dukakis won the Oscar for Best Supporting Actress and the movie itself was nominated for Best Picture, losing out to The Last Emperor, which also beat out Broadcast News and Fatal Attraction…a prime example of the folly and apparent crack smoking prowess of Oscar voters. At any rate, the real gem in Moonstruck is Nicolas Cage as a man who falls head over heels in love with his soon-to-be sister-in-law. 1983’s Flashdance tells the story of a female steelworker/stripper in Pittsburgh who wants to be a professional dancer. She becomes romantically involved with her boss (from the steel mill…not the nudie bar) and has to overcome feelings of inadequacy to chase her dream.

The Verdict: Moonstruck. I feel like Flashdance is remembered more for its soundtrack than for the movie itself. Meanwhile, the pedigree of Moonstruck cannot be denied.

Superfluous 7 Favorite Stand-Up Comedians

My man Michael Wilbon recently posted a video commentary…for no apparent reason…on comedythe PTI Facebook page about his Top 10 stand-up comics. Because Wilbon, as erudite as he seems on TV, is subconsciously a militant black man and a throwback 60’s radical his list was, shall we say, just a little bit prejudiced. It wasn’t too terrible I suppose, but it had Wanda Sykes for God’s sake, a woman who is only mildly amusing at her best, while leaving off 2 or 3 certified comedy legends. My dismay with this absurd display of racially biased poppycock has inspired me to create my own ranking. I have made a concerted effort to eschew the kind of poor taste & obvious sociopolitical slant shown by Wilbon, but to be fair we are all a product of our background, bound to be influenced by the time & place in which we were raised and the things to which we were or were not exposed. I’m about 15 years younger than Wilbon, was raised in small town WV as opposed to Chicago, and watched way too much TV as a kid. I am a child of the 80’s (with fond memories of the late 70’s) and became an adult in the 90’s. I do think my rankings are better & more reasonable than the list that motivated this effort, but others may disagree. So be it.


comedy2In pondering this idea I had a lot of names pop into my head. It became necessary to create parameters. The focus here is on stand-up comedy…just a guy (or lady) on stage with a microphone in front of a live audience. Many of the best comedians have gone on to star in TV series or become movie stars. That’s fine, but that’s not what this is about. Jimmy Fallon may have once done stand-up comedy, but in my mind he is an SNL alum who went on to do a few forgettable films and now hosts the Tonight Show. Same deal with David Letterman. To me he is a talk show host that has been a centerpiece of late night television for ¾ of my life. At any rate, even with those self-imposed boundaries the list was overflowing, so we will begin with some Honorable Mentions that didn’t quite make the cut for one reason or another.

 

Honorable Mention

Tim Allen
His stand-up routines landed him a successful sitcom which he parlayed into a mediocre film career, so I think of him primarily as a comedic actor.

Billy Crystal
I LOVE Crystal, but to me he is an actor & awards show host.

Bob Newhart
His standup career was before my time. I remember him as the star of two of TV’s more underappreciated sitcoms.

Don Rickles
He’s funny, but his career trajectory plateaued before I was born.

Johnny Carson & Jay Leno
I know them primarily as two long time hosts of the Tonight Show.

Bob Hope
An undisputed legend, but one whose career peaked long before I was born and who I fondly recall as hosting the occasional variety show special on TV.

Steve Martin
I realize he was a revolutionary stand-up comic in the 70’s, but I know him mainly as a film actor and for his numerous appearances on SNL.

Garry Shandling
Funny, but not quite elite. I recall him as a frequent guest host on the Tonight Show and remember his first sitcom on Showtime in the late 80’s.

Buddy Hackett
He was before my time. I remember him mostly for his guest appearances on Carson’s Tonight Show in the 1980’s.

Sam Kinison
Sadly Kinison was gone far too soon, killed by a teenage drunk driver at the age of 38. Kinison was obnoxious, controversial, & often blasphemous, but he was funny. It would have been really interesting to see how he might have evolved. Would he have softened with age?? Would he have become a caricature of himself, still trying to be the loud, abrasive rebel even as an elder statesman of comedy?? Or would he have just flamed out & faded away once his shtick started to grow old?? We’ll never know, and that’s too bad.

