Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Darrell Hammond and the Perils of the Impressionist

It was Whoopi Goldberg who first called him “the shape-shifter,” and Darrell Hammond was “extremely flattered” when he heard that one. “It might sound a little woo-woo mystical,” he writes in his new memoir God, If You’re Not Up There, I’m F*cked: Tales of Stand-up, ‘Saturday Night Live’ and Other Mind-Altering Mayhem, “but truth be told, it might actually be the best description of what I do. According to mythology, though, a real shape-shifter has trouble returning to his original form after a while, whereas I, unfortunately, had no such issue.”

It’s hard to know just what returning to his original form means, exactly, when it comes to Darrell Hammond, although it’s apparent that what he means here is returning to the addict, depressive, bipolar, multiple-personality schizophrenic. Those are all diagnoses Hammond has received and shares in these pages, but it’s the last of them, more than any other, that makes coherent definition impossible, even if all of them, to some extent, describe someone who’s a shape-shifter even when not on the clock. 

Read the rest of "The Shape-Shifter" at The Rumpus. 

Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Not All Cotton Swabs Are Created Equal

I used to think it doesn't matter what kind of Q-tip you use--by which I mean: I used to think it doesn't matter what kind of cotton swab you use. The two are not the same. It's not a mistake I'll make again. This change came about just last week, when I went out to get some Q-tips, having run out. What I decided to get instead was the generic, and the absolute cheapest generic they had, at that. What could it matter? I thought. It's cotton on a stick. The answer came to me when I got back home with the cotton swabs that were not Q-tips, and, overly accustomed to that protective and absorbent softness I'd always taken for granted, ended up stabbing my eardrum. It wasn't a puncture, but it was a stab, and I had to adjust my technique from a vigorous swabbing to a ginger, gentle probing. There are some things with which you can cut costs like corners, but then there are things with which you never should.

Monday, February 27, 2012

Just a Coupla Coen Brothers Regulars, Out Bowling

If you're watching a scene set in a bowling alley that features two of the Coen Brothers' go-to repertory players, chances are you're watching The Big Lebowski (1998). Either that or you're watching Roseanne. I learned this not too long ago, when I tracked down "Lovers Lane" (1988), one of two bowling-themed episodes in the show's run. (The other, somewhat less imaginatively, is titled "The Bowling Show" [1992].) You'll quickly guess who one of the Coen regulars is--that would be John Goodman, the co-star of Lebowski and an actor nearly as closely identified with Roseanne as Roseanne herself. But the other is trickier, because it's easy to forget that George Clooney was ever a regular on Roseanne at all. 

Jackie and Booker agree to terms, while Dan marches on in the background. 
He played Booker, Roseanne and Jackie's supervisor at work, and here he is on a night out bowling with them and Dan (Goodman). If you want the spoiler, I'll give it to you. Booker and Jackie make a wager: if Jackie wins, Booker cleans her bathroom; if Booker wins, Jackie doesn't get to sleep at her own place that night. Booker wins, but then renegs on the deal from the wrong end, declaring, gallantly, "Not on a bet." Meaning to-be-continued. But Jackie doesn't want to-be-continued. She wants the terms of her loss honored, and when she yells at him, "Welcher!," you know that she's a double loser on this night. 

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Notes on the Grayness of Boba Fett's Suit

Serving neither the Empire nor the Alliance, Boba Fett emerged from the culture known as Mandelorian--which places him, on the chromatic good-guy/bad-guy scale, somewhere between a Jedi and a Sith. He's much closer to the Sith, of course; as a bounty hunter, he works more often on behalf of evil than any other cause. But really the only cause he serves is his own--a code of his own devising that only Boba abides. 

Boba Fett's morality, in other words, is as gray as the suit he wears. That's one reason for his surprising popularity among fans, which is really surprising only if you think of it in terms of the paucity of his role--as measured in both screen time and number of lines. But that's a superficial way to measure importance. His appearances in the Original Trilogy (the only Star Wars entity that really matters) are brief, but they're not inconsequential. He captures Han Solo, after all, or gives the Empire the means to capture Han Solo, by tracking him down to Bespin and Cloud City. He did it for the bounty promised by Jabba the Hutt (to whom Solo owes money), which is why he makes sure to tell Darth Vader, in bold and strident terms, that Solo had better make it to Jabba's Palace in that carbon-freeze alive. 

