Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Easily Amused




Some people get bored. I can honestly say that I have never been bored at any time during the past forty-five years. This is because I am a simpleton. It’s true. I’m not stupid (shut up!) but I am easily amused, and very often by things that others might find simple.

I suppose the most obvious example would be The Three Stooges. No matter how many times I've already seen one Stooge episode - and I've seen all of them at least 20 or 25 times - I can watch it again and get a laugh.

I’m not even so complicated as to prefer Curly to Shemp, or Shemp over Joe. Give me any combination of Moe and Larry with a third stooge. I will laugh.

(This piece isn’t about The Three Stooges, per se, but I do need to say something more about them, so hang with me until I get it out of my system, and then we'll move on to other stuff. The main differences between the episodes with Curly, or Shemp, or Joe, or even the mostly-dreadful late-career movies with Curly Joe DeRita, came from outside of the trio. Curly was a comedic savant, no doubt, but the writing in many of the short subjects in which he appeared was far superior, approaching real wit in spots. Shemp, his older brother and his replacement [following a major stroke necessitating Curly’s retirement from the act], was a wonderful comic, but by the end of his run as the third stooge, the effort being put into the productions, behind the cameras, was less than sparkling. Budgets had been cut and some directors – oh, hell, Jules White – tried to direct Shemp in the same manner as Curly had been directed, even going so far as to ask Shemp to replicate his brother’s trademark clownish mannerisms. When he is forced into doing so, it is, if not painful, at least strained. When Shemp was in the hands of a skilled director, such as Edward Bernds, and allowed to showcase his own strengths of verbal improvisation and wonderfully rubber facial contortions, the films were much stronger. And poor Joe Besser, a truly gifted comedian, was saddled with having his efforts compared to the previous two Howard brothers. Taken on his own, he was a very funny fellow. However, his strength was not the sort of knockabout slapstick that The Stooges specialized in. His was a more gentle comedy, almost pixyish, and couldn’t possibly please those who preferred getting their laughs from someone being hit on the head by a sledgehammer. As for Curly Joe DeRita… well, let’s just say he wasn’t given much to do, and I’ll leave it to future stoogephiles to determine if that was because there wasn’t much he COULD do. Maybe, like Besser, his real strengths just didn’t fit the concept. In any case, while it was great that Moe and Larry finally got some due during the twilight of their careers, belly laughs were few and far between during DeRita’s tenure.)

What other simple things amuse me? Gilligan’s Island would be one.




At times, it makes The Three Stooges look like a Noel Coward play by comparison. It makes me laugh, though, and it doesn’t try to do any more than that, so I love it. Alan Hale (The Skipper) is my favorite among the ensemble. MY WIFE could tell you (with, I'm sorry to say, some major embarrassment concerning what she settled for in a husband) that I'll come apart at the seams laughing at his farcical mugging and then replay the same scene four or five times in succession, laughing like a candidate for the cracker factory – again - every time.

(MY WIFE says I have a medical condition known as "comic amnesia". I think she sees it as an affliction, but I consider it a gift from God. I can laugh at the same joke over and over and over, most of the time not even seeing the punch line coming, even if I've heard it many times before. Affliction? No way! How can having a good laugh be an affliction?)

(Oh, wait a minute. I get it now. It's her affliction. Never mind.)

Anyway, it’s not just comedy that amuses me endlessly.




I can watch The Lone Ranger over and over, even though most episodes are laid out in the same way and contain few surprises. More often than not, The Lone Ranger and Tonto stumble upon a wrongdoing being committed, ...

(They were the luckiest damn vigilantes imaginable. Half the episodes begin with them watering their horses, or doing some other mundane task, when they hear gunshots nearby. They take off to investigate, and...)

... there is often a runaway stagecoach that the duo must chase down and stop, ...

(After watching as many Lone Ranger episodes as I have, you couldn’t get me onto a stagecoach if you promised me I’d get a hummer from Angelina Jolie during the trip. I don’t recall a single episode of that show wherein a stagecoach appeared that didn't end up with it either robbed or as a runaway [because the driver had been fatally shot.] It appears to have been the most dangerous conveyance man has ever invented.)

... then, during the course of trying to track down the evildoer, somebody believes that The Lone Ranger himself is evil because of his mask, but he generally wins him or her over with a manly smile and the display of one of his silver bullets, ...

