Sunday, October 15, 2023

Pete Davidson's SNL Cold Open, Gilda Radner, Laughter Through Tears ... and Restoring the Orange Grove :)

*Editing in progress*

To understand how all of these things in the title tie together, wait for it ...

Dolly Parton once said in Steel Magnolias "Laughter through tears in my favorite emotion" - and she was right :)

With that in mind, I give you Pete Davidson's SNL Cold Open Monologue, both poignant and funny :)

For those who don't know, former SNL cast member, Pete Davidson, lost his firefighter father, when Pete was only 7,  in 9/11.  

With the images coming in this week from Israel, he says he was reminded of that time and knows all too well the affects of terrorism on children. 

He then tells a story about his mother trying unsuccessfully to cheer him up for months afterwards, until one day, she rented what she thought was a Disney movie, which turned out to be Eddie Murphy's "Delirious."  LOL!

Quickly trying to shut it off due to language, she noticed something - Pete was starting to laugh again.

(Big props to Eddie Murphy - if you ever really need to laugh, especially in grief, put on an Eddie Murphy's Raw or Delirious and you will laugh, you can't help yourself, if you can deal with bad words lol)

Then I remembered my own experience of feeling like it was okay to laugh again, after 9/11 -  not only did it feel okay to laugh again, but we really needed to laugh again, after 9/11. 

Two weeks after 9/11, Mad TV ran some reruns and I begin to smile.  Then a week after that, Saturday Night Live re-emerged, featuring Reese Witherspoon, as well as Mayor Giuliani and NYC firefighters :)

I can't find a clip of just the tribute featuring Mayor Giuliani, with Paul Simon playing "The Boxer" just afterwards, without getting the whole episode, except at NBC/SNL's site, which is HERE

Giuliani speaks of the deaths of people from 80 countries at the World Trade Center, as well as not allowing ourselves to be ruled by fear.

Wow, what a far cry and different message Giuliani was giving then versus now, right? 

Now he's all about anti-immigration and fear ruling the day.

That's what raging alcoholism can do to the brain, folks - super sad :(

But I digress - the story goes that SNL's executive producer, Lorne Michaels, asked Giuliani first "Is it okay to make people laugh again?" and Giuliani replied "Why start now?" LOL.

Then the next weekend, SNL received an anthrax letter threat, but the host, Drew Barrymore, as well as the cast, bravely insisted that the show must go on, and by then, we were really ready for some brevity:)

Thus, Saturday Night Live - whether good, bad, or mediocre - has gotten us through America's toughest times; thus, the show is a national treasure.

In fact, Saturday Night Live got me through a lot of tough times in my childhood, as did Carol Burnett.

Laughter is a GREAT coping skill, one that my little sister and I employ often (as opposed to the rest of my family), perhaps sometimes inappropriately, but it was a coping skill nonetheless.

In fact, as a child, I used to do entire skits from The Carol Burnett Show on demand for friends and family :)

I used to tell people that I was raised by good TV - Carol Burnett was my mom and Captain Stubing from The Love Boat was my dad.

Why Captain Stubing?  

Not because he was funny, but because he was a great dad - not to just his daughter, but the whole ship.  He could solve everyone's problems and magically make people fall in love in one three-day cruise -  plus just how cool would it be if your dad was the captain of The Love Boat? 

And then I saw Gilda Radner on SNL :)

I wasn't allowed to watch SNL at home, but while sleeping over at friends, I finally got to see what everyone was talking about, because SNL in the 70s with the original cast was pure gold :)

In fact, this was the episode I first saw -  Gilda Radner, essentially playing herself as a little girl - and and it was especially funny to women because we all saw ourselves at little girls.

Gilda didn't replace Carol, in my mind, but she was a close second.

Because in fact, both Gilda and Carol we're groundbreaking in the same way - they are funny because of their ability to make a caricature out of any personality, real or imagined - and unlike other female comedians even to this day - neither was afraid to contort their faces so as to not always "look pretty," or to be loud -  just as loud as men, if the character called for it - and nobody dared shush them for it :)

I, too, was totally a Judy Miller as a little girl! lol

To include my mom asking me if everything was okay and/or yelling at me for being to loud while entertaining myself in my room, because I was being so loud lol.

It's funny, because at school, I was super shy and quiet around people, and I'm not a loud person now, but back then, at home and with friends outside of school, I was exactly like this - I was a total spaz, making up my own little skits to entertain myself :)

Coincidentally, my mother and I were talking about this just yesterday, how fast I talked and how loud I was at home as a kid, but also funny (whether I intended to be or not).

Guilty? lol

So I went over to my mom's house yesterday to make a wreath for her door (see below).  

(As an aside, my mom and I have just reconnected after being estranged for years and are getting along extremely well - IMO, due to the medications she is now on, she's like a different person entirely.)

I'm not sure how this started, but I reminded her of one trip to Florida, before my little sister was born, in 1977, I think it was. 

I think it was because my Mom often fixates on my dad, who truly was a horrible human being, and I wanted to distract her from getting overly focused on him, so I mentioned that he could be funny sometimes.  It was a rarity, but yeah, and she agreed.

So as a distraction, I told a funny story, a less traumatic, more normal family vacation, Griswaldy type of story, to make her laugh.

So my dad wanted to go to Lake Okeechobee in Orlando, Florida for a bass-fishing tournament, and built up where we were staying to be some sort of luxury plantation estate in an orange grove.

So I'm thinking pretty Greek columns, sipping orange juice on a veranda, right?

Erm - no ...

When we got there, as usual per my dad's stories - promising you the moon and stars versus reality - we found out it was actually a crappy, circa 1960s paneled mobile home - on an old dirt road, with absolutely nothing to see for miles except orange trees - and not the pretty kind of orange grove with lots of green - the trees were separated by nothing but dirt.

So my 8-year-old self was thinking, "Oh, Sweet Lord of Oranges, no - say it ain't so - and where's Disney?"

To make matters worse, there was a a record cold spell that year for the U.S. in general, including a blizzard in the Cincinnati we'd left behind, so it was super rainy all week, and even lightly snowed in Orlando, later that week - and we had no heat.

So my dad couldn't fish, we couldn't go to Disney, and now there's the four of us with very different personalities, wearing all of the clothes we brought to Florida at once, not expecting it to be cold (which is why we brought winter coats the next year), trapped in this trailer trap with each other and trying to stay warm, and I'm just hoping that we can make it through without killing each other, particularly my parents. 

So my sister was reading a Star Wars book, and I was reading a book my mom handed me called  "Preparing for Adolescence" by Dr. James Dobson (a Christian psychologist) - perhaps in the hopes that I'd grow up faster? lol .

Then I got bored and wrote a story, which I'll talk more about below because it's unfortunately still appropriate for today.

So here's my mom, trying to be positive, and suddenly exclaims, out of nowhere, "I think it's getting warmer!."

You know, when you just really, really want something to be true so badly that you imagine that if you just state it emphatically, over and over, maybe it is or will be true?

That's my mom.

My dad and mom weren't speaking to each other at all, by then, clearly upset with each other, and after like the 4th time she said it, my dad said, "Oh, yeah, Marti, you're right,  it's a heat wave, right now!  There's an effing palm tree growing up out' the floor, as we speak."

Then I started to giggle, I couldn't help myself. When something strikes me as funny, I just giggle, I can't help it.

Then they did, as well as my older sister.

His comment was meant to be snarky towards my mom, but it was also just kind of hilarious in general - and they started to laugh at themselves at the situation, and it made things better - proving the power of a sense of humor to defuse an otherwise tense situation:)

A single laugh amongst each other, though rare, broke the tension - and actually, from then on, things went a bit more smoothly on our trip.

This was rare, in our family when together, but it did happen, once in a while :)

Now before that moment, as I mentioned, I had gone into Gilda Radner/Judy mode, to which my mom and dad and older sister told me to stifle it, I was getting on everyone's very last nerve, so I read for a while, then wrote a story.

So the old rickety trailer had an older rickety black-and-white TV with only one local station, that showed old Westerns, which I had no interest in, as well as the national news. 

It was 1977, and the news was about President Carter trying to work with Menachem Begin of Israel and Anwar Sadat of Egypt to reach a cease-fire and peace agreement (which was eventually accomplished at Camp David).

So me, being 8, with my child-like/Judy-Miller-like imagination, looked out at the orange grove all around and came up with a story.

