Channeling George Gobel

Lonesome George Gobel

Lonesome George Gobel

Did you ever have one of those weeks when the last thing you wanted to do was write something funny? Well, actually that was the next-to-last thing. The last was being pregnant. Possibilities and impossibilities aside, I’ve just waded through a very unfunny week and come out the other side.

Author Karleen Koen asked our Writers Retreat class to describe what our writing muse would look like if we had one. George Gobel immediately leapt into my mind and wouldn’t leave. If I had a writer’s muse, he would definitely look like Lonesome George.

For those of you only recently able to drink legally, Gobel was a television comedian during the Golden Age of that medium. His show ran from 1954 to 1960, and after that he was a regular on Hollywood Squares, a game show for quick-witted celebrities. Easy-going to the point of semi-coma, George was short, ordinary-looking, and sported a brush-cut flat-top, out of style even then. His beatific countenance concealed a dry, wicked, and thoroughly skewed sense of humor.

One of his comedic foils was his wife, the never-seen “Spooky Old Alice.” They were married over fifty years, and they died the same year. He liked to pretend he was a hen-pecked husband, but it was clear he was just in love.

Some of his famous quotes are: “If it weren’t for electricity, we’d all be watching television by candlelight.” “If you build a better mousetrap, you will catch better mice.” “I’ve never been drunk, but often I’ve been overserved.” And the classic, “Did you ever get the feeling that the world is a tuxedo and you’re a pair of brown shoes?” George Gobel taught me an appreciation for things that bring a smile to your face fifty years after you hear them the first time. He also taught me ordinary is funny. The harder you have to work to make something funny, the less funny it is.

So Lonesome George and I are out here on this deserted island together. I tell him about my most recent knee surgery, #3. I tell him #4 may be in the near future. He says, “You know, I’m as much of a fan of bi-lateral symmetry as anyone, but it seems to me if you have to have two knees, there should be some way to sync them, like electronics. You get one knee operated on, knock it against the other one, and hey-presto, they’re exactly the same.”

I say, “But then wouldn’t my surgeon be forced to drive a Mercedes with only two wheels?”

“No problem,” he counters. “He just tells his friends it’s a Segway.”

Some women might want to be marooned on a desert island with Hugh Grant or Daniel Craig. I’ll take Lonesome George every time. He’s a-Musing.


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