Thursday, March 12, 2015

In Memorium: Richard Sher

(Yes, I'm aware that Terry Pratchett also just passed away, but I've been working this tribute out in my head for a while and finally submitted it to the "Says You!" site.  I also figured I'd post it here.)

I've seen "Says You!" recorded twice in my life, once at the Camden Opera House and once at USM in Portland.  I've listened for years, off and on at first, but then became a truly die-hard fan as time went on.  It's not uncommon for me to simply play episodes while I work all day, struggling to THIS time remember all of the words, trivia, and fun I hear so I can spread it to others (which they're undoubtedly sick of).

There aren't many entertainers that I consider a true "influence" on my life.  A few writers have certainly inspired my love of writing and heavily influenced my writing style.  A few entertainers have taught me ways to tell jokes, relate a story, or simply talk to people.  Richard Sher, and by association, the panelists of his show, taught me something about myself that I was in danger of losing.

Growing up, I was the standard "nerd" in school.  I read books all the time, could recite the most exasperatingly minute trivia regarding things like Star Wars, and found myself often ostracized from other people because I'd try to talk about something "intellectual" and their eyes would glaze over and they'd tease me.

For many years I tried to "dumb myself down," taking the time to follow things that I really had little to no interest in.  I found myself slowly sinking into a world of "click bait" headlines, network sitcom-style humor, and movies whose sole purpose was to remove the money from my wallet without providing anything mentally stimulating in return.  I was steadily becoming the "lowest common denominator."

Discovering "Says You!" however, woke me from what, looking back, is almost like a bad dream.  I can barely remember the things I spent my days doing before Richard and his friends made me realize that not only is it okay to exercise my brain and focus on the things that I love to learn about, it can actually be a lot of fun when you're with the right people.   It's also okay to have people "boo" you, though I think Richard fed off that more than I ever could.

I might once again be "that guy" to my friends: the person who seems to know a random fact about any topic that gets mentioned or is able to answer a question meant as a hypothetical.  However, I have a lot more fun in my life than I did before, and I only wish I had mustered up the courage to write in sooner to the program with a question, a suggestion, a correction, or the fact that for years it drove me nuts how Richard would say "find the bluffer" when he meant the opposite.

I was saddened when MPBN stopped airing the show.  Actually, I was irate enough to cancel my sponsorship and write an extremely (probably overly) harsh email to them to complain about the steady decline in the quality of their programming.  I keep every episode I've purchased close by so I can pull one out and listen at a moment's notice (and have multiple back-ups in case anything happens to my copies), and have long come to consider Richard (and, again, by association Arnie, Tony, Carolyn, Paula, Barry, Francine, Flash, and everybody else on the show) a dear friend.  His passing has left my and many other lives a bit emptier, and while the show will never be the same without the warmth, kindness, humor, and friendship that radiated from him, I can only hope it will continue on so that I might be able to help keep his legacy alive, in my own small way, by finally contributing to its success.

May your humor be the only reason the next life is filled with boos and hisses (to which I expect you to respond with "Thank you!"), Richard.

Erik Bell
Fan To The End Of My Days

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