(How did all of these dunderheads know so much about the damn silver bullets, but never had the faintest notion about The Lone Ranger’s identity before seeing his ammunition? If they heard about silver bullets, wouldn’t they have heard about a guy wearing a mask, riding a great white stallion, and traveling with an Indian companion? Maybe that would ring a bell? Nope. They had to be shown a silver bullet before they put two and two together. The west was full of dopes.)

... and then Tonto usually finds more trouble than he bargained for when The Lone Ranger asks him to ride into town to scout around...

(Well, Bill Cosby mined this claim before me, but it’s so logical I have to mention it. Didn’t Tonto ever get sick of hearing The Lone Ranger asking him to ride into town? After the first two or three times he got ambushed and captured, wouldn’t he have said, "Ugh, Kemo Sabe. You sure me riding into town such a good idea? Tonto like you and all that, but me tired getting head punched in. Why not YOU ride into town? Tonto stay here and do what you usually do while Tonto in town getting head punched in. By the way, just what is it you do while me gone? Silver no speak, but I bet him tell interesting tale.")

... and in the end, there's always either a fistfight or a gunfight - or both - with The Lone Ranger and Tonto prevailing. Then they ride out of town while someone asks, "Who was that masked man?"; the reply comes, "You stupid shit! That was The Lone Ranger!"; then you get a "Hi-Yo Silver!" and some final credits with The William Tell Overture playing in the background. No matter. It entertains the heck out of me every time.





I don’t want to give you the impression that something has to be on TV to amuse me. For instance, I’m tickled to death by softball talk; that is, the things players say to other players, over and over again, on a softball or baseball field. For instance, a pitch can come in a good foot over a batter’s head and odds are somebody on the bench will say, "Good eye!" when the guy doesn’t swing at it. That always blows me away. Or if a pitcher gets two quick strikes on a batter, then runs the count to 3 and 2, some one of his fielders is likely to say something helpful such as, "Don’t lose him now!" Often this happens as the pitcher is beginning his windup. Yeah, that’s just what he needs. He’ll surely throw a strike, now that you’ve reminded him of the situation, instead of one that bounces in the dirt like he was planning to do. Then there are the pure outright lies, such as "Nice cut!" after a batter has taken a totally off-balance lunge at a ball and missed it by half a foot. Priceless.

(I wouldn’t change it for the world. All of those things are said by teammates who are trying to be nice by cheering on their fellow players, and I’d rather be surrounded by loving idiots than intelligent mean-spirited assholes. I’m just saying, though, that stuff is hilarious when you stop and think about it.)

What else makes me smile every time?




When I’m in a crowd at a rock concert, the featured band has finished their set, and I see someone over the age of thirty, who has likely attended more than two or three rock concerts in his life, applauding feverishly because he actually thinks the group won’t come back for an encore of the biggest hit they haven’t yet played unless they are implored to do so via five minutes of insane cheers and manic howling. Does anybody actually believe, while the lights are still down, that the group is packing up their gear and heading out the stage door, but one of them stops and says, “Hold on, lads! Listen to that crowd! Why, I’ve never heard applause like that in my life! What say we go back and give them our most famous song which we inexplicably left out of the original set list?”

Here are some other things I never get tired of:

Reading Mark Twain


F Troop

Having Sex


Leave It To Beaver

Watching Cats Chase Each Other

The Honeymooners

Eating

Calvin & Hobbes

More Sex

and

Filling Up The Internet With This Sort Of Rubbish

Anyway, I’m never bored. There’s always something interesting going on in life, and if I can’t readily find it, I just throw a DVD on and watch the one where Shemp has to be married by 6 o’clock or else he loses his inheritance. As long as I have that to fall back on, I’m good.

Soon, with more better stuff.

[Shemp photo from Like Television... Only Better! The Gilligan's Island cast photo came from BobDenver.com, a wonderful tribute site run by Bob's widow, Dreama Denver.]


46 comments:

Bill Yates said...

Brilliant! And I'm with you on The Stooges too, Jim. Never get tired of watching them! I think it was "Hold That Lion" where Curley made a cameo appearance with Moe, Larry, and Shemp after his stroke. I read Moe Howard's book; couldn't put it down.

nick said...

