There are still stories I haven’t told, believe it or not. Especially when it comes to romance, and particularly when it comes to mine and hers.
And maybe someday I will. I can say that it was stressful, and sort of stop-and-go, and lots of backing off and keeping our distance, wondering if what we were considering – which seemed, and of course was, life changing – was just plain crazy or only a little crazy.
But for another day. Since I’m on the road, I’ll post these two oldies but maybe goodies from 2003, two columns I wrote over the course of three weeks…it’s pretty self explanatory. And old stuff for some of you. There are celebrities, though, and then red rocks and vows and 32 years. Might be a story there.
We tend to think of humor as universal and constant; we’ve always laughed at the same sort of things, we think, from Shakespeare to Saturday Night Live, but this isn’t entirely true.
Humor is also evolutionary, topical and even transitional, changing with cultures and the way we think about our lives. Some things aren’t funny anymore, and we wonder how they ever were.
Same thing with comedians. We get used to them, get used to their timing and shtick, and we want something new. We can be fickle.
So it was a pleasure to see Sid Caesar on “Larry King” a few weeks ago. I laughed a lot, and I’m a hard laugh to get.
At 80, he looked decades younger and was as funny as ever. I’m actually not sure what was better, watching him improvise with Larry or seeing the clips from “Your Show of Shows,” fifty years earlier and recently restored.
It was before my time, but I’ve seen some of it and always found it funny, even after all these years. And why not? Talent surrounded Caesar, writing and performing: Carl Reiner, Howard Morris, Neil Simon, and Mel Brooks, even Woody Allen for a time. When they call 1950s television The Golden Years, “Show of Shows” was a large reason why.
Then there was Imogene Coca. She passed away a year or so ago, and her career never quite matched her Caesar days, but Imogene Coca laid the groundwork for Carol Burnett and the ones who came later. Lucy was a bigger name, but Coca had more range. She was the perfect partner, just as quick and just as funny as Sid.
As I say, Sid Caesar and his company were of a different generation. I came of age with Robin Williams, John Belushi, Steve Martin, Andy Kaufman, and to some extent George Carlin (he was an evolver, and bridged two eras). This was the age of conceptual humor, an outgrowth of the 60s, taunting convention and a lot of times really funny. Some of them will have legacies, and some won’t.
Thinking about this reminded me of something that happened 20 years or so ago, though, and about comedy and celebrity and mostly about how I stupid I can be.
My wife and I were working at a dinner theater in Northern Arizona over the summer. It was just tourist entertainment, songs and skits, but I made (I think) 50 bucks a night plus tips, and I wasn’t flipping burgers. I had a lot of fun.
One night, Chevy Chase came in for dinner. He’d been making a movie in the area, and he slipped in for a steak at the end of what I assume was a long day.
He didn’t come to see our show, but just sat in the dining room next door. I snuck around during breaks to try to get a glimpse, and I just hoped he had a leisurely dinner and would still be there after our final bows.
Our audiences were mostly visitors from the RV park next door, but they always seemed to enjoy the show. As we finished our final number that night, and I was eying the exit, hoping that Chevy was still eating, in the middle of the audience an elderly woman was standing up and hollering “Bravo!” People did this sometimes, and as cast members it was part of our job to mingle, thank them, etc.
So this was my chance, and I took it. Everyone headed for this nice old lady, and I snuck through the door, raced through the bathrooms, and still in costume I caught up with Chevy as he was heading out the door.
He was taller than I thought, wearing a baseball cap. He pretended to walk into a wall for the benefit of the few of us hanging around, and then he was out the door. My brush with greatness.
You could call Chevy Chase the Sid Caesar of his generation, I suppose, but you’d probably have to owe him money or be related to him. I don’t mean to be hypercritical, but his career, aside from a few hot spots, has been spotty and pretty mediocre. I wanted to see a famous comedian, though, and you never know when you’ll get a chance.
You never know.
Looking back now, I just shake my head. I’ve learned, I hope, to have a better appreciation of talent, and longevity and endurance. I’ve learned that the flash of the moment is sometimes just that, a flash, and that time will tell.
Seeing Sid Caesar the other night reminded me of that. It reminded me that people who make us laugh should be treasured, particularly when they’ve done it for a long time and are really good at it.
And it reminded me of the night 20 years ago, the night I chased after Chevy, too young and too dumb to imagine that a little old lady in the other room might have had an idea or two about comedy.
The night Imogene Coca gave us a standing ovation, and I missed it.