Wednesday, December 30, 2009
...not that any of our five readers watch the show that we know of anyway. The show, which had Comedy Central's highest premiere ratings in history, dropped off quickly and was also reportedly a very expensive show to produce. Hence, no more show. There will, of course, be additional TV specials and merchandise to ironically gift your relatives come the holidays, only for you to be shocked and saddened to discover they're actually quite happy with the gifts.
Tuesday, December 29, 2009
WHAT: Two episodes of a series bundled as a special
GOOD IF YOU LIKE: The comedy and twitter stylings of Doug Benson
WHERE TO FIND IT: G4TV, airing seemingly at random
Friday, December 25, 2009
LABEL: A Special Thing Records, 2008
GOOD IF YOU LIKE: 80s music, novelty albums, fighting
WHERE TO FIND IT: Online or bust
LENGTH: 63 minutes
The novelty record is experiencing something of a revival. Every few years "Weird Al" Yankovic puts out something new that burns up the charts, and the Conchords had a great run on TV. Rather than go with parodies, R.O. Manse has some sketches, some faux interviews, some songs, and more to make what basically amounts to a pretty great CD of character development. We learn who this guy is, we hear some highlights from his career, we meet his ex-wife... this is a fleshed-out guy.
With numerous special guests and all sorts of gags, this album is pretty all over the place. With 26 tracks spanning a variety of styles, there are a surprising number of great gags here-- the suite of 1980s movie theme songs, for example, are pretty fantastic. The album has a couple of songs which qualify as "hit singles" of sorts, awesome little ditties that work really well outside the context of the album. "Ladyboy" and "I Have a Synthesizer" are clearly the two shining stars of the album, were you to play them for a friend, the former of which is a surprisingly catchy song that-- unlike many novelty songs-- manages to play it straight. (As it were.)
If you can pick up a few tracks odds are you'll enjoy this-- it's a few steps beyond the recordings from various tunesmiths you'd here on Dr. Demento, and while pretty goofy, tracks like "Ladyboy" take comedy songwriting in a direction where it's funny without being overtly jokey-- that's quite a challenge. Well done! Pick this up if you're looking for comedy mixed with 1980s synthesized new wave songs, because it manages to pull it off nicely.
Thursday, December 24, 2009
Dumbledore Rides Again
Noches De Pasion con Señor O'Brien
Tuesday, December 22, 2009
Thursday, December 17, 2009
LABEL: Warner Bros. Records, 1967
GOOD IF YOU LIKE: Bill Cosby
WHERE TO FIND IT: Your local library, some record stores
LENGTH: 42 minutes
If you're roughly 30 years old, odds are your parents raised you in a home with albums from Bill Cosby. My dad had several, but I didn't hear Revenge until just last month. It's a little looser than some of his other stuff and much more personal in the sense that it's about his person rather than Noah's Ark or bad drivers. Tales include "Revenge," a classic bit about saving a snowball for summer, and "Buck, Buck" which is seemingly the genesis of another famous character, namely Fat Albert.
In this disc you'll get all sorts of tales, and it's a little slower-- and naturally, significantly cleaner-- than the sort of things we usually cover in this column. Cosby, like Steve Martin or George Carlin, is one of the few comedians that works on some higher ethereal plane and his older albums, like this one, were a big part of the wave of fame he continues to ride to this very day. Sure, he's done great new stuff since then, but these things were bought and kept in homes in the pre-VCR era when records were the only way to play back your favorite people and shows for most people.
Cosby's voice carries well and it's a pretty great release overall. There's clearly a missing visual component which rears its head when you hear some of the laughter on the album, which was recorded at Harrah's nearly a million years ago ago, but it's worth hearing. It's worth picking up a Cosby album or two to see how the form evolved over the past half-century. A lot of things have changed, but the funniest stuff tends to resonate the longest.
Monday, December 14, 2009
Thursday, December 10, 2009
LABEL: Million Dollar Performances, 2000
GOOD IF YOU LIKE: Early Neil Hamburger
WHERE TO FIND IT: Good freaking luck, on tour if he still has them
LENGTH: 27 minutes
It's no secret, we love Neil Hamburger-- especially his new stuff. His earlier recordings, like 50 States 50 Laughs, use his slightly less gruff earlier persona in which he's more of a sad sack than an increasingly spiteful comedian. The theme is a joke for each state, which sometimes works out as a pun, something about the local fare, or... well, we won't spoil it all for you.
