Thursday, February 14, 2013

Happy Valentine's Day

Not my favorite holiday.  My big problem with Valentine’s Day is that it’s also my birthday. Try going out to a nice celebration dinner when every restaurant is packed, all the prices are jacked way up, and everyone is trying so hard to create a “romantic atmosphere” that when their date isn’t looking they’re popping Lexapros like Tic Tacs.

Still, not to be a cynic I would like to offer an explanation for what love really is. It comes from that font of romance -- an episode of TAXI (written by Ken Estin).

Louie is trying to win back his girlfriend, Zena. He asks if she loves him. She says she doesn’t know what love is. He tells her she’s in luck because he does. And he’s the only person alive who can say that. He’s read what everyone else says love is and they’re always wrong. She finally asks him what it is, and Louie says:

“Love is the end of happiness!

The end. Because one day all a guy’s got to do to be happy is to watch the Mets. The next day you gotta have Zena in the room watching the Mets with you. You don’t know why. They’re the same Mets, it’s the same room…but you gotta have Zena there.”

That to me expresses more heartfelt love than any bouquet or bling or blowout dinner. Maybe you should change your plans and just get together in her apartment. Especially since I still don't have dinner reservations and would prefer not celebrating my birthday at Taco Bell.

Thank you and happy Valentine’s Day.

42 comments:

Anonymous said...

From Jan:

Happy Birthday, Ken! I have a sister and a cousin with the exact same birthday, so they're easy to remember.

Stef said...

Many Happy Returns of the Day.
(whatever that means)

Anyway...wishing you good stuff.

PolyWogg said...

In honour of your birthday, I'll share with you a small story...friend of mine has three kids born in mid-November. After they announced the due date of the third, her father-in-law turned to the husband and said, "Next year, can't you just give her a card on valentine's day?". Nice.

Oh, in honour of today, Happy Birthentine Day!

RobEB said...

Hey Ken. You share a birthday with Jack Benny! Are you also 39?

Pat Reeder said...

Happy birthday, Ken. And remember, it could be worse. My sister-in-law's birthday is December 25th.

Mike Barer said...

I just found out that you also share a birthday with the great Dave Sims. Ironic in the fact that you have both been Mariner broadcasters.

LouOCNY said...

A very Happy Birthday Ken! You give us the gift of talent every day (except when you hand it to Annie for a day!), and it is a pleasant diversion that is looked forward to - no matter how crappy the day, it is a ray of sunshine that keeps giving. And in relation to Pat Reeder's comment, we had a family friend whose birthday was Christmas Eve (and yes, she was named Carol), and they always celebrated her birthday the next summer!

willieb said...

Happy Birthday, Ken! And is it mere coincidence that the celebration of love, your birthday and the St. Valentine's Day massacre all happen to be on the same day?

Jason H said...

Happy Birthday Ken! Really appreciate the work you put into this blog on a daily basis.

iain said...

Happy Birthday, Mr. Levine, & thanks for all you to to entertain us unwashed masses!

Any reaction to the slagging of Vin Scully by Mike Piazza?

RCP said...

Happy Birthday - and many, many more.

LouOCNY said...

It has been said before, but it is still so appropriate that today happens to be the birthday of perhaps one of the most loved people in show business history, Jack Benny.

Not only did Benny and his writers essentially invent character driven comedy on radio (and by extension, television), they PERFECTED it. to the point where all the writers had to do was write one or two lines:

"Your money or your life!"

And let the audience piece it together and do the rest.

But more importantly, he was as generous to his co-stars as anyone ever, letting THEM get the laughs as he reacted. It got them so much recognition, that, except for(understandably in the 40s and 50s)Rochester and Mary, EVERY single one of his troupe ended up getting shows of their own. And that includes semi regulars like Mel Blanc! In fact, one of the greatest Benny shows ever went thusly:

The scene, so to speak, is a tour bus going past the homes of Hollywood stars, with Mel Blanc as the driver/guide, and Sarah Berner and Bea Benadaret as passengers. The stars homes it 'passes' are the homes of the Benny show cast members. And at each stop, and small bit with said person. So , they would pass by Phil Harris' house, and there would be a bit with Harris and Alice Faye. At Dennis Day's house, him and his mother, and Dennis sings his song for the week. And so on and so forth...until the bus reaches NBC Studios, the 'new home of Jack Benny' Suddenly, this piece:

BENNY: Driver, this is my stop

This was, and is so amazing for several reasons:

1. First of all - this WAS Benny's first show on NBC after defecting from CBS (imagine the NBC execs listing to this, wondering where the hell their new star was!)

