THE CARDSHARKS

(This poem is from my book Jim Shorts.)

 

cardsharks

Raoul, Sylvie and her half-a-brother Yish
Were door-to-door cardsharks in search of sum fish.
“Let us in or we’ll torcher!” they all chunted with gleem,
All afiery of eye, all connivy of scheme.
“We mean no borderly harm,” they taled a nu family.
“Off course if you ‘fuse, we’re three pyros, you see!
“So ply us a few rounds of blackjag or poka,
“We’ll luff and we’ll merrymake and we’ll java some mocha.
“Is it too mush to ask? ‘Tis in yearnest we’re franker.
“Let’s let bygoons beat bygoons, don’t be sore as a canker!”
The main of the house shivered his timbres quite frightly
As the trio of gusts burched and belped impolitely.
“I demandate de deal!” Raoul Tabasco then sat.
“If it pleaseth the coat, just shaketh you hat.
“Jacks be nubile, jacks be wild,
“Jacks jumbo o’er thy first-bored sonchild,
“Doozies be wild, johnnies be good,
“Redqueens be monty, clift palettes be wood.”
So they plied and they plied by yon slivery moon.
The hosts heebie-jeebied and staid pat as a boone.
The cardsharks won potfuls as they mad their own luck.
Their cop ranneth over with plundy good buck.
“It’s been quite a pledger,” Raoul then boweled graciously.
“You’re a batch of good spots, believest ye me.
“Maybe sobtime we’ll all do it once more for the gypper,
“Only nicks time my Sylvie will bake a yum kipper.”
So into the horizone they twilighted three–
Raoul, spousewife Sylvie and her semi-sibly.
Dem’s de bones, dem’s de breaks, de cookies, de crunch.
Some gets de judy, some gets de punch.

© 2016 Jim George

For more information about Jim Shorts, please read:

https://byjimgeorge.wordpress.com/2016/09/30/first-blog-post/

https://byjimgeorge.wordpress.com/2016/10/08/jim-by-george-a-self-interview-on-jim-shorts/

(Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Jim George and byjimgeorge with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.)

 

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JERRY LEWIS: THE FILM BUFFOON RETURNS

(In 1981 I wrote a newspaper profile on Jerry Lewis and subsequently sent him a copy. Not long afterward, I received a personal letter of thanks from him. This is the original article.)

jerry lewis letter--

 

Genius is childhood recalled at will.

–Baudelaire

 

If Baudelaire’s definition holds even a speck of truth, therein lies the clue to the European view of Jerry Lewis as a comic genius on par with Chaplin.

“I’m 55, but I’m really nine,” said Lewis in a recent Tomorrow interview. “The key to my whole lifestyle is mischief, and I cannot, as a 55-year-old man, really think mischievously because that demeans my being. But there’s nothing wrong with a nine-year-old thinking that way. I cherish that nine-year-old because he’s everybody. He keeps me young. He keeps me thinking young. He’ll be at my next birthday, and he’ll have the most fun.”

Jerry’s kid, that mannish boy who has bumbled, mumbled and mugged his way through more than 40 films, is about to return to the silly screen for the first time in a decade in Hardly Working, which opens this week. Like it or not, the film buffoon is back.

The French toast Lewis’ comic brilliance. Director Jean-Luc Godard expressed his admiration to an incredulous Dick Cavett not long ago. But in America, there’s a split-decision. Statesiders generally find his juvenile Jerry-atrics either hysterical or grating. And it is the red, white and bluenosed critics who are Lewis’ most vicious detractors.

The reason for the animosity may be simple enough. Like Peter Pan, that impish, jerky, wonder-struck little kid who resides in the body and soul of Jerry Lewis has never aged. Therefore, he has remained unshackled from the rites, wrongs and constraints of society. On one level, he represents freedom. People not so free, people squeezed into role-modeled behavior, people who act the way society says they ought to act are likely to feel threatened by that kid and the freedom he represents. Hence, the jeerleaders.

Lewis’ self-imposed 10-year stretch away from filmmaking was provoked by some overexposure of flesh flicks in the early ‘70s. When the cinematic tide turned from boffo to porno, Lewis took a cab.