"Have you ever looked in the trash can at a Long John Silvers? It's full of pieces of fish, each with exactly one bite taken out of it, and then all these napkins rolled up into little balls and in the center of each one is the corresponding piece of chewed-up fish!"
The entire album is particularly unique in that it's a stand-up album, more or less, recorded completely without an audience. This guarantees every joke sounds like it's being delivered to an unresponsive room, which actually makes it even funnier.
Like his other work, this album is brilliant-- but in increasingly unexpected ways. This is one of few albums which criticizes itself, and is built around a pretty clever idea. Due to how Hamburger's early voice projects, it may not be the best pick for your car rides as his low voice sometimes gets drowned out by the road sounds-- but that's really dependant on what you're driving. Either way, it's an album worth checking out simply because you've probably heard very little like it.
Tuesday, December 8, 2009
Thursday, December 3, 2009
There are pugs. There is a couch. Presumably, this will be awesome. We're quite impressed, a lot of comics are putting out some great YouTube videos but this is the first time I've seen a gigantic long special.
LABEL: Sub Pop Records, 2009
GOOD IF YOU LIKE: Pretty much anything vaguely resembling alternative comedy
WHERE TO FIND IT: Tons of places, this got a wide release
LENGTH: 42 minutes
How Sub Pop got into comedy we'll never know, but it's good to see top-notch talent getting decent distribution for a change. Eugene Mirman's God Is A Twelve-Year-Old Boy With Asperger's (the title) comes from a tale on his book tour, specifically track #8. In it, you hear about a kid asking aloud why Eugene doesn't worship him as his God-- if you don't find that funny, well, stop reading now. The always funny, sometimes spiteful, but genuinely hilarious ramblings are just as good if not better than his previous albums.
The album's material gets increasingly personal, culminating in a bit on airplanes losing his luggage that crosses over from a mere joke to some higher level of performance art. Not only are we treated to transcripts of his calls, but we also find out that he wants his audience in on the act-- he printed up a bunch of postcards to send to the airline, enlisting his audience as troops on his quest against his lost pants and whatnot. Truly, this should be the stuff of tomorrow's comedy legends.
Like his other recordings, this is a great road trip album, and is also good pretty much any other time. If you haven't heard his material, this is a good of a place to start as any,
Also notable: His first two albums are "The Absurd Nightclub Comedy of Eugene Mirman" and "En Garde, Society". Eugene appears on "The Pennsylvania Macaroni Company" with Patton Oswalt, Brian Posehn, and Maria Bamford. The comic has a mini tour CD from the Comedians of Comedy as well, some of which seeped into his other releases-- so it's more of a collectible than it is a must-own disc of rarities. (But we'll look at it later.)
Wednesday, December 2, 2009
"NEW BRIAN POSEHN ALBUM!:
You got that right! And much like the most recent Patton Oswalt, yours truly was the producer. Brian's told me that it'll be out in February on Relapse with much promotion and touring to support it. I call him BROsehn. Get it? Because we're bros!"
There you go! So in the past year or so, all of the Comedians of Comedy made a new album except Zach Galifianakis.
Tuesday, December 1, 2009
If we could get a USB figure that spouts out jokes, that'd just be fantastic. We'd pay up for that.
I Love Movies
Doug Benson once again proves that he's being robbed by the fools running television for not having the foresight to give him his own show. This week his guests were "Weird Al" Yankovic and Chris Hardwick, and they were fantastic. As always, the show will be available via iTunes or whatever podcatching service you use in a few days, and this is one you won't want to miss. (Despite a tiny chunk of it being three men Twittering at once.)
Comedy Death Ray
A fantastic show. Hosted by Mike Kaplan, who we have not seen previously, but will now go out of our way to see. Excellent work. Also on deck:
- Dave Anthony
- Charlyne & Armen (seemingly improvised musical act/sniper spitting)
- Rory Scovel (stand-up plus something involving clowns that courtesy prevents us from spoiling)
- Zach Galifianakis (a few jokes, a whole lotta great crowd work)
- Mindy Kaling and B.J. Novak (a conceptual piece about Tom Bergeron's kids)
- Chris Hardwick
The evening was fantastic, the pacing was great, we're pretty sure you would enjoy it if you were there. Some kid in the front row was taping most of it so it wouldn't be a stunner to see this on the web some day, if we find out about it we'll link to it.
