Monday, May 4, 2015

Laughter Is the Best Medicine--Sometimes

Kids in the Hall, photo by Joe del Tufo
Last night I went to Kids in the Hall comedy sketch show at the Grand in Wilmington. As a cultural phenomenon, I knew nothing of their work. Nothing. So basically Mark and I put our bucks on the line at the recommendation of our friends, cognoscenti of all things entertainment. We do that from time to time. Okay, almost all the time. We look to our new friends in Arden to recommend everything from movies to restaurants, music shows to theater. They lead. We follow. For Kids in the Hall, we were promised belly laughs like we never had before. And while we found them to be supremely entertaining, I believe they were overbilled. Mark and I did not have an investment the catalog of their work on their TV show and the nostalgia that it inspired. It was all new. As Kevin MacDonald sung his comic introduction of the group for those girlfriends dragged here by their 41-year-old boyfriends, I began to see that I was not the target audience, but that I could still readily enjoy the offerings. It just might mean that the "boyfriends" who had brought us to this event might have to reciprocate with something in our realm of our young adult wistfulness. I am trying to decide what that might be. Perhaps some of the failure of the evening to live up to the promise was the fact that downtown Wilmington had only one restaurant/pub open for pregaming.  Chelsea Tavern was filled to the gills. We walked aimlessly around the Market Street area, but nothing, not even the pizza or sandwich joints were open on a Sunday night. We ended up having bad wine in plastic cups and some packaged peanuts and cheese crackers in the Grand's bar. Very disappointed in downtown Wilmington on a Sunday evening. Who knew they shut down?

I had high hopes for this show. Actually, I had more on the line than anyone knows. It wasn't fair, because honestly, KITH were great. As was the meet and greet afterwards in the pinball machine-studded lobby of Mobius New Media. My friends do know how to pick entertainment. It is just that my expectations were skewed. I have been to a show in the recent past in which I laughed so hard that my abs hurt for days after and I had the worst headache in recent memory--all from laughing. Two years ago, in June, my sister and I took our dad to see Bill Cosby perform live in a show that was to support the School District of Lancaster.

Bill was a staple of my childhood, well into my young adulthood. Our Cosby indoctrination started with Fat Albert when we were kids watching Saturday morning cartoons. Our dad would watch with us if it wasn't basketball season. And nothing was funnier than watching my dad watch a Cosby stand-up comedy routine. We would laugh incredulously at his high-pitched giggle--nosies that we never heard coming from this man who was known more for his bellow. My sister, Jan, has a dead-on impression of Cosby's dentist bit that she has been performing since she was ten.  My bu-lip-ip is on the b-floor. Jan and I never just texted each other, ok. We used the Cosby-inspired OBKB from that sketch. And I don't think there is an episode of The Cosby Show I haven't seen. I was such a Cosby fan that Mark and I even went on a date to see that clunker of a movie, Leonard, Part VI--in the theater!

So getting tickets to see Cosby live for our dad for Father's Day 2013 was a no-brainer. That one show is my personal benchmark for comedy. I have never laughed harder in my life. It was a perfect memory. Until recently. Hannibal Buress told us we should have known before that time period. It was out there. We chose to ignore the press. I feel guilty for that. Now my perfect memory is tainted. I want to laugh harder than I did that day. I want to take my dad somewhere else, more perfect, for Father's Day. (And I realize that more perfect is not a thing--but I want it to be possible.) I believe the women who have accused Cosby of unspeakable things. But I also believe that a person isn't just one-dimensional. As a writer, I give my characters nuance, good and bad traits, because that is realistic. We are not our best, nor are we our worst traits. We have talents to cultivate and demons to overcome. Bill Cosby's worst traits goes way beyond nuance. He is a criminal who has used celebrity to bypass the system. His crimes were against those who were not only vulnerable to his power as an industry great--that was bad enough--but he went the extra step of assuring that these women were physically inert. I do not live in a black and white world. I prefer the grays. They are so much more interesting. So I can hold two ideas of one person in my head. I can see Bill Cosby for the good he has done, as well as his horrific misdeeds. But I can no longer celebrate the good he has done because he has never answered to his crimes. I am not saying I could celebrate him even if he did own up and take the sentence he deserves. (In my opinion, this would involve incarceration for the rest of his days as well as financial restitution where it would help.) But if ever he had a chance at redemption in my heart, I would, at the very least, need to hear some ownership and apologies for his actions. He is a sick man. He is a misogynist and a criminal. And he is a comic genius.

It was way too much to ask Kids in the Hall to take me to that place where I could laugh away that painful dichotomy and set a new bar for live comedy. But for ninety minutes they did entertain me and make me forget about the torn cape of my hero, mostly because who can resist a man in drag much less five guys wearing wedding gowns. I will keep on trying. Next time Amy Schumer comes to Wilmington, I am there. She gets it. I'll invite Jan to join us, but we will probably have to leave my dad home for that one.

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