The Chair Challenge

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Did you ever have one of those weeks? I don’t know about you, but I’m tired of having celebrities I like and that feel as if they’re a part of my family die. Plus, is the universe going to blow up? Are we headed for World War III? It certainly seems that way. Not to mention the fact that there hasn’t been one movie I’ve loved or even liked more than a little this summer. I mean, how many reruns of House Hunters International can I watch? Yes, Costa Rica looks nice and inexpensive but, seriously – you’re going to uproot your spouse and two kids, go live in a shack on the beach and have them all piss happily in a rusted tin outhouse for $900 a month? Really????

Sorry, I will not calm down. Or pull out my dog-eared copy of The Four Agreements by Don Miguel Ruiz from 2008. That was then and this is now. Besides, a good rant can do just as much as being impeccable with your word, not taking things personally, not making assumptions and always doing your best. And in case you were wondering – YES, THIS IS MY BEST! At the moment.

Okay, I feel better already. And so will you. So if that works imagine how good an unlucky 13 of them will feel. What follows are a baker’s dozen of my petty best of the moment. And I CHALLENGE ALL OF YOU to come up with at least one of your own and write in about it. Don’t worry. You don’t have to dump a bucket of ice water over your head afterwards. Or send money. This is therapy. At least for me. For all of us.

Oh, in case you were wondering I AM GRATEFUL – to live in a country where ranting is still legal and among others who can relate, understand and come up with funnier and better things to complain about than me. So as my mother used to warn: DO NOT DISAPPOINT ME. Which explains more than you need to know about myself or my rants on any given day.

MY UNLUCKY 13:

1 – You’re no longer a SPORTS HERO if you beat women and children.

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Nuances are meaningless when a man knocks out his wife with a punch to the jaw and drags her limp body across a floor. Ditto when another guy repeatedly whoops his 4 year-old son with a switch to the crotch or beats him bloody with a stick and then chews on the remainder of its picked off leaves in front of him. The NFL’s Ray Rice and Adrian Peterson should be in jail for these offenses – not the subject of debate.   How does any woman put on a Rice jersey or a single football fan support a star running back who put a little boy not yet old enough to attend public school into the hospital? #TimothyRayJones? #Malala? #OJanyone?

2- If you throw your adolescent child out of the house for being gay you should be neutered against your will and relieved of all your wordily possessions. Rolling Stone recently did an expose about the epidemic of homeless LGBT kids, many of who have been thrown out onto the streets by their fundamentalist parents. I, for one, am tired of small-minded cowards hiding behind dogma in order to inflict pain and suffering on family members who they deem unworthy. So let me put it in language their pea brains might understand. Think of your offspring like a plate you knock over in the store. Meaning, you break it, you bought it. Or in this case – you make it, you own it. For life. But unlike a plate, you can’t throw yours out or give it away because you decide you suddenly don’t fancy its pattern or it fails to live up to your preconceived idea of the surface on which you choose to put your cold meatloaf sandwich during one of your typically lazy Sunday afternoons.

3- I don’t have the time to iWatch.

... and just about as useful

… and just about as useful

Who doesn’t love the sleek, stylish lines and shiny cool bling of something Apple? But wasn’t one of the benefits of the iPhone stapled to your person the fact that it pretty much rendered wristwatches obsolete? Do any of us really need a mini computer timepiece on our arms? Well, perhaps need is the wrong word. How about want? Isn’t it tough enough to make an effort lifting up your arms to do…. anything these days? #WWJobsDo?

4- Matthew Perry needs to sit out some more pilot seasons.

Stop trying to make Matthew Perry happen. It's not going to happen

Stop trying to make Matthew Perry happen. It’s not going to happen

We all love MP not only as one of our perennial Friends but for various admirable turns he’s done in both drama and comedy since those halcyon days. Still, a reboot of The Odd Couple as a half-hour CBS comedy this fall? Which was already rebooted in the eighties with an all-black cast from the 1970s hit series? Which was rebooted from the hit film? Which was reinterpreted from the hit Broadway show? The only person not tired of all of these hits is Neil Simon, who brilliantly created the story to begin with and even more brilliantly continues to collect royalty checks from it five decades later. #NoPoachingZone.

5- Too many actors are changing pace. You can’t blame a professional impersonator for wanting to try on all different types of personas but that doesn’t mean you can’t bitch about it. Steve Carrell is a humorless gazillionaire mentally abusing Channing Tatum in the upcoming Foxcatcher, Pushing Daisies’ charming Lee Pace (no pun intended) played the nastiest of villains in this summer’s sole megablockbuster, Guardians of the Galaxy, and post Thanksgiving we all have to look forward to a live version of Peter Pan starring Girls’…..Allison Williams?? How would they like it if I renamed this blog Notes From A Zeppelin? Or An Elongated Rant from my Chair. And no, the correct answer is not none of them cares. #Dontbemeanasme. #Thoughtofthatfirst.

She is just too tall to be Peter Pan. TOO. TALL

She is just too tall to be Peter Pan. TOO. TALL

6- We need to thin the herd of tour buses everywhere. Somebody somewhere is probably offering a tour of pretty much every region in the world. But nowhere is this phenomenon more apparent than on the streets of Los Angeles. Here’s the bottom of lines, though. Those of you in the rest of the country don’t get to hate on us (nee make fun) and then come here to visit from every state in the union all year where you will undoubtedly spend at least one day on a tour bus going 5 mph gawking at everything and everyone you see with disdainful admiration. You’re gumming up the traffic and acting like the asshat guy/girl we all once dated who couldn’t make up their mind about us. Note: Those types of relationships never work. And certainly never end well.

7- Drivers of automobiles are not allowed to signal on their choice of odd or even days. While we’re on the subject of L.A. and traffic listen up – you’re a selfish pig if you don’t indicate when you are going right or left and a complete failure as a human being when you suddenly decide to stop in the middle of the street for no other reason than because, well – the sun looked nice? Organic fennel suddenly came into your mind? You thought a pretty guy or gal looked familiar but then realized it was only your own image reflecting into the windshield from your side view mirror? This also applies to big men driving their big trucks who have decided that because they seem more menacing no one else on the road will ever take them to task. Well, I guess I (let’s make it WE just in case) showed them.

Preach Batman

Preach Batman

8- Huge television stars need to stop doing car commercial voiceovers. I was going to let Jon Hamm slide as the voice of Mercedes Benz because after all, he’s Jon Hamm. But he’s started an epidemic that reached its peak last week when I actually recognized the voice of Modern Family’s Ty Burrell on an ad for some other vehicle. I can’t remember which one. And that’s the point. It’s understandable when they get Samuel L. Jackson or Alec Baldwin before the cameras to endorse Capital One credit cards. Their crazy on-camera personas are being bought and paid for with a lot of cash back. But what difference does it make who’s telling me to drive an overpriced automobile if I can’t see their handsome face IN the car and imagine they’re with me? No, of course I’m not specifically talking ONLY about Jon Hamm.   And certainly not of Matthew McConaughey – who is featured live on camera in one of the oddest, newest and most bizarre auto ads of them all.

