The first original tale by Rod Serling and it is a turd. Well, it is credited as an original, but it should say “Based on a story by Charles Beaumont” as it shares the same exact twist as A Nice Place to Visit from The Twilight Zone.
Godfrey Cambridge plays a comedian and it is excruciating to watch. OK, his character is supposed to be bad, but this is just painful. It is inconceivable that he is making a living at it. After his act, he talks to his manger Tom Bosley who has managed him for 16 years, also inconceivable. The club owner played by Grandpa Munster Al Lewis comes in and fires him — conceivable.
Cambridge tells his manager he would give everything he’s got just to make somebody laugh. Later in a bar he gets word his manager has bailed on him. A guru, complete with turban approaches him. He must perform one miracle a month. Cambridge asks the guru to make it so he can make people laugh.
The guru obliges. Soon Cambridge is hugely successful, but is left unfulfilled as people laugh at everything he says. His manager even comes back. When he tries out for a serious dramatic role, they all laugh at him.
This is the same revelation as in TZ’s A Nice Place to Visit — that there can be too much of a good thing. Actually it makes a little more sense here. In the TZ version, the small time hood finds himself in the “hell” of always getting the winning hand, always getting the perfect roll of the dice, and never having the dames play hard to get. OK, the thrill might have gone out of gambling, but did he really get tired of the girls?
In TZ, the character is revealed to be dead and in hell. In NG, Cambridge is alive, but we experience the hell of watching him. He begs the swami to give him a new wish — he wants to touch people, to bring a tear to their eye. That happens as he is hit by car. A woman selling flowers nearby sheds a tear of sorrow. The audience sheds tears of joy.
The real shocking twist here is that this episode was directed by Steven Spielberg. He didn’t write it or cast it, but he sure didn’t do much with what he was handed. There are stories of turmoil on the set and him being fired, but ultimately most of the scenes were directed by him.
- Twilight Zone Legacy: None.
- Serling did already have one segment that was an original, the embarrassing Nature of the Enemy. I am doing his memory a favor by pretending that short “sketch” does not exist.
- Six years later, Cambridge was dead at 43. He had a heart attack on-set playing Idi Amin in Victory at Entebbe. Amin claimed his death was an act of God . . . the actor who replaced him lived to 81.
- If I knew this was the next act on the bill, I wouldn’t be so quick to boo Cambridge off the stage; I would keep him there like Jerry Lewis on the telethon. Ladies and gentlemen, the Rocky Mountain Rockettes: