No one does it like Lucy
JAMESTOWN, NY — Not much happens in Jamestown anymore. Empty storefronts and a boarded-up train station tell the story of a city long-passed its prime. But in early August the community came to life with red-headed fury as thousands gathered to celebrate Lucille Ball’s 100th Birthday.
“I Love Lucy” still reaches millions of television viewers every day, according to the Lucy-Desi Museum. And why shouldn’t it?
No one can make you laugh like Lucy.
The Lucille Ball Festival of Comedy (a trip inspired by my mom) reminded everyone, whether they were around when “I Love Lucy” first aired or, like me, grew up with reruns, that true comedy didn’t need to be raunchy or sarcastic.
Lucy made people clutch their sides in fits of laughter and she did it all without making jokes about sex or kicking Rick where it counts. Lucy made us laugh by gobbling up dozens of chocolates at one time. She brought us to tears when she gulped down Aunt Martha’s Old Fashioned Salad Dressing. And who could forget her “mirror” routine with Harpo Marx? (Lucy later confessed this was her favorite episode.)
Sorry, Charlie Sheen, your jokes about boozing and philandering don’t make the cut.
Twenty-two years after Lucille Ball’s death fans from all over the world came to her birthplace dressed in their best blue and white polka-dotted house dresses, red lipstick and red wigs. Ethel Mertz look-a-likes scurried up and down the main street crying “Oh, Lucy,” and 915 of us (yep, me too) gathered in one spot near City Hall to make it into the Guinness Book of World Records as the most people dressed like Lucy Ricardo in one place. The event even inspired one man to propose to his girlfriend, right there in front of hundreds of redheads!
Can you imagine people packing like sardines in costume for any of today’s comedians? Which comedian’s show on the air now will make it into reruns for 50-plus years (and still make people laugh)?
My guess is no one, because no one does it like Lucy.
Comedy has changed to the point that family hour no longer exists. Think about what comes on network television at 7 p.m. Would you let your 7-year-old watch it? Weigh the option of watching an “I Love Lucy” episode where Lucy and Ethel run against each other for president of their women’s club or an episode of “How I Met Your Mother” where Ted and Barney compete to sleep with the same girl.
That’s not to say Lucy wasn’t without scandal. After all, she was the first pregnant woman to be shown on television and her Lucy Ricardo character often found herself in a jam when she suspected Ricky of having affairs. (Ricky was a faithful but in real life Desi wasn’t.)
For six seasons “I Love Lucy” used clean humor and hilarious physical comedy to entertain viewers of all ages. She charmed us with a giant loaf of bread, a fake nose and a clown costume.
When we were growing up my sister and I sometimes groaned when Mom pulled out the “I Love Lucy” tapes. We shook our heads when she showed us the catalogue that featured the newest Lucy doll (we’re pretty sure she has them all).
Now, I get it and, as it turns out, I do love Lucy.