May 17, 2015

Put Your Funny Where Your Mouth Is

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 Good morning and greetings, NBA playoff fans.  Last week, I discussed the serious implications of the California drought.  My head almost exploded when writing about the severe conditions affecting us here in the Golden State. Or as the French writer Chamfort once said,” The most wasted of all days is that in which we have not laughed.”
So now that the Golden State Warriors are moving on to the Western Conference Finals to face the Houston Rockets, I thought I would go back to a more comfortable place and take a trip down memory lane.  Journey on back to a light and breezy world of my younger years, when life was sweet and innocent and all I had to worry about was what was for dinner and getting my homework done as quickly as possible.
Or in the words of Mark Twain, “The human race has only one effective weapon and that is laughter.”

I got hooked on the tube in my early years growing up in the Garden State of New Jersey.  I remember the days of black and white TV and being entranced by cartoons, including “Crusader Rabbit,” the first animated series produced specifically for television.

Crusader Rabbit’s buddy was Ragland T. Tiger, known as Rags.  Their running joke was a character would ask Rags what the “T” stood, to which he’d reply, “Larry.  My father couldn’t spell.”Then in was on to  “Rocky and his Friends,” starring Bullwinkle, the anthropomorphic moose and Rocky, a flying squirrel, pitted against their man adversaries, the Russian spies Boris Badenov and Natasha Fatale. This was early cold war drama.  We were also introduced to Mr. Peabody and Sherman, who traveled through history using a WABAC time machine.
Then we move on to the more sophisticated comedy, starting with the slapstick hilarity of “The Three Stooges, starring Moe, Shemp and Curly Howard, joined by Larry Fine.  Curly was a totally unique character, with a high-pitched voice and quirky vocal expressions.  He loved making sounds like “nyuk, nyuk, nyuk,” “woob, wwob, woob,” and “sointenly,” as well as barking like a dog and using his teeth as a typewriter.He was also known for his outrageous physical comedy, as he was always getting poked in his eye, slapped around or banged on his head.  As his older brother Moe often told him, “Remind me to murder you later.”
My brothers and I could sit for hours and watch episodes of “The Three Stooges,” and this was when we were in our 20′s and 30′s.  I then moved on to expanding my horizon, with the “The Great One,” Jackie Gleason, so named by Orson Welles after and long and alcohol-filled night on the town, and his sidekick Art Carney, starring in “The Honeymooners.”
Ralph was a bus driver and Norton a sanitation engineer, er sewer worker.  There were just 39 episodes of this dimly lit sitcom made about their gritty Brooklyn lives in the 50′s.   Ralph was always trying to strike it rich, but never succeeded.  He never made it on the $64,000 question.
But he thought he was the king of the castle, and had the love of his life in Alice, although as he often threatened, “One of these day, Alice, bang, zoom, right to the moon.  And he wasn’t too fond of his mother-in-law.  “She’s a blabbermouth, Alice, a blabbermouth.”
One of my favorite lines from the show was when Norton asked Ralph if he could smoke.  Ralph replied, “I don’t care if you burn.”
And then there was “The Phil Silvers show,”  starring Phil as Master “Sergeant Earnest G. Bilko,” who was always working on his get rich quick schemes and gamblings promotions in his lonely outpost of Fort Baxter, Kansas.   In real life, Silvers was a compulsive gambler, but he was a true genius as a military man, always sticking it to Colonel Hall, Sgt. Rupert Ritzik and the boys in his platoon.    Larry David has called “The Phil Silvers Show” his favorite television program.
And there were more, as I was entranced with the comedy of “Laurel and Hardy,” “The Bowery Boys,” and “Abbott and Costello, and “The Little Rascals,” just to name a few.  I remember Spanky, Alfalfa, Buckwheat, Stymie, Chubby, Darla, and the lovely Mrs. Crabtree. According to film historian Leonard Maltin, the “Our Gang” crowd put boys, girls, whites and blacks together as equals, something that broke new ground.  Who knew?
Then color came into my life, and the comic Woody Allen moved to the center stage.  His early movies including “Take The Money and Run,” ‘Bananas,” and “Play It Again, Sam” were comic gems.  In the words of the Woodman, “Life is full of misery, loneliness and suffering, and it’s all over much too soon.”
There have been numerous sitcoms that have come along and entertained me over the years.  Starting with “Cheers,” “Taxi,” “All in the Family,” “The Wonder Years,” and one season of Leslie Nielson and “Police Squad,” which led into the “Naked Gun movies” and “Airplane,” one of the funniest movies of all time, which produced this line, “Joey, have you ever seen a grown man naked?”

Getting back to the sitcom, there was the “The Larry Sanders Show,” “,Married With Children,” “Roseanne,” “Curb Your Enthusiasm,” “The Office,” and the leader of the pack, “Seinfeld.”  And from the lips of George Costanza, “Jerry, just remember, it’s not a lie if you believe it.”

