Friday, January 25, 2013

Dick Van Dyke –– The (Oft Under-Appreciated) Comedic Genius

A man of every hour
The title of this post is a funny way to start, considering Dick Van Dyke is about to receive his Lifetime Achievement hardware from The SAG Awards this Sunday. Any award or honor bestowed upon Dick Van Dyke is deserved. Not that lifetime achievement awards should be how we validate our best entertainers, but sometimes that's what they get –– and at least they get them. 
Dick Van Dyke has made me laugh and smile so much. My cheeks are turning red just thinking about it. There is nothing I could value more than that. Awards aside, he's already won my heart. I've watched every single episode of 'The Dick Van Dyke Show' in existence, several of which I've watched multiple times. And, like other Dick Van Dyke Show super-fans, I always wish in vain there could have been a few more of them. I wish Carl Reiner was a little less rigid about putting an end to his wildly successful show at the height of its popularity, after only five seasons. 
The dynamic duo with Carl Reiner
And without question, my deep adoration for Mary Tyler Moore is inextricably linked to Dick Van Dyke. Much of her comic timing as Mary Richards on 'The Mary Tyler Moore Show' came straight from her mentor, Dick Van Dyke, from the time she spent with him learning her craft (and nailing it) as Laura Petrie on 'The Dick Van Dyke Show'. In fact, because I've watched both shows to the extent that I have, I've noticed Mary Richards' manner of speaking (Mary Tyler Moore's comedic rhythm and timing) and movements actually resemble Rob Petrie's –– not Laura's. Mary Tyler Moore would be the first to say she learned a lot from Dick Van Dyke in fine-tuning her craft and her own 'down-home'/Mid-West style charm for her version of a TV professional character (in her case, a TV news producer; in his, a TV variety show writer.) The difference was, she moved on from being the professional's dutiful housewife to being the female professional herself. And in turn, 'The Mary Tyler Moore Show' was altogether groundbreaking television, setting the bar for TV comedies to follow it, while showing the world a whole new version of what female TV characters had developed into. So at the very core of the monumental success of MTM's enterprises stands the genius comedic style of Dick Van Dyke.
She learned how to be a goofy fella from Dick Van Dyke
Twice, I've had a great time dressing up as an iconic MTM TV character, for two different Halloweens. In 2009, I dressed up as Mary Richards (you can see an image if you scroll down on that linked post.) This past Halloween, I dressed as Laura Petrie and my husband (reluctantly, while being a great sport about it) dressed as Rob Petrie. I even cajoled him into going artsy with it with me, letting me use gray face paint on us, wearing gray and black clothes, black hair (mine was a wig and his with black hair spray) –– so that we became Rob and Laura the only way anyone ever saw them: on black and white television. As if that wasn't enough, we went roller skating. It was a wonderful and memorable night. It was also a chance for me to spend an evening not just watching and being entertained as Rob and Laura Petrie have their shenanigans... but for my husband and I to have our own in the same vein. 
Rob and Laura Petrie for Halloween
Laura Petrie for Halloween, on rollerskates
Rob and Laura go rollerskating
The Dick Van Dyke Show, on rollerskates
Dick Van Dyke has entertained in so many ways, for so many decades. His brand of physical comedy and stylish pratfalls are legendary. His grace, sweet down-home modesty, good humor and kindness have always made him remarkable in the land of big egos. There are a lot of memorable performances to point to beyond 'The Dick Van Dyke Show' –– but for me, his work on that show is more than enough to perpetually be in awe of him. I can safely say I've had a crush on him for a very long time. I can't adequately describe the happiness his existence has brought to me, personally, and I haven't even lived in that era long ago when he was most appreciated. I only hope Dick Van Dyke truly realizes how much joy his presence continues to bring to our world –– still today and evermore –– via reruns, Netflix, Hulu, etc.

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