A couple nights ago, a funny thing happened on my way to becoming a 57 year old, frequently humorless, mean and bitter old man long before my time. I saw another guy who is now 76 years old, and although he still has more talent for being funny in his little finger than I’ve ever had on my very best day or night, in all of my entire life, as I watched him the other night on Comedy Central, I could sense an undercurrent of bitterness in his comedy act, which wasn’t nearly as funny as his comedy has been in years past.
I’m talking about Bill Cosby performing in his first “stand up” comedy special in 30 years, called “Far From Finished”. If you like Bill Cosby’s humor, then please watch his new comedy special, and maybe you’ll enjoy it more than I did. Maybe it’s just me, and you won’t sense that undercurrent of bitterness that I felt coming from Cosby, as I watched him perform.
Last night, also on Comedy Central, I watched Bill Cosby performing in his comedy special from 1983 called “Bill Cosby: Himself”. I nearly died laughing back in 1983 when I watched Cosby performing in that special the first time, and I was literally rolling on the floor and laughing so hard that I was having trouble breathing.
I watched the same Cosby comedy special for the second time 20 years later in 2003, under unusual and very unexpected circumstances, while lost at sea… Okay, so I wasn’t really lost at sea; it just felt like my wife and I were lost at sea on the way back from Yarmouth Nova Scotia to Bar Harbor Maine while on board “The Cat”.
To briefly explain, “The Cat” was a 319 foot long high speed catamaran ferry boat with a top speed of over 40 knots, and able to cruise across the Gulf of Maine from Bar Harbor Maine to Yarmouth Nova Scotia in 2 -1/2 hours. More conventional ferry boats took six hours to make the same crossing. But soon after my wife and I were on board “The Cat” and returning from Yarmouth Nova Scotia to Bar Harbor Maine, leaving at around 8:30 PM that night, we and the rest of the passengers on board were told that three out of four of The Cat’s big diesel engines had stopped working, and with The Cat running on only 1/4th of it’s normal power, the trip back to Bar Harbor was going to take somewhat longer than usual. But we were not told how much longer…
In fact, the return voyage took 5 -1/2 hours, and we got back to Bar Harbor at 2:00 AM in the morning. It was a very looonnng night, and it seemed that much longer because we had no idea when we would get back to Bar Harbor, so we could only wait and wonder.
To help passengers deal with their very long night of boredom, the crew was showing movies in the cafeteria, and I found myself watching a computer animated kids movie called “Antz” which although it wasn’t the type of movie that I’d choose to watch, I liked it more than I thought I would, and hey, it took an hour and a half off the tedium clock.
But I was absolutely delighted when the next movie to play after “Antz” was “Bill Cosby: Himself” which seemed like a God send to me under the circumstances, and watching Cosby do his stand up comedy act was just as hilariously funny for me that night, as it was 20 years earlier when I saw him doing it the first time in 1983.
Last night, when I watched “Bill Cosby: Himself” on Comedy Central, I was laughing out loud again, and most of all, at Cosby’s 1983 comic riff on a visit to the dentist. Here’s that part of Cosby’s act, courtesy of YouTube.
If you like Bill Cosby, you’ve probably seen it before, but if you’re like me, and it’s been over ten years since the last time you watched this, you’ll enjoy seeing it again.
I do realize it’s not fair to negatively compare Bill Cosby’s current comedy special in 2013, that he performed at the age of 76 years old, with the show he did in 1983 at the relatively young age of 46 years old.
But more important for me personally, watching Cosby’s current show and then watching his 1983 show, got me thinking about how in the last year or so, I had allowed myself to lose much of my own sense of humor, by giving in to being frequently angry and bitter about my own personal problems, and also the deteriorating political state of our country, the constant dumbing down of popular culture in our society, and our increasingly unstable and dangerous global climate, which the human race still refuses to take seriously enough to do much of anything about, that will make a genuine difference.
All that anyone needs to do to see a glaring example of what happened to me in the last year or so, is to just look at three out of the last four previous posts here in this blog, in which humor is all but nonexistent and replaced with angry rants. The only exception to the angry rant content in three of my last four previous posts here on Word Play, is a post called “My Lover Who Loves The Magic of Light” which is really a love letter written to my wife.
So after watching Bill Cosby in 2013 at 76 years old, and then watching his 1983 show again last night, I asked myself a very direct question:
Am I happy being an almost 57 year old frequently humorless, mean and bitter old man long before my time?
