Monthly Archives: December 2010

T.G.I.F. – Ten Stress Relievers

Holiday time is stressful for a lot of people. Between shopping in a dubious economy, self-assessing at year’s end and preparing to start all over again on the first of January, it’s no wonder that people start snapping. Hey,cheer up – if the Mayans are right, you don’t have to fret much longer.

But what the hell – I could use a good laugh today. Couldn’t you?

So here are Ten Stress Relievers; quick YouTube comic clips to give your brain a quick reboot. (Headphones only if you’re at work.) I’m leading off with Auggie Smith, whose new album is incredible go get it now!

01) Auggie Smith Obama and the Oil Spill

02) Bill BurrNothing But Muffins

03) Louis CK Technical High School

04) Nick Griffin We Have No Patience

05) Paul F. TompkinsAnne Murray

06) Josh Sneed Moron Sales Clerk

07) Dave ChappelleMan Rape

08) Maria Bamford Crazy Office

09) Darren Frost Jenna Jameson and Miley Cyrus

10) Bob Biggerstaff The Self Checkout Hired Me

Leave a comment

Filed under Editorials

Roger Ebert, 2011

Santa arrived ten days early.

Wednesday, following up on past announcements, came the word that Roger Ebert Presents At The Movies is set to debut next month. While the balcony remains, its occupants will be different, as will the participation of the namesake. The new show, produced by Roger’s wife, looks to maintain the focus of the original show while updating the set and turning the reins (mostly) over to others, since Ebert has been unable to speak for close to three years.

From the announcement:

“The show will return to WTTW, Chicago Public Television, where Gene Siskel and I first taped “Sneak Previews” in 1975. The station still has our original seats, but we are constructing an all new set. Our critics of course will be back in the iconic balcony, and will be using the famous “thumbs up / thumbs down” rating system. Next week, executive producer Chaz Ebert will make an announcement regarding the co-hosts and contributing critics for the new show. She will also describe our website, with new and original content.

For me, this is the continuation of a journey that began 35 years ago with a local WTTW program at first titled “Opening Soon at a Theater Near You.” My wife Chaz and I have been working for two years with many others to bring the format back to television. I believe we will present critics in the show’s long tradition. Chaz is taking the leadership responsibilities as Executive Producer. I will be involved in all aspects, and will contribute regular segments of my own.”

VIDEO: A teaser with Christy Lemiere and Elvis Mitchell as the hosts.

Supposedly Mitchell is already off the program; not certain whether Lemiere will survive. But after viewing the clip I could see what they meant about the Mitchell/Lemiere dynamic – there was no apparent connection between the two. I’ve never found Mitchell to be a presence; even on his own interview program he seemed detached and out-of-place. Some people are better off behind the camera; Mitchell might be one of them. When the Ebert/Roeper show was initially cancelled, Ebert and Richard Roeper announced that they would move on to another project together. Why not Roeper in that other chair?  

My personal choice would be Ben Makiewicz, although both he and Ebert might be thinking once bitten twice shy. The colossal failure of the “Two Bens” version of the show had everything to do with the initial gimmick-laden format and the preening superficiality of Ben Lyons; Mankiewicz looked like the lone adult trying to take the high road. Lyons has since found a perfect role at the star-sucking E Entertainment network; Mank has settled back in to Turner Classic Movies where he and Robert Osborne are a constant gift to viewers.

The most disturbing part of that clip is the horrific digitized voice in Roger’s segment. We’ve all heard about the dynamic project to assemble a database of Roger’s own voice from his decades of sound clips; like many I assumed that meant Roger would type an essay and the computer would “read” it using those assigned clips of Roger’s voice like an audio ransom note. Lets hope this generic Stephen Hawking-like clipped speech is merely a placeholder until the real thing is ready. If not, I would rather they hire an impressionist to fake it. Or use five minutes of the show to revisit an older title using the actual voice and image of a younger Roger Ebert.

So Santa – there’s still work to do. But thank you for Ebert in 2011.

Here is the list of stations carrying the show.

Leave a comment

Filed under Editorials, Film/TV, Reviews

Greg Giraldo Benefit Concert

Anyone who has had loss in their lives knows that the Holiday season is an especially painful time. Greg Giraldo’s wife and young children are spending their first December without him.

Giraldo, who would have been 45 last Friday, never sparked on the radar of the general public the way he did with devoted comedy fans, who revered him as one of the sharpest minds in the game. Fellow comics spoke often of his unselfishness and approachability; you’d be hard pressed to find anyone who had a bad word to say about him. And although he was often the butt of jokes because of his lack of success, those skewering him were likely as bewildered by it as I am.

Videos: The Best of Greg Giraldo

Many of his peers will be performing as part of a benefit concert to raise money for Greg’s family. The star-studded show already lists Jerry Seinfeld, Dave Attell, Tom Papa, Lewis Black, Jim Norton, Judy Gold, Colin Quinn, Ted Alexandro and Jesse Joyce, with more names to come. The concert will take place Wednesday February 9th at The Beacon Theatre in NYC.

Tickets go on sale Saturday December 18th.

 

In the comedy world, Greg was a perfect ten.

 

 

Leave a comment

Filed under Comedy, Editorials

Golden Globe and BCFA Nominations

Who knew The Tourist was a comedy?

That’s right, it isn’t – it’s a thriller. But that didn’t stop the Hollywood Foreign Press Association from nominating their man-crush, Johnny Depp, as Best Actor in a Comedy for his role in the film.

