Friday, May 22, 2015

Hey! It’s a Horse Quiz!


It’s been over forty years since the first time I hauled my carcass onto a horse. It’s also been over forty years since the last time I hauled my carcass onto a horse. This is not counting, of course, any pony rides I may have had thrust upon me in my earliest years, or dizzying spins on a merry-go-round during the same period.  Many people around the world are passionate about the joys of horseback riding. I’m not one of those people.

I was recently going through some old photos and found a shot of my mom, then in her forties, riding on the back of a horse. I couldn’t have been more surprised than if I had discovered one of Mom standing in front of a flying saucer shaking hands with a space alien. I’d probably still be insisting that the horse picture was clearly photo shopped, had it not been taken in the mid 1960’s.

You know what kind of horses I like? Fictitious ones, like the kind you see on TV or in the movies. And if they can talk, well, all the better! I bet you like them, too. Here’s a quiz to see how many of these nags you remember.


1. She’s the title character in Mary O’Hara’s 1941 novel.
a. Buttercup
b. Flicka
c. Black Beauty
d. Acorn

2. What was the name of Icabod Crane’s horse in The Legend of Sleepy Hollow?
a. Gunpowder
b. Jim
c. Merrylegs
d. Blaze

3. Which was not a horse in Lord of the Rings?
a. Bumpkin
b. Snowmane
c. Gringolet
d. Bill the Pony

4. On the Lone Ranger TV show, what was the name of Tonto’s horse?
a. Buck
b. Wildfire
c. Spirit
d. Scout

5. He was Gumby’s highly-flexible best friend.
a. Goliath
b. Pokey
c. Joey
d. Rocket

6. He talked to Wilbur on a CBS sitcom from 1961 to 1966.
a. Mr. Bill
b. Mr. Greenjeans
c. Mr. Ed
d. Mr. T

7. Who was Supergirl’s horse?
a. Streaky
b. Comet
c. Krypto
d. Beppo

8. This waltzing equine appears in the Beatles’ song, “Being for the Benefit of Mr. Kite.”
a. Harry the Horse
b. Holly the Horse
c. Harriet the Horse
d. Henry the Horse

9. This bikini-clad Sports Illustrated model appeared with her talking horse in commercials for DirecTV.
a. Emily Ratajkowski
b. Kate Bock
c. Hannah Davis
d. Nina Agdal

10. In mythology, he pulled Poseidon’s chariot.
a. Hippocampus
b. Rhaebus
c. Stybba
d. Pegasus



ANSWERS

1. FLICKA, from the book My Friend Flicka. And yes, Flicka was a she. In fact, her name means “little girl” in Swedish.
2. Author Washington Irving named Icabod Crane’s horse GUNPOWDER.
3. GRINGOLET was the horse owned by Sir Gawain, who was King Arthur’s nephew. Bill the Pony, who you no doubt picked, was indeed in Lord of the Rings, and was owned by the Hobbits.
4. Tonto’s horse was named SCOUT. I thought that asking you the name of the Lone Ranger’s horse would have been just too easy. Hi-yo Silver!
5. POKEY. Gumby and Pokey were the claymation creations of Art Clokey, and first appeared on the Howdy Doody Show. Goliath was the horse from the film Ladyhawke. Goliath was also a dog who was best friends with Davey, on the Davey and Goliath TV show, which was also created by Art Clokey.
6. MR. ED. Incidentally, if anybody asks, Mr. Ed was played by a palomino gelding whose real name was Bamboo Harvester. Western actor Allan Lane provided the voice. Of course, of course.
7. Krypto was Superboy’s dog. Supergirl had a superhorse named COMET. She also had a supercat named Streaky. Can you imagine trying to take a supercat to the vet? Oh, and Beppo was a supermonkey who came to Earth in the same rocket that brought Kal-El. And you thought you weren’t going to learn anything important today.
8. The lyric in the song is, “And of course HENRY THE HORSE dances the waltz.” Henry is based on a real circus horse whose name was Zanthus.
9. Model HANNAH DAVIS co-starred with a horse in the “Hannah and Her Horse” television commercials for DirecTV. The horse was voiced by Jermaine Clement, who is best known as one half of the comic musical duo Flight of the Conchords. The other three women are also Sports Illustrated models but apparently, unlike Hannah, they don’t have a horse.
10. HIPPOCAMPUS is a sea-horse in Greek mythology, and not, as you no doubt believed, a college for fat people. Its front part is much like that of any other horse, but its back part tapers into a scaly fishtail. Hippocampus appeared on coins over twenty-five centuries ago, and can still be seen today on the logo for Air France.

