“Merv Griffin!”

{Or: How To Watch an 80s Comedy & Retain Ties With Those You Love}

I love fall. Today is October 1, and already I’ve had fall decor and candy corn in my house for days. (And I’m singing the praises of the new candy corn M&Ms, which I’ve only had at work. Too dangerous to allow in the home.)
To kick off the month of October, 31-days of pumpkiny delights, today I watched The Man With Two Brains. This is as close to a scary movie as I’m comfortable: the funny kind. (You guys! Young Frankenstein! But that’s a post for another day.) This is Steve Martin at his 80s best (1983 to be exact. A good year for funny things to be made, turns out…) and very Naked-Gun-absurd.

But 80s comedies can be tricky…

If you didn’t grow up loving one, it can be very hard to love when you watch as a grown-up.

I learned this lesson the hard way, with two different boys/movies in my life.

One time with Pee Wee’s Big Adventure, which I loved. As a kid, I’d rented the VHS at our hometown video store (whose shelves, I recall, were made of wood. Not Blockbuster plastic or metal. I can still smell them). When I found PWBA on DVD in high school, I was so thrilled to own it. I was also thrilled to share it with my high school boyfriend, who loved & lived for movies but had somehow escaped childhood without learning there’s no basement in the Alamo. (Movie snob with no prior exposure: Just not a good combination in which to encounter an 80s comedy…)
It. Could. Not. Have. Been. Worse.
He hated it. Straight hated every second and just made it clear that my favorite parts were not funny or worth his time. It was rough.
But…so are Pee Wee movies, if I’m speaking objectively. So I understand his reaction, I guess, even if I didn’t like it.
(But seriously, who keeps a straight face through Large Marge?)

The other time was years later, with The Man With Two Brains, which this boy loved. (And I didn’t.) He had fond memories from watching it as a kid. Lines memorized. Jokes to repeat. We tried to watch it once, and I don’t remember the circumstances, but I do remember I wasn’t very nice about it. (And I was old enough to know better. Way out of high school.)
I didn’t find TMWTB funny that day, but I think I also just wasn’t in a movie mood…(another bad combination in which to encounter an 80s comedy you’ve never seen before). We didn’t get very far before he switched it off, and we never finished it—even though I’m pretty sure I swore I wanted to.

*Sigh* After being on both sides of this fight, I hope I’m smart enough to see it coming if it happens again. And I hope I can just suck it up and be nice, whichever side I’m on. (Well, rewind, I hope I get the chance to be in this situation again. Dear universe: I’d watch a bad movie with a boy sometime…If you want to arrange it.)

Think about it.

Loving a movie as a kid makes it so much easier to love it as an adult. It just does.
I can love Casablanca now even though I wasn’t alive in 1942, but Pee Wee ain’t Humphrey Bogart, y’all.

If someone whom you love loves a movie, whether you love it is not the point.

So I watched The Man With Two Brains today. Because it’s been in my Netflix queue for a while now, and part of me has wanted to symbolically make nice with boy #2 over this moment from a long time ago.
And I enjoyed it. Not because it’s the funniest movie I’ve ever seen, not because it was super well made, but because it means something to someone who means something to me. (That, and Steve Martin is forever a delight.)

I think this means I’m growing up…but not too much.
After all, here’s a moment I found particularly funny:

Kathleen Turner: “Who are those assholes on the porch?” (disgusted re: maid & gardener, who are standing near many large potted plants)
Steve Martin: “Those aren’t assholes. it’s pronounced azaleas.”


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