Thursday, November 22, 2012

A Carlin Home Companion Review

A Carlin Home Companion
Performed by: Kelly Carlin
Theater: Santa Monica Playhouse

    Following in the footsteps of one's parents is a natural part of life. Despite what some may think or do, we all eventually end up like our parents in some respect. For some, this transition is easy and welcomed; for others, it can be incredibly painful and drawn-out. Regardless of how you feel about it, you are who raised you, and Kelly Carlin was raised by George and Brenda Carlin.

    A Carlin Home Companion is a one-woman show by Kelly Carlin, daughter of the late George Carlin. In it, Kelly recounts tales of growing up in a household filled with drugs, brilliance, strength, turbulence, and love. The show is approximately two hours long with a brief ten minute intermission. Kelly takes advantage of the smaller theatre to create a strong connection with her audience and seemingly looks every person in the eye. Throughout the show, Kelly uses a video screen to show videos of her father at various points in his career and then adds context to those bits by providing the audience with her take on life in the Carlin household at that time. 

    Kelly is a natural born story teller with a very distinct voice from her father that needs to be heard. With that being said, the two hours flew by and, like many people in the audience, I didn't want the tales to end. Kelly shares the stories in such a natural way that it feels like she's talking to friends, and in a room full of people who grew up idolizing her father, she was. Kelly delivers a compelling performance from beginning to end that will make you laugh and cry (there is a strong chance you will shed a tear). You may enter the theatre a fan of George with an interest in Kelly, but by the end you will also be singing the praises of Kelly.

    Finally, a brief word of warning to any artist or aspiring artist: This show will make you question your own motivations and likely cause a great deal of personal reflection. Kelly talks a lot about not being sure what to do in her own life and having to follow your inner voice until finally reaching that pinnacle moment in life where you are happy with who you are. I cannot imagine a painter, a comedian, a writer, or an actor who will leave the show not questioning where they are in life and how they can get to that next level. It truly was something I will never forget.

"Carlin Home Companion" Sizzle Reel from Kelly Carlin on Vimeo.

Thursday, October 25, 2012

The Big Electron

    Today a very funny comedian friend of mine(Sean Quinlan or @seanquinlan17 on Twitter - follow him!) posted a video on Facebook that inspired this post. The video contains clips from Bill Hicks and George Carlin linked together through auto-tune in an inspiring song that should be heard by all.

    First some background on the video for some context before the main event. The video was produced by John D. Boswell AKA melodysheep(@musicalscience) who produces YouTube videos aimed at hitting the viewers soul. This video was posted one week ago and has garnered over 53,000 hits and with a good word of mouth campaign we can make this his most viewed yet. 

    The first clip is from Bill Hicks' comedy special "Revelations"(1993) in which he closed the show with the bit "It's Just a Ride". 

The second clip is from George Carlin's comedy special "Jammin in New York"(1992) in which he is talking about how the planet is fine and will continue to be fine long after the human species is gone.

    Finally Mr. Boswell added some inspirational music and wonderful scenes from around the world to complete, in my opinion, one of the best videos on YouTube.

     There is not a single living human being who can say that they know with 100% certainty what is waiting for us on the "other side". It is foolish to think otherwise. We need to treat each other with love and respect today, not because some book told us to, but because it's the right thing to do.

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Love All The People - Review

Bill Hicks: Love All The People
Author: Bill Hicks
Publisher: Constable & Robinson
Release Date: 2004

    Okay, now I get it. I'll start with a small confession before I go too far into my review of "Bill Hicks: Love All The People". Truthfully, before I started reading "Love All The People", I knew very little of Bill Hicks. He had become something of a mythical creature to me because I could never seem to find any recordings of his at the local record store. His name, while often mentioned as being a "Legend" in the comedy world, is rarely highlighted to the same extent of say a Carlin, Pryor or even Bruce. All I really knew about him was that he was considered a "Legend" and that he had a no-nonsense approach to comedy and getting his message across.

    "Love All The People" opens with a brief foreword/biography of Hicks life that is incredibly beautiful and moving. Although I had just started learning about the man, by the time I had reached the description of his death there was a tear in my eye. I realized at that moment this book was going to do more than just make me laugh. "Love All The People" is essentially a collection of transcripts highlighting some of the more memorable performances of Bill Hicks career. As someone who was diving head first into my first exploration of Hicks style of comedy I found it to be incredibly satisfying. Although you do miss out on his timing and delivery the words themselves force you to understand where this man was coming from. 

    "Love All The People" has only one major flaw and that is it can be repetitive. Often times two shows that are transcribed as back-to-back chapters may contain only a single "joke" that appears to be different or that the order of the material is now being used differently. While the idea of being able to see how a comedian(especially someone of Hicks status) evolves his material and performance was fascinating for myself as a comic I'm not sure how much the average reader would enjoy this.