Was just watching the Stooges on AMC, like 3 minutes ago. Weird.

Daryl said...

You forgot Ernie Kovacks and the Nairobi Trio

Craig said...

Aw, man, Sully. . . You and I have simply GOT to sit down over a couple hours' worth of beer someday. . .

Too much stuff here for me to do reasonable justice to, so I'll shoot for unreasonably shallow injustice. . .

You are obviously a much deeper Stooge-o-phile than I am, but, like you, I feel no compulsion to choose between Curly and Shemp (altho I mostly ignore the Joes; as you say, not really their fault)

My brother met Bob Denver at a party once; I'll just say that he was, um, unimpressed. . .

I LOVE baseball-chatter-jargon - "C'mon, keed, shoot the glove; you GOT this guy; c'mon, two-seven. . ."

2F and I have tickets to see McCartney in a week-and-a-half; I'm already getting my 'Yesterday' encore-call warmed up. . .

I LOVE F-Troop; whatever happened to Larry Storch, anyway?

And Bill Watterson is a cartooning genius; possibly the greatest ever. . .

And listen, don't tell anyone, but. . . I like sex, too. And more sex.

I'm tellin' ya, we must be twins separated at birth, or somethin'. . .

Suldog said...

Bill (and anyone else interested) - You are correct, sir. "Hold That Lion" it was!

I remember seeing that one as a kid and being a bit confused. I thought, "That guy sounds like Curly, but he's got hair! Huh?"

Moe's book was a great read. Another one to check out, if you haven't already, is "The Three Stooges Scrapbook", which contains lots of good stuff about supporting players (Vernon Dent, for instance - "If I ever see you guys again, I'll tear you limb from limb!"), memorabilia and collectibles, a complete synopsis of every episode and movie they made, etc., plus it fills in a gap or two, from Moe's book, concerning their early histories

Suldog said...

Daryl - Ah, my dear, only slightly before my time (although, I must admit, whenever I've seen a clip of that bit, I've laughed like a lunatic even though it is the same joke over and over!)

Shammickite said...

I loved Gilligan's Island, I must remember to catch some reruns on the TiVo... and The Lone Ranger takes nme back to my childhood.... "HiYo Silver... AWAY!" .... loved that shot of Silver prancing on his hind legs.... and reminds me of days when the only family in the village that had a TV was the family that ran the local pub and I would go there on Sundays at 4pm with my friends and watch The Cisco Kid. "hey Cisco! Hey Pancho!' Magical. Never watched the Stooges, don't think they were on TV in UK.

Shammickite said...

hmmm... on second thoughts, maybe that shot of the horse on his hind legs wasn't Silver, I think it might have been Champion The Wonder Horse. Senior moment.

Michelle H. said...

You split my sides with smiles over that Tonto bit. Silver no speak, but I bet him tell interesting tale. Priceless.

You almost sounded like Bono when talking about the encore. I even saw him there with his shades on.

Okay, platitudes aside, that was one looong freaking parenthical (sp?) at the beginning of this post. If you ever do that again, I'm hitting you in the face with a pie and running away going, "Nyuk, nyuk, nyuk."

Suldog said...

Craig - I could reply to every one of your points, then you could reply to every one of my replies, but then what would we do over the beers? Instead, I'll tell you that I had the distinct pleasure of seeing Larry Storch live on-stage in Boston, in a play entitled "Breaking Legs", which also starred Carol Burnett, among others. Big thrill to see Mr. Storch (who played a gangster in a loud suit, stereotypical "dese, dem, dose" diction, etc.)

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Larry_Storch

Still alive and kicking!

My fave, though, was actually Ken Berry. Some of his physical shtick was amazing on that show!

Suldog said...

Shammickite - I think it's so interesting when someone who lived elsewhere had the opportunity to see some of the same childhood shows as myself! It always intrigues me to wonder what they may have thought about certain aspects of them. Anything confusing, or totally out of your realm of thought as a child not from the U.S.?

And I'm sure you have it right with Silver, as he was always shown up on his hind legs during the opening, The Ranger on his back.

Suldog said...

