Friday, June 4, 2010

Laugh? If Only ... 6/4/10

When your life is at the mercy of nature and psychopaths, what’s the point in anything?

People keep asking me why I wrote just one blog last month, and the truth is, I don’t know. Call it a touch of the Nietzsche.

I went to Vegas, saw the Mayweather vs Mosley boxing match, attended a friend’s wedding, stayed at a lovely hotel, and didn’t have the desire to write much about any of it.

It may be that I am so preoccupied trying to finish writing my book (only the second in nearly 20 years, yegods); or that I continue to worry about various things going on in my family and friends’ lives 6000 miles away; or, that I just don’t see the point in anything anymore.

I’m not talking suicide, but the Icelandic volcano eruption brought life as we know it (at least, in terms of travel) to a halt. This week’s tragic, heartbreaking shootings in Cumbria in the UK, just made you wonder why any of us bother trying to pursue our projects and dreams, when we are so at the mercy of forces outside our control. Well, that’s what I felt.

I am in Spain at the moment and missing certain aspects of the US: my friends in the hostelries Enoteca, Mastro’s and the Beverly Wilshire Hotel.

On the street where I live, I am not missing the screaming kids, who, because the sun is almost always shining, treat the sidewalk as a playground.

I am missing the cleanliness of Beverly Hills, along with the lack of cigarettes everywhere you look; I loathe the fact that nearly everyone smokes in this southern part of Spain, in or out of restaurants.

I am not missing the west LA branch of Best Buy, a store with which I have had an ongoing battle that is turning out more bloody than the Alamo, though much harder to bring to a conclusion.

The culture difference between the small part of the US in which I live and Europe is immense. Most of the American men I have met by casual acquaintance (the gay population totally excepted from this sweeping generalisation) are even more chauvinistic than the worst of their kind in the UK. Arrogant, pompous, rude – the idea that a woman might be going out on her own, without wishing to pull a bloke, is anathema to them – ironic, given that most of them wouldn’t even know what anathema was, let alone be able to spell it.

When I return to Paris or, this week, Spain, it is a joy to discover what fresh meat, fruit and veg tastes like, when no matter what I buy in LA tastes of nothing.

This afternoon, I sat on the beach in Marbella, where the people at the next table were celebrating a birthday, complete with guitars, maracas and singing. They were joyous, laughing for a good couple of hours and, for once, I cherished the noise.

I realised what I miss most in LA: it’s the laughter. I have it among my own circle of British friends when we get together, but go out to a bar or restaurant any time, day or night, in Beverly Hills, and you hear nothing of that uproarious, side-splitting hilarity that was so much a part of my life back in the UK and which I again experienced among close friends in Spain this week.

I know that my experience of the US is narrow, and, who knows, maybe even as I write, there are people in Michigan being hospitalised for having literally split their sides through laughing, but I doubt it.

Is humour dependent upon a country having a history, I wonder? And, being a young country, has the US not built up enough of a defence mechanism to be able to laugh at itself enough – something which, to me, and probably the UK as a whole, is one of the foundations of our comedy?

Even taking New York and the Sex and the City crowd humour into account, it’s still not of the tears rolling down your cheeks kind of laughter that I have experienced not just in the UK, but so many parts of Europe where, I believe, defending yourself against the enemy has rooted itself in our consciousness not only historically, but in the development of our artistic culture.

It’s not that there is no humour per se in the US; it just manifests itself in different ways. Miami-based Judge Alex on TV is one of the funniest things I have ever seen – a daytime judge with his own show and a razor sharp brain that knows exactly when to bring humour to a situation, and when to pull back when sensitivity to people’s distress requires it. Currently, no comedy show comes close to matching it.

Specifically to my own area, though, where is the laughter on the streets, in the cafes, in the bars and restaurants, among the LA population? I love the work ethic in the city, and California governor Arnold Schwarzenegger has done a terrific job through TV commercials to sell what is truly a great, vibrant state.

I just don’t see the smiles of the commercials on the streets of my little bit of LA. Maybe everyone has been so Bo-toxed up to the hilt, they’d need jaw surgery just to put a slight grin on their faces now.

And, given the recession, maybe they just can’t afford to.


  1. I have for a almost 25 years tried to work out why Saturday Night LIve is thought to be so humorous. For me the best laughter-with-tears is Family Guy of all shows. I miss satire.

  2. Just witnessed my dog trying to have a conversation with a frog in the garden. That made me laugh. I agree with what you say about humour, though. British humour is difficult to replicate in other countries. By the way, what happened to that UK talent website you were aiming to set up ? Given up on it ?

  3. I think laughter is missing in LA because there is so much self imposed hunger. It's hard too be realy happy about things when you're not full. Come to Texas where the dresses and the appetites are big. That's not to say that folks aren't carrying abiut their weight but there are enough of us to balance out the blather. Not to mention the fact that we specialize in side splitting uproarious laughter. Swing the though Houston. Drop me a line if you're coming, I'll have you in the emergency room having your side stitched up in no time and not because I tried to steal your kidney and sell it on the black market.

  4. Comedy? I watch the British show 'Top Gear', but I absolutely adore 'South Park'. Although, I get the best kicks out of comments, that have been made in real-life documentaries, for example: There was this guy, who had this to say about the Arnold Schwarzenegger/Maria Shriver marriage: "This is the Alpha stage of a genetic experiment to produce bullet-proof Kennedys." Ah, the Golden State.