The Colbert Report

Stephen Colbert is one of my heroes. He was my favorite part of The Daily Show, and I was happily surprised when he got his own show. Its rampant success amazed me, for satire is not always appreciated in American culture, but he did it. His show continues to raise the bar for television comedy and news, going places that “real” news shows won’t dare. He keeps his principles and uses his character to fight for them, and after the Presidential Correspondents’ dinner with George W. Bush, you know he’s pretty much got the biggest balls of any comedian on the planet. As influential Lenny Bruce without the heroin addiction, if you ask me. I got tickets to his show by following them on Facebook and jumping when they were available. As you can see, I have ticket #57, so that’s my Wesley Snipes face:
That’s Drossarian behind me. We have a trick camera that does the reverse effect of how they made Gandalf look so much taller than the hobbits in Lord of the Rings, so we can be in the same frame. He is actually 8 feet tall. Firecracker and “Beast” Katie East filled out our group. We waited quite a while for Stephen and crew to get ready, because they had to set up a crazy harem tent that would be used for a gag later. We got to watch the warm-up comic whose name I forget, but he was very good. He’s a local NYC comedian who should say his name more often. He was very good at poking fun at audience members without being unnecessarily cruel, even when they are named “Dong.” Now that’s talent. He did call our two gals “bitchy” because they kept yelling about Steel Magnolias being a play before it was a movie. He didn’t know that movie is sacred to Louisiana ladies.
I met Stephen in the lobby. He was in character, but felt a little flat. He must have had a rough night. Before the show, he does a Q&A session out of character. He was very gracious and funny, answering questions and reciting anecdotes. I wanted to ask if he’d do voice work for the Venture Bros. show again, but I didn’t get chosen. His wife came to the show and was watching from the sidelines. What I like most about Mr. Colbert is not just that he’s funny, but that he’s genuine and has principles. I love when you can see them sneaking through his character and he has to nail someone that “Stephen” would love but that he personally disagrees with vehemently. He’s very fast on his feet and like myself, has no dignity; anything for a joke. He had 11 siblings to compete with, I was a firstborn, so what’s my excuse?
This was one of the better episodes in recent memory, with a pun so bad that he made himself fight a minotaur and conquer a harem for uttering it. He also calls Stephen Hawking an “a-hole,” goes after Fox News”s attempts to make the Goldman-Sachs CEO seem like a regular guy, and interviews author Conn Iggulden, who wrote The Dangerous Book for Boys, and his newest, The Dangerous Book of Heroes. You can see us in the audience when the mascot fires the t-shirt cannon; I’m in the red striped shirt to the right of the gal who caught the first shirt, clapping my hands off. If I’d been paying attention, I would have tackled her for it. Katie caught one of many WristStrong bracelets that Stephen shot into the audience, so we didn’t go home empty-handed. Or empty-hearted; these memories will last a lifetime, and I’ll tell my grandchildren I saw Stephen Colbert defeat a minotaur.

[edit:
Here’s a screencap thanks to Julie, who is far more patient than I! The clip follows, and a link to the full episode is at the bottom of the post.]

The Colbert Report Mon – Thurs 11:30pm / 10:30c
Stephen Hawking Is Such an A-Hole
www.colbertnation.com
http://media.mtvnservices.com/mgid:cms:item:comedycentral.com:308074
Colbert Report Full Episodes Political Humor Fox News

Watch the Full Episode on Comedy Central.

© 2010 Thomas Pluck.

