Pick Your Pop Culture

So, I've like written about music for 25 years, and like I've got a lot to say and not enough people to pay me for it, and like I like to write about TV, and books, and movies, and stuff like that.

Monday, June 20, 2005

A Summer's Idle

Yesterday, a beautiful, sunny, warm day with no humidity and nothing in the weather to cause suffering, was a great day to lay out by the pool. Somehow, Cat taught me in the last couple years to look forward to the time we spend at public pools. A baseball game on the radio, a good book, some sunscreen to prevent pain, and the occasional dip in the water add up to a lovely way to spend a day.

If I were the type who embellished my tales to achieve thematic coherence, I would describe massive splashes of water pouring over me as I read “Comedy Is a Man in Trouble: Slapstick in American Movies” by Alan Dale. I imagine the scenario thusly. First, I would have serious difficulty with the lounge. As I attempt to align the back to the proper level of comfort, the front of the lounge would collapse. As I lean forward to pull that part off the ground, the back would fall on me, and I would be trapped in the middle. Eventually, I would throw my captor off and stand with my hands on my hips, a slow burn on my face as I attempted to regain my dignity.

Once I did get myself seated, I would begin reading leisurely about Preston Sturges. As I turned the page to begin the chapter on Jerry Lewis, however, a very large young boy would suddenly come running towards the pool in front of me, and approximately fifty gallons of water would be displaced after he performs a triple axle and lands with a giant splash. I would sputter, and then the chair would collapse again.

You gotta love slapstick, and Alan Dale loves it more than anybody I’ve ever encountered. This book is full of analysis of the greats – Chaplin, Lloyd, Keaton, Mabel Normand, the Marx Brothers, Sturges, and Lewis – and it adds to the appreciation I already have for the movies. As much as I enjoyed further breakdowns of Marx scenes I’ve memorized over the last 35 years, I was intrigued most by Dale’s postscript, in which he extends the legacy to the work of Jim Carrey and Eddie Murphy. Let’s see a second volume, dude!

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