Tuesday, May 19, 2015

Undefeated




“And of course I never play if there are only children sitting there. I mean, I’m not a monster. But if I see a string of adults lined up, or even if it’s just mostly adults, I’ll plop myself right down and grab that pistol. And I’ll win, too. Every time.”

This was me, pontificating to my visiting brother as we strolled along the midway at the county fair. We were approaching that carnival game where you shoot water into a clown’s mouth, causing a balloon to expand over its head. The first person to get his balloon to break wins a prize. First shelf only, please.

The truth was that, while perhaps I didn’t win at the game every single time, I won more often than not. My secret was simple. I employed a Zen-like focus, aiming the pistol at the target even before the water stream was turned on, and then held the stream steady until the game was over. I didn’t let that stream waver an inch, and I didn’t at any time look away to see who might be winning or gaining on me, not even for a second.

And so, without saying a word, my brother sat on one of the colorful stools, paid the man and picked up a pistol. I did the same thing, about two stools down. (I don’t like to be crowded when I’m shootin’.) And a very short time later the balloon over my brother’s clown burst. First. He chose some kind of toy stuffed rodent, from the first shelf of course, and handed it to my wife. All without saying a word.

I should have immediately challenged him again. I know that now. But I didn’t, and so for the rest of the day at the fair, and for the rest of his vacation, it just hung in the air like smog: my little brother had beaten me at the water balloon game; my water balloon game.

 And yet I always knew that, through some bizarre set of circumstances I couldn’t even begin to imagine, my brother and I would someday find ourselves together again on a fair’s midway, competing in that water balloon game. And this time I would win. And I’d continue to win every time we ever happened to play the game, forever.

That highly anticipated rematch never took place, however. It seemed terribly unfair, almost like cheating, when a few months later my brother took his own life. I would never get my chance to even the score, as my brother had suddenly and dramatically chosen to retire from the water balloon game. Undefeated.


Monday, May 18, 2015

Stuck on You


Now that fifty years have passed I suppose it’s okay to admit this. Back in grade school, while it’s true that we boys dreaded that time of year when our gym class would be combined with the girls’ gym class, we also were somewhat excited by the idea, and perhaps even looked forward to it a bit. There.

It was designed to be a preliminary socialization process between the sexes. I can see that now. I can also see that the teachers much have thought these first awkward stumblings between eleven-year-olds were the cutest damn thing they’d ever seen. Oh, by the way, the activity chosen for this grand experiment was square dancing.

I, like all the other guys, proclaimed loudly how much I hated that they made us do this. Secretly, though, I regarded it as something new and alien, and a hell of a lot more exciting than struggling each week to finally do a chin-up or getting hit in the jubblies yet again in a character-building game of dodgeball.

After all, we were maturing, and puberty was racing towards us like a runaway freight. So the opportunity to be close to a girl, to smell one and even put your arm around one, was pretty much what those simmering hormones were demanding, whether we knew it or not. And the dancing itself, learning the steps and listening to the call from a scratchy 45, was, dare I say it, sort of fun. That is, once you had come to accept that any and all resistance to participation was futile.

Still, it must be admitted that the exhilaration was somewhat tempered because we were cavorting with what were, after all, girls. It hadn’t been that many years earlier when it was a well-known medical fact among me and my friends that girls all had, you know, cooties. And now they wanted us to dance with them?

Here’s the way I remember the events of that long-ago day. As one of the taller boys I was naturally paired up with one of the taller girls. Now, this being only grade school, it should come as no surprise that my partner, an athletic blond named Cindy, may well have been a full head taller than me. No matter, we were there to square dance, not play basketball.

With a little bit of math play you have probably already placed these events as somewhere in the mid 1960’s, and you would be correct. And during that time there were two articles of fashion that were never designed to be together. One of them was the I.D. bracelet. It was a clunky bit of jewelry, manufactured of the basest of skin-greening metal, and I wore mine on my right wrist.

As I said, there was another fashion accessory that would come into play that day, and that was the mohair sweater. It was stylish and fluffy, and even though I still don’t know exactly where mohair comes from (Perhaps I’ll Google it later, though I doubt it) I do know that Cindy was wearing a mohair sweater. I believe it was pink.

And so we danced. We honored our partners and honored our corners. We do-si-doed left and allemanded right, and then we promenaded home. Or something like that. Give me a break, it’s been half a century.

