COMEDY 

“Genius is Easy, Comedy is Hard”

There’s no evidence that Albert Einstein, iconic genius of the twentieth century, secretly wanted to be a stand-up comic. But there are vague hints to be found. Look deeply enough . . . and cherry pick.

Einstein was famously indifferent to fame. He said, “With fame, I became more and more stupid.” Remember the photograph of him sticking his tongue out at a journalist who wanted to interview him? Accosted by a reporter who asked him for an interview, he said, “I’m not Einstein,” and the reporter said, “Yes, you are. I’ve seen your picture in the newspapers.” Einstein replied, “Who should know better — you or me?”  He deflected intrusive reporters by saying, “People often tell me I resemble Einstein.”

He hated being the celebrated superstar and stand-in for genius we know him to be. At times he was bored with fame: “Why should I be honored for what doing what . . . came naturally?”

Just because you’re good at something does not mean you have to like it. It’s not surprising Einstein might wish to be good at something (aside from physics) he really enjoyed — being witty.

Others called him a genius, but he never thought so. Einstein said he wasn’t smarter than anyone else . . . he insisted that he merely stayed on a problem longer than others. Of course, only a genius would say something like that. Nevertheless, it’s a good lesson for the rest of us… especially our grandchildren.

His private life was enriched by romances, indiscretions, philandering, paramours, and sexual adventures. Or, as he put it, “I prefer silent vice to ostentatious virtue.” He carefully guarded his privacy, including his intimate friendships with prominent women, like Elisabeth, the Queen Mother of Belgium. He wrote to her, “Because of a peculiar property I have acquired, anything I do is likely to develop into a ridiculous comedy.”

In 1905, his annus mirabilis (miracle year), he produced four discoveries, each of which was worthy of a physics Nobel prize. In 1916, he predicted the existence of gravitational waves. All the justifiable publicity following their recent detection has eclipsed an important, hitherto unremarked aspect of his private life: a possibly-secret desire to be a stand-up comic.

However, he did not want to be remembered as a towering figure in the annals of physics. He said, “Yesterday idolized, today hated, tomorrow forgotten, and the day after tomorrow promoted to sainthood.” He wanted to be remembered as a person who valued his private life: “Love is a better teacher than a sense of duty.”

Of course, genius is easy, if like Einstein, you’re a genius. But comedy is hard, even for comics . . . even for geniuses. Scouring the Einstein Archives, what fractional evidence can we find to support a truly dubious hypothesis that Einstein was a closet stand-up comic?

When asked, “What is the greatest invention of all time?” Albert Einstein answered, “Compound Interest!”

He inquired of a train conductor, while passing Oxford Station, “Does Oxford stop at this train?”

“Once you know the Universe is matter expanding into nothingness, wearing plaid with stripes comes easy.”

“We all know that light travels faster than sound; that’s why certain people appear bright until you hear them speak.” I suggest he was referring to journalists.

“Life is finite; time is infinite. The probability that I am alive is zero; in spite of this, I am alive. Now how is that?”

It was not a secret that Einstein liked women. In fact many of his affairs are well-documented.

This cartoon appeared in the New Yorker magazine. You can only imagine what occurred prior to this scene. The young woman, smoking a cigarette, is frowning. The caption, Einstein speaking, says, “To you it was fast”

Einstein could be seriously charming, but maybe full-fledged comedy eluded him; maybe he didn’t try hard enough. Comedy is really hard. Perhaps, in a parallel anti-matter Universe, a night club owner would give him a few minutes on the stage of his comedy club. He could advertise these luminous one-liners from The Man-Of-The-Century . . . the ultimate stand-up comic? Yes, genius is easy (if you’re Einstein) — but comedy is hard (if you’re Einstein).

Even though there was no known repulsive force at the time, Einstein added a “fudge factor” to his 1916 equations to allow for the possibility of repulsive force in the Universe. He famously remarked to astrophysicist George Gamov that removing this so-called “cosmological constant” was his “greatest blunder.” Too bad Einstein didn’t live long enough to know what we have recently discovered from the Hubble Telescope: a repulsive gravitational force exists, and it’s called “dark energy” — responsible for the accelerating expansion of the Universe.

“The only time I ever made a mistake was on the one occasion when I said I was wrong . . . and I was right.” He never said this. I did. But he should have. It would have been his comic cosmic trope.

“Always be yourself,” I was once advised, “unless you’re a jerk; in that case you should be someone else.” Some of us may have actually wanted to be someone else. In fact, when young I wanted to be Albert Einstein. After eighty-four years, it still hasn’t happened. I also wanted to be a stand-up comic, but that never happened either. So, here’s my “Plan B:” imagine Albert Einstein saying, “Genius is easy. Comedy is hard.”

***

Edison’s greatest achievement came in 1879 when he invented the electric company.