Monday, November 30, 2009
GOOD IF YOU LIKED: Tracy Morgan's career thus far
WHERE TO FIND IT: Throw a rock, you'll find it
PUBLISHER: Spiegel & Grau, 224 pages
BY: Tracy Morgan with Anthony Bozza
I Am The New Black is, in effect, less an autobiography and more of an ongoing talk show transcript. Covering the comic's personal life and vast career, which includes SNL and 30 Rock, you get a really strong feeling of what Morgan's life is like. Basically, the story of his life is this: Come from nothing. Become something. Succeed wildly. Fail. Repeat.
The book's writing is very much in the voice of Morgan, with allusions to robots and other craziness, which really does prove that the writers on 30 Rock aren't kidding when they say they follow Tracy around for a day to come up with episode ideas. The man's a factory of strangeness, and is clearly some sort of manic genius.
At a very breezy 200+ pages with pictures and illustrations, the book goes by in a flash. It feels like it could almost have been posted via Twitter, in that there are a number of brief anecdotes that all go by quite quickly. Also like Twitter, this book is very now-- there are references to real-world events, which season of 30 Rock just finished, and so on, making this book already feel a little dated. You can pinpoint when certain sections were drafted, which is really all the more reason to read it now if you're going to at all.
There's not a lot here that feels like some amazing revelation-- if anything, it shows that his affable, eccentric persona on TV is pretty much spot-on. Stories about his days in sports, his upbringing, and why you need to move out of a bad neighborhood in the middle of the night after achieving success ring true, as do the many stories of his early TV gigs. Particularly engaging are the tales of his first attempts on the stage, succeeding one week and then bombing the next because he trotted out new, untested material that the audience didn't seem to go for.
Like many books about the business, there's a clear journey here, although it seems each chapter is pretty scattered. It starts off being about one thing, than jumps into his personal life or a friend or something else entirely. With the numerous references to his drinking and partying, plus the health-related danger of an alcohol monitoring bracelet, you're likely to learn some interesting trivia if nothing else. Assuming, of course, you don't have to wear one of the bracelets yourself.
If you need something to read on the plane, this is a great and fast read. Just be sure to read it sooner than later, as the narrative was clearly meant to be read during 2009. In 2010 it's going to feel like it came from a time capsule.
Sunday, November 29, 2009
Any week that includes both a new Mystery Science Theater release and a new CD from Paul F Tompkins is a good week. Period. No questions asked. Not even if that same week includes one of the most tiresome sequels in movie history. Nope. No-siree. Good week, right here. For serious, count your blessings.
Mystery Science Theater XVI – This limited edition set comes with a little bust of Tom Servo, who can accompany Crow T. Robot from the 20th Anniversary set. As usual, you get four episodes:
105: The Corpse Vanishes
501: Warrior of the Lost World
521: Santa Claus
701: Night of the Blood Beast
So that’s two Joels and two Mikes. I’m a Mike Nelson man myself, but the Joel episodes included here ain’t half bad. Plus you get two shorts and a bevy of extras included in the box. What’s not to love?
Better Off Ted Season One – Some people love this show, most have never heard of it. Here’s the complete first season. Might be worth checking out if you have a spare afternoon and a couple empty slots in the ol’ Netflix queue.
Paper Heart – Do you enjoy the awkward comedy stylings of Charlyne Yi? Here’s her faux-documentary about what love is wherein she and Michael Cera fall in love and pretend to flee from the camera crew. Yi and Cera actually did fall in love during the filming of this, and may have become America’s first couple to get married in hoodies and skinny jeans had they not broken up a few months later.
Pale Force – Jim Gaffigan’s animated shorts wherein he and Conan O’Brien are extremely pale superheroes. It’s a running gag from Late Night, wherein Gaffigan basically humiliates the Conan character over and over again. Can’t imagine this has a lot of rewatch value, but hey, here it is.
Paul F. Tompkins: Freak Wharf – NEW PAUL F TOMPKINS CD BUY BUY BUY BUY BUY
Night at the Museum: Battle of the Smithsonian – Probably one of the most obnoxious sequels ever made. Lots of jokes for the cheap seats, Hank Azaria seems to voice every animated character AND gets to adlib as the lisping Egyptian villain for minutes at a time. This movie also wastes the comic talents of Jonah Hill and Bill Hader. There are some nifty moments at the beginning involving some living paintings, and Amy Adams looks pretty great in those aviator pants, but sweet jesus this movie is annoying from start to finish. See if you can make it all the way to the Einstein bobbleheads singing “That’s the way I like it”! If that doesn’t get you to shut it off, maybe the endless sequences involving Ben Stiller being slapped by monkeys will!
Friday, November 27, 2009
Thursday, November 26, 2009
And here's another one.
