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Posts Tagged ‘comedy’

Mourning the King of Comedy.

In Entertainment, history, Media, Movies, Opinion, television, Theatre, Uncategorized on August 21, 2017 at 9:05 pm

Deer In Headlines
By Gery L. Deer

The world lost a veritable comic genius this week as we mourn the passing of Jerry Lewis. From his early beginnings as a stage comic, to the magical fundraising power of his telethons to raise money in the search for a cure for Muscular Dystrophy, Lewis was many things to many people.

Lewis had his faults. He was said to be difficult to work with at times, a bit of a control freak, probably from the desperation he felt as an upstart comic in the 1940s. But the fact is he was a writer, director, producer and a technical innovator in film as well. He invented something called the video assist, which allowed a director to instantly watch what they’ve just shot.

Of course, it’s the French who are fabled to have loved Lewis’s movies and considered him a genius. But, like with so many tales of the famous, much of that is exaggerated or taken out of context. According to some reports, if you ask a French person to name a Lewis movie, they usually have a tough time coming up with an answer. Seriously? I mean, who doesn’t know, “The Nutty Professor?” (No, not that terrible Eddie Murphy remake. Don’t get me started.)

Dean Martin and Jerry Lewis were a comedy team for just 10 years.

You can probably find countless tributes and retrospectives on the King of Comedy, so I’m not going to lay out another laundry list here of his successes and failures. But I wanted to share my thoughts as somewhat of a student of his craft and fellow writer and performer.

If you follow my work regularly, or Google my name, know that I’ve led a dual life in the professional and stage worlds for most of my time on this earth. Beginning at the age of 5, as a budding ventriloquist, I have won awards for my talents, written comedy scripts and produced all manner of shows, from the musical stage to Vaudevillian-style variety shows.

Not much in my repertoire could even begin to compare to a giant like Lewis, but comedy was always the foundation for a great deal of my work. I’ve always believed that if you could make people laugh, no matter what you were doing, singing, dancing, writing, juggling, whatever, they would be entertained.

For me, Jerry Lewis was a one-of-a-kind, a true struggling artist, always trying to get people to take him seriously through laughter. You read that correctly. It’s tough to get people to take notice when your entire goal is to make them laugh. It’s even more difficult when your whole self-worth is wrapped up in that laughter and thunderous applause.

Gery Deer and Jim Karns in Whips and Wands …

Lewis’s physical comedy, funny vocalizations and incredible timing is what I enjoyed and what I have always emulated. I’m a one-liner, storytelling kind of comedian on stage. I do a little physical comedy, but it’s generally centered around hand gestures or other smaller movements. Jerry Lewis could leave an audience in stitches with a simple facial expression – that’s talent (and a rubbery face helped too.)

For nearly two decades, my dear friend Jim Karns and I have worked together on stage much like Martin and Lewis in their early years. Our timing and banter is very similar, as was that of Abbot and Costello, Laurel and Hardy (after the silent days), and so many other comedy teams. The dynamic duo of Jerry’s goof to Dean’s straight man, which kicked off in Atlantic City in 1946, became a national phenomenon lasting a mere 10 years, though to many fan it’s unimaginable it was such a short time. Regardless, the pair was unstoppable during their run, and watching anything they did is still a pleasure.

I ignore the public negativity surrounding most celebrities I admire, whether they brought it on themselves or not. After all, they’re only human, good people trying to entertain people in an unforgiving and sadistic industry. I left the big stage behind many years ao in favor of smaller one with kinder audiences.

But no matter how large the stage, Jerry Lewis’s influence will be there, for me and for many generations to come. “Dream as if you’ll live forever. Live as if you’ll die today.” – Jerry Lewis.

Gery L. Deer is a writer, producer and performer with “The Brothers & Co Variety Show.” More at thebrothersvarietyshow.com.

 

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The positivity of laughter

In Children and Family, Entertainment, Local News, Media, Music, Opinion, psychology, Senior Lifestyle, sociology, Uncategorized on July 26, 2016 at 9:28 am

Deer In Headlines
By Gery L. Deer

DIH LOGORecently the entertainment industry lost a legend in television comedy, Gary Marshall, who gave us hours of laughs with “Happy Days,” “Mork & Mindy,” and many other shows. I often wonder how someone can be so innately funny and creative and how that helps them cope with life’s down sides.

In plain black and white, a “sense of humor” is nothing more than one’s ability to perceive and appreciate humor. Some aspects of humor, however, don’t resonate with everyone. While a spit-take, for example, might be hilarious to one person, another (some would say with a more ‘refined’ sense of humor) individual would find it vulgar. As with beauty, humor is in the eye of the beholder.

To me, mimes and clowns aren’t funny at all. Actually, I find both kind of creepy. But then, I have one of those senses of humor that is all over the place. I’m never certain what’s going to tickle my funny bone.

My friend Jim Karns can make me laugh just by walking into a room, a fact I hope he’s never taken negatively. Jim and I started working together on stage in the late 1990s and he joined my family variety show, The Brothers & Co., in 2004. It’s part of our shared role to create comedy routines for the show, but they generally originate from an accidental punch line or a word that cracked us up.

We’ve known each other for more than two decades and we’re very different people. But our sense of humor aligns us to a level of craziness sometimes only we understand. Sometimes, all it takes is a word or phrase to set us off. Case in point – the casaba melon.

THIS is a casaba melon. Not all that funny by itself.

THIS is a casaba melon. Not all that funny by itself.

What’s so funny about a casaba melon? I’m not sure I’ve ever even seen one. All I know is that one evening at a rehearsal, one of us responded to a random question by saying, “… because casaba melons are out of season,” and that was it. Our sides were splitting the rest of the evening.

No, it’s not that funny by itself. But, to us, it was hysterical. Sometimes it hits so hard, I can’t breathe or, no kidding, I actually fall out of my chair laughing.

Not everyone loses it that way and I have only one theory as to why it happens to us in that fashion. William Shakespeare said that all the world is a stage and, clearly, life is a mixture of tragedy and comedy, as life is imitated in art.

We all experience our share of tragedy. For Jim and I, we share the common experiences of the long term caring for and loss of our mothers to early disease, painful divorce, and similar job stresses.

To us however, and the rest of my Brothers & Co. family, I think, humor relieves that stress in a positive way that benefits more than just us. Our audiences benefit from what comes out of it and finds its way into our show.

We are not drinkers or gamblers, nor do we spend money on elaborate vacations to unwind from life’s stressors. Instead, a laugh is our elixir, our tonic and our escape. When my brother became ill a year ago, and the outlook was grim, we laughed our way through it, regardless of what the result was going to be.

Thankfully, he recovered, and is, for the most part, his smiling self again. This is in no small part thanks to our resistance to the darkness that could have taken over our hearts and minds without our sense of humor.

Gery Deer & Jim Karns in Whips & Wands ...

Gery Deer & Jim Karns in Whips & Wands …

All of this begs the question: does a strong and natural sense of humor also imply an unusually high level of optimism? I’m not a psychologist but I’d have to guess there is something to that suggestion. I’m not always optimistic, but it’s tough to get me to buy into the negative.
Even though most people overestimate their sense of humor, who cares? Isn’t that up to you? If you think you’re funny, the only time it matters whether anyone else does is if you’re planning to become a comedian. Otherwise, laugh at whatever you want. But watch out for those casaba melons.

Gery L. Deer is an independent casaba melon thrower. Deer In Headlines is usually full of it, so why are you reading this? More at deerinheadlines.com