Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Mount Funny

There’s nothing like a good laugh to cure what ails you. No matter what kind of mood you’re in, laughter will improve your outlook.

Some people were put on this earth to make us laugh. I have a great love and affinity for comedians and the art of humor. With that I’d like to pay homage to several funny people who’ve made me laugh throughout my lifetime, Mount Rushmore style.

I’m going to break the Mount Rushmore rules by highlighting those who didn’t make the mountain but still tickle my funny bone just the same. I had no criteria other than I find them amusing and they are in the order I regard them as to how many laughs they’ve provided me over the years. Rating funny is difficult and picking just four is nearly impossible so I picked one person to represent every decade I’ve been alive: 70’s, 80’s, 90’s, 00’s.

And since I’d hate to make a funny person sad, here’s an honorable mention list to boot: Jim Parsons, Amy Poehler, John Candy, Ray Romano, Conan O'Brien, Zach Galifianakis, Jerry Stiller, Nathan Lane, Russell Brand, David Letterman, Bob Hope, Dan Aykroyd, Bob Newhart, Wanda Sykes and Lucille Ball.

25. Jack Black
High Fidelity, School of Rock, Kung Fu Panda, Orange County, Nacho Libre. Jack Black just cracks me up.

Quote: “God of Rock, thank you for this chance to kick [butt]. We are your humble servants. Please give us the power to blow people's minds with our high voltage rock. In your name we pray, Amen.”

24. Michael Keaton
He’s got a trio of highly re-watchable movies that are guaranteed to make you chuckle; Mr. Mom, Beetlejuice, Multiplicity.

Quote: “I understand that you little guys start out with your woobies and you think they're great... and they are, they are terrific. But pretty soon, a woobie isn't enough. You're out on the street trying to score an electric blanket, or maybe a quilt. And the next thing you know, you're strung out on bedspreads Ken. That's serious.”

23. Dick Van Dyke
He’s pretty much done it all. From the Dick Van Dyke show to the Carol Burnett show. From Mary Poppins to Chitty Chitty Bang Bang. When it comes to physical comedy Dick Van Dyke is the king.

Quote: “You know, she's a wonderful girl. She's going to make some head-hunter a great little wife someday.”

22 & 21. Richard Pryor & Gene Wilder
Although both are incredibly talented and funny on their own, how can you not put these two together. Silver Streak, Stir Crazy, See No Evil, Hear No Evil. That’s a dynamic duo. Wilder’s got classics like Willy Wonka and Blazing Saddles and I can’t help but laugh every time I see the clip of Richard Pryor mocking himself with a lit match stick (funny but wrong).

Quotes: “DEAD honky”, “You've got to remember that these are just simple farmers. These are people of the land. The common clay of the new West. You know... morons.”

20. Billy Crystal
Saturday Night Live has spotlighted some of the funniest human beings to ever live and Billy Crystal is the first of many to be named on this list. Miracle Max on Princess Bride is one of my favorites. City Slickers, When Harry met Sally, Analyze This, Monsters Inc., now that’s funny stuff.

Quote: “Value this time in your life kids, because this is the time in your life when you still have your choices, and it goes by so quickly. When you're a teenager you think you can do anything, and you do. Your twenties are a blur. Your thirties, you raise your family, you make a little money and you think to yourself, "What happened to my twenties?" Your forties, you grow a little pot belly you grow another chin. The music starts to get too loud and one of your old girlfriends from high school becomes a grandmother. Your fifties you have a minor surgery. You'll call it a procedure, but it's a surgery. Your sixties you have a major surgery, the music is still loud but it doesn't matter because you can't hear it anyway. Seventies, you and the wife retire to Fort Lauderdale, you start eating dinner at two, lunch around ten, breakfast the night before. And you spend most of your time wandering around malls looking for the ultimate in soft yogurt and muttering "how come the kids don't call?" By your eighties, you've had a major stroke, and you end up babbling to some Jamaican nurse who your wife can't stand but who you call mama. Any questions?”

19. Chevy Chase
Another SNL alum. Caddyshack, any of the Vacation movies, Fletch, Three Amigos, Spies Like Us. You want to laugh give Mr. Chase a look.