And then the dance was completed and I, a little sweaty, was feeling somewhat proud of myself, partially for getting most of the steps correct but especially for not, at any point, falling flat on my face. My arm was still around Cindy’s waist, but I knew that would soon end. It would not do to be seen with my arm lingering around her for even a split second after the music had stopped. People will talk, you know, especially eleven year old people.

And though I tried to remove my arm from around Cindy’s waist, some mysterious force seemed to hold it there. A quick look and the mystery was solved. My I.D. bracelet had gotten tangled up in Cindy’s mohair sweater. A few more tugs and I realized the awful truth: I was stuck in that sweater like an unshorn sheep caught in barb wire.

Believe me, I’ve known fear in my life, from the terror of being arrested to almost stepping on a rattlesnake to bouncing around over the Grand Canyon in a wind-tossed eight-seat airplane that seemed unable to land.  Ah, but true fear is knowing that within about thirty-seconds a gymnasium full of my snotty-nosed peers would discover that my hand was utterly and hopelessly entangled in the clothing of…a girl.

A situation such as this called for quick action, and it took only a second before I answered the call. With my left hand I reached for the piece of Cindy’s sweater where I was attached, and with a single yank my right hand free with a snap. My bracelet remained on my right wrist, no worse for wear except for the wispy pink thread that now was wedged between its poorly wrought links.

Cindy, of course, knew what had happened and, to my credit, I felt bad immediately. I may have apologized, but I don’t actually recall doing so, and there’s probably a good reason why I don’t. Fortunately, the day’s dancing was over, and Cindy and I, the great gender interaction experiment at an end, each retreated back to our respective tribes.

All that evening I felt horrible. Cindy was a nice girl and had always been friendly to me. And now I had ruined that poor girl’s trendy sweater, just to save myself some embarrassment. But what else could I have done? What would you have done?

I made a point of talking to Cindy the next day. I was still feeling bad, and I wanted to know what her mother had said about the ripped sweater. I did not, incidentally, at any time offer to pay for the damage I had done. This wasn’t due to some innate cheapness on my part, but rather to the absolute alien nature of the concept. Paying for it never crossed my mind. I was eleven, for God’s sake.

And then Cindy told me the news that made my heart soar. She had conveyed the story to her mother, shown her the damage and it had turned out to be no big deal. In fact, her mother had returned the sweater to near-new condition by simply snipping off a loose thread or two. They were, after all, only made out of mohair. Whatever that is.



Thursday, May 14, 2015

Two Are Dead


The kid had made me laugh, no doubt about it. I was in a booth in a typically over air-conditioned restaurant in Florida. With me were my cousin’s husband and his son, who was sixteen and has Down Syndrome. He had just climbed out of the booth, stretched a bit, and with a heavy sigh said, “Ugh, I’m getting old.”

And that, of course, is when I laughed.  “If you’re getting old, what am I?” I said, still smiling. Then we made our way over to the salad bar.

We returned to the booth, and as we ate our salads, and then dinner, I became more and more impressed with how much this kid knew about certain subjects, primarily about current musical stars. Now admittedly, you wouldn’t have to go very far to find someone who knew more than me about today’s music. I mean, I recognize many of the big names, but ask me to name even one of their songs and I’m lost. In fact the only reason I’m familiar with any Lady Gaga song at all is because she performed one on Howard Stern.

But this kid knew them all, and what he didn’t know he’d soon learn in those teen magazines he carried around with him. And so I had to know just how far back his knowledge went. Oh, I knew he wouldn’t be familiar with most of the singers from my era, or even for an era or two after that. I figured, though, that I had to at the very least hit him with one of the biggies.

“So, have you ever heard of the Beatles?” I asked him.
“Two are dead,” was his terse and nearly instantaneous reply.

And there was nothing I could say after that. After all, the kid was right. Two of them, indeed, are dead. And with this sad reminder I returned to modern times, where I discovered that the kid not only knew the names of all the current singers and groups, but he wasn’t shy about making predictions, either.

“Next year, One Direction will play at the Super Bowl,” he said. It was obvious that he had no doubt about it, either. And while I did have my doubts, I also realized that this was not a particularly outlandish prediction. After all, even I’ve heard of One Direction, and although I can’t name a single one of their songs, I’m plugged in just enough to know that one of their members just left the group. That’s right, isn’t it?

The kid didn’t stop there, either. He also told me the two teams that will be playing in the Super Bowl, namely the Packers and the Steelers. Now, the reason I remember the teams he picked is because I’ve already written them down on my calendar. And I tell you, if these two teams are actually there, and if One Direction plays the halftime show, I’ll be listening real carefully to the kid’s next predictions. And, of course, betting accordingly.


