Monday, November 29, 2010

One Last Time...

    There's something to be said about a man that can make people laugh even in death and with the amount of times I read "Leslie Nielsen has died, Surely you can't be serious" or some variation of it indicates just what kind of appeal Leslie Nielsen had. Personally my Twitter account filled with messages from nearly everyone I follow with a comment or two praising Leslie and thanking him for all the laughs and inspiration.

   Leslie was born February 11, 1926 and passed away yesterday. He was born in Saskatchewan, Canada and was a proud Canadian(which is one of the reasons why us Canadians love him so). In doing my research I was surprised to learn that Leslie had appeared in over 100 movies and 1,500 television programs. I guess when I think about Leslie I only really see him in three movies(Airplane! Naked Gun and Mr.Magoo) but that shows my age more than anything else.

    Leslie was not always a critical darling(his later attempts at spoofs including "Scary Movie 3 and 4" were ripped by critics) and he wasn't always funny(he took a shot at several serious roles all with varying levels of success) but he was well respect by his peers and that says something about his character as a person. He received a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame and star on the Canadian Walk of Fame and will be sorely missed.

    Yesterday we lost another clown. Surely you can't be serious.

Saturday, November 27, 2010

Happy Birthday Dad!

    Today my Dad turns 50 and I could only think of one clip that is a perfect take on Birthdays. So Happy Birthday Dad and enjoy Jim Gaffigan's take on Birthdays from the special "Beyond The Pale".

Thursday, November 25, 2010

Something Funny

    I'm not going to lie, you have to be a bit of a music buff to really appreciate today's post so if you're not go back  to Facebook stalking the girl you had a crush on in grade 7.

    Anyone who knows me knows that my second favorite thing to talk about is musicians. I could just have easily started a website called idolizingmusicians so when I stumbled across a video of Neil Young signing Willow Smith's "I Whip My Hair" I couldn't help but watch.

   What I actually ended watching was Jimmy Fallon doing an INCREDIBLE impersonation of Neil Young singing Willow Smith's "I Whip My Hair". For a moment I believed it really was Neil Young and I was going to credit Jimmy with being a genius for being able to co-ordinate such a stunt with the real Bruce Springsteen singing back-up. Instead I will commend Jimmy.

    I'd be lying if I said I was a huge Jimmy Fallon fan from the beginning(in particularly as a Late Night Host) but in the last year or so he's really grown into the role and grown on me. He's becoming more confident in his role and it shows. He's taking more chances and really targeting his audience with video's that go viral like the one below.

   The first video is of Willow Smith's actual music video for "Whip My Hair" then is Neil Yong(aka Jimmy Fallon's) version. Enjoy the brilliance.

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Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Me of Little Faith - A Review

Me of Little Faith
Author: Lewis Black
Publisher: the Penguin Group
Released: 2008

    In the politically correct world it is not polite to bring up politics or religion in conversation. It should come as no surprise then that comedians who go against that rule of thumb are often the most critically acclaimed and disliked. There is an instant shock value when these topics are brought up, which leads me to "Me of Little Faith" by Lewis Black.

    When I picked up this book I was expecting a highly critical look at religion and faith systems similar to Bill Maher’s documentary "Religulous". What I found was an incredibly even keeled and balanced view of a variety of religions and beliefs. This caught me off guard, and I believe the sheer shock of it lead me to having a hard time diving into the book the way I do so often with books by comedians. However once I realized the angle that Lewis was taking (although it did take me a couple of chapters to alter my view) the book became an enjoyable read.

    I learned a few things about Lewis by the end, for instance did you know he was a graduate of the Yale School of Drama? This knowledge alone explains why Lewis's humour is so well crafted and executed. It also makes his use of "vulgar" or "obscene" language even more comical to me because here is a man who could battle wits and educational pedigrees with anyone but chooses to work in the venue of comedy. I also learned that his belief system is essentially what I believe to be a growing group in today's society. That is those who believe in a higher power but are not convinced that any of the current religions or gods are the real deal.