Quote: “Remember Danny - Two wrongs don't make a right but three rights make a left.”

18. Eddie Murphy
Bill Simmons may object to his low ranking but this is no slight I assure you. Eddie burst out of SNL with smash 80’s hits like 48hrs, Trading Places, Beverly Hills Cop and Coming to America. Sure he’s done a string of children’s movies but that doesn’t mean they aren’t funny.

Quote: “You can't have my cornbread. That's for damn sure. You try and take my cornbread, Killing Spree, Part 2 gon' begin up in here on your [butt]. You thinking about my cornbread, better get the taste out your mouth. That's for damn sure.”

17 & 16. Jerry Seinfeld and Larry David
Another pair tied at the hip through comedy. Their work on Seinfeld is unmatched. Larry David has gone on to shine with cable appropriate comedy in Curb Your Enthusiasm and Jerry is a first rate stand up but Seinfeld is still their crown jewel.

George: And to think I'd fail at failing...
Jerry: Aw, come on, now.
George: I feel like I can’t do anything wrong.
Jerry: Nonsense. You do everything wrong.
George: You think so?
Jerry: Absolutely. I have no confidence in you.
George: Well, I guess I'll just have to pick myself up, dust myself off, and throw myself right back down again.
Jerry: That's the spirit. You suck.

15. Tim Allen
Better known for Tim “The Tool Man” Taylor and Buzz Lightyear but Tim Allen has one of the funniest stand up bits I’ve seen, Men are Pigs. He’s gone from a foul mouthed comedian to a family film and TV star. He’s played Santa for crying out loud.

Quote: “Women now have choices. They can be married, not married, have a job, not have a job, be married with children, unmarried with children. Men have the same choice we’ve always had: work, or prison.”

14. Chris Farley
There will always be a soft, fat spot in my heart for Chris Farley. Matt Foley is an all time great SNL characters and I’ve quoted Tommy Boy more than almost any other movie in my lifetime. Just his small part as the bus driver in Billy Madison almost brings me to tears.

Quote: “I'd better not. I have what doctors call a little bit of a weight problem. I used to grab bear claws as a kid, two at a time, and I'd get them lodged right in this region here.”

13. Robin Williams
Hysterically funny for decades now. Mork & Mindy, Good Morning Vietnam, Hook, Mrs. Doubtfire, The Birdcage. That’s not even mentioning Aladdin, name one other voice actor who absolutely stole the show in an animated film. You can’t. They should have called it Genie and Aladdin.

Quote: “It's like riding a psychotic horse toward a burning stable.”

12. Jon Stewart
If you’ve ever watched The Daily Show then you know why he’s on here. I don’t care what side of the isle you are on Jonathan Stuart Leibowitz is one funny dude. Also The Daily Show has launched more careers than any comic show outside of SNL, including two of my top 10.

Quote: “Just a quick observation- when people do not want to play the blame game... They’re to blame”

11. Tom Hanks
The Oscar winning and extremely accomplished actor actually started out in comedies. Bachelor Party, The Money Pit, Dragnet, Big, The 'burbs, A League of Their Own and co-starring with our No. 15 comedian in Toy Story.

Quote: “Hear about that guy up in the Bronx? Just went crazy; thought he was a pigeon. They've found him in the park, throwing breadcrumbs at himself.”

10. Tina Fey
The current holder of the “Funniest Woman Alive” trophy. Her time on SNL was great. Her big screen efforts in Baby Mama and Date Night are solid but both pale in comparison to Liz Lemon and her adventures in 30 Rock. That’s my new shameful way to waste an evening sitting down and watching syndicated 30 Rock reruns.

Quote: “Hey, nerds! Who has two thumbs, speaks limited French and hasn't cried once today? This moi.”

9. Kevin James
Speaking of hours well wasted on syndicated reruns, King of Queens is an awesome way to kill a half hour. For us fat guys Sweating the Small Stuff is a hilarious stand up routine as well. He’s done some movies too but who cares.

Quote: “I'm going to come up with something so romantic and heartfelt it's gonna make you feel like a piece of crap! A piece of crap!”