To get away with talking to Vader like that, you'd better be damned good at what you do. You have to be an asset, both skilled and competent, which is something Boba Fett manages without even accessing the Force, either its Light or its Dark Side. He's all the more impressive for that. Probably the least appealing thing about the Star Wars Galaxy is its absence of moral ambiguity, and although Boba Fett is not a major enough character to single-handedly eradicate that, he can at least help mute all those primary colors with a graceful touch of gray.

And speaking of mute--since when is an absence of lines something to make a character any less appealing. Boba Fett's literal, audible muteness does more than just emphasize his essence as a man of action--it also forces the viewer to fill in his silences with all the imagination's possibilities. Why does he wear those braided Wookiee scalps over his shoulder? How did he become such a skilled marksman? Where did he get that jetpack on his back? What does that symbol on his right breast mean? These questions can all be answered on Wookieepedia, or by reading the warehouseful of auxiliary texts to come out of the Galaxy, or by watching those dreadful prequels. 

The questions have answers, and the answers are often interesting. But most interesting of all is the way Boba Fett is allowed to exist within the Original Trilogy as pure mystery. He meets his end when Solo sets off his jetpack over the Sarlacc pit, sending Boba Fett hurtling down into its merciless maw. If you ead the books, they'll tell you that he made it out of there alive, but I like to think of Boba Fett dying for that superior technology and bravery with which he supplemented his pure skill. You live by a thing, you die by a thing--that's pretty much the way things go out here in the real galaxy. 

Was Chevy Chase a Model for Steely Dan's 'Dirty Work'?

Chevy Chase used to play drums with Steely Dan. This was before Becker and Fagen called themselves Steely Dan--they were just a couple kids hanging out at Bard College, fronting a band called the Leather Canary, and Chase was in there with them. This is all pretty common knowledge, and no one could credibly dispute it even if they wanted to. Much less indisputable is my own claim--inspired by a passage in Rene Fruchter's biography I'm Chevy Chase...And You're Not (2007)--that events in Chase's life around this time may have inspired the Dan song "Dirty Work" (released on their first album, Can't Buy a Thrill [1972], but written and demoed significantly earlier). 

Fruchter tells the story of young Chevy meeting an older and better-financially-situated woman who was also married, and with whom Chase eventually carried on an affair. Chase soon began to feel guilty about things, and, on a much more selfish level, began to feel like a de facto gigolo. This feeling did not abate when the woman offered him money upon termination of their affair. "Well, isn't there something you want?" she asked, and Chase said, why, yes, there's a $600 drum kit he'd had his eye on. "That's egg money for me." she said, giving Chevy what would become a favorite phrase of his for life. 

Fruchter tells about all this, and then she drops in the information that makes the connection, intentionally or not,  to "Dirty Work": 
A short time later, he became a drummer with a rock 'n' roll group and his career started moving. For a while, he played with musicians Walter Becker and Donald Fagen, who later formed the group Steely Dan. But Chevy didn't think he was good enough and left the band, advising them to find a better drummer. 
They found a better drummer--they found a bunch of them. That much we know. What we don't know is whether they had to go any further to find the raw narrative material for this signature song. 

Monday, February 20, 2012

When George Carlin Played the Big Room in His Twilight

The first and only time I ever went to Vegas was the summer of '02. I was about to discharge from the Navy and wanted to make sure I got in that token trip before moving away from the West Coast. I stayed at the MGM Grand. There were banners everywhere touting Carrot Top's ongoing engagements at the hotel, and then, next to that, the coming-soon: George Carlin. As if to say, "You came this close, asshole. Sorry." It might as well be the Lost Wages motto.