Funny People got no reason to smile

Funny People has lost some steam now, but we had some free passes, and I liked the trailer. Despite not being much of a Sandler fan outside of Punch-Drunk Love, I thought I’d give him a chance. He’s pretty good here, but the script is about a half hour too long and feels like an Apatow version of The Royal Tenenbaums‘ basic premise at times. I enjoyed the first 90 minutes thoroughly, but kept looking at my watch once the second act rug-yank occurs. Oh, you’ll laugh a lot. The film lives up to its title, but Apatow’s third film as director shows little growth. He’s gone from virgin to father to dying, but still has an undescended testicle.
I thought Seth Rogen showed some good range as an actor in this one, and while playing a young comedian looking for his break isn’t a big stretch for the new star, he nails it and never feels like he’s playing himself. Adam Sandler tries really hard to not be Adam Sandler, but it’s obvious the part was written for him. He does a very good job with it, but it takes a long time for any depth to come to his character. The faults are with the screenplay, which takes an interesting premise- what does a famous comedian do when faced with death- and turns into a different movie by the end. I was enjoying the idea of George Simmons, the multimillionaire comedian turned actor who learns he has an 8% chance of surviving the year. He’s lonely at the top, has made many mistakes and lives alone in a big house with the occasional starfucker he has limo’d out in the morning. When he shows up at an improv club and goes before a struggling young comic named Ira (Rogen), he likes how the “kid” reacts to this turn of bad luck and takes him on as a writer. And then, an assistant.

The film shines during the scenes of comedians in their natural habitat. Ira lives with a successful up and coming comedian named Leo (Jonah Hill) and one whose already transitioned to a popular but lame TV show (Jason Schwartzman) and it’s very entertaining watching them riff off one another. We get a lot of cameos once Simmons lets people know about his illness, everyone from Paul Reiser and Charles Fleischer (more famous for voicing Roger Rabbit nowadays, but his stand up act is hilarious) to Norm Macdonald, Dave Atell and Sarah Silverman show up. They act like we imagine comedians would act around each other, a zillion laughs a minute. How true it is I don’t know, but it has that veneer of realism. We only get hints at the pain behind the need to make people laugh. One of the first things George asks Ira about is his childhood; his parents are divorced, George says he never could make his father laugh. When he does make his father laugh, it’s almost an afterthought.
The last 30 minutes of the movie are about George trying to get with the love of his life, Judd Apatow’s wife Leslie Mann. I like her a lot- she was great in Knocked Up– but this storyline feels almost tacked on to give Judd’s family screentime. His kids play the kids too. They were also in Knocked Up, and they’re still cute and not annoying. But it’s the kind of thing that gets distracting when you do it twice. Also, it seems like a movie in itself, jammed into a half hour, where Eric Bana and Adam Sandler vie for her affections. Ira does play the part of a child of divorce, trying to stop George from breaking up a family, but it doesn’t have the comfortable feel the first two acts had. We’ve seen comics deal with death in Man on the Moon, Memories of Me and Tribute, but it would have been worth exploring again. Instead, we get a more familiar story about a jerk who learns he’s a jerk, and tries to stop being a jerk. Scent of a Comedian? I wasn’t expecting The King of Comedy either, but he flirts with the competitiveness of comics, the pain behind the laughs, the need to be loved taken to its celebrity extreme, and does nothing with it.
Just as the Director’s Cut of 40 Year Old Virgin loses the tight pacing and meanders, this comes pre-extended. I don’t want to know what the DVD with extra footage will be like. I’ve read that Aziz Ansari, who plays a comedian who jumps around a lot and says boy-eeee and generally acts like a caricature of a suburban white boy rapper fan, will be getting a starring role to explore this character. Russell Brand will also reprise his role from Forgetting Sarah Marshall as the pop singer, with Jonah Hill as his wrangler. Apatowland is starting to feel like SNL, spinning off of itself. I’d rather see Aubrey Plaza get some more work. This was a good, if not great movie but it was in dire need of an editor, or perhaps even a rewrite of Act III. Sometimes you see people who’ve impressed you begin to fail because no one has the balls to tell them something’s not working, and they’ve lost that self-doubt that makes you strive to improve. They mock this in the movie with Simmons’s acting career, but it happens with directors too. The guy who gave us Stripes and Ghostbusters? His last movie was My Super-Ex-Girlfriend.

Religulous

I’m not the biggest fan of Bill Maher now that he seems to concentrate on politics, but he’s always been a sharp and witty comedian. Now he sets his sights on religion with Religulous, taking the cue from Richard Dawkins to stop being apologetic for atheism and say what you really believe. There are reasons that you don’t talk politics or religion in bars, and this documentary sets out to be offensive, but I didn’t find it as strident as I expected. It’s actually very funny and only gets to be a bit much at the end when he tries to put a message on it.

