Thursday, February 17, 2011

Crying On the Inside With Billy Crystal

Thinking about MR. SATURDAY NIGHT and Jerry Lewis led to contemplation of how many movies there are about how sad and lonely it is to be a comedian. There are some I just love (THE CIRCUS, THE KING OF COMEDY, STARDUST MEMORIES, THE PATSY) but the subject tends to make me irritable somehow. Like, "Who cares?" Like, "Shut up and do something funny!" Like, "Yeah, your job is really hard. To quote Larry Brown, 'How'd you like to paint a few houses while it's a hundred degrees?'" It's those darn sad clowns again! Movie comedians didn't invent them, of course. You are familiar no doubt with the sad clowns of opera, often referenced in pop songs (Smokey Robinson, for example, has a whole repertoire of "laughing on the outside, crying on the inside" numbers, one of which mentions Pagliacci directly). And Shakespeare did some shtick along those lines, didn't he? But the movies! I don't know. If I start naming them off the top of my head, I am likely never to stop. FOR THE BOYS, THE ENTERTAINER, THREE RING CIRCUS, THE JOKER IS WILD, LIMELIGHT (pictured), LENNY, SAWDUST AND TINSEL, FUNNY PEOPLE, MAN IN THE MOON, LA STRADA, THIS IS MY LIFE, PUNCHLINE... I'm not even scratching the surface yet, but oh, PUNCHLINE. I have a soft spot for a few of the movies I just named, but PUNCHLINE is not among them. That one really showcases the problem of movies ABOUT comedy. There are lots of shots of the audience IN STITCHES - I mean, doubled over and roaring in unbridled merriment! - at some supposedly hilarious routine that leaves us (the actual audience) cold, resulting in an uncomfortable feeling of spiritual displacement, yes, that's probably what it is, spiritual displacement, I am almost positive I have developed a case of spiritual displacement. Thanks for nothing, sad clowns! I have THE COMIC starring Dick Van Dyke loaded up on the dvr and ready to go, so expect more on this subject soon. I'll bet you're excited! My prediction is that there will be a scene in which Dick Van Dyke gets a pie in the face just after receiving some tragic news, because the show must go on! Or maybe there will be a lingering close-up of his sorrowful countenance as he methodically wipes the pie off his face.