Thursday, December 4, 2008

Shame-Based Man

Bruce McCullough
Released in 1995 by Atlantic Records and WEA International

You may remember Bruce McCullough as the short, lovable guy from the Kids in the Hall who would occasionally up a cabbage on his head. In 1995, shortly after the end of the Kids in The Hall he released a solo comedy album called Shame Based-Man.

It contains mostly spoken word and musical numbers, a few of which appeared on the Kids in the Hall, such as the "Daves I Know" song (which is a song about Daves he knows) and a speech about America (which is a place where a young man has to ask himself which does he love more - his girlfriend or his car) and a song about being a Doors fan. The album contains many more original bits though, such as a pleasant conversation between a stalker and the woman he's stalking, a brilliant song about being unhappy (where Death of a Salesman is his bible) and a lot more, such as a commentary about the vigil he witnessed for Kurt Cobain in Seattle, and a song about being fat.

I guess the brilliance of this album comes in the writing. Bruce McCullough is arguably the best writer of the Kids in the Hall, and it shows here. I think what is best about his writing is that it's funny not because he is writing quick one-liners or "clever" jokes, it is because he captures reality so well and skewers it so effectively.

For example, in the track "He Said, She Said" it shows the conversation between a man and a woman in a relationship with the woman saying things like "I love you baby, I love everything about you, I even love your handwriting. You know what I mean?" with the man responding "Yeah."

The woman then saying, "I love you baby, just sometimes I'm not sure, sometimes I wish there was more."

The man replies "Sure."

I should point out that because of this subtlety, this dry wit, this probably isn't the album for those who like a quick series of jokes and laughter without thinking. If you like that sort of humor then you probably aren't reading this, too busy laughing at your John Pinette album and making me wish you would die. For the rest of you, especially those who enjoyed the Kids in the Hall, this is the album for you.

It should be noted that this album is as funny as it is out of print. This album has been out of print for a while, but still obtainable for a reasonable price.

Back cover of my particular beat-up copy:

Booklet cover. Notice the feet.
The disc itself:

The outer portion of the inside booklet:The inner portion of the inside booklet. I apologize for the poor stitch-together. It was the best I could do considering how long this is.

Monday, November 24, 2008

The Drinky Crow Show - "Beer Goggles"

The Drinky Crow Show
Airing on Cartoon Network as part of Adult Swim
Appearing at the prime viewing spot of 12:15am on Sunday night (actually Monday morning)
Episode 1: Beer Goggles

Tony Millionaire is someone you may have heard of. If you haven't heard of him, then you are missing out on someone who makes well-drawn, aburdist comics called Maakies that mostly involve a drunken crow and a filthy ape and their disgusting adventures during the 19th century. This means you are missing out on a lot.

Now, for the second time ever (the first being a bunch of SNL shorts in the 1990's) the exploits of Uncle Gabby and Drinky Crow are animated on the Adult Swim series The Drinky Crow Show.

The animated show captures the art and wit of Tony Millionaire pretty well. The animation appears to be three dimensional computer animation that still captures the style of the Maakies comic strips very well. The story lines are completely bizarre, which captures the style of the Maakies comic strips very well. Will the average Adult Swim viewer bite, though? That remains to be seen.

The premiere episode involves Drinky Crow being depressed after losing his girlfriend. Uncle Gabby instructs him to lower his standards, and when that doesn't work, Uncle Gabby tells Drinky Crow to cut his eyes out and replace them with the almost magical "Beer Goggles" which make the entire world seem upbeat and beautiful. Now in a fake but overwhelmingly pleasant world, Drinky Crow is deleriously happy about everything, to the annoyance of Uncle Gabby who tries to keep Drinky Crow out of harm, but fails, and Drinky Crow blows the world up.

After the world is blown up, Drinky Crow is still happy and has sex with the Earth itself. The Earth gets pregnant and somehow everything turns out happy. Well sort of. Hard to tell.

I think it's fantastic, myself. The completely bizzare adventures of Drinky Crow and Uncle Gabby that often meander into the grotesque is just the sort of thing I want to see on television, and it appears to have been delivered. If this show does not survive another season (which it's very late Sunday night viewing time does not help) I can only hope that it appears in a reasonably-priced DVD box set. Perhaps there's a little suicidal Drinky Crow in all of us.

Spaceballs: The Animated Series

Spaceballs: The Animated Series
Airing on G4 television for some ungodly reason

Anyone ever have the experience of watching a stand-up comic who thinks they are hilarious but are anything but? That's about the experience of watching Spaceballs: The Animated Series, but is about a thousand times worse.

Mel Brooks, Joan Rivers and Daphne Zuniga have absolutely nothing to do as they reprise their roles in this absolutely shitty show. Mel Brooks sounds every bit of 82, Joan Rivers sounds every bit of terrible at any age, and Daphne Zuniga sounds okay but who cares.

The animation is terrible, like watching flash animation done by someone who just doesn't care about doing flash animation, except when breasts are on the screen. Then those bounce a lot.

The actual writing is by far the most horrifying thing about this show. It's like the murder of all that is funny since time began.

Take for example "The Lord of the Onion Rings." This is an episode in which Barf must take an evil union ring and throw it into a giant deep fryer in Frydor. On the way he gets taken in by the spell of the ring and actually has a conversation with himself not unlike Gollum from Lord of the Rings, complete with annoying voice, and a "Dork Army" is created by Dark Helmet due to a misspelling of the word "Dark."

There's another episode "Revenge of the Sithee" which has a villain named "Outlet Maul" and has about five breast jokes a minute, from a podracer with breasts to a customizable stripper whose breasts get larger with each button press.

Then there's errrrggghhhhhhgggggrrrrrggghhhhhhhhh

Sorry, my head hurts just thinking about how horribly unfunny this is. I think it may be an impending cerebral hemorrhage.

To sum up, never watch this show. It is the worst thing ever put on television since Two and A Half Men and makes me want to die. Especially since it's coming from Mel Brooks, someone who has done so much better in the past. Well, the 1970's.


A podcast featuring Kevin Smith and Scott Mosier

The SModcast is a podcast featuring Kevin Smith and Scott Mosier talking about random stuff. Occasionally there are other guests besides Scott Mosier like Kevin Smith's daughter Harely and his wife, Jennifer, but mostly it is Kevin Smith and Scott Mosier.

They talk about the film business some, like for instance, a recent episode talks about advertising problems with Zack and Miri Make a Porno in Philadelphia where they would not allow any advertising of the film whatsoever even if they had two stick figures and just called it Zack and Miri. Mostly though, they talk about random shit. Actually one episode has a discussion about that literally, where Kevin Smith talks about farting in his shower and accidentally shitting in the shower. Mind you it isn't a show that talks about shit and fucking and swear words - it's usually just a casual discussion from two very entertaining people that just happens to involve swear words and talks about shit and fucking. Also nerd stuff. Lots of nerd stuff, like a discussion about the movie Transformers and how it should have been just the effects shots and nothing else. Then a discussion as to whether people would pay nine dollars just to watch fifteen minutes of special effects - the consensus they came to was yes.

Actually, now that I think about it, the conversations are a perfect insight for you ladies as to what guys talk about when they are by themselves with no women around. It's talks about nerd stuff, gross stuff, and sex. Though Kevin Smith is a very funny guy and makes the discussions a lot more entertaining than the casual conversations you would probably have from your standard group of guys.

The production quality is good despite being recorded in Kevin Smith's house. Actually the recording in the house helps to lend the casual nature of the conversations. Occasionally, Kevin looks stuff up on the Internet or tells his dog to stop barking.

There is also some post-production work done to put music in at almost a subliminal level behind their conversations - for instance when talking about a moon astronaut, Major Tom plays, or less subtley, when Scott Mosier talks about an encounter with a shark, the theme to Jaws plays. It's a nice touch.

