Tuesday, February 13, 2018

Nurse the Hate: The Bob Hope Idea




A question I always find annoying is any variation of “Guess who I saw yesterday?”.  This question is clearly meant as a device to steer a conversation, but it wastes time.  Just tell me who you saw yesterday so I can react to it.  That’s where we are headed anyway.  Thus, whenever I am asked that question I always answer the same way.  “Guess who I ran into yesterday at the coffee shop?”  Bob Hope.  

There is inevitably a confused reaction to that answer.  I like it when I see the baffled “why did he think I ran into a dead comedian at Starbucks?” scenario run through their heads as their initial enthusiasm fades from their face.  I also like to make a cultural reference that is so completely outdated it might as well be Fatty Arbuckle or Mae West.  The last time I saw Bob Hope mentioned was when a boxed set of DVDs of his television specials whisked by me on a lonely cable channel a decade ago.  Most people know that Bob Hope was famous, but aren’t exactly sure why. 

Comedy is interesting in how it only reflects that exact time.  There are almost no comedies that transcend time.  Maybe an argument can be made for some Chaplin films or the Three Stooges (who I detest and never thought were funny).  Some George Carlin or Richard Pryor from the 70s holds up.  Regardless, it’s a very thin list.  It’s impossible to sit through a Lenny Bruce clip.  When is the last time someone told a JJ Walker joke?  Laugh-In is cringe worthy.  Watching old television comedy clips makes you wonder why the audience is cackling like hyenas.  How could they have thought this was so funny?

Case in point…  I dare you to make it through a Bob Hope USO Tour monologue.  Take a “modern” one like a Vietnam appearance.  Bob comes out with his golf outfit swinging his club and tells absolutely awful jokes.  The film then cuts to GIs laughing their asses off.  It must be fake.  There is no way that these 20 year olds that have been getting shot at in the jungle can be whooping it up to terrible Bob Hope jokes.  The answer must be that time changes us collectively in ways we can’t see day-to-day, but add up quietly to make irreversible differences.  Maybe the same young men that laughed it up that day would look at the clip as gray haired men today and think “Bob really sucks.  What was I laughing at?”.  Culture moves slowly like a cloud across the sky. 

Based on that idea of the past being a unique moment, I wonder if everyone in the 1940s spoke like the movie dialogue of the time.  It must have been cities filled with people speaking in fast clipped sentences.  The only difference would have been that instead of saying dramatic things like “Don’t fall for me.  Don’t do it kid.  You know I have to go.  I have to go fight the Japs.  You don’t need me.  I’m a flyboy.  I’m as good as dead.  As good as dead kid.  Find yourself another fella.”, they would have been talking like this,  “I’d like eggs.  Two eggs.  Two scrambled eggs.  And bacon.  Don’t forget bacon.  Toast on the side?  Sure kid.  Toast on the side would be swell.”.  Otherwise any time they would have watched films they would have whispered to each other “Why do they talk to each other like that?” as soon as the movie started.  I don't ever recall hearing about consistent murmering in movie theaters in 1946. 

So then I got an idea.  What if I were to memorize an entire Bob Hope monologue and then perform it, just like Bob, at a comedy club open mic night.  I’m talking going the distance with this thing.  A complete golf outfit.  Country club ball cap.  Swinging a golf club saying things like “This ship stays at sea a long time.  They only go to port when a chaplain asks to see a chaplain…  To give you an idea how long these guys have been at sea, they just made Phyllis Diller their pin up girl.”  Then swing the club and look for an approving laugh.  Not once would I ever provide any sense of context.  Under no circumstances would I let the audience in on the idea that I was replicating a Bob Hope routine from the late 1960s on an aircraft carrier.  “Hey that Ann Margaret…  Ain’t she somethin’?”  (Tiger purr noise)

I think it would become so uncomfortable it would become a test between who would crack first, me or the audience.  It would be especially great to do a routine from the 1960s where there is no chance in hell anyone would know the cultural references Bob, or I, was making.  I would let the silence just hang there in between the one liners that had fallen flat.  “I love the runway you have here…  Great golf country.  Even the runway has 18 holes.”  Golf swing.  Silence.  “How about that Jill St. John everybody?”

The idea is either Kaufmanesque in its brilliance or just awful.  Is Andy Kaufman still funny?  Is that even a viable reference?  How much do you think a golf outfit costs?                

5 Comments:

At February 13, 2018 at 11:45:00 AM EST , Blogger Frank said...

I agree with this observation, with one small exception; Politically incorrect personal insults are timeless. See Don Rickles on Dean Martin's Celebrity Roasts. Comedy gold in any generation.

 
At February 13, 2018 at 12:18:00 PM EST , Blogger Greg Miller said...

Agreed.

 
At February 14, 2018 at 1:31:00 AM EST , Blogger old man taylor said...

Comedy has a shelf life like milk.


 
At February 15, 2018 at 5:47:00 PM EST , Blogger old man taylor said...

Bob was never funny.His inability to be funny was what was funny along with his massive charisma.He seemed to be completely aware of this,which is why it worked.

I think that if i ever saw what you are threatening to do,i would not be able to breathe from laughing so hard.
His first American town was Cleveland.
Can't you tie this in with local festivities somehow?
Open for Clownvis,Neil Hamburger,etc???

I await the commercial for it.

 
At February 16, 2018 at 6:03:00 AM EST , Blogger Greg Miller said...

I think for it to be most effective I would have to find an audience that has no clue as to what I’m doing. I wouldn’t want anyone to know it was a “tribute band” if you will, so that way I would be as uncomfortable doing it as they would be watching it.

 

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