Missing out on a chance to serendipitously see your all-time favorite stand-up is discouraging enough, but if I'd known then what I know now, having read James Sullivan's new Carlin biography 7 Dirty Words, I would have been even more dispirited still. You see, it turns out that in those months at the MGM Grand, Carlin would put on the kind of theater you simply can't pay for, because you never see it coming. He was a couple years away from checking into rehab, for booze and painkillers, and he was disgusted as ever with the whole crass, ersatz culture of Las Vegas. When he did his misanthropic shtick during this run of engagements, it wasn't always shtick. Sullivan reports:
Shortly after Winston Smith finished his work on the Complaints and Grievances album art, he was invited to see Carlin perform at his new venue in Vegas, the MGM Grand, where several patrons mistook the white-bearded collage artist for the headlining comedian as he made his way through the casino. Midway through the show, Carlin grew frustrated with a woman who was talking loudly to her companion, ignoring the performer. “Lady, would you shut the fuck up?” Carlin finally blurted, followed by “other, much ruder things,” according to Smith. “People realized he wasn’t kidding. Suddenly the laughter kind of died down.”
"It was," Sullivan continues, "by no means Carlin's only incident at the MGM Grand," where apparently "Carlin perfected the art of driving faint-hearted ticket holders toward the exits."
The constant complaint was that the show was too dark. “Riffs included suicide and beheadings,” wrote one local reviewer. At the end of the run, Carlin took the opportunity to renew his contempt for the city and the mindless escapism it stood for: “People who go to Las Vegas, you’ve got to question their fuckin’ intellect to start with,” he said. “Traveling hundreds and thousands of miles to essentially give your money to a large corporation is kind of fuckin’ moronic.” A woman in the audience reportedly yelled, “Stop degrading us!” 
Facetiously, Carlin thanked her, indicating he hadn’t actually heard what she said. “I hope it was positive. If not, well, blow me,” he said.
I never saw him perform live--I never even fucking saw him. I must have thought that, just because he's immortal, he was gonna stick around here forever.

Sunday, February 19, 2012

The Miseducations of Lauryn Hill, D'Angelo, and Remy Shand

If anyone's talking about a soul singer this week, they're most likely talking about Whitney Houston--unless they're talking about Bobby Brown, of course, and we all know that can't be for the right reasons. But I'd like to talk about a different soul singer, and believe me, it's not at all impertinent to the tragedy of Whitney Houston. I use the the term soul singer instead of R&B singer. I hope you'll go along with it. R&B has such negative connotations for me--a bunch of plastic and prettified product pushed in the '80s and '90s, it evokes nothing so much as mewling vocal gymnastics and sterile verses on the vexations of love. Or what they call love. I have my doubts.

Anyway, who I'd like to talk about is Lauryn Hill. I don't know all the details of what happened to her after she took home the award that Whitney Houston has taken home more times than any other female vocalist. The Miseducation of Lauryn Hill (1998) came along at a time when soul-singing was a wasteland much more deserving of that other name, R&B, which is what people usually gave it anyway. I was one of The Miseducation's purchasers that year, and one of its avid listeners. It was a dominant soundtrack to my first year in the Navy, just as D'Angelo's Brown Sugar (1995) had been a dominant soundtrack to my first, aborted attempt at college just a couple years earlier. These albums were throwbacks in all the best senses--they had the soul and sophisticated instrumentation of the '70s, the right lyrical concerns, songwriting that probed for personal and idiosyncratic meaning, most often finding it. They were all of that, at a time when all of that was likely to stand out. 

Just a few years later came a third album in this vein, Remy Shand's The Way I Feel (2002), and even though it was by a white Canadian, of all the damned species, it was, if anything, better than the previous two I mention. But it doesn't matter which was best, because they were all great, and, really, once you get to a certain plateau, there's no such thing as better anyway. But it was probably my favorite, and it arrived in 2002, making Hill's album equidistant from both D'Angelo's and Shand's--the latter of which arrived just prior to the end of my hitch in the Navy, and my return to college. 

So you can see how I've come to collect these three LPs into a kind of trilogy--because of where they fell in my own miseducation (which is the only kind of education worth acquiring; for further evidence of this, just see The Education of Henry Adams, whose title is echoed by Hill's). But even if those hadn't been formative and important years for me, I'd make the albums into a trilogy anyway, for the sheer excellence they exude. If the ghost of Marvin Gaye lives anywhere, it lives here. But there's another thing that unites them, and that is that their creators have all been absent, or at least silent, in the years since. And we're not talking about a few years, either. D'Angelo has made one album in the last 17 years, in 2000, which his fans would probably prefer he not made at all; Lauryn Hill has released no album of new material; and neither has Remy Shand. 

You can swim for yourself through the rumors of what happened to Hill and D'Angelo and Shand in these years. You will read about love-sickness and drugs and artistic blockages of varying provenance. D'Angelo and Hill, for their own parts, have new albums scheduled to drop this year, while Shand has became a figure of such inexplicable reclusiveness that there's actually a Twitter page called "Where is Remy Shand?" (It's short on answers.) Their disappearances are baffling and beguiling reminders that death isn't the only tragic disappearance, even if it is the most definitively final. But right up until the day it occurs, the questing spirit acquires the wisdom that songs are made of. 

