By Doug Kayne
I clearly remember when George Carlin died. He was (and still is) one of my comedy idols, and I take great pleasure in not only having met him at a book signing of his book, Brain Droppings, but also having made him laugh at said event. I related how I used his HBO comedy special, “Doin’ It Again”, as a source for a research project I completed for a Language Differences and Language Change class for my teaching credential. He was amazed that I got an “A” on the assignment, even remarking that, and I’m quoting him here, “Whenever I used my own shit, I always failed. Maybe I should have quoted Danny Kaye.” He then asked if I wanted him to sign the album, in addition to the book (I’m not an idiot – I said “yes”). In fact, Carlin has quite readily admitted that Kaye was an inspiration of his.
I’ve gotten to meet a few people whose work I admire: Carlin, Stan Lee, Christopher Titus, Garry Marshall. Even ran into Kevin Pollack at a swap meet. Later saw him at a celebrity event, and he gave a hint of recognition to me. Then again, he may have mistaken me for someone else.
For the most part, the celebrities I’ve met have been friendly and gracious with their time.
There’s also a list of people whose work I not only admire, but also want to meet and work with.
Monday afternoon, I learned of the death of Robin Williams, someone on that list. I was a fan of his since “Mork and Mindy” (which was a spin-off from “Happy Days”, the episode of which I also watched -- yes, I’m that old!), and his “Inside the Actor’s Studio” appearance (whereby he performed what amounted to a version of the improv game “Props” with a woman’s pink scarf) had me in stitches. I wanted to perform improv onstage with him, knowing that I would be left in his dust, serving as mere window dressing near a man with his caliber of talent. But, I also know I would have learned so much from that experience, emerging as a better improviser. And, while Williams was another comedy idol of mine, he himself has admitted that he idolized someone as well – Jonathan Winters.
I count myself lucky to be able to share the stage with the members of Split Decision. They constantly challenge me onstage, making me into a better performer. I learn a lot performing with them, as they all bring something unique to the table.
I don’t know if I will ever be anyone’s comedy idol. But, if asked who the influences on my comedy are, I would no doubt have to include the group I perform with on a weekly basis.
But, don’t tell them I said so. Let’s just keep it amongst ourselves.