Saturday, March 15, 2008

Comedians; Smoking your last; Pigeons from Hell

Comedy is hard

In today's NY Times Matt Weiland givs a mixed review to Richard Zogolin's Comedy At The Edge, a study of the comedians who emerged in the seventies. Here's a sample of the well worth reading longish review.

"Still, Zoglin is a clear and informative writer and a good synthesizer. (In these qualities he is the very definition of what he is: a Time man.) His book starts with Lenny Bruce, but once the floodgates for free speech in public are open, Bruce comes across as less imitated than admired. George Carlin and Richard Pryor, by contrast, stand out as the crucial influences on the others. Zoglin hails Carlin as “the indispensable role model” in carrying on Bruce’s “crusade against hypocrisy, cant and social injustice. ... His early takeoffs of D.J.’s and TV commercials set a gold standard for scores of media satirists to follow, and his jokey newscasts provided the template for news parodies from ‘Saturday Night Live’s’ ‘Weekend Update’ to Jon Stewart’s ‘Daily Show.’ His riffs on schoolroom pranks and bodily functions and the little absurdities of language showed the next crop of ‘observational’ comics that nothing was too trivial or mundane — or tasteless — to become fodder for smart comedy.” And Pryor’s out-of-control persona, his self-destructive appetites, his ambivalence — even animosity — toward the audience, his obsession with selling out, and his crossover success in concert albums and comic and serious film roles became a touchstone for a whole generation of comedians. It is strange, though, that Zoglin doesn’t rate Woody Allen, a virtual contemporary of Carlin and Pryor, in their company. The schlemiel as hero, the rapid neurotic delivery, the mix of philosophy and pop culture, the angst over emotional, career and relationship success, the shift in the ’70s from stand-up to writing, acting and directing — is any comedian of the period more influential?

"Zoglin is good at describing the appeal of the white Everymen: Albert Brooks, Steve Martin, Robin Williams and Andy Kaufman. Their styles may have varied from manic to comatose, cerebral to brainless, but they shared similar suburban backgrounds, and they brought a studied irony into the comedy mainstream. He recounts how Williams thrived when the mike went dead at the Laff Stop in Orange County in 1976, and how appealing was his “deconstruction of our overstimulated, media-dominated culture.” Kaufman was so original he was the only person Lorne Michaels deemed not cuttable from the first episode of “Saturday Night Live” in 1975."

Smoke smoke smoke that cigarette:

I've noted several blogs taking poor Patrick Swayze to task for continuing to smoke as he fights pancreatic cancer (and saying that he looks awful--he's being bombarded with chemo, folks. That don't exactly make you pretty.) I say this seriously A) There is no time more difficult to quit smoking than in a crisis (remember Lloyd Bridgess mocking this notion in Airplane) and B) The stats on surviving apncreatic cancer aren't very good.

Jeffery Wells on Hollywood Elsewhere made this point:

"You're on the ropes with a life-threatening illness and it doesn't look good, what difference does it make if you have a cigarette? It's a tough situation, but if I was Patrick Swayze's best friend and he pulled out a smoke and lit up, I'd shake my head but my main attitude would be, "Whatever, man.""

Ed here: for those who suffer mutliple myeloma, the incurable cancer I have, there's a website that tells you, among other things, the symptoms that will tell you're starting to die. I'm not trying to be morbid. I hope I've got many good years left. But I'll tell you when death is no longer in the rear view mirror but right in front of me up the road...I've told Carol not to be surprised if I started buying Lucky Strikes by the carton. And I met several other guys at Mayo a few summers ago who said the same thing. Haven't smoked for thirty, forty years they said--but man lead me to them there Pall Malls.

Good luck with it all, Patrick.

A book by any other name:

I ordered a copy of a Robert E. Howard book called Piegons from Hell, that being one of my four all-time favorite REH stories and one of the finest horror tales I've ever read. And guess what? The book shows up without the story Pigeons inside. I've been wanting to read it for months, having misplaced mine awhile back. I wonder which Howard book I order to get Pigeons included.


Unknown said...

Ed, Pigeons from Hell is included in the L. Margulies (actually S. Moskowitz) edited anthology Weird Tales (Pyramid pbk, 1964 and 1977). You can pick up a copy of this for as little as a couple of dollars. Try the site for options.

Good luck! Keith

Anonymous said...

When my wife and I saw Montana's great Native writer James Welch smoking at a banquet, at a time when he had lung cancer, we knew it would soon be over, and it was.

When my first wife was dying of lung cancer, she asked the doctors what more she could do. They said she could quit smoking. She mocked them in a phone call to me (we were then divorced) and kept right on smoking, which may have been a valuable solace. Nicotine is an important narcotic.

Richard Wheeler

New York Bird Club said...

All pigeon info here:

David Jack Bell said...

The old Zebra collection, PIGEONS FROM HELL, has the story "Pigeons From Hell" in it. It has a dinosaur on the cover, though.

Anonymous said...

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