Life Is Wonderfully Ridiculous Claude Knobler hoped to have a Hollywood career. Instead, he ended up delivering singing telegrams in a gorilla suit, working as a private eye and being a stay-at-home dad. Though it's a less sensible life than he had imagined, Knobler has learned to love life's ridiculousness.
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Life Is Wonderfully Ridiculous

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Life Is Wonderfully Ridiculous

Life Is Wonderfully Ridiculous

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MELISSA BLOCK, host:

From NPR News, this is All Things Considered. I'm Melissa Block.

Unidentified Man #1: I believe in adaptation.

Unidentified Woman: I believe in a silver lining.

Unidentified Girl: I believe that being flexible keeps me going.

Unidentified Man #2: I believe every single person deserves to be acknowledged.

Unidentified Man #3: This I believe.

BLOCK: For those of you who think our series "This I Believe" is too earnest, too serious, today we bring you Claude Knobler of Santa Monica. He once tried to make it in Hollywood, but these days he's not pursuing a job at all. And that decision is connected to his belief. Here's our series curator, independent producer Jay Allison.

JAY ALLISON: Belief is generally a matter of some gravity. Our essayists tend to write about the serious side of their lives and work. But work, life, and belief are not necessarily governed only by solemnity, as you'll hear from Claude Knobler in his essay for "This I Believe."

Mr. CLAUDE KNOBLER (Writer; Former Actor): When I was 18, a friend asked if I'd like a job delivering singing telegrams in Manhattan while dressed as a gorilla. It wasn't anything I ever expected to do, but I was unemployed and the gorilla mask muffled my lack of singing ability. So I took the job. Soon after, I heard about another job, this time at the Empire State Building entertaining tourists by posing as King Kong. As one of the few applicants with prior gorilla experience, I was a shoo-in. When the summer ended, and it got too cold to be on the observatory deck, even while wearing a gorilla suit, another friend asked if I'd like to be a private detective. I said, yes, ever since I was six. Somewhere between the gorilla suits and getting hired to work as an actual private eye, I realized something about myself. I believe in the ridiculous.

I was raised in a traditional home where I was taught the value of hard work. I was determined to be determined. But a funny thing happened or didn't happen. I struggled to become rich and famous, to build a successful career in Hollywood, and largely failed. I relaxed, and the ridiculous just came along. It's not easy trusting in the ridiculous. When my friends ask what my career plans are I sometimes feel like Linus waiting for the Great Pumpkin to appear. How can I tell them I have no plans - that I'm just waiting for the ridiculous to happen? Now, my main job is something that would have seemed ridiculous when I was in my determined phase. I'm a stay-at-home father to three children, and the story of one of them is particularly ridiculous, and wonderful. Ridiculously wonderful.

Five years ago, I read an article about Ethiopian children orphaned by the AIDS epidemic. The idea that my wife and I would adopt a child, when we already had two kids, seemed crazy. The notion that a dying woman in Africa would gently give me her five-year-old to raise, because she could not, seemed horribly absurd. But now my wife and I are the proud parents of Clay, Grace, and Nati, our beautiful 10-year-old, Ethiopian-born son, who enters our kitchen singing at the top of his lungs most every morning.

The ridiculous isn't always funny. Nati's life certainly hasn't been. And the ridiculous can be hard work. As any stay-at-home parent can tell you, some days three children can feel like a hundred. But when I look at my gorilla-heavy resume, when I see all three of my kids laughing, when I think about how much less my life would have been if I'd settled for what I thought I wanted, I realize I don't much care about the sensible things I once did. It's the ridiculous I love. And I've got the gorilla suits to prove it.

ALLISON: Claude Knobler, with his essay for "This I Believe." If you thought Knobler sounded particularly professional in his delivery, you were right. Another of his past jobs was hosting a movie review program on the radio. These days, he's at home taking care of the kids, publishing his own online comic strip, and waiting for the next ridiculous thing to happen. We hope you'll visit npr.org/thisibelieve to find information on submitting your own essay to our series. For "This I Believe," I'm Jay Allison.

(Soundbite of music)

BLOCK: Jay Allison is co-editor with Dan Gediman, John Gregory, and Viki Merrick of the new book "This I Believe, Volume II," more personal philosophies of remarkable men and women.

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