And of course, there were the great comedy movie classics, starting with the Mel Brooks comedy bonanza “Blazing Saddles,” It’s A Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad, World,” “Caddyshack,” “Annie Hall,” “Dumb and Dumber,” and the cult college classic of all-time, “Animal House, starring John Belushi, which gave us, “Greg, honey, is it supposed to be this soft?” and “Do you mind if we dance with your dates?”
Doug Kenney co-wrote the screenplays for “Animal House,” and Caddyshack,” along with co-founding National Lampoon magazine.  But he was an alcohol and drug abuser and sadly, back in 1980, at age 33, he died while in Kauai after falling from a 30-foot cliff at the Hanapepe Lookout.  His friend, Harold Ramis, said at the time, that Kenney “probably fell while he was looking for a place to jump”.
Kenney’s pal Chevy Chase told Rolling Stone magazine that in his hotel room they found jokes, notes for projects and an outline for a new movie.  They also found written on the back of a hotel receipt, a gag line: “These last few days are among the happiest I’ve ever ignored.”

So when we see what is alive in the sitcom world today, ‘Modern Family” comes to mind, along with the “The Goldbergs” on ABC.  There’s Julia Louise Dreyfus on “Veep” and the second season” of “Married” on FX.  Unfortunately, I think we’ve seen of the last of  Larry David’s “Curb Your Enthusiasm,” but you can always check out “Inside Amy Schumer.”

Now of course I’m leaving out lots good shows and great movies, but the Marx Brothers, the Zucker Brothers and the Farrelly Brothers have to be mentioned. As the late, great Milton Berle, who dated Marilyn Monroe once said, “Laughter is an instant vacation.”  And it’s cheaper than a week in Hawaii.

So for today’s photo entree, we are returning to the skies over Monterey Bay on the evening of February 22.  There was a large cluster of clouds in the sky and as the sun set into the horizon, the pelicans came flying in from the east, creating a nice backdrop with the crimson sky.
On to some late night humor.  “Hillary Clinton’s younger brother Tony is facing criticism for using the Clintons’ political connections to help his career. So on the down side, she has a sketchy brother named Tony. On the up side, she just locked up every vote in New Jersey.  It turns out Hillary’s brother could damage her campaign. But then Jeb Bush said, “I think we all get a pass on who our brothers are.” – Jimmy Fallon
“It was announced yesterday that Tom Brady will be suspended for the season’s first four games for his alleged role in the deflate-gate scandal. Though the NFL says his punishment could be reduced if he commits a real crime.” – Jimmy Fallon  “The NFL has suspended Tom Brady for four games over deflate-gate. They’re going to punish him by making him stay home in his mansion with his supermodel wife and think about what he did wrong.” – Conan O’Brien
 ”I have nothing against the North Koreans but this Kim Jong Un has got a screw loose. A member of his cabinet, his security minister, nods off, falls sleep. We’ve all done it. Kim Jong Un takes the guy out and has him executed, just for just falling asleep. Oh, and he was also deflating footballs.  New York City has a rat problem. There must be three to four million rats running loose, but finally, Mayor de Blasio has declared war on rats. Here’s what he’s going to do. He’s going to bring in more coyotes.” – David Letterman

“Barbara Walters admitted to stealing an artifact from the White House. She said, “I was young, and I didn’t think President Lincoln would mind.  McDonald’s is starting to introduce kale into their salads. McDonald’s customers heard this and asked, “What’s kale, and what’s a salad?” – Conan O’Brien

So we’ll catch you shut down playing like a true NBA MVP and taking down the Memphis Grizzlies.  Aloha, mahalo and later, Stephen Curry fans.

June 22, 2014

Time Keeps On Slippin’ Into The Future

Good morning and greetings, World Cup fans. As I child growing up in the Garden State of Tony Soprano, I was in love with sports. Whether it was football, baseball, basketball, kickball, stickball, tether ball, bocci ball or Lucille Ball, I was totally on board.

Sun up to sun down on weekends and summer months, you could find me on a field or some asphalt, bonding with the neighborhood crew while not having a care in the world. I enjoyed the feeling of competing and winning, as it had the same taste as a chocolate shake. Or as another Jersey guy, Coach Vince Lombardi, once said, ‘If winning isn’t everything, why do they keep score?”

So during my childhood wonder years, sports was my number one priority. But for some reason, the game of soccer never came across my radar. As a youth, I never recall playing this international game which is called football around the world. This led to later developing the theory that if God had wanted us to play soccer, he wouldn’t have given us arms.

Now I know that this is not the world view, as soccer fans are as passionate and crazy as mad dogs. I’ve seen very little of the World Cup play, as I am still coming to terms with the NBA having gone into summer hibernation.

But word on the street has people buzzing about the Cup. Last week, the USA beat a very tough team from Ghana, a country the size of Rhode Island on steroids. The soccer nation swelled with national pride, while I was still contemplating the championship proclaimed by the San Antonio Spurs and the mental state of LeBron James.