Steven Wright
Wright’s deadpan delivery is unmistakable yet kind of defines him as a one trick pony. Amusing in small doses, but there is a reason he never became a huge star.

Ron White
I gave this spot to White over Jeff Foxworthy because I think he is funnier. His humor seems kind of restricted to a specific southern demographic, which is fine by me but limits his star power and accessibility to the masses.

Gallagher
You know & love him as the prop comedian who busts watermelons with a sledgehammer. It’s a gimmick that has narrowly defined his career for four decades.

Andrew Dice Clay
He’s funny & memorable enough to get a mention, but just too vulgar to be ranked amongst the best.

Andy Kaufman
It is difficult to describe exactly what Andy Kaufman did on stage. He was more of a performance artist than a traditional standup comedian. It seemed as if he was trying to entertain himself more than anyone else, and if that meant offending, annoying, & confusing the audience then that was just dandy. Kaufman is another artist that we lost far too early, as he succumbed to lung cancer at age 35. I remember him mostly as Latka Gravis on the sitcom Taxi, a role that he allegedly despised.

Redd Foxx
To me he is iconic junk king Fred G. Sanford from the 70’s sitcom Sanford & Son. However, before that role he had a long & successful career as a crude & profane stand-up comic. That was in the 50’s & 60’s though…way way way before my time, and in an era when profanity was actually shocking instead of the accepted norm.

 

Okay, so now that the honorable mentions are out of the way it’s time to move to the main attraction. To be honest I wish more of these guys worked “clean”, but it’s rare to find a comedian who does that nowadays. We live in an era in which F Bombs and sexual humor sells, so that’s what many do. It’s not my preference, but for the most part I think my choices would still be funny if they took the road less traveled instead of conforming to low worldly standards. At any rate, sit down, enjoy a cold beverage, and maybe chuckle, chortle, guffaw, & giggle as I present…..

 

 

 

From the home office in Happy, TX…..

 

 

 

My Superfluous 7 Favorite Stand-Up Comedians:

 

 

 

7 Eddie Murphy / Richard Pryor
murphyY’all should know by now, there will be ties. These guys are legends, with Pryor being the trailblazer who heavily influenced Murphy. Pryor’s stand-up career was en fuego in the 1970’s when I was just a baby. By the time I got to the age where I was consciously making entertainment choices and discovering what I enjoy Pryor, like so many others, had segued into acting. It is really interesting that a vast majority of comedians cite Richard Pryor as a huge influence. He really did make it look easy. His comedy was edgy & vulgar, yet accessible to the masses. Perhaps one of the most regrettable byproducts of Pryor’s legacy is that so many comics believe that peppering their act with a plethora of F-Bombs & other profanities is hysterically funny. I suppose it was humorous in a shocking kind of way when he did it, but now it’s just derivative & tedious. Murphy’s career has been all over the place, with a prominent chunk of the early 80’s spent as a cast member on SNL followed by a three pryordecade movie career with some hits (48 Hrs., Trading Places, Beverly Hills Cop, Coming to America) and a lot of misses (The Golden Child, Vampire in Brooklyn, Pluto Nash, Norbitt). In between those gigs, for a brief time in the mid-80’s, he was a comedy rock star that did a few really good HBO specials that became big sellers on home video. Unfortunately Eddie Murphy seemed to buy into the whole movie star fantasy and has become more aloof & pretentious over the years.