So it's not just your imagination, you really are seeing her on TV. After the Target Devo spots it seems they've got some subversive advertising people. Now, does this mean Target will start stocking her albums? We hope so.
LABEL: Shout! Factory, 2009
GOOD IF YOU LIKE: Likeable, awkward funny dudes
WHERE TO FIND IT: iTunes, Amazon, some record shops
LENGTH: 39 minutes
Dana Gould has been around for a while, and is one of the comedians that managed to stick in my head nearly 20 years after first seeing him on the Sunday Comics TV show. He went to do writing for The Simpsons and has returned to stand-up comedy in a big way, with Let Me Put My Thoughts In You on CD and, of course, DVD. (We're bigger fans of the CDs, call us old-fashioned.)
If you have not had the luxury of hearing a Dana Gould album allow me to save you a few minutes and just tell you to go get it. Like Doug Benson Paul F. Tompkins, Gould should be on your "just go see/hear everything they do" list. You'll probably be glad you heard routines like "Timely Son of Sam Bit" which involves what the dog in the case probably would have actually said, "Pickup Lines & Ice Cream" which nicely sets the tone of dealing with people you'll never agree with, and "Creative Racism..." to describe it would be to ruin your laughs.
Gould has a fantastic approach to comedy and nearly everything he's done should be handed down to new generations of comedy nerds until the references become so dated you'll need a college professor to explain them to you. (But we should be good for a few more decades here.) This is a great pick for your next extended drive, if you have a way of getting it before you return from Thanksgiving travels, you should.
Monday, November 23, 2009
GOOD IF YOU LIKED: Les Savy Fav, the greater works of Steve Albini, and rock in general
WHERE TO FIND IT: Better record stores, online book stores, Chunklet's web store
BY: Henry Owings, Patton Oswalt, Brian Teasley, Andrew Earles, many others
It's often been said the musicians want to be comedians, and comedians want to be musicians. The Rock Bible bridges this gap with an excellent piece of work aimed at a very specific kind of person who may not be you. This collection of jokes and essays takes the form of the Bible in its structure, with the required amount of sneering and accuracy that hits the nail on the head. Truly, it is funny because it's true... and born from Chunklet, arguably the finest publication on paper today.
"If you want to die while in a famous rock band, there are four options. 1. Suicide. 2. Car or plane crash. 3. Drug overdose. 4. Murdered by a crazy relative. Just pick one and stick with it."
The one problem about the book is that it seems to be a very funny collection written mostly with people that are cooler than you/me in mind. If you see a lot of shows or play in a band yourself, there's a good chance that this book may mirror experiences in your own life. For the squares, there's a lot of great advice as to how not be a putz at a rock show-- which may seem obvious, and it really should be. There's also a bunch of stories, in-jokes, and lists of things which are or are not acceptable in rock today. This may sound like a snobby pursuit, and it probably is, but it's damned funny.
If you like music a lot-- specifically forms of rock from its roots to today-- odds are you'll enjoy this a great deal. If you're in college and have this on a table during a party, it's going to get stolen. That's how good it is. If you've got a music fan in your life, or you are one, get it. Read it. You'll love it. It's virtually the ideal bathroom book.
Sunday, November 22, 2009
Holy hell, what did we do to deserve this?
So the feature-packed edition of one of the best comedy-nerd movies ever made comes out earlier than expected, and because the universe hates us all, there is also a mountain of unbelievable shit released in the same week.
This is the price we pay.
Funny People – A complex, surprisingly compelling and really unique drama-that-happened-to-also-be-really-funny about comedians that was misunderstood by a lot of people (and was, admittedly, flawed when it came to pacing). Absolutely the must-buy release of the week, if only for the ridiculous wealth of supplemental material included here.
It is also the lone bright spot this week. Fuck. FUCK.
COMEDY TOXIC WASTE
Old Dogs – I’m not sure if this is a sequel to the bullshit that was Wild Hogs but they’re sorta-kinda marketing it that way. Seth Green is in it for some reason. Seems to be geared toward the same middle-aged white guys who chortle their way through Two and a Half Men every week and beat off to The Real Housewives of Orange County.
Four Christmases – One of the most criminally unfunny holiday comedies ever. After this abortion and Couples Retreat, someone needs to go slap Vince Vaughn, Jon Favreau and Peter Billingsley and tell them to please stop just making lame-ass easy comedies designed to appeal to the Sunday night Olive Garden crowd. These people were responsible for Swingers and Made, they can do a lot better than this safe, trite garbage.
