Dec. 28, 2010

The Night of the Party

by Alden Nowlan

Never have I seen women
wiser or more beautiful.

Never have I known men
so witty, so sensitive.

Here in my living room
Are the twenty most remarkable
Persons in all the world.

And me, the one fool,
who must dance
although too heavy
on his feet, sing
although his vocal cords
are out of tune.

But that is the price
I pay for such

My friends,
I do not get drunk for myself,
I get drunk for you.

"The Night of the Party" by Alden Nowlan, from What Happened When He Went to the Stove for Bread. © The Thousands Press, 2000. Reprinted with permission. (buy now)

It's the 37th birthday of the head writer for Saturday Night Live: Seth Meyers, (books by this author) born on this day in Bedford, New Hampshire (1973). He went off to college at Northwestern University, where he didn’t show up to class very often, but where he loved the creative writing program. And there he also became a member of the Mee-Ow improv troupe --- and that’s what hooked him on comedy.  He started performing in Chicago often, and at one of the shows he did there was a Saturday Night Live scout was in the audience.

He joined the Saturday Night Live cast in 2001, and in 2006 he became head writer. That year he also began anchoring the Weekend Update, the long-running mock news sketch on SNL. There’s an entire staff of writers devoted entirely to coming up with the Weekend Update jokes. Through out the week, that writing team comes up with about 800 jokes. On Friday night, they sit together and whittle it all the way down to the 100 jokes they like best, and out of that 100 the producer picks about 30. And out of that 30 --- of the initial 800 jokes written during the week --- only about 16 or 20 jokes make it to a Saturday Night Live broadcast.

Meyers says that the writers have different ways of coming up with the material for jokes. He himself prefers to listen to the NPR morning news while playing soccer video games on his Xbox.

During the 2007-2008 Writers Guild Strike, he was a very prominent picketer, and he even won a “Perfect Attendance Award”. He wrote the famous 2008 sketches in which a syntax-challenged Tina Fey impersonated vice-presidential candidate Sarah Palin. And he donated a lot to Obama’s campaign. But he said that in comedy writing, “you can never be strident with your politics.” Meyers said of the writing team at SNL: “We do silly better than we do serious.”

It's the birthday of the man who said “Lead us not into temptation. Just tell us where it is; we'll find it.” That’s writer and comedian Sam Levenson, (books by this author) born 99 years ago today in New York City (1911). He grew up in a Jewish section of Brooklyn and later said, “It was on my fifth birthday that Papa put his hand on my shoulder and said, 'Remember, my son, if you ever need a helping hand, you'll find one at the end of your arm.’”

He taught Spanish in New York public schools through out his 20s, and then one day some of his fellow teachers who’d formed an orchestra asked him to MC their concert at a hotel in the Catskills. He loved it. He started performing at comedy clubs, where he’d tell funny stories about growing up in New York City. Pretty soon he was a regular guest on the Ed Sullivan show and the Tonight Show with Johnny Carson. He even was given his own TV show, but in the end he decided that he preferred to write books. His books include Sex and the Single Child (1969), In One Era And Out The Other (1973), You Can Say That Again, Sam! (1975), and Everything But Money (1966).

He once said, “It's so simple to be wise. Just think of something stupid to say and say the opposite.

And he said, “The reason grandparents and grandchildren get along so well is that they have a common enemy.”

From the archives:

It's the birthday of the 28th president, Woodrow Wilson, born in Staunton, Virginia (1856). He started his career as a professor, became governor of New Jersey, and then president.
He said, "A conservative is a man who sits and thinks, mostly sits."
And, "If you want to make enemies, try to change something."

It was on this day in 1897 that Cyrano de Bergerac premiered at the Théâtre de la Porte Saint-Martin in Paris, France. The playwright was Edmond Rostand, and he based the play very loosely on the life of his favorite playwright, Savien de Cyrano de Bergerac, who lived in the 17th century. But mostly the play is fictional, the story of a well-born soldier with a talent for poetry who is extremely self-conscious because he has a very large nose. He is in love with a beautiful woman named Roxane, but he assumes that neither she nor any other woman will ever love a man with such a large nose. So he helps Christian, one of Roxane's suitors, by writing the poetry that Christian then recites and sends to Roxane. Of course, she falls in love with the man who writes so well, although she is mistaken about who that man is.

When Cyrano de Bergerac premiered on this night in 1897, the audience applauded for half an hour after the end of the show. It was the most successful play Paris had seen in many years. It ran for 200 nights in Paris and was produced all over Europe and the United States.

Be well, do good work, and keep in touch.®




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