   "Love All The People" truly shines when Hicks is responding to questions from fans or interviewers,  it is at these moments where he is speaking from the heart and with passion that you get the sense that this man was not operating on the same level as the rest of us. He had a vision for the world and all it's surroundings that speaks to your inner voice as being sound and reasonable requests from humanity. You may not agree with everything he said or the manner in which he chose to say it but you cannot disagree with the overall theme of his comedy, his writing or his life: Love All The People.

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

In God We Rust - A Review

In God We Rust
Filmed at the State Theater in Minneapolis
Premiered March 17, 2011

     Lewis Black is probably best known for his work on "The Daily Show with Jon Stewart" and his popular "Back in Black" segment where he rants on something that is bothering him and hurting society. If you have never seen a Lewis Black comedy special before it is very much a unique experience compared to what you are used to and he warns the audience of this before the show gets started. First off, Lewis does not move around much while on stage. With the exception of his occasional "outburst" of anger it is very much just a man with a mic. Secondly, Lewis is not simply up on stage telling a "traditional joke" with a set-up and punchline, no, Lewis is a truth teller and his aim is to make you use your mind.

    In "In God We Rust" Lewis tackles everything from Valentine's Day to iPhones and nearly everything in between touching on the War on Terror and Facebook. Watching Lewis share his thoughts, ideas and experiences is as captivating as it is funny. He keeps the energy up and slams home emphasis where it's needed. However this special will not be for everyone. As I eluded to earlier this is not a traditional comedy special. You will not be laughing with tears in your eyes and quoting it later with your friends. You will be a better person for seeing it though and your brain will thank you.

    I found writing this review to be incredibly challenging for the simple fact that there are so few comedians like Black performing these days. He is an original. In "In God We Rust" Black comes across as much as a preacher or prophet as he does a comedian. Are there other comedy specials out there that will make you laugh more? Sure, but I'll doubt you'll find one that makes you think and feel more. In the vein of Hicks and Carlin, Black simply tells truths and forces you to laugh at the absurdity of the world we live in.

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Phyllis Diller - July 17th, 1917 - August 20th, 2012

July 17th, 1917 - August 20th 2012

    As I'm sure you have all heard by now we lost another clown this week. I found out while on a break at work and I have to say it affected me for the rest of my shift. Whenever we lose someone who makes people laugh the world, as a whole, suffers.

    If Rodney Dangerfield was the King of self-deprecating humor Phyllis was surely the Queen. Her style of comedy was straightforward and pure. Her humor was quick one-line punches that always felt fresh and could entertain for hours.

    Since her passing all the major media outlets have had pieces run about Phyllis and while all have put emphasis on her place in comedy history and have been informational I have found that the best article/quote on the matter has come from TMZ. TMZ spoke with Joan Rivers who said " The only tragedy in [Diller's] entire life is that she was funny in an era when you had to look funny to be funny." 

    The pioneers of modern comedy are slowly passing away and with each one the world becomes a sadder place. All we can hope for is that with the advent of YouTube their images, their words, their thoughts and their ideas continue to live on and inspire generations of clowns for years to come.

Thursday, August 16, 2012

A SeinLanguage Review

Author: Jerry Seinfeld
Publisher: Bantam Books
Release Date: 1993

    There are few people in North America who have not heard of Jerry Seinfeld. He was a wildly popular stand-up comic during the stand-up comedy boom of the 80's and early 90's. He found his way to success the way every comedian dreams of - he honed his craft in the clubs, he got on the tonight show and then got his own sitcom - during those boom years this was every comedians goal. Seinfeld just did it better those before him and it's arguable that no one has done it better since.

    During the early stages of his incredibly successful sitcom "Seinfeld", Jerry capitalized on his fame and released a book filled with his material.(This also became a common step in the stages of success for comedians, Drew Carey, Jeff Foxworthy and Chris Rock to name a few put out books when their popularity hit a certain level). I was only nine years old when this book came out and while I was familiar with Seinfeld the show, I was not familiar with Seinfeld the comedian. When I finally reached that peak age of obsession I decided this would be a book that I would one day own and read however this turned out to be a rather exhausting experience. Trying to find a book that was initially published in 1993 in a genre that the bookstores do not generally offer much shelf space to even the new releases proved to be difficult. I did manage to find a copy in a downtown Toronto bookstore and I promptly read the hell out of this book.

    "SeinLanguage" is as exactly as I described it earlier, it's a collection of Seinfeld's material in written form. If you are even remotely familiar with Seinfeld the comedian, many of the bits will be familiar but there are tons of material that you will likely have not heard. Based upon how many jokes are based off of antiquated technology it's not wonder much of this book felt like fresh material to my eyes. He jokes on answering machines and car phones and these bits do not hit as hard today as they would have when people still used answering machines and car phones. Regardless, "SeinLanguage" is at it's best when Seinfeld is talking about the mundane and ordinary. It's what Jerry has made his career off of and its those bits that still have an element of truth almost twenty years later that will make you laugh out loud or lol. So be forewarned if you plan on reading this on the subway or in a crowed cafeteria.

