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Someone looks in your direction and waves at you. You smile and wave back. Then you realize, to your boundless horror, that the person they were actually waving at is behind you. You have mistakenly inserted yourself into their happy greeting, with nothing left to do but walk away.
This small but potent human moment is the focus ofa 90-second video from Kevin James on his new YouTube channel—one that ends up being as touching as it is hilarious.
The actor and star of King of Queens recently announced the channel in the wake of a short-lived return to the sitcom world with Kevin Can Wait. For the most part, the clips (including) follow the trajectory of the comedian’s career: lighthearted, ludicrous, and marked by slapstick humor. But as any rerun-watching fan of King of Queens knows, Kevin James is a comedian in the mold of Charlie Chaplin. He is a master of exaggerated physical comedy, yes—in fact, he’s easily the best comedian alive to do it—but just like Chaplin, his comedy has a big heart that can reach the tenderness and ache in the human drama. (One thinks, for example, of the episode where Doug screams Arthur right out of his house—and then, in a moment as silent as Chaplin, catches up to him on the street, apologizes, and walks him back home.)
James’ big-heartedness and moral intuition is also rooted in his Catholic faith—something that heand that also played into several episodes of King of Queens. And, as it turns out, “Misread Waves” is a collaboration with the filmmakers the Kinnane Brothers—and Charles Kinnane is the director behind the deeply Catholic documentaries Fishers of Men, The Human Experience, and Child 31.
So it’s no surprise to see this video bring a bit more to the table than you might expect. After his “misread wave,” sorrowful music rises, and a hilarious exaggeration of that feeling we’ve all experienced ensues. He goes from the inside of this car, to lonely train tracks, to his darkened house, mulling over the awkward anguish of that moment. It’s all very funny.
But then, something unexpectedly meaningful happens. James returns to that same spot, and the same “waver” is there, on the phone. James turns to him. It’s a surprisingly tense moment: What will happen? As one commenter on YouTube admits: “I was afraid the kid wasn’t gonna acknowledge him in the end . . . don’t know that I would have been able to handle that at this point in my life.” When that kid does give a perfunctory wave—and it really does turn out to be a wave at him—there is a real sense of uplift and gratitude attached to it, beautifully captured by the music and by James’ subtle physical reactions.
The sudden turn gets at a great spiritual truth: that the little everyday things we do for each other—and the little everyday things we don’t do—can actually mean a lot. This applies to those closest to us, of course, but it also applies to strangers. How many people trudge through life today unnoticed, unloved—perhaps suffering from some great, secret trial? And how often do we walk around oblivious to those around us, wrapped up in our own thoughts and concerns and “space”? I know I’m guilty of this—all the time. But “Misread Waves” reminds us that the slightest acknowledgement and kindness can make a world of difference to someone that desperately needs it. As Mother Teresa said: “Every time you smile at someone, it is an action of love, a gift to that person, a beautiful thing.”
Maybe, Kevin James is reminding us, the same goes for rightly read waves.