Comedy legend Carl Reiner died on Monday at the incredible age of 98.
Relevant to the end, he had been up tweeting/reminiscing about Noel Coward’s prolific writing career just a few hours before his passing.
I like to think that was possibly inspired by his nightly hang with life-long friend Mel Brooks, who came over almost every night to eat dinner and watch movies. I love that through Jerry Seinfeld’s Comedians in Cars Getting Coffee, we got to be a fly on the wall for one of those evenings.
If you haven’t watched that episode, by the way, please do yourself a favor…
When I say “life-long friend” I really mean it too. Reiner and Brooks met, became best friends, and rose to national prominence as writers/performers on Sid Ceasar’s “Your Show of Shows” during the literal dawn of television in the early 1950’s.
The rest of the writing staff also included young upstarts Neil Simon and Woody Allen, forming a Murderer’s Row of Comedy greats that would go on to rack up a Grammy, half a dozen Oscars and Tonys, and 15 Emmys (12 of them Reiner’s).
Source: Television Academy
This motley crew of talented people pretty much invented small- and big-screen comedy by themselves… drawing inspiration not only from observing the outside world – and calling attention to its ridiculousness – but also from observing each other.
Both together and apart, they created a community of comedy culture that had a profound effect on the world, and in that sense Reiner’s passing reminds us that this era – that began with the Golden Age of Television – is coming to a close.
And man, I am really going to miss it.
It’s Bigger Than Just TV
It’s not a coincidence that group of talented folks all found success. In fact, the exact same kind of thing happens in most industries.
Because let’s face it – when you find a group of trustworthy people that you enjoy being around and working with, you tend to want to do that as much as possible. And obviously, we tend to share knowledge within our peer groups more freely than we do with unfamiliar faces.
In other words, “all business is people business”.
But when people move on, it leaves a hole of sorts that must either be filled by the next in line, or otherwise altogether avoided. This is why succession planning and hierarchical structures in business are so important.
I mean, HBO literally made a show about it.
This dynamic happens with entire companies too, as we’re beginning to see in the wakes of both the global pandemic and March’s market malaise.
US companies have filed for bankruptcy at the fastest pace since 2013, including some iconic American companies like JC Penney, Hertz, and just last week, Chesapeake Energy.
Now, it’s no surprise that the carnage has been concentrated in the retail and energy sectors – I’ve been talking at some length on these pages about how driving demand hasn’t recovered… particularly driving to retail stores.
We know for sure what the succession plan for retail is – e-commerce – and that’s why we have a small stake in ProShares Long Online/Short Stores ETF (NYSEArca: CLIX).
Enough analysts are calling for the end of the hydrocarbon era and enough investors are fleeing the industry for more ESG-friendly (Environmental, Social, and Governance) environs that for now, renewables are about the only place we can turn.
Within those confines, however, there are risks.
SolarEdge Technologies (NYSE: SEDG), for instance, “provides solar power optimization and photovoltaic monitoring solutions” according to Bloomberg. It shows a positive cash flow and no debt, with a sizable amount of cash in the bank. Its recent price behavior, however, shows it to be at the top end of its value range, so we should wait for a pullback there.
Brookfield Renewable Partners (NYSE: BEP), however, owns and operates hydroelectric power stations in the US, Canada and Brazil. At current demand levels, their dividend might be at risk over the longer term. But they have US$300 million in cash on hand and access to a US$2 billion revolving credit facility – enough to weather any financial constraints through the end of 2022.
Plus, it looks to be reasonably stable at its current levels, and its ex-dividend date is coming up in about a month and change. So, picking up a ¼ stake here seems OK.
That said, Toyota is still giving it a go, so despite Volkswagen’s assertion that EV batteries are more efficient, the nail has not yet been driven into the proverbial coffin just yet.
But to bring things full circle – as I like to do – hydrogen is primarily produced by reforming natural gas, so if it were adopted, it would rejuvenate the upstream E&P business to some degree… which I suppose, in this zombie market, could potentially bring Chesapeake back from the dead.
You got to know when you’re licked…
And by all means, know when to yell “CUT!”
All the best,