The movie doesn’t purport or try to be fair; directed by Larry Charles (Borat), it intercuts the interviewee’s words with silly images, clips from hilariously bad religious educational films, soundbites and info-taters. It’s sort of like when Bugs Bunny stands next to someone holding an image of a screw, and a baseball. Screwball. Get it? But it still works, because he chooses his targets wisely. He goes after Jews for Jesus, strict Mormons, pagans, Scientologists, Bible-literalist evangelical Christians, ultra-Orthodox Jews, a man who claims to be the second coming of Christ, and some Fundamentalist Muslims. He doesn’t let anyone off the hook.

Going to the Holy Land with a film crew and asking about religion was already done in this year’s decent Where in the World is Osama bin Laden?, and Morgan Spurlock got kicked out by his Saudi keepers, and chased out by Orthodox Jews threatening violence. Maher doesn’t manage to top that, in fact he walks out on a rabbi so tolerant that he attended Iranian Holocaust denial conferences. In fact, Maher was so angry he barely let the guy talk, so I couldn’t decide whether he was stupid, crazy, or an apologist. That was distressing, seeing Maher lose his cool. But otherwise he’s pretty in control and doesn’t get too snarky when asking people why they believe what they believe.

If you’re on the internet or watch Stephen Colbert or South Park, you know some of the secret and trademarked tenets of the Church of Scientology, and just how crazy they are. I won’t go into it here, because I don’t want to be attacked by lawyers, strangled with cans attached by string called e-meters, or pelted with enormous tomes of L. Ron Hubbard’s space opera sagas. Go to Operation Clambake at http://www.xenu.net if you’re curious. Maher spouts their teachings at the Speaker’s Corner in London’s Hyde Park , where nuts have shouted their imprecations for over a century.

What’s his point? When someone laughs at the idea of aliens nuking our souls in volcanos, he says “yeah, but Jonah living in the whale, that’s perfectly sane.” When he’s talking to the Bible literalists this comes out. “No, it was a very big fish.” Oh, that makes more sense. He speaks to the man who plays Jesus at a Christian theme park- who seems like a nice enough fellow, even as the Romans whip him for the entertainment of the Christians this time around- but he can’t put into words why he believes what he believes, and that’s some of the point. He goes to the Creation museum to see dioramas of the Flintstones, where kids can play with pet dinosaurs.



These are easy targets. Some are valid and scary. Do I want a politician who believes the Rapture will come in our lifetimes, and Armageddon will be soon fought on the fields of Megiddo? I’d prefer if he tried to stave that off. Maher even goes to Megiddo. Looks like a strip mine. Let’s hope it stays untouched. It’s not all fun and games- he goes to where film maker Theo Van Gogh was murdered for speaking out against fundamentalist Muslims. He speaks with rapper Propa-Gandhi, who looks like a nice hipster doofus, but sings about destroying the West. He gets a friendly Muslim to sneak him into the Temple on the Mount where Jews are not allowed. The guy looks very nervous.
If you’re not religious, this is very funny– but sometimes Maher’s pretty strident, and he’s obviously not trying to convert anybody. He may go for easy targets but he’s even-handed, going at it with rabbis and a company that sells products to help observant Jews try to trick their way around violating the sanctity of the Sabbath, by not really dialing the phone. He even goes for the obvious joke about how this is lawyering with God. He gets kicked out by the Vatican and the Mormons. He speaks with Satanists and even pot worshipers. For atheists it’s very entertaining and reassuring, and it’s a good record of the current state of religions all over the world in 2008 from the eyes of an unbeliever with a sense of humor. But there are no revelations here, either.

3.5 atheists in foxholes out of 5

George Carlin and the 7 words you can’t say in the afterlife

Sadly, one of the greatest comedians who ever lived has passed into the great beyond. George Carlin died last night at the age of 71, of heart failure.

George Carlin, the Grammy-Award winning standup comedian and actor who was hailed for his irreverent social commentary, poignant observations of the absurdities of everyday life and language, and groundbreaking routines like “Seven Words You Can Never Say on Television,” died in Santa Monica, Calif., on Sunday, according to his publicist, Jeff Abraham. He was 71.

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The cause of death was heart failure. Mr. Carlin, who had a history of heart problems, went into the hospital on Sunday afternoon after complaining of heart trouble. The comedian had worked last weekend at The Orleans in Las Vegas.

from this New York Times article.