    Many(or all) of these bits have since been retired by Jerry in his comedy special, "I'm telling you for the last time." and his return to stand-up with all new material was wonderfully documented in the movie "Comedian." I have since had the opportunity to see Jerry perform live and loved his new material. It's very family oriented and geared toward the "joys" of having a family and family responsibilities.

   SeinLanguage is one of the easiest reads I have ever had and truth be told, because I was so excited to read it, I plowed through it which I know affected the timing and delivery of the jokes in my mind. So my recommendation would be to find yourself some time when you can read it slowly and hear Seinfeld reading the book to you. Unless of course you have enough money then just hire him to actually read it to you.

An excerpt from the introduction of SeinLangauge:
"But the pressure is on you now. This book is filled with funny ideas but you have to provide the delivery. So when you read it, remember - timing, inflection, attitude. That's comedy. I've done my part. The performance  is up to you."

Thursday, August 2, 2012

George Carlin: On Comedy - A Review

George Carlin on Comedy
Release Date: March 12, 2002

    Some years ago when I first began to start taking comedy seriously and was thinking about giving it my first go at an "open mic" I stumbled across "George Carlin on Comedy"(GCOC). "George Carlin on Comedy" is an audio CD that was released on the record label and it's website boasts "You'll find out how Carlin became a star, and how you can be one too." As an aspiring comedian, who better to learn from than the person I idolize most I thought?

    I can remember listening and re-listening to this CD back then as I prepared and practiced my routine and this week as I was preparing to go back on stage for the first time in five years, I found it, dusted it off and gave it a listen for some last minute inspiration.

  What I found was some interesting insights from arguably the greatest comedian of all time. The interview is conducted by Larry Wilde over the course of several separate interviews that were edited together to produce something comprehensive and helpful. In the liner notes it states "This interview was recorded long ago on analog tape in the subject's office, home or dressing room and therefore may contain background noise, tape hiss and other anomalies associated with early recording equipment." Which does help explain why the interview appears, broken or scattered and there are times when the sound is far from ideal.

    GGOC is divided into two parts: Part One is mostly a brief biography of George's life and his take on growing up and how it affected his future on stage. Part Two is mainly his take on the industry, his habits, routines and his advice for a new comedian. Part One is for the comedy nerd in all of us. Part Two is for those of us who dare brave the blinding lights and risk hearing crickets after spending hours crafting a joke that we believe will change the world like Carlin's "7 Dirty Words".

    It's hard not to recommend listening to Carlin do anything let alone provide some candid insight into what he feels are prerequisites to becoming a comedian and how the industry works. Will you find out how to become a star comedian as the website claims? No, because as with anything the only way to get better is to practice, practice, practice but if your looking to aide your motivation along, this is as good a place to start as any.

This is normally where I would put a clip of some kind from the said item being reviewed however finding any additional information about this CD proved to be very difficult instead I have chosen a clip of Carlin being interviewed by Jon Stewart. Two of my idols on the same stage. 

Wednesday, August 1, 2012

Ted - A Review

Starring: Mark Wahlberg, Mila Kunis and Seth MacFarlane
Release Date: June 29th, 2012

    I have a saying I used to like to pass along to my employees when I was in a position of power and that was, "They don't always respect that smartest guy in the room but they generally respect the hardest working." After watching "Ted" I get the sense that Seth MacFarlane is always both. There is no denying his work ethic(voice actor, writer, director, animator, producer and singer) or his quality of work(numerous Emmy nominations and wins as well as a Grammy nomination for his debut album) so it should come as no surprise that his debut film is one of the funniest movies I've seen in years.

   MacFarlane writes, directs, produces and stars in Ted the story about a man and his teddy bear. What happens when an eight year-old boy has his wish come true and his teddy bear comes to life to be his best friend? They both grow up, they get jobs, they meet women and they experiment. And as in every man and teddy bear relationship there comes a time when Man(Mark Wahlberg) must choose between the love of his life(Mila Kunis) and his bear(Seth MacFarlane).

    If you are familiar MacFarlane, you will be familiar with his style of comedy. It can appear random, it can be biting, edgy or shocking, it will be no holds bard and no topic will be off limits, but most of all, it will be funny. Right from the opening scene MacFarlane sets the tone for the movie getting the audience it's first belly laugh and it just continues from there. Ted is wonderfully animated and feels right at home on screen with the his two "A list" actor co-stars. It may seem odd but the chemistry between the three is remarkable. The surprising thing to me is that the shock value of seeing a teddy bear curse and drink(along with several other things) never really wears off. 

    However MacFarlane does not rely solely on Ted to carry the movie. He develops a solid love story/triangle with Wahberg and Kunis and this movie does have moments where it felt a bit like a romantic comedy. He keeps the pacing brisk and the laughs coming.

    Over the years I've seen a lot of comedies and even the worst screenwriter can string together some cliches and get a laugh that's why so many of my reviews start off positive but usually end with a form of criticism  However this movie does not get that from me. This is a star studded, finely written, well directed and niccly paced comedy that deserves your time and money.

