An individual exhibiting such uniqueness or individuality that he or she will cause a roomful of bar cronies to exclaim, "That's one interesting motherfucker!" Actual sexual relations with one's mother are not required.
It was a typical summer night at the Acid logic Lodge and as My Close Personal Friend Wil Forbis and I enjoyed another round of drinks, our conversation turned to the usual topic - Who is The Funniest Man In The World? My choice, of course, was John Saleeby - Legendary stand up comic, humor essayist, and . . . Oh, I'm sorry. Forbis' choice? I haven't the foggiest! After two drinks everything that man says sounds like an episode of "Felicity" filtered through your girlfriend's front door causing you to consider turning around and going home rather than knocking to be allowed inside. I was but a drink away from telling Forbis exactly what I thought and another drink after that of knowing exactly what I thought. With the elegance and grace of a man tasteful enough to prefer Lauren Graham over Heather Graham, I beckoned to Piddlin' Johnson, our trusty manservant, for another round.
"Ah, Piddlin'!" I smiled "Missus Kobe Bryant stands loyally by her man despite his adultery."
"Yes, Mister John, she does."
"And do you know what Missus Kobe Bryant's first name is?"
Mister John, what is Missus Kobe Bryant's first name?"
"Hillariesia!!! Get it? Hillary? Hillariesia? Hahaha!!"
Forbis' face was A Mask Of Hate. His drink splashed into my face! It would be Pistols At Dawn! My future was shorter than the Norm McDonald Film Festival! There was only one escape - The Ol' Change Of Subject . . .
"Yo, Piddlin', with yo' hands in de air like you just don't care - who do you think is the Funniest Man In The World, you know what I'm sayin, G?"
"The Funniest Man In The World, Mister John? The Funniest Man In The World is John Witherspoon!"
"Reese Witherspoon? I didn't ask you who the Prettiest Girl In The World was, ya big silly! I asked you who the Funniest Man In The World was! And, anyway, the Prettiest Girl In The World is Teri Hatcher in reruns of 'Lois And Clark' every morning on TNT!"
"I'm sorry, Mister John, I said that the Funniest Man In The World is JOHN WITHERSPOON!"
I felt like an idiot and Forbis looked the same way. John Witherspoon? Is this what it was like thirty years ago when the cutting edge white hipsters of the day were asking waiters "Franklin Ajaye? Who is Franklin Ajaye?"
"John Witherspoon is a comedian who -"
"A comedian? I've never heard of him."
"He is a black comedian."
"Oh, I've heard of him! I mean . . . uh . . . Okay, I've never heard of him."
"He was in the movies 'Friday', 'House Party', 'Boomerang' . . . "
I was writing this all down - These titles were all so new to me! I am only familiar with the Experimental Eastern European Neo Realist Documentary Cinema of . . . (Usually, once I get past the "Neo Realist" part young women start squealing about how "smart" I am and ask what kind of car I drive.) But this John Witherspoon thing had elicited even more curiosity in me than the subliminal voices on the very first record I ever bought telling me to spend all my money on records, spend all my money on records, Yes Master, I will spend all my money on records . . . It was time for research. Actually, I thought it was time for another drink but Forbis had Piddlin' throw me out on the street so . . .
John Witherspoon got his start in the entertainment industry as a male model. That may be difficult for those of you are familiar with him to imagine, but this was in the early seventies when people did not even know about "abs" yet. What sad, primitive brutes! I suppose if you were to stop doing sit ups you could eventually find a storage space full of moldy clothing catalogues aimed at the African American Male Market with pictures of John Witherspoon sporting lime green bell bottom trousers, orange wide brim hats with metallic ostrich feathers, and platform shoes with heels big enough for tenants to move inside on a twelve month lease. Or perhaps I am being racist? How do I know that if I were to stop writing condescending comedy bits about the sartorial style of young black men more than a quarter of a century ago and pursue the matter of John Witherspoon's modeling career with the kind of serious journalism such a fascinating subject deserves I would not eventually discover a portfolio full of photographs of John Witherspoon sporting a variety of tasteful, elegant gentleman's wear? I'll tell you how I know that - It was the early seventies and in those days there was no such thing as tasteful, elegant gentleman's wear. Look at the fashion magazines from those days and you will think you are hallucinating. That's because the people who were editing those magazines were hallucinating. Has this article gone off track a little bit? I'm sorry, I'm hallucinating. Getting back to John Witherspoon's modeling career, his eventual transition from fashion model to comedian was perfectly natural because the fashions of the day were so laughable that there was absolutely no meaningful diference between being a model and being a comedian. And, with the introduction of the Leisure Suit, the models were often funnier than the comedians.
Witherspoon's success was foreshadowed by a close friendship with another comic just starting out named David Letterman. In fact, Letterman and Witherspoon are so close that Letterman is the Godfather to one of Witherspoon's sons! I find that hard to imagine - It doesn't at all fit in with Letterman's public image as a depressive recluse who spends most of his time watching and rewatching videotapes of his most recent show and throwing furniture around every time he spots a mistake, but maybe black people enjoy seeing a white man behave in such a manner. I once suffered a mental breakdown on a crowded subway car and the black people present probably still haven't gotten over it - One of them offered me a sit com on the UPN.