People around the planet take this sport very seriously, or in the words of English soccer manager Bill Shankly, “Some people believe football is a matter of life and death. I’m very disappointed with that attitude. I can assure you it is much, much more important than that.” I say, the more you sweat in practice, the less you bleed in battle.

So one night last week, after my wife and I had finished watching an episode of “Halt and Catch Fire,” the new AMC series that replaced ‘Mad Men,” she remarked that time seems to be flying by. I thought to myself, when does it ever not?

Our son is now halfway through his undergraduate college career, with two years down and two to go. He did not follow in the footsteps of his father, who thought four years would be nice, but seven would be heaven. I was living the good life on West Cliff Drive, and was in no hurry to leave the academic world of the hardwood floors up at UCSC’s East Fieldhouse.

So I’m now in my seventh decade on the planet. Hitting the 60th birthday was fairly trumatic, as telling people I was that age was just nuts. 60! Now that I’m 61, all of a sudden I’m Roger Maris.

I don’t want to say I’m getting old, but in today’s mail I received a letter from the Trident Society, informing me that “cremation just makes sense,” as there would be no need for embalming, funeral homes, cemetary property, caskets, tiskets and taskets. And I would be helping the environment. Or in the words of Eleanor Roosevelt, “Yesterday is history, tomorrow is a mystery, and today is a gift: that’s why the call it the present.”

So yeah, time is racing by. We’re more than halfway through June, and soon the July 4th holiday will be history. My daughter is going to be a senior in high school, but I’m not worried about any empty nest, as I believe she is determined to convert our house into a rabbit rescue haven.

Right now, she has two bunnies, Marvin and Scarlett, who are currently residing in her room. They’re pretty easy to take care of, as they only demand hay 24 hours a day. They are actually very cute, and if Aimee is lucky, one day within the next century she will actually be able to hold the grumpy Marvin.

So I’m hoping for a solution in Iraq and for them to stop pooping on Aimee’s floor. We all have our hopes and dream. As either Aimee or writer Jarod Kintz once remarked, “You know what I like most about people? Pets.
”

We are all on our own paths. Time keeps rushing by faster than the speed of my DVR, and I’m just trying to hang on for the ride. It’s not always easy, as life is full of everyday challenges.

But remember, you know what they call the person who finishes last in their medical school class? Doctor.

All I know is “Life lives, life dies. Life laughs, life cries. Life gives up and life tries. But life looks different through everyone’s thighs.

So for today’s photo funnies you’re getting two January sunrises for the price of one. The first is from January 24, where I was shooting from Bird Rock along West Cliff Drive. There wasn’t any great color in the sky, but waves were pumping and the clouds were puffy enough, so it worked for me.

The second, which was from January 24, was kind of like a sunrise lite, with the muted red clouds briefly lighting up the sky above Lighthouse Point. The last two shots brought out shades of orange and yellow, and I enjoyed that, because in the words of Monty Python, “I’m always looking on the bright side of life.”

On to some good late night humor. “Congrats to the U.S. soccer team for beating Ghana in the opening round of the World Cup. Yeah, they did the impossible — getting Americans to watch soccer. “Alex Trebek has broken a world record for game-show hosts, after hosting 6,829 shows in his career. When asked how he’s made it through so many shows, Trebek said, “What is Scotch?” – Jimmy Fallon

“Yesterday, the Iranian president tweeted a picture of himself all alone watching a World Cup game on television. Yeah, then he watched his favorite show — “It’s Always Sunni in Philadelphia.” This morning the Pentagon announced that the United States has captured a leader responsible for the Benghazi attacks. Republicans were ecstatic and said, “So, they finally got Hillary?” – Conan O’Brien

“Match.com is charging $5,000 to set you up with someone who looks like your ex. You wouldn’t believe how many guys on Match.com once dated Kate Upton.” – Conan O’Brien “Rob Ford is running for re-election. He’s got a very catchy campaign slogan. You’ll see it on bumper stickers all over Canada: “The crack stops here.” – David Letterman “Kourtney Kardashian is reportedly pregnant. Just this morning I was thinking to myself, “There just aren’t enough Kardashians.” – Craig Ferguson

“Starbucks has teamed up with Arizona State University to create a program that will pay for Starbucks employees to get a college degree. Starbucks is doing this because without an educated workforce, nobody will be able to afford $10 for a cup of coffee.” – Jimmy Kimmel “Over the weekend Starbucks announced a new program that will pay employees to take online classes at Arizona State. Said Starbucks employees, “We already went there. That’s why we work at Starbucks.” – Seth Meyers

So that’s my report. Congratulations go out to my parents, and particularly my mother, as they are celebrating their 64nd wedding aniversary on Wednesday. I don’t want to say they rushed into it, but they were registering for gifts on their first date.

We’ll catch you leaving the announcing table at TNT and taking the head coaching job with the Golden State Warriors. Aloha, mahalo and later, Steve Kerr fans.


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