Friday, July 27, 2012

I Am Comic - A Review

I Am Comic
Release Date: 2010
Writer/Director: Jordan Brady

    Documentaries about stand-up comedy are becoming very common these days and I think it's because the topic is intriguing to even a casual fan of the art form. Anyone who has ever told a funny story to a group of friends and gotten a laugh has probably thought about trying it out on a real audience. That's where the fantasy ends for most people, as a brief thought. However for those who decide to try their hand at an "open mic" night at their local watering hole it can be an overwhelming experience.

    "I Am Comic" is documentary that sets out to define what "stand-up" comedy is and what it's like. Jordan Brady(a comedian of some note in his own right) assembles a list of comedians too long to mention to go over such topics as(and I am paraphrasing a little here) dealing with hecklers, the anatomy of a joke, going on the road, taboo subjects, earning money etc., 

    The comedians that Brady interviews all give very honest and real answers. This a rare glimpse into the mind of a comedian. There is very little self-promotion and only a few go for a laugh in their response. As an amateur comedian it is somewhat reassuring to see that even the people who are at the top of the industry have all paid their dues. In that regard this movie worked well.

    Where the movie shines though is with the sub-plot of comedian Ritch Shydner who, while helping Brady assemble the list of comedians to interview, gets the itch to go back on stage after a thirteen year retirement. Ritch is a comedian with whom you will instantly recognize and say "oh yea, I remember him" and watching him tackle his first open mic after such a long hiatus is as compelling as anything I've ever seen.

    Is this movie perfect? Not at all. Brady struggles at times balancing between his main topic which is as complex as any subject out there with his secondary story-line of following Ritch attempt to get his career going again. I found the latter to be the more intriguing of the two and I believe Brady did as well as the movie seems to shift focus and not as seamlessly as one would hope. To be fair it suffers from the fact that I have also seen Jerry Seinfeld's "Comedian" which is a far superior movie covering much of the same topics and in a much more concise way. In the end we get to see some of the top performing comedians give their insight into an industry and art form that has a relatively simple concept to grasp but nearly impossible to master and that alone makes this movie worth watching.

Sunday, July 1, 2012

Good Day Eh...

    Good day eh, it's like Canada day up in the Great White North today and in honor I decided to fry up some back-bacon on the coleman right and get a sixer and listen to the two greatest hosers this country has like ever produced eh. So, this my review of Bob & Doug McKenzie's album "The Great White North". It's a beauty eh. The end.

Bob & Doug McKenzie - The Great White North
Rick Moranis and Dave Thomas
Originally released in 1981

    One of the many things that makes Canada different than most nations is that we do not seem to take ourselves so seriously. We as a people take self deprecating humor to the extreme when we talk about our home and native land. It's not really that cold, our Army isn't that poorly equipped and our alcoholic tendencies are, at the very least, exaggerated. The Canadian stereotype is one that it is firmly rooted in our heritage at this point and one we take a certain amount of pride in and right at the beginning of our cultural image is the advent of "pop culture" and Bob and Doug McKenzie.

    Bob & Doug McKenzie are fictional brothers played by Rick Moranis(Bob) and Dave Thomas(Doug) who first came to the spotlight after premiering as a sketch on the hit program SCTV(Second City Television). Initially the concept came about as a result of the CBC(Canada's Broadcasting Corporation) requesting that something on the show be uniquely Canadian. Moranis and Thomas gave them exactly what they wanted but thought they were mocking the system. Faced with the pressure to create something unabashedly Canadian on a show filled with Canadians and filmed in Canada they thought was a ridiculous request so they came up with the idea of the most stereotypical Canadians they could imagine. Enter Bob & Doug a couple of Canadians who wear toques, drink beer, smoke and eat nothing but back-bacon and donuts. The trouble was rather than "sticking it to the man" it became a major success in both Canada and the United States. At the peak of their popularity Bob & Doug McKenzie recorded an album for which they received a Grammy nomination and released a movie("Strange Brew"). They were Canada's answer to Cheech & Chong

    After listening to their album late one night I will say this for all of the younger readers, you may not get this humor. It's certainly not "high brow" humor by any stretch of the imagination however the album does not age well. It is likely more a sign of the times as it is anything because the banter between Bob & Doug still feels fresh and envisioning you are there hanging out with them takes little imagination however something feels off. The album plays up jokes about the A side versus the B side that I'm not sure the average twenty something will truly appreciate. The stories told are clean and sterile with little bite to them which makes the album safe for literally anyone to listen to but it just adds to the feeling that it's lacking something.

    What it's lacking is being able to see Bob & Doug interact with each other. In preparing for this article I easily spent close to an hour watching old sketches on Youtube and I will admit that I laughed harder at those clips than I ever did listening to the album. However, you would be a fool to pass up a chance to own a copy of "Bob & Doug McKenzie's: The Great White North" and give it a listen, if for nothing else than to relive a time when the comedy album still mattered. So grab a touque, a sixer, some back-bacon and turn the album on and just "Take off eh!"