“I love the film industry,” he told Tom Snyder. “I took it as a personal affront that they were getting shabby. And it happened with a film I made for Warners, Which Way to the Front? a film I was really in love with. I put two years of a lot of blood and a lot of sweat into it.”

The skin-toned times created a condition which shocked Lewis out of his director’s chair—and right out of the industry. Driving by a theater one disenchanted evening, he spotted the marquee which had double-billed Which Way to the Front? with Deep Throat. That odd coupling resulted in Lewis’ giving Warner Brothers a shouting-room only performance of Hellzapoppin’sans jokes and music. But the Warner Brotherhood had a cop-out: they were so involved with their then-smash Woodstock that they gave the distribution rights of Lewis’ film to other companies.

“Well, I don’t want to know from explanations,” said Lewis, “’cause I was shattered by it. In the mail I got, I was the heavy. The mothers and fathers were writing me, ‘You are someone we allow the children to go to see, and you have a responsibility’ and all that jazz. And I got really turned off, really cold.

“Now the capper was Dick Zanuck comes to see me and he wants me to direct and star in Portnoy’s Complaint. I said, “Dick, that’s not my style. I don’t think I know how to make that kind of film.” Then I got a script where they wanted me to play a homosexual who had committed matricide.

“I said, hey, let me get back to Vegas. I’ll play concerts, I’ll go back to The Palladium in London, I’ll do my thing. And I said it’s got to turn. If it doesn’t turn, at that point I really didn’t ever want to make a film again. And it did turn, starting in ’78.”

Jerry Lewis has always been a G-man; family-oriented films have always been the Lewis trademarquee. Yet, despite all those Jerry-vanilla comedies, he is not about to march behind that other Jerry, the pulpit politico Rev. Falwell, and wage war on pornography. (That would make a hilarious scene, though: the unsure-footed stumblebum Lewis character traipsing behind the preacher like a spastic marionette, yelling in that chalk-screechy voice, “Hey wait for me, Mr. Fellman! Uh Rev. Failsafe! I’m comin’ Rev. Fallout!”)

“I don’t believe in censorship,” said Lewis. “If you want to see a porno film, an audience should have a place to go see it. But it’s a little incongruous and it’s hardly sensible to run Bambi with The Devil in Miss Jones just for the sake of Barnum and Bailey showmanship. The theater should run The Devil in Miss Jones for that audience, but leave Bambi where it belongs. It’s that simple.”

As Lewis hoped, the packaging of flesh and funny bone was a short-lived phenomenon which, he said, “had probably the same chance that the Edsel did, thank God.”

In spite of his predilection for tomfoolish behavior, Lewis is a slapstickler for professionalism. As a director, writer and actor, he takes his comedy seriously. He doesn’t suffer fools gladly—or any other way. He said, “I hate incompetents. I get very difficult when somebody shouldn’t be in the job they’re holding because they’re keeping it from a man who’s qualified. Moreover, they’re contagious. They’ll run through your crew, and they will dismember that crew.

“I’m making a film that I hope one day my great-great-grandchildren are gonna see. They’re gonna examine my work, and the fabric and character of this man is gonna be up for grabs. I’m not havin’ some moron on the set looking at his watch yawning ‘cause it’s just a job. He’s outa there. That’s only happened twice in 41 films.”

Lewis’ upcoming attractions include roles in Martin Scorsese’s drama, The King of Comedy (which also stars Robert DeNiro), and the screen-bound adaptation of Kurt Vonnegut’s Slapstick, being directed by Lewis disciple Steven Paul.

The Day the Clown Cried, Lewis’ own dramatic film (his sole to date), has been gathering Swedish dust, along with two Ingmar Bergman films, since 1973. Like the Bergmans, it was shot in Sweden as a Swedish-French co-production. When the political deal soured, the films were stopped dead in their soundtracks. A Godard picture, also part of the (mis)deal, was similarly thrown a French curve and lies in limbo in his homeland.

“They tell us,” Lewis said, “that this year, it looks like they’re gonna make nice with one another, and we can all finish our films.”

However, for the present, comedy comes first. Sight-gagging and language-mangling are back in vogue, and the maestro has returned to show ‘em all how it’s done. Hardly Working has Jerry Lewis heartily working. Maybe he is 10 years older. But that kid is still nine.

 

A Poem From JIM SHORTS

brucco-brothers-illustration-lightened2-edit2-png

     THE BRUCKO BROTHERS

The Brucko Brothers,
Buster and Buck,
Cut a fine figure
Despite their ill luck.
“My boys are all legs!”
Their mother exclaimed.
“But we’re fast as the wind!”
They said, unashamed.
“We bear no arms,
“No malice, no grudge.
“We never take handouts,
“And we make a mean fudge.
“We never need French cuffs
“Or mittens or gloves.
“We‘re experts at footsie,
“Just ask our true loves!”

© 2016 Jim George

For more information about Jim Shorts, please read:

JIM SHORTS – my first book

JIM BY GEORGE (A Self-Interview On Jim Shorts)

(Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Jim George and byjimgeorge with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.)

 

JIM BY GEORGE (A Self-Interview On Jim Shorts)

Q. So what’s Jim Shorts about?
A. About 178 pages.
Q. No, smartass—I mean what’s it about?
A. As if you didn’t know.
Q. Look, I have to ask questions that I think others would ask, so it’s imperative that you treat me as a stranger.
A. Well, you’re strange all right. But OK, I’ll play along.
Q. Take three. What’s Jim Shorts about?
A. It’s a collection of 50 stories, poems and specialty forms with line drawing illustrations.
Q. What are specialty forms?
A. Pieces written in play form or letter form or newspaper column form, etc.
Q. But my question—once again—was what are the pieces about?
A. Again with the about?! They’re funny stories about absurd human behaviors and about surreal situations. Crazy people doing crazy things.
Q. Now we’re getting somewhere.
A. We’re getting some wear all right; already you’re wearing on me.
Q. Ah ha—there’s that wordplay you’re so fond of. The book is chock-full of puns. The title’s a pun, too.
A. Aren’t you a quick one.
Q. Be nice.
A. Yes, some poems are written in normal English, but all the stories and specialty forms and other poems are written with intricate wordplay—puns, malapropisms, spoonerisms, portmanteaus, onomatopoeias—the whole nine yuks.
Q. What inspired you to write in that style?
A. Well, I always played with words, so whenever I came across actual authors who did it, I was fascinated and inspired. It’s like finding another person who speaks the same foreign tongue you do.
Q. Who were some of those writers?
A. Lewis Carroll, Edward Lear, James Joyce, John Lennon. I could add Bob Dylan to them. And Jerry Lewis.
Q. Jerry Lewis?! How so?
A. The way he would get names wrong in his movies. He would say it differently every time. I use that device fairly often, as it’s emblematic of short attention spans and poor listeners, both of which are all too prevalent in the so-called real world.
Q. Your drawings have an off-kilter, wacky quality.
A. Thank you. You’re very absorbent.
Q. Ha! OK, Mr. Wordplay. Who influenced your artwork?
A. I’m sure I got something from everyone I ever liked. Early on, Max Fleischer cartoons, Tex Avery cartoons, Warner Brothers cartoons, old Disney films, Walter Lantz, ‘60s comics, Mort Walker, vintage Mad Magazine, then John Lennon, Saul Steinberg, Pablo Picasso, Salvador Dali, R. Crumb. I also like the drawings of Charles Bukowski, James Thurber and Shel Silverstein.
Q. When you write a story, are the illustrations done at the same time?
A. Actually, with quite a few of them, the drawing inspired the story or poem.
Q. So you did some drawings for the book first?
A. No, I saved a lot of my old drawings, and I wanted to use some in the book, so I created a story or poem around them.
Q. Was that hard to do?
A. No. If you look at them hard enough, they’ll tell you a story.
Q. What were those drawings originally done for?
A. Nothing in particular. I’ve been drawing since I was a little kid. I just drew them with no thought behind them. They weren’t planned. Automatic drawing. The artwork in the book spans many years–some go back to my teenage years and some were done much more recently. For some of the pieces I wrote, I found preexisting drawings that happened to fit. The rest were done specifically for the story or poem.
Q. Was that difficult?
A. It just requires more discipline. When I simply draw with no preconceived idea, anything can happen. But when I need an illustration, there are obvious constraints. But I was used to that from when I did artwork to go along with articles and interviews I once did for my hometown newspaper.
Q. So although this is your first book, you’re not a novice writer?
A. No, as with drawing, I’ve been writing one way or another from an early age. But I assume you mean professionally. I freelanced for quite a few years in the ‘80s and ‘9os, first for the newspaper, then for a few magazines.