 

6 Chris Rock / Dennis Miller
rockI don’t often agree with Rock’s politics, but there is no denying that he is an intelligent, thoughtful guy whose observational comedy is a cut above. Much of his humor has racial overtones, but I’ve rarely found it racist. It is more like a brutally honest, undeniably subjective worldview to which I can’t relate. In contrast, Miller’s philosophies & attitudes are much more in line with my own. He also is a smart & solicitous dude whose comedy was tinged with insightful commentary about life even before he became a regular guest on political talk shows. Miller doesn’t dumb down his comedy for the masses. You either get the odd analogies & obscure references he makes or you don’t, and he’s not going to slow down and draw a picture for you. Both Rock & Miller had notable runs on Saturday Night Live. Rock has gone on to be a run-of-the-mill movie star in mostly pedestrian films, millerwhile Miller has dabbled in the whole talk show host thing (I really wanted him to be the guy to replace Letterman), did a season in the booth on Monday Night Football (not a good fit), & in recent years has become bogged down as a political pundit. I’d love to see him get back into doing stand-up.

 

5 Jim Gaffigan / Bill Cosby
gaffiganOkay…let’s first address the elephant in the room. I am not here to judge what Cosby may or may not have done in his personal life. That’s not my place, and I think the damage that has been done to his legacy speaks for itself. Both of these men do basically work “clean”, which is good. The foundation of their humor is family, marriage, children, & relationships. They tell stories that many folks recognize from their own lives. It’s easygoing & affable. Their comedy isn’t meanspirited, edgy, or brash. Cosby, of course is…or was…a living legend that has done movies & TV shows and has generally been a part of the entertainment landscape for a half century. Gaffigan has been around for about a cosbydecade. He’s a soft-spoken, self-deprecating guy who likes to joke about being fat & lazy, comedy to which I can relate. Young comedians need to study these guys and understand that intelligent, relevant, witty comedy doesn’t need to be vulgar, obnoxious, or malevolent.

 

4 Frank Caliendo / Denis Leary
caliendoBy far my favorite kind of comedian is one who can do spot-on impressions. If I could ask God for any fun & frivolous talent I’d probably choose being able to do impressions over singing, dancing, or playing an instrument. Older generations might prefer Rich Little, but to be honest I was never that enamored with Little. Caliendo hasn’t become the sort of superstar that landed his own sitcom, but he’s done a wide variety of media appearances…MadTV, Fox NFL Sunday, & a ton of radio shows…and is a regular in Vegas. He does awesome impressions of folks like Al Pacino, Morgan Freeman, President George W. Bush, & Robin Williams, as well as a ton of sportscentric impersonations such as ESPN personalities Mel Kiper Jr., Adam Shefter, & Stephen A. Smith, former coaches John learyMadden & Jon Gruden, Charles Barkley, Jim Rome, and Bill Walton. I think Caliendo is brilliant. Leary has segued into acting now, but at one time in the early 90’s he was a chain smoking, fast talking, “angry” comedian…kind of a toned down Sam Kinison…and he was hilarious. His comedy album No Cure for Cancer is classic and helped make dreary days at a tedious job more tolerable for me in the mid-1990’s. Leary was a much better stand-up comic than he is an actor, and I hope he goes back to what he does best someday.

 

3 Jerry Seinfeld
Yes I am aware that Mr. Seinfeld starred in a highly rated sitcom. As a matter of fact I chose Seinfeld as my favorite TV show of all time just a few years ago. However, that show was based, atleast partly, on the observational comedy of its star. Seinfeld was a celebrated comedian throughout the 1980’s, with his casual, conversational style playing really well on television in appearances with Johnny Carson and David Letterman. Seinfeld comes across as a kind of everyman, a guy it’d be fun to have lunch with or go on a road trip. Much like the beloved television show his standup comedy is about the trivialities, conundrums, seinfeldfrustrations, & contradictions of daily life. In contrast to guys like Kinison or Leary he isn’t particularly angry, and unlike Pryor, Murphy, or Dice he is far from profane. I would describe Seinfeld as perpetually bemused by the fickle nature of humanity. People like him just have a whole different way of looking at the world. They see things that most people overlook…and then they tell funny stories & jokes about what they perceive. Thankfully that perception is often quite entertaining. I always thought Seinfeld would end up hosting a late night show, but the stardom he achieved with his sitcom skyrocketed him past that. He doesn’t have to work that hard or often now. He hosts an amusing talk show called Comedians in Cars Getting Coffee, which you can find online, and thankfully he has gone back to doing standup. Maybe one day I’ll get the opportunity to see him perform live.