So yes, if you aren't offended easily, get this podcast. You won't regret it, and it's updated almost every week with about an hour of content.

Penny Arcade: On The Rain-Slick Precipice of Darkness Episode 2

If you liked the previous episode of Penny Arcade: On The Rain-Slick Precipice of Darkness then you will like this one, which means if you like funny games set in a steampunk-like 19th century fighting giant robots with fists, guns and hoes and has no replay value, then---yeah.

Compared to the previous incarnation of this game, this game has a lot more swearing. A lot of utterances of the word fuck. It also has slightly trickier puzzles, with one section involving the twisting of hexagonal pieces to make pathways through the brain to prevent insanity.

Like the previous incarnation of the game, it has your hapless custom character in search of a home, accompanying Gabe and Tycho in a fight against such foes as obnoxious lovers, rich people and fruit fucking robots.

It's certainly funny, with quests to obtain a million dollars so you can buy a bracelet and fights where your enemies hit you with such attacks like throwing a box of chocolates at you. I guess the only down part about it that it has the pitfall of any adventure-based game with humor attached to it in that it doesn't have much replay value at all. Sure, there's an option to play the game in "insane mode" for secret items and such, but really, when you go through it once and have heard all the jokes, there isn't much incentive to go through it again. Also, the quest should take you about ten hours to complete, so the game isn't very long to begin with.

It's available for PC, Mac, Linux and XBOX Live for $15. Pick it up if you want to be entertained for a short while.

Monday, November 3, 2008

Great White North

Bob and Doug McKenzie
Great White North
Published in 1981 by Anthem Records
Re-released on CD in 1996 by Mercury Records

Imagine if Beavis and Butthead made an album. Now imagine that instead of two dumb American stereotypes on the album, imagine you have two dumb Canadian stereotypes. Thus you have Great White North.

A little background: Bob and Doug McKenzie were created because Dave Thomas and Rick Moranis were told by the CBC that SCTV needed more “Canadian Specific” content, which sounds dumb. This isn't true - that is an idea that is fucking stupid. This isn't done and is dumb, so Bob and Doug McKenzie were created as a kind of ‘fuck you’ to that idea by making segments with the most stereotyped idiotic Canadians they could think of, improvising their segments and putting not a huge amount of effort into it. Through the funny way the world works the characters became an accidental huge hit, and spawned the movie Strange Brew, some later Molson Ice and Pizza Hut commercials, and the embarrassing talking moose characters in Brother Bear.

It in particular, spawned this album, Great White North. The album is essentially what one would expect where Bob and Doug McKenzie make an album and thus a lot of it them, drinking, smoking, eating unhealthy food, giving their opinions of everything, and drinking some more.

It’s also very meta. They talk about themselves making the album and the process of making albums themselves. They talk specifically about how albums (in this case, the old vinyl discs) are made by taking old albums, erasing them, and then putting new grooves on them.

The highlight of the album has to be the song "Take Off" which is sung by Geddy Lee of the band Rush, in which Geddy Lee sings about taking off to the Great White North and Bob and Doug talk over a lot of the song.

There are also some really great bits in it, like Peter’s Donuts where they “go to a donut shop” but are aware that they aren’t really in a donut shop. Then they get a ticket for parking in the street and try to get out of it by giving the police donuts.

There’s the 12 Days of Christmas song which is full of replacements for the normal gifts the "true love gives" like instead of "a partridge in a pear tree" it is "a a tree," and "five golden tuques."

Overall, a fine album, even if the references to the album being on vinyl are a bit dated.

Available for purchase at or any other store that I am shamelessly not trying to earn revenue from.

Back Cover

Really small "Daily Hoser" that was part of the inside cover and difficult to read on the CD release. Obviously meant to be read as the inside of an LP.

Monday, October 27, 2008

Eddie Murphy

Eddie Murphy
Originally released in 1982 by Columbia

Once, a long time ago, Eddie Murphy did stand up comedy. No, it's true! This self-titled first release by Eddie Murphy from 1982 has it's ups and downs.

First, the ups - considering how young Eddie Murphy was at the time (21 years old) he really shows how talented he is. He has timing, delivery, and performance that's impressive for even a seasoned comedian.

There are many memorable bits on here, most notably Doo Doo/Christmas Gifts which first details how boys tend to gross girls out with poop, and then goes into how fathers tend to get screwed with Christmas gifts. For example:

"You come down and rip all the stuff open, and there would be toys and shit on the floor everything scattered all over the place and your Father would come downstairs and you would say 'Here's yours Daddy!' There's just one box, and every kid in the house's name is on the card. 'Hey thanks a lot!' Open it up, and he would say 'Brut. By Faberge. Thank you. (whispering) Cheap motherfucker.' They gotta smile when they get that stuff, man."

There are also some funny if very dated bits involving the assassination attempts on President Reagan and The Pope. He makes the point that anyone who gets shot, anyone, even the Pope, is going to swear.

There's also a very dated bit about talking cars. If you don't know what that refers to, that's okay.

While there are many great bits on this album, there are also some infamous bits. First, there's a long series of bits about Chinese people that's a little, racist as fuck.

Second, there's "Boogie in Your Butt." This is an atrocious song sung by Eddie Murphy which involves sticking things in your butt. I'm not sure if he was trying to be funny or cool, or cool/funny but it's laughably bad, expecially considering the first track of the album is called 'Faggots' and involves harassing gay people.

Admittedly, Eddie Murphy himself has come out and apologized for his insensitive work such as this, and overall, there's some great bits on this album. It's on par with his other comedy album, Comedian, and much much much much better than his music albums, How Could it Be, So Happy, and Love's Alright which you have probably never heard of for good reason.

Back cover:

Inside cover:

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Kasper Hauser Comedy Podcast

From the Kapser Hauser Sketch Comedy group
Mostly from 2007
(No relation to a mysterious foundling)

There are some funny bits to this sketch-comedy podcast and there are also not-so-funny bits. There are more funny bits than not, which is why I am recommending you listen to this sketch comedy podcast.

First the good - it has a pretty professional production quality, no recordings made in a parents basement here. In particular, I can think of the two "This American Life" episodes, where they make it sound almost exactly like a This American Life episode, complete with an Ira Glass sound-alike and beautiful interstitial music. The only difference between it and the real This American Life is that the subject matter is complete nonsense, such as a guy whose high school sank into the ocean and a guy who has a job fixing computers but knows nothing about computers.

There's other great stuff material, like "Spicy Pony Head" which involves a man ordering in a French Restaurant and getting offered pony head repeatedly. There's "Phone Calls to the 14th Century", a game show where people make a phone call to the 14th century in order to win a million dollars. There's "Mundo Des Perros" which is a show about dogs in Spanish. Good, wacky, well written stuff.

The bad stuff is the "Wedding Announcements from the New York Times" which is occasionally funny but about as entertaining as the actual New York Times wedding announcements.

There is also the repeated, incessant plugging of the book "SkyMaul" which is a parody of the "SkyMall" catalog found on most plane trips. It's pretty much plugged in every episode and some episodes are merely pages from the book. I mean, really, do you need to plug it with every show? It makes me absolutely, positively, not want to buy the book.

There are also some video bits. They are...okay.

So, go ahead, give the show a download. It's free, and it hasn't updated since 2007, there aren't a lot of episodes but there are some gems in the pile of sharp glass.

Here is a link to the Kasper Hauser website.

Saturday, October 11, 2008

Maniacal Rage Podcast

There are a lot of Podcasts that are categorized as comedy if you look through the iTunes music store. Many of them deserve the comedy label about as much as your alcoholic step-uncle "deserves" booze. This podcast, the Maniacal Rage Podcast, does in fact deserve this title if it is the sort of thing you like.