I was able to almost instantly answer that very direct question I asked myself, with a very direct answer of ‘Hell NO!!! I am NOT happy at all this way, and I need to change the direction of my own state of mind right now, or become even more unhappy than I already am!!!’
Which is why this blog is getting out of the angry rant business right now and returning to it’s original purpose of being ‘A Place For Pleasurable Procrastination’ again. (within reason)
I’ll wrap this one up with a story about another favorite stand up comedian of mine, Richard Pryor, who’s style was somewhat “different” from that of Bill Cosby, and how one night his stand up comedy movie on HBO created a ridiculously awkward situation involving me, and both of my parents.
This happened back in 1984 after I had just moved out from living with my first wife, who was soon to become my ex-wife after almost six years of a marriage that to this day, often makes me think of the first line from Dickens’ classic “A Tale of Two Cities” which begins with the phrase “It was the best of times, it was the worst of times…” since that is an excellent summation of my first marriage.
Anyway, I was temporarily living with my parents in 1984 after leaving my first wife, and my parents were out for the evening, so I was watching Richard Pryor’s 1971 stand up comedy movie called “Live and Smokin’ “on HBO. Anyone familiar with Richard Pryor’s stand up comedy knows that Pryor used to drop more F-Bombs during his act than the Germans dropped bombs on England during The Battle of Britain in WWII. But the guy was also a comic genius in my opinion, so his constant rain of F-bombs didn’t bother me, because I knew that he wasn’t doing it just for shock value to try and support weak material like some stand up comics are guilty of doing.
But about 15 minutes into the Richard Pryor movie, my parents came home unexpectedly early, which was awkward because I knew that both my mother and father did not appreciate listening to a steady stream of profanity. But since I was watching the Pryor movie downstairs in the finished side of the basement in my parents’ home, I didn’t change the channel when I heard my parents come home. I was 28 years old at the time, and it seemed ridiculous to me at that point in my life, to automatically bail out of the Pryor movie like an 18 year old kid who was freaked out by Mom and Dad coming home early and catching him watching a movie with lots of profanity in it. So I turned the volume down slightly lower, and if either of them complained, then I would change the channel.
When my father came downstairs, I fully expected that I was about to be told that the high level of profanity coming from my choice of TV viewing was not acceptable. But then Dad threw me a totally unexpected curve ball, when he sat down in a chair and without a word spoken, he began to watch the Richard Pryor movie with me.
Now I was the one who was feeling really awkward and very uncomfortable, because this was just plain weird! But my father seemed completely relaxed, and very interested in watching Richard Pryor’s stand up comedy act, without any negative reaction at all, to all the F-bombs that Pryor was dropping. But Dad wasn’t laughing at Pryor’s humor, and he seemed more interested in watching Pryor as though he was an interesting study in cultural sociology. But my problem soon became that I felt so weird about watching Richard Pryor with my Dad, who although he was clearly very interested in watching Pryor, he never laughed or even cracked a smile at any of Pryor’s comedy, which made me feel too uncomfortable to be able to enjoy Pryor’s humor enough to laugh at him myself.
Then things got twice as awkward when my mother came downstairs because she was curious to see what my father and I were watching on TV together. Mom lasted less than 10 minutes when the onslaught of Pryor’s profanity drove her back upstairs, and I could tell that she was even more confused than I was, about why my father and her husband seemed fine with watching a TV show with such a steady stream of foul language.
Less than 10 minutes later, I also went upstairs because by that point, I had given up on trying to watch Pryor with my father sitting close by and watching Pryor very closely, but without ever laughing or even smiling at any of Pryor’s stand up comedy act, with the end result being that I couldn’t enjoy watching Pryor’s stand up comedy act with Dad.
So now my Dad was watching Richard Pryor downstairs by himself, and my Mom was upstairs watching another movie far more to her liking on the TV upstairs. Mom’s movie looked somewhat interesting to me, so I sat down to watch it with her. And then things turned totally surreal, when my mother glared at me with an expression of anger mixed with hurt feelings, and she exclaimed “You don’t have to do this, Chris! So just go back downstairs and watch Richard Pryor with your father!”
But instead I went up to my room and read a book, so my Dad was the only one in the house that night who watched almost all of Richard Pryor: Live and Smokin’ right to the very end.
Less than 10 days later, I moved out of my parents’ house and into an apartment with a single guy who was a good friend of mine. Because by then I knew for sure that 28 years old is just too old for a guy to be living at home with his parents, and most of all, when his Dad inexplicably wants to watch Richard Pryor with him, and then his mother gets upset when he doesn’t… Yep, definitely time to get out of Dodge!