9- Why can’t we have one universal cord that plugs into everything??? This was not my idea but came from NBC’s Tom Brokaw, who this week said he suggested it to Apple CEO Tim Cook. Yeah, I know, they’ll call it the iCord, build the prototype here and mass-produce it in China with unskilled, underpaid and overworked cheap labor. We’ll all feel guilty about it but it will come in all sorts of shapes and sizes and be sexy and irresistible. And we’ll purchase all of them because once again, well, life is so, so, so haaaaaaaaaaaard. #Too1stworldXGoogol

10- Network television needs to stop putting John McCain on the air right after every presidential speech.

What I see everytime he comes on screen...

What I see everytime he comes on screen…

In my mind, Sen. McCain gave up all rights to criticize presidential judgment the moment he selected Sarah Palin as his choice for vice-president. There will be no Sarah Palin joke here because how does one top anything she’s already said and done in the past, including the drunken brawl her entire family was reported to have gotten into this past week in Anchorage? What will be stated is that Sen. McCain’s expertise in the area of decision-making and strategy not only sucks but is potentially quite dangerous. Putting him on directly after Pres. Obama spoke to the nation about how he will deal with the beheadings of two American journalists at the hands of the fundamentalist religious terrorists of ISIS is akin to….well, I’ll let you fill in the blank. (Hint: Insert that Sarah Palin joke here).

11- Stop calling America “The Homeland!” There is no other way to say this. We are not in Adolf Hitler’s Germany (yet) or living in a cable series starring Claire Danes. When we discuss whether enemies of our state plan to attack our country that is what we fear they will attack – the country. Words matter. Jingoistic, fascist terminology is dangerous. Unless I’m using it to attack Rick Perry or Ted Cruz in an ironically worded twist on the words they ordinarily use. Which I have not done. Yet. #Oops.

We-all-know-someone-who-needs-to-tuck-and-roll…

12- Adored celebrities need to stop dying for a while. Or at least stop dying so close together. Aside from the emotional grief it causes their friends and loved ones it is hell on us. Robin Williams, Joan Rivers and Lauren Bacall all in the space of a month? And then there’s Phillip Seymour Hoffman’s death just a bit before??? The least of this is the confusion it causes to consumers and the corporations they love. Do you feature Mr. Hoffman prominently in the ads for Hunger Games: Mockingjay? Will it ever be kosher to watch a rerun of Fashion Police again? Was it unfair of me to get creeped out by the live images of a great actor like James Gandolfini in the recent ads for his last film, The Drop? It’s only creepy because none of us will get out of here alive. Oh, grow up – it’s true!!!

13- Give Billy Eichner a show that is not on Fuse TV!

Can you ever watch too much?

Can you ever watch too much?

It’s not as if I haven’t known about comedian Billy Eichner’s hilarious Funny or Die videos for the last year or two. But suddenly he seems to be on every other click of the web making me LOL (yes, I’m using THAT abbreviation because I’m not as clever as he is) at what might have been my lowest moment of the week were he not available. So, network or real pay cable TV – why? Why? Why? Don’t tell me he’s too gay or too New York or too Jewish. I might take it personally. As for Billy, no one is this funny and strange and entertaining so consistently. Not even Matthew Perry. Who I am a great fan of. (See #4 above). Don’t believe me? Fine. Here.

Julia Roberts Obstacle Course

It’s Debra Messing, You Gays

And in case you’re in the mood for a song, here’s something you won’t ever HEAR on the radio. Write in and Rant On.

A Real Piece of Work

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Nothing is permanent but change, said a Greek philosopher named Heraclitus around 500 BC. Well, one doesn’t have do be an expert in Greece or philosophy to know that this was rather prescient.

Imagine saying something – anything – that is still relevant 2500 years later?

Joan Rivers stayed relevant for at least that long. Okay, maybe it’s more of a “Jewish” 2500, which in my tribe would translate to a lifetime. But if you play it right, one lifetime is enough. And who knows, maybe all those centuries later someone will still be saying, Can we talk, as they dish the latest fashions on a show someone else is watching via some random iPhone. Which at that point will probably be an invisible Nano chip implanted directly into their EYE, rather than the i’s we now all know and love.

The death of Ms. Rivers this week – or Joan, as I was fortunate enough to call her the several times we met – collided with a lot of other renowned celebrity deaths and worldwide news in the last few weeks. But none so strangely 2014 Joan-worthy material as the massive iCloud cyber theft of naked photos of Oscar-winning actress and reigning American sweetheart Jennifer Lawrence, among others, that went viral. It’s sort of beside the point – or perhaps it is the point – but I keep wondering, what would Joan have had to say about all that?

Oh please, if I looked like Jennifer Lawrence naked you could’ve seen those pictures on every website in the world – but never for free. Dumb bitch!! Doesn’t she know one day those boobies will be mopping the floors for free?? (Insert Joan miming a boob mopping visual).

Or maybe she would have taken a different tack about any woman misguided enough to even snap pictures of themselves unclothed-

What is wrong with them? I’ve never even seen myself naked! How do you think I lived this long? (beat) And you wonder why Edgar killed himself.

Oh, grow up!!! You think she wouldn’t have gone there? Well, maybe she would have but surely she would’ve been funnier – a lot funnier. A lot, lot funnier. Which is one of so many reasons why we still need her around.

Would you expect anything less?

Would you expect anything less?

I tweeted this week that Joan Rivers was the only person who could offend me and make me laugh at exactly the same time. I meant it as the highest of compliments. I tend to lose my sense of humor about certain subjects that cut too close to the bone. For instance, I don’t find AIDS jokes funny. In the same way my parents’ friends don’t like to yuck it up about the Holocaust, Mel Brooks’ The Producers not withstanding.  Yet on the latter point here was Joan just a few months ago on The Tonight Show with Jimmy Fallon, explaining why she arrived to the studio late.

…They sent this big stretch Mercedes limousine for us and it got stuck – it wouldn’t move for two and a half hours! And I’m thinking the whole time, the Germans killed 6 million Jews and you can’t fix a f-cking carburetor?!

Oh Joan, Joan, Joan.

There is a brand of groundbreaking comedians who changed comedy so drastically that we will never quite see the likes of again because the times have changed so drastically since they started performing in the early and still uptight 1960s. Little-known names like Richard Pryor, Bill Cosby and Woody Allen (not to mention the tail end of Lenny Bruce) scrounged around the seedy little Bohemian nightclubs of Greenwich Village, New York hoping to board the train of fame and fortune but happy just to be making a couple of bucks.

That was a time when there were exactly two mainstream female standup comics in the entire world – Phyllis Diller and Totie Fields – neither of whom were in their twenties. But every so often through force of will and talent – and often it takes both – someone breaks through the glass ceiling that Hillary Clinton so famously referred to in her 2008 concession speech for the Democratic presidential nomination. This does not mean that even now we live in a post-racial, post-feminist, post-Holocaust or post-gay world – as any number of recent news events certainly bare witness to. It only means that occasionally an individual comes along that won’t be stopped, and they open the door for a few others of their kind who manage to sneak through, which makes the entrance even bigger for a larger but still select group of some more of their types to come in. That is, until it’s the turn of another totally different individual of still yet another group or sensibility – when the cycle starts all over again.