It is Garrett Murray and Shawn Morrison out of New York City, having ordinary conversations that turn absurd quickly. For example a dream about turning into a marshmallow and being in a convenience store as it is being robbed leads to a discussion of how the marshmallow is made from either horse face or horse skull. Then they start talking about a jockey who would win his races by eating marshmallow fluff in front of a horse, which would get it angry and make it run harder. From there they discuss how horse races are actually run, which involves a cat on a stick moving around the side of the track, being swung around, yelling "Help me horses" and the horses run after it. Jockeys are discussed as being actual wizards who use their magical abilities to make people watch horse racing. An adjustment to horse racing is put forth where at the finish line, the horses all run into a giant vat of boiling gelatin at the end and everyone gets some memento glue.

Also on rare occasions, they have video podcasts which involve sketch comedy. Such sketch concepts like Garrett Traveling from the future to tell Shawn not to eat a sandwich, and further copies of Garrett start appearing from the future with different facial hair and start killing each other. Other sketch concepts include women dressed as Abraham Lincoln, and the notion that shooting at bums is very sexy.

The podcast does have some faults. One is that they don't update it that often, as is the case with many podcasts. The other is that with most of the podcast consisting of just two people talking, it can get a little slow. Still, this is a very funny and very well done podcast, and free, so you can't really go wrong in downloading it.

Click here for The Maniacal Rage Podcast Website

Tuesday, October 7, 2008

Down + Dirty with Jim Norton: Episdode 1

One thing that it seems we see less and less of these days are showcases for stand-up on TV. On talk shows, most comedians turn their material into Q&A sessions on the couch. Comedy Central has a special here and there, but rarely is there a program where you might be able to check out sets featuring multiple comics. Thankfully, HBO has realized that we've got a massive gap from when VH-1's Stand-Up Spotlight was dropped, and decided to give us a new show with less bleeping and more (any?) funny.

The format for Down + Dirty with Jim Norton is as follows: Jim comes out and tells us jokes. His musical guy is Lemmy from Motorhead. Four comics come out and tell us jokes in 30 minutes, making this a pretty manic show. The episode I caught featured Whitney Cummings, Artie Lange, Jim Florentine, and Anthony Jeselnik-- and it was pretty good. Despite the fact that herpes jokes infected multiple sets, the half-hour went by pretty quickly and the comics had at least a couple of really good laughs. Being an HBO special, it seemed going blue wasn't so much an option as a requirement.

You might be asking "so column writer, who are these people?"

Host Jim Norton is a foul, funny man best known for not being particularly well known. I first saw him on Colin Quinn's Tough Crowd, but he also turned in great performances on the HBO series Lucky Louie as a depraved, often underdressed shell of a human being. In other words, he's the perfect vehicle for comedy.

The first guest Anthony Jeselnik I've never heard of before. Apparently he's been on Deadwood and he does a lot of stand-up. His material was certainly pretty good-- he actually writes jokes, rather than observations or funny voices, plus he has more than a few topics to go on. Worth seeing? Yes.

Next up was Whitney Cummings who, again, I have never heard of. We've been pretty good on this blog about not making the typical "woman not funny" jokes, and this lady is indeed amusing, but she's also a one-trick pony as far as her set goes. Pretty much the entire set was "hi, I have a lot of sex." As comedy nerds, we cannot connect with her on this subject, which made up the lion's share of her set. A little variety would have been nice.

If you blinked, you missed Jim Florentine. Best known as a contributor to Crank Yankers, his set was short and sweet-- also funny. Artie Lange was the show's headliner, and I swear I've heard a lot of this material beforer. Lange is a funny guy, known primarily for his Howard Stern connection but he's actually done some interesting stuff. Who can forget "My White Momma" on Mad TV? His material also kicked off by getting the audience on his side by saying what we were all thinking-- how the Hell is this guy still alive? Don't get me wrong, I like the guy's act, but watching him on stage was more than a little uncomfortable. If he isn't hanging out with the grim spectre of death when he goes backstage, I'll be surprised. Here's hoping he doesn't die before his time.

All in all, it was a good showcase of talent-- some were funnier than others, and if you're the kind of person exposed to comedy mostly through network television this would probably be an unpleasant experience for you. It was certainly entertaining, and it's really wonderful to see a TV show giving me a chance to see multiple comics in rapid succession. It almost felt like the only way you'd see comedians on TV were as talk show guests or in half-hour specials... so kudos, HBO, for having the balls to try this format again. I'll keep watching.

Future guests include Andrew "Dice" Clay, Patrice O'Neal, and several people who I do not yet think I've seen. I look forward to seeing how it turns out.

Monday, October 6, 2008

An American Carol

I hate this movie. Then again, I'm a dirty liberal, so I'm guessing I'm supposed to hate this movie and get angry and blog about my hate, which is what I am doing. Question is, why would a conservative want to watch this movie either?

First of all, how could the director of Scary Movie 3 make such an unfunny movie? Wait, that's not quite right. There's more to him than that. How could David Zucker, director of Scary Movie 3 and 4 make such an unfunny, fucking stupid movie?

The plot of the movie is this - members of the Taliban in Afghanistan have a recruiting problem with the American military doing such a good job to free up the country. So, they decide to hire a Hollywood director, someone who really hates America to do their recruiting videos. Enter Michael Malone, played by the dead Chris Farley's brother, Kevin Farley. Michael Malone, who is obviously supposed to be Michael Moore, is a documentary filmmaker who falls down a lot and is constantly eating. Oh, he also is hosting a rally to protest July 4th because he hates America. The Taliban pick him to be their filmmaker, but somewhere along the line they decide that instead of having him make films for them he would be better used to get access to a public event to cause terror. Michael Malone gets visited by three spirits, the ghost of Patton, Washington, and the Angel of Death, oh, also JFK. In the process of --- it doesn't matter. This movie is not about comedy but preaching. Preaching, preaching preaching, with poor attempts at humor thrown in.

Let me put it this way, would you like to see a movie telling you the following:

College students are stupid and will repeat anything in a protest.
College professors are 1960's throwbacks who want to indoctrinate kids into hating America.
The war against terror is the same as the war against the Nazis.
Pacifism means surrender.
If Liberals were in charge, the Union would have lost the Civil War because they are against any war.
People in Hollywood rich hypocritical iditots.
The Left wing is full of crazy extremists.
The members of the ACLU are zombies who fight only to destroy America. They fight for the fourth amendment which leads to terrorists bombing America.
Bill O'Reilly is a decent human being.

If your answer is yes, then you probably already believe all this anyway, so the question is, why would you go to a movie that tells you what you want to hear that isn't entertaining?

There's very little comedy in this, and when there are attempts at comedy there are weird jumps that go from, talking solemnly of the death of thousands of innocent people, and the people who tried to save them, in the ruins of the World Trade Center, to Michael Malone stumbling around in a graveyard, bumping repeatedly into bells.

I think the message of this film is that "conservatives are right, liberals are wrong" and it plays that message for an hour and a half, which makes this movie an inverse of Team America. That movie was funny, had some hilarious scenes, and some music you could really sing to and maybe 2% message. If you were liberal, conservative, who cares? It was funny. An American Carol is about 99% message and 1% entertainment.

It's also just really angry with it's message. It's almost like they wanted to make a movie that just had an hour and a half of liberals being beaten to death, but instead made it veer towards "comedy" so it could be labeled "satire."

So, if you're that type of person who just hates the liberals, and wants to see a movie about hating liberals, and hate hate hate, liberal liberal liberal, then go ahead and see this movie.

It should be noted that I, being a dirty horrible liberal, saw this film in a movie theater in Phoenix, the home of John McCain. They, like me, did not laugh through most of the film, but at the end of the film, they stood up and applauded. Some cheered.

This isn't satire, this isn't entertainment. This is like a fourteen year-old kid being angry that he has to go be cooped up at High School all day, so he throws his own shit at the Principal's office. Seriously.

Quick Shots of False Hope

Quick Shots of False Hope
Laura Kightlinger
Published by Avon Books in 1999.

Laura Kightlinger. Beautiful. Dark-witted. You may have no idea who she is. Oh, she is in The Minor Accomplishments of Jackie Woodman. In any case, here's a book to tell you about her, written in her own words, which is no longer in print. It is called Quick Shots of False Hope.

Personal stories about Kightlinger, running through her adolescence to her young adulthood are in this book, and as per the norm for the upbringing of the comically-minded, the upbringing of Laura is filled with pain. From the personal embarrassment of doing a poor rendition of the song "Car Wash" in front of her entire High School, to working at Ponderosa Steak House, to dealing with her Mom hiding from her Father behind the couch when he came over to visit after being with his other family.

The stories proceed from her adolescence to her college years, where she is horribly dumped by a boyfriend It goes on from her post college years to her being a stand-up on the road, leading her to a long and frightening story about being raped in a hotel room which is only an allegory for how horrible the stand-up road can be.

There's stories about writing for Rosanne, there's stories about the horror of being on Saturday Night Live in 1996 and dealing with Adam Sandler, and on and essentially this whole book is about going through a lot of pain, despite success.

At the end, her Grandmother dies.

Sorry to give that away.

Overall, If you would like to read a book about a female comedian and the pain she has gone through, look no further than this book. The book is written well, with Kightlinger's self-deprecating wit throughout. There aren't many autobiographical books out there that so honest, dark and dark.

Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Chris Rock: Kill the Messenger

It's somewhat uncommon for a comedian to enter the spotlight and, after 20 years in front of the cameras, continue to find fame and fortune in front of a microphone doing stand-up comedy rather than sitcoms or counting DVD residuals. Lucky for us, Chris Rock understands the value in making sure that his history as the guy in the back of the Red Lobster scraping shrimp off a plate is shared with you, the American (and international) public.

After getting his start on Saturday Night Live nearly 20 years ago, he's gone on to movies, In Living Color, HBO specials, and the narrator and creative force behind Everybody Hates Chris on UPN The CW. Oh, and he also scored a minor novelty hit with "No Sex (In the Champagne Room)" which didn't seem to teeter over to the realm of being unpleasant. (Examples: "Boogie in your Butt" by Eddie Murphy and "You Look Mahvelous" from Billy Crystal.) Because Rock is consistently funny, he doesn't have to apologize for his past works, they can just be dusted off and enjoyed. And with any luck, this special will receive similar accolades from the comedy fans of tomorrow.

Kill the Messenger aired on HBO this past weekend and is one of very few comedy specials that, in the first ten minutes, I said to myself "this ought to win an Emmy for outstanding editing." Rather than having two or three cameras set up in a single venue, Rock performed the same show in South Africa, England, and New York-- and stitched together a special taking elements from each, often cutting mid-sentence from one continent to another. The effect is a little jarring for a comedy special, but it worked. The sound editors made sure that the audio was consistent, and because Chris Rock tends to repeat the general themes of his jokes (i.e., "there are a lot of differences between men and women,") this technique really, really works well. It shows the world responding to his humor while keeping his technique intact. Oh, and it's really funny.

The 90-minute set is unlikely to spawn another single, but that's OK. With themes as overdone as "men and women are different," it's tough to come up with new, good material-- especially while saying that very quote to your audience. However, Rock pulls it off in a way that, to describe it here, would only make me look like an asshole. This performance is by someone who has refined his craft-- which is appropriately raunchy and hilarious-- in such a way that to even discuss it would be to do you a disservice. It's very funny, well-paced, and absolutely worth seeing. Unfortunately, no DVD or CD releases are currently scheduled so you'll just have to watch it on one of the many HBO channels or crash at a friend with a good cable package.

Of course, the standard disclaimers for Chris Rock stand-up apply. Don't let your kids watch it. Don't let your parents hear you listening to it. Heck, be careful about your spouse or significant other. But if you have cool friends at work? This is a fine topic of discussion for all. It's great to see someone get to talk about things at his job-- like how his audience owes him for getting them laid, for example-- that aren't great fodder for some of us office dwellers.

The special does run a little long, but it doesn't feel that way. Typically, comedy specials last about an hour or so-- 90 minutes of comedy is a hard thing to assemble, so it's great to see someone put it together like this. It might be tough to fit on a single CD but that's why man invented the MP3.

Monday, September 29, 2008

The Found Footage Festival (Vol. 3, 2008)

The Found Footage Festival
Currently Touring the Country

If you are tired of those film festivals featuring good films? Would you rather watch a film festival filled with videos found at thrift stores and garage sales? Then the Found Footage Film Festival is for you.

This festival, organized and hosted by Joe Pickett and Nick Prueher, features a bunch of videos so bad they are good, which means they are horribly bad. It's not unlike staying up late and watching Public Access anywhere. There are many such films organized into categories like How To, Training Video Footage and The Best of Harassment.

All the films have been edited to bring you the most unintentionally hilarious bits. Which, if you are a purist and like to watch terrible videos from start to end, then you may be disappointed. If you are the type of person who has a life, then this is perfect. Also, it since this is a festival it helps to keep the overall show to two hours.

Some videos are improved a lot by editing, such as the Best of Harassment, where Sexual Harassment educational videos are edited just to show what not to do. Also, in the case where an Angela Lansbury workout video is edited to be shorter - merciful.

This is not to say that there isn't a whole lot of disturbing videos to see. Certainly not for children.

In addition to the unintentionally hilarious vidoes there are some intentionally produced satirical videos by Mr. Pickett and Mr. Prueher. The funniest one is a fake public access show "Talkin' Beards" which guest stars Chris Elliot, and involves -- well, I'm sure you can figure it out.

If you go to the show, you can pick up a DVD of the videos in the festival for ten dollars. Which is a nice little thing to take home and disturb the family with.

This particular showing of the festival was witnessed by me at the very fine Loft Cinema in Tucson, Arizona.

Monday, September 22, 2008

The Ricky Gervais Show - Series 5

The Ricky Gervais Show, involving Ricky Gervais and Stephen Merchant, creators of The Office and Extras and Karl Pilkingon who does nothing, slides into it's last series of shows with the energy of a woman waking up for a ten hour shift at Denny's with three hours of sleep and a hangover.

For those who don't know, the show (once podcast, now audiobook) centers almost entirely around the off-the-cuff discussions between Ricky Gervais, Stephen Merchant and Karl Pilkington. While this may not sound like much it is - Karl is a very strange, stupid human being and Stephen and Ricky are two intelligent human beings with sharp senses of humor. Put them together and you have comedy gold. Usually, Ricky and Stephen find some aspect of Karl to look into and examine, like his diary entries, and then marvel at how Karl can write about things like doing absolutely nothing on his vacation and saving bugs from certain drowning. Ricky and Stephen then ask the questions that everyone wants to ask, like "WHY?!?!"

However while the previous podcasts were great, this one feels thrown out there. The Fifth Series, (named so because they are counting the various specials as the Fourth Series) is only an hour and a half compared to the four to six hours you would get with the previous series, yet costs the same. Sure, seven dollars is pretty good for an hour and a half worth of material, but seems like somewhat cheapened in comparison to the amount of material you got in the previous series.

Also, the material in this series just isn't as good. While previous series had "Monkey News" (Where Karl would make up absolute bullshit stories about monkeys) and mor readings from Karl's Diary. The only memorable discussions tha stick out in my mind about this podcast are where Karl is asked what would he banish from existence and he says "slugs" and a discussion about Nazi Germany and how Karl would casually tell Jews hiding in his attic to take off if they were up there too long.

