Hugh Simon's Theory
Kenneth Mars' death makes me very wistful. Although Python, the Lampoon and SNL forged my early comedy awareness, Mars was never far away. His talent was on par with Peter Sellers; his absurdist, at times bizarre precision anticipated the young Dan Aykroyd. Mars made the most unusual comic choices, seemingly sane to only himself. Yet they always worked, with Mars chest deep in character.
Mars' passing is another reminder that my generation of influences is starting to die off. I wish I could be more Zen about it, but I was raised as an American. Clutching old emotions is a national birthright.
My favorite Mars performance is in What's Up, Doc?, Peter Bogdanovich's homage to Howard Hawks. But most people prefer Mars in The Producers and it's easy to see why. Zero Mostel and Gene Wilder were pretty good, too.