Death Of A Silly Man

Film | Head Chef | May 6, 2009 at 7:29 pm

The recent death of Dom DeLuise saddened me. I grew up in the 70’s and his clowning littered the films and videos I watched as a kid. The Cannonball Run outtakes were, for me, the highlights of the film. I wanted to laugh with friends like that. I especially wanted to have a friend like Captain Chaos, and would have happily sat through an entire Captain Chaos movie. Looking back at his work today though, I found that there are no classic DeLuise movies. Lots of cameos in stuff like Blazing Saddles and some funny dance routines, but nothing amazing, or that justified my small sense of loss. He never made the leap to carrying a film of his own and his profile seemed to shrink as his waistband grew. So, after being probed by Roomybonce as to what Dom DeLuise actually did, I had to question my sentimentality. What exactly was I feeling sad about? I think it’s this: he was a profoundly silly man. Idiocy is out of fashion at the moment and to our post-modern palate the old entertainers can easily come across as being a bit desperate and embarrassing, but the more I thought about it the more important the role of the silly man seemed to be.

Laurel and Hardy crack me up. Even though it’s seventy eight years since they created their best work they still hit the mark. They are the peerless lords of stupidity and, after discovering that a friend had never seen a Laurel and Hardy short, I opened up Amazon and set about righting a wrong. I chose carefully and eventually showed them the chaos-in-a-saw-mill short “Busy Bodies”. Not a titter. I looked over and asked “Do you like it?” but they didn’t. They thought the boys were “stupid” - not funny, not loveable, just idiots and, when you reduce it down to that, they are just idiots. Yet I could watch those incompetent losers on a never-ending loop.

For me there’s something brave and inspired about their professional foolishness. There’s a truth and honesty in their failure, and an endearing intimacy in their childlike pursuit of audience approval. There’s an unwritten pact between the buffoon and their audience that says, though life may be hard and at times unbearably grim, here’s something funny, so, why not relax and enjoy it? It’s the same deal as when you watch a magician and are asked to accept that the guy is producing magic and ignore the fact that he’s probably wearing a coat stuffed with doves and packs of cards. You know magic isn’t real, but you’ll go along with the act because you want to be amazed, amused, and entertained. In the same way, the consummate silly man puts himself out on a limb in search of a giggle and, rather than being judged an idiot, gets in return your laughter and admiration. I respect and can identify with that ideal and I want a Dom DeLuise, Eric Morecambe, Vic Reeves, Tommy Cooper, Lou Costello, or Sascha Baron Cohen in my life. I mean, actually in my life. I want to hang out with them and just laugh until my sides ache. It would be a gift, but that’s not going to happen, so I’ll take the next best thing: films, TV, and even our own webmaster himself Roomybonce pretending to be Tony Hadley shagging a pig (if that makes no sense click here to read ‘Old Man Roomy Remembers…’ elsewhere in this blog.) It’s all in the same spirit and it’s all graciously accepted around these parts. We should all have someone silly in our lives.

Here’s a clip of Dom DeLuise, apparently improvised at the end of filming another sketch and seemingly utilising all the bystanders who had gathered to watch.

RIP Mr DeLuise.

Tags: , dom deluise, hardy, laurel, silly
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  1. roomybonce says:

    I think the thing with Chaplin is, he isn’t silly. He’s clever, far more so than L&H or Buster Keaton, and it’s the cleverness that inevitably grates. Classic example, ‘The Great Dictator’. Is that meant to be some sort of ’satire’? Give me Oliver Hardy being hit by a door three times in quick succession any day of the week (oddly, I didn’t find the first door strike funny, and I found the second positively unfunny - “Tchoh! It wasn’t funny the first time you stagey losers, how dare you try it again” - but then I thought the third strike was hilarious for the pure nerve of it)

    I’m not saying Clever can’t be funny, but I think Silly is more eternal because it tries to pull a ’step-over’ on your the intellect; it by-passes the everyday parts of your brain. But then I think the truly classic comedy tends to be both: Python, Blackadder, Fawlty Towers, The Marx Brothers, Dad’s Army, all brilliantly written character comedy that is bother clever - in terms of wordplay - and silly in its high slapstick. Chaplin rarely achieves the combination, for me.

    But, most importantly, who is this friend of yours Chef? This friend who thought Laurel & Hardy were just unfunny idiots? This friend who raised nary a titter when Stan planed Ollie’s Arse? I challenge them to explain themselves right here, right now, giving full details of what exactly they do find funny.

    I’m not a humour nazi - each to their own, etc - but I am just perplexed by people who have no sense of the Silly, and I’m intrigued to know what non-Silly people find funny, or indeed, how they function at all on a daily basis without finding the myriad stresses of modern life exceedingly carcinogenic in the long term - NOT that I’m saying they’ll get cancer if they don’t lighten up…but…I am. That’s EXACTLY what I’m saying. If you can’t laugh at Laurel & Hardy then you might as well order your Headstone right now and pop down to Homebase for a spot of Black & Decker trepanning to release what Silly spirits remain trapped in that rusty jewellery box you call a mind.

    But pay no heed to my rantings, please. I’m just being silly.

  2. Head Chef says:

    The friend has to remain anonymous or she’ll divorce me.

  3. roomybonce says:

    Ah. Well, she must be at least faintly silly, for the obvious reason.

  4. Jazib says:

    hooray for Harold Lloyd!

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