Friday, December 28, 2007

Let's Get Small

I fear Steve Martin. There, I've said it. He's the only person in show business that I haven't really met yet, and I'm sure that if we do meet the exchange will veer way too close to Chris Farley's interview of Paul McCartney on SNL so many years ago.
Tom (sweating profusely) : You know that ...uh... arrow through your head thing?
Steve (uncomfortably) : Why, yes, I do.
Tom (after a ridiculous pause, feigning relaxation) : That was really good.
Steve Martin was just given the Kennedy Center honor by the President, and I just finished his recent book, "Born Standing Up," which I read and enjoyed very much. At the height of his popularity, Steve Martin appeared at the Gammage Auditorium at Arizona State University in 1977 and I somehow scored tickets in the third row, where I was electrified by his crazed performance as a few thousand rabid fans went bonkers. In the middle of his act, he chose me, sitting there in the third row, to stand up and speak to him. He did a stupid magic trick with me, asked me questions, made fun of my answers, and finally said "Sorry, Tom...Just havin' a little your expense."
I thought that I had accomplished all that would be necessary to consider my life a fabulous success, and would have greeted a bolt of lightning with good humor and a shrug.
Congratulations, Steve.

Tuesday, November 6, 2007


Edmonton is the northernmost major North American city, and it boasts the world's largest shopping mall (including a waterpark with a roof, a flamingo pond, and a full sized replica of Columbus's ship the "Santa Maria." ...and a Banana Republic) I performed there last weekend and had a great time, doing what everyone in Edmonton seems to do in early November - go inside the mall and get ready for eight months of winter. It's already in the teens there, with snow on the ground, and the hockey players are sharpening their skates and removing their teeth. As I've written before, I love Canada, have been there many times, and am always entertained by their friendliness, peppered by the resentment of a smaller little brother next to the giant USA. Yes! You're better than us! Yes! Down vests are an underappreciated gift to humanity! Yes! A sandwich should cost fifteen dollars! Yes! I love Canada!

Thursday, October 4, 2007

Being alive

Last night I performed at a benefit for breast cancer research at The Comedy and Magic Club in Hermosa Beach, California - My favorite club filled with my favorite people. The crowd was full of breast cancer survivors, doctors, nurses, lots and lots of women who have been through a lot, and the caring people who have watched them go through it. My point? These people went crazy with a kind of laughter that approached insane hysteria. It was a deafening roar of release and joy. I just wondered - does it take that kind of horrifying trip to the edge of the abyss in order to finally really let loose and laugh hysterically, seemingly without a care in the world? It was a beautiful night, and I was glad to be onstage in front of so many crazy people, as we celebrated life, and thumbed our nose at the alternative.

Tuesday, September 4, 2007

Keigo Yamada on the pronoun-existence

I get many letters from Japan, and this one is my favorite. I am quoting it exactly as it reads - on festive paper, in different ink colors, with many words highlighted for emphasis.

Dearest Wonderful Thomas,
Hello. How are you?
My name is Keigo Yamada. I'm twenty-two years old University student boy, living in Tokyo, Japan. This is my first letter to you.

I saw you in "Back To The Future." It was a wonderful movie which remains in the heart of people who have a better opinion of themselves and can discover their existence anew by who goes the future and the past back and forth. And depiction of "Biff" of you had released conspicuous color particularly in the world of the future, or the past world. Was depiction of "Biff" of you the pronoun-existence of this movie! It was the character which exists and cannot hate charm truly.
And the place which never makes the role 'a symbol of evil' thinks that it is a wonderful place of your performance power.
Although this movie was exhibited and remarkable years passed, your role of "Biff" is immortality eternally. You showed off the importance of many villain characters which continue behind on this movie.
In the meantime, I'd really appreciate it if you should send me your sign card. This becomes the highest for me. I have enclosed a self-addressed envelope and U.S. stamps.
Please take care of yourself and do your best from now on.

I wish you happy.

Best Wisher,
Keigo Yamada

Friday, August 17, 2007

Male and Female Rejects

I took this photo in the late eighties, feeling particularly de-humanized by some stupid audition for some stupid T.V. show. These were the stacks of photos on top of a desk in the casting office. Below the desk were mountains of thousands more shots, so I guess this stack represents the actors who actually got considered by the underling of an assistant. Barbara Billingsley is a wonderful actress who was made famous on "Leave It To Beaver," and David Rasche is another actor of great talent and wide experience. Years later I met David Rasche and told him about the ugly gallows humor in this photo, and he didn't appreciate it at all. Oh well.