Michelle - You should have seen the parenthetical before I edited it! Seriously, it was about two hundred words longer. I said, "Oh, man, that's way too much. Nobody will get through that."

haphazardlife said...

i remember the Lone Ranger from my childhood - but have never watched it since. I really need to find it somewhere. You had me laughing just at your description.

Why Kemo Sabe? What a stupid name.

Jeni said...

Silver no speak, but I bet him tell interesting tale - guess Michelle and I are of the same mindset over that line! I know that's going to be rumbling around all day now in my brain and I'm going to be snickering over it again and again too!
I never really had a chance apparently to get really engrossed in the Stooges -don't remember them being on the one channel we got here when I was a kid, for openers. I think the only time I got to watch them would have been on Saturdays when we went to my Uncle's home just outside of Pittsburgh were they had a couple of channels to choose from -as well as much better viewing with a lot less snow and static. (The perils of growing up in the boondocks and mountainous turf ya know!)
But I'm a lot like you in that I can watch all kinds of reruns again and again (ad nauseum, really) and still enjoy them, still laugh my ass off at the majority of them, regardless of how inane and ridiculous the scenes, lines, plots may have been. One program that I really loved -and this is a relatively recent sitcom by comparison to the program you mentioned is WKRP in Cincinnati. My older daughter and I were loyal, true blue fans of that program and to this day, we have declared a line from one show in particular as a line we will almost without fail quote as a response to various circumstances. It's when the cast is in the building which is supposedly on fire and the elevator is stuck I think. Anyway, they are going to lower Johnny Fever into the elevator shaft and they're supposed to be giving or getting him a rope by which to lower him when he realizes the top of the elevator is just a step down from the floor and Dr. Fever says "Tarzan no need rope!" Daughter and I when we first heard that line were totally in hysterics laughing over that one and we frequently quote that line today. Okay -now I've pretty much just written a blog post for today, haven't I? All that just to say I agree with all you said in this post and will be giggling a lot, at least, for the rest of the day. Job well done!

Michelle H. said...

BTW: Did you hear the news about the creator of Gilligan's Island, Sherwood Schartz, died yesterday at the age of 94.

http://insidetv.ew.com/2011/07/12/sherwood-schwartz-dead/

Craig said...

Wow. . . Larry Storch was the voice of Mr. Whoopee?!?

(He's a lot older than I thought he was. . . almost as old as my dad. . .)

But hey. . . I'll save some for the beer. . .

;)

Suldog said...

Jeni - I was a big fan of WKRP, too. My favorite (I think this is the one that most people remember, even if they only saw the show a few times) was the one where they released turkeys from a helicopter as a Thanksgiving stunt. Anyway, MY WIFE and I often use one of the catchphrases from that episode, whenever something goes wrong...

"As God is my witness, I thought turkeys could fly."

Suldog said...

Haphazard - "Kemo Sabe" (pronounced "Kee-mo Sah-bay", for those who don't know) was supposed to mean "Trusted Scout", and went back to when The Lone Ranger had rescued Tonto during some sort of ambush of his tribe. Years later, when Tonto, in turn, saved The Lone Ranger (episode one of the series, which I won't give any more detail about so as not to give it away to anyone who might see it in future), he recognized the person who had saved him years ago, and called him that name again and thereafter. Depending upon the source, it is either actual native language, taken from a tribe in the Michigan area, or complete and utter bullshit.

Suldog said...

Michelle - Yes, as a matter of fact, I was watching a re-run of the show, on DVD, last night, and MY WIFE informed me of that. Odd coincidence since I had already written this post and scheduled it for publication.

Uncle Skip, said...

I didn't see much of the Stooges when I was a kid. They were late arrivals to the local tv scene. By the time they arrived my kid sisters were camped out at the tube. That's not to say I haven't enjoyed their antics.
I remember the Lone Ranger shows, not when they were originally broadcast, because we weren't allowed to watch tv on school nights, but in reruns on Saturday.
The shows I remember most are Time for Beany and Howdy Doody, the best part of which was the "old time movies."

What's the big deal about parentheticals? I know people who talk that way. I drives me nuts and I want to scream, "Get to the point alrady!" But in the long run it's okay because that's who they are.

Suldog said...

