A Comedian in Italy – Fascism… Whaaaaaatt?

As an American ex pat in Italy, here is what confuses me about Italy’s recent electing of a far right party that traces its roots to fascism; In the US, the Nazis/fascists proudly proclaim themselves in their red hats with their guns and rallies, where they eagerly lap up lies spewed by a traitorous con man who grifts their money and for some reason is still walking free. In Italy, we’ve travelled north, south, east, west and met only outwardly kind, loving, helpful people. We moved here because of the PEOPLE. From old weathered men to young tattooed groups of guys, everyone stops to say “Buona Sera” as you pass. Everyone helps you with your language, packages, directions, car, everything everywhere. We have never gotten a dirty look or a brushoff in two partial years here. I’m not talking about tourist hot spots where it benefits them to be nice for profit. I am talking about us living here, when we’re in the hardware stores needing help, supermarkets, where we don’t know we weigh the produce ourselves and hold up lines at checkout, furniture stores, flower nurseries, outdoor markets, local restaurants, car mechanics. We’re shown only patience and kindness. Everywhere working people work, in local neighborhoods, where you would expect to see any evidence of dissatisfaction and anger, hate, prejudice, we have not. You put a Euro in the slot to get your supermarket cart unchained; when you come out of the market there is usually an immigrant waiting to “help” you unload your grocery bags and return your cart for you, meaning they get the Euro back. We and most people give them the carts, and always with a little extra money. When people ask us “Di dove sei?” (Where are you from?) and we answer “California” they beam in awe. Hollywood has done its job well.

If Italy was anti-immigrant, why offer one Euro houses to anyone who wanted to come here and help re-populate the country? Isn’t that the opposite of xenophobia? Italy is a Catholic country. The Vatican is here, the Pope lives here, yet abortion has been legal here since 1978. Divorce has been legal here since 1970. That is because there is respect for what the people want and need for quality of life. America is trying to be a christian country by outlawing the very things the most catholic country in the world protects for its citizens.

This election is a total surprise to us and a horrible face for Italy to present to the world. It doesn’t seem to us to be the real Italy and yet, it must be. Where were these many many voters? Who are they? I guess time will tell. I hope we don’t have to move again but we will if we must. It is very sad. But move where? With long time far right candidate Marine Le Pen coming in just behind Emmanuel Macron with 21.3% of the French vote in April, it seems like the whole world is moving to the right. Yet at least, unlike America, civilized countries still apply the law to criminals in their government. Silvio Berlusconi ran in this Italian election and got 7% of the vote. In 2013, at age 76, Berlusconi was convicted of tax fraud by the Supreme Court of Cassation. His four-year prison sentence was confirmed, and he was banned from holding public office for two years. When will America deal with its most dangerous traitor since Aldrich Ames? Why will an insurrectionist, unbelievably, possibly be allowed to run for president again? More than anything else; more than Mitch McConnell being America’s dictator, holding up legislation the majority of Americans support, more than fake christians hiding their hateful politics behind a bible whose tenets they have no knowledge of, more than women and marginalized groups having to re-fight the old fights, it is the spectre of TFG going unpunished, going free, continuing to spread his poison and wield control of the crooked, America destroying GOP that keeps us living happily far away. The GOP is America’s fascist party. The Nazis rounded up the Jews, Gypsies, homosexuals, political opponents, asocials, Jehovah’s Witnesses, Poles, Soviet soldiers. The GOP with their illegitimate supreme court appointed by a traitor/insurrectionist and stacked by an illegally stonewalling Mitch McConnell is hell bent on turning America into a christian country, governed by the bible. They have already done more harm to the US than anyone can imagine Italy’s new government getting done with the time they will have in office. Do you know what it’s like to walk past a schoolyard full of children playing, yelling, laughing, knowing they have zero chance of being shot today? Do you know what it’s like to go to a theater, a mall, a concert, and have zero fear for your life? To drive on the highways and not fear being shot through your car window randomly? No you don’t, not any more. Okay, so some of our boxes from America “fell off the back of a truck”. Ya gotta pay some dues to your new country. We live with peace of mind every day. This election robs some of that, but all we can do is wait and see. In comedy and dictatorships, timing is everything.

Louis Anderson – If You Never Saw Him Live You Really Missed Something

Another great has passed, and though we will always have his body of work to enjoy, there is nothing like seeing a master comedian at work. If you never had the chance to see Louis Anderson weave comedy gossamer live on a stage, you really missed something.

Comedy can be many things, but in my forty-nine years as a comedian I have never seen anyone do comedy the way Louis did. He gently, unhurriedly, delivered the most poignant, incisive, empathetic, hilarious, honest comedy I’ve ever seen. He was so gentle the harsh truths of his and all our lives didn’t sting. But they certainly hit their mark. He took his time onstage, as if spontaneously thinking of what to say next, yet the show was so beautifully written, so well reasoned, it surprised and delighted at every turn.

Louis could play anywhere, because his act was so human, so humane. He could probably do the same show at a retirement home he’d do to Hell’s Angels and get a standing ovation in both places (okay, maybe not a full standing ovation at a retirement home). We worked outdoor, out of control, wide open county fairs together back in the day. Open air stages in the bright sunlight of late afternoon. Motorcycles speeding by right in front of us, laughter, eating, running, shouting, music; I don’t remember but I think the money must have been great for us to venture into that comedy hell. And yet there was Louis, as quiet as ever onstage, having faith that they’d come around, lean in, start to listen, always triumphing in the end. He emanated vulnerability, the seeming opposite of much comedy, but it made people love him.

I loved the show “Baskets”, where Louie played Christine, a character based on his mother. Not a moment’s hesitation for the audience to suspend disbelief. His Christine was so real, so believable as a put upon woman dealing with two sons and romance and life, and never once gave us a distorted parody of what someone who had no idea of women’s lives thought a woman should be. What a heart he had! There was a scene at the end of one of the episodes where Louis as Christine puts on her black bathing suit and all alone, walks into the water, finally enjoying the relief of it, looking at the lights, breathing out, and I cried my eyes out. I wished she was my mother.

He was so full of love, onstage and off. He never walked by a panhandler without giving, he never left a waiting fan without an autograph or photo no matter how many he’d already done. He kept in touch with friends and went above and beyond. The last time I saw Louie was right before the pandemic when our mutual friend Doug Kleiman took me to New York’s Cutting Room to see Louie’s act. That show blew me away. To have been in comedy that long and still come up with a show as strong and stunning as in the beginning is no easy thing. I was floored. He was fantastic.

Please don’t say to me “Sorry for your loss”. We weren’t close friends, but part of the comedy family where we all seem to keep tabs on each other. With his voice silenced, I would say to you rather, “Sorry for our loss”.

The 500 Podcast with Josh Adam Meyers streaming now Dec 2021

Comedian Elayne Boosler screams out the blues and breaks free from society’s constraints, all to the sound of her idol Janis Joplin and her band Big Brother & the Holding Company’s 1968 album Cheap Thrills.

The point of rules is that they are meant to be broken, and boundaries are meant to be pushed. Otherwise society never changes and we are doomed to entropy and internal collapse. That’s why artists like Janis Joplin remain so eternally relevant and worth our attention and praise. Leading her band Big Brother &The Holding Company, she roared against the buttoned-down conformism of her era with powerful albums like 1968’s Cheap Thrills. And still to this day she is a major inspiration to comedian Elayne Boosler, who smashed through barriers in the entertainment industry as well, becoming the first woman to ever record a one hour stand-up special.
Listen on Apple podcasts.
And here.