APRIL MOVIE THON DAY 1: The Jerk (1979)

I think I quote The Jerk and say lines from it more than any other movie, nearly having absorbed it into the ways that I think and do and act and live since I first saw it in my single digit years. It’s absolutely my junk food warm blanket movie, a reminder of a time when the only responsibility I had was to watch movies over and over again, unlike now, when I face a mountain of multiple responsibilities but you know, still watch movies over and over again.

Imagine, Steve Martin was probably the biggest deal in comedy in 1979, selling out arenas, having best selling albums, being a cultural force with his appearances on Saturday Night Live and now, he’s about to step into another media and take a chance at failure and somehow takes a movie about failure and becomes a success.

Instead of me telling you the whole story of how Navin R. Johnson was born a poor black child, found his special purpose and found his fortune and lost it through the invention of the  Optigrab, I will just tell you I love when I discover that the beliefs I have about this movie were true. In his book Born Standing Up: A Comic’s Life, Martin said that the set was joyous, with cast and crew eating together every day and you can feel the joy he had when they filmed the scene where he and Bernadette Peters sing “Tonight You Belong to Me” together.

I remember watching this at the age of eight and finally understanding why people did crazy things for love. If everyone was as wonderful and perfect and magical as Bernadette Peters, it had to make sense.

As I’ve learned and grown and loved and lost, The Jerk remains there for me, a movie I’ve watched hundreds of times and can turn down the volume and word for word recite the dialogue. I always find something new to laugh at, like the moment where Navin sees his name in print for the first time or the disco in his house that everyone leaves behind after it all falls apart.

If life is treating you like life treats you, I invite you to watch this movie. Allow it to wash over you. I think you’ll smile at least once and that’s better than staring into the void and screaming.

“Oh, this is the best pizza in a cup ever. This guy is unbelievable. He ran the old Cup ‘o Pizza guy out of business. People come from all over to eat this.”

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