Hey, I didn't get the job either, my photo was probably just under his, but I think we all managed to survive.

Love from Wilson World,

Tuesday, August 7, 2007

DeVito Power

I'm doing a movie with Danny DeVito called "No Place Like Home" right now. We were shooting a scene today where a kid throws a fake beer bottle at a truck, shattering near Danny's head. Uh, the fake beer bottle didn't break, but solidly hit Mr. DeVito in the jaw. He was surprised, but okay, clearly tough as nails and ready for another take. Hey, it's my blog, I'll write what I want - just wanted to tell you about my day when I saw Danny DeVito get cracked in the face with a beer bottle.

And they had free snacks, so...bonus!

Love from Wilson World,

Monday, July 9, 2007

Her Beautiful Hand

My kids are better than yours. Yeah, I was going to be diplomatic and simply tell you how proud I am, but figured why not cut to the chase. My kids rock, and yours are probably good, too, no disrespect meant, but mine are simply sublime. And yours are good, seriously, don't get me wrong here, you have good kids, but, long as we understand each other.
My daughter is teaching developmentally disabled kids this summer, as she did last summer, teens with Autism to varying degrees. It's a job she does well, with love and care, and it's a fulfilling challenge that beats flipping burgers.
She got attacked today. Twice. One of the kids just went crazy and attacked her, two different times, scratching her arms and hands. I don't mean kitty cat sratches, I mean a wild attack causing deep scratches and cuts. My daughter handled it well, though it was upsetting to her, of course, but I was struck with what happened after that. A boy came up to her, sadly touched her bleeding scratches and said "Your beautiful hand. Oh, my dear lady...look at your beautiful hand." He traced the wounds with his finger and kissed her hand. The work that she does, and loves, has not left her unscathed, but the balm of the boy's concern helped begin the healing, along with the humor of speaking as if he were in a Shakespeare play " dear lady..."

My second daughter is volunteering at a retreat right now. My third one volunteers to help her older sister with the autistic kids. Face it, Sparky, my kids rock.

Love and humility from Wilson World,

Friday, June 22, 2007

The Eagle Has Landed

"Brotherly Love" has become something of a punch line to most Philadelphians, but like so many cities on the east coast, Philadelphia is a fascinating explosion of humanity, living in, on, and around each other. It's a beautiful city, my hometown, and I love walking the streets, my mind flooding with memories of the past on every corner. The giant buildings of granite and steel still crowd the middle of Center City, but many more shiny glass towers decorated with neon borders at the top climb higher and higher, obliterating the view of William Penn on City Hall, and creating a cityscape unrecognizable from the pre-dawn backdrop that Rocky shadow-boxed thirty years ago.

It's astounding that so many old buildings have been swallowed by retailers. The golden eagle above, symbol of freedom and our nations liberty, carved and gilt a century ago, now hovers above an entrance for a "Sharper Image" store. Yes, my fellow Americans. "Liberty!"... "Freedom!"... "Massage Chairs!"... "Air Purifiers!" Graceful marble staircases and polished brass railings lead up from the street and into a ..."Staples." Oh, such effort by craftsmen of so long ago to build stone buildings that would stand the test of time, only to have ink cartridge sale posters hanging from carved marble gargoyles.

I elegantly strode into Staples like a 19th century banker, and bought a dozen of those Pilot Varsity disposable fountain pens. Yes!! I've been looking for those things everywhere!

Love from Wilson World,

Friday, June 8, 2007

My hometown

I'm on my way to Philadelphia, cradle of Liberty, and hometown of myself, Jack Klugman, and Sylvester Stallone. Need I say more? Don't mess with Philly. I'm performing at "Helium" and looking forward to many great shows, and many great soft pretzels from WaWa. I'll be doing lots of radio shows, where they'll ask me questions about Paris Hilton, waiting for me to trash her.

I think I'll just say "Well, as Saint John of the Cross put it - "It is great wisdom to learn how to live quietly and look at neither the remarks, nor the deeds, nor the lives of others." Those morning zoo guys love stuff like that. Whoo!

