Ernie Kovacs

Today is the birthday of Ernie Kovacs. On this day he would have been 104, had he lived.

When I was a kid, there were many varied offerings on TV, but nothing was quite like watching reruns of Ernie Kovacs. He was a true aesthetic anarchist, a revolutionary who did for the blackout sketch what Allen Ginsberg had done for poetry.

Throughout most of your life, people will tell you that everything needs to make sense. Kovacs dismantled that tired bromide with the exquisite precision of a talented surgeon.

His underlying message was that the usual notion of “sense” is the real enemy. True freedom comes from tacking left when everyone is expecting you to tack right.

It wasn’t until after his untimely death that people realized how much of our post-modern culture was essentially dreamed up by Kovacs. Every popular offering from SNL to Wednesday has essentially built upon his casual and effortless take-down of received wisdom.

All these years later, when life threatens to slide comfortably into something boring and expected, I think of Ernie Kovacs. And I remember that life is absurd, and that is what makes it infinitely precious.

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