    In "Me of Little Faith" Lewis describes his run-ins with religion. From Judaism to a psychic friend everything gets discussed except Islam which he mentions but does not dive into. I have debated in my own mind whether or not I find this cowardly and to be honest after much thought I still don't know. However his earnest opinions regarding religion are refreshing considering whenever the topic is generally brought up people take "matter of fact" type views.

    There are two real highlights from "Me of Little Faith": one is the chapter "Virtual Reality" where Lewis discusses a theory that our reality is possibly just a computer simulation. Secondly the chapter “God Knows Funny” where Lewis talks about the power of laughter in religious sense, its poetic and thoughtful and as a separate entity is worthy of publishing alone or being expounded upon into its own book. It's unfortunate in some ways that this was the last chapter as it felt like it took me so long to get to the heart of the book, if this chapter had been a "preface" for example I  believe it may have set the tone better.

    In the end I liked this book. It may not have been what I was expecting but was definitely worth my time and money. If you’re open minded enough, pick it up. If your closed minded, how the hell did you stumble across this website?

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Monday, November 22, 2010

This Day In Comedy History

    On This Day in Comedy History a legend was born. He lived a good long life(82 years) and despite what he claimed, he was given tons of respect.

    Jacob Cohen(aka Rodney Dangerfield) was born on November 22, 1921 in Deer Park, Long Island, New York. Jacob Cohen started writing jokes for other stand-up comedians at the ripe old age of fifteen. He decided to make a go of it on his own at the age of nineteen with the stage name Jack Roy.

    Jack Roy struggled for several years until he decided that what he was missing was a "hook" and thus Rodney Dangerfield was born. He continued to struggle until a cancellation on The Ed Sullivan Show landed him a chance to shine. On March 5th 1967, Rodney Dangerfield made his television debut and stole the show. In comedy lore it was reported that Ed Sullivan himself laughed at Rodney which was a rarity as Ed was impossible to make laugh.

    From there it was mostly uphill for the "King of Self-Deprecating Humour." He made regular television appearances after that including the The Tonight Show with Johnny Carson and Saturday Night Live. Rodney's star reached it peak in the 1980's when he starred in a comedic masterpiece known as "Caddyshack".

    In the '90's and '00's Rodney continued to make occasional television appearances however once his health started to deteriorate so did his time in the spotlight. Sadly on October 5th, 2004 Rodney Dangerfield passed away at the age of 82.

    It is surely the purest form of irony that a man who struggled all his life to make others laugh would find success by telling people "I get no respect."

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Saturday, November 20, 2010

Forty kilometers from nowhere...

Today I take a trip back to Dog River.

    Corner Gas is a Canadian sitcom that follows the lives of simple average people from the town of Dog River, Saskatchewan. Corner Gas initially aired on Janauary 22nd 2004 and ran until it's final episode aired on April 13th 2009. In it's six seasons on the air it revolutionized the way Canadians view Canadian produced television.
    Up until Corner Gas debuted on CTV  with over a million viewers it was thought(by those who know) that Canadians wouldn't watch a Canadian sitcom. "Those who know" had every reason to count Corner Gas out before it began because what Corner Gas would go onto to do had never been done before and, even though it's only been a couple of years, hasn't been done since.
    Corner Gas was an idea that Brent Butt had been kicking around for years. The idea was simple: What would life be like if I never left Saskatchewan? What he came up with was the fictional town of Dog River, Saskatchewan. A place so boring that every minor event makes the headlines of the local paper(The Dog River Howler).
    In it's six seasons on the air Corner Gas continued to average over a million viewers per episode and accumulated way too many awards and nominations to mention. However the real legacy of Corner Gas will be that it convinced Canadian production companies that Canadians will watch Canadian programing it just can't "feel" like a Canadian show.