Q. Such as?
A. Guitar World, Starlog, Guitar (then called Guitar For the Practicing Musician), Prevue.
Q. You say you did interviews. With anyone we’d know?
A. I would hope so. Many famous names, some legendary, including Gore Vidal, Muddy Waters, Steve Allen, B.B. King, Carl Perkins, Cybill Shepherd, Willie Dixon, Tony Bennett, Albert Collins, Nicolas Roeg, Bo Diddley, Jean Shepherd, Susanna Hoffs, Dick Cavett, Junior Wells, Jay Leno, Steve Cropper, Joseph Wambaugh, Danny Gatton, to name a partial list.
Q. You’re a regular Larry Kink.
A. Hey, I’ll thank you to suspender the wisecracks.
Q. OK, back to your book…
A. That’s what I’m here for.
Q. With 50 different pieces, was it hard to dream up that many plots or scenarios?
A. No. A few of the pieces are based on actual events and/or people.
Q. Give me an example.
A. “Orville’s Raccoon Problem” is based on an actual case where a guy killed his mother-in-law with an ax but claimed he couldn’t see in the dark garage and thought she was a large raccoon.
Q. You’re pulling my leg.
A. I wouldn’t do that since it would hurt me.
Q. But seriously, this really happened?
A. Yes, and I still have the newspaper clipping somewhere. So I built my tale around that insane incident. Another idea I got from a newspaper article was for “Bad Mood Rising.” A man actually shot his brother-in-law because he didn’t like the music he played at a party.
Q. Unbelievable. You couldn’t make something like that up.
A. Sure, I could. What do you think I did with most of the pieces? It’s called fiction. Even with “Orville” and “Bad Mood Rising,” beyond what I just said, everything else is my own concoction. I took the basic event and made up my own story.
Q. Those stories sound violent, yet you call it humor?
A. Black humor. Sometimes black-and-blue humor.
Q. Any others inspired by real-life events or people?
A. “The Man With the Invisible Horn” was inspired by just that. There was a guy who hung out at Open Mics, and he would intrude on the performer by “playing” his imaginary horn(s). He moved his hands as if he were playing and he made sounds with his mouth. There’s a few like that in the book, but, as I said, anything beyond the basic plot or incident is fiction courtesy of my fevered imagination.
Q. You have some parodies in Jim Shorts.
A. Yes, there’s an advice column parody of “Dear Abby” called “Dear Blabby.” There’s a few television parodies: “The Twilight Evzone,” in which a present-day man suddenly finds himself back in ancient Greece. In “Fantasy Eyelet Redux,” a man’s fantasy is to experience the Old West and he ends up in a saloon in the company of legendary lawmen and outlaws alike. “Cack-Out on 34th St.” is a “Dragnet” parody.
Q. There’ve been a lot of “Dragnet” parodies over the years–
A. Not like this one.
Q. Touché.
A. English, please.
Q. Getting back to the writing style itself, aside from being funny, what is the reason to change and play with words and write in what is practically a new language—or at least a new version of English?
A. Changing even a single letter in certain circumstances can actually enhance or at least underscore the meaning. To give a very simple example, when the aforementioned Orville committed the crime, like Lizzie Borden he whacked his victim many, many times. That’s not merely excessive, it’s axcessive. The wordplay works on different levels. You can enjoy it superficially, I think, even if you don’t fully recognize the references, because it simply sounds/looks funny. Then if you really delve into the words, there’s cultural, geographical, political, zoological, botanical and theological references in many of the puns. So in that way, it’s like a puzzle that reveals more the closer you examine it. A glass onion, as one of my influences would say.
Q. What is your writing routine or process?
A. I have none. I just write. Even in my sleep. I dream wordplay, especially when I’m working on a piece and I’m in the mode of “speaking” that language. So I keep a pad and pen on my bed. There’s no pattern. Sometimes a title inspires a story, sometimes I don’t have a title until after I’ve finished the piece.
Q. Do you ever get writer’s block?
A. Not really. I may get stuck on a certain line or part of a story, but I never really have the classic, dreaded writer’s block. If I have a moment where I don’t know what to write, I’ll write a story about a writer who doesn’t know what to write. Ideas come and I try to capture them before they fade, which happens sometimes when they occur while I’m asleep or just half-awake. I’ve lost some good stuff that way.