This story is one of the few things my mom remembers about me as a child, other than the whole being-in-a-TV-movie thing - and actually, though people thought acting was my childhood passion, it was actually writing - I wanted to be a screenwriter and director.  

I was far more comfortable behind the scenes than I was center stage or on camera and still am (I hate being the center of attention) - but any way I got to be creative and expressive and people didn't shush me for it, I was all for :)

So I can't remember exactly how the story went, but I remember that in my simplistic child mind, it went something like this.


So first, you need to know that I realized that Jews, Muslims, and Christians actually came from the same "branch" of the religious tree, we worshipped the same God, just calling him different names, Yahweh, Allah or just God with a capital G. 
So my story took place in an orange grove, and there were two different orange trees within the grove that could not stop fighting - one led by Menachem BegOrange and the other led by AnOrange Sadat (LOL). 
The two trees were so angry and jealous of what they thought the other had that they felt they had a right to,  wanting to possess it so badly, that they began to shake their trees, as well as all of the trees around them, until all the oranges fell off the tree, lying on the ground. 
Now, they'd shaken themselves on the ground, scattered everywhere, destroying the entire grove until there was nothing left to right about - they'd destroyed everything they were after, themselves. 
They turned to Jimmy Cartorange for help, but even Jimmy Cartorange couldn't fix what had been broken and bring peace and restoration. 
So they had nothing left to do except look up to their same God to help them out of the mess they'd gotten themselves into - and they began to pray. 
They began to pray together to the same God, in their various ways, working towards the same goal and agreeing to share the orange grove together, and it was only then that God heard them - and restored them and the grove to its original glory. 
The End 


It's so absurd and simplistic - and yet contains some simple truths, too, right?

My mom has always loved this story, and thus, I had simultaneously shared with her a time the family broke tension with laughter - and the origin of the oranges story that she does remember and loved so much :)

I couldn't creatively write today, I don't think, if my life depended on it, I lost that ability long ago - but it was fun to remember :)

Then I told her about how on the trip home back to blizzard land, in January 1977, my dad was speeding, so we were stopped by a Georgia State Trooper, which I'd never seen before, in his big hat, looking all authoritarian. 

He was in full dress like the guy on the left, short jacket and all,  and HUGE - super intimidating to a little kids.

Much like this guy (only not this guy, and in the 1970s like the photo above).

He was actually a super nice guy, but I was scared of him anyway, because he was so big - and that hat!

He asked me how old I was, and I said "Seven ... I mean, eight. Am I going to be arrested?" 


I had just turned eight in December of 1976, a month earlier - so I thought I was going to be arrested for giving the wrong age! 

Everyone including the trooper laughed, and then he bent down on one knee to my level and said "Seven, butcha mean eight. Nah, I'll let you slide, this time. Besides, that's a real age, my daughter is seven-but-she-means-eight, too. "

Aw, sweet, right?  :)

He knew I was scared of his appearance and tried to make me less afraid  :)

My mom doesn't remember any of it, that entire trip, or a lot from my childhood, actually - but she laughed and laughed over it, good to see:)

But then she fixated back on him again and said, "What was your dad like, he was terrible with authority?"

*Record scratch*

So I said, "Mom, that's true, but I think even dad knew not to mess with a Georgia State Trooper!  But I don't know, I don't remember - I wasn't giving him a clinical psychiatric assessment at age 8, I was focused on the state trooper.  In fact, let's not go there, it upsets you and me."

"Dad ... is dead. Let's let it go now ... in fact, let's bury him over here, under this fake leaf  lol.

Then I did a little taps trumpet sound like "Bur bur BRRR, bur bur BRR. Goodbye, Dad, see ya!" - to which my mom laughed, despite herself lol

"He can't hurt you anymore, he can't hurt US anymore, so let's not let him ruin this day or the rest of our lives, right?"

She said, "Okay, you're right, let's do that:)"

And so we did :)

And then we made this wreath, yesterday - which needs some tweaks, including redoing the ribbon - but it's almost where I want it to be :)

Mark is holding it up for us here ... 

So speaking of restoration, I feel like my mother and I have a second chance to make better, pretty memories to replace the old bad ones,- and I'm super grateful for it :)

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