Sunday, April 07, 2013

Lazy Sunday # 267: The Old Joke

When I was a kid, comedy albums were all the rage. Shelley Berman, Bob Newhart and, of course, Bill Cosby all had a place in my parents record cabinet, hauled out on Saturday night, once the adult’s party in the rec room was in full swing and everybody was tired of dancing.

I often sat on the basement stairs in my PJs laughing along with routines we had all heard a hundred times but still loved hearing again.

There was always somebody in the crowd who wasn’t familiar with the jokes and it often felt like there was as much enjoyment in sharing in their discovery as there was in hearing a beloved quip one more time.

In my teens, Bill Cosby came to town and I managed to score a front row seat. Much of his act was from those years old albums. But the laughter was as genuine and appreciative as if it was all brand new.

There weren’t a lot of comedy venues back then. Some of the big names toured their own live shows but most stand-ups were either the warm up act or inserted in front of the curtain while the next act set up or the last stripper picked up her sequins and feathers.

Now, comedy is everywhere. Every city has at least one comedy club. There are entire networks where stand-up is available 24/7 and the jokes told in those places turn up on Youtube virtually before the laughter they elicited has died out.

Some comics, most frequently Canadian Russell Peters, have bemoaned the pressure this puts on them to come up with new material. And maybe that’s a valid beef.

But I still find myself stopping the remote or turning up the volume on the satellite radio when Louis CK, Jim Gaffigan. Kathy Madigan or Larry The Cable Guy launches into a bit I’ve heard many times before.

Maybe it’s the joy of watching how the joke is constructed or the mastery with which an audience is worked. But sometimes funny is just funny no matter how many times you’ve heard the punchline.

One of my current favorite comics is Dov Davidoff, whose chaotic stage presence belies a studied mastery of the craft. Even if you’ve heard it all before, it’s still good to laugh.

Enjoy Your Sunday.

1 comment:

Joel Scott said...

In the early nineties, I was in Western Mass. hanging out with some female musicians. One balmy spring day we were all invited up a mountain north of Amherst and North Hampton for a sauna and supper with friends of the band.

Upon arrival at the gate to their 200 year old house, there stood a sauna and a picnic table. Unknown to me, we were greeted and invited promptly to amble over to to the sauna. Much to my surprise, everybody began disrobing like Woodstock hippies and I thought, what a rapid way to make friends...get naked within 2 minutes of meeting them.

The sauna was ready for us and fabulous, the conversation was superb and the nakedness....very natural, even tho gravity was beginning to assault our middle age bodies. We stepped outside the sauna and sat down to iced tea and appetizers. It was not lost on me that we were sitting roadside, naked and no one was making any gestures towards getting dressed.

This is when things got really quirky. I noticed a car rounding the bend and headed our way. I was about to say we perhaps should not inflict the occupants to our nudist antics when the female hostess jumped up and gleefully squealed "'s our neighbour". I could see the lone occupant was wearing dark sun glasses and possessed beaming white teeth as he slowed by our impromptu sideshow.

It was a Rolls Royce circa 1967, and I believe silver. The driver called out" Have you had your sauna yet? because if you haven't, I'll join you " That is when I realized that it was Bill Cosby in the Rolls. Our hostess , butt naked, talking to him and it all appeared to be some weird celebrity scenario from a bizarre dream.

Cosby was effervescent when our host told him folks were visiting from Canada...He called out "where in Canada" ...I said "Saskatchewan" Cosby paused and then said...".Do you know Joe Fafard?" I was taken aback. I said "yes indeed, very well" and that I had just been the production coordinator on his son's CD Joe'l Fafard. Cosby said, "that man is one of the best sculptors in the world. He just did one of me. Look for it in LIFE magazine"....and then off he rolled in the almost silent Rolls Royce.

Some time later I opened up LIFE and there was Cosby, sitting next to his Fafard smoking a cigar. It indeed is a small world and reality does sometime become much funnier than comedy could imagine. I have been able to say, "I met Bill Cosby...and I was naked when I did! "