• Like every other critic in the world, I noticed long ago that it was easier to write bad reviews than good ones, and I could never think of a succinct explanation of why this should be so. Then, shortly after I filed my drama column for last Friday’s Wall Street Journal, it hit me like a flounder across the chops: good reviews aren’t funny. Only when a show is horrible does a critic have legitimate occasion to make jokes about it, and it’s the jokes that make bad reviews so readable. So long as you’ve got a halfway decent sense of humor, it’s not hard to make fun of a piece of junk. (On the other hand, the shrewd critic saves his outrage for the rare occasions when somebody who should damned well know better does something absolutely unforgivable.)
• An actress friend shared a delicious piece of theater argot with me yesterday. It seems that when you’re doing a comedy and no one in the audience is in the mood to laugh, the chances are good that somebody in the cast will sooner or later come storming offstage muttering, “That’s it–I’m dropping ’em.” (Meaning, of course, his or her pants.) Surely this is at least as good as any of my favorite jazz-related idioms, which tend in any case to be barely intelligible to outsiders.
If you’re curious as to what I’m talking about, here’s a famous story known to all jazz musicians of a certain age: Lester Young, who drank like a fish, was riding back to Manhattan from the airport in a cab, suffering from a seemingly terminal hangover. The cabby hit a pothole dead center and Young moaned in response, “Oh, man, just play vanilla.”
• Sunday was my forty-ninth birthday, and I had a perfectly wonderful time the whole day long. In fact, I’ve been having a perfectly wonderful time ever since I posted my drama-column teaser on Friday morning and hit the road for Washington, so much so that I don’t yet feel like writing about any of it. For the moment, I’d rather keep on enjoying the echoes of recent pleasure that continue to bounce off me.
Right now, all I want to say is this: nobody in the world has better friends.