Justifried: A Somewhat Serious Interlude

finishing school

What we are is plain to God, and I hope it is also plain to your conscience. (2 Corinthians 5:11)

I have been asked by some tentative readers to explain myself. I cannot. Believe me, I wish I could find some reasonable justification for whatever it is that this is, but try as I might, my explanations for this enterprise fall flat even for me—especially for me. Don’t think that doesn’t worry me—a lot.

But there are times when you just can’t play to the audience, when you’ve got to read the script as you see it. This ain’t American Idol. Some things are simply not translatable.

In Man on the Moon, a film about the late comedian, Andy Kaufman, there is a scene where Kaufman (played by Jim Carey) announces to one of his university audiences that he will be reading to them from The Great Gatsby. He pulls out the novel and begins at the beginning. The audience titters in expectation that he will soon be pulling some bizarre rabbit out of his comedic hat. He reads. And reads. And reads. And reads. The audience grows restless; a few leave. Undaunted, Kaufman plows on: word after word, page after page, chapter after chapter. Confused and frustrated, more and more of the audience dismiss the performance, some barking insults as they defect. Eventually, the last person gives up and exits. An exhausted Kaufman, his voice hoarse and barely audible, finishes reading to an empty auditorium.

The film’s judgment is ambiguous. Is Kaufman pitifully self-absorbed and out of touch or is the audience missing something important? (Or both?) They came for comedy, not culture. Kaufman’s defiant persistence in the face of crushing disinterest, his preposterous defense of the book’s honor, becomes a moment of Quixotic glory. He reads because he must. He believes, even if nobody else does, that everything somehow depends upon it.

And yet, from an audience perspective, Kaufman’s fiasco is inexcusable. There is plenty of other material he could use, proven crowd pleasing routines whose familiarity brought them to the auditorium. If he isn’t performing for the invited audience, then why invite an audience in the first place? Why such disregard for convention? Why?

There is no answer. Kaufman gave none while he was alive and seems reluctant to speak now that he’s dead. He just kept showing up—in college auditoriums, on television, at professional wrestling events. The guy was nuts.

There is no excuse for Our Daily Fred, no special pleading or inside information. All I hope is that what it is will be plain to you. God knows what’s going on here—a fact that makes me a little nervous. Of course, should the hammer come down, you will be the first to know.

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One Response

  1. You got style…….and guts…….

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