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.