CELEBRATING WITH SEINFELD
My dad had a couple of Kingston Trio records, my mom an Elvis greatest hits collection, and at a garage sale once I bought a Buddy Holly record. I liked his glasses. Other than that there was no music in our house.
But early in the morning, while getting dressed for school, or late at night, always at the lowest volume possible, I hovered over the plastic record player beside my bed and listened intently to Bill Cosby and Robin Williams. Not the best staple for a developing mind but it got me through childhood and adolescence.
It made me the class clown and became my tool of choice for forging nervousness and self-loathing into approval from my peers and teachers. It taught me how to perform, how to time a joke and milk the ordinary for extraordinary, if only temporary, happiness. Laughing thrilled me like nothing else as a kid and I've always enjoyed infecting others with the same pleasure.
It must have been odd, to say the least, for my parents to watch their eight year-old recite an entire monologue from a comedy record, deleting the bad words along the way of course. Odder still for them to see me telling jokes of my own to crowds more than twenty years later who buy my "records." Odd to them but a dream come true for me.
Becky and I both love comedy, clean comedy, which is hard to find. Well, it's hard to find any that's still funny. Rarer still is smart comedy. Let's be honest, these are the days of the catch phrase, the "gitter dones" and "you might be a rednecks" are as ample as mindless feel good cliches on Christian radio and lowbrow brawls on daytime talk shows. Everyone's dumbing down and piling up the money as a result.
I guess that's one reason I loved Seinfeld when he first filled my TV screen. In a time of Chris Rock raunchiness and dozens of imitators Seinfeld was original in his refusal to stoop for applause. Truly funny intelligent people, I've always thought, don't need to use "shit" instead of a pronoun. And Seinfeld doesn't. Instead, I've watched amazed as this ordinary guy takes situations from my ordinary life and makes them extraordinarily hilarious in unpredictable ways.
So tonight, because comedy is a shared love of ours, and because Seinfeld is one of the best American comedians ever, we went to see Jerry at the Tennessee Performing Arts Center in Nashville. We bought some of the last seats available, way up high and off to one side. He looked tiny but the whit was as massive as ever. And his new material is even easier for us to relate to now that he's married with kids.
I didn't stop laughing all night. I actually slapped my knee. What a great way for becky and I to celebrate eight years of great times together: smiling.
And I'm so thankful now that my earliest influences weren't serious rock stars but people like me who poke fun at themselves and remind us all that life is filled with punchlines and reasons to grin. We just have to notice them. Thank you Mr. Seinfeld for helping us do that tonight.
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