Bill Engvall: Aged and Confused – Hey look it’s a new Bill Engvall special. Perhaps he will make jokes about his wife being a nag or his kids being a pain in the ass or how he just wants to crack a beer and watch some football. WHO KNOWS WHAT UNPREDICTABLE COMEDY GOLD HE HAS IN STORE
Larry the Cable Guy’s Hula-Palooza Christmas Luau
Larry the Cable Guy’s Hula-Palooza Christmas Luau
Larry the Cable Guy’s Hula-Palooza Christmas Luau
LARRY THE FUCKING CABLE GUY'S HULA-PALOOZA CHRISTMAS FUCKING LUAU
Thursday, November 19, 2009
LABEL: Comedy Central Records, 2006
GOOD IF YOU LIKE: Likeable, awkward funny dudes
WHERE TO FIND IT: iTunes, Amazon, some record shops
LENGTH: 60 minutes
You may know Mike Birbiglia from his many comedy specials or from his numerous appearances on PRI's This American Life, often discussing his terrifying bout with sleepwalking. Which involves window-jumping and bleeding unintentionally. This resulted in a one-man show called "Sleepwalk With Me", where he relates his horrifying medical condition for your amusement. This is a man who truly knows how to make art out of misery and do a great job.
Birbiglia's persona on Two Drink Mike is that of a likeable, somewhat troubled guy. His comedy is mostly completely clean, going so far as to bleep a couple of curses on his albums over the years. (This is a stark contrast to, say, the entire recorded comedy album industry.)
Most of the stuff we review here is comedy for generally die-hard comedy fans, and Birbiglia is comedy for die-hard comedy fans and their parents. It's not easy to make a totally clean album with both jokes about rape and how much fun you become after a lot of drinks, but this is it.
It almost sounds like a slam to call the album nice or good-natured, but it really is both funny and very inoffensive. There's a routine on the phrase "No, But I Heard About It" that tells you everything you need to know about this comic, which is that he's funny and wants to be liked. You can totally hand this to mom and/or dad as the anti-Jeff Dunham and odds are they'll really enjoy it, and you don't have to hang your head in shame if you're not into comedians with acts that come on sticks. (No offense if you're a Dunham fan. Well, maybe a little offense.)
The album provides an ideal driving companion, as Birbiglia's voice carries despite not exactly being the highest-energy guy. You'll laugh a lot, most likely, so give this one a whirl over the coming Thanksgiving holiday. It should make the travel go down slightly easier.
A note if you're looking to buy this: it's on CD, and on multiple digital formats. Amazon sells an "Audible" version for $12 and a standard MP3 version for $10. It's the same thing, so buyer be aware!
Monday, November 16, 2009
The podcast runs weekly and features Matt Walsh of Upright Citizen's Brigade fame, screenwriter Scot Armstrong (he wrote Old School and a variety of other films) talking about the Chicago Bears football team, along with some friends of theirs who are Chicago bears fans.
This podcast is about 75% football, occasionally diverting into football-related topics, which is entertaining for the rest of us who don't follow football at all.
One example of these discussions would be which football team mascot would win in a fight were they to be real; for instance, could a bear actually fight a jet travelling 200 miles an hour? One theory - the bear could gnaw on the wheels during takeoff.
Also, stories about Evel Knievel punching out a golfer, only to be restrained by Joe Namath? Done.
I should point out that the football discussion is genuine, with Walsh and the rest really discussing the minutia of the game, from plays, to players to coaches, and a bunch of other things I do not understand because I do not follow football.
They still make it interesting for the non-fan, though, which counts. For the comedy/Chicago Bears fan, this will probably be ideal, and perhaps group therapy for this season for how badly the Bears seem to be doing right now.
Sunday, November 15, 2009
Friday, November 6, 2009
LABEL: BBC, 1978
GOOD IF YOU LIKE: Monty Python, science fiction, non-standup comedy albums
WHERE TO FIND IT: iTunes, BBC, better book stores
LENGTH: 4 hours, give or take
Depending on how much research you've done, you may be surprised that The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy started as a BBC radio program, and not as a novel or a TV miniseries. A generation of kids has been handed these by their dads, and a bunch of people have discovered it on their own-- but the radio show is where it all got started, and it's one of very few comedy/sci-fi radio shows out there to be made with any real significance.
If you're on the internet, odds are you've heard some dork come at you with the number 42. This is where that came from. The six-episode series is very similar to the book and TV show as far as plot is concerned, and many of the actors on this radio drama would go on to be stars of the television series. (Peter Jones, Simon Jones, Mark Wing-Davey, for example.) But enough of that-- is this thing worth listening to?