On A Personal Note:
   I, like many, was hesitant to give Corner Gas a chance at first. I had always liked Brent Butt's stand-up but the stigma of bad Canadian programming was so strong that I resisted at first. However one evening I tuned it and was instantly hooked. It became a bit of an obsession of my mine to be honest.
   I dove headfirst into the online community and even won a prop from the show using their auction site. I was asked for my thoughts on Corner Gas and what I responded with was highlighted on the website in 2006. I saved the email they sent me. 
My thoughts on CORNER GAS: 
I've been watching Corner Gas since season one and was instantly hooked. I have gotten several of my friends and family hooked on the show since then. I actually look forward to Monday's now. I like to think that I'm one of the biggest Corner Gas fans around. I own the Corner Gas hat, Guzzlers softball jersey, Brent's Corner Gas shirt, a Corner Gas mug, all three season on DVD and was at Corner Gas Live when it came to Toronto. Also my girlfriend and I are currently planning a road trip to Saskatchewan for this upcoming spring/summer. I love the idea of the auction and I bid on this item because I love the show and wanted something substantial for my Corner Gas collection. I plan on getting the poster framed and hung somewhere in my house. Please send my thanks to the actors/writers/crew for producing such a quality Canadian show that myself, my family and friends look forward to seeing on a weekly basis.


    My girlfriend and I did take that trip and it turned into one of the greatest two weeks of my life. Thanks Brent Butt for everything...

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Thursday, November 18, 2010

Improv Thursday

    Tonight was my last improv class for the year and seeing as how I already gave you some insight into the worlds most popular improv show(Whose Line Is It Anyway?) I thought I would talk about Canada's most well known improviser. The man, the myth, the legend Colin Mochrie.

    Colin will be celebrating a birthday in about a week so in case he ever stumbles across this. Happy Birthday. Born November 30th, 1957 in Kilmarnok, Scotland, Colin 's family was moved to Montreal, Canada in 1964. His family would eventually end up in Vancouver in 1969 and that is where his future began to take shape.

   After dropping out of school Colin competed in theatre sports, which is where he met Ryan Stiles(now another very well known improviser & actor). Their friendship has held up throughout the years and it's no coincidence that their careers have crossed paths on more than a few occasions. 

   Colin then moved on to Second City Toronto before landing a lead role in what become the most watched Improv Franchise in television history with "Whose Line Is It Anyway?" in 1988.

  While best known for his work as an improviser Colin is also an accomplished writer, actor and producer. He is still high demand these days and keeps a busy schedule. You can follow him on twitter @colinmochrie or visit his website for more scheduling info.

  I guess technically, Colin is a Scot but to me he'll always be a Canadian and one of the reasons my fascination with Improv turned into love this fall...Thanks!

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Tuesday, November 16, 2010

An Improvised Review

 On Saturday night I was given an opportunity to fulfill a bit of a dream of mine and preform Improv with a group of professionals.

    Sheri Prescott, Nick Dipchand, Adam Wilkinson, Kyle Lucey, Michael Lake, Arlynne Ruiter, Bryan Hudgin, Stephanie Herrera and I preformed at The Atria in Oshawa to a packed house full of family, friends and a handful of strangers. In fact, I overheard a waitress say, "This is nuts. We're never busy at this time."

    The majority of the the performers had never met until that night and for most of us there was at least one game that we had never played yet we made it work and the audience responded with great suggestions and an abundance of laughter.

   The evening was a huge success for all parties involved and the plans are already in the works for a show next month.

   I can't wait to get back on stage again and I'll see ya at the next show.

Monday, November 15, 2010

This Place Has Been A Sausagefest So Far...

    As I sat down to write today's post it occurred to me that I've only highlighted one female comedian thus far on the website. While it is inevitable that there will be more males written about as the industry is dominated by men I will make a conscious effort to ensure some semblance of equality.

    Born Roseanne Cherri Bar on November 3rd 1952 in Salt Lake City, Utah, Roseanne would grow up to become one of the greatest comedians of all time. Ranking 9th on Comedy Centrals Top 100 Comedians of All Time in 2004(the highest ranking female).

