Under the "it's hot out" umbrella:
Believe it or not, I found a copy of the Man From U.N.C.L.E. novel I was discussing last week, on eBay of all places. It's called "The Affair of the Gentle Saboteur," and while my memory of the writing wasn't as accurate as I'd hoped, I can now quote the passages I was citing in the last post:
Page 31: (Taking place not in a cab but in a tobacco shop) "Hot," Waverly said grumpily. "Beastly hot, this town."
"Awfully hot, sir,This isn't our best season of the year in Washington, is it?"
"July--definitely not. Quite an inferno out there."
So not quite as long an exchange as I'd thought, but wait! Two pages later, Waverly DOES get into a cab, and the following action-packed exchange takes place:
"Hot," the cab driver said.
"July in Washington--but the hottest," the cab driver said.
"Hot," Waverly said, puffing contentedly.
(Do you get the feeling it was a little warm when the guy was writing this?)
I paid $8 including shipping. That's the kind of sacrifice I'll make for you, dear reader.
But that's not why I asked you here today:
A few days ago, the MLB Network (home for those of us who are obsessed with what once was our National Pastime, leading me to wonder if, say, Indonesia has a National Pastime?) aired a special in which Bob Costas spent a half hour interviewing Jerry Seinfeld specifically on the Abbott & Costello classic "Who's On First?". If you haven't seen the special, I recommend it. Costas really isn't the guy for this interview, but he's the closest MLB has. But Seinfeld is EXACTLY the guy to talk to about this. He's a comedian who really studies the craft and can talk about it for hours.
It's rare that I feel a rush of ego--life is good at reminding you that you're not that big a deal--but every once in a while when I see really intelligent comedians discussing the craft, I think, "I could hang with those guys. I can speak that language. I understand funny, and how it works." All of which might be true, but there's one big difference that bursts my ego balloon before it really gets a chance to inflate.
There ain't no way I could ever do stand-up comedy.
Keep in mind, I write funny on purpose. I see how it works when someone truly gifted has an audience in the palm of his/her hand. I get the rhythm, and I know comedy is closer to music than literature. I even have a good deal of experience speaking in front of "crowds". I have no terror of public speaking.
But I couldn't begin to write myself more than twelve seconds of material, let alone the hour or more the really big comedians have to create on a regular basis. Build a joke and then build it more and then hope that after you build it even more than that, not only will you not forget what you have to say, but that you'll say it the right way, and the audience will be in the right mood to get it (and that no dishes will be dropped during a punchline or a heckler drowning out the necessary set-up)? Um... thanks, but no. I'll be here in the audience, trying to think of something to write in a book.
I don't think there's a job as hard as being consistently funny armed with nothing but your mind and a microphone (sometimes just your mind). I really don't. President of the United States? Look at some of the dolts who've held that position, and you have to conclude that the world might be worse off for them, but it's still spinning. Nuclear physicist? Yeah, that's tough, but you know what? Those people are really well educated in their craft. A comedian has to be self-taught. How many genius comics can you name who came out of the odd Learning Annex course on stand-up?
Geniuses of comedy like Seinfeld, Bill Cosby, Robin Williams and the current rage Louis C.K. take the gifts they're given genetically and they figure out what to do with them. And do it better than everybody else.
I was talking recently to a friend I had not seen in quite some time, and one of the things she said was, "You should do stand-up! You're funny, and you know how to talk in front of an audience." And I hope I'm not being obnoxious in saying that's not the first time it's been said to me.
Like the other times, I shook the suggestion off, perhaps more vehemently than was expected. "I'm not nearly brave enough," I said, which is true. Because I'm sure I couldn't do it well.
So I'll stand in the back, appreciate the art and the craft, and I'll write my books. And maybe some day I'll be in a room with one or more of those great comic minds, and we'll have a good talk about how it all works.
That's really the most I could ever hope for, and I'm fine with that.
By the way, today is "Buy Books For Steve" day, trying to help an author without health insurance pay for his bone marrow transplant. Please take a look here and buy something if you can, or just donate.