Ultimately, yes. This is a pop cultural milestone well worth searching out, mostly because the author Douglas Adams hung out with the boys from Monty Python and this feels like something of a spiritual successor to that form of humor. The episodes are extremely frantic, jumping between the main story and whatever strange tangents the author comes up with, be it the ins and outs of designer planets, the banality of the "B Ark," or even the notion of infinite improbability.
It's possible you're already sick of Marvin the Paranoid Android or jokes concerning the ultimate question of life, the universe, and everything... but if these are new to you, you positively need to check out this show. (And be sure to get the BBC Radio Drama, and not the audiobook. The extra actors make for great entertainment.)
Additional phases of the radio series were produced after this one, coinciding with the first five books of the series. (To date, they haven't done one for And Another Thing. The first two were made in 1978 and 1979, with the others coming in 2004 and 2005.
This series should be some sort of standard issue for young nerds of all sorts-- comedy nerds, sci-fi nerds, and so on. It's clever, fun, and goes by far too quickly. (It does get a little less fun by the fourth phase, where they adapt So Long and Thanks for All The Fish.)
Monday, November 2, 2009
The label has a news post on this new release, which we expect to be nothing short of awesome. (After all, the man can do no wrong.) Pre-orders to start soonish. We cannot wait.
Sunday, November 1, 2009
Friday, October 30, 2009
WHAT: An unofficial oral history of The Simpsons, with interviews from ex-staff, by journalist John Ortved.
GOOD IF YOU LIKED: ‘Live from New York’, which is the same basic thing for SNL.
WHERE TO FIND IT: Major bookstores, Amazon
The Simpsons: An Uncensored, Unauthorized History is basically a series of interviews with ex-staff who were willing to dish about the show’s 21-year history, without the first-hand participation from any of the series’ major players. Sure, there are excerpts from interviews other people did with Matt Groening, James L. Brooks, Sam Simon and Mike Scully, but none were conducted for this book specifically, which of course is immediately suspect.
Then again, in the (vastly superior) Live from New York, there were no direct interviews with Lorne Michaels, either, so it’s easy to just forget all that and dig in. This book is, firstly, really fascinating stuff. Although a little too much time is spent in the show’s early days (probably due to the fact that the author’s stated thesis is that The Simpsons did not “spring forth whole from Groening’s brain” but instead was a massive collaboration and was probably built more by raging eccentric Sam Simon and his writing staff than Groening himself) but the interviews with the staff members they could get to talk are excellent. For the first two-thirds or so of this thing, it’s an engrossing look at what is probably the most influential sitcom of the last 30 years or so, and there are plenty of revelations to be had, including:
- Matt Groening was always way more interested in approving licensed Simpsons merchandise than working on the show itself
- Conan O’Brien had to fight Groening to get the Leonard Nimoy ‘beam out’ gag at the end of Marge Vs. The Monorail because Groening was still completely opposed to any gags that felt “too cartoony”
- Sam Simon is likely directly responsible for the show being what it is
- Pretty much everyone except Al Jean will admit the show has sucked pretty hard for the last 10 years and bears little resemblance to the show’s golden years
- The Simpsons has generated over 3 billion dollars for News Corp.
However, in the last third, the author basically throws out any attempt at objectivity and starts injecting his often surprisingly blunt personal opinions into the non-interview bits. The endless comparisons to South Park and Family Guy are particularly pointed and it’s like he’s trying to compose a theory that one of them is the successor to The Simpsons but never really comes to a conclusion. He also spends a weird amount of time bashing The Simpsons Movie, which most fans (and critics) who grew up on the show in the 1990s felt was close enough to a long and generally good episode of the series. But it wasn’t good enough for John Ortved, I guess. Basically the last few chapters feel like someone’s disorganized blog post rather than a proper oral history, but it’s still amusing and interesting enough to keep going. Worth picking up if you find it cheap.
Thursday, October 29, 2009
NOTABLE GUESTS: Jill Sobule, Dave Allen, Paul F. Tompkins, Dave Foley, Scott Aukerman, Tom Kenny, Samm Levine
LABEL: Oglio Records, 2008
GOOD IF YOU LIKE: Mr. Show's soundtrack and/or Halloween CDs
WHERE TO FIND IT: Some record stores, Best Buy has it for $7.99
LENGTH: 1 hour, 32 seconds
If you listen to the Comedy Death Ray Radio show/podcast, you no doubt recently heard a spot promoting Eban Schletter's Witching Hour with Paul F. Tompkins. As I'm a sucker for PFT and anything he touches, I had to go track this one down. So who is this guy? It turns out that Eban Schletter is not some spooky character like the Cryptkeeper or Colonel Sanders, but is in fact an actual person responsible for composing numerous soundtracks.
