Wednesday, June 27, 2007

"My name is Sue, how do you do?"

Remember when your dad used to spend all weekend in his underwear, bag of pork rinds in his gnarly construction worker hands, watching back to back Three Stooges movies, and you beside him with your little legs not yet long enough to dangle off the worn-in secondhand sofa? Sometimes he'd get you up out of bed with the smell of scrapple and eggs, which you'd eat together at the shaky table that had imprints from years of homework, bills and your mom's ceaseless journaling, in order to prepare yourselves for the triumphs and tribulations of Larry, Moe and Curly. Sometimes this was substituted out for Dad's Donuts (remember the cold floor-mats of your dad's truck on your bare feet early in the morning on the way to the shop?) and Charlie Chaplin, Buster Keaton or the Marx Brothers, though we always returned to the Three. For some reason no one else in your family had any desire to join in on these marathons of raucous laughter and pork rind breath.

Of course, you too eventually skipped out on these events. The Three Stooges began to seem to you more dumb than funny, and you moved on to the likes of Gene Wilder, Steve Martin, Robin Williams and Eddie Murphy. You felt that stand-up comedy was a more advanced form of funny than the Three Stooges. In the following years you moved up to that guy Mitch Hedberg and then find yourself squealing with laughter while reading At Swim-Two Birds (very legitimately, bien sûr).

But something very unexpected happens. It slowly becomes obvious that the next step in the path of humor is the Three Stooges, the Marx Brothers, Buster Keaton and Charlie Chaplin. You find yourself checking these movies out from the library by the armful, slapstick humor and gags showing hints of the genius your dad attributed to them. He was right all along, as tends to happen.

I myself only remember some of this. Nevertheless, I find myself in my underwear, beer in hand, watching, religiously mind you, a little French-Canadian television program called Just For Laughs Gags. The program consists of a troupe of folks with the ability to keep a straight face going around playing gags on unsuspecting Montrealers. Every day at noon I watch this show. If I miss it I feel something important missing from my day. Danica thinks I look white trash watching in, but I care not. It is the funniest stuff I've ever seen, though no one seems to agree with me on this point. My new goal in life is to end up on the show, a prank being played on me.

The thing I find really interesting about the show is how it changes the feel of the city. It makes walking around the Plateau, downtown or the Old Port more mysterious and magical, sneaky even. The other day Danica and I were sitting in the terrace of a Lebanese restaurant on Blvd. St. Laurent and we saw a group of police swagger past. I kept waiting for them to play a gag on someone, as the pranksters of Just For Laughs Gags often impersonate police officers. Just For Laughs Gags is "a special ether which determines the specific gravity of everything that appears" in Montreal, as Marx put it, speaking of something else entirely.

Welcome to my favorite television program:


mary j said...

oh my. you are reminding my why i feel overly suspicious of EVERYONE while walking around the old port in the summer.....

Matthew said...

I feel like I'd be immune to a prank since I'd recognize anyone from the show.

I hope I've just jinxed myself.

mary j said...

you have indeed jinxed yourself.


let's walk around the old port in the next week or so. if i see them coming, you'll know because i'll be walking in the opposite direction!