Tuesday, May 12, 2015

New Year’s Audition


The audition was scheduled to take place on December 31st, 1961, but the driver, Neil, got lost. It ended up taking him over ten hours to get the band to London. They arrived at ten o’clock at night on New Year’s Eve, or as one of the band members quipped, “Just in time to see the drunks jumping in the Trafalgar Square fountain.”

The audition took place the next day, at Decca Records. The band performed fifteen songs, including “Take Good Care of My Baby,” “Three Cool Cats,” and “Till There Was You.” They were done in less than an hour. Three of the songs played had been written by the band’s two-man songwriting team.

The band was eventually rejected by Decca Records. In their dismissal of the group, the record company stated that “guitar groups were on the way out,” and that this band, in particular, had “no future in show business.”

What was the name of this group that was so unceremoniously dumped by Decca over fifty years ago? Nobody really knows, because, like I said, they didn’t get their recording contract and so soon fell into obscurity. Nah, I’m just funnin’ with you. You know who it was.


Monday, May 11, 2015

A Comfortable Chair at the Mall


I was deep into my second month of forced exile in Florida. I was still waiting for Dad’s house to close, at which point I could pack up and head back to California. The chores, as you might imagine, were endless, with new ones cropping up each day like dandelions. I decided that going to the mall and sitting in one of the comfortable chairs I had seen there might be a relaxing way to get my head out of the game for a few hours.

I was in the middle of reading a fascinating book about the Dutch coffee trade in the sixteenth century. The writer’s description of what was a new, and clearly medicinal, beverage had inspired me. When I sat in that comfortable chair in the mall I had with me a cup of hot coffee. And I don’t mean my usual blend of coffee with cream, sugar or perhaps some Almond Joy flavored crap. No, I would drink my coffee black, as they did in the novel, and I would appreciate coffee in its purist form.

I sat there sipping the black brew as I enjoyed watching the shoppers walk by. I tried to remain focused on the moment, and not worry about all the remaining details that I would have to deal with in the coming weeks and months. Across from me, about ten feet away, a young woman had taken out her swollen breast and began to feed her infant. I observed her for a few seconds, noting how natural it seemed, and then looked away to avoid making her feel uncomfortable.

I took another sip of coffee, and when I looked up I noticed that two or three young people with clipboards had infiltrated the area. I watched as they approached passers-by and asked each one if they would like to earn forty dollars testing toilet paper. At first I didn’t believe that I was hearing them correctly, and once I confirmed that I had I simply marveled that they could repeatedly ask people that question and still manage to keep a straight face.

And then the nagging in my head began. You know, it said, this really is a fine opportunity to write about something new. Why don’t you volunteer, make a quick forty bucks and then write about the experience? I had no doubt that testing toilet paper would make for great fun, and to tell the truth I was a little curious how the whole thing worked. I mean, did they drag you off to some hidden office in the mall, have you wipe with four or five brands, hand you two twenties and send you and your clean butt on your way?

In the end my comfort won out over my curiosity, and I understood why I had never wanted to be a journalist. This was just another hot story I let slip away. But my curiosity didn’t die completely, and so I continued to listen as the clipboard folks explained to their marks how it all worked. From what I pieced together, after you filled out the paperwork you would receive a shipment of toilet paper at your home, and it was apparently from the comfort of your own toilet seat that any testing would be done. Maybe there wasn’t much of a story here after all.

At one point a young woman hustled out of the hair salon where she worked and approached one of the clipboard people. “I’ll do it!” she said eagerly. At first I wondered if she was perhaps a textbook case of an adult fixated at one of Freud’s less evolved stages, but then it came to me. This woman had to be at the mall anyway, for her job. Why not pick up a few extra dollars for doing basically nothing? Maybe she signed up for one of these things every day, perhaps even two a day. At forty bucks a pop she could build a nice little side business testing toilet paper, and God knows what else.

I took the last sip of coffee, trying to appreciate the flavor as a European in the 1500’s might, treated myself to a final glance at the breast-feeding woman, hoisted myself onto my creaky knees and headed toward the mall exit. This really had been a nice way to pass a couple of hours. I’ll have to remember that when I get back to California, I thought, although I didn’t recall any of our malls having such comfortable chairs.



