Not Afraid of Anything Whatsoever
Looking for world peace? Try starting with why Martha Stewart is so hated.
12:00 AM, Jul 19, 2004 • By LARRY MILLER
WHEN I WAS ON THE ROAD a lot in my salad days--which, ironically, is the time in all of our lives when we almost never eat salads--my favorite audiences were always in the Twin Cities.
Now since I'm not running for office, you can believe me when I say I also really liked every other place I played, because it's true. Every city I worked across the United States and Canada was a great job. Some of the clubs were nicer than others, some were far nicer, and some stunk. But the audiences were always there to be entertained, and any decent comic had plenty of clay to mold.
But I always liked the Twin Cities a little better. The crowds were smart, the clubs rang like bells, and when HBO asked where I might want to film one of those specials they used to do, I picked the World Theater in St. Paul without a beat. (If memory serves, and in this case it does, the night of that taping I drank so much at the wrap party I missed the opportunity to, er, date someone who had come there to, er, date me, and instead left her at the bar to go out for eggs I didn't eat with some other comics and kept drinking, just plain forgetting about the whole thing, at which point I dozed off very, very suddenly. Ah, youth. I have never forgotten that girl at the bar, and can still see her sitting there, and to this day I only think of her every three or four minutes. But that's another story.)
I guess I worked in the Twin Cities 15 or 20 times, and I used to have a bit in my act I only used there.
"How many of you think there will be world peace someday?" I'd ask. Everyone would raise their hands, and I'd say, "Well, there will never be world peace. There will never be world peace, not even close, and I have the proof, and it's sitting right in front of me. It's all of you. All of you prove there will never be world peace."
Off their puzzled expressions, I continued. "Look at yourselves. Some of you live in St. Paul, some live in Minneapolis. You're all Americans, but it just starts there. You live in the same state, and your cities are, of course, not just next to each other, but cheek-to-jowl. In fact, cheek-to-cheek. In fact, as Groucho Marx once said to a woman he was hugging, 'Closer? If I were any closer, I'd be behind you.'
"You speak the same language, you have the same customs, and virtually all of you are Scandinavian, so you come from the same places, the same religion, the same habits, the same accents, the same speech patterns, the same families. It's all Carlson, Hanson, Anderson, Paulson . . . Every few generations someone decides to spell Hanson with an 'e' and the whole state will talk about it for years. You even look about the same. You could just go to each others' Thanksgivings, and no one would notice. In fact, maybe that's something you should consider, just for fun.
"The point is, by any measure, you're all exactly the same. And yet . . . If you had the chance, you would kill each other in a second.
"You would obliterate your neighbors. You would kill them and take their children, and sell them, or raise them, or eat them. You would nuke them, gas them, stab them, whatever it took, and you would all sleep just fine that night, deeper and longer than you have in years. Kim Jong Il would have more pangs of conscience than you.
"So why would you ever expect the English and the Irish, or the Arabs and the Jews, or the Indians and the Pakistanis to suddenly drop their guns and sing 'We Are The World'? No, there will never be world peace."
And folks would laugh, and I'd move on, and after the show people would come up with big smiles and say, "You're right about us. We hate each other." And in my head I was always thinking, yes, but why?
I'VE BEEN REMEMBERING that because of Martha Stewart. Why do people hate her so much? They do, you know. Not everyone, but lots of them. You probably do. Come on, admit it. And long before she ever took that call from her broker, too.
I don't. I have enormous respect for her, and always have. I have no interest in her shows, or her magazines, or the books, or the whole thing she does, but that's neither here nor there. Like most men, I don't need to know how to get stains out of things, because I'm just going to spill something again, and I really don't care in the first place.
But about Martha Stewart the person, I have always felt: She's brilliant, she's capable, she's industrious, she sees the small and the big picture, she's ambitious, she's unafraid; in short, she's the best of us. She may be the best American, the one we've been breeding for two hundred years, the one the founders had in mind, the one who says, "This is the day that the Lord hath made, and I will take it and run with it. And you can't stop me."