 

2 Robin Williams
Robin Williams was like Jerry Seinfeld on cocaine. Literally. Sadly we lost Williams last year, but his legacy is rock solid. He, of course, became well-known in the early 80’s on the sitcom Mork & Mindy, and after that starred in a plethora of mostly good films. But Williams began as a standup comedian and never completely left it behind. On stage he did it all…jokes, stories, improv, pratfalls, impressions, observation. It is hard to put him in a box and categorize his williamscomedy. Robin Williams was manic, silly, intelligent, & creative. He was brilliant. His energy was unmatched. He always made me laugh. And not just a light snicker. I’m talking about wall shaking, tears in my eyes laughter that made others think I’d lost my mind. Hindsight informs us that the energy level was often drug induced, and sadly we also know that the comedy that made us laugh hid pain & depression that would ultimately lead to suicide. I don’t really know what to say about all of that. Unfortunately the tragic ending will likely forever alter the opinions of many about Robin Williams. I understand that, but for the purposes of this exercise choose to remember the good times.

 

1 George Carlin
George Carlin had a career unlike any other. He began doing standup in the 60’s and was still working nearly 50 years later. He dabbled a little bit in television & movies, but pretty much stuck to being a standup comedian. His observational comedy was a bit more acerbic, and many might say that in later years he bordered on meanspirited & angry. Carlin was a product of the counterculture 60’s and always had a bit of that “I’m smarter than you” attitude. In the 70’s he came up with his well-known routine The 7 Words You Can Never Say on Television, which seems a bit quaint now. I won’t repeat any of the words, but I will say that, as carlinopposed to four decades ago, I think I’ve heard atleast 3 or 4 of the forbidden words on network TV just this week. I didn’t really discover Carlin until the 80’s when he had several specials on HBO. By then he’d started doing a lot more sociopolitical commentary, much of it the complete opposite of my own worldview. However, I can usually overlook such disagreements and still find someone funny. While Jerry Seinfeld seems amused by humanity’s shortcomings they seemed to really tick George Carlin off. Sometimes this was hilarious, sometimes it wasn’t. The stuff I preferred from Carlin were his observations about language. He would talk about how language had evolved, mostly due to political correctness. Battle fatigue has become PTSD. Used cars are now pre-owned. Stewardesses are now flight attendants. Deaf people are hearing impaired & a person isn’t blind but has a visual impairment. I could go on but you get the point. Carlin was at his best when he was dissecting the idiocy of political correctness, something it seems like he hated as much as I do. That alone vaults him to the top of this list, despite everything he believed in that I disagree with.

Copy and Paste

Rest assured that this blog will almost always be, for better or worse, original content emanating from my heart and mind. I do have a few ideas rolling around, but I’m in one of my “not in the mood to write ” moods. It’s not writer’s block. I have things to say.  I just haven’t found the motivation to put anything in black and white. I get like this occasionally. It usually lasts a week or so, then I’ll go crazy. Until then, I’ve received a couple things from friends that I feel are good enough to pass on.

The first was contained within one of those dozens of e-mails we all receive daily encouraging one to forward it to others. I usually ignore such things. Either it’s something supposedly humorous that I can’t really see the humor in, or it’s one meant to make a person think but I don’t find it particularly profound. However, occasionally one does come to me that I do find worthy. This is one such example.

Recently I overheard a Father and daughter in their last moments together at the airport. They had announced the departure. Standing near the security gate, they hugged and the Father said, ‘I love you, and I wish you enough.’ The daughter replied, ‘Dad, our life together has been more than enough. Your love is all I ever needed. I wish you enough, too, Dad.’ He walked over to the window where I was seated. Standing there I could see he wanted and needed to cry. I tried not to intrude on his privacy, but he welcomed me in by asking, ‘Did you ever say good-bye to someone knowing it would be forever?’

