Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Mourning The Passing of a Poet

My Dad used to love to watch Rowan and Martin's Laugh-In. I didn't really get most of the humour, since I was only a kindergartener when the show began. But I looked forward to it so much because I knew it meant that my Dad would laugh.

A lot.

He had a really great, deep, belly laugh kind of laugh.

One of the performers on the show passed away yesterday. His real name was James Bateman, but you probably know him by his stage name. He began his career with a comedy routine in which he assumed the character of a southern poet. Reportedly, he named himself after Norwegian poet Henrik Ibsen because "...if you say his name with a Southern accent it sounds like Henry Gibson."

I'd seen him in a few things over the years - he played the Nazi in The Blues Brothers, Mr. Wormwood, the supermarket manager in Innerspace, and Reilly O'Reilly, a leprechaun in a cute made-for-TV movie, The Luck of the Irish. When I looked at his list of credits on IMDB, I was surprised to see how continuously he'd been acting, in a wide variety of shows.

I have to confess, though, that I wasn't aware that his trademark on Laugh-In was writing and reciting short poems, often with sharp satirical or political themes. Reuters notes:

Each week, a giant flower in his hand, he recited a signature poem, introducing them with the catchphrase that became his signature: "A Poem, by Henry Gibson."

The poems proved so popular that they led to the release of two comedy albums, "The Alligator" and "The Grass Menagerie," as well as a book, "A Flower Child's Garden of Verses."

The LA Times has a great piece about him. There are some very fun reminiscences from coworkers, friends and family. I was surprised to read that he truly was a poet. I don't know why this surprised me, but it did.

"He wrote all those himself," Jon Gibson said. "It was a point of pride that he only read poems that he himself wrote."

Whenever I saw him throughout the years, I thought back to that time of my life in a small house in a small family room with a small black and white TV, when some outrageously dressed comedians brought joy to my father's life.

I miss my Dad's laugh. I wish I'd recorded it, as others have recorded Henry Gibson's funny little poems, to enjoy even though he's gone now. Maybe you could do me a favor. Spend a minute listening to the audio clip and reading his poems below, and let loose with a great big, hearty laugh.

It's good to have poetry and joy in our lives, don't you think?

What Freedom Means to Me sung by Henry Gibson

Send Me A Voice Comment! | Copy This

Marshall McLuhan,

What are yuh doin'?

The Eyelash
The eyelash is a friend to man.
It lives to serve the eye.
It fights the dirt and dust and grime,
And keeps the eyeball dry.
Flick, flick. Flick, flick.
It's busy as a bee.
Flick, flick. Flick, flick.
It's helpin' you and me.

("That was an original folk song.
Which I wrote originally for my folks." H. Gibson)

Animal Trio
The bullfrog is my pal true blue.
He don't smoke or drink or chew.
His only hang-up is he sniffs glue.
If I was a bullfrog I would too.

I just found out what the aardvark does
When he's feeling kinda blue and wants to get a little buzz.
He sneaks off down to the edge of the beach
And turns himself on by sniffin' bleach.

The hedgehog is a groovy friend.
When he dresses like a hippy he's the livin' end.
He's only got one hang-up when he's at the logs.
He turns himself on smokin' dental floss.

Dogs Are Better Than Ants

Dogs are better than ants
Because you don't have to bend so far to pet them
In addition, they are sturdy old muzzlers
Who fetch us our slippers, papers, and twig chunks
Twig chunks
But most of all, they stay out of jelly jars and
Never go squish if you happen to step on them.

The Thumbnail

Did you ever stop to figure
Why the thumbnail is so hard?
Well it hasn't any choice
With all that skin to guard.
It may look fat and pudgy
But it's heart is good and true.
It's prettier than a toenail
And easier to chew.

(Flowers have always been the motivating force of my life)

They are not all flower children,
All those that use the name.
A lot are just imposters,
Playin' at the game.

Beware (beware),
Beware (beware)
Of artificial flowers,
They may be nice to look at,
But they're dead and can not grow.
Beware (beware),
Beware (beware)
Of artificial flowers.
They're plastic up on top,
And they're wire down below.

The real flower children
Are filled with love.
Phonies, they just scoff at love -
Their hearts are made of wood.

Beware (beware),
Beware (beware)
Of artificial flowers,
They may be nice to look at,
But they're dead and can not grow.
Beware (beware),
Beware (beware)
Of artificial flowers.
They're plastic up on top,
And they're wire down below.

True blue flower children
Do not act strange or queer.
They know the world has got to change,
And it must start right here.

Beware (beware),
Beware (beware)
Of artificial flowers,
They may be nice to look at,
But they're dead and can not grow.
Beware (beware),
Beware (beware)
Of artificial flowers.
They're plastic up on top,
And they're wire down below.


Barry said...

I loved Henry Gibson and used to be able to recite some of his poetry.

We lost Mary Travers yesterday too.

How sad.

Kathy Amen said...

I was a Laugh-in fan spaced somewhere between you and your father, age-wise. I had no idea of the origin of his name--cool!

phd in yogurtry said...

Still laughing about brotherly love and cream cheese : )

We used to all gather around the tube for Laugh-In. It was one of the few shows my dad liked that I looked forward to.

A Tired Wife said...

Laugh-In was the "Must See" TV of my childhood. Of course, I think my dad was more interested in Goldie Hawn than Henry Gibson!

It's a shame that there aren't many shows like that around anymore ... shows where the entire family (including Dad) sat down and watched together.

lisleman said...

Laugh-in was a great show. I thought I was very hip to be watching it.

Goldie Hawn was sexy. Lily Tomlin cracked me up.

I remember Henry Gibson but not that much. Your post has me doing some quick looking - he was in Wedding Crashers.

La Belette Rouge said...

I had no idea that he wrote poetry. But like you I only saw him on Laugh in and I was far too young to get the jokes. Love the ant/dog poem.

London escorts said...

I'll miss him.