8. Steve Carell
Our first Daily Show graduate who has, comedically speaking, conquered the big and small screens. The Office’s Michael Scott is a character we will never see the like again. Evan Almighty, Get Smart, Despicable Me and his role alongside No. 10 Tina Fey in Date Night will definitely leave you smiling and satisfied. That’s what she said!

Quote: “Last week I would've given a kidney to anyone in this office. I would've reached right into my stomach and pulled it out for them. But now, no. I don't have the relationship with these people that I thought I did. I hope they ask, so they can hear me say, "Uh, no, I only give my organs to my real friends. Go get yourself a monkey kidney.”

7. Will Ferrell
This kicks off a slew of SNL standouts. Although most of his film are a little off color; Old School, Anchor Man, Talladega Nights, not to mention, he’d be on this list solely for his role as Buddy in Elf. My all time favorite Christmas movie by a mile and he is amazing in it. Our family quotes that movie the entire month of December. It’s causing me physical pain to only highlight one quote here.

Quote: “First we'll make snow angels for a two hours, then we'll go ice skating, then we'll eat a whole roll of Tollhouse Cookiedough as fast as we can, and then we'll snuggle.”

6. Steve Martin
This wild and crazy guy is far more than a compilation of his movies but just that compilation alone is impressive. The Jerk, The Three Amigos, Planes, Trains & Automobiles, Parenthood, Father of the Bride, Cheaper by the Dozen, The Pink Panther and an underrated appearance in Baby Mama.

Quote: “I'll tell you what I'm doing. I want to buy eight hot dogs and eight hot dog buns to go with them. But no one sells eight hot dog buns. They only sell twelve hot dog buns. So I end up paying for four buns I don't need. So I am removing the superfluous buns. Yeah. And you want to know why? Because some big-shot over at the wiener company got together with some big-shot over at the bun company and decided to rip off the American public. Because they think the American public is a bunch of trusting nit-wits who will pay for everything they don't need rather than make a stink. Well they're not ripping of this nitwit anymore because I'm not paying for one more thing I don't need. George Banks is saying NO!”

5. Bill Murray
I don’t even feel the need to make a case for Mr. Murray, also an SNL giant. Go see these movies and thank me later: Caddyshack, Ghostbusters, What About Bob?, Groundhog Day and The Man Who Knew Too Little.

Quote: “This is pitiful. A thousand people freezing their butts off waiting to worship a rat. What a hype. Groundhog Day used to mean something in this town. They used to pull the hog out, and they used to eat it. You're hypocrites, all of you!”

Carol Burnett
Without question, in my mind, Carol Burnett is the Queen of funny women. Matter of fact I’d say that the funniest woman alive trophy should be henceforth and forever bare her name. Pick any one of her variety shows and you are guaranteed to laugh out loud. She even made the villain in Annie both loveable and hilarious. Beyond the characters she’s played she’s just a supremely funny individual.

Quote: “Adolescence is just one big walking pimple.”

Bill Cosby
The Cosby Show really defines the ideal American family for most and Cosby as the patriarch was superb. It’s no wonder that his comedy revolved largely around his family. You want to treat yourself just sit down and watch an hour or so of Bill Cosby: Himself. Now that’s high comedy.

Quote: “When you're a father you censor yourself. You get just as angry with a child but you don't want to say, "What the filth and foul and I'll filth and foul, filth and foul and, yeah, ya filth and foul face, and I'll filth and foul, foul, filth!" You don't want to say that to a child so you censor yourself and you sound like an idiot: "What the... Get your... I'll put a... Get out of my face!"”

Adam Sandler
Say what you want about his movies but I came of age with Adam Sandler’s brand of humor. It’s why I’m so demented. In junior high we’d listen to his CD’s which are full of his vulgar warped sense of humor and we’d laugh and laugh. I still laugh thinking about it. After SNL he went on to make some pretty funny films too: Billy Madison, Happy Gilmore, The Wedding Singer, The Waterboy, Big Daddy, Mr. Deeds, Anger Management, 50 First Dates and the only one I’ll let my kids watch, Bedtime Stories. I'm well aware this is a controversial one and I don't care.

