News of the Week: Comets, Comic Holograms, and Coconut Cream Pie

Halley’s Comet, George Carlin back from the dead, and recipe for coconut cream pie from Gilligan’s Island star Dawn Wells

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Look, Up in the Sky!


The most famous comet in the universe — probably the only one most people can name — hasn’t been seen around Earth since 1986 and won’t be seen again until 2061, but if you were looking up at the night sky late Tuesday/early Wednesday you could have seen a pretty spectacular meteor shower of the debris left in its wake.

The display actually goes until May 28 but peak visibility for the shower happened a few days ago. This won’t happen again until October with the Orionid meteor shower (expected to peak around October 20), but if you don’t want to wait that long, don’t worry. This is the age of everything online, and Slooh recorded the entire event for us to see (scroll down to the video).

When I was a kid we always thought “Halley’s” rhymed with “dailies.” But it actually rhymes with “alleys.” No matter what Fountains of Wayne said.

Coming Soon: Dead Comics — Live!

Bob Hope portrait by Norman Rockwell
Bob Hope portrait
Norman Rockwell
February 13, 1954

They’ve done it with dead musicians like Michael Jackson and Tupac Shakur, and now we’ll actually be able to see the dead stand-up comics of yesteryear perform live again!

Okay, maybe “live” isn’t the right word to use. The National Comedy Center, a new club that will open next year in Jamestown, New York, will feature hologram performances of stand-up comics and other comedians that have died. So if you have always wanted to see people like Bob Hope and George Carlin and Lenny Bruce but were too young to see them years ago, this will be your chance (pending deals with their estates of course).

There are two questions that this raises: 1) will people be turned off by this because they find it creepy and tasteless? and 2) why didn’t someone come up with this genius idea before? The only question I have is how will this actually work? If it’s a hologram of an actual live performance, that means there was an audience there and they were laughing and the comic had to pause. How will this mesh with the new audience and the new laughter?

The center won’t be too far from where Lucille Ball was born, Celeron, New York, and the owners want to give this a new home. Hopefully it will be fixed by the time the place opens.

Goodbye, MDA Labor Day Telethon

Jerry Lewis at photocall for his movie "Max Rose" at the 66th Festival de Cannes. May 23, 2013 Cannes, France Featureflash /
Jerry Lewis at photocall for his movie “Max Rose” at the 66th Festival de Cannes. May 23, 2013 Cannes, France
Featureflash /

You sort of knew this was coming. When the Muscular Dystrophy Association canned host Jerry Lewis from the show in 2011 after he hosted it for over 60 years, and then cut the show’s length down from 21 1/2 hours to a 2-hour primetime special, you knew it was on its way out. And now it’s official: the MDA is ending the show for good. Why? Because it’s a different world now. The fundraising efforts will now be done mainly online and via other fundraising throughout the year.

It’s actually kind of odd. Sure, on the surface it seems like having a telethon that runs for an entire day is something that’s not needed, something from another time. But isn’t that what made it special and stand out in the first place? There were two things we absolutely knew about Labor Day: We’d soon have to start school again, and Jerry Lewis was going to stay up for a day and raise money for kids.

Here’s what Lewis has to say about the telethon’s end.

The ‘Dad Bod’

Thornton Utz Unwelcome Pool Guests 1961
Unwelcome Pool Guests
Thornton Utz
July 22, 1961

I’m not sure why this is suddenly a “thing” on the Web, but it is. It’s the “dad bod,” the body a male of a certain age has. He’s a little older (but sometimes young) and he’s kind of in shape but also kind of not. Or as this article puts it, “a nice balance between a beer gut and working out.” In other words, the Web is celebrating guys who are completely normal in every way.

I think I have a granddad bod.

Are Reality Shows Good For You?


Nobody can actually be trying to argue that shows like The Bachelor and The Real Housewives of Beverly Hills are actually good for us, can they? Of course they can!

A new brain-imaging study in the journal NeuroImage (one of my favorite neurology journals) says that by watching reality shows where people throw drinks at each other or get into fights or decide to get married after knowing each other for two weeks, we can actually feel empathy. Researchers at the University of Bonn in Germany call it “vicarious embarrassment,” which is the “ability to squirm in empathy for someone else’s social pain or loss.”

Now, I’m pretty sure I can feel empathy for many people but usually not for people who decide to live their lives on reality shows. Also, maybe it’s not empathy people feel. Maybe it’s more of that embarrassment factor. Sort of like the embarrassment they should feel anyway for watching these shows in the first place.

National Coconut Cream Pie Day


Today is the day to celebrate the coconut cream pie, the official dessert of the inhabitants of Gilligan’s Island. I never could understand how Mary Ann could make those delicious pies, stranded on an island. But when you have characters like the Howells who brought a ton of clothes and money with them for a three-hour boat tour and plots where various people come and go on the island but the cast can’t get rescued, I guess the making of coconut cream pies is one of the more realistic things that happened.

Dawn Wells, who played Mary Ann, wrote a cookbook several years ago. Here’s her recipe for coconut cream pie and a few other things inspired by the show.

Upcoming Anniversaries and Events

Mother’s Day (May 10)

Don’t forget to buy something for your mom this Sunday!

Transcontinental Railroad completed (May 10, 1869)

The Saturday Evening Post has a series of articles about trains and their passengers in our archives.

Garry Kasparov loses to IBM supercomputer (May 11, 1977)

Wikipedia has a detailed account of the famous chess battle.

Frank Sinatra dies (May 14, 1998)

The official Sinatra site has tons of terrific stuff, and here’s the New York Times obituary for Ol’ Blue Eyes.

First Academy Awards held (May 16, 1929)

The first ceremony was held in the Blossom Room of the Hollywood Roosevelt Hotel. Here is a list of Oscar winning films inspired by articles in the The Saturday Evening Post.

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  1. I’m not sure how the idea of hologram performances of deceased comics will work or not, we’ll have to wait and see. For the MDA to have treated Jerry Lewis in the manner in which they did is unconscionable and unforgivable to me. I don’t want to get ugly regarding this, so I’ll just leave it at that.

    Ironically I wrote a few paragraphs on the July 1961 Thornton Utz cover pictured here in a June 2014 web feature called ‘Dad Interrupted’ you can find by putting Utz’s name in the POST’s search bar on the main page.

    At no time though was I thinking or commenting on what shape our unhappy homeowner was in or not. Since this vintage cover was unfortunately chosen to represent the the latest idiotic American whatever-of-the-moment, this guy looks to be in good shape, not unlike myself—and I don’t have ‘Dad Bod’ Bob. If you’d like to apologize, I’ll accept it.

    Okay, I forgive you. A POST cover depicting that would be pretty tricky to find. I love Dawn Wells and your feature on her. At 76 she’s as great as ever—and so is ‘Gilligan’s Island’. Loved it as a kid in the ’60s and even more now; same thing with ‘Green Acres’. Priceless!


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