Saturday, February 18, 2012

The Sticky Approach

Sticky Dick, I know what you were going through here. 
The following happened a couple weeks ago, and I'm not going to mention where. I trust that it won't happen again, and, even if it does, it won't matter to me, because I'll be prepared. The smooth approach is something we take for granted at the lanes. When we show up at a bowling center, we allow ourselves to assume a sureness of slide in our soles when we release. When this didn't happen the other week, I began to think the problem was with me, or with my sliding shoe. After running diagnostics on both, I concluded that the problem was with the lane, which of course it was. This was, like, 9 or 10 in the morning. They'd had league play the night before and hadn't treated the lanes properly afterward. They offered to fix the lane for me, but I had to meet someone for lunch. I didn't have time to wait for them to do the job they should have done already. I didn't want my day's approach interrupted. I decided to bowl with the sticky approach, in spite of what it did to my score, and finish out my string of solo games that way. Actually, it did less to my score than it did to that set of tendons behind the knee. I made the necessary adjustments, and my score stayed more or less level, but what altered was the nature of my approach, and the way my left leg is forced to bear the weight of abruptly stuck momentum. That's why they call it the sticky approach, and that's why I'll always make sure it's unstuck early--so I can slide on through the rest of the day with the right momentum. 

Friday, February 17, 2012

Barry White's Voice: The Origin Story

Naturally, I didn't always have the voice I have now. Until I was fourteen years old I had a sound not unlike the famous high-pitched voice of Michael Jackson. When adolescence hit me, my sound didn't go down to a tenor, the way most boys' do, and stay there. Mine went down twice, first to a first tenor, then to a bass singer, that second one like a drop off the Empire State Building. The change came overnight. One morning I woke up with my new voice and hair all over my face. My mother called me over  and examined my cheeks and chin closely, with her eyes and fingertips. "My God," she said. "My baby has become a man!"
Once my voice dropped, there was no escaping its power. Everywhere I went I could see the immediate effect it had on people. It always took me by surprise and would continue to do so for many years, especially after I left the neighborhood. I'd be in an elevator and someone would call out for the floor. I'd say, "Top, please," and everybody's head would turn around to see where that voice was coming from. Or I'd pick up the phone to make a long-distance call, ask the operator for assistance, and hear back, "My, but you have a beautiful voice!" This happened to me wherever I went. I was uneasy at first, but eventually grew used to it. 
--from Love Unlimited: Insights on Life & LoveBarry White (with  Marc Eliot)  

Thursday, February 16, 2012

George Lucas's Implicit Apology for Midi-Chlorians

A midi-chlorian. (Image courtesy Wookieepedia.)
Of all the many things Star Wars buffs give George Lucas grief about, one that I have no problem sympathizing with them on is the matter of midi-chlorians. They were introduced retroactively, in Episode I: The Phantom Menace, and are, according to Wookieepedia: The Star Wars Wiki, "intelligent microscopic life forms" that, "[w]hen present in sufficient numbers, [...] could allow their symbiont to detect the pervasive energy field known as the Force." The power of the Force, in other words, could be measured in midi-chlorians, and Star Wars purists--hell, even some Star Wars non-purists, like myself--felt this tarnished substantially the ideal philosophical construct of the Force as something psycho-spiritual--as something that transcends laboratory biology.
Well, apparently George Lucas has recanted, sort of. When Daniel Wallace, author of many Star Wars-related books, wrote a Jedi primer called The Jedi Path (2010)--which purports to be a kind of sacred text passed down among the generations of Jedi, and is even annotated, by the likes of Yoda and Luke and Obi-Wan and Anakin, even that damned Qui-Gon--he included a passage minimizing midi-chlorians' importance. There's no way he would have done so without the consent of Lucas, so maybe this is Lucas's attempt to distance himself from the idea. In a chapter called "The First Pillar: The Force," the Jedi initiate is informed that "Master Bowspritz will teach you of the midi-chlorians in our cells that channel the forces energy. I urge you not to think too much on this necessary biological symbiosis but to instead cast your focus wider. After all, we do not drink the bowl but the soup contained within it." In the margins is the following remark, scrawled in ink:
We must return to this idea of the force as it flows through us--not from us. --Luke

