At my age (112, but who's counting?), I've survived the deaths of so many, many people that I don't react as much as I should anymore. But this week we had a passing that I actually shed tears over. My dear, sweet Henry Gibson.
Everyone knew his great talent, and have seen his over 100 movie and TV appearances. Is it possible he's still best known for Rowan & Martin's Laugh-In 40 years later, after such films as Nashville, The Blues Brothers, Kiss Me Stupid, The Long Goodbye, Innerspace, The 'Burbs, Magnolia, Gremlins 2: The New Batch, and The Incredible Shrinking Woman? The man worked for such directors as Robert Altman, Joe Dante, John Landis, and Billy Wilder. (He was also directed by Jerry Lewis, having made his screen debut in the original The Nutty Professor, but it didn't seem to hurt his career.)
But along with his great talent, there was the man himself. As it happens, I had the joy of knowing Henry a bit, back in his Laugh-In days. Little Dougie was a mere stagestruck 18 year old when he met Henry on the Laugh-In set at NBC in Burbank. Henry took a shine to the stagestruck teenager, and allowed him to sit about his dressing room, just chatting about any and everything.
Henry was the sweetest, kindest man who ever lived. That warm, loving persona he put out on TV, reading his poems was the real man. And every time he read a poem labelled "By Henry Gibson," it was by Henry Gibson. Henry only performed his own poems on the show.
So I think the best way to remember Henry is to share a couple of his charming verses. These poems are indeed "by Henry Gibson."
The cobra always wears a smile
As he creeps across the ground
He grins like he's up in the clouds
I think that he turns on.
The bullfrog is my pal true blue.
He don't smoke or drink or chew.
His only hang-up is he sniffs glue.
If I was a bullfrog I would too.
What are yuh doin'?
Did you ever stop to figure
Why the thumbnail is so hard?
Well it hasn't any choice
With all that skin to guard.
It may look fat and pudgy
But it's heart is good and true.
It's prettier than a toenail
And easier to chew.
Admit it, you didn't just smile; you laughed.
The world has become a less-funny place lately, and I'm not just referring to Jay Leno's excruciating new TV show, although it's hard to be less funny than that thing. (An over-50% drop in the ratings between the first show and the fourth. Ouch.) The loss of Henry Gibson is a personal one to me, but the loss of Larry Gelbart, whom I never met, makes the world less funny as well. Rather than go on and on about this genius's brilliant resume, allow me instead to refer you to a remembrance of him by someone who knew him, our mutual friend, little Kent Levine, who posted a beautiful and moving memory of their years of friendship over on his blog.
But the closest you can come to spending some actual time with Larry listening to his stories is to read his wonderful 1998 memoir Laughing Matters: On Writing M*A*S*H, Tootsie, Oh God!, and a Few Other Funny Things. Find a copy online, order it, and read it. In a desperate pinch, you can even read it at a public library, although their books are crawling with germs. You can't borrow my copy, as I am rereading it.
My gig recapping Big Brother 11 over at The Huffington Post ended this week, with my account of the finale, Big Brother 11: Dumb Luck. A surprise highlight of the gig was having dinner the night before the finale with BB houseguest Casey and his lovely wife, just the two of them, me, and Little Dougie, who insisted on crashing the party uninvited. Typical!
However, I have immediately begun recapping Survivor: Samoa, with my first posting, Survivor Samoa: Samoa, Samerrier.
Wait a minute! What is Kanye West doing in there? That egomaniac is even interrupting flogs now! Take that bottle of Hennessey's away from him and give it to me. Honestly Kanye, behavior like yours could give alcoholism a bad name. Do you want that on your conscience as well?
Here's the cast now. And come Monday, check out my Emmy Awards Show review on the HuffPo as well.
Meanwhile, in Henry's honor, I'm getting plastered on Gibsons. Cheers darlings.