This is something to throw on at parties or, if you were a bit of a dork for this sort of thing, a decent enough listen. Most of the songs fade into the background nicely and seem to borrow from cartoon soundtracks and surf music, which is where you want to be. It's not like the Cryptkeeper Christmas CD in the sense that this isn't likely to ever make it on any torture tape mixes-- it's just decent and for the most part, pleasant enough to add some noise to an otherwise quiet evening. A spooky story by Dave Foley is indeed delightfully spooky, and the songs range from mostly somber to a more upbeat number with Scott Aukerman. In short, nothing to be ashamed of.
If you're looking for a collection of goofy novelty songs this isn't it. If you keep the Nightmare Before Christmas soundtrack or Haunted House sound CDs on a loop this time of year at get-togethers, this is probably a better alternative.
...so to answer your question, no, this isn't good for road trips.
Monday, October 26, 2009
Sunday, October 25, 2009
Not a whole lot out this week, unless you’re really excited about yet another Ice Age movie. Which you really shouldn’t be. At all.
Monty Python: Almost The Truth – Easily the highlight this week, IFC’s 6-part in-depth and surprisingly candid documentary featuring all of the remaining Pythons (although it is a little strange to continue referring to them as “the remaining Pythons” considering only one of them is dead and according to this doc, it’s a shock he lived as long as he did). Interviews with a huge range of comics and comic actors are included; everyone from Simon Pegg to Russell Brand to Ricky Gervais to… OK so it’s mostly British comics but still, pretty fascinating stuff. Definitely worth a rental, or catch it in reruns on IFC.
Whatever Works – Woody Allen’s latest attempt to wring comedy out of a creepy May – December romance, featuring Larry David doing his best Larry David impression. Sounds like fun, right? This thing got pretty mixed reviews, but many said it was the best thing Allen’s done since Match Point, so who knows. Oh, and for the record, the poster for this is awful.
Adult Swim in a Box – This is a pretty odd box set; kind of a “best of” Adult Swim seasons (ironically missing Venture Bros., the best show on the network). You get: Aqua Teen Hunger Force season 2, Space Ghost Coast to Coast season 3, Moral Orel season 1, Robot Chicken season 2, Metalocalypse season 1, and Sealab season 2. It’s kind of a motley collection of episodes, but I suppose someone at Williams Street just cherry-picked what they thought were the best seasons they had. Probably makes a good gift for.. uh… someone who loves absurdist humor but somehow doesn’t own or hasn’t seen any of these.
Stan Helsing – Someone exhumed the corpse of Leslie Nielsen for this tired, sad-looking horror spoof about a video clerk who does battle with parody versions of famous movie monsters (Freddy, Chucky, maybe some Critters or Ghoulies show up, who gives a shit). This thing went straight to video, so yeah, now you know.
Thursday, October 22, 2009
LABEL: HighBridge Company, 2008
GOOD IF YOU LIKE: NPR, but don't listen to it much, and comedy new or old
WHERE TO FIND IT: Your library, book stores, online
LENGTH: 2 hours, 10 minutes
Depending on your entertainment affiliations, you may listen to either a massive amount of NPR or none at all. As I listen to a lot, much of NPR Funniest Driveway Moments had already graced my iPod through podcasts of shows like Wait Wait Don't Tell Me and others. If you permanently have your tuner set to your local NPR affiliate, odds are you've heard many of these, and the bulk of the collection is pretty timely. Some of these segments were older, some are newer, and there's a really good mix of the new generation of comedians with some of the older ones, plus a segment with Richard Pryor that sort of sticks out because he's not really involved as such. Also sticking out is a bit with Justice Stephen Breyer, who is not a comedian so much as a member of the judiciary. It's not so much a comedy thing, it certainly qualifies as amusing but it also doesn't fit here particularly well.
Since this is a collection of radio broadcasts with new segments introducing them, what you have here is essentially a perfect driving companion for fans of comedy. It isn't always funny so much as it is informative, but there's quite a bit to enjoy here if you're already a fan of the personalities on the discs, like Demetri Martin or Phyllis Diller or Sarah Silverman. Or Dame Edna. (Which we are not.) If you already have it in for these people, clearly, skip that segment-- but the whole collection is great. It's a delight to hear Steve Martin's early stories about making two cents at Disneyland, or how Mel Brooks used to play music with comedians before getting involved with Your Show of Shows.