His design was a brilliant adaptation of the simple electrical circuit: the electric company sends electricity through a wire to a customer, then immediately gets the electricity back through another wire, and then (this is the brilliant part) sends it back to the customer  again.    —Dave Barry

COMEDY 

“Genius is Easy, Comedy is Hard”

There’s no evidence that Albert Einstein, iconic genius of the twentieth century, secretly wanted to be a stand-up comic. But there are vague hints to be found. Look deeply enough . . . and cherry pick.

Einstein was famously indifferent to fame. He said, “With fame, I became more and more stupid.” Remember the photograph of him sticking his tongue out at a journalist who wanted to interview him? Accosted by a reporter who asked him for an interview, he said, “I’m not Einstein,” and the reporter said, “Yes, you are. I’ve seen your picture in the newspapers.” Einstein replied, “Who should know better — you or me?”  He deflected intrusive reporters by saying, “People often tell me I resemble Einstein.”

He hated being the celebrated superstar and stand-in for genius we know him to be. At times he was bored with fame: “Why should I be honored for what doing what . . . came naturally?”

Just because you’re good at something does not mean you have to like it. It’s not surprising Einstein might wish to be good at something (aside from physics) he really enjoyed — being witty.

Others called him a genius, but he never thought so. Einstein said he wasn’t smarter than anyone else . . . he insisted that he merely stayed on a problem longer than others. Of course, only a genius would say something like that. Nevertheless, it’s a good lesson for the rest of us… especially our grandchildren.

His private life was enriched by romances, indiscretions, philandering, paramours, and sexual adventures. Or, as he put it, “I prefer silent vice to ostentatious virtue.” He carefully guarded his privacy, including his intimate friendships with prominent women, like Elisabeth, the Queen Mother of Belgium. He wrote to her, “Because of a peculiar property I have acquired, anything I do is likely to develop into a ridiculous comedy.”

In 1905, his annus mirabilis (miracle year), he produced four discoveries, each of which was worthy of a physics Nobel prize. In 1916, he predicted the existence of gravitational waves. All the justifiable publicity following their recent detection has eclipsed an important, hitherto unremarked aspect of his private life: a possibly-secret desire to be a stand-up comic.

However, he did not want to be remembered as a towering figure in the annals of physics. He said, “Yesterday idolized, today hated, tomorrow forgotten, and the day after tomorrow promoted to sainthood.” He wanted to be remembered as a person who valued his private life: “Love is a better teacher than a sense of duty.”

Of course, genius is easy, if like Einstein, you’re a genius. But comedy is hard, even for comics . . . even for geniuses. Scouring the Einstein Archives, what fractional evidence can we find to support a truly dubious hypothesis that Einstein was a closet stand-up comic?

When asked, “What is the greatest invention of all time?” Albert Einstein answered, “Compound Interest!”

He inquired of a train conductor, while passing Oxford Station, “Does Oxford stop at this train?”

“Once you know the Universe is matter expanding into nothingness, wearing plaid with stripes comes easy.”

“We all know that light travels faster than sound; that’s why certain people appear bright until you hear them speak.” I suggest he was referring to journalists.

“Life is finite; time is infinite. The probability that I am alive is zero; in spite of this, I am alive. Now how is that?”

It was not a secret that Einstein liked women. In fact many of his affairs are well-documented.

This cartoon appeared in the New Yorker magazine. You can only imagine what occurred prior to this scene. The young woman, smoking a cigarette, is frowning. The caption, Einstein speaking, says, “To you it was fast”

Einstein could be seriously charming, but maybe full-fledged comedy eluded him; maybe he didn’t try hard enough. Comedy is really hard. Perhaps, in a parallel anti-matter Universe, a night club owner would give him a few minutes on the stage of his comedy club. He could advertise these luminous one-liners from The Man-Of-The-Century . . . the ultimate stand-up comic? Yes, genius is easy (if you’re Einstein) — but comedy is hard (if you’re Einstein).

Even though there was no known repulsive force at the time, Einstein added a “fudge factor” to his 1916 equations to allow for the possibility of repulsive force in the Universe. He famously remarked to astrophysicist George Gamov that removing this so-called “cosmological constant” was his “greatest blunder.” Too bad Einstein didn’t live long enough to know what we have recently discovered from the Hubble Telescope: a repulsive gravitational force exists, and it’s called “dark energy” — responsible for the accelerating expansion of the Universe.

“The only time I ever made a mistake was on the one occasion when I said I was wrong . . . and I was right.” He never said this. I did. But he should have. It would have been his comic cosmic trope.

“Always be yourself,” I was once advised, “unless you’re a jerk; in that case you should be someone else.” Some of us may have actually wanted to be someone else. In fact, when young I wanted to be Albert Einstein. After eighty-four years, it still hasn’t happened. I also wanted to be a stand-up comic, but that never happened either. So, here’s my “Plan B:” imagine Albert Einstein saying, “Genius is easy. Comedy is hard.”

***

Edison’s greatest achievement came in 1879 when he invented the electric company.

His design was a brilliant adaptation of the simple electrical circuit: the electric company sends electricity through a wire to a customer, then immediately gets the electricity back through another wire, then (this is the brilliant part) sends it right back to the customer again.    —Dave Barry