Teri Orr: Don’t forget the laughing part…
Sometimes I have to remind myself to laugh. Lately it seems critical in all situations/conversations. We have become so damn serious in our days and hours … we miss the humor of the moments.
This week at lunch with a part-time Parkite who otherwise lives in D.C. and works as a federal judge, we were talking, as we do, about politics. I’ll call my friend Harry. He is a supporter of the programming we bring to the Eccles Center. So Harry was asking if we had started looking at acts for next season — especially speakers. I said, yes, and I was always looking for suggestions. He immediately rattled off a list of D.C. figures he wanted to hear — almost all were folks who had had short runs in the current administration. All were appointees. He is a mostly liberal guy. We imagined questions the speakers should be asked onstage. We were ruthless over the safety of our salads. It provided for a spirited and amusing lunch. He flew back to D.C. that afternoon.
Later that same day — when I finished work and went home — I did something I rarely do anymore — I turned on the national news. Most specifically CNN. I have found for the past two years that reading most of my news or listening to NPR is much better for my mental health and blood pressure. I looked at the screen and there, next to the comforting silver hair and black horn-rimmed eyes of Anderson Cooper, was the split-screen shot of Anthony Scaramucci. The very name that Harry and I had agreed would be — at the very least — an entertaining speaker.
For those who do not know his name, here is the shortest explanation of the short person who served the shortest time as director of communications ever in that role in The White House in all of history. A total of six days. He had come from the world of investment banking* (see Sky Capital). He replaced the oft-mocked former communications director, Sean Spicer, who had served about six — Saturday Night Live-material-supplying — months in the position. It is easy to forget all this happened on top of each other.
Mooch — as he is known in D.C. — was explaining in excruciating detail — that he still supported the president but he was no sycophant. And then he went on to somehow conjugate a noun. He said supporting Trump did not make him sycophantic. It kept falling out of his mouth like that. Then I heard him say words that sounded like sycophantical and sycophant-ish and maybe even sycophantically.
Anderson asked him another question which I no longer recall because I became mesmerized by his unstoppable use of variations of the word sycophant — which he was now tripping over like a dance move gone all middle-aged-white-male-arm-flapping bad.
Which took my Walter Mitty mind down a rabbit hole and suddenly I was singing — loudly “will you do the fandango” around my living room — to absolutely no one. And laughing.
I can explain.
Two years ago after Mooch’s spectacular six-day White House job ended in his dismissal by The Current Occupant, one of my wackiest friends, who is a singer-songwriter on the East Coast, sent me a note. It said something like “ask Siri to find … tiny man dancing” … (Mooch is a man of diminutive statue.) So I spoke into my phone “find tiny man dancing” and in that monotone, slightly-female-computerized voice came back those operatic words we all have tried — at a PhD level of intensive study — to decipher for decades.
I see a little silhouetto of a man Scaramouch, Scaramouch will you do the Fandango Thunderbolt and lightning very very frightening me Galileo, Galileo, Galileo, Galileo, Galileo, figaro, magnifico I’m just a poor boy and nobody loves me He’s just a poor boy from a poor family Spare him his life from this monstrosity Easy come easy go will you let me go Bismillah, no we will not let you go, let him go.
I remember belly laughing on the lawn where I was picnicking with friends. Soon I was sharing it with absolute strangers — listen to this! And I would tell them to “ask Siri to — find tiny man dancing” and then the prescient lyrics from the brilliant songwriter, Freddie Mercury of Queen, would come out in the monotone-synthesized-slightly-female voice and I would start laughing all over again. This went on and off for a full 48 hours and then Siri/Google/algorithm-having-too-much-fun possibly-in violation-of FCC rules or copyright something — someone took the joy away.
No more Bohemians were allowed the brief Rhapsody of joyful laughter.
I will be seeing some of my craziest friends at an annual conference this week and I look forward to learning the wacky things they are doing to stay mentally healthy in a world gone utterly, unrecognizably, mad. How do we keep our sanity when it has become painful and impossible to even know how to define it? We will sing silly songs. We will look forward to having conversations about world peace and peace pops. We will argue respectfully and toast our friendships and our differences. And just maybe … we will do the Fandango this Sunday, far outside of this Park…
Teri Orr is a former editor of The Park Record. She is the director of the Park City Institute, which provides programming for the George S. and Dolores Doré Eccles Center for the Performing Arts.
“Even the dogs were celebrating the reemergence of the sun.”