Monday, January 22, 2018

Quips and Quotations (Math Edition)

I know that two and two make four--and should be glad to prove it too if I could--though I must say if by any sort of process I could convert 2 and 2 into five it would give me much greater pleasure.

--Lord Byron

Sunday, January 14, 2018

Under the Radar: Jerry Van Dyke


I've always found him to be funnier than his famous brother, Dick. Now, that's not to say that Jerry's older sibling's success is undeserved, or that he was the lesser of the two. Dick Van Dyke was more the all-around performer, one of the very best, who could sing, dance, and turn in a dramatic performance, as well as do comedy. If Jerry could do the first three of those things, I either wasn't paying attention or, if I was, it didn't leave much of an impression. Maybe he just didn't get the chance, and if he had the chance, he would have wowed us all. Sorry, but try as I might, I can't imagine Jerry singing in a Cockney accent and dancing on a London rooftop with Julie Andrews. That was Dick's forte.  Jerry's range was much narrower, but, I insist, he...was...funnier!

The folks at radio station WTHI in Terre Haute, Indiana (not to far from Danville, Indiana, where the Van Dykes grew up) must have found him funnier. The story goes that in the mid-1950s, the brothers both applied for the same disc jockey job. Jerry got it, and was apparently popular enough to get either a half-hour or hour-long (stories vary) variety show on the sister TV with the same call letters. Note the banjo. I said before he wasn't the all-around talent that his brother was, but I guess, in addition to comedy, he was the better banjo player (if Dick could even play it at all, I either wasn't paying attention, or, if I was, it didn't leave much of an impression, though it would have provided rather novel accompaniment for Dame Julie.) Jerry was a success in the new medium, becoming a local star.

 Meanwhile, Dick also found a way to become a success in the new medium (after first finding success on Broadway in Bye, Bye, Birdie) and was now a national star.

I know I'm making it sound like there was a rivalry between the two, and I really shouldn't. By all accounts, including their own, the brothers had a warm relationship. In fact...

...Jerry even showed up on the classic sitcom, playing Rob Petrie's brother Stacy.

You've heard of sleepwalkers? Stacy is a sleepperformer. In this clip, we see him unconscious and otherwise:

 Personally, I found him funnier in the second half of that clip, when he was supposedly "awake", but that really wasn't the point. 

Thanks to the boost he got from his brother's show, Jerry began appearing in movies such as 1963's   McLintock! starring John Wayne, and featuring a young Stephanie Powers:

OK, so Jerry could dance.

I beginning to think he could have sang and danced on that London rooftop with Julie Andrews after all (though he has yet to show up on YouTube with a Cockney accent.)

Jerry got what must have seemed to him and to everyone else at the time as the break of his career when he was added to cast of Judy Garland's TV variety show:

Nice of Judy to show so much concern when she thought Jerry was popping pills. Ironic, too.

Despite being arguably the biggest star in the world in 1963, Judy Garland was perhaps too big for the small screen, as the show, up against Bonanza, got mediocre ratings. A change of format came halfway through the season, and Jerry was let go (as eventually was Judy herself.)

Still, Jerry was getting job offers.

Here's one role he turned down.

Here's one he didn't, but perhaps should have.

That's Ann Southern as the mother. Her voice anyway. I actually found that kind of amusing, if for no other reason that Jerry knows how to do one helluva through-the-roof double-take. But, even in that era of housewife witches and astronauts with their own genies, the premise of a woman reincarnated as a junker was just too weird, and the show was off the air after one season. It's now considered one of the worse sitcoms ever.

Ironically, one half of the creative team behind one of the worse sitcoms ever, Allan Burns, was one-half of the creative team behind one of the best sitcoms ever. I don't know if Burns wanted to make it up to Jerry or what, but the latter appeared in an episode of The Mary Tyler Moore Show as a writer for Chuckles the Clown.

Throughout the 1970s and most of the 1980s, Jerry appeared sporadically on television, including an  Afternoon Special and Fantasy Island, but basically kept to his standup career. True stardom seemed to pass him by.

Until Coach came along in 1989. It was perhaps more true celebrity than true stardom, but Jerry rarely failed to make me laugh as goofy Luther Van Dam, coaching assistant to Hayden Fox (Craig T. Nelson) on the long-running sitcom.

No laugh track, but I'm sure you'll provide your own.

 And sometimes--actually, often--Jerry could be funny by just being himself.

Sunday, January 7, 2018

Odds 'n' Ends

The old year ends, the new year begins, and another piece of what I once regarded as "the future" is chipped away. I think about this a lot, but especially in January, going all the way back to January 1981, seven months after I graduated from high school, or, as I use to think of it, the center of time. However, I no longer consider the years leading up to high school graduation that way. No, thanks to everything from 20th century science fiction books and movies to a popular Prince song to biblical timekeeping, I now see the center of time as extending all the way to December 31, 1999. The future began the very next day. Of course that was quite some time ago. To a boy or girl born that next day, whose high school graduation is now a mere five months away, the present day may not seem very much like the future at all. Well, that's their loss. Not every generation has an end of a millennium to either look forward to or dread.

So, is this future living up to expectations? Well, if it's not quite the future of Star Trek or The Jetsons, neither is it Mad Max or Rollerball. So to make sense of it all, I'd like to give you good people a little quiz, one that requires from you extreme honesty and a good memory of what exactly your mind set and expectations were at any given point in time. Let's begin:

1. In 1969, if you were asked which technological feat would most likely have already occurred 49 years in the future, would you have said:

A.) Colonization of the moon.

 B.) Pagers in restaurants that light up, beep, vibrate, etc, when your food is ready.

 2. In 1974, if you were asked which of these two mechanical devices would still be in widespread use 44 years in the future, would you have said:

 A.) Electric typewriter

 B.) Gasoline-powered automobile

 3. In 1985, if you were asked which of these two types of businesses would still be operating 33 years in the future, would you have said:

 A.) Video stores

B.) Television networks

4. In 1970, if you were asked which of these would be the greater threat 48 years in the future, would you have said:

A.) Computers taking over the world

B.) Spam taking over computers

5. In 1987, if you were asked which of these would be more controversial 31 years in the future, would you say:

A.) Marijuana

B.) The casting couch

 6. In 1974, if you were asked which of these pop stars were more likely to still be alive 44 years in the future, would you have said:

 A.) Michael Jackson

B.) Brian Wilson

7. In 1999, if you were asked what name 20th Century Fox  would go by 19 years in the future, would you have said:

A.) 21st Century Fox

 B.) The Walt Disney Company

8. In the last few months of 2001, if you were asked which of these two men had a more promising political future, would you have said:

A.) Rudy Giuliani

B.) Donald Trump

9. In the last few weeks of 2016, if you were asked which of these two individuals had a more promising career in government, would you have said:

A.) Steve Bannon

B.) Danica Roem

10. In 1976, if you were asked which would be more likely 43 years in the future, would you say:

A.) Jesus Christ's return to Earth

B.) Saturday Night Live still on the air

OK, that's the test. So how did you do? If you answered B.) on all 10 questions, what the hell are sitting at home and staring at a computer screen for?

This is the place you ought to be!