We can thank Joan for paving the way for these ladies

We can thank Joan for paving the way for these ladies

The Bottom line – or – to put it another way: It’s never particularly easy – ever – for anyone who aspires to be at the top of anything when they do not act or look like everyone else at the peak of that mountain that they aspire to.

The terrain one takes to get to the top of the mountain keeps getting updated but the climb is not dissimilar. And it’s an ongoing, lifetime fight that’s a lot more difficult to deal with than the cyber stealing of a celebrity’s private nude shots. Sure, the latter seems particularly sleazy and heinous at this time but is it any worse than the distribution of previously unseen nudies some unscrupulous photographer took that caused now famed TV and musical theatre actress Vanessa Williams, then the first black Miss America, to be deposed from her throne in 1983 for something she did when she was broke and needed the money? Those same types of photos were also taken three decades earlier of another young, aspiring star – Marilyn Monroe. But both didn’t do too badly for themselves (well, relatively) even as they tried to exploit, and in turn found themselves exploited by, the business they so very much wanted to become a part of.

One might argue that it is different in the case of the Jennifer Lawrence photos since they were private and not done under contract or paid for like the others. But that is precisely what is NOT the difference in 2014. NOTHING. IS. PRIVATE. Especially when it is committed to film or still photography. And most especially when its owner posts it anywhere online. Rule of thumb: assume once you’ve posted it anywhere it can easily be accessed ad infinitum everywhere.

Truth!

Truth!

Joan Rivers recognized where this was all going decades before any of the rest of us did. She operated from the idea that nothing was sacred – especially when it applied to the rich and famous – meaning the people who could afford to take it. And most especially when it came to her stock in trade – laughter.

When another funny woman, Nora Ephron, died several years ago, many of the post mortems cited one of her mottos that she claimed was given to her early on by another comedy writer – her late mother and Hollywood screenwriter, Phoebe Ephron. And that advice was:

Everything in your life that happens to you is material.

Joan took this adage one step further– Everything that happens to anyone else, everywhere else is your material.

And she would tell you where to stick it.

And she would tell you where to stick it.

Joan used this material for her comedy and she was fearless about it. She may or may not have meant it as a motto or way to live in the new 21st century world we are all forced to inhabit but when you stop and think it just might be a pretty smart strategy to realize that:

Nothing is sacred and not much can be hidden. So it’s probably a lot better to be open and honest about it all than to try and pretend you or it are something you’re not.

After all – as one speech teacher said to me years ago when I confessed I was quite nervous to get up in front of a room full of people – everyone goes to the bathroom the same way. Just picture them doing that – or naked in the shower. That should set your mind at ease. (Note: Yes, a teacher in school once told me that. And you wonder why I followed in that person’s footsteps).

But back to Joan, who I’m very happy not to ever have to follow even though in some small way I am.

The early days

The early days

Longevity and fearlessness are rarities in the Business of Show and even more infrequent in the Business of Life. People flame out – their fires doused by others or the group efforts of the unfriendly worlds that cohabitate all around them. That’s why a career of almost 60 years with its countless ups and downs, triumphs, offenses and reinventions – and most importantly – unerring ability to stay relevant to audiences and pop culture no matter what the cost – is worth saluting. Can you name another 81 year-old entertainer starring in three television shows and still doing 300 club dates per year cracking up people all over the world (or even offending them – it’s just the opposite side of the exactly the same coin) up until the night before they died? I certainly can’t. (Click here to take a small break with some of Joan’s best work)

Full confession: Despite having some mutual friends, I only got to speak to Joan at any great length more than a year ago at a friend’s birthday party. She was funny, self-deprecating and incredibly smart and well read – a softer, more thoughtful version of her stage persona – and a lot more gracious that I expected. After several hours together – and in one of the rare moments when the laughter died down – I decided to go for it and share something I told her I had always wanted to say to her. A long beat went by and she looked at me a bit fearfully and said, uh, oh.

My own "Can We Talk" moment

My own “Can We Talk” moment

Oh no, I responded, it’s nothing bad.

Okay, she said, still not quite believing.

It’s just that – I always wanted to thank you. See, in the early eighties you did the first AIDS benefit I ever went to at Studio One (NOTE: A small gay nightclub in West Hollywood) and it was at a time when no one else famous was really speaking up. I just so really appreciated it. As did many of my friends who are no longer here.

She looked back at me sincerely and said thank you and revealed that she had received several death threats that evening if she dared to perform.

Weren’t you afraid, I wondered?

A little, she responded. But we hired a couple of big bodyguards, who I’m sure everyone thought just worked there. I would never NOT do the show because of that.

Fearless.

In the middle, at the beginning and to the very end.

Labor of Love

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There’s something so damn ingratiating and infectious about people who love the work that they do and excel at it.

For instance, did you ever go to a restaurant where the waiter treats you like a guest at their home and through sheer force of will and great food manages to make you feel happier than you have all day? How about a classroom where the teacher is so animated you are suddenly fascinated by a subject that you previously would have walked twelve long miles to avoid? Sometimes it’s even a film, TV show or performer putting you under such a spell that you actually forget to check your email, texts or any other form of social media messages for more than two whole hours.

Well, I’m here to tell you singer-songwriter Jason Mraz is exactly that infectious, excellent and just so damned ingratiating whenever he’s performing onstage.

The Chair's attempt at concert photography (call is the Blue period)

The Chair’s attempt at concert photography (call it the Blue period)

Don’t think I’m going all corny on you in either the messaging or the Mraz-ing. Yeah, even Mr. Mraz knows the cynical wrap about him always being Mr. Hippie Positivity and one of the first things he does in his shows is confess that he has more than his share of dark, depressing thoughts daily. But his work, as he sees it, is to take exactly what he’s feeling and make it into something artistic that maybe he, and in turn you and I, can feel good about.

Now, if that’s not a Labor Day weekend message, what is?

I had originally planned to write about the challenges of being part of a minority group this weekend, touching on the uprising of the Black community in Ferguson, MO over the police shooting of an unarmed 17-year-old boy. This would then be tied into the negative blowback Modern Family actress Sofia Vergara received from so many women (and the men who love them) across America for her willingness to flaunt her shimmying body on a 360-degree revolving platform at the Emmy awards. Which would lead into the chastisement I got from certain quarters for supporting her “subversion” of the Latina stereotype in a blog post here last week. This would all then culminate in how whether your minority is Black, Latin or gay like me (Note: I was even going to try to get the Middle East, Israel, Iraq and Isis in there) – the prejudice and marginalization are all various iterations of the same exact issue that, until recognized, will prevent us all from ever truly moving forward as a race, a culture or a planet.

Wow... that's a lot.

Wow… that’s a lot.

I’ll bet now you’re happy that 1. all we’re doing is talking about Jason Mraz and 2. I happened to see him at a two-hour plus concert in Hollywood this weekend.

Except, it’s not quite as simple as that.

