Ever since his show was announced—months ago!—I've been wondering: Who is Jeff Daniels?
Oh, everyone knows who Jeff Daniels is, true, so maybe I should rephrase the question: What does Jeff Daniels mean? When a talent as titanic as his is in our midst, how does that affect the rest of us?
Shall we dive into these age-old issues? Dare we join the untold philosophers who have fought to understand Jeff Daniels? We shall! We dare! For such a monumental figure, Jeff Daniels is impossible to typify: Sure, he got explosive shit fits in Dumb & Dumber. But he also garnered endless critical acclaim for The Squid and the Whale. Yes, there was Speed and Arachnophobia—but also Good Night, and Good Luck and The Hours. Perhaps the only thing clear about the astoundingly talented and versatile Jeff Daniels is that he is a man of maddening and fascinating paradoxes. For example: Did you know he could sing?
Of course he can! Jeff Daniels sings songs—on his album Live and Unplugged to Benefit the Purple Rose Theater, and, no doubt, this Saturday at the Aladdin—about how he's a Detroit Tigers fan ("The Lifelong Tiger Fan Blues"), about how he got killed by Clint Eastwood in Blood Work ("The Dirty Harry Blues"), about good advice ("You Can Drink an Ugly Girl Pretty"), and then there's this really weird song that begins with a Saddam Hussein reference and ends with a heartfelt inquiry about... um, why it's taking Jesus so long to return?
Maybe the man himself has the answer to these questions we're wrestling with. On the first track of Live and Unplugged, he croons: "If William Shatner can, I can too/Captain Kirk's gotta sing the blues/Just another celebrity with nothin' to lose/Singin' for my supper with my hat in my hand/Well, I'm Hollywood's answer to a Renaissance Man." Ah. Right. Kirk. The Renaissance. A hat. Do we understand who Jeff Daniels is yet? What he means? Well, no. But maybe we just haven't thought about it hard enough. So let's think about this. Together. Let's think about Jeff Daniels.