Other disucssions just seem tired. They talk about the chairs they are sitting in and spend a good deal of time talking about how long they have been doing the podcast. They at least seem to realize that as they are doing it, the show has sputtered to and end and this being the last series seems to confirm that. It's somewhat sad to see such a terrific show end with a somewhat lame encore, but at least it was good while it was around.

Horribly shamless whore-like advertising link: other fine Ricky Gervais stuff available on Ricky Gervais

Strong Bad's Cool Game for Attractive People - Episode 2: Strong Badia The Free

For Wii and PC
Released in September 2008 by Telltale Games and Videlelectrix.

This second entry in the Homestar Runner-themed games comes in a month after the first which means it gets to the gamer at least 24 times faster than the Half-Life 2 Episodes of which Episode 3 should arrive sometime around 2012.

As in our review for Episode One of the Strong-Bad game, this is again a game that if you like the Homestar Runner cartoons, you'll like this, and if you don't like Homestar Runner cartoons, you might not like this.

This game is (surprise) again an adventure game. In my opinion, this episode presents a more compelling plot than the first episode. The King of Town has suddenly imposed a harsh tax on e-mails. Since this affects Strong Bad the most, and he isn't going to pay, he gets an explosive device fitted around his neck that will go off if he tries to leave his house. Of course, this leads to the first part of the adventure - trying to get out of your house without your head exploding. Once that is done, Strong Bad decides to rebel and form his own country, hence the title.

Everyone else decides to rebel too and pretty soon everyone has their own country, from Bubs' Concessionstan to Pompomarania. Strong Bad wants to unite these countries under his own flag and go after the King of Town. So, with a Maps and Minions board (A game not unlike RISK) for a map, he goes on a quest to conquer all, complete with a History-Channel like narration and grainy sepia-toned film to narrate successes in his endeavor.

It's got the usual good writing from the Brothers Chaps. Funny, clean, with pop culture references thrown in. For the Homsar fans (The incredibly strange man based off a typo) this episode contains a lot more Homsar and his floating strangeness. There's even a chance to bring him down to a sane level in the game for a brief time. Excitement abounds.

There's a few side games like before, like doing cave paintings of "Cave Girl Squad" and collecting the instruction manual for the Atari-like game Math Kickers Featuring the AlgeBros.

The graphics in this Episode are slightly improved. It's not saying much considering this is not meant to be something to run your graphics card into the ground, but you can tell they spiffied up the textures a bit and the animation seems a little smoother. There's a few glitches from time to time like the first episode, but nothing major.

The game itself is not too hard - the puzzles are relatively easy once you figure out the right interactions. Actually, I've found it to be slightly easier than the first episode, the only part that gets a little frustrating is the end game which actually involves a game and strategy and---thinking. Ergh. Why don't I just play Myst? From the 1990s? (It was a game involving puzzles)

Even with this little endgame of frustration, the game shouldn't take more than ten hours of play to complete. It's a good little funny game for the Wii, and considering a lot of what's been on the Wii lately has been utter crap, this might be one you want to pick up. Unless you have a PC. It's out for that as well. Then you may have to weigh your options a bit.

Saturday Night Live: Michael Phelps & Lil Wayne

Originally aired September 13, 2008. Written prior to the airing of the second episode of the season.

Since the early seasons of the show, critics frequently invoked the phrase "Saturday Night Dead" to describe what they perceived as an increasingly weakened show. If art can imitate life, it seems art can imitate criticism as well. The season opener from last weekend managed to bring back last season's cast mostly unchanged, save for a new fat guy who is being widely described as the love child of Horatio Sanz and John Belushi. So as you may have guessed, the Season 34 opener managed to skillfully pick a wide variety of comedic low-hanging fruit.

During an election year, SNL frequently acts as yet another place for the TV news media to turn to when filling the hours of dead air-- and as a result, you can bet a lot of these sketches are becoming increasingly sound byte-friendly and the show itself is generally going for a broader audience. There's nothing really wrong with making sure people get your jokes, but the Tina Fey cameo as Sarah Palin was almost insultingly obvious. After Sarah Palin was introduced on the world stage, people said two things. One, "VPILF." Two, "Golly, she looks like Tina Fey." Casting someone as their doppelganger isn't particularly innovative. Now, if you brought in Cookie Monster in a brown wig and glasses to play the part? That'd be something.

Michael Phelps himself managed to do what most stunt hosts do best-- play themselves, read the cue cards, and play themselves yet again. Michael Phelps got to play Michael Phelps at least twice, lending to the show in authenticity what he couldn't deliver in hilarity. As a pop culture victory lap, SNL has allowed a number of sports personalities, politicians, and musicians who may not be comedians by trade get a shot at making America laugh. As an added bit of toothless satire, Amy Poehler played Phelps' mom during the monologue-- and his actual mother was two seats over from her. Oh, the sneaker upper. Always a favorite, that.

Throughout the show fans were treated to the usual mix of music and comedy which makes America thank their creator(s) that TiVo exists. One sketch had Phelps and Poehler as a couple eating dinner with a waiter that kept coming by to talk about pepper or other things that someone thought was funny that really wasn't worth the snicker. On the other hand, Andy Samberg came through with a digital short on the Space Olympics that was delightfully amusing, and Will Forte played a (and I'm simplifying here) dancing swim coach on an equally amusing bit. (Actually, that's a lie, Forte was funnier.)

We're not going to make it a point to post reviews of SNL here regularly, but it is tempting to write up some sort of report card. Like always, some of it works, some of it doesn't, and a lot of it seems like it would have been more at home being dropped after the early rehearsals. Cranking out 90 minutes of comedy (well, maybe 40 minus Weekend Update, music, and ads) is a difficult job, perhaps a reduced running time could help amp up the funny-- after all, shows like Human Giant and Whitest Kids U Know managed to do well with 30 minutes.

...and speaking of 30 minutes, Saturday Night Live will be airing a few 30-minute Thursday night episodes in October. It's likely they're aiming for that sweet, sweet Daily Show with Jon Stewart buzz but interviews indicate that they're going to do some sketches as well. Here's hoping we can't see them coming a mile away.

Monday, September 15, 2008

Do You Believe in Gosh?

Mitch Hedberg: Do You Believe in Gosh?
Released by Comedy Central Records
September 9, 2008

Every February 24th I think of a lot of things, one is that I've gotten another year older, and that Mitch Hedberg would have gotten another year older, but he is fucking dead. Then I get doubly depressed. He was a comic who could write very snappy jokes and had an un-snappy delivery, and it all came together is something that was damn funny.

It was a pleasant surprise to find Do You Believe in Gosh? A new CD featuring Mitch Hedberg. Unfortunately he was not resurrected; instead the CD is an album recorded two months before his death at the Improv in Ontario, California. It is a performance of mostly new, some untested material that was meant to go on a proper CD later in that year. There's a lot of good material, a bit of rough material, like "Tea Ski" in which he wanted to "go to a lake and tea bags in there, like a hundred of them for a week and then, Tea Ski."

The recording is done at a live show and appears to be minimally edited. This gives the album a more intimate feel that Hedberg's other albums lack.ed. It's nice, especially wehn you hear the hecklers and Mitch Hedberg's response to them. One man yells from the back that he "has something to put in his pipe" to which Hedberg replies with "Oh, I bet you do! Only you don't think about the fact that there might be police around! What have you got, you got some dope? Fuckin' doper! Arrest that dude!" It's good to see an example of Hedberg being quick on his feet, despite his laid-back demeanor.

It's overall a good, but bittersweet album. You know, the usual "Shit, I wish he were still alive making comedy, fuck," kind of album. The booklet included makes it even sadder with the inclusion of pages of comedy notes written by Hedberg and a whole lot of pictures. The physical copy wins over the digital download solely because of this extra.

