I’m packing to travel North. This is not a fun thing to do. I need a laugh. I always need a laugh. And rewatching old episodes of The Nanny was not doing the trick because I can’t stand the laugh tracks
Over the covid-pandemic-isolating year finding a laugh meant I could hold out for another day. I’m down to counting microseconds so I can take my shot-up body North to hug other shot-up bodies.
Between packing breaks I hydrate and read.
Today I received the April 12th issue of The New Yorker. Anthony Lane, their movie critic, provided me with THE BIG LAUGH.
Last night I looked forward to watching a new Netflix thriller/mystery I Care A Lot. It had some of my favorite actors Dianne Wiest, Peter Dinklage, and starring Rosamund Pike.
Basically it’s a story of a woman Marla Grayson (Pike) who is in the very profitable business of defrauding seniors. Her racket is guardianship: identifying powerless retirees, having them falsely declared mentally incompetent and herself appointed their legal conservator and then defrauding them of all their assets which by some not so mysterious ways ends up in her bank account. This happens through the collusion of doctors, nursing homes, and oblivious judges. It’s a really juicy plot.
I began watching and somewhere as I was approaching the halfway mark of the film I began to get a queasy feeling in my stomach. At the beginning, her success record of 100 per cent was challenged by only one son concerning his mother. He wanted to see his mother. He questioned her need for Guardianship. Marla chewed him up and spit him out. She was unstoppable.
She makes a mistake by targeting the mother of a crime boss but rather than show fear, she ups her game and no matter what the threat (and there are many consequential threats) pursues her dream of being so rich she is untouchable. (Put forth in the movie as “The American Dream”)
I didn’t stick around to see if she succeeded. I was sick to my stomach watching the amorality that filled the script and screen. Not one character in this film had any and I mean any redeeming features… a dark world that only got darker. Why do I want to watch people whom I don’t give a fig for succeed as they decimate whatever and whoever is in their way without any consequences.
As for me, I immediately reached for an antidote to the poison that had been spewing from my television for over an hour… I definitely stayed too long at the fair. I turned to Agatha Christie’s Miss Marple. Plenty of really villainous types but somehow always caught in the web of their own making.
I think it maybe reflects the fact that people need a dose of what this film serves up at this time. I think it’s that kind of dark, irreverent humor that we’re all a bit in need of.
~ Rosamund Pike
For the life of me… Where was the humor?? Definitely not the Marx Brothers’ Duck Soup. Of course, as an actor I totally understand the thrill of being chosen but I find her statement unbelievable and irresponsible.
My philosophy has always been what goes around comes around. Time is not in anyone’s hands… but my belief is… in the game of life, The Decency and Humanity Team: 1 / The Amorals: 0
Of late, we have been sorely tested… but ain’t that what life is all about? It isn’t easy. It is difficult. And it definitely isn’t fair. Our work is never done. We have occasional breaks from the onslaughts… a walk in the woods, a picnic by the lake, a good book, a great movie, friends and families… and then we are right back in it again: snow and ice in Texas.
My beliefs say we always know what the right thing to do is… we are always challenged to do the right thing. Sometimes we can. Sometimes we can’t. But we know. That is what separates us from the beasts…
I don’t know what to do with myself. My nerves are frayed. My ability to focus has sharply declined. AND… I feel a little like my tv set when it goes into its “buffering” state. You know… the picture and sound disappear and there is that little circle that goes round and round. I imagine that this buffering circle is running after the sound and the picture… and I sit there praying it catches them before I forget what it is that I was watching.
In both worlds of the pandemic and election craze daze, we have reached the stage of repetition in the stories and warnings and expose’ and charts and statistics and rallies and tallies that only brings numbness and confusion.
Sooooo… in an effort to distract myself from myself I want to tell you a story about my dance audition for The High School of Performing Arts.
How’s that for an oxymoron! (Oxymorons exist… I know few of them…sorry, it was just sitting there and I had to.)
I was 13 and full of myself. I thought I was a gift from the muse Terpsichore.
For my audition I was asked to prepare two different kinds of dances.
My second choreographic choice was to the Boston Pops version of the popular tango, Jealousy.
I thought each one reflected my brilliance as a dancer and choreographer.
Come on, guys, give me a break. I was a 13 year old who dreamed of stardom. If I became a star, I would be loved like I loved Betty Grable. Love and stardom were intricately and undeniably linked.
On the day of the audition, I changed into my leotard, walked into the big bare room with my two recordings, covered my nervousness and insecurities with a solid slice of bravura because I knew any minute I was about to be “discovered”.
Imagine my surprise as I discovered, there among the other people who were auditioning us, sat the High Priestess of Dance herself, Martha Graham. And I knew for sure the only reason she was there was to “discover ME”.
And so I danced with a fury as if my life depended on it. And for me, in a way it did. At 13 I knew family and home had a shelf life. I needed to begin my climb sooner rather than later. I moved to The Blue Danube increasing the tempo with speed of dips and turns never once looking in HER direction. And of course the ending was an overdramatic leap into the air with a slide flat out onto the floor. The thought of that move today would be the end not the beginning.
