Life coaching: Ode to a comedian dying young

Marvin wasn't the kind of guy who memorized jokes and delivered them with comic timing. He looked at real life situations and gave extemporaneous performances that brought his audience to tears.

ben goldfarb 88 (photo credit:)
ben goldfarb 88
(photo credit: )
I was once part of a group of rambunctious teenagers who were hanging out on the river walk in San Antonio in the late 70s. We were singing Hebrew songs, even though we had no idea what the words meant. However, we were with Marvin, and we knew what that meant. We were in for the time of our lives. In the midst of our singing, we were confronted by a group of Palestinian students nearby who began "communicating" with us. Without a working knowledge of Arabic, we made a safe assumption that they were neither praising us, our ancestors, nor our descendents. Our response to their outbursts was to sing louder. We were under the false impression that elevating the volume would make us and our enemies understand the meaning of our nonsense syllables. Before we knew what was happening, Marvin approached the group and claimed to be an exchange student from South America. He put on a thick Spanish accent and got the group laughing so hard that they forgot their anger. They exchanged phone numbers and pats on the back. Marvin was the great peacemaker and statesman. Suddenly we saw a frozen chicken begin its trajectory from a second story window to some nearby bushes. On its heels (or frozen wings) was the man of the house, running to retrieve his dinner. He was screaming epithets at his wife as he desperately looked in the foliage for the inanimate fowl. Despite the fact that we attended high school, our English skills were nonetheless halfway decent. We understood that he wasn't praising his wife's cooking skills, nor her understanding of aerodynamics and gravity. This incident was funny in its own right, but only Marvin could upgrade it to the status of hilarious. After the man went back to his apartment to confront his poultry-tossing wife, Marvin did a brilliant impression of this guy. He mastered the accent, the body language, and included every nuance in his routine, capturing every detail of the event. His performance surpassed the original. Marvin wasn't the kind of guy who memorized jokes and delivered them with comic timing. He looked at real life situations and gave extemporaneous performances that brought his audience to tears and to the verge of losing control of certain bodily functions. His humor wasn't just a way to get a laugh. It was intelligent and deep. We learned a great deal about ourselves when the laughter died down. Marvin was educating us about life in a comic way that no school could duplicate. Marvin was my best friend. Many people gave him the same title. However, when he was with me, he conveyed the feeling that our friendship was special and that I was in competition with no one. Marvin packed more into his 17 years of life than many people do in a lifetime. He was truly alive in every sense of the word, which made his tragic death even more painful to all those who knew him. As long as we are alive, our mission has not yet been completed. I believe Marvin's soul was summoned on high, and this was proof that his mission on Earth was finished. My mission right now is to maintain the humorous tone of this column. If I fail to do that, I run the risk of Marvin kicking my tushie all over town in the next world. Darkness descended upon my soul when I found out that he was killed in a car accident. I entered a state of morbidity and angst that lasted for years. I was like a zombie. It was difficult to choose which Slurpee flavor to order at the neighborhood 7/11. I often found myself staring blankly at the Pakistani employee who waited patiently, adjusting his turban, until I placed my order. A few months later, John Lennon was killed. I wasn't having a good year. Two things happened that brought the light back into my eyes. One thing was internalizing the faith that everything happens for a reason and it is for the ultimate good. None of us could have done anything to prevent Marvin's death. Furthermore, our years on earth are numbered. We have to live each day to the fullest because we don't know which day will be our last. The second thing that brought the light back into my eyes was when we named our son. Marvin's Hebrew name was Meir, which means illuminate. My son's middle name is Ya'ir, which is the future tense of Meir, he will illuminate. My son, who should be blessed with 120 joyful and meaningful years, has a brilliant sense of humor. When I see the twinkle in his eyes, I can picture Marvin's mischievous smile and hear his contagious laughter. We won't get a lot of the answers to our "why" questions in this world. I feel Marvin found out the answer to "why" he was taken from us, and I believe that the answer he was given made perfect sense to him. When we are all united in the next world, we will then understand why Marvin left us so early. We will also get the answers to the other "why" questions that come up during our lifetimes. In the meantime, we all had to figure out the "how" question: how to function without Marvin in this world. This was not easy, but slowly, I found myself choosing which Slurpee flavor I wanted even before I got out of the car. Life went on. There are some funny people out there, and even if they can't make us laugh like Marvin could, at least we can take some comfort knowing that we were blessed with exposure to his humor and the invaluable education he gave us. With the gift of eternity, we will all be together when the time comes. We will hang out at "Marvin's Improv" in the sky, reminiscing about old times, and anticipating new experiences together. And Marvin, the first round of drinks is on your best friend. Ben Goldfarb was born and raised in El Paso, Texas, and is a graduate of the University of Texas at Austin. He moved to Israel in 1988. He is the founder and director of Paradigm Shift Communications. He has given seminars and training sessions at Israel Aircraft Industry and Philips Medical Systems. His book, "Double Feature: A Nostalgic Peek into the Future" will be published in the summer. He lives with his wife and children in Jerusalem. For more information about his coaching practice, visit the Paradigm Shift Communications website, or send an email to ben@pdshiftcoaching.com © Copyright 2008 by Ben Goldfarb