How many times have I been talking to Italians and said something trying to be funny but fallen flat on my face? Yes, I have considered the fact that I’m just not that funny, but it’s more than that. The same attempt at humor with Americans would at least evoke polite chuckles. With Italians it is clear that I’m just confusing them.
Example: An Italian takes me to a trattoria and apologizes for it’s simplicity – If I said, “Oh, well at home I’m used to caviar and champagne every night”, I’m kidding; right? Maybe we Americans are just too sarcastic or something – too nasty. Maybe we just can’t stop making fun of everything, even ourselves. If we were talking about vacation homes and the Italian said he didn’t have one I’d make a mistake by trying to joke that I had a dozen of them. They might think that I actually have them, and then if I tried to explain that I really didn’t they’d never understand why I said it in the first place.
I don’t know what that’s all about any better than I can explain the difference between American and Italian comedy. To be honest a lot of Italian humor is out of my comfort zone. Maybe it’s too slapstick or maybe it’s too…honest? Is that what I mean to say? Maybe we Americans hide behind our sarcasm and Italians aren’t afraid to be themselves, but sometimes a funny scene in an Italian movie is like watching Lucy and Ethel running around trying to hide a new hat from Ricky. It’s so slapstick that it actually makes me a little anxious.
Whatever. While I’m out of my comfort zone with some Italian humor I’m more comfortable with Carlo Verdone. Verdone is a Roman actor, screenwriter and director with a long and prolific career and I really like a lot if his work, particularly the more recent. Unfortunately much of it is not available in the United States, but I think that Americans would really enjoy, for example, “Maledetto il giorno che t’ho incontrato” ( Damned the day I met you), starring Verdone and my favorite Italian actress Margherita Buy. It’s the story about Bernard and Camilla, two neurotic hypochondriacs with a love/hate relationship with one another – emphasis on the love.
I think that “Ma Che Colpa Abbiamo Noi” would be very well liked here – it’s the story about a whole therapy group of neurotics that decide to keep their group together – at all costs – when their therapist keels over dead at her desk in the middle of one of their sessions. And maybe the best is “Il Mio Miglior Nemico” , with the handsome young Silvio Muccino. It’s the story of a young man who goes to extreme lengths to exact revenge on a rich guy, played by Verdone, who he believes has ruined his mother’s life.
Maybe I love Carlo Verdone because he is Roman and he’s made a career out of celebrating the modern Roman man, overwrought from dodging the traffic, mollifying the women, managing the chaos, and grappling with his own flaws and weaknesses. I get him, and I get the feeling he gets us. I think he’d understand that I really don’t eat caviar and drink champagne every night.