Monday, July 11, 2011

"The Art Of" the Word - in Comedy

"A horse must be led to water, but every pencil must be led."
"You're right - any bird can build a nest, but not every one can lay an egg."
(Hardy) "Call me a cab." (Laurel, confused, asked) "What?" (Hardy, in mounting impatience, said "I said, call me a cab!" (After a second or two, Laurel, in a rather confused state, said "You're a cab."
"What did he die of - he died of a Tuesday, or was it Wednesday?"
The inane, vacant look emanating from dull glazed-over blue eyes accompanied the equally inane, vacant words you have just read.
In case you do not know of the illimitable genius of one Stanley Laurel Jefferson, do please undergo a study of this man.
He was half of a two-man comedy team that made it seamlessly from the era of silent movies to the early days of the sound films of the thirties. The world knows them as Laurel and Hardy, and this duo made a plethora of great film comedies that set the standard of the importance of The Word in slapstick comedy.
In one of their best films, called "Sons of the Desert," after a deeply philosophical conversation of about twelve seconds in duration with his partner Oliver Hardy, Laurel looks blankly into the camera, and sighs "life isn't short enough."
In another of their classics, titled "Way Out West," Laurel loses a bet with Hardy, vowing that he would eat Hardy's hat if he lost the bet. When Hardy shoves the hat in Laurel's direction, saying "eat it!", Laurel hesitates for a moment, then bursts into uncontrollable sobbing, and exclaims "I never ate a hat before."
In a film called "Helpmates," Hardy calls Laurel on the phone and asks in a benignly social manner, "Whatchya doing?" To which Laurel answers unhesitatingly "talking to you."
In "Way Out West," Laurel and Hardy play detectives looking for a girl named Mary Roberts .In one scene Laurel approaches a young lady who has a different name and blurts " I want to know why you are not Mary Roberts!"
And so it goes, in one film after another - Stan Laurel exhibited a unique weapon that gave the visual aspect of their memorable films a gigantic dimension in the totality of their creations - that weapon was The Word - and Laurel utilized this aspect like no one else in the field of comedy.
Even though I had written about the following incident in a previous blog, I thought it apropos to inject it at this point:
On his deathbed, Laurel was in a coma, attended by a nurse on vigil(who documented this incident).
His eyes closed, Laurel suddenly muttered "I'd rather be skiing."
The nurse was dumbfounded, and found herself asking "do you ski?"
Laurel, with eyes still closed, replied "no, but I'd rather be skiing."
What an encomium to the spirit of this man! Comedy to the very end.
I may be mistaken, but this incident, as I recall, is included in the P.H.D. written by John McCabe, a Laurel and Hardy scholar.
By the way, a gem uttered by another great comedian of the same period, W.C. Fields was given to history in an early sound classic, titled "The Dentist".
Fields, who plays the role of dentist, asks the patient in the chair "have you ever had this tooth pulled before?"



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