It's nice. It is a final album obviously put together with care and respect, and not too expensive. If you liked Mitch Hedberg you will want to get this one last album. Unless of course, he and Tupac are secretly hanging out somewhere, which we can only hope.

Back of CD:

Inside cover with disc:

Some pages from the booklet:

Friday, September 12, 2008

The Comedy Central Roast of Bob Saget

This review of the Comedy Central Bob Saget Roast comes late as every time I tried to watch the roast, my TiVo had already deleted it. I think perhaps my TiVo was trying to warn me as when I finally did watch the roast, I realized there's only about fifteen minutes of actual entertainment in it.

Bob Saget. He's not funny. Full House and America's Funniest Home Videos are complete shit. He's gay, yet he molested Kate and Ashley Olsen. Also, Cloris Leachman is old. That is about 90% of the jokes on this special. There's a lot of swearing in this show, a lot of pretty much every word you can't say on regular television. The show is hosted by John Stamos, which is appropriate. I would make a joke about that but there were already several terrible jokes in the special said about him already.

The special is shot on this lavish set. If I were producing this I would not have a lavish set. I would do it in a dirty basement with an audience of five masturbating hobos. Instead you get an audience full of celebrities, from Alan Thicke to Scott Bakula. The cavalcade of stars!

So, Saget is brought out, visual gag suggesting he likes to have sex with goats ha ha bleck, then on to the "roasting."

Let me just go through who I considered not to be funny:

Greg Giraldo - Read jokes from very large pieces of paper. I wanted the papers to gain the magical power to leap on to his face and suffocate him.

Jeffrey Ross - Called John Stamos "Chachi." You know, from that show nobody remembers anymore.

Susie Essman - not funny, from Curb Your Enthusiasm. Made a joke about how she heard a "Fat Lady singing" in reference to Saget. That's pretty much summed up her act.

Jeff Garlin - not funny from Curb Your Enthusiasm. Does this absolutely retarded character of "Saul Schwartz" who is supposed to be the person who put Full House on the air. Only good thing about it was that I can now sympathize more with Jeff Garlin as in watching that performance, I feel like I have suffered the same stroke he had a few years ago.

Brian Posehn - Usually a funny guy, felt like he was totally out of his element and needed a nap for a few weeks. Had the funny closer to Bob: "In all seriousness, I hope horrible things happen to you, tonight and for the rest of your life."

Sarah Silverman - Appeared in a video clip. Not really that funny. Had an actress pretend to be Saget's mom and talk about---oh, you'll never guess---wanting an abortion.

Jim Norton. Blarggggghhhhh. Stab in face.

John Lovitz. Known for beating up Andy Dick and killing any show he gets on. Sang a song about how Bob Saget isn't gay. "Bob Saget isn't gay, the sky isn't blue, grass isn't green and I'm not a Jew." Continues to imply Saget is gay. Makes up a fake diary entry about Saget in which h claims as a boy Saget would run to the church and ask the priest if he can volunteer for things: "Can you blow out the candles?" and Bob would say "I don't know, can you light your dick on fire?"

Now for the people who I thought were funny.

Norm McDonald - He was reading the newspaper the whole time when he was not at the podium. Looks up from the paper indicating he "Was looking for something funny, so I'm reading Marmaduke." When he gets up to the podium he reads from giant note cards, and he looks at them as he reads them. None of them are funny, which is clearly on purpose. I don't have any verification of this, but I heard that he simply Googled "funny roast jokes" and read some of those. Seems like it might be true with jokes like -

"Bob Saget was born not with an umbilical cord but with a bungie cord."

"You have a lot of well-wishers here meaning they want to throw you down a well, meaning they want to murder you with a well."

"Bob has a beautiful face like a flower, yeah a cauliflower. No offense but your face looks like a cauliflower."

He ended his jokes with deadpan stares. Which of course, made them funnier.

A disheveled Lewis Black showed up on video. "Full House - are you kidding me! What the fuck was that about? I think it's based on what passes through the brain of a comatose child molester?" Continued to tear up Bob Saget for a few more minutes. His anger completes me.

Gilbert Godfried - "Why would we pick Bob Saget who raped an killed a girl in 1990. First of all it's not true that Bob Saget raped and killed a girl in 1990. If you have any proof that Bob Saget raped and killed a girl in 1990, stop gossiping and go to the police with it!" He's a peach. The fact that his voice annoys others is almost a whole other peach.

Cloris Leachman - the old Mel Brooks player. People give her standing ovation. Clearly the funniest person there.

"I'm not here to roast Bob Saget I'm here to fuck John Stamos," This is what this seemingly nice old lady opened with. "John Stamos, you shouldn't talk so much your mouth is cancelling out all the hard work your ass is doing."

After taking so much abuse all night for being old, she had the joke of: "I don't know who any of you people are - that's because I go to the movies and watch television and read the trades."

Says of Bob Saget: "You didn't just kill sitcoms you raped them and left them for dead in a ditch, just like I did with Gavin McCloud."

What made all these jokes is that she delivered them with the appearance of a nice old lady. It was kind of like watching your grandmother casually disarm a mugger and then stab him in the neck with a ball point pen.

She ends her set with kissing John stamos full on the lips.

Finally, someone I can't quite classify:

Don Rickles - essentially Don Rickles. "Bob, you have no talent. Get a harmonica, stick it in your ass and try to come up with a tune." "Bob, do yourself a favor. Move to Israel and get picked off. Get Hamas to knock you off. It's all over."

Bob Saget ends the night and they shoudn't let him have a voice. He just says a of swear words. Almost as if he was actually mad, but I think he was trying desperately to be edgy.

Overall, this roast is likely about as funny as this review, except this review is mercifully short.

Monday, September 8, 2008

Brian Regan: The Epitome of Hyperbole

Named after a punchline in the special, Brian Regan's Epitome of Hyperbole is a surprise in a number of ways. For starters, it was developed for Comedy Central, it's clean, and it's funny. Seriously, when is the last time you've seen a comic do a set for more than a few minutes without being bleeped? After appearing on numerous shows and giving us catchphrases like "Take Luck," it's good to see that the man can still tell a joke-- even if the set is fairly impersonal and surprisingly timeless. This is both great, and not.

A lot of comics lean heavily on pop culture, politics, and current events. I don't think there was a single Bush reference in the entire show, which is pretty amazing considering about, oh, 100% of the stand-up you'll see has something to do with the man in the White House. Instead, Brian Regan goes for some fairly general subject matter. Like books. Also, he does a few minutes on the word "manslaughter," which is the closest his set really gets to the level of a PG-rated movie.

This is not edgy comedy. It's not bad, and it seems like it'd be a difficult set to pen. Rather than call other people or groups out on being stupid, the bulk of the laughs are at Brian Regan's expense. For example, he doesn't know a lot about art, or mingling at parties-- and the jokes work really well. I feel like a tool trying to write them up for you right now because trying to explain the set is a fairly difficult process. It's funny. You could let your mom watch it, or even your kids, and odds are you won't feel like a dork for laughing along. If you were a kid and you discovered comedy through this act, you wouldn't hate yourself down the road like you might were it any of a number of people who have had specials on Comedy Central as of late.

The Comedy Central special is so squeaky-clean you almost feel like you can't trust it. It's like a bag of M&Ms-- timeless, fairly enjoyable, and likely to be aired on Comedy Central constantly for years. (Well, maybe not the last one.) A DVD of the special will be in stores like nowish.

Friday, August 22, 2008

Lewis Black: Anticipation

Published in August 2008 by Comedy Central records
Available at Amazon or through Lewis Black - Anticipation

Coming off his 2006 album The Carnegie Hall Performance, Lewis Black's latest album simplifies things.

This album is a lot less topical than previous albums, no long rants about Rick Santorum or the 2004 Super Bowl Halftime show. Instead there are more general topics like Christmas, golfers, and a guy almost getting his penis bitten off while making blueberry pancakes.

