Posts Tagged ‘Jerry Abrahams’

Jerry Lewis And The Naked Gun

March 17, 2010

Tuesday March 16th, 2010 – Chicago, IL

Belated birthday wishes are still trickling in and every one of them makes me feel good. Who doesn’t like to be recognized, especially on or around their birthday? Today happens to be Jerry Lewis’s 84th birthday and he’s been on my radar since grade school. I can still remember how the other boys in my class all loved him. I can’t speak for any of the girls.

As much as I tried, I was never able to find him funny as a kid. I think I watched all the same movies my friends did, but they never made me laugh. I felt like an outcast, but I’m not going to lie. I eventually gave up on him and just accepted the fact he didn‘t wow me.

My whole opinion has changed since I became an adult, and especially a comic myself. The truth is, Jerry Lewis is brilliantly creative on many levels, and very few in history can compare to his list of accomplishments. That says a lot, even though his movies still don’t make me laugh. Just because I don’t like them doesn’t mean I don’t respect his creativity.

He was born into a family of performers, and has been around show business his whole life. That can be an advantage or a disadvantage, depending on the individual. I’m sure he could have easily dropped out and done something else, but to last for over three quarters of a century and still be a household name, positive or not, is about as difficult as it gets.

It’s very easy to bash his brash and abrasive personality, his telethon or just about all of his solo movies, but I see how much he accomplished onscreen and off and have nothing but the utmost respect. It’s not easy to succeed in show business at all, much less last for several generations. Say what you will, the one thing that can’t be disputed is his tenure.

There’s a fascinating interview with him from the David Susskind show from probably the mid ‘60s which really won me over. He was amazingly sharp, and went off on a lot of subjects that showed how intelligent he really is. He’s never seemed happy whenever I’ve seen or heard him interviewed, but I guess genius and happy have never come as a pair.

Being a student of the comedy game doesn’t mean I have to personally like everyone’s work. In many cases, I just don’t. It doesn’t move me. Comedy and entertainment itself is subjective, and whoever sees it gets the opportunity to make up his or her own mind as to whether that individual enjoys it or not. If I don’t enjoy something I can still respect it.

One thing I’ve always personally enjoyed are the series of Naked Gun movies made by the Zucker Brothers and Jerry Abrahams. I’ve always been a fan of theirs, at first because they were also from Milwaukee but later because I just found their style to be hilarious.

I’ve seen most of their movies but Leslie Neilsen’s Frank Drebin character never fails at making me laugh out loud. I found a DVD of the first movie at the thrift store today, and I popped it in because I hadn’t seen it in a while. It still made me laugh and I watched for a lot of other things I really hadn’t noticed before, like pacing, laughs per minute and how it all ties together as a movie rather than just watch individual scenes. Those guys are great.

Not only did the movie hold up, I was amazed all over again at how they cast actors that weren’t at all previously known for being funny. All of them. Leslie Neilsen was a serious actor, as was George Kennedy. Ricardo Montalban played a great villain, and he’s usually very likeable in all the roles I’ve seen him play, especially Mr. Roarke on Fantasy Island.

Priscilla Presley and especially O.J. Simpson aren’t even known for acting at all. Still, it all fell together perfectly and I thought laugh for laugh it was right up there with any other movie I can think of that was released in the last twenty years. They should be proud of it, and I’m sure they are. Watching it again made me take inventory of everything I‘ve done.

That, coupled with the body of work Jerry Lewis cranked out made my little career feel like a bug fart by comparison. I can’t be cocky because I really haven’t done anything yet, other than wish I could catch a break sometime. Do I have any ideas for movies? Yes, but I’m nowhere near close to being able to even present them to anyone. I’m way off course.

All I can do is continue down the path I’m on and do the best I can with whatever time I have left. I’m never going to have the career of a Jerry Lewis or the Zucker Brothers, but I can still keep working on what I’m doing. I’ve got a new CD on the horizon and that’s the product to focus on now. It’s not a movie and I’m not a legend in France, but it’s a start.

Greg Phelps sent the proofs of the CD package today and I had to make a few small but important corrections. The font wasn’t very readable in my opinion and there were a few typos, but other than that it looked pretty good. We were able to use the artwork I paid for from Pedro Bell, even though it’s not colorized. I had to go with what I have, but it’s ok.

Greg and his artist Chad colorized the title of the CD which is ’Hard Luck Jollies’ and a logo for my name Pedro Bell drew that looks like the logo for Funkadelic. I doubt if many people will recognize it, but those who do will really be impressed. I was, and that’s good enough for me. It looks very unique, and it’s not just another thrown together hack piece.

I’m really going to have to scrape together cash to pay for this, but I think I’ll be able to sell enough of them quickly to get my money back. It’s an investment in myself, so that’s never a bad thing. I think I’ll get some attention from it, as it’s a product I can be proud of that will sound and look professional. I’ve been overdue for another product for a while.

I’ve also got enough material recorded where I think I can have another one done by the fall. That would be great, and it’s already in the can so it’s not like I need to record any of it again. In a perfect world I’ll keep creating CD projects every year for as long as I can be creative enough to keep thinking of material. Every artist should always keep on growing.

Maybe I will get around to doing movies eventually, maybe not. As long as I keep up an honest effort to do my best, I’m sure my path will take me where I need to go, even if that isn’t necessarily where I wanted to go when I started out. A big movie career sounds great but who really gets that in the end? Not many. Does it mean I’m a failure if I don’t have it on my resume? No, not at all. Failure is not trying. I’m trying hard, I’m just farther back.