I Am Legend: Leonard Cohen.

Periodically we at Lolabrigada will take a look at people/places/things who are, in our spoiled minds, legendary. Feel free to add to or dispute the legendary status we have branded on this person/place/thing.

Leonard Cohen. This space isn’t intended to necessarily turn you onto any hidden gems or beautiful minds who have been tucked far away from society and the world at large. In fact, I’m sure Ben will write about Weird Al or Randy Newman in the coming weeks. Jenn might try to turn you onto Steve Martin or Ram Dass (hippie). Tim? Exactly. So, I’m not going to attempt to make a case for Leonard Cohen’s “legendary” status and I’m certainly not sitting in the front of the bus by branding him a legend. I’m just using this space here to wet my Hanes and eventually convince you that this deep, dark, sexually complex Jew from Montreal, Quebec, has been one of the most influential gents in my pursuit as a comedy writer.

I first have to give credit where credit is due. This man, or maybe it was this guy (with the gun in his mouth), turned me onto this Beautiful Loser. While there is generally nothing comical about the writings of Leonard Cohen…

I don’t mean to suggest that I loved you the best,
I can’t keep track of each fallen robin.
I remember you well in the Chelsea Hotel,
that’s all, I don’t even think of you that often.

Hi-yo! Leonard took despair, sadness, and misery and added the adjectives “tremendous,” “mammoth” and “fucking out of this world” as an overlying layer to his songs, poems, and novellas. He sometimes took years to complete 40 or 50 drafts of 4 minute songs that many of us would be proud to hang on our refrigerator on its first go-around. That’s intense. Personally, I usually give up after two drafts. If adopting a highway and passing it off as your child does not fly on the third try, well, put it to bed and move onto a scene about John Cougar’s melon camp (little ditty, bout genus citrullus!). The art, the craft, his committal to reach perfection is astounding. A characteristic that I would love to embody.

Another distinction that Leonard Cohen has which makes me drool while at the keyboard is the layers, the fucking layers, that he adds to each piece of work. Nothing is basic. This is the element to comedy writing that I have always hoped to demonstrate in each and every scene or joke I write and present to the Lolabrigada family. “It’s not funny enough!” “It needs something else!”

Yes, and Jane came by with a lock of your hair
She said that you gave it to her
That night that you planned to go clear
Did you ever go clear?

Ah, the last time we saw you you looked so much older
Your famous blue raincoat was torn at the shoulder
You’d been to the station to meet every train
And you came home without Lili Marlene

Leonard Cohen offered depth. Could it have been found elsewhere? Absolutely! You can read Bob Dylan lyrics for hours. And Steve Earle can stomp on Dylan’s coffee table in the name of Townes Van Zandt. But, as much as I love and adore Dylan and TVZ, their songs were more organic and embodied, as some one once offered, “terse poetic prose.” Bob Dylan (one of my favorite writers) could pen one of his classic songs in a matter minutes. Townes Van Zandt could lock himself in his closet and come out with “Pancho and Lefty” by his side. Cohen had to stew in his head. He wrote near 80 verses to his most famous song “Hallelujah.” It wasn’t enough for him to write a basic 5-verse, one chorus, song and leave it at that. And I appreciate that.

I’m not going to try and convince you that I write draft after draft of a sketch about a guy taping a baby in a box. Or, as it is evident, I’m not one to check, and double check my punctuation and grammar. But, I try to take my time. And I try to add depth to the scenes I write. An “idiot-savant?” Sure. A writer? Who knows. But, if there is one characteristic about Leonard Cohen that I’ve tried to emulate in my recent comedy endeavors it’s depth. As a sketch writer it’s not enough to pit two magicians in a battle for a trick or a hoe. Make them cast in iambic pentameter.

So, if you’re looking for a genuine Cohen fan, well, I’m your man.


.el sway


2 responses to “I Am Legend: Leonard Cohen.

  1. From the wiki page:

    ‘Cohen will be inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame on March 10, 2008 for his status among the “highest and most influential echelon of songwriters.”‘

    Tom, are you making a trip to Cleveland for this momentous occasion?

  2. I smell road trip, Joe. Let’s do it!

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