Carlin’s manic curmudgeon persona and his misanthropic observations on life were that unique kind of comedy that made you laugh and think. Nowadays most comedians just make you think about poop or some bizarre sexual practice they’re talking about, but Carlin had a unique way of looking at things. Hi HBO specials were some of the best comedy out there, and I imagine they’ll be in re-runs soon.

He started with wordplay- if you look him up on youtube, his Ed Sullivan show skits are still clever and funny, without any of the “7 words” he was famous for. After Lenny Bruce died, he sort of carried the torch. Is there anyone like him out there? We’ve got plenty of profane comedians who say things that even George didn’t, but he had a bleak and hilarious perspective on things that will be sorely missed.
R.I.P., George.

Who am I kidding? He wouldn’t want that shit. Here’s a send-off from one of his 80’s specials.

Rat shit, bat shit, dirty old twat.
Sixty nine assholes tied in a knot!
Hooray, lizard shit, FUCK!

Count de Money RIP … goodbye Harvey Korman

de Monet, de Monet…

Comedic actor Harvey Korman died yesterday at the age of 81, from complications of heart surgery. Harvey was a mainstay in the comedies I enjoyed growing up- Mel Brooks, the Carol Burnett Show. He usually played the straight man or the bad guy, and no one played a funnier villain if you ask me.

A video tribute to Harvey Korman.
Probably most famous for playing Hedy Lamarr (Hedley, HEDLEY!) in Blazing Saddles, Harve also appeared in some of Tim Conway’s best sketches on Carol Burnett, like The Dentist, and some of his own. Most memorable was their spoof of Gone With the Wind, where he played Rhett Butler. He could ooze slime and still give off a sympathetic weakness, as in Blazing Saddles when he could say stuff like:

“I want rustlers, cut throats, murderers, bounty hunters, desperados, mugs, pugs, thugs, nitwits, halfwits, dimwits, vipers, snipers, con men, Indian agents, Mexican bandits, muggers, buggerers, bushwhackers, hornswogglers, horse thieves, bull dykes, train robbers, bank robbers, ass-kickers, shit-kickers and Methodists.”

and then scramble in the bath tub for his little froggy toy. The sad fact about the Mel Brooks movies is that unless you can empathize with the characters, many of the jokes are just puns. Comedy is a lot different today, though Judd Apatow is putting good characters back into the genre. He’ll be sorely missed. So, I’ll leave you with the Carol Burnett video, and some of my favorite lines ol’ Harve uttered in his illustrious career.

Hedley Lamarr: My mind is a raging torrent, flooded with rivulets of thought cascading into a waterfall of creative alternatives.

Count de Monet: Don’t get saucy with me, Bearnaise.

Hedley Lamarr: Shut up, you Teutonic twat!

It Went With the Wind

John Waters: This Filthy World

See that creepy-looking guy above you in the banner? Not the smiling guy with the beard, the one with the pencil-thin mustache. That’s John Waters, The King of Trash.

He was a rogue filmmaker back in the 70’s, infamous for the gross-out epic Pink Flamingos, but probably best known nowadays for Hairspray, which went from movie to musical to movie musical. Nowadays he still makes movies, but he’s also become sort of a stand-up comedian; it began with giving “lectures” on college campuses, but he’s so damn funny and bizarre that they filmed one of his shows, like a comedy act, and it’s on cable and DVD now.

A clip from This Filthy World

I saw him give the talk at Ramapo College a year or so back, and that’s where I got my picture taken with him. The crowd was an interesting mix of students, sport-jacketed professors, and bizarro types who might have been extras in Pink Flamingos for all I know. In his show, he mentions the strange things people have him sign. Like their asses. Then they get it tattooed on. Who inspires that sort of behavior outside of rock stars? A skinny, acerbic little man who is a wellspring of vicious humor and unwholesome fascination with the morbid and extreme. Don’t look at me, I had him sign my copy of Shock Value.

