Liz Smith: Holiday Funny Bone

“TWO MONTHS after Mike Nichols and Elaine May arrived in New York, in 1957, their improv act was the toast of the town. Half a century has passed. But as Sam Kashner discovers, in an unprecedented joint interview, the celebrated director and screenwriter still crack each other up.”

This, above, is the headline on an article in Vanity Fair’s Special All-Star Comedy Issue and I am really anxious that everybody should read it. The magazine doesn’t deal just with Mike and Elaine; it is full of comedy fresh, past and present under guest editor Judd Apatow with marvelous photos by Mark Seliger.

I was intrigued by a teeny tiny quote located on the January 2013 cover. Turns out to be, “For what do we live, but to make sport for our neighbors, and laugh at them in our turn!” – Jane Austen.

Well, I just can’t resist Vanity Fair. And the scarce-as-hen’s-teeth Mike and Elaine, meeting to suddenly talk frankly after all these years, is really one for the books. Were they ever lovers — back in the beginning? You have to read it and decide the answer. But their meeting is terrific, as in when Mike says to her, “You changed from a dangerous person to someone who is only benign.” Elaine responds: “What a vicious thing to say!”

These two, forever putting everyone “on” and viewing all of us from their perch above, are two of the most gifted and talented people we have ever been given by the comedy gods.

Don’t miss this unusual very funny issue and equally fascinating are the articles on the younger comics, also the one on John Belushi and Dan AykroydAlbert BrooksMel Brooks and Carl Reiner … and my favorite comic and nicest guy of them all, the one and only ever-under-rated Martin Short.

I GUESS we have to file this under “she who laughs last.” We haven’t written much about Madonna’s “MDNA” tour this year, though her incredible Super Bowl extravaganza was great.

“MDNA” was, as usual for the Big M, a big show with brilliant set pieces, and some downright odd things that only she wanted to do and damn the high-paying audiences. She never begs her audiences for love, only for respect for her changing ideas. This can be tough.

Sometimes Madonna courted a lot of controversy during the course of this tour — from waving guns on stage, to arrivals so late the audiences became hostile, to defending Russia’s imprisoned Pussy Riot protestors, to cuddling onstage with her much younger dancer/lover. The taut 54-year-old was often written up as if she were a hobbling and irrelevant 70 years old.

But in the end, Madonna wins. Her tour took in the year’s top money honors, out-grossing even the remarkable Bruce Springsteen.

All in all, Madonna and Live Nation (where she jumped after leaving Warner Records) pocketed about $230 million. So I guess those who hoped the pop goddess might slide into more chanteuse-like appearances at smaller venues, or go all Cher on us, and give the fans nothing but the old hits, will have to wait.

SPEAKING OF singers, the phenomenally successful Taylor Swift seems to be wearing her fans down with her youthful romance-jumping and temporary idylls that always appear to lead to yet another mournful/bitter Swift song on “How I Was Done Wrong.” It’s not that Taylor’s record-selling popularity seems to be waning, but criticism online, in gossip chat-rooms, and on scathing websites, such as DListed, all roll their eyes as she currently cavorts with Harry Styles of the boy band One Direction. I say, she is awfully young, so let her be. But the press doesn’t exist to let people be.

Taylor might just be learning that as 2013 approaches.

THERE ARE lots of complaints that the latest super-successful James Bond movie, “Skyfall,” was “shut out” of the Golden Globe nominations, except in the Best Song category. Oh, come on. “Skyfall” is a fabulous film. Craig is a great 007. But the Bond franchise is never going to be seriously honored, not even by the oddballs at the Hollywood Foreign Press Association. Fans should just be happy the movie’s a smash and Daniel Craig is signed on for three more.

Be realistic. The Broccoli family is. They count money, not statuettes.

PETER JACKSON is one happy camper. Not only did “The Hobbit” take in a whopping $84 million in three days, it’s not a film endangered by the horrible massacre of children and adults in Newtown, Conn.

Tom Cruise’s “Reacher” and Quentin Tarantino’s “Django Unchained,” have postponed premieres and juggled schedules out of concern for the sensibilities of the public.

The Tarantino film has a huge advance in anticipation — another work from the bloody auteur. And despite some continued complaining about Tom Cruise in the Jack Reacher role, reviews so far have been excellent. (As a big fan of the Lee Child novels, and Tom the actor, I have no fears.)

What else is there? Animated films and “Les Miserables?” Listen, the latter ain’t “Hello Dolly.” It’s called “Les Miserables” for a reason. The show has a hysterical fan base, and good for them. But if you’re going for a good time musical, you’ve wandered into the wrong almost three hours of very loud, very close-up misery.

You want something uplifting to watch this time of year? Try the usually-ignored 1984 George C. Scott TV version of “A Christmas Carol.” Brilliant and sob-inducing to the point where one feels totally refreshed afterward. I consider it the very best interpretation of Dickens’ immortal tale.

This column originally appeared on NYSocialDiary.com on 12/19/12

3 comments so far.

  1. avatar JERILYN says:

    As we come to the end of yet another year I would like to take this opportunity to thank Liz Smith for her exceptional writing and insight in these reviews and comments on Hollywood. Liz Smith writes with such an easy style at times funny but with such incite. A great shout out to her for the “Liz and Dick ” review. Those of us who will always be huge Dame Elizabeth Taylor fans understand why Our Dame considered Liz Smith a special friend. WOULD love to see Liz Smith write a good book about Dame Elizabeth and not some of the trash that is currently on bookshelves. I would love the young generation of Dame Elizabeth’s fans to know a true Icon the way Dame Elizabeth was not these tabloid caricatures. Whenever I need my spirit lifted I read Liz Smith. In this sensitive time of so many tears I just wanted to say thank you. Praying the best is yet to come in 2013.

    • avatar Jay Gentile says:

      I agree on all counts. Would LOVE to see a Liz Smith book about the Elizabeth Taylor she knew. I imagine something that falls between Auntie Mame and Travels with My Aunt. Come on, dear Liz. Don’t take those memories with you when you shake off this mortal coil. Write. Now.

      Happy Holidays, Liz!

  2. avatar dew says:

    I’m with you Jay.