Archive for the ‘Comedy’ Category

Lever action

May 7, 2021

Many’s the swab who dreams of being the cap’n, arr.

There was something of a “these kids today” thing happening on Marc Maron’s “WTF” podcast this week, and go figure — it struck a chord with me.

Maron was getting deep into the comedy weeds with fellow comic Mark Normand, talking about their backgrounds, their neuroses, how they became comics, standups they’ve worked with and admired, differences in style, the mechanics of jokes, lines and the crossing thereof, and whether the crossing is worth the caterwauling from a vocal subset of the audience getting their knickers in a twist over the outrage du jour.

They both agreed with Harry Shearer, who once told Maron, “The reason people do comedy is to control why people are laughing at them.” They both bitched about the gatekeepers with the God complexes who had the power to decide whether they would get any stage time Back in the Day.

And they both seemed astonished that anyone might think there’s a magical short cut to where they’ve gotten by dint of hard labor, some high-speed bypass that skirts the long and winding road.

Maron said it was his podcast that saved him in his mid-40s, at what seemed to be “the end of the line,” when he had no clue about what he might do next with his hard-won skill set.

And the idea that “we live in this world where it’s like all of a sudden everyone thinks they can do this” is “fucking annoying,” he added.

“We will all be immortalized as content.” — Marc Maron, “Too Real.”

“Give me where to stand, and I will move the earth,” said Archimedes, speaking of the lever. A lot of us feel the same way. With the right tool, we think, we can do anything.

Mmm … maybe not.

In my racket — and in Maron’s, too — it was the trickling down of technology from Olympus that led to delusions of grandeur here on earth. A MacBook Pro and Microsoft Office don’t make you a writer. A smartphone camera doesn’t make you a photographer. A microphone and a Libsyn account don’t make you a podcaster. The TikTok app doesn’t make you … well, to be honest, I have no idea what TikTok does to you. But whatever it is, it can’t be good.

Some of us who came to bike magazines through newspaper work used to give the old hee, and also the haw, to what we called “fans with laptops,” wanna-bes who thought devotion to cycling and/or the sport’s celebrities outweighed the craft of asking smart questions, remaining skeptical, and writing clean copy on deadline.

All you need is love? Not even The Beatles believed that shit.

“Podcasts are like babies. They’re too easy to make, and not everybody should have one.“ — Mark Normand on “WTF,” with Marc Maron

It’s one thing to play. We have all these cool toys now. We can blog, shoot videos, record podcasts, self-publish books, and broadcast email newsletters, all with a few keystrokes. Damn the gatekeepers, full speed ahead! Hold my beer and watch this! Slap it all up on the Innertubes, the modern equivalent of Mom’s refrigerator, the gallery for all your childhood scribbles.

But gigging is something else. Chops make a difference if you want to turn pro.

What annoyed me about fans with laptops — and what probably bugs Maron and Normand about amateur comics and podcasters — is that too many of them try to skip the whole boring learning-the-trade thing and step right to the pay window.

Sorry, man. No cuts. Maron got there ahead of you. And he ‘s not about to step out of line and go back to his day job. This is his day job.

“What am I prepared to do outside of show business? Nothing!” Maron said.

Preach, brother. Preach.

• Editor’s note: Incidentally, Mark Normand is a funny dude. He has a podcast or two, and you can catch his 2020 special “Out to Lunch” on YouTube.

R.I.P., Tony Hendra

March 6, 2021

“It is the job of a satirist to make people in power uncomfortable. Really uncomfortable.”

That was Tony Hendra, and he knew whereof he spoke. Hendra, who died of Lou Gehrig’s disease on Thursday, helped make a lot of people very uncomfortable indeed with his work for National Lampoon and Spy magazine, among others.

Had it not been for the trailblazing Lampoon some of us would have laughed a great deal less over the past half century. The magazine had a nut-crushing stable of funnymen, among them Hendra himself. And its “Radio Dinner,” “The National Lampoon Radio Hour,” and “Lemmings” led directly to “Saturday Night Live,” “Animal House,” “This Is Spinal Tap,” and the “Vacation” movie franchise.

Hendra’s “Magical Misery Tour” was a brutal takedown of John Lennon using Lennon’s own words from an interview in Rolling Stone. I bet John wasn’t laughing when he heard that one.

Hendra may not be as familiar to you as Chevy Chase, John Belushi, P.J. O’Rourke, or Christopher Guest. But he was right in there among them, one of the ha-ha mechanics throwing shit, just to see what might stick, and to what, or whom. Making people in power uncomfortable. Really uncomfortable.

One of his last smiles before the disease took those from him came when he learned the results of the last presidential election, said his wife, Carla.

“He was an immigrant who sailed from London into N.Y. Harbor on the SS United States after being given free passage in exchange for performing stand-up,” she told The New York Times. “What was to be a two-week visit became 57 years, because he believed in the promise of America.”

Three weeks

October 13, 2020

Miss Mia bags it. “Wake me when it’s over, or when it’s dinnertime, whichever comes first.”

Miss Mia Sopaipilla has the right idea here.

I was following her lead earlier this morning. Herself arose at stupid-thirty, as is her practice. I remained abed, head buried ostrichlike under the covers, hoping that if I just stayed under wraps for a while everything that annoyed me would go away.

Nope.

I got out of the sack three weeks too early. Give or take a couple months of lawyering.

Is it really three weeks until we get our next chance to roust this crime family? I’d give a healthy organ to see a “Cops”-style perp walk, with a disheveled Don Cornholio frog-marched to the paddywagon in guinea tee and cuffs. But this may prove elusive since La Hosa Nostra has spent the past three years and change packing the nation’s benches with capos, soldatos, and other reliable associates.