The King of Bad Taste certainly inspires a great deal of love in his fans. His movies are rather unique. Shocking in their day, they seem sort of quaint now; though Pink Flamingos will never be quaint. It may become an art film, but it will never be quaint. Designed as the most tasteless film ever, the story involves trash queen Divine, dubbed The Filthiest Person Alive, defending her title against Connie and Raymond Marble. They’re lovely people who kidnap girls and artificially inseminate them, and sell the babies to gay and lesbian couples. As they battle, we’ll see incestuous blowjobs, flashers, foot fetishes, singing assholes, and Divine will eat a dog turd.

The birthday party scene

Vincent Gallo might have put a hardcore blowjob in The Brown Bunny, but until he eats a dog turd, I think Flamingos is safe from being called quaint. The movie is campy and has a very pointed social commentary behind the obvious jokes, like “someone has mailed me a bowel movement!” It’s disgusting but utterly hilarious. As his first widely distributed film, Waters made sure he could never top himself. But his movies get funnier as they get tamer and more subversive.

I first found out about him from my Uncle Paul, who ran a few bars in Manhattan and Brooklyn in his day; Danny’s, a gay bar in Brooklyn Heights, was one of them. And Divine, or Glen, was a customer. I found the movie at Curry’s Home Video, our source for obscure movies back in the 80’s. It was a well-worn VHS tape. When I watched it I couldn’t believe what I was seeing. As a young snot-nosed punk who thought the punk scene was the most shocking rebellion against the criminally mundane bourgeois society, John Waters’ repertoire was a huge “been there done that.” He taught me that It’s a lot more fun to blend in and just be weird on the inside.

And the fucker is still funny as hell. This Filthy World meanders from his obsessions like trashy court cases and serial killers to his movies, but he injects enough humor to make it feel more like a Jim Norton show than a lecture. It’s been on Cinemax lately and is definitely worth a watch if you’ve got 90 minutes.

The Adventures of Ford Fairlane – before the 80’s were really over

This movie has a lot going for it, despite its reputation. It has Dice Clay, Ed O’Neill (Al Bundy from “Married with Children”), Gilbert Gottfried, Priscilla Presley, Robert Englund (Freddy Krueger), Wayne Newton, Morris Day, Tone Loc, Motley Crue, and David Patrick Kelly (Sully from Commando– Remember when I said I’d kill you last? I lied.) Never saw it back in the day, so 18 years later, here we go. I was in college at the time. I could have had an 18 year old kid to share this with. Instead I have Johnny aka Darth Milk. Thankfully we both have the minds of 18 year olds (and that’s being generous, there are some mature kids that age).

Of course he drives a Ford Fairlane.

Andrew “Dice” Clay was an 80’s phenomenon, who got lost somewhere in the shock-jock wars of the 90’s. I saw his stand-up act in 2001, and he was still hilarious. He gave up trying to be a shock jock onstage, and went back to his roots of playing the Dice character. To me, it’s always been a bit of self-parody akin to Archie Bunker, but some people just never got it. He had a reality show last year on VH1, about trying to make a comeback; apparently he is touring again. Now that he’s balding and gone to seed, the Dice character works even better; he reminds me of my old man; that certain species of Jersey or Brooklyn guy who wishes it was still the 50’s.

Dice does Bogey.

The Adventures of Ford Fairlane stars Dice Clay as a “Rock ‘n Roll Detective,” helping the stars with stalkers and whatever. The problem is he gets paid in gold watches and koalas, which don’t pay the fuckin’ rent, if you know what I mean. The mystery begins when hair metal douche Bobby Black (Vince Neil of Motley Crue) is murdered on stage. It’s a good start. I’ve never understood metal bands with guys in make-up, unless it was KISS. Speaking of which, Rikki Rocket from Poison allegedly stuck his rocket in some Mississippi gal without her consent. Maybe they’ll lynch him for the good of humanity (and music).

The requisite Annoying Kid character.

He’s back at his kickass bachelor pad, where we meet his smokin’ receptionist (Lauren Holly) and The Kid, who thank my balls does not have a big part in the movie. He mimics Dice and has a Fred Flintstone ring that matches his missing Dad’s. The kid is fucking annoying, but he only has a few scenes. His receptionist wears glasses so you know he’ll snub her until the end.

Gottfried got fried. Oh!