Adam West's Notes on Camp

I'm not sure how Adam West would characterize his recurring role as "Adam West," on Family Guy, but I suspect it would be something along the lines of farce or lampoon. I do know how he would characterize his role as Batman, on Batman--he would characterize it as bizarre or pop art, and he has. One thing he certainly wouldn't characterize it as is camp, as he makes clear in his 1994 memoir, Back to the Batcave, in which he tells of how "the things that bothered me the most," during the show's amazingly successful three-year run in the late '60s, "had to do with the the perception of the show" rather than any of its various other pressures. The word camp was one that he "loathed," for reasons he's prepared to be quite elaborate about: 
It demeaned our efforts by suggesting that what we were working hard to achieve was so easy or corny or bad that anyone could do it. We just made it look that way. Critics and pop culture historians say we defined camp, but that was really just a convenient shorthand for them. [Series creator William] Dozier only used the term in public, as a press-pleasing shorthand, and never in any directives or memos from his office. He didn't like the connotation either.  
So that I could make my anti-camp case with reporters who camped out on us, I read Susan Sontag's 1964 essay on camp and also looked up the etymology of the word. I found out that camp was short for "camp brothel," a place where gay men met and "flaunted" their sexuality. In art, "camp" had come to describe something so pretentious and or ostentatious that it was amusing or pseudo-sophisticated.  
We weren't that. We were farce. We were a lampoon. We were the movie serials of the 1930s and 1940s done against a fun-house background. Instead of G-Man Rex Bennett stuck in a runaway airplane or Zorro cornered in a burning warehouse, Batman and Robin were trapped inside a giant hourglass or lashed to a perforation machine to be turned into player piano rolls. 
Bizarre? You bet. If you expect people to come back on Thursday night, you've got to give them an unusual cliffhanger that demands an unusual escape. But unusual isn't camp.  
Pop art? Sure. This was the age of Warhol and Lichtenstein. These artists and others had elevated to "art" status objects or subjects that were formerly considered artless or undistinguished. The big ZAPs and POWs during our fight scenes were pop art. So were the overstated voiceovers ("Tune in tomorrow...same Bat-time, same Bat-channel..."). But while camp can be pop art, the reverse isn't automatically true. And I'm still not sure what "avant-camp" is, which was something the New York Times came up with.

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

A Steely Dan Ticket to Enlightenment

I came across this just the other day. It was hanging out in my old copy of Thich Nhat Hanh's The Heart of the Buddha's Teachings--which, like, how appropriate is that, you know? Because if I remember correctly (and believe me, I do), the Dan really rocked the hell out of "Bodhisattva" that night. I was entirely sober, still recovering from a sickness incurred the previous evening at this Indian joint my friend Kurt had insisted on. I was visiting him in D.C., and so I didn't argue. The sickness was so bad the next morning, I had to tell Kurt I wasn't even sure I'd make the show. I was too sick to read or even watch TV; all I could do was just lay there, prostrate and pathetic. But after I was done with my puking and my remedies, the sickness dissolved and this luminescence emerged from within. That's no bullshit, either--that's really what it felt like. I knew then that I'd make the show, and that I'd be making it sober. I knew, too, that I wouldn't want it any other way. I remember the whole thing, but I especially remember "Bodhisattva," and that particular place in "Don't Take Me Alive" where Donald sang, "I know all at once who I am." It felt like religion because that's what it was, except that it went deeper than that, grounded in the psychological principles of the observable world. 

Gay Talese and the Non-Comeback of Frank Sinatra

Rightly regarded as a revolutionary document in the development of reported features, "Frank Sinatra Has a Cold" (Esquire, 1966) demonstrated just how far you could take access to a subject even without the subject's cooperation. It still does. It's about the power of pure observation--that's what it's known for, and it should be. But there's something else remarkable about the story, none the less so because I didn't even remark upon it until my most recent reading. You know that Frank Sinatra comeback his role in From Here to Eternity (1953) was supposed to have facilitated? Well, Talese says it never happened. Or that it did, but not because of that only--and, what's more, that it would have happened anyway. This highly unorthodox interpretation is one more wonderful thing we can take away from piece: 
Somewhere during this period [the early 1950s], Sinatra seemed to change from the kid singer, the boy actor in his sailor suit, to a man. Even before he had won the Oscar in 1953 for his role in From Here to Eternity, some flashes of his old talent were coming through--in his recording of The Birth of the Blues, in his Riviera-nightclub appearance that jazz critics enthusiastically praised; and there was also a trend now toward L.P.s and away from the quick three-minute deal, and Sinatra's concert style would have capitalized on this with or without the Oscar.
Part of Talese's characteristically intricate outline for the piece, done on one of his trademark shirt boards.