Friday, June 29, 2012

A Funny Person Review

Funny People
Starring: Adam Sandler, Seth Rogen and Leslie Mann
Release Date: July 31st, 2009

    Adam Sandler was at one point my life the funniest person in the world. "Billy Madison" came out when I was eleven and danced the line of being a PG 13 movie and I loved every minute of it. "The Waterboy" came out when I was fourteen and what fourteen year old boy couldn't relate to being an undersized misfit who somehow manages to find the strength to take on the bullies and be the hero. Not to mention hiding copies of his popular(yet R - rated) comedy CD's or Tapes from my parents. However sometime after 1999's "Big Daddy" I began to lose interest in Mr. Sandler. I never saw "Punch Drunk Love" and while movies like "Mr. Deeds", "Eight Crazy Nights" or "50 First Dates" were enjoyable time wasters, I seemed to lose my love for the man who I would quote throughout my teenage years. In fact his movies became so cookie cutter that I stopped getting excited by seeing Adam Sandler's named being associated with a movie. The movies I did have some hope for all too often let me down. "Grown Ups" was disappointing, as it could have been something special, but not nearly to the same extent that "I Now Pronounce You Chuck & Larry" let me down. Which explains why it took my nearly three years to see "Funny People".

    In "Funny People" Sandler plays comedian George Simmons who is a megastar in the comedy world and is essentially a parody of Sandler. George is diagnosed with a rare form of Leukemia which is normally terminal but a new set of experimental drugs has been shown to work in eight percent of patients. It's George's only hope. Once diagnosed George takes to the stand-up stage to work out the emotions he's hiding behind his "always on" persona. He befriends a young and very green comedian Ira(Seth Rogan) who he hires to be his personal assistant and, in a lot of ways, his friend. George has to come to grips with his impending doom and take stock of his life. This of course leads us to "the one who got away", Laura(Leslie Mann). Will George rectify his life and give himself the happy ending that has avoided him all these years, or will he die an unhappy, unfulfilled thirty something year old man?

    Writer and Director Judd Apatow has been responsible for bringing us some of the best comedies in the last ten years and his affection for those who make us laugh is very real and can be felt from beginning to end in this movie. He gets the absolute best out of Sandler and Rogen and gives the audience more than just another comedy. This movie ventures into the "dramadey" realm and on more than one occasion I felt a tear swelling in my eye.

    "Funny People" does have it drawbacks and it is not without fault. The 146 min running time is at least fifteen minutes too long and there are moments that could have been left on the editing floor. Also, there are times when the comedy feels forced as if the movie had been too serious for too long and Apatow felt compelled to lighten the mood.

    All that being said this instantly became one of my favorite movies of all time. It has a subject matter that I can relate too and fantasize about(this would be the equivalent of me being chosen to work for Louis C.K.),  and it gave me a reason to root for one of my childhood idols again. Most importantly it moved me in a way I was not expecting and any movie that can do that deserves to be seen. 


Thursday, June 28, 2012

Stephanie's Comedy Chat

Starts July 3rd 2012!
Each episode will air for a full week Tuesday to Friday at 11:30pm
Rogers TV

    It's been a while since I last did any sort of shameless self promotion because, quite frankly, there's been nothing to promote but today is a new day.

    Approximately two months ago I was honored to receive an invitation from Stephanie Herrera to be apart of a television show she was filming called "Stephanie's Comedy Chat". The premise was perfect: a panel discussion, a one on one interview and then an improv scene attempting to include everything that had been talked about during the show. The goal of the show was to have a bit of an edge and judging by how the director and crew reacted as the conversation inevitably turned to oral sex it has that edge we were looking for.

    Starring: Stephanie Herrera(@DurhamImprov), Darren Pyle(@Pyledriver1969), Kyle Lucey(@KyleLucey), Ryan Eastman(@Rynosaurez), Michael Lake(@themichaellake), Ian Sirota(@comicdad1), Adam Wilkinson and Paige Bartley. You will see well established talents like Stephanie, Darren and Ian as well some of the funniest rising stars this province has to offer talk about everything from the value of a soul to duck rape.

    Be sure to tune in and give Rogers TV more viewers than ever before in the history of their network.

Wednesday, June 6, 2012

A Hungover Review

I've been rather sick for about a week now and I've been growing tired of my television routine so today I thought I would do something a little different and watch "The Hangover" followed by "The Hangover II" and give you fine readers a couple of reviews.

The Hangover
Starring: Bradley Cooper, Ed Helms, Zach Galifiankis and Justin Bartha
Release Date: June 5, 2009

    I will always have a special place in my heart for "The Hangover" and it's partially because it lived up to all the hype I had built up in my mind. I can remember when and where I first saw the trailer and got the feeling that the movie going public would soon be in for something special. I was with some fellow store managers from Starbucks(where I was working at the time) and we were seeing "Fast & Furious". The trailer came on and the audience erupted into laughter at nearly every scene. The fact that the trailer was more memorable than the movie I went to see goes show the type of impact it had on me.

