It’s been a rough few months.
It started at the end of March, when I lost one of my oldest friends to suicide. He was a gentle, tall guy who spoke softly and had a delightfully absurd sense of humor. We had been friends since first grade and shared a bus stop, so our moms became friends, too. He also gave the best hugs that always made me feel like a little kid, safe within his tight squeeze. Once, he tried to convince me a Beatles photograph he bought me for my 16th birthday was actually signed by the Fab Four. It wasn’t, of course, but it hangs on the wall in my childhood bedroom to this day.
Just a few weeks after my friend’s death, my father lost his best friend, Ed. Dad and Ed were roommates in college, and I’ve always found tales of their debauchery endlessly entertaining. Despite being hilarious and handsome, Ed never married. This was lucky for us, as it meant he often joined our family for Thanksgiving. Watching him call my dad silly nicknames and recall embarrassing moments was so wildly fun. Ed loved David Bowie and Elton John, and while listening to “Ziggy Stardust” on a recent Sunday afternoon, I felt like I was visiting with Ed. Music is magical.
Just two weeks later, my longtime boyfriend’s grandmother passed after a long illness. She was the matriarch of a truly enormous family who never judged or looked down upon anyone, made the world’s best applesauce and absolutely loved “Edelweiss” from the “Sound of Music.” Even when her memory started to fade, when my boyfriend started strumming the song on his guitar, the words would effortlessly come back to her and she’d sing along. Magic, indeed.
Grief seems to be wherever I turn. Even outside my own family, the Lancaster arts community lost three greats recently: esteemed visual artist Ben Herr, Abbeyville Road Studio co-owner and saxophonist Ken Blekicki, and beloved actor Camilla Schade.
So what do you do when death and its accompanying sadness seem to be inescapable?
You laugh, gosh darn it.
I’m serious. I mourned, and I thought about holding that Beatles photo close to my chest while listening to “Starman” and “Edelweiss” on an endless loop. But then, a different kind of musical magic came around.
The Lonely Island’s “The Unauthorized Bash Brothers Experience” Netflix special.
You likely know the work of comedy trio Andy Samberg, Akiva Schaffer and Jorma Taccone from “Saturday Night Live,” where their digital shorts such as “Lazy Sunday” became memes before memes were even really a thing. Then came the criminally underrated movie “Popstar.” And now, they’ve teamed up again to give us the gift of “Bash Brothers,” a “visual poem” a la Beyonce’s “Lemonade” of original songs spoofing the friendship and steroid use of Mark McGwire and Jose Canseco, who were known to bash forearms in home run celebrations while they were teammates on the Oakland Athletics.
I know, this column takes a bit of a left turn. But I mean it sincerely: watching something so purposefully stupid and entertaining really helped me navigate the stress and anxiety aftershocks that follow a cluster of deaths.
The special is outrageously raunchy, and I do not recommend it for children or if you are averse to strong language or crude humor. But for me, all of those things make for excellent distraction.
It’s impossible for me to pick a favorite part of these excellent 30 minutes. There’s the expert delivery of each and every line in “Uniform On,” a pitch-perfect song in the style of “License to Ill”-era Beastie Boys.
There’s also the seductive slow jam “Oakland Nights” featuring Sia, which is practically radio ready.
And then there’s “Daddy,” a song so tender it would make Drake cry, about how even MLB stars want to impress their fathers.
As with all of The Lonely Island’s music, it’s all so genuinely good and catchy that you have to stop yourself from singing it during the day. No really, don’t sing any of it at work, as you will likely be reprimanded.
The fun seems never-ending, too, which is a blessing to me since grief is a long process. “Bash Brothers” is getting an epilogue in real time, as Canseco tweeted at McGwire about the film last week.
“What’s up Big Mac Lonely Island doesn’t it remind you of the good old days let’s Bash,” he wrote, void of punctuation but full of heart. McGwire’s yet to respond as of this writing, but I have faith.
Because the magic of music is real.
“Unscripted” is a weekly entertainment column produced by a rotating team of writers.