"You'll never get ahead if you don't take care of what you have." - Doris Waddell, RIP

A historic building on our U of M-Morris campus - morris mn

A historic building on our U of M-Morris campus - morris mn
The multi-ethnic building was the original home of the music department at UMM. (B.W. photo)

Friday, April 13, 2012

Cooper's laugh episode breath of fresh air

Anderson Cooper follows in the footsteps of David Brinkley. Cooper "cracked up" on the set of CNN when reporting a story the other night. He was reporting about an obscure Polish-American post-Lenten holiday.
"Dyngus Day" struck Cooper as having some oddities. Was it "pussy willows" that sent him over the top?
I like the holiday because this often-drab time of year could use some enlivening. Cooper found it charming. He also couldn't stop laughing for a spell.
While it may seem unprofessional, who could possibly object to the little incident? It was a total breath of fresh air in the often-turgid world of cable TV news.
Cooper has now been invited to a main "Dyngus Day" celebration next year. He would be given a royal designation.
Cooper "got the giggles" on CNN where a few wasted moments are hardly an issue.
CNN was the pioneering 24/7 news network but has fallen into a non-descript category. "News" has become such a ubiquitous commodity. A network can't sell itself merely being a news source. CNN has become upstaged by partisan TV.
The partisan networks really seem to "have teeth." They do purport to be news networks. They do in fact dispense news but are defined by their partisan personalities and sharp-edged commentary, often done to caricature.
The old reliable 5:30 p.m. broadcast news seems vestigial.
David Brinkley was on the "evening news" back when broadcast TV had primacy. He worked with Chet Huntley for a long time. This was the only newscast available to many of us here in western Minnesota once. That's because KCMT TV of Alexandria was affiliated with NBC.
We only heard about Walter Cronkite, or James Arness of "Gunsmoke."
We had Huntley and Brinkley, and Lorne Greene on "Bonanza." Let's not forget "Trampas" on "The Virginian" (Doug McClure), who must have driven James Drury crazy by upstaging him.
Brinkley was a long-time pillar in television news. He had a halting delivery sometimes that ended up getting parodied on "Saturday Night Live."
He belongs to another age, when the power of TV journalism was concentrated in the hands of a few. So the time Brinkley exhausted by getting "the giggles" was more of a story, and perhaps more of an internal issue, back then.
This was post-Chet Huntley. Brinkley was working with John Chancellor on the NBC evening news. Chancellor had just recited a seemingly routine story about the banning of red dye #6 and the possible effect on the Maraschino cherry industry.
I was too young then to realize the role Maraschinos played in adult social life. It was an era of social drinking acceptance.
Chancellor laughed just a touch. Apparently what set them off was the reference to the Maraschino Cherry Association of America. The camera went back to Brinkley. Brinkley was unable to get focused for the next story. He tried getting control of himself to start over.
It was to no avail. This could truly be a panic situation. Unprofessional as it could have been judged, only a total grouch could have found this objectionable. Brinkley had to be relieved by the network going to a commercial.
Most of us feel laughter is a great remedy and reprieve from life's grind. Most of us would have wanted to join in with Brinkley. Ditto when Anderson Cooper experienced the exact same episode.
Cooper went on to apologize to the people active with Dyngus Day. It's centered in Buffalo, New York, but given its newfound notoriety, thanks to Cooper, it could branch out. I would welcome it.
This is a drab time of year when the weather can often not make its mind up. We establish a mindset for warmer weather only to get a roundhouse punch of the colder stuff. I have joked with people that it "must be like a Missouri winter."
I heartily welcome Dyngus Day to our calendar. It's obscure but real, not like St. Urho's Day. St. Urho's is good for prompting a hearty laugh on its own. It exists partly to irritate those who think St. Patrick's Day is special.
We like to think we know what makes us laugh. As we think back to those things that have given us the "giggles," though, they might seem not that funny in the abstract.
Entertainment that is clearly scripted as comedy might leave us flat. The things we judge as truly funny might come out of nowhere. They're incidental and unscripted. Cooper was reciting a story that had no intent of being funny. Again, I think it was something about the "pussy willows."
Brinkley seemed the kind of guy who maybe enjoyed his share of beverages adorned by the "crop" in his story. That was the "Mad Men" era. Drinking alcohol was a most approved adult activity in the 1960s.
We laughed at references to excessive alcohol consumption. It was a time when you could drive 70 MPH on the state highways too. My father had a Buick station wagon and availed himself of this. He did not drink alcohol.
Being a non-drinker might stigmatize yourself back then. For my generation, choosing not to smoke marijuana would do the same thing.
My generation laughed at "Blazing Saddles." The "Blazing" movie launched the Mel Brooks franchise of comedies that entranced the boomers. I saw it at our Morris Theater where there was considerable laughing out loud.
This movie had its moments, like with the Count Basie band, but I considered it somewhat overrated. Del Sarlette of Morris would roundly disagree with me on that.
I thought Brooks' "Young Frankenstein" was a more solid and consistent piece of work.
Comedy is a very fragile entertainment form and the Brooks franchise dropped off. "History of the World Part I" was a great name but this movie went flat. The highlight at the end was Brooks' previews for "History of the World Part II," including "Jews in Space" and "A Viking Funeral."
The Brooks series of movies beginning with "Blazing Saddles" was right in line with the boomers' irreverent outlook on life. I consider the most underrated movie to be "Silent Movie." It was a true comedy silent movie, an authentic tribute to the genre, and it was fueled by Dom DeLuise in his prime. Marty Feldman was back from "Young Frankenstein."
I have told Del the hardest I have ever laughed during a movie was when the three heroes - Brooks, DeLuise and Feldman - put on medieval knight armor and sought to take a seat at the same table as Liza Minnelli at a Hollywood movie set deli. The sound effects were metal-on-metal "crunching" as the three tried the simple act of sitting down - impossible as it turned out.
Also greatly funny was the scene where the three heroes chased Paul Newman with all of them in motorized wheelchairs.
People who create comedy must be very nervous. It's hard to know what will come across as truly funny.
We laugh at little things that perhaps reveal something about the frustrating nature of the human condition.
Also, "pussy willows."
- Brian Williams - morris mn minnesota - bwilly73@yahoo.com

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