Wednesday, November 04, 2015

The 30-Day Writing Challenge: Someone Who Fascinates Me and Why

We return today to my latest stab at the 30-Day Writing Challenge, taking on the topic of "Someone Who Fascinates Me, And Why."

Today is November 4th, and it's the birthday of one of my heroes: cowboy, actor, vaudeville performer, comedian, writer, and political commentator Will Rogers.

William Penn Adair Rogers was born into a Cherokee family in Oologah, Oklahoma*, in 1879. He worked as a cowboy, learning the roping skills that he would later turn into a successful stage act in vaudeville. He travelled around the world, working various jobs from Argentina to South Africa, ending up as a trick roper in "Texas Jack's Wild West Circus."

He was friendly, hard-working, and well-read, and he eventually moved from the circus to vaudeville and then to the movies, where his down-home, folksy demeanor and multiple skills eventually led to a radio program and a wildly popular syndicated newspaper column. He was a master of satirical commentary, with none of the bitter, ad-hominem attacks that are so common today. It was Will Rogers who first made such notable comments as, "I am not a member of an organized political party. I am a Democrat," and, "I don't make jokes. I just watch the government and report the facts."

His humorous, often earthy anecdotes and friendly style allowed him to poke fun at figures across the political spectrum, without personal spite or intentionally giving offense ... his tremendous popularity was a reflection of his easygoing, yet insightful personality.

Will Rogers didn't think much of what he viewed as untruthful and unseemly political campaigning. As a way of lampooning political campaigns, he ran a mock campaign for president in 1928 as the candidate of the "No-Bunk Party" against Republican Herbert Hoover and Democrat Al Smith ... on election day, he grandly declared victory and immediately resigned. When asked if there should be debates between the candidates, he replied, "Yes, joint debates — in any joint you name." He was asked what the nation's farmers needed, and answered, "A punch in the jaw if (they believe) that either of the parties cares a damn about (them) after the election." And when asked about the importance of a candidate's image, he snorted, "I hope there is some sane people who will appreciate dignity and not showmanship in their choice for the presidency**."

Will Rogers was killed in an airplane crash in 1935, along with his friend Wiley Post. His death, in my opinion, marked the end of an era in which good humor and gentle satire could be used to skewer the pompous and the useless. I've often wished I could have known Will Rogers, whose style and demeanor I've tried to emulate with much of what I've written. He would probably thought me to be a bit mean-spirited because of my Right- and Left-Cheek Ass Clown awards, but I'm pretty sure he'd have approved the selections ... and done a better job of satirizing the recipients than I.

Dear Readers, Will Rogers is the person who fascinates me, and he's assured of a seat at the table on my Last Supper List.

Have a good day. More thoughts tomorrow.


* It was called "Indian Territory" at the time.

** You'd think he foresaw the coming of Donald Trump.


eViL pOp TaRt said...

He was one of the sharpest humorists of his time. His early death was a great loss.

John Hill said...

Oh he had some great comments, didn't he?

Linda Kay said...

Such incredible sense of humor. Good choice.

Grand Crapaud said...

A great choice! You have some good humor too.

Mike said...

If you were born a Cherokee in 1879 you had to have a sense of humor.