ROCKET SCIENCE: Not Everyone is Capable of Splitting the Atom

Frank Cotolo's Rocket Science

Audacity, bravery, fearlessness and disguised wizard Ricky Gervais is far and away the best comedian of the new millennium. All of you novice stand-up comedians, especially those so young that you think Olsen and Johnson is the company that makes Band Aids, better listen carefully to his act, which is only so much an act, and then either reassess your own persona as a comedian, go back to blue-collar livelihood or take the pipe.

Making people uncomfortable with opinions that may or may not be true but lean to the side of reality is what Ricky does best. He does this by naming names and creating scenarios that enjoy the aspects of celebrity shush stuff. It is, though, comedy, and people laugh because outrageous is funny.

Ricky stoops, as we all do, to commercial platforms to receive his largest paychecks. Consider the hideous American sitcom “The Office.” It was based upon a series he created for British TV and reduced in quality to the least-common-denominator factor necessary for a television sitcom—even one that steps on the boundaries of “good taste.” We need to assume Ricky made a bundle from the re-boot, however, and applaud him for the deal.

As they used to say, “At least Jesse James had a gun.”

Anyway . . .

This is not a review, nor is it an essay of praise. As far as I am concerned, Ricky Gervais can take his chops good fortune and bravery and audacity and shove them where nothing shines.

I have not come here to praise Ricky; I have come here to bury him.

Once I was green about most professions and I harbored values I created in my own image. Time passed. Experience made my blood curdle with reality.

Robert Frost wrote, “Nothing gold can stay” and I realized I understood that far before I was able to accept it.

Mr. Gervais obviously did, too. So, he makes the rent with audacity as a stand-up comedian, as well as with mundane acting, as in the “Night In The Museum” movies.

He presents a model success but not a model formula for success.


Easy—not everyone is capable of splitting the atom. Aspirations, inspirations and the likes are not enough. You got it or you don’t have it or you have it but you can’t make a living at it—as they say, and sometimes they say things that are meaningful, even when mean.

The streets of fortune are littered with talented failures. Lack of luck plays a role in their downfall, sure, but come on; it’s the atom-splitting inability that eventually does them in.

George Carlin realized this and once he mastered splitting the atom he was able to conduct himself on stage with explosive truths while still walking through dialed-in acting performances for the dough. It was beautiful.

Every comic’s sinning saint was Lenny Bruce. He screwed up when he learned to split the atom because the process back then was uncontrollable; popular opinion dowsed all control of the atom once split. Lenny was imbalanced and who wouldn’t be if whomsoever was the first stand-up comedian to split the atom?

In fairness, it is not easy to attempt to split the atom. The new millennium has presented at least two generations that are amalgamated with fear and loathing—of themselves and experimentation. So, even if the idea of splitting the atom surfaces, they excuse the notion, convincing themselves that no such risk is worth it in the long run. After all, a performer may have to severely—though comically—insult the image of a personal icon by name.

O M G ! “What if my hero takes it to heart? It will hurt my chances for success.”

Or . . .

O M G ! “Who am I to berate someone in my business when I am, in my heart of hearts, crap?”

You have to be afraid in order to become courageous. What kind of a hero doesn’t know he or she can get killed if he or she steps over the boundary of safety? The trapeze artist that dies without a net is more an artist than the trapeze performer that lives to fall into another net.

I understand all of this because I learned to split the atom. However, when that happened I was remiss. It took a while, that is, long years, but I learned that an atom split sloppily is still an atom split.

When I see Ricky Gervais balancing the awesome weight of the atom he split on the stage of the Golden Globes presentations I shiver. I thrill at his every smart-bomb joke. I bow in the general direction of the beast.

Be warned, then, aspiring comics, nerdy novices and the like. Perform without a net. Say what you mean at the cost of anyone’s feelings. Show the world you have split the atom and you have the power to balance it.

I offer no apologies for not mentioning Bob Saget, who split the atom with such delicacy that there are still people thinking there are two Bob Sagets. I will say this, though—GO F**K YOURSELF BOB SAGET.

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