I CAN’T SLEEP AND I MISS THE CHEVY CHASE ERA!
Mid-week blogging. I don’t know about it. I’ve had three false starts with this one already.
I’m usually dead asleep by this time (11:27 PM) but I’m keyed up for no good reason so I thought I’d type some stuff into this thing. My wife is sleeping fitfully in the other room, with “Caddyshack” on TV in the background. It felt better to leave it on for some reason. It’s a very comforting thing to have on. Chevy Chase is fantastic in that film. He has total confidence in that role. I know all evidence points to his being a dick, but I can’t bring myself to say anything bad about him. He just puts me instantly at ease, except in “Vegas Vacation”, which is a film I wish could somehow be unmade. I don’t think such an event would make anyone in the world unhappy. The bottom line is I will never have to know Chevy Chase personally, and his films bring me joy and contentment. If he wants to get in near-fistfights with the I’m-sure-equally-dicky-if-more-consistent Bill Murray over twenty years ago or host reportedly excreable talk shows on Fox, more power to him so long as I get to watch “Fletch” and “Vacation” and even “Funny Farm” and “Under the Rainbow”.
Jeez, look at him! He’s practically sultry! I’ll concede that a few seconds staring into those eyes all but confirm the soul of a condescending jagoff, but somehow this compounds my appreciation of a once beloved and now reviled comic icon. That is way bigger than I typically like the size of the pictures of Chevy Chase heads I insert into my blog to be, but what can one do about it?
Somewhere in the far corner of my folks’ basement where all my old stuff is mildewing is a certificate I made in sixth grade out of construction paper and markers that reads “America’s Next Chevy Chase!” I would imagine I made it for school, but it’s not outside the realm of possibility that I made it for fun in the comfort of my own home; I had no doubt passed the time in odder, even less productive ways at the ripe age of twelve. From the look of it, I actually awarded the certificate to myself. It’s hard to know what to think about things like that, but I’m positive I meant it as a compliment. There’s also a brief essay, probably in the same ripping-apart cardboard box as that Chevy Chase certificate, about how if I could choose to be any celebrity, I would choose to be Steve Guttenberg, “because he is funny and I like him”. I stand by those words.
The temptation will always be there to mock these men, but it pains me to do so. I think they both have an earnest desire to entertain, and hail from a simpler, less-referential era of comedy, one in which they (actually them, not their quip-ready, too-cool characters) were anything but the butt of the joke. They went from providing punchlines (or, failing that, lovable wiseguy “what can I say?” smirks) to becoming them. I understand why people make fun of washed-up comedians, and Lord knows I’ve participated in it for cheap laughs (which I will take through most any means in whatever form they are available to me), but I don’t like it. It’s too easy.
I love too easy. I foolishly base my life around too easy. That doesn’t mean it’s any good. I bet Steve Guttenberg and Chevy Chase believe that their comeback movie is waiting just around the bend, but the fact of the matter is that movie would need to literally be Oscar-worthy, beyond a shadow of a doubt, for it to garner anything but the derision of people who have never written anything other than long lists of reasons why the things people other than themselves write aren’t good. A breezy, perfectly likable comedy containing ridiculous, unlikely occurances peppered with goofy one-liners would be excitedly attended by jackasses like myself who fondly recall the heyday of these performers, but would it be because we actually want to see the movie and enjoy ourselves or because we want to be able to write “So-And-So saw ‘Police Academy: The Next Generation’ without shame or remorse” on our Facebook status update and delight in/contribute to the disbelieving and negative comments left by our friends and family? Not to mention the fact that we’d probably wait until it tanked in theaters so we could catch it on dollar night at the cheap seats, or get it on Netflix or Hulu, repaying our so-called childhood heroes by assuring them the swift and thorough deathfuck we seem to need them to experience.
I love to make fun of people, particularly people who were once good at things and are now bad at them, and I’m as adept at it as the next lazy jerk, but is it really providing a service? When we laugh at someone saying not nice things about Joe Piscopo, in the rare event that anyone is discussing him at all (See, I’m making fun of him already! What the hell did Joe Piscopo ever do to me? Other than fail to make me laugh even once at any point in time, I mean. [I can’t stop!]), are we laughing because we genuinely appreciate the wit behind the speaker’s scorn (which seems unlikely given that the brass tacks message is “he is bad at what he does” or “he no longer receives the same amount of money for performing actions that are now considered embarrassing and hackneyed despite their not having changed at all from the time during which we praised and guffawed genuinely at his every word and move” – at face value these are unfortunate circumstances, not jokes) or is just because it comforts us to see someone cut down to size, and we’re laughing because we’re relieved that we didn’t get hit by that particular truck?
People are constantly failing, and when they’re not failing they’re enjoying the failure of others (otherwise known as “not trying”). The only real answer, I guess, is to somehow find a way or perhaps even fool yourself into enjoying your own failure. It’s possible that “enjoying your own failure” might even be the purest definition of success, and even more possible that I’m talking out of my ass. Anyway, everybody making fun of everything all the time, while fun sometimes, has been going on for too long and is getting to be a little much. Awhile ago I bought a stack of old, late 80’s era People magazines at a church rummage sale, and in looking through the film and TV reviews I was struck by how the critics simply gave their opinion of the movie or program, without a single insult, hip joke, fourth-wall-breaking zinger, supposedly self-deprecating comment pointing out how bad that zinger was (“See what I did there?”) hoping to salvage any laughs the previous lame joke purposefully failed to elicit, or unrelated pop culture reference (all of which is, without question, shit that I am, and will no doubt continue to be, guilty of from time to numerous time; otherwise I doubt I’d be this irritated). It was a cool breeze of profound blandness. I came away very refreshed, and have returned to Ralph Novak’s undynamic review of “Back to the Future II” several times.
What exactly am I campaigning for here? Anything? Ease up on has-beens? Maybe a little, but everyone needs a punching bag. Bring back personalityless journalism? Some do the “snarky” (of all the lousy contributions the “aughts” decade has seen fit to crap into our brains, that horrible, nonexistent word easily ranks among the crappiest; however, and unfortunately, it abstractly sums up what it sums up well) thing better than others, resulting in a smart and funny read (Nathan Rabin of the AV Club springs immediately to mind). I wouldn’t want that sort of thing to go away entirely, provided it’s done well. Get rid of the Internet once and for all? Absolutely not. I’d have to go back to watching television and reading books. The Internet, where we all are now, even our parents, is good at a lot of things, but sometimes it seems like it exists solely to point out that various aspects of life suck, including, but not limited to: you, I, and things. All of which may be true, but given that we’re obviously all too chicken to kill ourselves, maybe we could spend a little time determining and concentrating on what we enjoy about life, and even taking away something useful, if not enjoyable, from the shit parts. Enjoying oneself can be the hardest thing in the world, and whether it’s disguised or even intended as a lighthearted goof or not, a constant string of words humorously belittling almost everything can over time wear on one just as much as a person who flat out hates your guts yelling in your face for six hours.
I never used to like the concept of moderation. Now I practically crave it. A little bit of everything is nice. No bandwagons. Dial it down. I’m trying to do the same, with limited but (I hope) perceptible success. In any event, benefit from my words and do as I say!
In closing, no more making fun of Chevy Chase or I will mail you dung.