I Got Me Some Comedy Chops!

My cousin, Sam Levenson

Admittedly, my romance life is a fucking joke. When I dated a herpetologist, my father roared with glee, "Another live one! How do you find them?"

I'm sure, if he were alive today, he'd find it hysterical that my ex-boyfriend was a former sex slave porn bondage star.

Or perhaps not. Not quite a stellar moment in my life. Which is why I'm rather grateful I'm the only one alive today in my family.

I come from Borscht Belt Royalty. For my family was deeply involved in the entertainment industry in the Catskills: my father was a sitcom writer, my mother's father an entertainment lawyer and my cousin was a nationally known comedian, Sam Levenson.

To those not in the know, Audrey Hepburn loved one of Sam's poems, Time-Tested Beauty Tips.* What catapulted Sam into America's mainstream was his intellectual humor, double-edged comments and strong sense of family.

The kitchen table took prominence in the summer months when I was a toddler. Where Totie Fields and Buddy Hackett would stop off trading jokes with Sam and my father while my mother served everyone coffee and whatever came out of the oven. You could even say I was trained by the best in American comedy since birth, at their laps.

Those good times came to an abrupt end in the 1960's with the death of the Catskills resort hotel industry. Simultaneously, Sam rose in prominence with his own tv show (The Sam Levenson Show where my father was his sitcom writer) as well as guest appearances on tv (The Ed Sullivan Show, What's My Line, The Price is Right, Jeopardy, Johnny Carson) and success from his best-selling novels. He no longer spent entire summers residing in the cabin where I now live full-time. Instead, we had family get-togethers during the Jewish high holy days and an occasional summertime visit.

Yet, my childhood and teen years were crafted in the Stone/Levenson tradition of storytelling at its most refined: ribald, hilarious, heart-breaking, soul-searching, perplexing, highbrow and lowbrow, a journey that hits the emotional notes. This was my heritage, something no one could ever take away from me.

I'm also the last of my line with a brand of comedy that so few comedians have. Which compelled me to write.

When my first novel was published, someone emailed me a page from my cousin's first book, Everything but Money with an attachment, "You've the same writing style!"

NO SHIT, SHERLOCK! Although, if Sam were alive today, he'd more than likely throw in a few "F" bombs as I did.

I've a lot more to say, but it'll sound as if I'm breast beating, something I can barely do anyhow as I'm quite top heavy. Let me point out that I'm no Johnny come lately to the comedy scene or to writing. You, dear Reader, have been reading my articles for years, plagiarized to the hilt. My non sequiturs have circled the internet globe. It's about time I let you figure out it was ME all along!!

Me 3/20/13 before I came down with the flu.

# # #

*Time Tested Beauty Tips 

For attractive lips, speak words of kindness. 

For lovely eyes, seek out the good in people. 

For a slim figure, share your food with the hungry. 

For beautiful hair, let a child run his or her fingers through it once a day. 

For poise, walk with the knowledge you'll never walk alone. 

People, even more than things, have to be restored, renewed, revived, reclaimed, and redeemed; Never throw out anybody. 

Remember, if you ever need a helping hand, you'll find one at the end of your arm. 

As you grow older, you will discover that you have two hands, one for helping yourself, the other for helping others. 

The beauty of a woman is not in the clothes she wears, the figure that she carries, or the way she combs her hair. The beauty of a woman must be seen from in her eyes, because that is the doorway to her heart, the place where love resides. 

The beauty of a woman is not in a facial mole, but true beauty in a woman is reflected in her soul. It is the caring that she lovingly gives, the passion that she shows, and the beauty of a woman with passing years only grows!" 

— Sam Levenson


Anonymous said...

Explains why your so funny!

Linda Mattera said...

Loved this article. Our memories make us who we are. Great Job!

Michael said...

A nice bit of nostalgic levity.
What a charmed life you must have had as a child.
(Hopefully, it's still charmed.)