‘Yes, I have,’ I replied. ‘Forgive me for asking, but why is this a for ever good-bye?’.

‘I am old, and she lives so far away. I have challenges ahead and the reality is – the next trip back will be for my funeral,’ he said.

‘When you were saying good-bye, I heard you say, ‘I wish you enough.’ May I ask what that means?’

He began to smile. ‘That’s a wish that has been handed down from other generations. My parents used to say it to everyone..’ He paused a moment and looked up as if trying to remember it in detail, and he smiled even more. ‘When we said, ‘I wish you enough,’ we were wanting the other person to have a life filled with just enough good things to sustain them.’ Then turning toward me, he shared the following as if he were reciting it from memory.

I wish you enough sun to keep your attitude bright no matter how gray the day may appear. I wish you enough rain to appreciate the sun even more.

I wish you enough happiness to keep your spirit alive and everlasting.
I wish you enough pain so that even the smallest of joys in life may appear bigger.

I wish you enough gain to satisfy your wanting. I wish you enough loss to appreciate all that you possess. I wish you enough hellos to get you through the final good- bye. He then began to cry and walked away.

They say it takes a minute to find a special person, an hour to appreciate them, a day to love them; but then an entire life to forget them.

The second was forwarded to me by a long time friend, and it intrigued me because George Carlin was one of my favorite comedians.

Isn’t it amazing that George Carlin – comedian of the 70’s and 80’s –
could write something so very eloquent…and so very appropriate.

A Message by George Carlin:

The paradox of our time in history is that we have taller buildings but
shorter tempers, wider Freeways, but narrower viewpoints. We spend more,
but have less, we buy more, but enjoy less. We have bigger houses and
smaller families, more conveniences, but less time.. We have more
degrees but less sense, more knowledge, but less judgment, more experts,
yet more problems, more medicine, but less wellness.

We drink too much, smoke too much, spend too recklessly, laugh too
little, drive too fast, get too angry, stay up too late, get up too
tired, read too little, watch TV too much, and pray too seldom.

We have multiplied our possessions, but reduced our values. We talk too
much, love too seldom, and hate too often.

We’ve learned how to make a living, but not a life. We’ve added years
to life not life to years. We’ve been all the way to the moon and back,
but have trouble crossing the street to meet a new neighbor. We
conquered outer space but not inner space. We’ve done larger things, but
not better things.

We’ve cleaned up the air, but polluted the soul. We’ve conquered the
atom, but not our prejudice. We write more, but learn less. We plan
more, but accomplish less. We’ve learned to rush, but not to wait. We
build more computers to hold more information, to produce more copies
than ever, but we communicate less and less.

These are the times of fast foods and slow digestion, big men and small
character, steep profits and shallow relationships. These are the days
of two incomes but more divorce, fancier houses, but broken homes. These
are days of quick trips, disposable diapers, throwaway morality, one
night stands, overweight bodies, and pills that do everything from
cheer, to quiet, to kill. It is a time when there is much in the
showroom window and nothing in the stockroom. A time when technology can
bring this letter to you, and a time when you can choose either to share
this insight, or to just hit delete…

Remember; spend some time with your loved ones, because they are not
going to be around forever.

Remember, say a kind word to someone who looks up to you in awe,
because that little person soon will grow up and leave your side.

Remember, to give a warm hug to the one next to you, because that is
the only treasure you can give with your heart and it doesn’t cost a
cent.

Remember, to say, “I love you” to your partner and your loved ones, but
most of all mean it. A kiss and an embrace will mend hurt when it comes
from deep inside of you.

Remember to hold hands and cherish the moment for someday that person
will not be there again.

Give time to love, give time to speak! And give time to share the
precious thoughts in your mind.

AND ALWAYS REMEMBER:

Life is not measured by the number of breaths we take, but by the
moments that take our breath away.