Remember how legendary columnist Lewis Grizzard used to write about how he could hardly wait for Cathy Rigby to go through menopause so she wouldn’t be in commercials advertising feminine care products anymore? He said he didn’t care if it absorbed the entire Atlantic Ocean, he didn’t want to sit in his den and hear about it on television.
There wasn’t much that was off limits for Lewis. He wrote unapologetically from his perspective as a man who had been raised in a small Georgia town. He continued throughout his career to write about the distinctiveness of the South, a changing South – so as it was – against the backdrop of the old South. He pulled much of his material from what he knew and observed. That is all any artist can do, and with that Lewis honed his own brand of wit and humor.
He was the best. From the time his column moved from sports to news in 1979, his fan base grew until his early death at age 47 in 1994, due to a faulty heart valve. People dearly loved him. He didn’t invent newspapers, but for a couple of decades, he made them worth reading.
Some may say it was the internet that hurt the popularity of print newspapers, but it wasn’t. Lewis died. That’s what happened. There wasn’t much reason to buy one after he was gone. The laughter had stopped.
There are rumors that Saturday Night Live may call it quits this year. The rumors are in response to cast member Kenan Thompson’s comments during an interview suggesting this may be a good time to stop the show since it is turning 50.
Plus the show’s creator, Lorne Michaels, is 77 and considering saying a final goodnight. Saturday nights evidently aren’t all that lively to him anymore, not to mention politicization has all but smothered out most of the humor.
There was a time though.
Back in the late 80’s, it didn’t matter where I was or what I was doing on Saturday night, I wanted to be home by 10:30 so I could watch Saturday Night Live. And I didn’t want to be late. I didn’t want to chance missing the opening. It was always the best.
It has been a long time since the show held that kind of viewership.
It is a little sad to me. I turned 50 this year too, and I don’t want to call it quits. I was kind of thinking I could maybe catch another gear. I was hoping I would maybe have more time to invite in creative energy.
But to be honest…the current climate is never going to allow for much genuine creative artistry. Anybody with any kind of platform on any level is very aware of what they allow themselves to write or say or create. All creative minds are editing themselves out of fear of an invisible overlord that could cancel them with complaints concerning their delicate sensitivities.
Freedom now has boundaries it seems. It is squelched. But the entire point of any genre of art is to create something that evokes the full spectrum of emotion. Reaction was never the artists concern. The art was the focus. Not all works of art are masterpieces, but they need to be genuine. They has to be complete abandon allowed in order to release and capture true creativity.
If the artist’s first thought is what will others think or react…then we will soon cease to have creative geniuses. There will never be other great talents like Lewis Grizzard or Lorne Michaels.
That would be unfortunate…especially if it turns out laughter really is the best medicine.
Amanda Walker is a columnist and contributor with AL.com, The Birmingham News, Selma Times Journal, Thomasville Times, West Alabama Watchman, and Alabama Gazette. Contact her at Walkerworld77@msn.com or at https://www.facebook.com/AmandaWalker.Columnist