Tag Archives: Comedians

The Wild Comedian Breaks Free

How Comedy Can Transport Us Beyond the Walls of Conformity

I loved the first season of Amazon’s, The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel. For me, it is timely historical fiction at its best. It features the story of a woman in the 1950’s who starts to question the tightly wound structure of her reality after her husband unexpectedly leaves her. Throwing herself into the world of stand-up comedy, she finds she has a natural talent for it.  Her first two times in front of the microphone, she gets arrested for obscenity but it is really because she went beyond the bounds of where society felt safe. On the show, she becomes friends with Lenny Bruce, comedy’s pioneer crusader for seeking truth outside of society’s comfort zone. Lenny helped pave the way for the wild men and women who dared to laugh at the elephants and asses in the room.

Comedians have the prerogative to laugh at what we hide behind. They are the ones that get to speak truth to conformity and fear.  The wildest comedians have a driving ambition to break out of all constraints.

I remember watching John Belushi on Saturday Night Live and in Animal House, and feeling that he might actually be able to explode right out of his body.

Comedians like Mel Brooks were my first heroes.  They brought a zaniness to life that seemed to expand its possibilities for me.  By the time I was in High School, I actively declared, “Normalcy is a fallacy!” I had caught the same bug that prompts the comedian to go beyond boundaries, to discover a larger, less confined space in which to dance.

The wildness of many comedians, conventionally, has been associated with alcohol and drugs, which can break down walls of inhibition. There is a labyrinth of defenses that we have built around us, not only individually and culturally, but historically as a race.  So, while the conventional means of breaking down a few barriers seems to work, part of us may yearn to find another way to go out past our collective defenses.

Jim Carey started off as a wild comedian, who seemed like he could turn his body into rubber and bounce off the walls into another dimension. After making the film, “Man on the Moon,” about Andy Kaufman, another comedian who pushed reality to the edge, Jim went on an odyssey to learn how to transcend societies’ corral.

Recently, I watched Jim’s 2014 commencement speech at the Maharishi University of Management. It is well worth watching. He is still his animated best, but has come to a calm place within that is not limited by his physical form.

Jim Carrey’s Commencement Address at the 2014 Maharishi University of Management:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=V80-gPkpH6M

Jim then grew the long beard, that has become associated with philosophers, gurus and seekers. He began to risk sounding insane while talking to the paparazzi, declaring that he didn’t exist, that he was just another character, like the many colorful characters in his 40 films.

“I played the guy that was free from concern so the people who watched me would be free from concern.”- Jim Carey

Jim is identifying, not as a “Me” but as the energy that animates all things.

“It’s a play, it’s a giant field of consciousness dancing for itself. “

“We all long to belong, and the truth is, we do. We already belong to the wholeness within us and every living thing. The plethora of groups, communities, circles, families, here on our planet are like flowers, they allow for variance of taste to offer us the opportunity to connect to the beauty that we are.  However we connect to this wholeness, the joy lies in our ability to celebrate it within our interactions.”

“The effect that you have on others is the most valuable currency there is.  All that will be left of you will be what was in your heart.”- Jim Carey

I am grateful for the drive that continues to play with reality and wake us up from complacency. Waking up to the richness of being, provides so much to rejoice in. I am especially thankful for the bouquet of interactions that I have with everything around me, especially you. This certainly is a wild ride that affords us the chance to literally laugh our asses off.

 

 

 

 

Robin WIlliams- Goodnight Sweet Prince

In the midst of our push forward, whether it is for a campaign or work, or just keeping on top of our reality, the news of Robin Williams is a tragic opportunity to pause and reflect where we are.
 
In the midst of our push forward, whether it is for a campaign or work, or just keeping on top of our reality, the news of Robin Williams is a tragic opportunity to pause and reflect where we are.
 
For me, Robin was a mentor, a hero, a victory of the absurd over the downcast dour face of normalcy. The pressure to conform to a media-projected image of ‘correct behavior’ is enough to crush the free will and spirit of humanity.  It is the bravado of the comedians, the poets as well as the calmness of the wise that allow any of us to be sane. 
 
Robin attacked not only his depression but the collective despair of humanity with a lightsaber of wit that few of us could keep up with or comprehend.  He fought against the windmills and won for a long time; longer, I imagine he thought he was capable of.  Public criticism and worse, indifference acted as the Knight of the Mirrors to his valor and need to be in the saddle.  It is our image of ourselves that can unhinge us from our true being.
 

This is perhaps the most insightful thing I have read by a friend of Robin’s, Peter Coyote:

Robin William’s Last Gift

“Robin and I were friends. Not intimate, because he was very shy when he was not performing. Still, I spent many birthdays and holidays at his home with Marsha and the children, and he showed up at my 70th birthday to say “Hello” and wound up mesmerizing my relatives with a fifteen minute set that pulverized the audience.

