Jeff Smith 2:30 p.m., June 26
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Angel at the Fence -- The Comedy of Robert Schimmel
There's nothing as fun as watching a great comedian. And I love talking about comedy.
I've been arguing with my girlfriend about Chris Rock. She thinks he's great. I think he's okay, but overrated. For some reason, black comedians can get away with having this manic energy, but when you break down their material, there often isn't a lot there.
Yes, Bill Cosby and Richard Pryor are two of the best ever. And, I'm not talking about the big name African-American guys. But the no-namers, who just get on stage with all this energy and very little material.
I found it funny that D.L. Hughley recently said that black comedians are funnier than white comedians. I hate statements like that. Or, idiots like Jerry Lewis, who said there have never been funny women in comedy Because we've all seen funny female comedians, and funny comedians of all races.
There's a great comedian named Robert Schimmel, who has been making the rounds of the talk shows lately.
I first saw him on HBO years ago. His show is a little to X-rated for me to repeat any jokes. There's a great one that KGBs morning show replays, about him teaching his daughter how to drive, and how she makes a wrong turn and crashes into a building. As he's yelling she says, "Okay, geeeez...you don't have to give me my allowance this week." He replies, "Allowance!!! You're going to $%&@ the car repair guy to fix this."
Anyway, I've been thinking about Schimmel because of the 79-year-old Holocaust survivor that had appeared on Oprah a couple times, and wrote the book "Angel at the Fence." His story was that he was in a concentration camp, and every day a girl on the outside would appear and throw an apple over the fence to him. Years later on a blind date in the U.S. they meet and have been married all this time.
It turns out the story was a lie. And, just like that Frey guy, who wrote about his drug addiction and was endorsed by Oprah, she is getting knocked for this.
And I really don't think that's fair. She didn't do anything wrong by assuming his story was true.
But, this reminds me of Schimmel because he told a story on Howard Stern a few different times, about his parents (both Holocaust survivors). Long after his father passed away, he flew his mom to one of the concentration camps she had been in. They end up seeing the town she grew up in, and they go to a cafe she liked. She confesses that she loved a man before his father, and they met there every Tuesday for coffee.
They walk into the cafe and it's packed. She sees the back of a mans head, with white hair, and screams that it's him. Schimmel tries to calm his mom down, thinking that she's gone bonkers.
It turns out it is the guy, and he's single. They reunite and marry.
Steven Spielberg hears this story, and buys the rights.
So, Robert Schimmel explains that he has two or three screenplays he's been shopping. He used to write for In Living Color and a few other comedians. And now it's his mom that has a development deal with Spielberg. He jokes that his mom says, "Well honey, I can talk to Steven. Maybe he'll hire you on as a consultant or something."
When Schimmel was on Dennis Miller's radio show the other day, he talked about meeting Steve Martin while he was working at a stereo place. He had to go to his house to install the system and he mentioned that he was a comedian also. Martin said, "Yeah, really. That's why you're installing my stereo." Now, Martin has written the liner notes for his latest CD (they both have the same manager).
Miller told a story about how a comedy club hired Schimmel as a regular after seeing him there on an open mic night with his sister. When he flew out to start his job as a real comedian, the club burned down.
It wouldn't be the weirdest event in his life. He had an 11-year-old son die of cancer.
He got divorced and married one of his daughters friends.
And he's been kicked off a number of shows for saying inappropriate things (Hollywood Squares and Conan O'Brien, even though I saw he was on the other night).
Schimmel went thru his own series of medical problems that almost killed him.
I would think with all that, and his sense of humor, publishers would be jumping at him. Instead, they just wait for the fake stories that are more heartwarming I guess.