I’m a fan of both men, but I don’t know enough about either to add anything to the deserved encomiums that will doubtless pour forth on the occasion of their passing within twenty-four hours of each other.
I can speak to what their deaths–like those of so many other icons of their generation–represent, which is the continuing drip-by-drip erosion of the common culture. No comedian working today, not even Jerry Seinfeld, will create a similar sense of loss if he/she passes thirty years from now, decades on from the height of their fame.
I can also say that this is related to why neither man would make it today.
Our current Paradise controls public thought so rigidly that Gregory’s sharp edges (“A southern liberal is one who hangs you from a low tree”) would be sanded away as the price of the ticket.
And, paradoxically, the degree of physical license we’ve granted ourselves in the place of thought would render Lewis’ style of anarchy simply confusing. Hell, it was pretty confusing even when there were limits for him to push against.
It matters not that neither man had commanded much of the public space for years and years. The blazing glory of their youth will live on as part of what the future remembers about us.
The good part.