    Roseanne's claim to fame is her humour surrounding the life and times of the typical American housewife. Her first big break came when she got to appear on The Tonight Show with Johnny Carson. That single appearance in 1985 helped land Roseanne her own show on HBO in 1987(On Location: The Roseanne Bar Show) which did not last as long as anyone had hoped.

    It was her second crack at television where Roseanne elevated her stature to legendary status. "Roseanne" premiered in 1988 and was an instant hit. It ran for nine seasons and stayed in the top four(in terms of Neilsen ratings) for six of it's nine seasons. The show would go on to win awards from The Emmy's, The Golden Globes, The People's Choice Awards and a Peabody Award.

   Since then(sadly) Roseanne has had a series of television shows that all failed or flopped. However, like all great comedians,  Roseanne continues to work on her craft. On November 4th, 2006 Roseanne hit the main stage on HBO for a special called "Roseanne Barr: Blonde N Bitchen".

   She is scheduled to have her third book release in January 2011.

Saturday, November 13, 2010

Due Date - A Review

    Insert some corny play on words about this review being on time or late here.

Due Date
Starring: Robert Downey Jr and Zach Galifianakis
Released: November 5th 2010

   What do you get when you take two of Hollywood's hottest stars and place them with one of the best comedic directors around? Simple. A pretty good movie.

    Robert Downey Jr and Zach Galifianakis take their turn in a classic movie cliche: the road trip. From Bob Hope and Bing Crosby to Steve Martin and John Candy the road trip movie is a classic and Robert and Zach preform admirably. 

    Robert Downey Jr plays a character that is similar to all other Robert Downey Jr characters who needs to make it home in time to see the birth of his first child and after a series of unfortunate incidents his only way home is with Ethan Tremblay(Zach) an aspiring(albeit awkward) actor. Hilarity ensues.

    There really isn't much of a need for me to go much further than that in terms of story-line or acting ability. The story is well written, acted and directed. You will laugh from beginning to end and there are definitely some scenes that come right out of left field.

    However, while I ultimately liked this movie quite a bit, I feel like it lacked originality and thus some of the fun was gone for me before it ended. If you've seen "The Hangover" and "Planes, Trains & Automobiles" then you've seen "Due Date". And it's because the movie feels so familiar that it falls just short of being an "instant classic". It still may end up being a classic, just not instantly.

Thursday, November 11, 2010

A Moment of Seriousness


    Today is Remembrance Day here in Canada. A single day where we take a moment to salute our veterans. As a proud Canadian and the grandson of someone who fought in WWII, I take Remembrance Day very seriously and it seems like every year I feel the need to voice my opinion on how we as Canadian's observe Remembrance Day.

    In this great country of ours we have a lot of holidays(the majority of which stem from the Christian belief system) however we have yet to make Remembrance Day a mandatory statutory day of Remembrance and I take great issue with this. Remembrance Day is the one day of the year that we should have off because regardless of your sex, political views or religious views if you are living in this country you owe a huge debt of gratitude toward the fine men and women who have served and continue to serve for you.

    Furthermore I believe it should be the one day of the year when business is not allowed to continue. Even Christmas now has stores open but on Remembrance Day nothing should be open because without our soldiers fighting for our freedom(s) we may not have the freedom own and operate a business. Every single person in this country needs to be made aware of the sacrifices that were made to make us the great country we are today.

Lest We Forget...

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

This Day In Comedy History

I haven't done one of these in a while but Today In Comedy History...

Comedian Sinbad was born.

    Born David Adkins on November 10th 1956 in Benton Harbor, Michigan comedian Sinbad has unfortunately  become a bit of a pop culture punchline. When you take a look at his body of work over the course of his career, what you come up with is a lot of laughs for all ages.

