Sunday, January 23, 2011

Lazy Sunday # 155: Mr. Warmth

Ricky Gervais

I might've half-watched half of last Sunday night's Golden Globe Awards. Award shows don't matter to me and what gets said at them matters even less.

I thought host Ricky Gervais had a funny opening monologue and gradually lost interest from there, not realizing I was missing the destruction of everything that's holy about Hollywood.

As the firestorm over Gervais' jokes spread in the days that followed, I kept wondering what the big deal was. He hadn't said anything that hasn't been said elsewhere or before -- in supermarket tabloids, on television gossip shows, by the mainstream media.

"The Tourist" isn't a very good movie.

The girls of "Sex and the City" are getting older.

Some people think the Hollywood Foreign Press Association is corrupt.

A-list Gay actors are still in the closet.

Of course, Gervais said it better than most. And he said it in ways that made us laugh at what we make sacrosanct or turn into "That of which we do not speak."

He was just being honest.

Watching pundits condemn him, predict he'd "never work in this town again", or thrill at being able to repeat lines they'd never be able to utter as respectable TV newscasters or radio personalities or newspaper columnists, I began to realize how our growing fear of offending someone has gotten in the way of being able to be truthful about the way the world really is.

Maybe controlling language and tone protects somebody or serves some other agenda, I don't know. Maybe it's wrong to even identify someone by race or age or incompetence. Maybe we should all just try to be much nicer to one another.

A retired doctor I know claims it's unfinished business that makes us old and what makes us sick are the things we swallow that we should spit back out.

But everybody seems afraid to get things out in the open anymore. What will people think?

A Muslim, a Catholic and a Jew walk into a bar.

How can someone even type such a thing!?! Doesn't he know Muslims don't drink? Is he implying that Catholics do and that's the only place the Muslim could meet him? And why does there have to be a Jew? Everybody knows neither Muslims or Catholics like them that much. None of this makes sense.

Wait, is the Jew there so he can get this joke on television?

Sometimes we get so tied up trying to blunt or soften the point that we never actually get to it.

And those who profit or benefit from our inability to see something for what it really is continue to profit and benefit.

Once upon a time, there was a comedian nicknamed, "Mr. Warmth". He was a nobody doing "insult comedy" working the lounge of a Vegas Casino with hourly shows from midnight to 4:00 am.

Frank Sinatra and his Rat Pack were in town, a town Sinatra virtually "owned", filming a movie called "Ocean's Eleven". Most nights after shooting, the Rat Pack would perform in the main room of the Sands hotel. It was the stuff of showbiz legend.

One night, after the curtain came down, the Pack loped across the street for a night cap in the lounge. Mr. Warmth knew they were stars as big as Las Vegas got and making cracks about them could not only end his career but might find him his own hole in the desert.

But what he did was what he did, so he started cracking wise. He didn't say anything that hadn't been said before. But he said it to their faces. In front of other people.

Ten different Hollywood biographies will give you ten different versions of what broke the ice that night, what finally made everybody in that room realize that the hothouse flowers among them were no different from anybody else.

I choose to believe it was Sinatra standing to leave and "Mr. Warmth", Don Rickles, stopping him with, "Sit down Frank! We all had to listen to you sing!"

From that night forward, Rickles made a career of taking apart every inflated ego and societal cliché he encountered. He spared nothing and no one and a half century later you can't find anybody with a bad thing to say about him.

Deep down inside, we all have a special place for the truth.

Ricky Gervais exemplified the same honesty and the debate about whether his jokes went "too far" says much more about what's wrong with the rest of us than anything it says about him.

You can't say or write anything these days that isn't going to offend someone. Not anything. But maybe if there were more people with the courage to just spit it up instead of swallowing it back so it can fester in the silence and grow into something more deadly, the better off we'd all be.

Here's a taste of Don Rickles in his prime. Consider the power of honesty. And enjoy your Sunday.

1 comment:

Atlanta Roofing said...

There is no victimless comedy! It is not possible to get people laughing without someone getting the short end of it. whether its physically as in slapstick or intellectu­ally as in observatio­nal humor, comedy needs a victim to elicit laughs. Someone has to get hurt or look stupid. Kudos to Gervais for picking victims who all too often are sacred cows.