Skip - I, too, watched The Lone Ranger in re-runs, albeit on Sunday mornings in my market. It came on at something like 6am, so more often than not I would be going to Catholic church with my folks at 7 or so with "The William Tell Overture" still buzzing in my brain. It was one of the most morally upright shows ever made, of course, so my folks didn't consider it sacrilegious to view it before mass :-)

Buck said...

I think she sees it as an affliction, but I consider it a gift from God.

I agree with you. OTOH, I'm truly afflicted: I see something once and I'm done; re-runs are the bane of my existence. It's the same with books.

I'm never bored, either, but I DO wonder what the hell the retired life would be like without the inter-tubes. I'd prolly drink a whole helluva lot more.

I also think Denver was better as Maynard G. Krebs, but that's just me. As a matter of fact I used the never-old WORK!!??!! just yesterday.

Suldog said...

Buck - Yes! "WORK?!?" is still a favorite of mine. I say it often, even when the folks I'm saying it to are probably too young to get the reference. And, yes, Denver was fantastic as Maynard G. Krebs (that's one of those character names you just have to say in full; "Krebs" doesn't do it.) "Dobie Gillis" was a very clever show, and that may be my next "complete series on DVD" purchase (if it's available.)

Buck said...

Yeah... I NEVER missed Dobie Gillis when it was a prime-time show, mainly coz young Dobie and I were roughly the same age and I SO related to his unrequited love for Thalia (mmmm... Tuesday!) and other girls. I coulda done without the Old Man calling me "Maynard" all the gotdamned time, tho...

Jenn Flynn-Shon said...

Gotta say, in your shorter list I love how you followed up sex with "Leave it to Beaver"

The Broad said...

My favorite was 'I Love Lucy' -- the episode where she is working on the assembly line of the candy factory is to me one of the funniest in all of television -- and I loved Dobie Gillis,too. I could watch these over and over! Thanks Sully for a very fun post!

Chris@Knucklehead! said...

I'll admit it . . . I've never "gotten" the Three Stooges. I know some folks (including you) who think they're the be all and end all of slapstick, but other than Curly . . . I don't get it.

Glad to see Calvin and Hobbes made the cut. Along with The Far Side, it's the best comic strip ever.

"Seen better swings on a porch!" is one of my favorite baseball heckles. And the best line I've ever heard at an NHL game is when L.A. Kings defenseman Brian Benning was getting pummeled in a skirmish . . . a fan near me yelled "HEY, BENNING! HIT HIM WITH YOUR PURSE!"

Nearly killed everyone in section 312.

Suldog said...

Knucks - Heh. You know the old "Keep your head in there!" thing, when a guy swings and misses? I heard this just a couple of weeks ago at softball. There's this one player with hair down over his shoulders, a big bushy mane of the stuff. He swung and missed, and some joker from his bench yelled out, "Keep your hair in there!"

Cracked everybody up.

silly rabbit said...

I didn't like the Three Stooges when I was a kid... because they were badly behaved! But using my kid reasoning, the Little Rascals were what made me roll in the aisle! Same sort of bad behavior but it was done by kids who are supposed to do that.

I love anything absurd. People watching is great for laughs... and you never know when someone is going to provide you with a real jewel.

BTW, as a kid, I had the great fortune to sit on Jay Silverheels'
lap while he and Papa played checkers. My grandpa was a horse trainer for TV and movies. They used to joke about how dumb the dialog was. I have a pic of me as a babe sitting on Goldie, one of the horses often used in the Lone Ranger.

Suldog said...

Silly Rabbit - Way Cool! Silverheels was (and I take this from reading up on him, not from personal experience) quite erudite, an excellent athlete at one time (golden gloves boxing, Canadian national lacrosse team), and an all-around nice guy. I think the character of Tonto is quite noble and heroic, but that dialogue must have driven him up a wall!

messymimi said...

Mark Twain never grows old.

lime said...

ok, since i was forbidden by my mother to watch the stooges i can't even begin to comment intelligently on that. however, i can engage with you over gilligan's island. i was a great fan of the professor and all his sexual frustration, even as a little kid i picked up on how ginger tried to get him hot and bothered but maryann was the one who made him crazy.

and calvin and hobbes? pure genius. i own so many of te books and love them. they are all worn from me reading them and my kids too.

never watched much lone ranger but billcosby...oh yeah, can recite lots of his stuff.

