Sunday, February 25, 2007

How to get a head in life

I never really know what is going to happen next. Life is unscripted. I suppose that makes it an improvisation. You just have to roll with it and see where it goes.
Of course I realise that some of you plan every moment. You may have scheduled your visit here (for which I am grateful) and in that case I'm on the clock, so I'll keep this brief.

Del CloseI read a story in the New Yorker magazine about the (apparently) legendary improv comedian Del Close. I have to 'fess that I had never heard of the guy; though I had seen Ferris Bueller's Day Off in which he plays the deadpan English teacher..."Bueller?…Bueller?......Bueller?. He taught improv to an impressive list of comedians including: John Belushi, John Candy, Andy Dick, Chris Farley, Mike Myers, Bill Murray, Gilda Radner and Harold Ramis (some of whom are still alive).

When he died he asked his longtime creative collaborator, Charna Halpern, that his skull be donated to the Goodman Theatre in New York, so that he could play Yorick in “Hamlet.” The skull was donated - but it turned out the skull may have been Yorick's but, alas, it wasn't Close's. Not even close. The problem was that no one in the medical/funereal business was prepared to detach the head and rend it for the role.

The part of the story I liked, aside from the slightly black humour of the dying wish, was Halpern's reasoning for handing over an understudy skull. She says the substitution was never intended as a hoax: “Del and I were improvisers, and improvisers always say yes to each other’s ideas onstage, make them work. ...Try to keep it all going.”

Actually it reminds me of a line I've been known to trot out from time to time:

You think I'm improvising here, but I'm really just making it all up as I go along...


Read the article in the New Yorker here

2 comments:

  1. I was a good friend of Del Close. He left it to me to get his skull out of his head and to the Goodman Theater.

    Alas, poor Yorick! I knew him, (DEL) Horatio: a fellow
    of infinite jest, of most excellent fancy: he hath
    borne me on his back a thousand times; and now, how
    abhorred in my imagination it is! my gorge rims at
    it. Here hung those lips that I have kissed I know
    not how oft. Where be your gibes now? your
    gambols? your songs? your flashes of merriment,
    that were wont to set the table on a roar? Not one
    now, to mock your own grinning? quite chap-fallen?
    Now get you to my lady's chamber, and tell her, let
    her paint an inch thick, to this favour she must
    come; make her laugh at that.




    I was in on the Del's head deal from the first. The way it went down was not exactly how it was portrayed in the Magazine.

    Here is a picture in Del's Apartment with Timothy Leary who wanted to have his head frozen.


    http://www.chicagoist.com/archives/2006/10/12/looking_closer_into_the_past.php


    Stop by and visit Hawaii anyone who know Del for a good time.

    Jay Friedheim
    Honolulu

    ReplyDelete
  2. Del was my good Close.

    I was in on the plan for take his skull out of his head.

    Here is a picture in Del's Apartment with Tim Leary.


    http://www.chicagoist.com/archives/2006/10/12/looking_closer_into_the_past.php



    Alas, poor Yorick! I knew him, Horatio: a fellow
    of infinite jest, of most excellent fancy: he hath
    borne me on his back a thousand times; and now, how
    abhorred in my imagination it is! my gorge rims at
    it. Here hung those lips that I have kissed I know
    not how oft. Where be your gibes now? your
    gambols? your songs? your flashes of merriment,
    that were wont to set the table on a roar? Not one
    now, to mock your own grinning? quite chap-fallen?
    Now get you to my lady's chamber, and tell her, let
    her paint an inch thick, to this favour she must
    come; make her laugh at that.

    ReplyDelete