Tuesday, April 28, 2015

Earworm: “Sometime in the Morning”


I was still trapped in Florida, waiting for my parents’ house to sell, and as I hoped for reprieve I toyed around with the iPad I had brought to liven up my confinement. I don’t even remember what I was looking for when I stumbled across this old song on YouTube. I had heard it before, of course, when it was new. But back then it was just another song on one of the Monkees albums we kids had around the house.

And now hearing it again, half a century later, I admitted that “Sometime in the Morning” was a damn good song. And why wouldn’t it be? It was, as I already knew, written by Carole King, arguably the greatest American songwriter of the rock era. (With a nod to Paul Simon.) In fact, it was co-written by King and her former partner/husband, lyricist Gerry Goffin. And make no mistake, Goffin’s contribution to the song should not be dismissed. As original and infectious as the melody is, the lyrics, too, are creative and touching, and leave quite the emotional effect.

“Sometime in the Morning” is about a man who has an epiphany, and suddenly and dramatically appreciates the woman he has been with for who knows how long. And to give credit, it’s a joy to watch and listen to the short clips of Micky Dolenz sing it in the video, which is taken from the Monkees’ both wildly popular and surprisingly short-lived TV show of the 1960’s.

Still, as I played the song over and over I eventually switched to viewing the version with just the lyrics on the screen. As the song grew on me it became harder and harder to listen to it as the Monkees, dressed as clown, Benny Hilled it up trying to cheer up some chick at a circus. The song deserved better.

I played that song every day, several times a day, for about a week. When I was driving around that hot, flat state I often caught myself singing it. No doubt about it, “Sometime in the Morning” had become what today is commonly known as an earworm. That is, that song that you play over and over in your head until it almost drives you crazy.

And apparently I’m not the only one who appreciates the song. As you would expect, so does Micky Dolenz. In fact in 2010 he recorded his first album in ten years, cleverly titled King for a Day. On it he covers fourteen Carole King songs, including, of course, “Sometime in the Morning.” In concert Dolenz has introduced it as, “A beautiful song by Carole King.” He’s absolutely right, and it goes like this:






Tuesday, April 21, 2015

Presumed Guilty


I’m going to use the Bill Cosby scandal to illustrate my point, but in truth the misuse of this expression had been irritating me for years, long before the accusations against Cosby came to light. The expression is, “A person is innocent until proven guilty.” You hear it all the time, not infrequently by Cosby’s defenders, and it makes me cringe every time.

First of all, the expression actually states that a person is presumed innocent until proven guilty. They even get this wrong at the beginning of Cops. And what the presumption of innocence means is that when a person stands accused of a crime, generally in a court of law, the burden of proving guilt is on the accuser, rather than the accused having to prove himself innocent.

Let’s take a look at the famous O.J. Simpson trial. It was the job of the prosecution to prove that Simpson had committed the two murders. They failed to accomplish this, at least in the eyes of the jury. Now, assuming that Simpson did indeed kill those two people (and you and I have no way of knowing for sure) there’s no way he can be considered innocent. He may not have been convicted, but he most certainly is guilty of the crime.

A year or so ago I heard an interview with comedian Jerry Seinfeld, who stated that the three greatest stand-up comedians of all time are Richard Pryor, George Carlin and Bill Cosby. I recall this because they’re the same three that I would have chosen. Sometimes Cosby, who works clean and never presented a particularly hip persona, doesn’t get the appreciation he deserves, so it was nice to hear him get the recognition.  

Not every one of Bill Cosby’s accusers is saying he raped them. Some have simply come forward with an account of how Cosby crudely attempted to seduce them, and was rejected. However, if even one of the rape allegations is true, Cosby is a criminal. Again and again women have said that while with Cosby they mysteriously passed out and woke up naked, often with Cosby having sex with them, or with Cosby not there but with the feeling that they had had sex.

If Cosby did in fact rape these women but never stands trial, because of statute of limitations loopholes and/or secret payoffs, it is legally wrong and morally reprehensible to describe him as “innocent,” as the people who still attend his performances often do. If he raped those women he is guilty, even if he never steps inside of a courtroom. As with O.J. Simpson, we can never know the truth with absolute certainty, but as thinking adults we can look at the evidence and form our own opinions. And many people, myself included, now believe it’s at least possible for someone to be both one of the greatest comics in history and a serial rapist.

One thing that you can definitely count on, however. You will never hear me defend Cosby, or any accused person, by claiming he is “innocent until proven guilty.” It is simply an automatic, go-to defense for people who have no other evidence to support their argument, and besides, it’s not what the concept means. 

