Archive | August, 2014

Robin Williams Is Dead and It Makes Me Sad

12 Aug

Screen Shot 2014-08-11 at 7.55.47 PM

My relationship with Robin Williams is a bit different. I’m 26-years-old. I didn’t grow up watching him make the great Johnny Carson laugh uncontrollably on late night TV or  prance around in ridiculous outfits while making ridiculous voices on Mork and Mindy. 

The first time Robin Williams made me laugh I didn’t realize that it was Robin Williams who was making me laugh. It was just that big blue genie, who seemed to spit out a thousand words a minute, each one in a different pitch with a different accent. I didn’t understand half of it. It didn’t matter.

But there were lots of people and characters—some real, some fake—who made me laugh as a child. And and all of them hold a special place in my heart. I’m not old by any means. But, as I get a bit older, I do find myself appreciating more the people made me laugh when I was a kid.

The difference with Robin Williams, and what made him special, is that he was still able to make me laugh now, too. This—to be able to make both children and adults laugh at the same bits, and for different reasons—is a skill that very few comedians have. Mel Brooks is one who can. Right now I can’t think of others. Perhaps Bill Murray or Steve Martin or Eddie Murphy. Perhaps.

To this day, if I see Aladin pop up on the TV guide I’ll stop and watch. Every now and then I’ll put on “Prince Ali” if I want a good laugh. Mrs. Doubtfire falls into the same category. I loved it as a child and I can’t stop watching it now. This is a rare trait.

And of course there are all the other wonderful movies and characters he gave us. Good Will Hunting, which might be my favorite movie and where the therapist he played might be my favorite fictional movie character. Hook, which, as a child, was just captivating to watch. Good Morning Vietnam, which I only saw for the first time a few years ago and which quickly was added to my all-time list. Even  Jumanji, a film which, I just learned—I had never looked it up—was not critically acclaimed, but try telling that to 10-year-old me, who must have watched that movie a dozen times. It was one of the video tapes my family we owned.

And that’s just a few titles. There are so, so many more. So many more lines and voices and images to recall, to discuss, to share, to laugh at. Unfortunately, it appears that Robin Williams was only able to serve us—me—so much because he so unable to serve himself. Comedy, we’re often told, comes from the darkest or places. This seems to be another example.

I don’t really have a catchy ending, and don’t really care to put one in here. I’ll just leave off with this tweet that I saw yesterday, one which, to me, just seemed so perfect.

In Defense of Dan Le Batard and Fun

11 Aug

Screen Shot 2014-08-10 at 9.45.48 PM

So, I should start off by saying that I’m a huge fan of Dan Le Batard’s. I find him smart and interesting and funny and I find myself jealous of his writing ability. Perhaps all that makes me biased here. I don’t know.

Anyway, one thing I’ve kind of picked up from him*—and it’s funny that in today’s #HotTakes** world this is now something you sometimes need to reacquire—is that sports are supposed to be fun. So simple, right? Duh! Sports are fun. Everyone knows that. Except we don’t. Just pick up a newspaper or turn on the TV or radio. Sometimes the sports talk is more serious than the political talk, which has for a reason made a decision to emulate sports talk, and now we have serious debates about whether Rex Ryan is a distraction and vaudeville ones about presidential candidates. The world is loopy.

*It also should be noted that irony of lamenting the rise of #HotTakes in a post like this is not lost on me. So it goes.

**I’ve realized that as a young writer/journalist, you, or I, end up picking up morsels from all the different people you admire. The trick, I guess, is to try to learn and absorb as much as you can while figuring out a way to, simultaneously, develop your own voice. I’m probably not as good at that second part as I would like, but that’s neither here nor there. 

Sure, every now and then events surrounding the games and the people that play them are important. There’s no denying that. And I certainly don’t subscribe to the theory (which was so eloquently once put forward to me by a Rabbi of mine who wanted to know how I could care so much about something that’s means so little) that the happenings in the sports world don’t matter, either. Just ask Cleveland whether the economics of sports matter or gay people whether Michael Sam matters—and those are just two recent examples picked out of a (metaphorical) hat.

Here’s where sports talk and how we consume sports flies off the rails, though—when we begin to think that the winners and losers and legacies are important. When debates about fan bases turn violent. Perhaps matter is the wrong word. I think what I’m trying to say is when we take these things too seriously.

I love sports, and am, obviously, all for caring about them. And I think the emotional connections and reactions that sports can create are fantastic and should be cherished. But I also find 99 percent of sports radio shows unbearable. The reason: everything is so SERIOUS! I’m not saying don’t discuss the games and have fun debates; I, like most sports fan, love talking about the greatest NBA teams of all time and where the Mets’ young pitching staff might stack up next year. But if someone disagrees with me I’m not going to go curse them, their mother, their children, their sister and their pet dog.

This is all kind of a roundabout—and probably not so clear—way of getting to Dan Le Batard and his decision to pay for the billboard you see in the picture above. That went up in Akron last week. You can read more about the story here. That this whole thing has become a controversy to give #HotTakes about is completely asinine. This was a radio host spending his own money to get his show some publicity. And to make the city that he’s made clear he loves—and the one who he, for all intents and purposes works for—feel like someone on the national stage has its back. This was all harmless. And, in my opinion, pretty funny.

Notice, there’s nothing critical in that billboard. No shots were taken. It’s a joke, and a good natured one.

It also got him and his show suspended.

Is it so hard to find games fun?