Mr. Mraz is one of the few of us lucky enough to have figured out how to merge his job with his passion. It may be difficult to think of him as a worker on Labor Day because he is so wealthy, famous and talented at the relatively young age of 37. Not only is he not in the 47% along with most of the rest of us, he’s in the very elite subset of the upper, upper 1%. The .001% Or the .00001%? I haven’t seen his bank account but two Grammy awards, a 5 and a half acre organic avocado farm near San Diego, a joint ownership in the hugely successful Gratitude Cafe restaurants, one of the most enduring hit singles to ever stay on Billboard’s top 100 chart (76 weeks) and a never-ending concert tour schedule of venues all over the world indicate he’s doing more than okay. Not to mention, his goal to be #RetiredAt40 and spend most of the rest of his time farming – or at least slowing down from the star musician’s life he has carved out for himself over the last decade.

Farmlife with Mr. Mraz

Farmlife with Mr. Mraz

And yet – at essence he’s really just a worker. The fact that he’s treated as something more than that lies at our doorstep– not his. #ThinkAboutIt.

As a writer and a performer on the concert stage whose work has also been seen on television and in the movies, Mr. Mraz is at the very least a member of several or more show business labor unions. But even if he weren’t there is no denying he is an American worker and laborer – that is to say someone who contributes goods and/or services to society and whose efforts should be celebrated. Especially when it’s done exceedingly well.

So, how does one rise to the level of elite worker, which is not the same as asking – how do I become rich and famous? The latter is a byproduct of the profession one chooses to work at, one’s talents and a lot of timing and luck. (Note: And don’t let anyone else tell you any differently).

Well, since he’s obviously on my mind, let’s use Mr. Mraz as an example and have his actions tell us.

ATTITUDE

Well... which one is it?

Well… which one is it?

You’d think hard work would be the number one value here but the ability to work hard really begins with your attitude. One of the lessons students get from me when they arrive in L.A. for a semester to do internships in the entertainment industry is that the people you work with will innately know whether you enjoy working there or not. This does not mean that every working moment of your day is a joy or a pleasure or even easy. What it does mean is that somewhere inside you want to dig in and get the job done or you wouldn’t be there in the first place. And whether you’re tired or in a bad mood, once you get going a certain pride in doing what you like takes over and you get caught up in the moment of putting time into a job to the best of your abilities in the given moments you have chosen to put in that day.

Mr. Mraz has mastered this. There’s a joy in his eyes when he performs. When he screws up the lyrics or a technical element of his show doesn’t work, he laughs it off or makes fun of himself. He’s planned out his program but he’s willing to improvise and engage his fellow musicians and his audience even if it means extending the length of his show. Instead of phoning in his performance or duplicating his recordings in front of you, there’s an easiness that assures you that you are in good hands and are about to see something unique because he never does any one song in exactly the same way. In other words, he doesn’t make you feel like he’s doing you a big, fat favor by being there because he wants to be there.

There are only a handful of performers out of the many that I’ve seen live that have the ability to do this. Bruce Springsteen is one. Perhaps surprisingly, the Grateful Dead were another. Bette Midler in her early days was a third. They make you feel as if there is nowhere they’d rather be than doing their work for you when they’re doing that thing they do so well. There’s a spring in their step. And it’s infectious.

WORK ETHIC

Noted writer and social scientist Malcolm Gladwell wrote in his best seller, Outliers, it takes approximately 10,000 hours of dedicated practice to become an expert in your field. Since there are about 8,765 hours in a year and most people put in approximately 2,080 hours at a full time job, this means it takes in the neighborhood of 5-10 years to become any kind of expert in your field.   Other researches have expressed these thoughts though none of them guarantee that expertise will equal financial success or worldwide recognition.

How many hours are you up to?

How many hours have you put in?

It may not be surprising then that for every album released, Mr. Mraz has an estimated 70 leftover songs. This certainly wouldn’t come as a shocker to any writer or observer of pop culture or even dedicated worker of any kind. In fact, Bruce Springsteen himself, flaunting a thick dog-eared songwriting notebook on 60 Minutes some years ago, expressed similar thoughts. The problem is that an expert worker who does what they do well is revealing their final product to you in its most polished form. And when it’s that clear and well done it’s hard to believe it could’ve taken so many other discarded efforts to get to that place.

In Mr. Mraz’s case, this is quite reassuring to me since his seemingly infinite abilities at unforced rhyming and clever world play appear so natural that one assumes they had to be tossed off in numerous fits of immediate, savant-like inspiration. #HeMustBeLackingInOtherAreas.

A LIFE

After all, you gotta share the guacamole with someone!

After all, you gotta share the guacamole with someone!

I once had the false notion that to be that good at what you do took a single-mindedness that precluded anything else in the universe. Meaning that if you were an artist you locked yourself up in a dank room where someone put a tray of gruel outside your door (or you simply found some in a filthy refrigerator) and you were let out only to eat and shower for half an hour spurts each day before being shoved back in and locked up again. A personal life? Travelling? Leisure time connection with family and friends? Are you kidding? Oh no, there’s plenty of time for that later. Maybe. Once all this important stuff is done and I have the chance.

Great workers know this is completely wrong. They might be dedicated and they likely work long hours. But most have some engagement with the world or they could never rise to the levels that they do. In order to be a master inventor or executor of any craft you have to engage with the task and the world it inhabits. And since nothing in the universe exists in a vacuum this means – yeah, you have to participate and get out from behind the locked door.

I don’t know Mr. Mraz and certainly don’t expect any kind of kickback from his manager. Nor do I think every single song or task he takes on is perfection. What I have noticed though is that he has a life. He shows video from his tour to Antarctica, his farm in Bonsall (near San Diego – and it’s not “glamorous”) and frequently appears at benefits for underprivileged youths and the environment. He’s an avid vegan and yoga enthusiast but admits to loving weed and formerly adoring Mimosas and cigarettes. Plus, he’s had lots of girlfriends and more than a few long-term relationships (Note: I had to throw this in because, well…I had to).

Hiss and boo the sixties hippie mentality all you want. But they were THE SIXTIES for a reason.

GENEROSITY

Two is better than one

Two is better than one

No, we did not cover this under the previous Life section. At this weekend’s concert Mr. Mraz spent a huge chunk of his time promoting and sharing the stage with a group of four talented female musicians called Raining Jane, who co-wrote all of the songs on his just released current CD, Yes. I highly recommend the CD. It’s clever, smart and uplifting. It will make you happy, especially in moments when you don’t want to be. You will not want to give in to it but if you keep listening you will. Really good work does this. It wins you over.

Here are some of the song titles: Love Someone, Back to the Earth and Shine. Tell me you don’t want to loathe what you perceive to be sugary and saccharine in our quite ironic world. And…how is that working for you?

I might have had similar feelings, though perhaps not quite as strong, before I took a listen and then attended the show. Not surprisingly JM and Raining Jane took seven years to finish the CD, many of whose songs are performed live on the current 35-city tour. The results of the time and care taken to put it all together show and they just might surprise you.

Of course, that’s what great work and workers do. Every time.

Once again, Mr. Mraz and company are not paying me for what I’m saying. Nor should any of you feel obligated to.

It’s all part of the job I do here.

As the Emmy Turns

Occasionally the Chair must break from his weekly posts to address up-to-the-minute breaking news… and sometimes he just has an opinion and he can’t shut up about it. Enjoy this mid-week visit with the Chair as he spins his truth on this year’s biggest Emmy moment.

Sophia-Vergara-Emmys-Sexist

The takeaway from the Emmy Awards on Monday night is not about Breaking Bad deservedly sweeping in almost all of its major categories. Nor is it the fact that Emmy stalwarts such as Modern Family, Julia Louis-Dreyfuss (Veep), Jim Parsons (Big Bang Theory), Allison Janney (Mom, Masters of Sex and previously West Wing) continue to dominate in all of theirs.

It’s not even that the presumed-to-be sure-fire dramatic TV-movie winner of the year – The Normal Heart – was snubbed in all of its categories until the very end.

Oh Matt, we're trying!

Oh Matt, we’re trying!

And no – it certainly is not that the usually smart, glib and poised in just-the-right-way host Seth Meyers delivered an unusually static set of jokes that made him and the entire show seem a bit off its game.

What it is all about are three minutes and one half minutes of special material that fell flat. And…

Sofia Vergara.

Who knew that the funny and beautiful actress from Colombia who became a gigantic American television star by playing a beautiful and funny woman from Colombia on the Television Academy’s favorite situation comedy of the last five years (see above) would be so heavily chastised, shamed and otherwise criticized for participating in a comedy bit where she played a beautiful and funny woman from Colombia on television?

Life is strange.

Clearly, many people do not feel comfortable with or understand that Ms. Vergara’s success is based on the idea that publicly she ALWAYS plays the part of a beautiful and funny woman from Colombia. And that despite what the writers name her in whatever venue she presents herself, that persona is ultimately always named Sofia Vergara and has as much or as little to do with the real her as… well… only she knows for sure.

Exhibit A

Exhibit A

But here’s what we should all know: that is what actors do.

For those unfamiliar with the segment, Ms. Vergara strutted out clad in her usual body-hugging garment and speaking in her exaggeratedly extreme Latin accent (Note: As thick as Fran Drescher’s but evoking Colombia rather than Flushing, Queens – the latter being my home town). After explaining to the audience that she came to America with the same big dreams of many young women her age– to be on a stage as big as the one she was standing on at the Emmys – she then disappointedly noted that this also relegated her to the duty of only being able to introduce from that very stage Television Academy president Bruce Rosenblum.

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Quickly making his entrance and taking away center stage was Mr. Rosenblum, who if nothing else is Central Casting’s version of what most everyone around the world imagines television executives to be. Which is to generously say that he is not at all a performer or else he’d hire himself and his colleagues instead of paying actors like Ms. Vergara millions and millions and millions of more millions of dollars each year.

This also appeared evident as Mr. Rosenblum took the reigns of what now promised to be on ongoing routine and asked Ms. Vergara to stand on a rotating podium center stage – not unlike that of a real-life version of an actual Emmy – and demonstrate for the audience the meaningful impact American television has around the world.

As Mr. Rosenblum blathered on about something to do with charitable foundations, diverse audiences and more devices and platforms than ever before, the spotlight was on the 360-degree view of Ms. Vergara as she slowly rotated and milked every single moment of the routine with all the skills of the multi-Emmy nominated comic actress that she is. Let us just say Ms. Vergara held nothing back in terms of “body language” and this made the routine far more or less amusing depending on who you were or what your point of view was or is. Especially when Mr. Rosenblum concluded television’s success is always about great storytelling and giving viewers something compelling to watch.

I will admit to being amused by Ms. Vergara and how willing she was to poke fun at her sexpot image and pose as some living statue of – something – while a boring man – who stood in for all of the many boring men I pictured watching at home – talked on obliviously about stuff no one really wanted to listen to despite his determination to continue boring them. I mean, isn’t this something that most guys, including myself (and maybe even at this moment) routinely do?

That is not the way many of the women close to me, or the tens of thousands of other people on Twitter and various alternative platforms and devices, viewed it, however. Charges of TV Academy sexism quickly abounded, celebs like Katie Couric voiced their disapproval, and pundits much more powerful and wider read than myself posted think pieces and visual aids about feminist representation. Most also mentioned the irony that some moments after Ms. Vergara exited, Julianna Marguiles accepted a best actress Emmy in a speech that boasted how we are currently living in a “golden age of television ” in terms of roles for women.

Screen Shot 2014-08-27 at 11.04.46 AMScreen Shot 2014-08-27 at 11.07.21 AMScreen Shot 2014-08-27 at 11.02.52 AM Screen Shot 2014-08-27 at 11.02.22 AM Screen Shot 2014-08-27 at 11.02.18 AM Screen Shot 2014-08-27 at 11.02.13 AM

It’s difficult to know what to think of all of this and clearly impossible to prove those thoughts since this is all about a matter that is subjective – or more rightly – objective-ication.   In fact, one of my female friends argued that if a gay guy were presented center stage in the stereotypical throwback way that Ms. Vergara had to endure, I’d completely change my tune. Not true, I protested. If they put Neil Patrick Harris in a speedo on that podium – the most famous and attractive out TV gay I could think of – and twirled him around as he cleverly camped on his own terms (the key word being clever) – I’d think it was funny. But not if some random gay reality TV show guy who was not as funny or quick as Mr. Harris (Note: Take your pick) tried it. There’s a difference.

Unless it's this reality show gay, in which case, MORE BILLY PLEASE

Unless it’s this reality show gay, in which case, MORE BILLY PLEASE

Well, that didn’t work. They didn’t believe me. And really, how do I absolutely know for sure? All I was probably thinking about was seeing Neil Patrick Harris in a speedo on a podium. Which, in a strangely symbolic way, is how all of this began.

I guess it’s all about choice and history and perspective. And who or what you find funny. Though what do I know: for my money, Amy Poehler and Lena Dunham are the best comic actresses on TV – not Julia-Louis Dreyfuss. Not to mention Louis C. K. and Andre Braugher make me laugh a hell of a lot more than Jim Parsons or Ty Burrell.

This is a very long way of saying – what’s funny to me may not be funny to you. And, vice-versa. And it may very well be offensive to somebody. Hopefully.

 

Manic Emmy Monday

Screen Shot 2014-08-24 at 8.55.58 AM

The Emmy Awards broadcast has been moved to Monday instead of Sunday night this year so as not to have to compete with football???   Great. We’re already pissed off. And admit it, so are you. With that being the case let’s get back at the people who invited you to predict the winners for their damned Emmy pool begin with. Let’s win this thing.

The pitfalls: For some reason, the Emmys are the trickiest of all the awards shows to predict. Is it the blue ribbon panels? Or just because in this much lauded new golden decade of television there are a wealth of riches? Neither. It’s just ALWAYS been a minefield. Individual episodes, scenes and clips are watched by various groups to many varied effects. And there are sooo many categories!!! (Note: To be said with a whine). Soooooo. Mannnnny. Categor-iiieeeeeeeeeesssss. Boy, are these #FirstWorldProblems.

Still, none of this prevents us from handing out our free predictions or getting on the inevitably indignant soapbox if even one of our perceived deserving recipients does not emerge victorious. Yes, it’s on. Consider yourself served, Emmy-ly. You unpredictably elusive hag, you.

Preach Tina!

Preach Tina!

Feel free to consult any of these below for the requisite awards pool you might be pressured to participate in on Monday night that we have already decided you will win with our help. But remember – just as William Goldman once said about the film industry – Nobody knows anything – the same pretty much goes here. Though, well – we do have our favorites and we have noticed a few (non-test) Patterns.

Outstanding Lead Actor, Drama

All hail Heisenberg

All hail Heisenberg

The Nominees: Bryan Cranston (Breaking Bad), Jeff Daniels (The Newsroom), Jon Hamm (Mad Men), Woody Harrelson (True Detective), Matthew McConaughey (True Detective), Kevin Spacey (House of Cards)

Winner:  Bryan Cranston (Breaking Bad)

The last awards run for Walter White’s alter ego. He IS the danger.

Loser: Matthew McConaughey (True Detective)

All right, all right, all right, he’s on awards fire. But do enough Emmy voters want to see him do another speech after he compared himself to Jesus at the Oscars? We think not. That said we here at NFAC are true MM fans and were amazed at the depth and intensity he brought to True Detective. But this is about who will be voted the winner. Both he and fellow cast mate Woody Harrelson will split what might have been one winning entry.

As for the rest in the field, they are all potential winners in another year but not this time out. Yes, we’re talking to you, Hammboat.

DId someone say Jon Hamm boat?

Did someone say Jon Hamm boat?

Outstanding Lead Actress, Drama

I solemnly sweat to take this Emmy home

I solemnly sweat to take this Emmy home

The Nominees: Lizzy Caplan (Masters of Sex), Claire Danes (Homeland), Michelle Dockery (Downton Abbey), Julianna Margulies (The Good Wife), Kerry Washington (Scandal), Robin Wright (House of Cards)

Winner:  Claire Danes (Homeland)

You try playing a bipolar CIA double trouble agent convincingly and then get back to us. This past season was perhaps not as stellar but Danes’ Carrie was in as great a form as ever.

Loser: Robin Wright (House of Cards)

Who knew years after winning America’s heart as the love of Forrest Gump’s life that RW could play such a fascinating, duplicitous….and we’re not revealing any more. She’s won the reviews but will likely not get the pointy statuette. Some think Kerry Washington will for the network water cooler show of the year – Scandal. But we’re not one of them.

Outstanding Supporting Actor, Drama

One last chance at glory

One last chance at glory

The Nominees: Aaron Paul (Breaking Bad), Jim Carter (Downton Abbey), Peter Dinklage (Game of Thrones), Josh Charles (The Good Wife), Mandy Patinkin (Homeland), Jon Voight (Ray Donovan)

Winner:  Aaron Paul (Breaking Bad)

This is our final chance to say it: He’s gotta win — BITCH!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Loser: Jon Voight (Ray Donovan)

We admit that it is probably more likely that Mr. Voight will walk away with the Emmy this year for his in your face, annoying portrait of the crazed former/present mobster from hell father. But he made us quit Ray Donovan after the first season because we couldn’t take watching that character one moment longer. So he will not be voted onstage in our survey. Bitch. The rest of the guys will get another chance, except for Josh Charles. But he wasn’t going to win, anyway. Bitch.  #bitchbitchbitchbitchbitch.

Outstanding Supporting Actress, Drama

Bringing us to our knees

Bringing us to our knees

The Nominees: Anna Gunn (Breaking Bad), Maggie Smith (Downton Abbey), Lena Headey (Game of Thrones), Christine Baranski (The Good Wife), Christina Hendricks (Mad Men), Joanne Froggatt (Downton Abbey)

Winner: Anna Gunn (Breaking Bad)

After suffering through the trials and tribulations of Walter White for what must have felt like twelve eternities, Ms. Gunn’s Skyler deserves the Emmy for her final hurrah. And her last season was probably her best. She wins for the second year in a row – in a walk.

Loser:  No one really comes in a close second. Except – uh, no. No one.

Outstanding Lead Actor, Comedy

You can't help but love this guy

You can’t help but love this guy

The Nominees: Jim Parsons (The Big Bang Theory), Ricky Gervais (Derek), Matt LeBlanc (Episodes), Don Cheadle (House of Lies), Louis C.K. (Louie), William H. Macy (Shameless)

Winner:  Jim Parsons (Big Bang Theory)

Surprised? Don’t be. He’s won three times and last year he was denied by Jon Cryer in Two and a Half Men. They love to award commercial success in this category but only if the actor is really great in the role. The rest of the guys all shine but all do various versions of comedy/drama.

Loser: William H. Macy (Shameless) is now competing in the comedy category in this role for the first time. He might be a spoiler. But don’t bank on it.

Outstanding Lead Actress, Comedy

There's hope for Knope

There’s hope for Knope

The Nominees: Lena Dunham (Girls), Edie Falco (Nurse Jackie), Julia Louis-Dreyfus (Veep), Melissa McCarthy (Mike & Molly), Amy Poehler (Parks & Recreation), Taylor Schilling (Orange is the New Black)

Winner: Amy Poehler (Parks and Recreation)

Who doesn’t want to see her win for the first time and give a kick ass speech? Plus, does Julia Louis-Dreyfuss even want to get up there again and figure out a way to be humble for the umpteenth time?

Loser:  We at NFAC think Lena Dunham is giving the most original, gutsy, unvarnished performance in all of TV land. She deserves the Emmy but, well, life isn’t always fair – as she and Hannah Horvath would likely agree.

Outstanding Supporting Actor, Comedy

He's good... and he knows it.

He’s good… and he knows it.

The Nominees: Andre Braugher (Brooklyn Nine Nine), Adam Driver (Girls), Jesse Tyler Ferguson (Modern Family), Ty Burrell (Modern Family), Fred Armisen (Portlandia), Tony Hale (Veep)

Winner: Andre Braugher (Brooklyn Nine Nine)

He’s really funny and anchors every episode in whatever believability it has. Watch the show and try to disagree.

Loser: Everyone else. And for all the Adam Driver fans – us included – yeah, he deserves it but his career is gonna be so stratospheric you’ll look at this minor glitch in the road one day and laugh that you even cared.

Outstanding Supporting Actress, Comedy

Emmy royalty

Emmy royalty

The Nominees: Mayim Bialik (The Big Bang Theory), Julie Bowen (Modern Family), Allison Janney (Mom), Kate Mulgrew (Orange is the New Black), Kate McKinnon (SNL), Anna Chlumsky (Veep)

Winner: Allison Janney (Mom)

How many Emmy’s has she been awarded? Well, already one this year for her guest spot on Masters of Sex. And approximately 17 more for West Wing. This will be another.   It’s tough to make an alcoholic mom believable in the half hour format – very tough. She pulls stuff like this off – which is why she gives so many speeches on TV in the first place.

Loser: Everyone else in terms of this Emmy. Though we do wish that SNL’s Kate McKinnon could pull an upset. That poor Russian lady she does on Weekend Update was one of the show’s highlights this year.

In my country, you can trade Emmy for many goats

In my country, you can trade Emmy for many goats

Outstanding Writing, Drama

The Nominees: Breaking Bad “Ozymandias” (AMC), Breaking Bad “Felina” (AMC), Game of Thrones “The Children” (HBO), House of Cards “Chapter 14” (Netflix), True Detective “The Secret Fate of All Life” (HBO)

Winner: Breaking Bad “Felina”

We can’t help feel that one of the best series finale in recent memory (or ever) has to win best writing. Doesn’t it?

Farewell you crazy bastard

Farewell you crazy bastard

Loser: All of the others. But they were still excellent. Well, what else do you expect a writer who respects good writing to say?

Outstanding Writing, Comedy

The Nominees: Episodes “Episode 305” (HBO), Louie “So Did The Fat Lady” (FX), Orange is the New Black “I Wasn’t Ready (Pilot)” (Netflix), Silicon Valley “Optimal Tip-to-Tip Efficiency (HBO), Veep “Special Relationship” (HBO)

Winner:  Orange is the New Black (Pilot)

It’s got the buzzzzzzzzzzzzzz. Also, it feels as if this is the sure thing category to award what has become one of the new cultural TV touchstones of the moment – from Netflix. Or do we exaggerate?

Memories of binges past

Memories of binges past

Loser: No writers who get screen credit on series television are losers, fool. #Residuals.

 Outstanding Miniseries

Dontchaknow

Dontchaknow

The Nominees: American Horror Story: Coven (FX), Bonnie and Clyde (Lifetime), Fargo (FX), Luther (BBC America), Treme (HBO), The White Queen (Starz)

Winner:  Fargo (FX)

We have to admit we have barely watched but our spies tell us it’s a shoe-in. Plus, everyone loves a Billy Bob villain.

Loser: American Horror Story. It will have to be satisfied with the fact that it is THE most consistently entertaining show on TV.   #KathyBatesAngelaBassettJessicaLange?

Outstanding Television Movie

Emmy darling

Emmy darling

The Nominees: Killing Kennedy (National Geographic), Muhammad Ali’s Greatest Fight (HBO), The Normal Heart (HBO), Sherlock: His Last Vow (PBS), The Trip to the Bountiful (Lifetime)

Winner: The Normal Heart (HBO)

Every gay man in America will bitch out the Emmys if this does not happen. And no one in the television academy wants to have to deal with that.

Loser: They all lose because this is THE LOCK of the evening.

Outstanding Variety Series

Does he really need to take over for Dave?

Does he really need to take over for Dave?

The Nominees: The Colbert Report (Comedy Central), The Daily Show (Comedy Central), Jimmy Kimmel Live (ABC), Real Time with Bill Maher (HBO), Saturday Night Live (NBC), The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon (NBC)

Winner:  The Colbert Report (Comedy Central)

He makes what’s so tough seem soooo easy. Plus, it’s Stephen’s last time before he goes from the small to the big stage? Or is it the other way around?

Loser: Can we or thee really call any of those other guys and shows losers? Think about it a minute or two more.

Outstanding Comedy

Girlz Rule

Girlz Rule

The Nominees: The Big Bang Theory (CBS), Louie (FX), Modern Family (ABC), Orange is the New Black (Netflix), Silicon Valley (HBO), Veep (HBO)

Winner: Orange Is The New Black (Netflix)

It’s really not the best comedy on television but it’s got that thing going for it. You know that thing — the spotlight. Now it is possible voters might want to go for a true comedy, as they sometimes do here. In that case, your guess is as good as ours.

Loser: Louie (FX).

He’s an original and there are so few. As for Big Bang Theory – it has never won the best comedy series Emmy award because as some wise industry wag once told me decades ago: You don’t get to have money AND great reviews. They just won’t give you both anymore. (NOTE: I never did get out of this person just who the “they” was).

Outstanding Drama

No time to look back

No time to look back

The Nominees: Breaking Bad (AMC), Downton Abbey (PBS), Game of Thrones (HBO), House of Cards (Netflix), Mad Men (AMC), True Detective (HBO)

Winner: Breaking Bad (AMC)

Do you really want a reason? Or an argument?

Loser: True Detective (HBO).

Despite the lulls in some of the episode, it was truly something different – an existential, philosophy-driven cop show told by varying symbolic imagery in shifting time periods. Only one other show can beat that. And will.

Depression ≠ Creativity

Screen Shot 2014-08-16 at 11.05.56 PM

I wasn’t going to write about Robin Williams’ death. I mean, do we need one more person weighing in about the actions of someone we were convinced we knew but had never met? But then I thought rather than exploitation this could be an opportunity.

Here’s the dirty little secret about creativity and depression:

It is not true that most artists are depressed nor is it true that one has to suffer to be an artist of any kind. This is a bill of goods we’re usually sold in countless books, plays and movies.

However, what I’ve found through decades of doing creative work is that many depressed people use creativity as an outlet and that many of these people seek to make their living in the entertainment industry. Therefore, it is more than likely that one would come across more individuals battling depression who are in the biz than say – plumbers or dentists or garage mechanics. Not that these professions don’t have their share of people who have battled all kinds of illnesses, including depression.

I am someone who has battled depression on and off for most of my life and only came to fully realize the full extent of that ongoing battle less than a decade ago. Prior to that I just considered myself to be a person who was overly sensitive and prone to sadness. A lot. And usually in private. Not that I didn’t have the capacity to be happy. I did – do. But when the “sadness” kicked in, there was no telling how long it would last, in what way it would manifest itself or the amount of time it would take for me to “choose” to snap out of it.

Living in the shadows

Living in the shadows

Depression is an insidious illness… condition… or whatever you want to call it. And is quite different from mere sadness. In an explanation that is as good as any that I’ve read, a writer friend of mine who went back to school to become a therapist – and is clearly a good one – posted this in the aftermath of Mr. Williams’ death:

Depression is not sadness. Sadness is a rich, deep emotion that is full of life and heart and feeling. Depression is a bleak, numb, overwhelming sense of emptiness and nothingness. It is psychologically painful and can be physically painful. It can be enormously debilitating and can cause one to lose hope.

Certainly, there’s more. My therapist friend followed this explanation by urging people not to lose hope or hurt themselves but instead reach out to the many people and places in the world ready and willing to help.

Of course, many depressed people have done this and have not seen immediate results. Or have gotten better only to relapse. Yet that is the case for numerous conditions and illnesses – from metastatic cancer to the aggravated sciatica nerve you pull out in your back or side. (Note: Yes, I am currently the “you” in the latter category).   So why do so many of us, including quite often the actual person who is clinically depressed, eventually tire and want to just shake a depressive endlessly until they finally agree to cheer up and thus snap out of it?!

Not going to work.. no matter how hard Cher slaps!

Not going to work.. no matter how hard Cher slaps!

Well, that’s one of the challenges here. Almost everybody, including the patient involved, finally tires of this condition and reacts to it in his or her own individual ways. Among these is withdrawing from the hideously debilitated person – or this hideously debilitating condition – entirely. Which, as we all know, can sometimes yield the worst of outcomes.

I am not writing this to capitalize on Mr. Williams’ death nor to in any way promote myself or my issues. There are better ways to do both as anyone who surfs the web, watches television, or exposes oneself to any news source at all – including this blog – has seen. Rather it’s to reiterate it to all to myself once again. Because dealing with depression is an ongoing education that someone who has it can easily forget to reinforce since it’s so tempting to chalk it all up to just being blue, down or having a bad day.

