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.