Thursday, January 18, 2007

Speaking Ill Of The Dead

So off goes Art Buchwald, political satirist, as gently into as good a night as possible. He was kind enough to leave behind one last column, following in the footsteps of Isaac Asimov and L. Ron Hubbard, other people who didn't let death stop them from putting out fresh material.

I've admired Buchwald for years because he sued Paramount for his share of the profits of COMING TO AMERICA. He had signed a contract that entitled him to points after the movie turned a profit, and Paramount famously argued that the movie had grossed over 300 million dollars and was ALMOST profitable, but they didn't want to go into details. Normally these kinds of things are settled out of court for the obvious reason that no studio wants their books to be put into public evidence. Buchwald pressed ahead, recognizing that he could afford to destroy his chances of working in Hollywood again. He had nothing to lose, and as I recall he won.

Here's the thing about Buchwald though. I just never found him funny. I read his columns for a while in high school and gave up on them. And this was the golden age of Art Buchwald! He struck me as comedy-blind, a condition I invented to describe people who have good timing, understand joke structure, and can even turn out a creditable talk show appearance without ever actually delivering the laughs. They are the Salieris in a world of comedy Mozarts.

Even his treatment for COMING TO AMERICA was completely rewritten, retaining only the character names and the premise of an African prince in America.

So aloha Art B; I won't miss you much (and Sumner Redstone is surely dancing a jig), but the world is a little less ... I don't know, something... for your absence.

No comments: