And now for something completely different

check out the Grim Reaper above his name

Last week I went to hear John Cleese of Monty Python, Fawlty Towers, and A Fish Called Wanda …. He’s currently on what he’s macabrely calling his Last Time to See Me Before I Die tour. Cleese is now almost 83 years old: still cheeky, still funny, and still very, very silly. He told jokes at everybody’s expense, skewering sacred cows with gusto. His show was punctuated by clips of glorious skits and scenes from his shows and films.

The evening wasn’t entirely perfect: Cleese informed us the reason he was touring was the $20 million in alimony he was ordered to pay to one of his ex-wives, and he mentioned a couple times how we (the audience) all have boring ordinary lives. True enough. But I wondered, did we need to see an image of a woman’s hand withdrawing cash from an ATM? And did he expect that we applaud his much cleverer existence? The 70€ for tickets we were all willing to purchase to come see him seemed like acknowledgment enough….

In any event, the night was just what the doctor ordered for someone living in Europe listening to the reports of new spikes in COVID (Oktoberfest super-spreader opportunities, anyone?), saber-rattling by Russia’s dictator Putin, threatening to drop nuclear weapons as a way to win his invasion of Ukraine, and the autumn deaths of one of my original German instructors (‘long illness’), the cousin of close friends (sudden and aggressive form of lymphoma), and the death of another friend’s father. It doesn’t matter how old the person or expected the death is. It still leaves a hole.

Enter Mr. Cleese and his cheerful irreverence. May John Marwood Cleese, Minister of Silly Walks, continue to make us all laugh for many  years to come. I fart in your general direction, Mr. Cleese!

NOTES: Text and Photos ©2022 Jadi Campbell

My books are Broken In: A Novel in Stories, Tsunami Cowboys, Grounded, and The Trail Back Out

Tsunami Cowboys was longlisted for the 2019 ScreenCraft Cinematic Book Award. Broken In: A Novel in Stories was  semifinalist for the international 2020 Hawk Mountain Short Story Collection Award from Hidden River Arts and Finalist for Greece’s 2021 Eyelands Book of the Year Award (Short Stories). The Trail Back Out was American Book Fest 2020 Best Book Award Finalist: Fiction Anthologies, Runner-Up for the 2021 Top Shelf Award, 2021 IAN Book of the Year Award Short Story Collection Finalist for the Independent Author Network, and awarded a 2021 Wishing Shelf Red Ribbon. The title story The Trail Back Out was longlisted for the 2021 ScreenCraft Cinematic Short Story Award.

Click here for my author page to learn more about me and purchase my books.

The Death of Robin Williams

Feste the Fool: “This cold night will turn us all to fools and madmen.” —Shakespeare King Lear, Act III, Scene 4

Robin Williams is dead. He killed himself.

Both of these statements shock and sadden me. Put together, they are almost unbearable. Since his passing the nights have been cold indeed, and it’s taken days to reach a place where I can try to write about him.

Caren Miosga is an anchor for the major evening news program in Germany, and German journalism is a serious business. Caren reported the news of his death barefoot and standing on top of her news desk. “O Captain! My Captain!” she recited from there. There is no more fitting way to salute him.

I remember when he burst onto the world stage. He was incredibly funny, his wit like lightening. His brain and mouth moved so fast that it still takes repeat viewing (and listening) to catch up to him. And even then you wonder how he could improvise like that. He would recite Shakespeare – and play all the roles himself.

A good word to describe him is irrepressible. Robin seemed impossible to hold back, stop, or control. And he embodied the next meaning of the word: very lively and cheerful. But like all clowns he knew the flip side of laughter is sadness. He was a fiercely observant social critic and he spoke about what he saw. As our greatest court jesters have always done, Robin told us the truth.

During the 1980s I lived in San Francisco, and I remember going with friends to the newly opened Hard Rock Café. As we sat there, a murmur rippled through the big room. Robin Williams, two women, and two very young children had just been seated for lunch. As the news spread, people stopped eating and turned in their chairs to stare.

Robin was a guy who’d simply come in for lunch, and looked uncomfortable with all the attention. But he signed autographs and smiled. I was struck by how youthful he looked, and how shy. He didn’t have a glamorous aura. I tried to figure out what was remarkable about how he looked. In the end, I was startled by a sense that he was terribly vulnerable.

And that is the secret to his magic. Robin Williams didn’t just make us laugh. He made us feel the absurdity of our prejudices and fears, and yes, our hopes and desires, too. He reminded us at all times of our humanity. He was searingly honest about his own short comings and dreams. He turned himself inside out with a candor and lovingkindness that made his humor a healing force.

Our world is a sadder place for his passing. It’s a better place for his having lived and shared his immense gifts with us.

He is already greatly missed.

R.I.P. Robin McLaurin Williams 21 July 1951 – 11 August 2014