Q. When you announced this book, you mentioned that it isn’t for everyone–
A. Well, no book is, really.
Q. But what is it that some people wouldn’t like?
A. What I meant was that in this era of fast food, fast entertainment, fast news and fast information, a book which requires a lot of concentration and thought may be off- putting to those who like a quickie, so to speak. And I don’t mean to sound elitist, but the truth is, reading and understanding such a book does require a certain level of intelligence and awareness. No one is likely to get every reference in the book. But if you know nothing of history and culture, it would likely confound you. I mean, the wordplay encompasses everything from B-movie actors to trees. But I think part of the fun is that puzzle-like aspect I mentioned. Repeated perusals might reward the reader with more revelations: “Oh, that’s what he’s referring to!” Or so one hopes.
Q. Might anyone take offense at anything in the book?
A. Anyone might.
Q. Elaborate, please.
A. You never know with people. Someone had seen my poem “The Lady With Elephantitis” and was offended. She had a relative with the illness and claimed I was making fun of people suffering from the condition. But I wasn’t. My poem is a kid’s-eye-view of it. When I was a very little kid, for a brief period I lived in Philly, where my mother was from, and there was a woman on the block who had the affliction. When I was told it was Elephantitis (which is a bastardization of the actual name Elephantiasis, by the way), I didn’t understand—was she turning into an elephant? Was she part-elephant? So the poem is an exaggerated view from a young child’s imaginative perspective.
Q. Any other sensitive areas?
A. Who knows? There’s always someone offended by something. But I have no agenda. I’m an equal opportunity offender.
Q. You mentioned adult content—
A. There’s a sexual encounter in “The Babble of the Sexes,” but there are no four-letter words. On second thought, I would guess there are plenty of four-letter words, but not of the profanity persuasion. But it’s explicit in my own original language.
Q. Have you had any feedback yet?
A. I just made the book available, so no one else has read it yet, at least not the whole book. However, I started the book a long time ago, then put it aside when I realized what a pain in the ass trying to find a publisher would be. Back then I sent samples of it to some of the essayists who contributed to a book entitled Lewis Carroll: A Celebration, which I had reviewed for my hometown newspaper. I remember sending them “Emile and the Nigh Visitress” (about a scavenger huntress tracking down a man with a forked tongue), “The Cardsharks” (a poem about three threatening intruders who force people to play cards for money) and “I Gave My Love” (a nonsense poem). They wrote back with very kind words.
Q. Don’t leave us hanging—what did they say?
A. They said they “delighted in” and “took great pleasure” in the pieces I sent. One of them, Donald Rackin, a noted Carroll scholar and author of Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland and Through the Looking-Glass: Nonsense, Sense, and Meaning, wrote:
“Thanks for the copies of your work—which were delightful. Your debts to Carroll and Joyce and Lear and Lennon were evident, but your work is nevertheless your own and an accomplishment to be proud of. I congratulate you.”
Professor and author Terry Otten of Wittenberg University also took the time to write, as did the other contributors I contacted. Although I knew Rolling Stone had no use for such fiction, I sent some samples to them anyway, and Robbie Myers, then in the editorial department and now editor-in-chief of ELLE Magazine, responded with:
“You are indeed a clever fellow. I thoroughly enjoyed reading your pieces.” So I was very pleased they all gave me high marks.
Q. As opposed to groucho marks?
A. Hey, I warned you!
Q. Sorry, what’s next for you?
A. I already have two other books that I’ll offer up one at a time—a children’s book and then a follow-up to Jim Shorts. Next on my list, I’ll be working on a book of profiles of people I’ve interviewed.
Q. Veddy good. I hope Jim Shorts will pique the interest of a lot of people who love wordplay and humor.
A. So do we.
Q. Thank you for our time.
A. Thank you for halving me.

(Anyone interested in purchasing the PDF of Jim Shorts should contact Jim at:
jimgeorgebooks@gmail.com)