Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Cage Match Moist

About to engage in more NYC stage thumping. The Project's getting clearer and better defined each time out. Still, there's some heaviness of heart, nothing dire or depressive, just a lingering sense of loss. Part of this is connected to Tom Davis dying, alongside another figure from my young life who's also wasting away. The latter person raises emotions I haven't dealt with in some time, so there's an ephemeral feeling of sadness around. Perfect for comedy. Ha cha cha!

My son and I watched a show about troubled comics the other day, the standard litany of Kinison, Farley, Belushi, Freddie Prinze, and for some reason Bill Hicks, who succumbed to cancer, not speedballs, booze and a gun in the mouth. His philosophical bent stood apart from the frenzied others, and my son thought Hicks and I shared an attitude. Perhaps. I certainly wouldn't reject it. But Bill wrestled and finessed his demons differently than I do, his comedy penetrating fresh minds long after his death. I'm still in workshop mode, trying to find which stray wires best connect.

Making a lasting mark is a crap shoot. There are times when I wonder if legacies are worth it. Inspiration? Sure. I've spilled paragraphs about influential examples. But where does this lead? To what end? The present culture is so loud, crass and ugly that cutting through the noise is a marathon in itself. Delivering a different vibe is entirely another task. It can be done, but it's a fucking test of endurance. Maybe the battle alone is the point.

Richard Jeni was also featured on the show, a victim of suicidal depression. I never understood why Jeni didn't break bigger. He was a solid, crowd-pleasing pro who appealed to mainstream tastes. Apparently, his ultimate goal was to land a sitcom, which he eventually did, but it didn't last. Then the clouds rolled in, leading Jeni to pull the trigger.

When you look at his career, the question about comedy's meaning crops up again. Jeni connected with audiences that momentarily connected with each other. He clearly left many strangers smiling and happy, but was it all to realize TV notoriety? I hope that's not true, yet given the way things are arranged, what else is there? Some of the younger comics I've seen regard TV exposure as the promised land. I want to ask them what comes after, assuming they get that far. But I'm speaking from a different world, the dimensions of which I'm still trying to define. It would be the hu-of-bris to quiz them on their realities.

What's the takeaway here? No idea. Just spouting off before heading east. I'll file reports from NYC, most likely with performance video, but that'll depend on the set. Some non-comedic activities may also occur, and if so, I'll fill you all in. Until then, make the spirit of Pearl Bailey smile and keep lovin' on each other, hear?

ALSO: My second appearance on Funny Is Money, hosted by Bob Illes and Tom Kramer, airs every night this week at 11PM Eastern, 8PM Pacific. Click on Listen Now, and enjoy old stories about LA sitcom traps and Fridays minutiae. It's as if time stopped, and nobody gave a shit.