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

The Night Jimmy Breslin Couldn't Have Watched Himself on 'The Tonight Show'

A young Jimmy Breslin, entertaining Johnny.
It's a damned shame to think that even in 1963, you could have a steady newspaper gig and a book that gets you on The Tonight Show, and still not have enough money to make your ends meet all the way. In his autobiography, I Want to Thank My Brain for Remembering Me (1996), Jimmy Breslin tells of the time he went to tape with Johnny, back when Johnny was still in New York. He was doing a guest-spot to promote his first book, Can't Anybody Here Play This Game?, and when he came home (presumably after the show had aired), there was his next-door neighbor, "sitting in our kitchen with two candles." 
"They shut your electricity off," she said. "If you were here you wouldn't have been able to see yourself on the show."
 She shook her head. "You'll be like this forever." 
I was not. But I did not forget the physical reaction that is caused by a shortage of cash. Still, today, my nose twitches when it comes anywhere near somebody with no money. The guy can be dressed like a Swiss Guard, but if he has no money my nose quivers and that means look out for him, tunic and all he's a broker. 

Saturday, February 11, 2012

The Black Eye Pauline Kael Gave 'Raging Bull'

Pauline Kael, for one, understood that Raging Bull (1980) was overrated, before it even really had a chance to become overrated. Some, I'm sure, see her original review as just one more example of the exceedingly poor judgment she demonstrated in the those years. But I can't help but see it as one of her rare '80s TKOs. (The contracted four-letter words below are written as they appear in my source, the Library of America's excellent new collection The Age of Movies. That's probably the old New Yorker talking, but I've chosen to leave the text alone.)
Listening to Jake and Joey go at each other, like the macho clowns in Cassavetes movies, I know I'm supposed to be responding to a powerful, ironic realism, but I just feel trapped. Jake says, "You dumb f--k," and Joey says, "You dumb f--k," and they repeat it and repeat it. And I think, What am I doing here watching these two dumb f--ks? When Scorsese did Mean Streets, Alice Doesn't Live Here Anymore, and Taxi Driver, the scenes built through language and incident, and other characters turned up. But when he works with two actors and pushes for raw intensity, the actors repeat their vapid profanities, goading each other to dredge up some hostility and some variations and twists. And we keep looking at the same faces--Jake and Joey, or Jake and Vickie. (They're the only people around for most of this movie.) You can feel the director sweating for greatness, but there's nothing under the scenes--no subtext, only this actor's version of tension. Basically, the movie is these dialogue bouts and Jake's fights in the ring.

As for those who believe in these very fights as the film's salvation--Pauline has something for them, too:
The fights are fast and gory and are shot very close in. We're not put in the position of spectators; we're put in the ring, with our heads right up against the heads of the two fighters who are hammering away at each other, with slow-motion eruptions of blood and sweat splashing us. We're meant to see the fists coming as they see them, and feel the blows as they do; the action is speeded up and slowed down to give us these sensations, and the sound of the punches is amplified, while other noises are blotted out. These aren't fights, really; they're cropped, staccato ordeals. The punches are a steady series of explosions--a drummer doing death rolls. The pounding immediacy is grandiloquent--almost abstract.

Thursday, February 9, 2012

The Inhuman 'SNL'-Efficiency of Mike Myers

In his book about the competitive environment at SNL, Gasping for Airtime, Jay Mohr writes about one cast member who needed no help, from the writers or anyone else, in getting himself on the air. 

Some of the cast were amazingly self-contained and didn’t need much help from anyone. Mike Myers was at the top of that list. I never saw him around the offices for more than twenty minutes after the pitch meeting, let alone watched him go from door to door asking for input. He was a strange bird because he was the model of efficiency. Rhythm, shmythm. The Mike Myers sketch was a science, and he perfected it. 
Myers wrote his sketches alone. He knew exactly how they should sound and how long they should be. The sketches were always funny, they made the host funny, and they were often franchise sketches. At no time in my two years did any of his sketches ever need rewriting. He would hand in a “Coffee Talk” sketch and it would be flawless. The Harvard writers in particular really disliked seeing one of his sketches on the table. One night Dave Mandel was reading a “Coffee Talk” sketch full of Yiddish, and he threw up his hands. “I don’t even know what any of this means!” Mandel yelled. Duh, that was the whole point. I remember once asking why Myers’s sketches even needed to be rewritten. No one responded or even gestured. You can respond to an eye roll or a shrug of the shoulders, but not to a blank stare.