Wednesday, July 21, 2010

More Pekar

Here's Harvey Pekar's last appearance on David Letterman's show, shortly after Letterman moved to CBS. I feel like a part of my sense of humor and enjoyment of absurdity was forged at least minutely by Letterman's show. I've always been a night owl, even when I was tiny, and I saw a lot of influential weirdos for the first time on Letterman's show on nights when I didn't have to be at school the next day. Letterman was pretty adventurous in his choice of guests, at least until he retreated entirely into show biz tropes and let Conan O'Brien and the corporatization of every genuine emotion steal his thunder. However, as much as I enjoyed Letterman's show and his sense of absurdity, I have to admit that he's a true failure of a human being. Watch his paranoid, self-centered, insecure smug condescension leak out of him when he's forced to cede control to anyone who has anything besides Hollywood bullshit to say. He's more than happy to puncture Hollywood bullshit when he's the one in charge, but when he's forced to acknowledge his own complicity by a guest too clever to bully, he turns into a schoolyard jerk. Harvey Pekar was someone who was honest about his own numerous faults, a real human being to admire, a chronicler of human beings. So much of popular culture is about dehumanization, especially every single Hollywood movie (with maybe 12 exceptions)from the last 15 years, which all look like they were directed by the same dim-witted asshole (Christopher Nolan?), and every social interaction is turning into numb desensitization. Some people remind us that we're actually people, and not a bunch of fucking mouth breathers. Harvey Pekar was one of them, and it's too bad he's dead, even though we're all going where he's gone and it's no real tragedy for an old man to die. R.I.P. Harvey Pekar. (This post brought to you by alcohol and maudlin self-pity.)

UPDATE: Letterman always referred to Pekar's comics as "little." Pekar wrote once that Letterman was dumbfounded Pekar had to have a day job. He thought it was an act. He thought that anyone who published something from a major press was a working professional in that field. That says a lot about Letterman's limitations and show-biz blinders. Watch how Pekar grabs his comic away from Letterman after his intro. He's taking back ownership of his work. The show would never have given him that copy back. They probably thought it was some kind of industry freebie, but that prop was a working guy's living.

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