I immediately rose up from the floor and changed the record before they had a chance to say, Thank you and usher me out.
My interpretation of Jealousy followed along the lines of the movie The Red Shoes. I used the dramatic orchestral flourishes to interpret going “crazy” as I tangoed through the morass of a troubled mind… The everything and the kitchen sink approach…
I’m not going to keep you in suspense. I was accepted as a student in the dance department. I had also auditioned for the drama department. Of course, I was hedging my bets. It was not quite as dramatic as my dancing. I think I did a scene from something I wrote where I played all the parts. Over-the-top defined me then as now.
Many years later when I could bear to think about what I put Martha Graham through, I tried to imagine what she thought. I had spirit and energy. I had an intense desperation bordering on insanity to succeed, which is absolutely necessary for any budding wanna-be artist. And she had to have been amused or at least distracted from her problems for those few moments.
Phew! That felt good. There is no question about it. Distraction was definitely needed. In spiritual terms, I really want to believe that no matter what the outcome during this pandemic and after November 3 … All will be well. And honestly, my friends, in the deepest part of me, I do believe that is true. My sense of life is as long as I have it… life that is… all IS well.
I am the microcosm in the macrocosm. No Republican or Democrat or Libertarian or Anarchist or Nihilist brings the sun up and good old Mother Nature laughs (and lately cries) at those who think they can.
Right??? Of course, right!!!!
Love, Sally-Jane 💗
P.S. I promised I wasn’t going to get into it… but I had my fingers crossed… So, if you are so inclined, give this a look:
The woman in the closet video is definitely a reminder that you are not alone. And if, during this pandemic crisis, you haven’t experienced some paranoia, then please check your pulse because you probably don’t have one.
I don’t know about you guys, but my anxiety level is an up and down affair, and lately mostly up. The more tuned in I am to the current events of the day with news briefings, emails from political organizations that accurately highlight the criminal ineptitude of the current Senate and administration, the more increased my blood pressure. However, as I prepare to pack and fly north, I recognize even more how the pressure is rising.
And I am totally serious. (Photos of flight day to be shared later.) But with every item secured, the pressure went up a notch.
I thought to myself: “Self! You are making yourself sick.”
What to do???
And in a flash it came to me. Stop thinking of yourself. If I thought the quarantine was a challenge to my mental health, just try focusing only on yourself. STIFLING! BORING! CRUEL AND INHUMAN!
The operative word is inhuman. I understand survival is numero uno. However, I have come to realize without caring for friend, neighbor, family, we revert to the animal. And all you animal activists, I recognize the many animals that can make the human seem more selfish than most in the animal kingdom, so please don’t yell at me. I’m just saying that I think we have a more developed brain – not to be more selfish and “what about me?”, but to think of OTHERS. What a concept… think of others.
Well, I’m here to tell you that as my pressure was hitting a high point I remembered a friend of mine was going through a very rough time. It hadn’t anything to do with the virus. It was a very private misery. I literally stopped thinking about myself and thought about what she was going through. I wrote to her of my feelings for what she was going through. I didn’t even know it at the time… but, something lifted. Yes, and the pressure dropped. I got it.
The next time I begin to take myself too seriously I shall get out from under my own microscope. Unfortunately, these days, I cannot go ‘round with a real care package and hug. It’s the virtual picnic hamper, the virtual hug, the virtual everything. But don’t forget the real phone call… human vocal chords can work wonders.
For me, after thinking of others the next best way to distract me from me is to watch good funny movies.
Of late because I am old, I have focused on, for some, unheard of gems. And I only realized recently there was a master hand behind many of them. He is my very personal (though he doesn’t know it) 2,000 years older than me friend, Mel Brooks. These are movies that he didn’t necessarily write or perform in, but it’s his absurd sometimes not so funny and always irreverent humor rooting around in the mix of the movie.
The In Laws movie, circa 1979 with Peter Falk and Alan Arkin.
The In Laws movie, circa 2003 with Michael Douglas and Albert Brooks
Ishtar, circa 1980’s. A major flop in the 1980’s and now it is a cult movie written and directed by Elaine May (and occasionally, Buck Henry) with Warren Beatty, Dustin Hoffman and Charles Grodin. Fantastically prescient about the coming trouble in the middle east and oh, so funny.Makes Wag The Dog look like a sitcom.
Bowfinger, circa 1999 starring Steve Martin and Eddie Murphy (when he was funny)
Waiting For Guffman, circa 1997, directed by Christopher Guest and written by Christopher Guest and Eugene Levy with Catherine O’Hara in the cast (previous to Schitt’s Creek fame)
And last and probably least…
So Fine, circa 1981, starring Ryan O’Neal and if you don’t blink Sally-Jane Heit as a brunette in a scene in Bergdorf Goodman; written by Andrew Bergman of the 1979 In Laws and other comedies.
And just so you don’t think I’m too old to appreciate the new…
After Life streaming on Netflix written by and starring Ricky Gervais. He has definitely got his finger on the pulse of the human condition and he is VERY funny!