    When "The Hangover" did eventually come out I was there opening night and one hundred minutes later my comedygasm(comedy orgasm) was over and I was satisfied. I have since seen "The Hangover" countless times and it was fun revisiting it as it has been at least a year since I've last watched it.

    For the five or so people who may have not seen "The Hangover", it stars Bradley Cooper as "Phil", Ed Helms as "Stu", Zach Galifianakis as "Alan" and Justin Bartha as "Doug". "The Hangover" tells the story of four friends who go to Las Vegas for a bachelor party only find that the next morning, one of them is missing(Doug) and the other three cannot remember anything that has happened. Phil, Stu and Alan then set about trying to find Doug by retracing their steps from the night before.

      It's hard to discuss "The Hangover" without giving away the main points of laughter that are consistent throughout the movie. I will say this though, the setting of Las Vegas suits the film aptly as it lends a level of credibility to the insanity that these four friends go through.

    In addition to the superb screenplay(written by Jon Lucas, and Scott Moore) and solid direction from Todd Philips, the thing that makes this movie come alive is the cast of characters. The lead four characters have tremendous chemistry and you almost get the sense that these four individuals could be real and you root for them as they try to get back in time for Doug's wedding. Finally the locals that interact with Phil, Stu, Alan and Doug just as often steal the spotlight in this film, whether it's the owner of the local wedding chapel, the eccentric police officers or Mike Tyson, there are enough laughs for everyone.

    There really isn't anything not to like about "The Hangover". It's an original story, it's not very long, it's setting is one of the most vibrant places on earth, the characters are lovable, even the soundtrack will have you bobbing your head and most importantly IT'S FUNNY! In this day and age when there is nothing to the idea of "shock value" in comedy(despite many comedies attempting it) it's nice to see a well written comedy that relies on the basic fundamentals of comedy and executes them perfectly.

The Hangover Part II
Starring: Bradley Cooper, Ed Helms, Zach Galifiankis and Justin Bartha
Release Date: May 26, 2011

    With my self proclaimed love and admiration for"The Hangover" out of the way it may come as a surprise to you that when I heard they were making a sequel I cringed. Catching lighting in a bottle is such a hard thing to do and my fear was that they would ruin a perfectly good movie by cluttering it up with extra characters and unnecessary story-lines(much in the same way they did with Shrek). In fact I have been so against the idea that up until today I had made the decision not to see it. Which leads me to my review:

    "The Hangover Part II" picks up a few years after the first one ended. Not much has changed in the lives of our lovable drinking buddies with the exception that Stu is now engaged to a Thai women(Lauren played by Jamie Chung) and it's his turn to have a bachelor party. This time around the party takes place in Thailand and while Doug remains safe and sound in this movie, Lauren's sixteen year old brother, has gone missing after a night of partying and just a like a few years ago nobody seems to know what happened the night before. Phil, Stu and Alan then set about trying to retrace their steps and hilarity ensues.

     "Hilarity" might be a bit of an overstatement. It is not hilarious but it will make you laugh. The trouble with this movie is that it feels far too familiar. I am confident that you will notice that they even rehashed some of the same sight gags. This cannot be blamed on the actors as they are just as lovable this go around(their chemistry is the only thing that makes this movie worth watching more than once) and for that reason I feel I cannot blame the director(Todd Philips). I will however blame the writers and/or executives that put this screenplay together. That being said, I couldn't help but notice that this movie had five writers(the same two from the original and three new ones) and considering this is very much the same movie I cannot figure out what those additional writers did.

    There is a concept in economics called "The law of diminishing returns" that states "any rate of profit, production, benefits, etc., that beyond a certain point fails to increase proportionately with added investment, effort or skill." There is a similar concept in comedy, if you have one joke and continue to use it without altering the timing, delivery, or punch line eventually the joke will stop being funny. While "The Hangover Part II" does not hit the point where it is no longer funny I am concerned that by the time "Part III" is released(May 2013) we may be looking at a group of buddies we no longer want to hang around with because they keep telling the same old jokes.

Saturday, June 2, 2012

The Jerk reviewed by a Great Guy

The Jerk
Starring: Steve Martin, Bernadette Peters, Catlin Adams and Jackie Mason
Release Date: December 14, 1979

    Okay one more thing regarding Steve Martin and then we'll try to leave him alone for a while. It may seem odd that this is the third thing in less than three weeks regarding Mr. Martin but I guess that's how things go. I saw "Dirty Rotten Scoundrels" which inspired me to take "Born Standing Up: A Comics Life" from the book shelf which caused me to want to see Steve Martin's "The Jerk". I've just started reading "Lost in the Funhouse: The Life and Mind of Andy Kaufman" written by Bill Zehme(so you can expect that review soon and then we'll likely review "Man on the Moon" while we are at it.) but I digress.