Unlike most things I post here, this is one of very few family-friendly collections in the sense that if you're reading this, odds are you could pass it along to your parents and they probably wouldn't have a problem with it unless Lily Tomlin really pissed them off for some reason. Besides, they're going to need an introduction to Larry David, and this collection has all that and more. Heck, it's worth hearing just to hear another interview with LD, so be sure to track this one down for your next road trip. Just do it soon as it's starting to feel a little dated as some comedians go on to new things or, in some cases, retire from the business.
Monday, October 19, 2009
Hey, there’s actually a lot of stuff out this week! Glory be! Depending on your taste!
It’s Garry Shandling’s Show: The Complete Series – Garry Shandling’s beloved fourth-wall-breaking surrealist sitcom on Showtime is now finally available as a single box set containing the entire series from Shout! Factory, the fine people who are apparently responsible for bringing everything that was ever awesome to DVD. If you’ve never seen it, now’s your chance, and it’s also your chance to start pestering them to pick up the Larry Sanders series.
Fawlty Towers: The Complete Collection Remastered – One of the only classic Britcoms most people seem to appreciate, now remastered and available in one cheap boxset. Considering all previous releases of Fawlty Towers have looked like they were “remastered” by someone’s anus thanks to the BBC’s firm policy of not taking care of their television archives, this set promises to look decent. Here’s hoping.
Black Adder: The Complete Collection Remastered – It must be British comedy week! Either that or we’re getting close to Christmas, and what better gift for your PBS-loving dad than 895 minutes of Rowan Atkinson. Perhaps next week we’ll get a complete remastered collection of Are You Being Served!
Smothers Brothers: Best of Season 2 – There must be no market for complete season releases of the Smothers Brothers, so here’s the “good stuff”. Not sure how well this act has aged, but again, this is “Christmas presents for your parents” week, it seems.
SNL: Best of Amy Poehler – Hope you like Hillary Clinton impressions! Actually, I'm a fan of Poehler, but if you're not creeped out a little by that hellaciously over-photoshopped pic of her on the cover of this DVD, something's wrong with you.
Greg Giraldo: Midlife Vices – Greg Giraldo’s sorta-OK Comedy Central special. Worth a rent if you’re a fan but it isn’t really Giraldo’s greatest material ever.
This happened on Sunday, but don't forget The Venture Bros. is back on, and it is glorious. You can watch the Season 4 premiere right here.
Now and then, I will be challenged to view something that our world puts out that is presented as funny, but is most likely horrifically unfunny, and live to write about it.
Here now is a show that you won't like even if it is the sort of thing you like.
Secret Girlfriend on Comedy Central has a concept of this: you, the viewer, are presented as a character in the show in which your two loser friends (Sam and Phil) help you try to get away from your current girlfriend and on to a girlfriend on the side.
This was originally a show on the Internet (from Atomic Wedgie TV) and it certainly shows it, with the episodes consisting of two 15-minute episodes within and probably the lowest production value of any show on Comedy Central.
So, where does the humor in this show come in? It makes attempts with your loser friends being dumb and doing dumb things but they aren't "funny" dumb, just "dumb" dumb. For instance, in one episode, Sam, never having a wet dream in his life but wanting to have one, decides the best course of action would be not to masturbate or Interact with women so he can have a wet dream. He eventually has a wet dream, and of course, it's at a party, which everyone films with their phones. Fat guy having a wet dream. There's your comedy.
For women, certainly this is not a show for you. Even if you are a lesbian. The women are portrayed as all hot and dumb as a lukewarm glass of tap water. Women are shown as easily wooed by men with cute dogs or strip naked to signs that say "Nude Beach" hastily tacked up to public pools and so on and so forth. If you have a boyfriend and see him watching this, watch it with him, and see how quickly you start hitting him.
For men, I don't know if this is a show for you. Clearly it's aiming for someone who liked The Man Show, but that show had at slightly more nuance and much greater production values. This doesn't have anything appealing for such types except half-naked women. In this day in age, when you can go on the Internet and the other half of the naked women, putting things here and there, why watch something that is not the full experience? This show features no nipples and even the swearing is bleeped out, so why bother?
Overall, it's a show that is insulting to women, not satisfying to women who might like a show that is insulting to women, and perhaps an ominous portent for future comedy program in a recession, where the cheapest is appealing, even if it isn't funny.