Like they always say: What goes around comes around. Or, is it what comes around goes around? Either way have a laugh on me and always…
How does the Muppet song go? IT’S NOT EASY BEING GREEN… Well, it’s not easy being in quarantine.
We can do it with a little from our friends.
I love to perform. And my most favorite part of my performances was when the audience laughed. To make someone laugh is just thrilling. Laugh and the world laughs with you is SO true.
I have a very vivid imagination. You have no idea. Well, actually some of you do. Don’t tell. So when I pass the humor sent to me onto you, I imagine even in quarantine, you are laughing with me and for just that moment or moments I’m not in isolation. I’m not hand-washing, sanitizing, I am making a joyful noise.
So here comes the fourth edition.
And after the laughs… I have included an addendum of another event that happened in 1964. It has a familiar ring of truth and I wanted to share along with the laughs, what to me is a very important insight.
I must admit that during that first dark, cold night, as I began to understand the tremendous scope of the problems that would be facing us in the months and years to come, I toyed with the idea of sending the children out on a plane to stay with you until everything settled down.
I realized that the schools might not be able to resume for an indefinite period of time. It looked for a few hours as if the damage had been so extensive to all utilities and streets that even a semblance of normal life could not be resumed for weeks or months.
But this was just a fleeting thought in a weary mind. I would have been ashamed of myself had it not been for the next thought that came so swiftly: We must be together… That night I saw strain, heavy hearts, and fear in people separated from their loved ones by the sudden disaster… As long as we are together, we are confident of the future…
That Good Friday night I knew that we had survived miraculously. And for this reason, there must be a purpose to our lives. Apparently the children must sense this, too. For they have remained calm. They have been fully aware of the emergency, but they have not feared. We are proud that they are such dependable, responsible youngsters. I would not undermine their confidence in the future — in themselves — by sending them away for safety.
What is safety, anyway? How can you predict where or when tragedy will occur? You can only learn to live with it and make the best of it when it happens. These children have learned this — and they are all the better for it. They were in the midst of devastation. And they feel that they are a part of the tremendous task ahead in rebuilding this land we love… The children are not afraid. Their father and I are not afraid. Please, don’t you fear for us.
Laugh Lines or worry lines? This is not a difficult choice for me.
However, Guys, I am telling you, the “what if” scenarios about the virus are wreaking havoc in my un and subconscious mind. For me in the midst of any stress the antidote has always been humor.
And I have tried to make that available. I use my cell phone to go to Youtube and find the comedians from my generations that make me laugh. You can ask me later who my favorite oldies are. Netflix, Amazon, and Home Box Office display the young comics in their one man/woman shows. Yes, of course, there is the generational issue of what is funny to me and what is funny to a millennial being very different. It’s not that I don’t appreciate some of the humor of the present comic set.
And I am a pretty far out there lady as to spouting my own four letter words. But for me, in comedy, back up the colorful language with some clever situational and character and cross generation descriptions. Early Eddie Murphy, George Carlin, Dick Gregory, Chris Rock, Robin Williams and today, Wanda Sykes… fantastic!!
All to say, I know where to go when I want a laugh from my favorite olden funny people – YouTube! However there was a bit of a problem. My stress level is always on the rise at night after I’ve gone to bed. I am awakened by yet another “what if” Titanic-sinking-scenario. So I grab my cell phone go to YouTube to play my funny people. So what’s my problem?
Lying in bed, even with good pillowing, watching that small screen for any length of time, gives me a backache and a neckache and a handache. Handache?? Of course! I recently put an ad on Craig’s list and in the classifieds for a nighttime cell phone holder. No one has applied.
And then, TA-DA! A miracle happened. I was notified that YouTube would be the electronic venue for the National Theatre of London’s brilliant and generous gift to the world of 5 of their past productions for a week at a clip. The first to be One Man, Two Guvnors with James Corden. A production I saw in London 7 years ago. Sooo funny. I needed to see it. I had to see it. Just what the world ordered up, right? OMG! Could I do it? Could I sit in front of my computer for two and a half hours ORRRRRRRRR…. could I find a way to put YouTube on my television?? I only use my television to stream movies and favorite present day tv shows (yes, I am a Schitt’s Creek die hard). I asked myself, “Self!“ I said, “Is it possible that I can install the YouTube App on my television to see this London production?” (Ghostly spirituals begin…)
I couldn’t believe it! (Mahalia Jackson sings) I, of the most electronically challenged, actually thought to ask that question? What was happening? This virus, this quarantine, this sanitizing and washing must have stimulated a part of my brain that hasn’t seen light for all of my 86 years.
It worked! I did it! And I laughed and a light was seen that lifted me from the darkness. (Begin the Mormon Tabernacle Choir music) AMEN!! Next time I awake with heart pounding and visions of disasters, I can get up, go to my comfortable chair, even stop and make a cup of tea and watch my oldies and goodies.
For what it’s worth, I pass it onto you. And if any of you want to say to me, “What’s wrong with you. I’ve been doing this for years.” DON’T !
Stay Well. Love, Sally-Jane ❤️
P.S. I thank everyone who contributes to my laugh lines by sending these.
And finally, something for the spirit and the soul: