It will be Father’s Day this coming Sunday and I’m sharing with you, my faithful readers, some memories of my late father. Specifically about my dad and comedy.
I have to say, I can trace my love of comedy to my father. When I was a child, my folks and I would go see revivals of Charlie Chaplin and Jacques Tati films and my dad once took me to see National Lampoon’s Animal House. In retrospect, that seems inappropriate but we both enjoyed ourselves so lets call it a wash.
I used to love telling jokes to my dad but as a child I was an appallingly bad joke teller. Though in my defense, all kids are appalling joke tellers. We’re all too excited to get to punch line and have absolutely no sense of timing. My dad told me as much but more kindly.
Of course, as I got older, my dad and I didn’t always see eye to eye. I don’t suppose that’s unusual, most sons and fathers disagree on things. Even in comedy, I adored Monty Python, which mystified him, though we both enjoyed Faulty Towers. Abbot and Costello, I Love Lucy were not to his taste though I consumed as much I as could even if he mocked them.
And of course we fought about other things, after college he suggested I get a job a the Post Office which at the time translated as “I don’t think you can succeed.” It hurt me deeply at the time, though I never told him. Years later, I understood that he felt that a government job was stable and meant I would be safe. It really meant, “I love you and I want you to be safe.” I wish he had said it more plainly but I’ll have to be satisfied with knowing what he was saying. Which is more than other people have.
When I started to do sketch comedy, I never invited my folks to come see me. It may have been that I wanted to have a part of my life that was just mine, plus a dose of insecurity about not making them laugh. It’s not a rational fear, like the fear of sharks, but it was real enough for me.
The first time my parents saw me do comedy on stage was at Caroline’s in Times Square. No pressure. I think because the room was so big, and fortunately we had a full house. For historical purposes, I should say that this was my sketch group SPANK!, comprised of Jonny Fido, Janice Bremec and myself, directed by Mike Benicvenga. Also we were shared the stage with Ms. Dee’s Iced Tea, an extremely funny group of people.
Not to brag, but the show was a huge success, both groups got many, many laughs. When I saw my parents after the show, they were both impressed. Now we’re coming back to the translation aspect of this remembrance.
I know that my dad did not necessarily get all the jokes. Which is not to say my dad was not smart. He was a very intelligent man, smarter than I am in many respects. But there is that age gap between parents and their children that makes communication difficult.
Even if he didn’t get all the jokes or references, he did see me stand on stage, with confidence, and he heard a large roomful of people laugh at what I said. I like to think that made an impression on him. But then again, we never talked about it, which was our way.