In the process if even a line of any of this hits home, I’m happy. Well, only as happy as someone like me can be.

….C’mon, I’m only joking!   Well, sort of.

Myths and Truisms in the Arts re: Depression

1. You don’t have to suffer to do great work in either comedy or drama.

... and certainly not to paint a Starry Night

… and certainly not to paint a Starry Night

There’s a way to get in touch with your emotions and not get sucked down with them. You can’t truly, as a writer, present a situation in a thoroughly depressed state anyway. In fact Mr. Williams himself recalled, according to his L.A. Times obit, an acting teacher who years ago once scolded him for being “too vulnerable” in his emotional scene work in class.

Dear boy, said Mr. Williams imitating the teacher in a thick British accent, that was a lovely scene. And your emotions — there was so much of them! But it’s a bit like urinating in brown corduroy pants. You feel wonderful, but we see nothing.

This is not to say that great writers, actors, singers and many other creative people do not tap into deep personal feelings in what they do and remain unaffected. But they also need a bit of distance in order to see the entire reality of what they’re creating. This is a near impossible feat for a person in the throes of clinical depression. And for those few superhuman souls who can surmount the odds and continue to function, it becomes a dangerously slippery slope of existence that can eventually lead to far more troubling results.

2. The brains of clinically depressed people, or those who over a period of time become clinically depressed, are different than those who are non-depressed and often lead to unclear or just plain bad decision-making.

It goes beyond left vs. right

It goes beyond left vs. right

This one really got to me when I first started to do reading on the subject. You mean to say when you’re depressed your brain is literally offor rewired from what it once was if this condition develops over a period of time??? How can that be? Well, rather than me explaining it, take it from the experts we’ve imbedded here.

Expert 1

Expert 2

Expert 3

Now I don’t know about you, but I can’t stand it when someone else tells me to do something I don’t want to do – or deal with an issue I know is wise to avoid. ESPECIALLY, when they tell me it’s for my own good, and MOST ESPECIALLY when they’re right. So finding out that what you 100% think or know you feel deep inside your brain or even soul might not always be the result of clear thinking is, well…let’s say it’s particularly daunting.   Yet in retrospect I realize that my past attitude and behavior towards my own foibles in this area were not unlike the extremely drunk/stoned friend or family member who is utterly convinced they are well enough to drive themselves and you home from their ex-fiancée’s wedding.   Certainly, I would not get in the car with that person. But what happens if you are that person? You can’t stubbornly pretend you don’t have the problem and you certainly can’t always depend on being saved by the actions of someone else you will most certainly choose to ignore if you want a favorable outcome.

3. Art can be great therapy for your mental woes but the entertainment industry does not have a ton to do with art.

It gets hot under those lights...

It gets hot under those lights…

Yes there are elements of it but, on the whole, there is quite a bit more to the biz than that. This makes it quite challenging for artists prone to depression who, we’ve established in #2, certainly don’t want to be told how to live their lives or even what to do by others.

This being the case there are certain questions it helps to ask oneself. Is all your self-esteem entirely tied up with the results of what you do in art and/or the biz? Do you think you’re nothing without a certain kind of attention or success? Are others able to roll with the punches while all you want to do is punch yourself – and repeatedly – when things don’t go exactly your way? A yes answer does not necessarily mean you are clinically depressed but it is also not a sign that you are in a healthy mental state. Consider what active, healthy steps you can take right now to begin to change your mental state. (Note: The correct answer is not always getting a deal, the role or the sale).

and believe me... this doesn't help either.

and believe me… this doesn’t help either.

By the way, it is particularly worth noting that everyone’s artistic career eventually ebbs and flows in popularity, financial success and output. Do an imdb or Wikipedia search of any great “star.” You’ll see many more ups and downs that you imagined. This is particularly true the longer you’re in the game. What is also true is that given advances in medical science there are any number of individuals in their seventies and eighties still doing great work. But with many more failures in their pasts than successes you have in your present. It’s all about how you and your brain decide to look at it.

4. Just because a depressed person is momentarily cheered up by material stuff, or love (in whatever form) or even– dare I say it – faith – does not mean they are cured. Or even okay. What the outside world sees of an individual is not necessarily the inside reality.

What's on the outside doesn't always show you what's underneath

What’s on the outside doesn’t always show you what’s underneath

This truism seems particularly confusing in the case of Mr. Williams. How does someone so jovial, so loved, so successful and recognized, and so wealthy, succumb to….that? It’s complicated. And deceptive. And notoriously elusive in understanding. I hate homilies like don’t judge a book by it’s cover but one of the great ironies of life is that there is more than a grain of truth to even the most overused cliché. If you don’t believe me, go over this list and see how many you really disagree with.

5. Medical care for a mood disorder does not blunt one’s creativity. Nor is it cheating or taking the easy way out. If administered properly it makes the person even more of who they are destined to be. Plus, it can significantly change the course of a drowning person’s life by, in many instances, saving that life.

Remember this is what they are made for!

Remember this is what they are made for!

No one really wants to slow down or admit they have problems of any kind – especially publicly – whether it’s to your friends and family or on the national stage. Not to mention that there are strange moments of really intense and intoxicating emotions associated with these problems that can be oddly difficult to part with.

Still, the chances of controlling any major illness alone without some qualified outside help are about as good as Michelle Bachman successfully running a PFLAG meeting in West Hollywood (Note: Not that we’d need one here). Meaning – it will not end well and any bookie would take that bet.

A parting Note:

Mr. Styron

Mr. Styron

One of our greatest novelists of the 20th century was a man named William Styron. Among other achievements, he won the National Book award for writing the acclaimed 1979 best-seller Sophie’s Choice, an epic story made into a memorable film starring Meryl Streep in the title role for which she won her first best actress Oscar. Mr. Styron later chronicled his 1985 plunge into a near fatal clinical depression and then his successful battle back in Darkness Visible, an exquisite 1990 memoir.

Here is how he chronicled the illness in an article for Vanity Fair.

The pain of severe depression is quite unimaginable to those who have not suffered it, and it kills in many instances because its anguish can no longer be borne. The prevention of many suicides will continue to be hindered until there is a general awareness of the nature of this pain. Through the healing process of time—and through medical intervention or hospitalization in many cases—most people survive depression, which may be its only blessing; but to the tragic legion who are compelled to destroy themselves there should be no more reproof attached than to the victims of terminal cancer.

Mr. Styron could not have been in the best of moods when he wrote Sophie’s Choice – one of the most brilliant and disturbing books of the 20th century – but he was most certainly not in the throes of clinical depression. If he had been, he never could have had the wherewithal to produce such a masterwork. And had he not sought and received treatment after the escalation of his condition in 1985, he would never have been able to write the concise 88 page memoir five years later that grew out of a talk he was asked to give on the subject to doctors at Johns Hopkins School of Medicine after he had recovered. His work and these events all helped usher in a new contemporary understanding of the disease.

This is something to think about for artists and non-artists, depressed as well as non-depressed, people alike.