Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Remembering Septembers

from the classic and hilarious NY Observer article --Why Have a Night Like This In times Like These?' by Frank DiGiacomo

Just weeks after the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, the Friars Club warily proceeded with its planned roast of Hugh Hefner, which included a classic telling of ‘The Aristocrats’ joke. The result? As Frank DiGiacomo reported, the laughter humanized an inhuman time.

On Saturday, Sept. 29, Freddie Roman, the dean of New York’s Friars Club, stood before audience members in the Grand Ballroom of the New York Hilton and asked them to familiarize themselves with the fire exits.

Then, because he’d said that “these are very different times for us all,” he attempted to answer a question that people had been asking him. Mr. Roman’s Vulcanesque eyes and brows scanned the audience before him. The question sounded a little like something that would be asked at Passover. “Why have a night like this in times like these?”

Mr. Roman was referring to the Friars Roast, the club’s yearly ritual of profane humor and insult that was about to get underway with Playboy founder Hugh Hefner in the hot seat.

In the aftermath of the terrorist attack on New York, the Friars organization and Comedy Central, the cable network that, for the last three years, has taped and televised an expurgated version of the roast (this one will debut on Nov. 4), had, after some debate, decided to go ahead with the event. “It’s time we get back to normal, like Mayor Giuliani and President Bush have asked,” Mr. Roman said. “And for the Friars, this is normal. Telling dirty jokes, making fun of people. That’s what we do, and we’re proud to do it for you,” he said. “So you can get some laughter back in your life and into your hearts.”

While the crowd waited for the cameras to start rolling, Mr. Roman eased into the task at hand.

“A couple married 48 years. Wife takes sick and passes away. Funeral at the Riverside, 78th and Broadway,” Mr. Roman said. “After the service, the pallbearers pick up the coffin. As they’re leaving the building, the coffin hits the wall.” From inside the coffin, he said, the woman’s voice could be heard.

“They open the coffin—it’s a miracle,” he said. “She stays married for another two years. Gets sick, passes away again. After the service, the pallbearers lift the coffin. As they start to leave, the husband yells, ‘Watch out for the wall!’”

The laughter sounded grateful. Mr. Roman got the high sign to introduce Mr. Hefner. A small group of Playmates led the flesh magnate—who looked frighteningly robust and wrinkle-free for a man in his 70’s—to the big red swivel chair on the stage....

At the conclusion of the evening, Gilbert Gottfried took the stage -
The man in the gray tuxedo jacket looked out over the crowd. “I have a flight to California. I can’t get a direct flight,” Mr. Gottfried said. “They said they have to stop at the Empire State Building first.”

There was a silence. Then hissing and hooting flooded forward.

“Too soon,” a man could be heard saying in the back of the ballroom.

When the booing started, Mr. Gottfried responded: “Awwwwwww, what the f...k do you care?” Silence fell once more.

Mr. Gottfried had his answer. Up on the podium, he began making strange movements with his arms, as if he was working some sort of invisible machine that could take him back in time to the moment right before he had pushed too far. Seconds passed.

“O.K.,” he continued. His voice was not so loud.

“A talent agent is sitting in his office. A family walks in. A man, woman, two kids, their little dog, and the talent agent goes, ‘What kind of an act do you do?’”

..and there began his classic, insane, recitation of "The Aristocrats."

