Friday, October 26, 2007

Rough for Television: Poetry and Comedy 3

It’s almost like Beckett: a comedian is suddenly humbled by an apocalyptic landscape, so that he can only get one punch line out, perhaps his best and only funny one ever: “That mattress has seen better springs.” Uncle Floyd, a native Patersonian, makes TV with “nothing,” and nothing comes of it. I watched his “best of” DVD over the weekend, a compilation of the kind of thing you might happen upon once-upon-a-time on a local New Jersey UHF station or, later, public access. His show is in the style of the “playhouse abject,” perfected by Pee Wee Herman, less well calibrated by the likes of Paper Rad. His comedy was perhaps ahead of his time, and thus we can grant him some leeway (the reverse of his piano playing which, while masterful, is a bit dull because uninnovative and past its prime.) But is he accidentally, or intentionally, Beckettian? It’s hard to say. We have been for a while under the spell of the new lameness, so that it’s hard to discern true idiocy from genius, arrested development from avant-garde. In the end, it could be merely a question of taste. I enjoy some Adam Sandler films (and not just the high-brow foray of Punch Drunk Love), and think DaxFlame is genius, whereas I don’t care much for Napoleon Dynamite, I never liked Andy Kaufman, and I think the new high-art emerging under the sign of Garfield and magic unicorns is a depressing mix of anti-intellectualism, infantalism, and 80s nostalgia. Perhaps, in the end, this phylogenetic line is just not my style. If Floyd perhaps had more self-consciousness and control, he might very well have made it into MoMA, but he’d still be a tin man for art. You have to have heart too (which is the je ne sais quoi that Pee Wee, Sandler and Dax share).
Imagine, if you will, William Carlos Williams on the set of Uncle Floyd, as Uncle Floyd, beaming out a couple miles via UHF to a couple Paterson homes of an empty evening, “I’ve written you a poem . and the worst is, I’m about to read it to you . [stacks papers on make-shift desk in television studio. Makes wry moue to off-screen technician. Teenage drawings of Alexander Hamilton, unicorns, “man like a city,” Sam Patch, Garfield, Ezra Pound on the wall behind him.] You don’t have to like it. [suppresses laugh, amused with himself] But, hell take it, you damn well better listen to it. [hollow laughter of off-screen claque]”

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Anonymous Jonathan said...

His clothing would seem to declare him as a comedian, and yet...

2:19 PM, November 22, 2007  

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