Love from Wilson World,

Tuesday, June 5, 2007

As it is in Irvine

I've just seen a magnificent play called "As It Is In Heaven," at the small black box theatre at U.C. Irvine. It's about a community of Shaker women, full of very well done music, tremendous performances, and a spartan, yet completely satisfying production. It's the best play I've seen in a very long time, and I see a lot of plays. Most of them stink...there, I said it. I've seen several thousand bad plays in my lifetime, and several thousand terrible performances that were much more a sitcom audition for casting people that might be sitting in the audience than a gutsy, connected performance of that specific role in that specific play. And since theatres are having a hard time selling tickets anymore, there are two major audience demographics left. These contrasting demographics either want to see "The King And I," starring Loretta Swit, or "Heather Has Three Daddies, the musical!"

Congratulations to the U.C. Irvine theatre department, and young people who are hungry to perform intelligent, gutsy theatre, not "edgy" pablum. "Edgy" is the new "boring."

Wednesday, May 2, 2007

Tom Poston, R.I.P.

My favorite line in his obituary is "in his youth, he was an acrobat with "The Flying Zepleys."

Tom Poston died yesterday, and now I'm not only jealous of his talent and humor, but I'm green with envy that he could say that at one time he was an acrobat with "The Flying Zepleys!"

He was a great guy. In olden times, I was the warm-up comedian on the show "Newhart," with Bob Newhart, Mary Frann, and a wonderful supporting cast, including Tom Poston. I was a very young comedian, probably in over my head, but Tom was among the nicest men I've ever worked with in my life. He was always kind, always funny, and always seemed to be one of those guys who get the joke: "...hey...I get to make people laugh for money! Whoopee!"

He worked on a million shows, including early television, doing hysterical "Man on the Street" interviews with Steve Allen, and creating sketches that generation after generation, including mine, still write, perform, and think they originated.

Before I met Tom, when I saw him on T.V. I would smile, waiting for something funny to happen. After I met him, the smile got bigger.

May God bless Tom and all of the Flying Zepleys.

Love from Wilson World,

Monday, April 30, 2007

Kurt Vonnegut, R.I.P.

Like every writer and comedian, I must record the passing of the patron saint of modern irony, Kurt Vonnegut. He died a week or so ago, and the hordes of detached, smirking ironists have to say farewell. Yes, I read Vonnegut along with everyone else in the seventies, and after the first one or two books, bought and devoured everything the man ever wrote afterward. And I loved them. And I loved him...Until the ironic edge became sharper, and his smile was only for his author photo, because it was slashed out of his writing. It's always sad to me when an ironic smile becomes jaded, and suddenly it's not irony at all, but a bitter sneer.

I found the bitter sneer a sad end for him. He's certainly not the first person to get crankier and crankier in his later years because nobody seems to be listening closely enough. But it was a reminder to me that life goes on no matter what I think about it, and I can only do my best to be kind, and good, and funny, so I might as well try to keep my chin up.

"Life is short, misery sure, mortality certain, but on the way, why not carry those two inflated pig bladders labeled zest and gusto." - Ray Bradbury

Wednesday, March 7, 2007

The Tense Generation

The story made the cover of LOOK magazine in 1963. "The Tense Generation" is all about a generation of American teenagers who were aimless, apathetic, hanging out, wearing the uniform of blue jeans and white socks, destroying property and wasting their lives. Here are a few quotations from August, 1963:

"Across the country, from cities down to small towns, a novel note of tension, even of danger, has lately been added to the normal strains of life. It's as if a new population element had seeped into residential America, at odds with the old settlers and implacably determined to show its malice."

"To describe those who engage in these and many similar activities, it is necessary to use a terrible judgement: They are the 16 year old failures in American life."

"Many come from middle class, or even well to do homes. Their common denominator is that they have lost their way."

"Affluence itself is part of the problem."

"Experience shows that once normal middle class values are relaxed, the descent is rapid. The National Education Association has noted that there is a curious tendency these days for middle class youths to imitate the slum dweller, to speak his language, to wear his clothes, to act as they imagine he acts."

That was 1963, during the Kennedy administration. Keep your chin up, because a sixteen year old in 1963 is now 60 years old. Next time you see Grandpa, ask him why his generation was so tense, destroying things and making nothing of themselves.

Even a 16 year old tense failure like me can pull it together...


Love from Wilson World,