    Sinbad received one of his first real breaks in "Hollywood" when he defeated fellow comedian Dennis Miller on an episode of Star Search and when you think about the career path Dennis would go on to have, maybe Dennis actually won. But his appearance on Star Search led to the few breaks any comedian needs to become successful.

    He was first cast on the short lived sitcom "The Red Foxx Show". He then went on to have a few minor roles on "The Cosby Show" before landing a character on the show "A Different World". It was a Cosby show spin-off that ran for three years.

    After that he worked a variety of projects and even had his own sitcom(The Sinbad Show) but nothing ever seemed to last. He's appeared in dozens of movies(mainly kids films) and was featured in a Tae Bo infomercial.

    All this does not sound like the resume of someone who has done four HBO specials and was ranked the 78th Greatest Comedian of All Time by Comedy Central in 2004 but it is.

    It seems like every year Sinbad's star fades a little more(which really is too bad) but he can still be seen making appearances and making people laugh. You just have to look a little harder.

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Wocka, Wocka, Wocka!

    I'm not aware of when my obsession with comedians officially began because it was(as most things are) likely a culmination of influences that lead me down the path I'm on. However I am consciously aware of a few of those influences. One of them was Fozzie Bear. A Muppet.

    Fozzie Bear was the comedian Muppet. He told one-liners that by adult standards were terrible, but for children were hilarious. After the punchline of the joke he would usually remark "Wocka, Wocka, Wocka!" to emphasize "the funny". Just remembering his delivery brings a smile to my face.

    Fozzie Bear first appeared in 1976 as part of "The Muppet Show" and was created by Jim Henson, was performed by puppeteer Frank Oz and voiced by Greg Berg. 

    It's amazing that a comedian as bad as Fozzie would go on to become a positive influence for so many comedians because, as you may recall, many of Fozzie's appearances on stage ended with hecklers(Statler and Waldorf) and tomatoes being thrown at him. On the other hand maybe it was that determination that made Fozzie so real. Fozzie had a dream and he was going to succeed no matter what others thought. Regardless of the what the intended message was Fozzie was most children's  introduction to "stand-up comedy" and the idea of telling jokes as a profession. And I, for one, could not think of a better role model.

Sunday, November 7, 2010

Thank You For Smoking - A Review

Thank You For Smoking
Starring: Aaron Eckhart, J.K. Simmons, Robert Duvall, William H. Macy and Katie Holmes
Release Date: April 14 2006

    Every now and then when my girlfriend and I are debating over what movie to watch we will start throwing out movie titles from years past. This usually results in a lot of "trailer" watching on youtube as one tries to sway the other to agree to a particular movie. Last night I won.

    Written and Directed by Jason Reitman Thank You For Smoking(TYFS) was released way back in 2006 and was critically acclaimed despite an average performance at the box office. Starring several familiar faces it follows Nick Naylor, Big Tobaccos cheif spokesman, as he prepares to deal with a piece of legislation that would have a giant skull and cross bones placed on the packaging of cigarettes to identify them as poison. While this may be the main story arc it's the relationships revealed in the subplots that make this movie worth watching. 

    Nick Naylor is wonderfully portrayed by Aaron Eckhart as the ultimate slime-ball but not without heart which is why he is tolerable. This character dances on the line of tastefulness and if acted by anyone else may have come across as insufferable. But Aaron with his natural good looks, charisma and charm makes Nick Naylor not only tolerable but someone you root for.

    At it's heart TYFS is satirical comedy at it's finest. While TYFS was based off of a novel, Jason Reitman deserves a lot of credit for producing a screenplay that never seems to lag. In a movie where dialogue is everything(this movie is about convincing people that cigarettes aren't bad for them after all) each character gets their screen time and has their moment in the sun.

    To be perfectly honest this movie surprised me with how much I loved it. It's clever, witty and perfectly acted across the board. I can't believe I waited so long to watch it and I can't wait to watch it again.