    The first thing that took me a bit aback was the fact the title "The Jerk" never seemed to cause any controversy in the media. All of my research turned up nothing. Apparently to refer to someone as a "jerk" didn't carry the same weight that it does today.(For the record my rule of thumb is if a child referred to someone as a "jerk" I would correct them and help them pick a different demeaning term). The second thing was the "R" rating it received. Now after viewing the movie there is definitely some coarse language and probably enough adult themes to warrant that same "R" rating today, so kiddies beware.

    "The Jerk" is a work of love and it shows from beginning to end. Written by and starring Steve Martin "The Jerk" is based off of a bit he used to do while performing stand-up in which he would say he was born "a poor black child" (this set-up leads to one of the best laughs in the whole movie). The movie itself is essentially the classic coming of age/rags to riches story line but with an imbecile as the main character.

    Directed by Carl Reiner(he also makes a cameo as himself) the "The Jerk" moves along with solid pacing.  He does a good job of introducing all the lead characters in a timely fashion and, although this is an absurdest story, he does a great job of keeping things consistent and in the realm of reality.

    This movie did extremely well the year it came out becoming the 9th highest grossing film that year and I can understand why. Steve Martin is near the peak of his popularity performing stand-up and I'm sure a fair amount of people were drawn in based upon his name alone. In addition to the star power of Martin the movie is very, very funny and worthy of seeing multiple times. Finally, like a good wine, the movie seems to be getting better with age, it is consistently named one of the Top 100 Comedies of all time regardless of the organization and I suspect a hundred years from now they will still be talking about the classic comedy "The Jerk".


Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Born Standing Up - A Review

Born Standing Up: A Comics Life
Author: Steve Martin
Publisher: Scribner
Release Date: November 20, 2007

    We, as a society, tend to admire those who walk away while they are at the top of their profession. Whether it be the World Series Champion who decides to hang up his spikes or the television sitcom star who ends his show while it's at its peak, those who choose to leave us wanting more do us all a favor - they preserve a legacy. They save us from saying, "They were great until..." and, instead, allow us to say "They were great."

    Steve Martin's "Born Standing Up: A Comics Life" is an autobiographical look at his illustrious, albeit short, stand-up career. In his book, Steve talks about his humble beginnings working for Disney at the ripe, old age of 10 to making it as a comedy writer for "The Smothers Brothers Comedy Hour" to becoming one of the most (if not the most) successful comedian of his era.

    He does the obligatory explanation of his time growing up in a household with both parents and one sister. He speaks of his influences from radio and television, and while I will always find appreciation for the history of "stand-up" and learning about a performer's evolution, I believe that Steve is at his finest when he is talking about comedy in a theoretical sense - that is to say, his thoughts on why something does or doesn't work, or why we laugh in the first place. In the end, Steve describes why he suddenly decided he was done with stand-up at the pinnacle of his success.

    From my perspective, Steve Martin does not ever seem to get the credit he has rightly earned as being a "stand-up legend". Rarely do you hear today's modern comics say that Steve Martin was an influence or that they can remember the first time they saw Steve Martin perform and how they knew from then on that's what they wanted to be. No, those comments are reserved for the Bruces, Pryors and Carlins; however, when you consider that Martin was coming up at the exact same time as Pryor and Carlin, his level of success becomes mind boggling. Steve was not the "voice of a generation".  If anything, he was the bridge to the next generation. While Carlin, Pryor, Klein, and others were asking the nation to hold a mirror up to itself, Steve was asking you to just enjoy yourself. And, while reading this book, I did just that.

Saturday, May 26, 2012

Happy Birthday Mom!

    I really do try to avoid "personal" posts but today my Mom turns an age that will not be revealed here so I may live to see my next birthday. I will say this about her though, she raised two boys who both wanted to be as funny as their Dad so the amount of bad jokes, bad puns, bad pranks and overall bad behavior that she put up with I'm sure verged on maddening. The fact that she didn't run out of the house screaming and pulling her hair out is nothing short of a miracle. And this four sentence blog post that might been seen by as many as 10 people is my way of saying THANKS and HAPPY BIRTHDAY MOM!!...I think we're even now.

Thursday, May 24, 2012

On This Day in Comedy History - 1972

    On this day in 1972 George Carlin recorded his "Class Clown" album at the Santa Monica Civic Auditorium. This would normally be the point where I would go on to discuss the importance of not only the album but the content etc., but I stumbled across an article today by Timothy Bella(writer for The Atlantic) that does a fantastic job doing just that. Timothy discusses "Class Clown" and the subsequent "7 Dirty Words" with the same enthusiasm and passion that any true comedy fan will appreciate. So without further ado, follow the link and read the article.

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

On This Day In Comedy History - 1958

    On this day in Comedy History Drew Carey was born. Like so many of the wildly successful comedians from the 80's Drew Carey is mainly known for things other than "stand-up" to the current generation. If your 16 or younger you probably know him as the host of "The Price is Right". If you are 20 - 30 you'll recognize him as the star of "The Drew Carey Show" or the American version of  "Whose Line is it Anyway?" and if your over 30 you might just remember seeing him doing stand-up.