Absolut Ruiness said...

Love your attitude Dog! Keep it up! I havent gone through any of the shows you mentioned but i do have thes movie in Hindi called "Sholay" which i can watch everyday and yet enjoy it as much as the first time. Do watch it if you get one with sub-titles. Its a sixties wild wild west sort of a movie with a bad ass baddy and a good guy without arms. Amitabh Bacchhan was the hero, if you've heard of him.

Clare Dunn said...

With the exception of 'The Three Stooges' (whom I thought were just plain asinine)my list matches yours.

That's too scary for me to think about. Move on, cd, move on...

One of the things that cracked my sibs and myself up as kids was playing The William Tell Overture on the stereo while watching the Bruins play hockey on the TV without audio. It was amazing how the skating was the same pace as the music...almost every time!

Thx for your comments on my last post. I responded, natch.

xoxoxo, cd

Out on the prairie said...

I never knew we watched reruns of the Stooges.A friend saw "Larry" when he was visiting his uncle.We rode across town to view this great man. Sitting outside his home he was less than amazed we found some semblence and told us to never show up again. Have you seen the animated Lone Ranger by Lenny Bruce?It clears up a lot of questions.

Barbara Shallue said...

We are so much alike and I don't know if that's good or bad. I have comic amnesia, too, which made the guys at the chemical plant where I worked love me. They knew they'd get a laugh out of me. Gilligan's Island, F-Troops... ah, how I miss those shows. (I don't have cable or I'd be watching them 24/7, I'm sure!)The Three Stooges came on every day after school - loved them, although I'm not nearly the expert you are. Thanks for making me smile!

Maggie May said...

Its good to know that your are never bored!!!!
There is so much to do.
I agree that a good laugh is a brilliant way of filling time.
I have a long list of favourites.
Maggie X

Nuts in May

notactuallygod said...

You are easily the longest poster I read -yet I was not bored. I am prone to it, but apparently only for lesser writers. Good job.

One other thing, you joined my followers a while ago, THANK YOU DUDE, yet I don't see a link to If I Were God on your USA list on the right? I'm a patient deity, so I'll give you a chance to write this wrong (if you want). Peace bro.

Suldog said...

Dear Not Actually God:

I hope you are also a forgiving and generous deity. My practice is to link to those whom I like and who also provide a link to my pitiful scribblings on their sidebar. Since I didn't see one at your place...

Did I miss it? I'm only human, unlike yourself.

Craig said...

Oh, hey, I just remembered. . .

Probably my favorite of the 60s-vintage TV light-comedies (ie, not including 'Dick van Dyke' or 'Andy Griffith', which were a tad more substantive) was 'Hogan's Heroes'. Something about clever Allied POWs constantly outwitting stupid Nazis just struck my 12-year-old funny bone (sort of similarly to how, when I was in college, large groups of us would always get together to watch Rocky & Bullwinkle, for the Cold-War-era humor it purveyed)(and how come Boris and Natasha were Russians, but Fearless Leader was a Nazi? Mysteries too deep to contemplate, I'm sure. . .)

But my dad, who is a WW2 vet (altho he was never a POW), absolutely LOATHED 'Hogan's Heroes' - "There is nothing funny about a German POW camp!" So we didn't watch it much when he was around. . .

notactuallygod said...

Of course you missed your link on my sidebar. Go check again, it's between Fred & Knucklehead. See?

Oh, alright! It was an oversight. I'll have to put this one in my 'platypus' file; things I thought I did right but obviously didn't. Sorry Sully.

Mich said...

I've always wished my life was like an episode of those Western TV shows. I used to watch the Gene Autry show over and over and over and over and over as a kid and pretend he was my father, and that one day he would rescue me from New Jersey and we'd both ride off into the sunset on painted horses.

i beati said...

amen I have always giggled when someone says they are bored. I have way more living than I can cram in any day !!always have hi ho

Gaston Studio said...

I'm with you on cats chasing each other... not so sure about some of the other stuff, lol!

Hilary said...

I can't say I ever enjoyed the Stooges but so many of the sitcoms of the 60s stay with me.

Comic Amnesia is a great term. YOUR WIFE is brilliant.

Anonymous said...

I have been reading the posts, and I have to concur with what John said.