Yes, indeed, that. I won't ruin that family-oriented bit (that I'm sure you are already fascinated to hear about) with further specifics other than it is a true story from a newspaper.

I think the move to make it less topical helps the longevity of the humor as, really, going back and hearing bits about Janet Jackson's nipple slip just is not as funny now as it was then. "Then" being 2004. In fact, even then, you were sick of hearing about anything to do with it.

Interesting to note is that Lewis Black uses the title, Anticipation, as a theme throughout. Every comedy bit on this album ties into it. For instance, the anticipation one gets to lose their virginity, or the anticipation one gets at Christmas, or the lack of anticipation one has for Chanukah vs. Christmas growing up Jewish as he did.

As he puts it:

On every Christmas day as a youth, I would go and see my friends, my Christian friends, and see what they had got, and under the tree was everything I dreamed of having...and that's when I learned for the first time what the biblical word covet meant, it means, "I WANT ALL YOUR SHIT NOW!!!" And then I went next door to celebrate Chanukah and that's when I first understood what the word depression meant. "Oh boy, a pen and pencil set. How lucky for me that I have two eyes."

This album comes with nothing extra, just a cardboard cover and the CD, no extra video content or special insert and runs at just under an hour in length. You aren't missing out on anything if you download this digitally unless of course you are a fan and a completest and want the albums sitting on your shelf, perhaps next to your first editions of Moby Dick and Wuthering Heights, or more likely Fear and Loathing on the Campaign Trail '72. Which is fine. If you are a fan of Lewis Black's previous albums, you'll be a fan of this one too.

Back cover:


Monday, August 18, 2008

Strong Bad's Cool Game for Attractive People - Episode 1: Homestar Ruiner

For Wii and PC
Released in August 2008 by Telltale Games and Videlelectrix.

Do you happen to remember the point-and-click style of adventure game with a comedy theme? You know, like Space Quest? No?

Well, okay, Strong Bad's Cool Game for Attractive People is like one of those games you don't remember. This is Episode 1 of 5, and this game is $10, so in the end you will be paying something like $50 for a complete game. Thus it is in this age of buying games in pieces.

It helps if you happen to like Homestar Runner cartoons in order to like this game. You know, Homestar Runner, the cartoon that was wildly popular five years ago, now is merely just popular? Well, if the clean, pop-culture referencin' humor of the cartoons doesn't entertain you, then you will probably get no enjoyment out of this game.

This is an adventure game in which you play Strong Bad, with the objective of trying to ruin Homestar Runner's life as the title of this episode suggests. To do this you wander around the locales present in the Homestar Runner cartoon - Strong Bad's House, Bub's Concession Stand, Strongbadia, and so on, pointing and clicking your way through puzzles and through random non-puzzle related stuff, which almost always comes with some sort of joke to it.

Like, clicking on the Cheat gets you to say "Hey, look over there!" Then, of course, when the Cheat turns to look, you throw him in the dryer.

There are also little side-games to play too, like one can turn on the Atari-like console, and play "Snake Boxer" where you control an 8-bit boxer trying to fight snakes with his fists in a ring. There's also the ability to make your own "Teen Girl Squad" cartoons, which has the premise of you trying to make a cartoon in which all the Teens get horribly killed before the cartoon is over. You can also, at any time, take a screenshot using an interface that looks like you are using an early-model digital camera, then use Strong Bad's computer to e-mail the screenshot to your Wii friends.

As far as the concept of the game, it's nothing groundbreaking. However, the writing, done by the Brothers Chaps, who write the Homestar Runner Cartoons, makes this game entertaining. You go through the tutorial and you are treated to Strong Bad explaining how to use the simple controls for talking, using inventory, etc, except everyone in the tutorial is aware it is a tutorial. Like Strong Sad says "I told you that I didn't want to be in your tutorial, Strong Bad!" Then is forced to reading his "lines" for the tutorial, which he does in a very unenthusiastic way.

This Episode isn't that long, taking you about seven hours to complete if you just play through and don't click on random stuff or play any side games. Again, if you like the Homestar Runner cartoons, then you will probably want to play this game. Keep in mind that like most comedy related adventure games, there's not much replay value the second time through as you have heard all the jokes. It's up to you if you want to spend $10 on it now, or wait a few months to get all the episodes together for $50 as they will inevitably come together in one standard release.

Friday, August 15, 2008

The Steve Martin Brothers

The Steve Martin Brothers
Published on CD in 2006 by Wounded Bird Records
Originally published on LP in 1981 by Warner Bros.

"Well good evening, motherfuckers. You probably think of me as the happy-go lucky 'Wild And Crazy Guy' you see on TV---that's a lot of fuckin' bullshit. I just do that to earn a living. This is the real me, so fuck you."

That's from the intro to the second track from Steve Martin on this album. It seems to exemplify this release, being that:

It is Steve Martin's last comedy album.
It is just over thirty minutes in length.
It contains very little comedy, some of it written by Jack Handey of Saturday Night Live and performed by Steve Martin.
Over half the album is banjo music.

An interview with The Banjo Newsletter indicates how old the banjo music was, and Steve Martin's own opinion of the album:

Banjo Newsletter: (The Steve Martin Brothers) came out in '81, so these cuts were already 10 years old at the time, right?

SM: Yeah. By that time I was out of comedy material. I needed to put something on the record. I think I had a contract to come up with another record. I really didn't have [enough material for] one; I'd sort of moved on from standup at that point.

This album was not even published by Warner Music on CD, as was the past few Steve Martin Albums: Let's Get Small, A Wild and Crazy Guy, and Comedy is Not Pretty. This CD was licensed from Warner Music by Wounded Bird Records, which typically shuttles out re-issues of lesser known albums from artists. So, Warner Bros. didn't even want to re-issue their very own Steve Martin album. That should tell you something.

It should also tell you something that the banjo music is the more entertaining part of this album. In fact the banjo music was the entire B side of the LP, as indicated by the dual nature of martin on the cover.

As to be expected from banjo music, it has a lot of nice, upbeat tunes, some of which with musical accompaniment by flute and fiddle. It really showcases Martin's skill as a musician which is often overlooked as nowadays as he does Cheaper by the Dozen 27: Cheap Harder.

That last part segues nicely into the downside of this album, the poor jokes. The two comedy tracks on this album, creatively labeled "Cocktail Show, Vegas" and "Comedy Store, Hollywood" are obviously thrown on there with all the care of a Starbuck's worker on their third consecutive shift in five days being asked to brew an espresso at exactly 279 degrees.

The Comedy Store routines are slightly better than the Cocktail Show routines, which actually ends with Steve Martin pointing out Carl Reiner and Eddie Fisher in the audience. All of which you can't see. Perhaps it's an existentialist joke, or perhaps, as said before, Martin just didn't care at this point. You get that sense throughout the entire series of comedy bits. The jokes fall flat, the enthusiasm is faked. It's obviously still Steve Martin, but it's Steve Martin tired of stand up.

Overall, I would say get this if you are a Steve Martin fan and really want the complete set of albums or haven't heard enough of his banjo music. Which, again, is quite good.

Friday, August 8, 2008

Lewis Black's Root of All Evil

Lewis Black's Root Of All Evil
Available on Comedy Central and Lewis Black's Root of All Evil

Take Lewis Black. Make him a judge. Then take two comedians and make them lawyers. Have the two of them argue over which is more evil in something that isn't really a trial. Sounds like a hilarious show, right? RIGHT??

The format is thus: Lewis Black is the judge. One comic makes an argument for one thing being the Root of All Evil, and another comic makes an argument for another thing. Say like, Patton Oswalt argues that bloggers are the Root of All Evil, and Andy Daly makes an argument that Ultimate Fighting is the Root of All Evil. This goes on for a while, to where the comics put forth a hypothetical monologue as to what will happen if their evil thing is allowed to continue. Then they give their closing arguments and Lewis Black decides which is more evil.

Essentially, it's a bunch of different ideas shoved together in a formula, which makes it broken.

So you have stand-ups doing material on a set subject. Okay, they've got some talented comics so that should be fine, but then you have them present the material as lawyers. This is kind of like going up to a gourmet chef and saying "hey, I know you are a gourmet chef, but could you do your cooking as if you were a gay pirate?" In essence, it takes people who are good at something and has them try to force it into a bad idea.

Then there is the concept of comparing two things and deciding which is the more evil. This is interesting, but it's done in a way that isn't interesting. It would be interesting if this was an actual jury of ordinary people giving their actual opinions as to what is more evil. That would be full of suprise and insight. This is just again, comics doing stand-up material on a set subject crammed up the ass of a bad idea.

I kinda wish that this has been more of a "This Week" format. You know, where comics sat around and had a round table discussion about what subjects considered evil. That would have provided a more open format for comedy and not seemed so forced. Also, it would have made a trifecta of news show satire. You would have the Daily Show for fake news, the Colbert Report for fake Fox news, and Root of All Evil for fake NPR-like discussion.

Ah well, I'm not the programming director of Comedy Central. If I was, then Mind of Mencia would be about cutting open Carlos Mencia's skull to see what brain processes make him suck so bad and develop gene therapies to prevent that in future comedians.

I want to like this show as it is. I really do, because I like the people in it. I like Lewis Black, and I like Andy Daly, Patton Oswalt, Paul F. Tompkins....and the others, but this format really doesn't work at all. It's kind of sad, like watching Eddie Murphy's career since 1991, except so much more so.

Expect Root of All Evil to run for five more seasons on Comedy Central.

Sunday, August 3, 2008

Patton Oswalt 222

Patton Oswalt 222
Released in 2004 by United Musicians

This album is essentially the unedited recording of which Patton Oswalt's debut album, Feelin' Kinda Patton was cut from. The title comes from the fact the audio is 2 hours and 22 minutes long. I thought it was a reference to Room 222, the TV show from the 1970's, but that is just me.

The album itself is completely no frills, with two trackless CDs, and nothing much of liner notes. You may want to put this on your favorite digital music device because of this. It will allow you to skirt around at will.

It is interesting in the world of comedy recordings because this is essentially the "warts and all" edition of a comedy performance. Every awkward chuckle, every Oswalt sip of Dewar's, every audience member howling like Chewbacca is all there. Actually, considering the amount of alcohol Patton indicates he is drinking during this recording, it is amazing that he does not end his long set with him dying on stage with blood shooting out of his liver. It's an impressive alcohol tolerance.

It's a good bit of comedy, it's an interesting recording of comedy. If you wish you can get this over Feelin Kinda Patton, because this contains all the material in Feelin Kinda Patton and more, just unedited. Or if you want something a little more organized, you can not get this and get Feelin Kinda Patton instead. It's your choice, really.

Overall, I feel like perhaps this is not an album for people who are new to Patton Oswalt as the long, trackless presentation might be too much to handle. For those who are already a fan, this is a fine purchase.

Friday, July 25, 2008

Werewolves and Lollipops

Werewolves and Lollipops
Patton Oswalt
Released by Sub Pop records in 2007

Oh my god! What the hell is going on with this album cover?? It's like Pink Floyd took some acid with Rush and made an album cover with Salvador Dali! Things are MELTING! There's a big mouth with fangs on the outside where the head should be and the head is a ball and AAAAAHHH!

Werewolves and Lollipops is Patton Oswalt's most recent album. It is hilarious, keeping with Patton's ranting on pop culture retardation, the pain of his own life, and the pure insanity of being the type of person who lives in thes suburbs and has a "normal" American life.

The album starts off with a bit you may have heard now already, talking about KFC's famous bowls, their menu item in which they shove a pile of their food in a bowl and serve it to human beings. From there he goes on to describe how he got married and how he doesn't believe that his wife is real because she is is a hottie and he is not. He meanders over to talking about how disturbing G-rated filth is, why you should only be allowed 20 birthday parties, the Dukes of Hazard being Bush and Cheney, killing George Lucas with a shovel, and how growing up in the suburbs sucks ass.

Patton does a bit about birth control on this album that he has done previously, with one important difference - a heckler interrupts his bit right as he is getting to the punchline. This leads to an instant diversion where Patton rips into the heckler for minutes with a skill and wit I'm sure we all wish we had when having to deal with total douchebags.

The album continues with his admiration of the insanity of four-star chefs, how he can't get a movie made, but Death Bed: The Bed That Eats People is a movie that was, and he finishes up with how the same people who might be against gay marriage will be very for Cirque du Soleil, which Patton describes "What a gay french dude sees in his head when he's tired and horny."

Though this may be an antiquated notion, I recommend getting the physical, non-downloadable, hold-in-your-hands copy because it not only comes with a CD, but a DVD as well.

Now, the DVD is essentially a video of Patton doing essentially the same performance on the album, except someone gets peed on. That's right, someone during the show does not have the self control to leave the crowd for a bit and go to the bathroom properly, so they simply urinate on someone standing next to them. Thankfully you don't see this happening but you certainly hear Patton's reaction to it, which is reoccurring. Patton even makes an introduction on the DVD in front of a bust of Lincoln to specifically plead with people not to pee on each other at his shows.

Besides the stand-up the DVD also features a brief little skit showing Patton at a house he clearly doesn't own with rooms that can't possibly exist in it.

Overall, great album, get it. Enjoy it. Share it with your friends.

back cover

inside cover

acid-trip freaky booklet cover (by an artist called Zeloot)

more normal booklet insides

the discs

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Patton Oswalt's Frankensteins and Gumdrops

Warning/Guarantee: This look at a comedy album is written from the collector perspective. If you're looking to buy an actual full Patton Oswalt CD, this is not a good place to start. If you have all his stuff and are going to buy this anyway, this is for you.

A few months ago, word came down handed unto me by the Chunklet blog that Patton Oswalt would not only have a new CD coming, but it'd be free! Well, free with a pledge to radio station WFMU which I've never heard. After discovering it was free with a $75 donation, it seemed it would not be possible to obtain this CD. Until last weekend, that is. (Don't ask me where I got it.) Limited edition, promotional, and exclusive are very important words to the collector out there, and in here. This album is largely about bragging rights, so I can go to both of my friends who care about such things and say "guess what I've got?"

Frankensteins and Gumdrops gives you 10.3 minutes of the funny. That's not a lot of funny for $75, and I'm sure anyone who actually shelled out the asking rate on eBay would probably not be entirely pleased with their purchase. But keep in mind, I've payed a lot of money for a Transformers toy just because there are only 1,000 of them in the world, so I'm not one to talk. Anyway, the tracks are:
1. There Will Be Blood
2. Mega-Leg

One track gets out some decent movie material out there, even if any references to There Will Be Blood are on the midnight train to Borat-ville. The other immortalizes the KFC Mega-Leg routine, which has been performed live over (at least) the past year now. I still laugh, and you will too-- Patton's endless enthusiasm shows through these bits and odds are that someday I'll find my hypothetical future offspring quoting some of this stuff back to me to the point of madness. (Of course, the language isn't kid-friendly, I'm just guessing that's something my kid would do.)

What you have here is a great little collectible. As a can't-miss laughfest for the car on your next road trip, well, it'll fill 10 minutes. So if you have a harrowing journey to the 7-11 or through the Wendy's drive-thru, this is just the thing. Just take my advice when I say it is not only not worth the premium pricing. One can't put a price on a premium collectible (or rather, they can, and we pay it) but the actual quantity of material here is not worth the typical EP asking price. Were this a mass release, anything more than $6.99 would seem excessive.