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Monday, May 27, 2013

Don't Put Your Lips Together And Blow

My wife and I recently went to The Fox Theater to see Jerry Seinfeld, who is back in top form. The place was packed and in a good mood from the moment opening act Chuck Martin (who has written for "Arrested Development" and other series) hit the stage. Martin did fifteen very funny minutes -- perfect for an opener -- then brought out Jerry, who opened by sincerely thanking this town for its early support of "Seinfeld."

He told us that when NBC looked at the city-by-city ratings info in the first months, New York and St. Louis were the only two places with big audiences -- way above the rest of the country -- and that network executives figured that if midwesterners liked the show so much, perhaps it had more than the strictly northeast appeal they feared. So, if it weren't for viewers here, "Seinfeld" might not have stayed on the air (and he probably wouldn't have become a billionaire).

From there, he was off and running for ninety minutes of good, fresh material, with the classic Seinfeld attention to verbal details -- the cadence, the words choices, the timing -- that make him one of the all-time great standup comedians.

There was only one small distraction, and that was a guy a couple of dozen seats away from us who, instead of merely laughing and applauding when he liked a joke, insisted on whistling. Not the casual, around the house kind of whistling you might do when a song is stuck in your head and you're not in a humming mood. This was the two-fingers-in-the-mouth loud whistle you use to hail a cab during rush hour. It was piercing and shrill, totally inappropriate for an indoor venue (and if you're sitting close enough, annoying as hell at an outdoor event, too).

Certainly, there are times when whistling in public is appropriate:

  • You're performing "Whistle While You Work" in a stage production of "Snow White" -- and you're a dwarf;
  • You're pretending to be a construction worker watching Christina Hendricks cross the street;
  • You're performing Billy Joel's "The Stranger";
  • You're part of a flash mob acting out scenes from "Bridge On The River Kwai";
  • You're in a referee's uniform, actually officiating a game (not working at Foot Locker);
  • You're a teapot, and the water is boiling.
But in the confines of a crowded theater, when all of our attention is focused on the clever, funny guy onstage, a whistle like that from the audience is only slightly less unsuitable than yelling "fire."