When I heard that he had died, I put my own sorrow aside for a later time. I’m a Zen Buddhist priest and my vows instruct me to try to help others. So this little letter is meant in that spirit.

Normally when you are gifted with a huge talent of some kind, it’s like having a magnificent bicep. People will say, “Wow, that’s fantastic” and they tell you, truthfully, that it can change your life, take you to unimaginable realms. It can and often does. The Zen perspective is a little different. We might say, “Well, that’s a great bicep, you don’t have to do anything to it. Let’s work at bringing the rest of your body up to that level.”

Robin’s gift could be likened to fastest thoroughbred race-horse on earth. It had unbeatable endurance, nimbleness, and a huge heart. However, it had never been fully trained. Sometimes Robin would ride it like a kayaker tearing down white-water, skimming on the edge of control. We would marvel at his courage, his daring, and his brilliance. But at other times, the horse went where he wanted, and Robin could only hang on for dear life.

In the final analysis, what failed Robin was his greatest gift—his imagination. Clutching the horse he could no longer think of a single thing to do to change his life or make himself feel better, and he stepped off the edge of the saddle. Had the horse been trained, it might have reminded him that there is always something we can do. We can take a walk until the feeling passes. We can find someone else suffering and help them, taking the attention off our own. Or, finally, we can learn to muster our courage and simply sit still with what we are thinking are insoluble problems, becoming as intimate with them as we can, facing them until we get over our fear. They may even be insoluble, but that does not mean that there is nothing we can do.

Our great-hearted friend will be back as the rain, as the cry of a Raven as the wind. He, you and I have never for one moment not been a part of all it. But we would be doing his life and memory a dis-service if we did not extract some wisdom from his choice, which, if we ponder deeply enough, will turn out to be his last gift. He would beg us to pay attention if he could.”

– Peter Coyote

Photo: Robin William’s Last Gift
Robin and I were friends. Not intimate, because he was very shy when he was not performing. Still, I spent many birthdays and holidays at his home with Marsha and the children, and he showed up at my 70th birthday to say “Hello” and wound up mesmerizing my relatives with a fifteen minute set that pulverized the audience.
     When I heard that he had died, I put my own sorrow aside for a later time. I’m a Zen Buddhist priest and my vows instruct me to try to help others. So this little letter is meant in that spirit.
     Normally when you are gifted with a huge talent of some kind, it’s like having a magnificent bicep. People will say, “Wow, that’s fantastic” and they tell you, truthfully, that it can change your life, take you to unimaginable realms. It can and often does. The Zen perspective is a little different. We might say, “Well, that’s a great bicep, you don’t have to do anything to it. Let’s work at bringing the rest of your body up to that level.”
    Robin’s gift could be likened to fastest thoroughbred race-horse on earth. It had unbeatable endurance, nimbleness, and a huge heart. However, it had never been fully trained. Sometimes Robin would ride it like a kayaker tearing down white-water, skimming on the edge of control. We would marvel at his courage, his daring, and his brilliance. But at other times, the horse went where he wanted, and Robin could only hang on for dear life.
     In the final analysis, what failed Robin was his greatest gift---his imagination.  Clutching the horse he could no longer think of a single thing to do to change his life or make himself feel better, and he stepped off the edge of the saddle. Had the horse been trained, it might have reminded him that there is always something we can do. We can take a walk until the feeling passes. We can find someone else suffering and help them, taking the attention off our own. Or, finally, we can learn to muster our courage and simply sit still with what we are thinking are insoluble problems, becoming as intimate with them as we can, facing them until we get over our fear. They may even be insoluble, but that does not mean that there is nothing we can do.
     Our great-hearted friend will be back as the rain, as the cry of a Raven as the wind. He, you and I have never for one moment not been a part of all it. But we would be doing his life and memory a dis-service if we did not extract some wisdom from his choice, which, if we ponder deeply enough, will turn out to be his last gift. He would beg us to pay attention if he could.

_________________

 
The beauty and strength of our vulnerability allows us to recognize where we overlap, blend, bleed into one another.  We are all in need and have a strength that can support those around us while appreciating what is being offered to us. I appreciate what Peter has offered to us here. We can appreciate what Robin offered. All those victories of his, on film, live on stage and in person. They are real and live on. So often we judge or just look at the end but it is the living that reflects what is beyond what we can understand.
 
Let Shakespeare through Horatio speak for me: “Now cracks a noble heart. Good night sweet prince: And flights of angels sing thee to thy rest.”
 
Love you, Ira