Carl Reiner, that classic comedy writer, creator of the Dick Van Dyke television show—and movie director, playwright, performer, impeccable straight man—died last week at age 98.
Here’s one of our favorite scenes from the Dick Van Dyke Show that featured Reiner and Mary Tyler Moore. The set up is that Laura, played by MTM, has blabbed on a television talk show to millions of viewers that Reiner’s vain character—who happens to be her husband’s boss—is bald, so MTM goes to apologize to him, with hilarious results.
During the Great Depression an editor for the NY Times wrote: “We do have to convince millions of our young people that we have not yet come to a social doomsday, and that there is something better for them to do than jump off the deep end ” Well, that was written not in 2020, but in 1936, but it still seems quite applicable for our times.
Jason Boog is the author of a new book published by OR books called The Deep End, and I spoke with him about radical poets and novelists of the 30s, and what we can learn from them in an age of pandemic.
You can listen to my interview with Jason Boog as broadcast today on the Arts Express program on WBAI 99.5FM NYC, WBAI.org, and Pacifica stations across the country by clicking on the triangle or mp3 link above to listen.
I’ve been working on a radio project about the Russian humorist and storyteller, Sholom Aleichem, and while researching his life, I came across some quotes of his that you may enjoy. Like Mark Twain, George Bernard Shaw, and Oscar Wilde, there are so many quotable writings, that the problem becomes limiting oneself to only a few. Here are some of my favorites.
* “And books — she swallows like dumplings.”
* “While I kept playing chess with him, his mind was elsewhere. I took his queen and he took my Rose.”
* Life is a dream for the wise, a game for the fool, a comedy for the rich, a tragedy for the poor.
* The rich swell up with pride, the poor from hunger.
* When you die, others who think they know you, will concoct things about you… Better pick up a pen and write it yourself, for you know yourself best.
* No matter how bad things get you got to go on living, even if it kills you.
* A bachelor is a man who comes to work each morning from a different direction.
* If somebody tells you that you have ears like a donkey, pay no attention. But if two people tell you so, buy yourself a saddle.
* This is an ugly and mean world, and only to spite it we mustn’t weep. If you want to know, this is the constant source of my good spirit, of my humor. Not to cry, out of spite, only to laugh out of spite, only to laugh.
* A wise word is not a substitute for a piece of herring.
On my way home yesterday, my attention was caught by a gentleman sitting in the middle of Union Square at a makeshift table. He was contemplating his manual typewriter, or at least the piece of pastel-colored card stock that was rolled into his typewriter’s batten. The sign hanging from his table said POET FOR HIRE, so I asked him if he could write a poem for me. I told him I didn’t have a lot of cash on me, but I could pay him $5, all the cash I had on me. After a brief conversation he agreed to write a poem for the $5, although it was evidently below the going poetry rate. He asked me a couple of questions about myself, and then asked what I would like the poem to be about. I looked down at his typewriter and suddenly at a loss, I asked for a poem about typewriters. He nodded, murmured, “Very good,” and then said I could also have the poem be about another subject as well. I felt like I needed to reach deeper, so I told him about what had been on my mind for the last few weeks: death. “Uh-huh. Typewriters and Death,” he nodded, unfazed. Rolling a new sheet of stiff pink-colored card stock into the typewriter, he told me to come back in ten minutes.
I was feeling guilty that I had had so little cash available, so I went to a nearby food stand in the park and bought an apple, brownie, and croissant for the poet. I wandered back into the area after ten minutes, and he called me over, telling me the poem was ready. I gave him my $5, and the snacks, which he seemed to like. The poet, Benjamin Aleshire, introduced himself, saying that he was originally from Vermont and now based in New Orleans, but he had spent the last five years going around the world making his living by selling his poems for hire. He was stopping off in New York City for a few weeks now before knocking around Europe. He pulled the poem out of the typewriter and handed it to me. I was a little shy about reading the poem in front of him, as if it were a birthday present one didn’t want to open in front of guests, but I felt I kind of owed him a reading there. It turned out to be a very good poem. I blushed at reading it, thanked him, and took my leave.