By the early eighties Witherspoon was getting steady work on TV shows and I was too busy drinking beer, getting thrown out of college, and screaming at people to ever watch "Good Times", "What's Happening?", and "Whodat White Boy Screamin' At?". Too bad Witherspoon was too tall to bag the landmark situation comedy black role of the era, Arnold of "Different Strokes". He auditioned to play Willis but lost the role to Todd Bridges because his failure to threaten to shoot anyone if he did not get the gig was viewed as lack of enthusiasm.
Because of his improvisational skills Witherspoon became known as the man to call when filmmakers needed a good professional comedy sequence but did not have the talent to put it together on their own. One example of Witherspoon's ability to inject huge amounts of entertainment into a film completely bereft of that most rare of qualities is "Boomerang", a film starring Eddie Murphy - A very strange man who was apparently quite a popular movie star in the eighties. A little research into this person's background might be interesting, but from the feeling I get looking at Murphy in this film I fear even a quick dip into the search engines will dredge up some unspeakable scandal of the sort which causes me to hit the Channel button on the remote every time I find myself looking at that E! thing. Didn't he get married to Elvis Presley's daughter and dangle one of his children out of a hotel room window? On the Negative Experience Scale "Boomerang" ranks right between prostate cancer and a cross country car trip with Rush Limbaugh and Susan Sarandon. Odd events purporting to represent human interaction occur with only the most routine of activities - Stepping through doorways, sitting in chairs, etc. - to give us anything to relate to. Suddenly Witherspoon appears and for a few minutes we're watching a genuine motion picture rather than random shapes and sounds emitting from an electronic device. Unfortunately, Witherspoon soon exits and from then on you might as well hit "STOP" and then "EJECT". Don't bother with "REWIND", you've already done the video rental people a tremendous favor by just renting "Boomerang". Do they manufacture a video cassette recorder with a "SHRED" button? Just a few more Eddie Murphy movies and that will be of great demand.
Witherspoon devotees agree that his ultimate performances are in the "Friday" movie series. I'm embarrassed to say that I had never seen these films, but now that I have please allow me to say that "Friday" is "Frilarious"! I'm sorry, I just smoked the dried pineal gland of comedy writing legend Spike Milligan and the words are appearing on the paper without any involvement on my part. I tried taking notes while watching Witherspoon in these movies but he made me laugh so hard I kept jabbing my ink pen into my leg while slapping my knee and now I am wearing a prosthetic limb. But it was worth it - It is better to watch John Witherspoon and have one leg than to watch Jay Leno and have two. (Actually most Leno fans have four legs and a tail - "What's that, Lassie? Angelina Jolie? On 'The Tonight Show'? With George Lopez? And The Goo Goo Dolls?")
According to the Orange County Register "Witherspoon is one of those performers who doesn't need a funny line to be funny, just standing there in a truculent posture with a suspicious look, he is funny, and enlivens every scene he is in." Once the reader has recovered from the nearly psychosexual abuse of the comma in that quote, one has to agree with its description of Witherspoon's magical ability to bring humor to even the most un-amusing comedy film. Just last night I was forced to sit through The Kids In The Hall's "Brain Candy" and if there was ever a comedy movie full of scenes that could have used John Witherspoon just standing there in a truculent posture with a suspicious look it is "Brain Candy". I don't know what they have planned for the next couple of Adam Sandler and Rob Schneider movies, but if they can arrange to have John Witherspoon just standing there in a truculent posture with a suspicious look in just a couple of scenes it will certainly be an improvement on anything they've managed to come up with so far. Would the American public go for a comedy movie that is nothing but John Witherspoon just standing there in a truculent posture with a suspicious look on his face? That might be a little Warhol for most people, but maybe I've stumbled across something that finally demonstrates the necessity for people like Martin Lawrence in a comedy movie.
If David Letterman and John Witherspoon are really so close personally Letterman should have Witherspoon as his On The Air Sidekick for his talk show. Witherspoon wouldn't have to sit next to Letterman's desk and talk to him like Ed McMahon or Andy Richter, they could have him off to the side just standing there in a truculent posture with a suspicious look all through the show. Maybe when they bring on some stand up comic Witherspoon could move over right behind the comic to stand in a truculent pose with a suspicious look all through their act just to guarantee that something funny and entertaining will definitely happen. By the way, I must remember to have Forbis provide an illustration of Witherspooon in a truculent posture with a suspicious look with this article so it will get a lot of laughs. (ED - I would have liked to John. But the only damn picture I could find featured a happy, gentle, non-truculent Witherspoon.) As a matter of fact, Forbis should get a whole collection of photographs of Witherspoon in a truculent posture with a suspicious look for all of the articles in this issue and possibly every issue of Acid Logic in the future.
And now, as soon as Piddlin' gets here with our next round, Forbis and I will raise our voices in song to the melody of Paul McCartney and Stevie Wonder's classic "Ebony And Ivory" . . .
John Saleeby wrote for The National Lampoon while he was in high school, was a stand up comic in New York, and has contributed to the net humor zines Schmuck.com, Campaign Central, and the legendary American Jerk. He's on medication now so he's probably a little nicer now than he was when you met him earlier. Email - firstname.lastname@example.org
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