    Drew started performing stand-up in 1985 in Cleveland after a friend of his encouraged him to give it a shot. Within a couple of years he was doing shows in Cleveland and Los Angeles and by 1988 he was given a shot at competing on the hit show "Star Search". After the Star Search appearance it was back to the grind until 1991 when he appeared on "The Tonight Show with Johnny Carson" and received the highest and rarest of honors for a comedian with Johnny - he was invited over to the couch.(Below is Drew's first appearance on Carson and you can see his shock when Johnny calls him over and he can barely control his excitement once he is seated between Ed McMahon and Johnny.)

    He continued to find steady work all through the early 90's when everything seemed to come to a head in 1994. He wrote and stared in his first comedy special on Showtime titled Drew Carey: Human Cartoon for which he won a CableACE Award for best writing. It wasn't too long before The Drew Carey Show would make it's premier in 1995 and would go on to run for 9 season's producing 233 episodes.

    Drew has kept himself busy over the years from hosting the improv show "Whose Line is it Anyway", to being an owner in the MLS(Major League Soccer) to his current role of hosting "The Price is Right" his passion for a live audience is in everything he does.

   I want to wish Drew a Happy Birthday and continued success...

Monday, May 21, 2012

A Dirty Rotten Review

Dirty Rotten Scoundrels
Starring: Steve Martin and Michael Caine
Released: December 14th 1988 

     Every now and then while flipping through the channels on a lazy afternoon you are bound to stumble across a classic movie being shown  - this is how I came across "Dirty Rotten Scoundrels".

    "Dirty Rotten Scoundrels" is a movie that I have had every of intention of watching for years. A long time ago I put it on my IMDb "To Watchlist" - for those who don't know what that is you can register on IMDb and create a "To Watchlist". You simply click through all the movies you've ever wanted to watch and then as you watch them you remove them, it's a great way to make yourself feel accomplished without actually accomplishing anything. But I digress.

    The thing that drew me to this movie were the stars of the film, Michael Caine and Steve Martin are two of today's most well respected and bankable actors and the idea of them working together had me intrigued. "Dirty Rotten Scoundrels" is the story of two con men at different points in their careers. Martin plays the young swindler who is always looking for a quick buck from an unsuspecting and sympathetic female where as Caine is at the top of the food chain with elaborate back stories and a sprawling mansion - Caine is only after the big fish.

    A chance meeting leads to Caine and Martin forming a mentor and protege type of arrangement until inevitably the protege believes he is ready to surpass his mentor and thus a conflict is born. The two men agree upon a target and the first one of them to get the woman to give up $50,000 is declared the winner and the other must leave town. Hilarity ensues.

    "Dirty Rotten Scoundrels" does what it sets out to do. It entertains you. The story(written by Dale Launer, Stanley Shapiro and Paul Henning) has great pacing(even while watching it on TV with commercial breaks) and the Director(Frank Oz) does a masterful job of not having this movie become goofy or unhinged. He plays up Martin for the laughs and uses Caine as the straight man. The two have great chemistry and play off of each other extremely well.

    In fact the two work so well together I am truly surprised that we have never seen a sequel. With Hollywood seemingly running low on ideas(everything is either a reboot, a remake or a sequel) this movie would surely fit the bill for one of those, I would love to see an older Caine and Martin still making their rounds some 25 years later.
    After taking some time to digest the movie I really regret not seeing this movie earlier in my life. While I was only three years old when it initially came out I can't help but think that if I had been exposed to this movie in my teen years it may have become one of my favorite movies of all time. As it stands now, it's very good and I'd be happy to watch it again. If you haven't seen this movie yet, do yourself a favor and go pick it up($9.99 at Best Buy) grab a tub of popcorn and just enjoy yourself for a couple of hours.

Thursday, May 17, 2012

One Year Hiatus

Well world it's been a bit of a busy year since my last update - I've switched careers, got engaged, become an Uncle and lost a Grandparent so life has been more than just a little busy and to be honest my motivation suddenly fell off the map. However everything seems to be going my way right now and I felt that it was time to get back to sharing my passion with the world(I know the kids in Africa really want to hear my thoughts on The Three Stooges Movie).

To recap some of my favorite posts from the past and to introduce any new readers to what we do around here I would recommend the following readings:

  • Class Clown - The George Carlin Movie(below). I asked George's daughter a question regarding this and her response got me excited.
  • A Grown Up Review by an Immature Man(12/2/2010) - I review the movie Grown Ups
  • I'MA Be Me - A Review(10/14/2010) - I review Wanda Sykes latest special
  • A Button Down Mind Review(10/26/10) - I review Bob Newhart's "The Button Down Mind Strikes Back!" - This review actually got Retweeted by Bob's official Twitter page.