The full New York Observer link here

Current Reading

  • Midnight Rising: John Brown and the Raid that Sparked the Civil War- Tony Horwitz
  • A Sultan in Palermo - Tariq Ali
  • Hitch-22: A Memoir - Christopher Hitchens
  • Negropedia- Patrice Evans
  • Dead Funny: Humor in Nazi Germany - Rudolph Herzog
  • Exile on Main Street - Robert Greenfield
  • Among the Truthers - A Journey Among America's Growing Conspiracist Underworld - Jonathan Kay
  • Paradise Lost - John Milton
  • What Is Your Dangerous Idea? Thinking the Unthinkable - John Brockman
  • Notes from the Edge Times - Daniel Pinchbeck
  • Fringe-ology: How I Can't Explain Away the Unexplainable- Steve Volk
  • Un Juif pour l'exemple (translated as A Jew Must Die )- Jacques Cheesex
  • The God Delusion - Richard Dawkins
  • Pale King - David Foster Wallce
  • David Bowie: Starman bio - Paul Trynka
  • Tobacco Stained Mountain Goat - Andrez Bergen
  • The Future of Nostalgia -Svetlana Boym
  • Living in the End Times - Slavoj ZIzek
  • FIrst as Tragedy Next as Farce - Slavoj Zizek
  • How to Survive a Robot Uprising - Daniel Wilson
  • Where is My Jet Pack? -Daniel Wilson
  • Day of the Oprichniks - Vladimir Sorokin
  • Ice Trilogy - Vladimir Sorokin
  • First Civilizations
  • Oscar Wilde -Andre Maurois
  • The Beats - Harvey Pekar, et al
  • SDS - Harvey Pekar, et al
  • The Unfinished Animal - Theodore Roszak
  • Friends of Eddy Coyle
  • Brooklands -Emily Barton
  • Abraham Lincoln - Vampire Hunter - Seth Grahme-Smith - Entertaining and historical
  • Dictionary of the Khazars - Pavic
  • Sloth-Gilbert Hernandez
  • War and Peace- Leo Tolstoy
  • Charles Addams: An Evilution
  • Life in Ancient Greece
  • Time - Eva Hoffmann
  • Violence - S. Zizek
  • Luba - a graphic novel by Gilbert Hernandez
  • Life in Ancient Egypt
  • Great Apes - Will Self - riveting and disturbing
  • Lost Honor of Katherina Blum - Heinrich Boll - could not put it down
  • Yellow Back Radio Brokedown - Ishmael Reed (author deserving of new wide readership)
  • Living in Ancient Mesopotomia
  • Landscape in Concrete - Jakov Lind - surreal
  • 'There Once Lived A Woman Who Tried To Kill Her Neighbor's Baby'-Ludmilla Petrushevskaya - creepy stories - translation feels literarily "thin"
  • Mythologies - William Butler Yeats (re-read again & again)
  • How German Is It ? - Walter Abish
  • The Book of Genesis - illustrated by R. Crumb - visionary
  • "Flags" - an illustrated encyclopedia - wish I could remember all of these. Flag culture
  • Sirens of Titan - Kurt Vonnegut
  • Ubik - Philip K. Dick
  • Nobody's Fool - Richard Russo
  • Hitler's Empire - Mark Mazower
  • Nazi Culture - various authors
  • Master Plan: Himmler 's Scholars and the Holocaust - Heather Pringle
  • Eichmann in Jerusalem - Hannah Arendt
  • Living in Ancient Rome
  • Traveling with Herodotus -R. Kapuszynsky
  • Oblivion - David Foster Wallace - Some of his greatest work
  • Infinite Jest - David Foster Wallace - still wrestling with this great book
  • Netherland - Joseph O'Neill - staggeringly great read
  • Renegade - The Obama Campaign - Richard Wolffe
  • Mount Analogue - Rene Daumal
  • John Brown
  • Anathem - Neal Stephenson - love Stephenson but tough slogging first few chapters
  • 7 Deadly Sins
  • ALEX COX - Alex Cox
  • FIASCO by Thomas Ricks
  • I, Fellini - Charlotte Chandler & Federico Fellini
  • Best of 20th century alternative history fiction
  • Judah P. Benjamin - Eli Evans - Confederacy's Secretary of State & source of the W.C. Field's exclamation
  • Moscow 2042 - Vladimir Voinovich - Pre-1989 curiosity & entertaining sci fi read; love his portrayal of Solzhenitsyn-like character
  • Gomorrah - Roberto Saviano - Mafia without the It-Am sugar coating. Brutal & disturbing
  • The Sack of Rome - Celebrity+Media+Money=Silvio Berlusconi - Alexander Stille
  • Reporting - David Remnick - terrific journalism
  • Fassbinder
  • Indignation - Philip Roth
  • Rome
  • Let's Go Italy! 2008
  • Italian Phrases for Dummies
  • How to Pack
  • Violence - Slavoj Zizek
  • Dali: Painting & Film
  • The Gang That Couldn't Shoot Straight - Jimmy Breslin
  • The Good Rat - Jimmy Breslin
  • Spook Country - William Gibson
  • A Blue Hand - The Beats in India - Deborah Baker
  • The Metaphysical Club - Louis Menard
  • Coast of Utopia - Tom Stoppard
  • Physics of the Impossible - Dr. Michio Kaku
  • Managing the Unexpected - Weick & Sutcliffe
  • Wait Til The Midnight Hour - Writings on Black Power
  • Yellow Back Radio Brokedown - Ishmael Reed
  • Burning Down the Masters' House - Jayson Blair
  • Howl - Allen Ginsberg
  • Cat's Cradle - Kurt Vonnegut
  • The Palace Thief - Ethan Canin
  • John Adams - David McCullough
  • The Wooden Sea - Jonathan Carroll
  • American Gangster - Mark Jacobson
  • Return of the King - J.R.R. Tolkien
  • Gawker Guide to Becoming King of All Media
  • Jews and Power - Ruth Wisse
  • Youth Without Youth - Mircea Eliade
  • A Team of Rivals - Doris Goodwin
  • Ghost Hunters -William James and the Search for Scientific Proof of Life After Death - Deborah Blum
  • Dream -Re-Imagining Progressive Politics in an Age of Fantasy - Stephen Duncombe
  • Love & Theft - Eric Lott
  • Exit Ghost - Philip Roth
  • Studio A - The Bob Dylan Reader

Current Listening

  • Alexi Murdoch Wait
  • Wilco Summer Teeth
  • Wilco The Album
  • Carmina Burana - Ray Manzarek (& Michael Riesmann)
  • Polyrock - Polyrock
  • 96 Tears - Garland Jeffries
  • Ghost of a Chance Garland Jeffries
  • Yellow Magic Orchestra
  • Mustang Sally Buddy Guy
  • John Lee Hooker
  • Black and White Years
  • Together Through Life - B. Dylan
  • 100 Days 100 Nites - Sharon Jones & The Dap Kings
  • DYLAN: 3 disc Greatest...
  • Glassworks - Philip Glass
  • Wild Palms - Soundtrack -Ryuichi Sakamoto
  • Dinah Washington - Best of..
  • Commander Cody& His Lost Planet Airmen Live at Armadillo