2. He allowed his cast members to carry almost the whole show, all while making the 1947/8 audience wonder where he was.

3. And prove once and for all time, its not the number of lines one has, or how much screen/air time you have, it is the TIMING of ONE phrase which makes it as funny and as BALLSY a move as any in show biz.

Happy Birthday Jack - your love is still in bloom


John said...

2/14/2013 8:23 AM

Benny's early filmed shows also were among the first to play with surrealism on TV, in terms of audio/video gags that were impossible on the live episodes, while his ensemble episodes doing his life-outside-the-show pretty much was the template for Seinfeld 40 years later (including the ending of the 1960s Christmas show that showed Jack could be just as miserable and heartless a SOB as the Seinfeld gang in episode with Susan dying did. Some 'hip' viewers today would get the vapors from the Christmas show ending).

And Jack Benny vs. Frank Nelson is still funny. Every single time.

Charles H. Bryan said...

Happy Birthday, Ken! Enjoy your day.

Great Big Radio Guy said...

Happy birthday, pal. Come on up to Walla Walla. We'll fix you supper.

And if "we'll fix you supper" doesn't prove we now live in Walla Walla, no driver's license will.

Joe Laredo said...

Dear Mr. Levine:
Happy Birthday! I recently discovered your blog and enjoy it very much!
Don't go to Taco Bell tonight! Since you share this birthday with Jack Benny and Phyllis of The McGuire Sisters, why not pay homage to them both by visiting a nice restaurant and trying to sing for your supper?
I'm not convinced that astrology dictates career paths, but it's interesting to note that you also share this birthday with Mel Allen and Murray the K!
Many Happy Returns.

Paul Duca said...

No quiero Taco Bell...

Cap'n Bob said...

Happy Birthday, Ken. Thanks for reminding me it's Valentine's Day (named for a demoted saint, IIRC). Now I have to run out and buy the obligatory cards and candies. What a racket.

Frankieboy said...

A Freilekhn Gebortstog!

And your B-Date is much better than that from this one guy here in germany.
It is february the 30.
Aktually that's what the police found out as they controlled his passport.

Brian Phillips said...

Happy Birthday, Ken!

Thank you for a consistently funny and informative blog and years of entertainment.

benson said...

Happy Birthday, Ken. Thanks for all the entertainment.

BTW, here's the video of the scene referenced today.

benson said...

Well, let's try the link again

http://youtu.be/oaAA3PMLulk

VP81955 said...

In fact, one of the greatest Benny shows ever went thusly:

The scene, so to speak, is a tour bus going past the homes of Hollywood stars, with Mel Blanc as the driver/guide, and Sarah Berner and Bea Benadaret as passengers. The stars homes it 'passes' are the homes of the Benny show cast members. And at each stop, and small bit with said person. So , they would pass by Phil Harris' house, and there would be a bit with Harris and Alice Faye. At Dennis Day's house, him and his mother, and Dennis sings his song for the week. And so on and so forth...until the bus reaches NBC Studios, the 'new home of Jack Benny' Suddenly, this piece:

BENNY: Driver, this is my stop

This was, and is so amazing for several reasons:

1. First of all - this WAS Benny's first show on NBC after defecting from CBS (imagine the NBC execs listing to this, wondering where the hell their new star was!)

2. He allowed his cast members to carry almost the whole show, all while making the 1947/8 audience wonder where he was.


I take your word on the content of the episode (and Benny's generosity to his supporting cast), but he moved from NBC to CBS (not the other way around), and I believe his first ep on the new network aired in 1949.

But we both agree on one thing: Benny was brilliant.

Joe Ciavarella said...

Happy Birthday Ken. Always love reading your blog (even with all the liberal rhetoric).
By the way, you are listed as the 102nd most popular person born on this day on the IMDB website, behind such stars as
Matt Barr #10, Jules Asner #24 and even ex-porn star, Porsche Lynn #81.

Enjoy your day!

welcometosherwood said...

As a Red Sox fan, Valentine will never mean the same thing after last season! But happy birthday, Ken.

DBenson said...

Another eccentric Benny TV moment: Benny and Rochester are killing a little time playing chess. Rochester produces a pole with a glove at the end and extends it into the nearby kitchen, invisibly preparing and bringing back multiple drinks and appetizers as he and Benny remain focused on their game.