“It’s a fair cop, but society is to blame.”

“Right, we’ll arrest them instead.”

‘Turmeric? Yeah, you gotta take that shit. …’

September 15, 2020

“Turmeric May Ease Knee Arthritis,” reports The New York Times.

Hey, my boy Marc Maron got there first, dudes.

R.I.P., Carl Reiner

June 30, 2020

Two of the funniest people ever. Now there’s one less.

God damn it. Who is Mel gonna watch movies with now?

I first stumbled across Carl Reiner via “The Dick Van Dyke Show.” Then it was “The 2000 Year Old Man,” Sid Caesar’s “Your Show of Shows,” “Dead Men Don’t Wear Plaid,” and all the rest of it.

He never retired. And he never will. God is laughing His ass off right now.

• Late update: Rudolfo Anaya, author of the groundbreaking Chicano novel “Bless Me, Última,” has likewise shoved off. ¡Chale! Que triste es la vida!

‘The excitement is contagious. …’

March 16, 2020

Dr. Memory … paging Dr. Memory. …

I woke up singing, “Make the World Go Away.”

It wouldn’t, of course. The world is remarkably persistent. Always up in your grille with its pestilence, stock-market crashes, toilet-paper shortages, leadership vacuums, Darth Gimp boots, doctor’s appointments, and stupidity.

For, like the poor, ye have the stupid always with you.

Sometimes, a guy wants a little smart. And so, after a consultation with Dr. Memory, and in keeping with the general plague theme, we present for your listening enjoyment “Waiting for the Electrician or Someone Like Him” by The Firesign Theatre.

If only we had a generated, veneered leader. (Hear, hear!) Our own “Fighting Jack.” (Where, where?) But nope — all we have is a pestilence (There, there).

The Peach Mint Lollipop, or ‘Hello, Sucker’

January 22, 2020

Be careful what you ask for, they say.

I asked for impeachment. And now that I’ve gotten it. …

Well, for one, it looked a lot better online.

Two, it seems several sizes too small.

And three, it smells funny, like maybe a turtle dragged it down a toilet.

Nevertheless, here it is. And here we are, striding boldly down the runway wearing yet another fashionable edition of Radio Free Dogpatch.

 

P L A Y    R A D I O    F R E E    D O G P A T C H

• Technical notes: This episode was recorded with a Shure SM58 microphone and a Zoom H5 Handy Recorder, then edited in Apple’s GarageBand on the 13-inch 2014 MacBook Pro. The background music is “Dramatic Climax” from Zapsplat.com. The party chatter comes from dbspin at Freesound.org with an underlay of “Buddy,” an iMovie jingle. And Nick Danger (“All Things Firesign”), Mark Time (“Dear Friends”), and Principal Poop (“Don’t Crush That Dwarf, Hand Me the Pliers”) appear courtesy of The Firesign Theatre, without whom none of this would have been necessary.

R.I.P., Terry Jones

January 22, 2020

One of our family jokes is, “’Ee’s not the Messiah, ’ee’s a very naughty boy!”

That was only one of the innumerable killer lines delivered over the years by Terry Jones, who died at home Tuesday. He was 77, and had suffered from primary progressive aphasia, a cruel disease that stripped him of his marvelous powers of communication.

As a member of Monty Python’s Flying Circus, Jones generally wrote with Michael Palin, co-directed “Holy Grail” and “Meaning of Life” with Terry Gilliam, and flew solo as director for “Life of Brian,” which gave us that family gag we use so often.

Condolences, peace, and egg and spam; egg bacon and spam; egg bacon sausage and spam; spam bacon sausage and spam; spam egg spam spam bacon and spam; spam sausage spam spam bacon spam tomato and spam, or Lobster Thermidor au Crevette with a Mornay sauce served in a Provençale manner with shallots and aubergines garnished with truffle pâté, brandy and with a fried egg on top, and spam, to Jones, his family, the surviving Pythons (“Two down*, four to go,” notes John Cleese), and their friends and fans.

* Cleese forgot to count the Seventh Python, Neil Innes. No spam for him.

R.I.P., Neil Innes

December 30, 2019

The Urban Spaceman has blasted off. He was 75.

Neil Innes worked with The Bonzo Dog Doo-Dah Band, The Rutles, a.k.a. “The Prefab Four,” and of course, Monty Python.

His abrupt departure via heart attack is both surprising and unwelcome. God keeps repo’ing the comics and leaving us with the jokes.

The NYT has an obit here. Here’s Neil performing three of his greatest hits in an NPR Tiny Desk Concert back in 2011. And here’s an extensive BBC obit that includes a few video clips.

“I’ve suffered for my music, and now it’s your turn.” How sweet, this idiot.

’13 means shit and bad luck.’

December 13, 2019

I see the Donks running the House Judiciary Committee decided to postpone voting on sending two articles of impeachment to the full House until today … which would be Friday the 13th.

Shit. Good luck with that.

Charlie Pierce had his bad luck early. Dude got hit by a car, which explains why you haven’t been seeing him over at the shebeen. I’m a little irritated with management for not giving us the word. Not everyone spends their days glued to Twitter, y’know.

Shit. Good luck with that.

Speaking of being glued to things, I’ve gotten two of three modern MacBooks updated to High Sierra without incident. Still haven’t dealt with the main box or the iPhone, and given the circumstances I think I might wait until tomorrow. I don’t need any shit or bad luck.