Quote: “No I will not make out with you. Did ya hear that? this girl wants to make out with me in the middle of class. You got Chlorophyll Man up there talking about God knows what and all she can talk about is making out with me. I'm here to learn, everybody, not to make out with you. Go on with the chlorophyll.”

Stephen Colbert
Not only was he a correspondent on The Daily Show but he wrote for SNL too. If you’ve never watched The Colbert Report you are missing out. Four times a week Stephen T. Colbert brings it like no other. How he stays in character night after night is beyond me. I tune in just waiting to see what he’ll do next.

Quote: “Sure they may be old and sick, but as Jesus said, "Walk it off."”

Friday, November 11, 2011

Care In The Least

Earlier this week I wrote about a powerful principle as it relates to the NBA and its fans. The more I thought about it the more I felt it deserved further consideration.

The principle of least interest goes like this, “In any relationship, the person who has the least interest has the greatest power.” - Willard Waller

There are two types are people in play here; those who understand and respect this principle and those who repeatedly fall victim to it.

Play back the relationships you’ve had in your life, look at the relationship you are in at the moment. Now tell me it’s not true. Liar!

I’m reminded of this daily as my wife owns me. It was over before it started. I was immediately smitten by her and longed to be near her. I gladly forfeit this power as I am overwhelming interested in her and her happiness.

There are times when it is out of our control. For instance, if you work for a large company odds are their interest in you being employed is less than your interest in having a job. Therefore it’s probably unwise to show up late in flip flops and a Hawaiian shirt to gut a fish on your desk unless your interest in being employed with them has waned.

Sometimes this power just swings naturally to us without thought or effort. If you really want Chinese food and would gladly dine alone and your friend wants Italian but really wants to talk with you over dinner, he’d better get his mind wrapped around dim sum and sweet and sour pork because that’s what he’ll be eating tonight.

Women are in the driver’s seat in one particular area that men care about infinitely more than they do. They will always have the power in this sextuation, I mean situation. Women will always have the power in this situation. [Apologies to any minors who may have been shocked or offended by the preceding sentences. That begs the question, why is a minor reading a 1,000 word article on interpersonal relationships? But I digress] Oh and guys don’t even bother trying to fake disinterest to retake the power. That’s like trying to outlast a camel in the desert. That hump’s got water for days and days, you will lose.

Relationships aren’t just about people close to us either. I love shopping for cars. Salesmen are crafty little devils, full of tricks. You go to them because you want something they’ve got and they know it. They will seek to create urgency and scarcity to drive up your level of interest and their level of power in this relationship. Understanding this principle is paramount to getting a good deal. Here’s a story to illustrate what I’m talking about.

Years ago I was looking to purchase my first car. I found an ad on for a used 1999 Isuzu Rodeo for $9,000. I called on it and went down to the dealership with my friend. We took it for a test drive and it was just what I was looking for. I really wanted this car. The salesman told me that there had been a mistake on the ad and that the Rodeo was actually $11,900. Shaking my printout at him I said, “Not for me it’s not.”

He agreed to honor my price after changing the price to $11,900 online right in front of me. I said, “Good deal. That’s still more than I want to pay.” He looked at me like I was a crazy person and started telling me that he had people lined up to look at this vehicle later that evening. At the time we were expecting our first child and I started telling him about all the diapers I’d soon be buying. He was unfazed.

After several entertaining minutes he’d come down a few hundred dollars but he was still a little higher than I wanted. I thanked him for his time and left my number with him saying I needed to sleep on it and we left.

I wanted that car and I thought I was getting a good deal but that’s not the point. I had called him and therefore he had the power. By leaving and forcing him to call me I could take back that power. I didn’t sleep all night as I thought about the fictional other buyers who no doubt had scooped up that killer deal leaving me wanting. My morning bowl of cereal tasted like emptiness and despair as I waited for the phone call. Many times I fought the urge to call him and see if the car was still available. Finally the phone rang and I heard the voice of Mr. Isuzu Sales Guy on the line. I pretended to not have been waiting for his call and half-heartedly committed to returning and talking about the Rodeo. As I hung up the phone an evil laugh involuntarily emitted from my person as I felt the power coursing through my veins. Oh the power, the absolute power! Ha ha ha haaaaaaa!

