Sunday, October 2, 2016

again and again and again and again

In 2005, filmmaker/comedian Paul Provenza and filmmaker/magician Penn Jillette produced a documentary called The Aristocrats. Similar in title (but not remotely in content) to a beloved Disney film, The Aristocrats examines the origins and evolution of a so-called "secret" joke, told only in hushed tones among the closed society of comedians. The joke's setup and punchline remain the same in each telling and retelling — "A man walks into a talent agent's office." — and proceeds to describe a particular act. The unique embellishments are added by the individual comedian. The object in making the joke "one's own" is to elucidate the most vile and disgusting scenarios imaginable. Some versions of the joke have gone on for hours and have described some of the most shocking, outrageous and repugnant acts involving family members, pets and inanimate objects and any combination of the three. The punchline — The agent asks the name of the act, and the reply is always "The Aristocrats!," accompanied by a graceful double-snap of the fingers — which, by the time the exhaustive tale winds down, has become secondary to the horrific narrative that preceded. Over the course of the documentary's 88 minute run time, the joke is told many, many, many times, by a vast array of veteran and up-and-coming comedians. My son and I first saw the film in a nearly empty theater and our own uncontrollable laughter drowned out a portion of the dialog on several occasions.

When The Aristocrats was released on DVD, I purchased a copy and my son and I watched it again on a Sunday afternoon. And, once again, we found ourselves doubled over in hysterics. On this viewing, however, we could rewind the action to see what we had missed. My wife, who chose not to watch with us, flitted around the house, taking care of household things that needed taking care of. At one point, she walked past the doorway of the den to find my son and I literally rolling on the sofa crying and eliciting peals of laughter. She crossed her arms and with a furrowed brow and her head cocked to one side, said, "I can't believe you two idiots are laughing at the same joke for an hour and a half."

The incident got me thinking about all the things I like to do over and over again — and it turns out, it's quite a lot.  I've been to Walt Disney World over a dozen times. When we finally took a chance and ventured westward to Disneyland, we visited that theme park for six consecutive years. 

I have often caught myself watching a movie (Back to The Future, Singin' in the Rain  or It's A Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World, for example) I have seen a hundred times, either accidentally coming across it while scanning the channels on television or actually setting aside time when I discover a scheduled broadcast. The same goes for specific episodes of television series. The "Adam's Ribs" episode of M*A*S*H comes to mind.

Just this week, my son and I saw the pop group The Bird and The Bee perform a rare show in Philadelphia. The last time they were in our fair city was six years earlier. Guess where we were on that night? Yep, seeing their rare Philadelphia performance.

On my birthday in 2012, my son introduced me to this little band from right here in Philadelphia, called Low Cut Connie (remember that name — you'll be screaming it later.) We were pushed right up against the stage at the now-musicless North Star Bar in the sweaty swell of the crowd. These guys — as they say — delivered the goods, cranking out vintage-style, hip-swiveling, high-octane rock and roll to the delight of the frenzied throng packed into the tiny, narrow showroom. In keeping with my repetitive pattern, I saw The Connie boys again on my birthday the following year. I have seen them a gazillion times since, including last night at Philly's venerable Trocadero Theater, their latest show to date. Although they have experienced several personnel changes over the years, Low Cut Connie remains one of the greatest, rawest, showiest, most energetic "party" bands I've ever seen, and so far, they are Philadelphia's best-kept secret. However, after an inclusion on President Obama's personal 2015 Spotify playlist, they seem to be poised for the stardom they most definitely deserve. 

And I will to continue to see them until they have to wheel me into concerts.

When I was a kid, my father was convinced that I could eat pizza for dinner every single night. I think he was right. Hmmm... maybe this repetition thing started further back than I thought.

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