Tuesday, 21 May 2013

Laughter And Lutzes: Figure Skating At Its Funniest


There are few things in this world that make me happier than laughter. When I decided I wanted to write about funny figure skating programs, I had a few in mind that I wanted to share and sat down  with a pen and a piece of paper to make a list of 6.0 programs that I thought were absolutely hilarious. Already knowing that there are hundreds of hilarious programs that I'm sure I'm completely forgetting at first thought, I already wound up with a list of eleven performances that didn't just make me chuckle, but made me "LMAO" (as the kids these days, say... you know). And with that list of programs, I was reminded instantly of just how wonderful a tool humor is in connecting with an audience. William Arthur Ward once said "A well-developed sense of humor is the pole that adds balance to your steps as you walk the tightrope of life." The same rings true for any figure skater wanting to reach out and connect with the audience they are there to entertain. If you can make them laugh, you have them in the palm of your hand. Let's take a look at 6.0 hilarious figure skating programs and what makes them so damn funny:

DEBI THOMAS - WANDA BEAZEL



1986 World Champion Debi Thomas went where no skater had gone before and dared to come up with the character of Wanda Beazel, a gum-chewing, awkward young skater giving a disastrously funny performance. As someone who has judged skating at the "lowest levels" myself, I can assure you that Debi's portrayal of a skater in one of their first competition VERY accurately portrays the very best of horrible technique. And to be a skater of Debi's caliber TRYING to look this bad is one of the most difficult things you can do. Whenever I need to laugh, I keep finding myself come back to this program. If you haven't seen it before, you just have to.

SCOTT HAMILTON - HAIR


I was hard pressed to decide on the funniest program that I thought the always hilarious 1984 Olympic Gold Medallist Scott Hamilton had ever skated. There have been so many through this professional career but personally I think his "Hair" program takes the cake. Cleverly choreographed and full of detail, Scott had people roaring in the aisles with his interpretation of a hippie turned businessman in this rip roaring program that reminded me of an old drag queen joke: "it's my hair, I bought it". It's the hairiest Hamilton has ever been that I've seen.

ISABELLE BRASSEUR AND LLOYD EISLER - PATRICIA THE STRIPPER



1993 World Champions Isabelle Brasseur and Lloyd Eisler's gender bending "Patricia The Stripper" program has got to be the funniest pairs program I've ever seen. The four foot nine Isabelle throwing a six foot Lloyd into an axel in a flashy sequined cocktail dress and bad blonde wig is just funny whatever way you look at it. What makes this program so great is that I have friends who know little about figure skating who still talk about how funny this was. And if people remember something funny you did decades later, you did it right.

LAURENT TOBEL - CARMEN


1999 French National Champion Laurent Tobel had to be at least six foot two and towered over his competitors. With a goofy grin and a killer sense of humor, he was one of few skaters who was able to infuse comedy into his amateur programs and carry it off without a hitch. If a towering Tobel in a tutu is wrong, I don't want to be right. I'm pretty sure it's very wrong though.

OLGA MARKOVA - GO DOWN MOSES


Known for her avant garde, serious and dramatic presence on the ice, Russian National Champion and 2 time European medallist Olga Markova of Russia had a commanding style that kept your eyes on her every time she took the ice. She  even gave Maria Butyrskaya's death stare a run for its money. That said, she wasn't a comedic skater whatsoever. But when she took the ice in the gala after finishing 2nd at the 1998 World Professional Figure Skating Championships skating to Louis Armstrong's "Go Down Moses", you couldn't help but laugh at the complete absurdity of her program. Seemingly unaware of the social and political significance of the song, she bizarrely performed as a presumably intoxicated 1920's flapper or something, quite possibly assuming that the song was just a jazzy or a bluesy ragtime anthem and not a call to end slavery. I had to include this for the simple fact that I think (ironically) this is just TOO MUCH.

DOUG MATTIS - IMITATION


You know him, you love him, and if you don't, there's simply something wrong with you and you best get that checked out. They say that imitation is the sincerest form of flattery, and Doug Mattis' "Imitation" program flattered a whole lot of figure skaters. This cleverly constructed program poked a little fun at many of skating's best known skaters, including Dick Button, Brian Boitano, Paul Wylie and Tonya Harding. The originality and Doug's wonderful sense of humor shines through in this program... and the fact he impersonated Paul Wylie while competing against him is the BEST EVER. Just love this! 

If you're not done laughing yet, might I recommend YouTubing Kurt Browning's "Rag/Gidon/Time", Jayne Torvill and Christopher Dean's "Hat Trick", Tomas Verner's "Sexy And I Know It" and "Gary Beacom's "I'm Your Man" for starters. And you certainly can't forget the movie Blades Of Glory, which I still think was a hilarious poke of fun at the sport as well. Who am I forgetting? 

What performances do YOU think are the funniest figure skating has ever seen? Let me know on Facebook at http://www.facebook.com/SkateGuard or on the Twitter at http://twitter.com/SkateGuardBlog!

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