Wait, what was I talking about? Oh right, interest and power.

Of course there is risk with this kind of tactic as you may be dealing with someone who is truly less interested than you. You have to be prepared to lose out if that is the case [see above camel in the desert analogy].

The lesson here is temperament. Wanting something is fine but there’s no need to be reckless. If you’ve lost the upper hand in a relationship you’ve got no one to blame but yourself. Taking a relaxed or even an aloof approach sometimes is the wise path. Be cautious though because being indifferent or callous to someone you care about is just stupid.

The principle of least interest is like building a fire. You can’t just stack piles and piles of wood on and light a match, you’ll smother it. The fire needs fuel, it needs room to breathe. Put a little space between you and what you want, be willing to let it breathe, and before you know it you’ll be enjoying the warmth and light from the flames.

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Dear NBA fans,

As the NBA owners and players sit in New York in an ego and greed driven standoff NBA fans sit at home powerlessly waiting to see who wins, knowing that whoever it is we’ve already lost.

We’ve lost games, we’ve lost respect, we’ve lost patience and, what should be alarming to the NBA, we’ve lost interest.

Willard Waller, a 20th century sociologist said, “In any relationship, the person who has the least interest has the greatest power.”

Sure the lockout features greedy millionaires fighting for dollars. To be fair to the players and owners the NBA economic system is clearly flawed and the players are just fighting for what they deem to be a fair deal. But this is about a relationship, not just between the players and owners but between a league and its fans. And all the fans want is basketball.

What’s become painfully transparent in all this is who has the power in this relationship. Where do all those millions of dollars they’re fighting for come from? The fans? Not directly. It comes from interest. Whether we shell out money for tickets and concessions or sit on our couches wearing team apparel and consuming beverages advertised at commercial breaks, interest fuels the league.

That interest, however, does not translate into power for the fans. Our interest in them, or rather their lack of interest in us, ultimately gives them the greater power.

As fans we care for teams and players on a level they will never care for us. We know the players names and when and where “our” team plays. We know exactly when we became a fan and why we stay one.

I once remarked while watching a game, “I hate that guy.” My friend turned to me and said, “Really? He doesn’t even know you’re alive.”

You see, as fans, we’re in a relationship where we’ll always come in last.

We buy jerseys or make signs to show our support. We check the scores and stats in the paper or follow them online. We sit in the stands like a love struck school girl and talk incessantly with friends and coworkers about “our” team when, at best, they are vaguely aware of our existence. We are their fan but to them we are one of thousands. While we are theirs they will never be ours.

Do the NBA owners and players care about their fans? Yes and no. Yes they care about the interest we generate in them and the league. That interest equals power and money. However, even if they wanted to, they can’t care for fans the way that fans care for them. This lockout has painfully illustrated that.

The Phoenix Suns are better than almost anyone at engaging their fans; their online presence and social media initiatives are second to none. The first day of the NBA lockout they were forced, along with every other team, to remove all images of players and were banned from using their names or referencing the lockout in any way.

Steve Nash famously tweeted, “NBA lockout day 1: Since player photos’ve been taken off team websites I’m having a garage sale of all my suns gear @canal and broadway. Cheap.”

Since then the Suns have posted pictures of former players and carefully worded poll questions about favorite past Suns team members. So the grownups can’t get along and of course it’s the kids that suffer. They continue to squabble over petty differences with little regard to its impact on us; all the while posting pictures of the good old days in the hopes we’ll still be around when they need us again.

The owners and players are banking on the fact that we will come back to them when they are ready. We have all the interest and they’ll have all the power. Like it or not that is the way this relationship will always work. The lockout didn’t cause that, it just shed new light on it.

When it’s all said and done and they’ve divided up the money and opened their doors once more and professional basketball returns they’ll no doubt try to reconcile with fans. The question we fans will have to ask ourselves, knowing now where we stand, is do we still want to be in this relationship?

Being Aaron in your inbox? Enter your email address below to sign up.