Yes, it's a silly and unbelievable gag. But Rochester and Benny as a couple of intelligent adults playing a fairly serious game sold it.

LouOCNY said...

VP - yeah, I got it reversed on the NBC/CBS thing....

Benny influenced so many, but here are two of the major ones to try on for size:

Johnny Carson - the timing...many of the gestures we are familiar with are Pure Benny.

and believe it or not, Howard Stern. You can draw so many pretty good parallels between Benny's cast and Howard's, it can be spooky:

Mary = Robin

Rochester/Don Wilson = Baba Booey

Phil Harris/Bob Crosby = Jackie the Joke Man/Artie Lange

and the Wack Pack is nothingmore than an updated version of all the odd ones Jack encountered - Mr Kitzel, Frank Nelson's 'yessssss' guy, Ed the vault keeper.

The difference, of course, is that Benny's show was fiction, while Stern is theoretically Real Life. But Howard definitely cultivated, consciously or not, the same idea of dual personas - Just as Benny was the Cheapest Man in the World, Howard became the Horniest Married Man in the World. The Howard that is on AGT, is the Real Howard - ot at least, closer to the Real Howard.


Johnny Walker said...

Happy Birthday, Ken!

Anonymous said...

Happy birthday Ken! I love your blog and your book. I remember that Taxi episode. That show had some unforgettable dialogue. As did Cheers. Julie, Burlington, Iowa

VP81955 said...

Don't forget Kelsey Grammer's semi-adaptation of a Benny curmudgeon-like persona on "Frasier."

And since I nearly forgot...happy birthday, Ken.

Greg Ehrbar said...

Today's business leaders would do well do study the success plan of Jack Benny. He once told Merv Griffin, "If a joke was funnier coming from Phil Harris or Dennis Day, I'd give them the punch line. Because on Monday mornings, people would talk about how much they like the JACK BENNY show."

It seems so simple, yet so many have bought into the "recognition, reward and award" culture that they put their interests before those of the company and the bottom line. Washington has the same problem -- I just watched Neil Barofsky tell this to Jon Stewart.

Anyway, Jack can't solve today's problems, but he can still make us laugh...

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YXFFibp0WhQ

Happy Birthday!

pumpkinhead said...

That clip is my Facebook post for the night. Perfect.

Melissa C. Banczak said...

My dad's birthday is Valentine's day too. He would have been 84. Happy birthday!

Jeffro said...

Stef said: "Many Happy Returns of the Day. (whatever that means)"

Simple, Stef. It means that you're wishing Ken to have many more happy birthday anniversaries; I.E., you're wishing him for a long and happy life. Thus, I agree with your sentiments. Happy Birthday, Ken!

Roger Owen Green said...

happy natal day!

GC said...

Joyeux anniversaire Mr. Levine!

lucidkim said...

Happy Birthday! :) Hope it was a great day for you.

Concetta Tomei said...

Happy birthday, Ken.

Mac said...

Happy Birthday Ken. That was a terrific line from Louie. And unlike most Valentine's Day proclamations, you don't need a shot of insulin to counteract it.

Have a great birthday.

iain said...

LouOCNY:

Do you think anyone will fondly remember Stern or his supposed impact on media 39 years after his death, much less 119 years after his birth?

For all of his terrific self-promotion, I don't think Stern himself does. & I think it bothers him.

chuckcd said...

Hope you had a great birthday Ken!
Have your celebration dinner tonight!

Storm said...

As usual, I'm late to the party, but I always make a hell of an entrance! Happy Birthday, Ken. It's been a great eight months or so, reading your blog (including reviewing back-posts). I've learned some amazing things (none of which are coming to mind at the mo, as I have a rotten headache) about comedy, radio, TV, and what it is to be a writer (which has helped me to further understand my strange husband and his absolute need to write). Still not a baseball fan, but hey, you don't like Star Trek, so it all evens out.

And yeah, that quote from Louie is spot-on. I have a lot of friends, some of whom are family to me, but I can say without hesitation that my husband is my best friend. People ask me how to have a happy relationship/marriage, and my #1 answer is always "Make sure they're your best friend. You would do awful shit to a lover that you would never ever do to a best friend, simply because their presence in your life is so important, you can't imagine not talking to them every day and sharing a laugh."

Cheers, thanks a lot,

Storm