Thursday, November 4, 2010

Born Suspect - A Review

     For this weeks review I decided to dip into my CD collection and pull out another classic to listen to and review.

    The year was 1991 and a new generation of Saturday Night Live legends were just coming together and finding their voice. I was seven years old and completely unaware of this.

Born Suspect
Chris Rock
Recorded at The Comedy Act Theatre, Atlanta
Originally Released 1991

    Born Suspect was Chris Rock's first ever studio album and I have no idea how I acquired it which is odd as I typically remember how and/or why I picked up a CD. 

    As noted above this album was recorded in a comedy club in Atlanta and it sounds like it. The first impression one gets is that this is a small venue(my research for how big the venue was came up empty) which creates a nice atmosphere for the album. You can actually hear the comments from the crowd which only aides in your ability to feel like you are there and a part of the fun. 

   The second thing that jumped out at me was Chris's delivery of his material. At this point in his career he was already working on Saturday Night Live so it should come as no surprise that he sounds polished in his timing but it was his signature "chuckle" that stood out to me. Most comedians learn to never laugh at one's own joke or only do so during the wave of the emotion that is brought out when the crowd is really into what is being said but Chris laughs at his own jokes and he does so with surprising regularity. And for Chris it works. It feels genuine and actually makes him more relatable.

    Looking through the liner notes of the CD jacket there is a section where he gives "special thanks" to a list of people as well as categories where he points out a list of "funniest ever", "funniest now", "funniest females", "clean team", "new jack", "king of late night", "renaissance man" and "funny white boys". I had never noticed this part before but it was a nice insight into Chris and his influences.  

    Hearing Chris talk about everything from being a Busboy to Equal Rights to Weaves is a joy. There are many lines that are worth quoting and while I don't normally quote a comedian's line because I believe a lot of the "funny" comes in the delivery and timing I can't resist this one:(On the topic of prison over crowding) "In my house we slept five to a bed and we never tried to hang my father."

    The only thing I could do without is the two rap songs at the end. They aren't particularly funny or good.(Do those sentences seem abrupt or of out of place? So do the rap songs.)

    Even back then one could see that Chris was special. Chris speaks with enthusiasm and subtle(sometimes not so subtle) social commentary and leaves the audience thinking about the world they live in which is a true test of a great comedian. Pryor did it. Carlin did it. And Rock does it.

What You Really Want To Know.
Is It Safe To Listen To In Public? This is an easy one. No. The only thing that feels outdated about this album is the reference to a disgraced mayor who was caught smoking crack. Everything else will have you laughing from beginning to end.

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Larry Miller - The Original George Costanza

    Seeing as how I will not be reviewing "The Rally to Restore Sanity" as originally intended and my Calendar where I keep upcoming moments in comedy is history blank for the next little while I have decided to highlight some of my favorite bits and comedians.

    I will do my best to watch and/or listen to something this week and have a review by weeks end.

    Larry Miller is the kind of comedian who I'm sure gets this reaction a lot "Oh, that guy. I recognize him. He's funny." And that he is. Born on October 15, 1953 on Long Island, New York, Larry was ranked 58th on Comedy Central's Top 100 Comedians. Larry has been in over 100 film and television shows all while applying his first love to audiences around the globe.

    A fun factoid about Larry is that he is very good friends with Jerry Seinfeld and when initially casting talent for various roles on what would become "Seinfeld", Larry was Jerry's first pick to play George Costanza but Jason Alexander came in a stole the role and the rest, as they say, is history.

    Larry still made an appearance on Seinfeld years later as a "The Door Man" in "The Door Man" episode.

    As already stated, Larry is a funny, funny man and my favorite bit of material that he preforms is "The Five Level's of Drinking." This to me is one of the most complete, well rounded bits ever written. It has a great build-up an appropriate climax and laughter all the way through. One could easily argue that this is a  very rough outline for the script of "The Hangover". It has an absurdity and familiarity to it that makes it timeless and I think must be heard by all at least once...or hundreds of times in my case.