Saturday, November 24, 2007

Because Silly is Seriously Under-rated...

I have written a couple of posts, now, about the seriously amazing childhood that my brother, sister and I enjoyed.

But, as I was reminded the other day by a certain commenter who bore witness to a couple of years of our teenage-hood, my siblings and I made damn sure that our youth was actually FAR from serious.

Truth be told, most of our early-years were spent in an atmosphere that seemed like an extended episode of Fawlty Towers. So, under those curcumstances, what's a kid (or three kids, to be exact) to do?

Make our own fun, that's what.

And, more often than not, we used music to do it, which nearly drove our long-suffering parents bat-sh*t-crazy.

The fact that my darling younger brother was a musical protigee certainly gave OUR side a "leg-up". His was (and still is) a miraculous talent. Within the first year of his musical training, he by far surpassed his deeply frustrated older sister's abilities. Before long, when we were simultaniously hammering out our daily practising on the two pianos that graced our house, I would suddenly stop playing my piece, only to discover that he had been mocking me by playing an "oom-pah, oom-pah" kind of accompaniment below my melody the entire time, rather than concentrating on his own work. It used to make me want to bang my head against a wall, when I would discover that he could play the most intricate, complicated pieces flawlessly, with an open Archie Comic Book firmly parked on the music stand in front of him. I, on the other hand, found even the simplest sight-reading exercise to be a journey to the bowels of hell...

Thankfully, though, he and I found a common ground. And that common ground was our shared sense of humour. As a rule, my brother and I laugh a great deal when we are together. And, most importantly, we laugh at all the same things. And the fact that our fun annoyed our extremely classy parents was a MAJOR bonus, at the time.

When we were very young kids, we were absolutely mesmerised by the High Silliness of The Muppet Show, and it wasn't long before we headed for the baby grand, to try out a few of the musical numbers we had seen, ourselves. The goofier, the better. My brother, the master accompanist, would work out a flourishy little arrangement, and I would "put on" the most authentic impersonation I could possibly muster, and we'd go to it, flat-out and full-volume, for HOURS. My most vivid recollection from that time is a group of songs from country and western singer, Roger Miller, who almost always punctuated his hilarious verses with strange mouth sounds that were just too damn funny to be considered true musical improvisation. My brother and I were not satisfied until we had perfected every one. Our repertoire included such classics as "Do-Wacka-Do", "Can't Rollerskate in a Buffalo Herd", "My Uncle Used to Love Me, but She Died", and the ultimate tongue-twister, "Summertime".

As our "abilities" developed, so, too, did the selection of music we chose to butcher (I mean, MASTER). We unearthed an ancient libretto of Gilbert and Sullivan, and thought we had struck GOLD. Before long, we had the fastest-running "Modern Major General" in the business, as well as some delightfully rude improvisations of a few other tunes...

But it was when we discovered The Marx Brothers that my brother truly came into his own. He went from being a part of a comedy team, to being a stellar solo act.

Very few people today know what extraordinary musicians The Marx Brothers actually were. And, contrary to popular belief, it wasn't just Harpo (who played the harp, of course, as well as many other instruments) or Groucho (who remains famous to this day for his timeless rendition of "Lydia the Tattooed Lady", among other classics).

Chico Marx was the brother by whom we were most mesmerized. Because Chico could play the piano. Not only that, he could play the piano with more flare and pizazz than anyone else we had ever seen in our lives. He didn't have to sing, or make up enormous flamboyant gestures to coax a laugh out of people. His flawless performances literally left us gobsmacked by their complexity, but thoroughly delighted by the close-ups on his elaborate fingering-tricks and embellishments. From the start, my brother was determined to learn to play like Chico-- and before too long, he actually COULD... right down to the little "shotgun"-type move that he liked to use to finish up each long, musical phrase.

And, I became his ardent admirer-- the one who sat on the piano bench beside him as he played, grinning till my face hurt, my appreciation for his humour knowing no bounds.

Naturally, it wasn't long before this sort of thing began creeping into his everyday practising, as well... as my friendly commenter of a few days back reminded me. But, in actual fact, it WASN'T Victor Borge that my darling brother was channeling that day... it was the brilliant Chico, through-and-through. It may have nearly driven our mother to madness, but it simply delighted ME.

Life today is far too serious... By in large, people are too "plugged-in" and well-informed about any number of things. We have endless worries; many of which we are powerless to do anything about.

The humour that I see on television today, particularly the stuff that I see on abysmal channels like "Family" and "Teletoon", seem to utilize offensive sarcasm and rudeness, rather than light-hearted silliness, in an attempt to make people laugh these days. And I confess that I find it far too sad to be funny.

To me, there's nothing like Silly. Give me the Our Gang series... "The Little Rascals". Give me Harpo, Chico and Groucho interrupting the overture of "Il Trovatore" with an impromptu rendition of "Take Me Out to the Ballgame". Give me "The Muppet Show".

Or, just give me my darling younger brother. Because he delights me and makes me laugh more than all the rest of them, put together.

Some of you may have noticed that I've added a little feature to the top of my side-bar, over there... Every day or so, I am going to post a selection from my music collection for you all to enjoy... a little "in-flight music", to accompany the post! And starting in December, my Christmas gift to you all will be a "musical advent calendar"-- a different Christmas Carol every day. I hope you all enjoy it, and I look forward to hearing your feedback!


shawn said...

Thank you for this ... I have always felt blessed to have been a tiny part of your household in the way I was ... my love of Fawlty Towers is ENTIRELY your fault!! And as I said - good music too ...

Your words and your memories are beautiful, and are a reminder of how important laughter truly is, particularly laughter shared with love by a family ...

thank you on soooooo many levels.

Emily R said...

Not sure, but I think it was Franklin who reminded us:
"It is not ourselves but our responsibilities we should take seriously."
Sounds like your family lived this rule.

painted maypole said...

I SO want to hang out with your family.

The muppet show ROCKS. Watched a bunch of the old episodes not too long ago. Fun, fun, fun.

Multi-tasking Mommy said...

YEAH! You figured out the music thing--and found a new way of doing it...good for you :)

I'm so excited for you!!!

mrinz said...

What a wonderful post - you brought to life your family life and shared it with us.

I actually don't think that you annoyed your Mum and Dad with your 'antics' in fact they were probably secretly smiling. They may have purposely fostered the family atmosphere.

Leeann said...

I want to hang out with your family, too! It sounds like a great time!

Beck said...

Oh, I LOVE the idea of a musical Advent calendar - wonderful!

b*babbler said...

What a fantastic family to grow up in! Music and silliness together? Sounds too good to be true.

Right now the Mr Babbler is on a big Muppet kick. Totally reliving his childhood.

Thanks for swinging by! I'll be back here soon!

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