Tuesday, November 04, 2014

Heliocentric Worlds

Brian sent me a tweet in which someone talks (appreciatively!) about "the moment a dud Jerry Lewis bit passes the three-minute mark." The tweeter praised such moments as transgressive. I understand what he's getting at, and he's right, but the more Jerry I watch, the less I can think of those bits (which seldom last three minutes, though they may seem much longer) as "duds." My attitude toward Jerry Lewis is kaleidoscopic! I didn't even mind the sock puppet bit in THE ERRAND BOY last time I watched it. Of course, sometimes Jerry does milk a dud - Milk Duds! - on purpose. He WANTS you to be uncomfortable during Stanley's terrible stand-up act in THE PATSY, or when Kelp and the Dean sit in fraught silence. I've grown to enjoy how he draws things out. The other day I was actually narrating such a moment from CRACKING UP to Pen and Kent, featuring Jerry's compulsion to stretch a gag past its natural life by narrating his own misfortune. I remember a couple of years ago when I got obsessed with listening to a Sun Ra album called "Heliocentric Worlds" over and over. It starts up with some bells jingling and then a noise like a cord being plugged into an amp or a needle dropping roughly on an LP, but after you've listened to that record about ten times in a row, you know when the bass clarinet is going to squeak or whatever, and when the muted trumpet is going to start echoing, you're familiar with the terrain, and what seemed like a jumble turns out to be a path full of friendly landmarks - that electronic burp, which may have been an accident to begin with, becomes a welcoming beacon. What Sun Ra said about peach pie applies here, and I'll repeat it in case you're not up to "clicking" on "links": "if you keep eating peach pie every day, [sooner or later] it's going to taste like something else." And I can swear I "blogged" about this once, but didn't David Lynch famously drink a chocolate milkshake from the same restaurant every day for the same reason? Hey! This is way off the subject, but while I was looking for a frame of my current favorite scene from CRACKING UP (Jerry is a hideous gangster - man, he loves dressing up as hideous gangsters! His grotesque mug shot was the running gag McNeil and I appreciated the most in our recent viewing of THE BIG MOUTH - who becomes mesmerized by the security camera, so that the bank robbery turns into a song-and-dance number; note that carpet, subject of a McNeil theory) I ran across an interesting Jonathan Rosenbaum essay in which he attributes current American disdain for Lewis to (among other things) classism: "regardless of how many rooms his Bel-Air mansion had, Lewis’s nouveau riche manner, like that of Elvis, kept his persona firmly within the realm of the working-class." (See also.) Please "click" on Mr. Rosenbaum's essay, he's so much smarter than me (though I did beat him, I think, in comparing Jerry to Edgar Allan Poe).