Fairlane gets a call from his old buddy the shock jock Johnny Crunch (played by Gilbert Gottfried) who needs him for a job. He wants to find his “lost daughter” ZuZu Petals. They get a few points for the It’s a Wonderful Life Reference. Seconds after paying Ford to find her, Crunch is electrocuted to death on the air. Shock jock, get it? Yeah. Though seeing Gottfried die is somewhat gratifying. When the cops show up, Lt. Ames (Ed O’Neill) has a chip on his shoulder against Fairlane because he slammed his disco band. And we have to see Al Bundy sing “Booty Time,” the low point of the film. Renny Harlin might be best despised for making the crappy Die Hard sequel, ruining his wife Geena Davis’s career with Cutthroat Island (though admittedly she looks great in a pirate costume) and being named “Renny,” he should be skinned and basted with habañeros in a feces-encrusted corner of Hades for making Ed O’Neill humiliate himself in this fashion. Thankfully, like the Kid, Ed only has a small and thankless role here.

You stick to comedy and I’ll stick to singing.

Dice gets mixed up with this broad Colleen, played by Priscilla Presley (yeah, I fucked ‘er) who also wants to find this Zuzu dame. That also leads him to sleazy record promoter Julian Grendel, played by Wayne Newton. Whoever told this Danke Schoen dork he could act should jump in front of a bus on the Vegas strip. Dice even gets to bang out a tune at the studio, and it doesn’t sound like shit. Sort of like The Stray Cats on a bad day. While following more clues, he gets attacked by snapperhead Robert Englund, one of Grendel’s henchmen, on Johnny Crunch’s boat. Englund is always entertaining, and he chews the scenery awesomely here as the British inflected bad guy.

Pardon me, do you have any Grey fuckin’ Poupon?

Ford ends up finding Zuzu at Bobby Black’s funeral, where that snapperhead shows up again. He throws her in a limo and takes off, but the Diceman chases them all over the cemetery in a hearse. But there’s this dead broad in it, with totally rockin’ tits! Oh! And she’s floppin’ all over the place. The film gets a lot funnier at this point; it’s almost as if they were telling Dice to hold back, and then he said “fuck ’em,” or maybe the beers just kicked in at the midway point. This movie definitely benefits from liberal application of alcohol.

I hope you signed an organ donor card, baby.Gives a new meaning to deadhead. Oh!

The mystery clues that keep popping up are CD’s, which sound like R2D2 visiting the proctologist when you play it on a stereo. Turns out it’s a computer disk, you believe that shit? From here on in it’s more of your typical comedy thriller with broads gettin’ whacked left and right, climbing down the Capitol Records building with Freddy Krueger hangin’ from your balls, and jerkoffs blowing up your house and your car like you’re in some fuckin’ Illegal Weapon movie or somethin’. Not to say that the Diceman can’t handle it, but give a guy a break, alright?

He shoots a cool looking knife. Boo!

I’m not gonna ruin the ending for ya, but you can bet that the Diceman shoots the balls off the bad guys or kicks a garbage truck up their ass, gets the hot broad (who just happens to be his receptionist with her glasses off) and finds the little bastard’s father. Oh!

Happy ending, whoa-oh!

If you’re a fan of the Diceman and you haven’t seen this already, you owe it to yourself to look it up. It’s pretty funny and follows the typical 80’s formula. If you overlook Ed O’Neill embarrassing himself and the kid, you got the trifecta of 80’s requirements- quotability, quirkiness, and quim. It may have been released in 1990, but the neon phone, big hair, hair metal, and presence of late 80’s icons cement this as an 80’s movie. It’s best when Dice is acting goofy, but a lot of the time he’s too serious. Casual Sex? is a bit better, but Dice has a smaller role. If you haven’t seen it, it’s one of the better relationship comedies of the 80’s. This one is great fun for Dice fans, but was obviously torturous for anyone else from the reviews it got.

Beers Required to Enjoy: 1
Quotability Rating: High
Cheese Factor: Medium
Could it be made today? Larry the Cable Guy is doing it now, badly.
Gratuitous Boobs: A cavalcade of cleavage, but no nudity.
High Points: A car chase with hearses through a cemetery.
Low Point: Ed O’Neill singing “Booty Time”