Monday, April 20, 2015

Guess Who #39



It’s not that tonight’s Mr. X is a hero of mine. In fact, most of his work was created before my time, if you can imagine such a thing. Still, there’s no denying that Mr. X was a powerhouse in the field of cinema in his day, and you’ve most certainly heard his name. And if, before taking this quiz, you come up a little short in your attempt to identify even a few of his accomplishments, that’s okay. You’ll certainly be able to do so after taking it.


Mr. X’s middle name was Marcellus.

Mr. X was born in 1906.

Mr. X was nominated for an Oscar ten times.

Mr. X began perming in Vaudeville at the age of three.

Mr. X was married five times.

Mr. X often cast his father in movies.

Mr. X often cast his daughter in movies.

Mr. X often cast Humphrey Bogart in movies.

Mr. X is the only person to direct both a parent and a child in Oscar-winning roles.

Mr. X was a licensed pilot.

Mr. X said, “If I ever do a movie that glorifies war, somebody shoot me.”

Mr. X was an amateur boxing champion.

Mr. X received an Oscar nomination in five consecutive decades.

Mr. X once had a pet monkey.

Mr. X was proclaimed the 13th greatest director of all time by Entertainment Weekly.

Mr. X appeared on a U.S. postage stamp in 2012.

Mr. X said, “I prefer to think that God is not dead, just drunk.”

Mr. X was born in Missouri and died in Rhode Island.


My, that certainly is a long list of clues up there. So tell me, who is Mr. X?


Tuesday, April 14, 2015

Talk Show: The Ultimate Prize


It was 1997 and I was enjoying a new game show called Win Ben Stein’s Money. It was fun to try to answer the questions and add to my vast storehouse of useless information, of course, but more and more I found myself tuning in to watch Stein’s co-host on the show. He was a bit chubby, poorly dressed and had a quick, smart-ass wit that made the show a lot of fun. His name, of course, was Jimmy Kimmel.

Kimmel remained on Money for three years, but eventually left to co-produce and co-host the hilariously creative The Man Show. I still remember thinking that it was much too soon for Kimmel to leave this show when he did just that, in 2003. The show was at its creative peak and had a lot of mileage left. Kimmel left because the Holy Grail of television had been laid down before him: he was offered his own talk show.

Short of a break-out movie career, the ultimate achievement for successful television funnymen (and funnywomen) seems to be sitting behind the desk of their very own talk show. Over and over we seem to lose uniquely entertaining programs, and their stars, to the apparently irresistible lure of the talk show. You would think the formula would have worn out by now, with the host feigning fascination with a seemingly endless parade of celebrities pretending they are not there to hawk their latest movie, book or TV show. It has been, after all, fifty-three years since Carson began his celebrated late-night reign.

But no, it seems that few can resist that seat behind the desk. We lost The Man Show because of it.  Some might recall that before she had her talk show, Chelsea Handler hosted a sketch comedy show on the E! network called The Chelsea Handler Show. It was funny, daring and something fresh. Ah, but it didn’t fit the formula. It lasted two years, after which Handler began to host Chelsea Lately, which was, and let’s say it together, a talk show.

And that brings us to my main point, the most crushing blow of all. I still remember that he was a little shaky during the first weeks of his new fake news show. He stumbled over lines and at times I felt just a bit embarrassed for him. Back then it would have been nearly impossible to imagine that Stephen Colbert would host his Colbert Report for the next decade, amassing a catalogue of 1,447 shows. Television is much like any art form. There is some real crap at the bottom, a huge mass of mediocrity in the middle and a slim layer of brilliance floating on top. For ten seasons The Colbert Report, without a doubt, was nothing short of brilliant.

And then he was tapped to replace the retiring David Letterman. Yes, Colbert was leaving the Report to do…a talk show. I suppose it’s really not a mystery why he, or any performer, would make this choice. Apparently a late-night talk show, especially on one of the major networks, is a huge step up the showbiz ladder, and I assume it is, as such, accompanied by the appropriate rewards, monetary and otherwise.

There might be sharper minds and quicker wits on television than Stephen Colbert, but none come to mind. And no doubt he will find even greater late-night success when he begins his new gig. The price he’ll have to pay, however, is the softening up of that razor sharpness. He’ll have to appeal to a wider audience and therefore use broader humor. He’ll probably even have to, dare I say it, “dumb it down” for his new audience. He’ll have to play it safe. Oh, he’ll be fun to watch, no doubt. And it will be easier, too, for us viewers. You know, without all that thinking to get in the way of the laughs.

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