(Maybe the movie is so bad it was laughable?)

At least they got some things right, like finally nominating Katey Sagal for her career-best performance in Sons Of Anarchy (although the show itself and the rest of the cast got blanked) and remembering to include Mark Wahlberg as a nominee for The Fighter. The Broadcast Film Critics didn’t, even when nominating the film, screenplay and the rest of the principal cast (individually and as Best Ensemble!) and despite many of the categories being expanded to six nominees. Really? Were there that many ties?

The 16th annual Broadcast Film Critics awards, announced yesterday, will be presented on January 14th. Two of the toughest categories will be Best Supporting Actor (Jeremy Renner and Christain Bale likely battling it out) and Best Documentary, where excellent entries range from the overdue and  heartfelt Joan Rivers: A Piece of Work to the somber subjects of Restrepo and The Tillman Story.

The 68th annual Golden Globe awards, announced this morning, will be presented on January 16th. Glad to see that Laura Linney got some props for The Big C as well as Kevin Spacey for his work in Casino Jack. But way, way too many oversights and mistakes for my tastes.

The Screen Actors Guild nominees will be announced Thursday.

Leave a comment

Filed under Editorials, Film/TV

Let’s Hear It For The Girl

My daughter Eli attends Emerson College, a phenomenal place for anyone interested in entertainment, whether production or performance. Lots of famous alumni of course – among them Stephen Wright, Bill Burr, Gina Gershon, Jay Leno, Denis Leary, Henry Winkler and Norman Lear. Successful show creators, too – her freshman dorm was funded by Max Mutchnick (creator of Will and Grace) and last year ahe worked with Friends creator Kevin Bright  to create a sitcom from scratch. Doug Herzog, President of Comedy Central, is another graduate.

 The list goes on and on…if I were a high school grad interested in a career in the arts I would crawl through broken glass while on fire just to apply. (Or at least ride a bike.) Of course, when I was looking at colleges, that area of Boston was known as the Combat Zone, rivaling the pre-Guiliani Times Square for opulent decadence. Today it’s the Theatre District, much hipper than the sanitized Disney-fication of the most famous intersection in Manhattan.

My enthusiasm is exactly the opposite for Lady Gaga – it’s the kind of processed dance pop that makes my skin crawl. But my Dad didn’t “get” The Beatles; likewise I’m not the target demo for the songs that she/he/it creates.

But even I have to give props for this amazing Emerson Lip Dub.

Most schools have an informative brochure or website to give potential students an idea of what it’s like to attend their university. I think the Admissions Department just trumped the competition – courtesy of the effort of over four hundred students. Kudos, Emersonians!

1 Comment

Filed under Orphaned

New Album! Bleu

I was an instant fan of Bleu’s first commercial album Redhead; although it came out early in the year I predicted that it would be tough to top as the year’s best and indeed found it placed atop my Best of 2003 list. And although I enjoyed the reissue of his regional debut Headroom and the Alpacas Orgling album that his pop supergroup L.E.O. issued, they weren’t as strong. Even the highly anticipated Major Labels band (with Mike Viola and Ducky Carlisle) seemed to be missing the fire and with A Watched Pot Bleu seemed to be going against his own instincts to create music that would fit a more vanilla format.

So he decided to strip it all down and use Kickstarter to raise funds for a new project where he could follow his own muse and not the expectations of others.

Bingo.

Here’s my review from the current issue of Bucketful Of Brains

“Just when you think it was a waste of time / you come to find / everything was fine”.

For his aptly titled fourth album, Bleu McCauley embraced the new paradigm by choice (or by necessity) and turned to his fan base to help raise the funds to record and release the album. Perhaps it was the artistic freedom, perhaps it was the pressure to deliver, But Four is head and shoulders better than last year’s disappointing A Watched Pot. On that album it seemed as if Bleu was trying to craft radio hits to fit a more vanilla format. Here he’s relaxed and confident, and as a result the songs are vessels for his talent rather than adverts for his pop skills.

Back is the energy and passion he displayed on his astounding Redhead album, tempered by experience. What we have here is a more mature, but still exuberant, songwriter who can’t help writing ear candy, even able to get away with lyrics like “don’t ever think your shit don’t stink, ’cause everybody’s does“. Working again with producer Ducky Carlisle, the slower songs sound anthemic and the uptempo tunes jump out of the speakers. And my god…that voice! His theatrical and expressive voice can nail a slower tune; “Ya Catch More Flies With Honey Than Vinegar” flaunts his falsetto while “I’m In Love With My Lover”, a slowly simmering soul ballad, has Van Morrison written all over it.

Perhaps the uncertainty in musical direction gave cause for Bleu to think of his mortality – he sings about leaping out of the casket in “B.O.S.T.O.N.”, but even that pales in comparison to the horn-laden gospel rave-up “I’ll Be Dead In The Morning”. But Four is anything but a downer; the gauntlet thrown down in the kinetic opener “Singin’ In Tongues” gets an aptly upbeat answer in the closing track “Everything is Fine”, featuring Roger Joseph Manning.

Well, the advertised closing track, anyway – as usual, Bleu hides a gem at the end. This time it’s the 70s-ish “My Own Personal Jesus”, sure to get those glowing cell phone screens waving back and forth at concerts.

Leave a comment

Filed under Music, Reviews

Stand Up Wit…Jon Dore

You don't like fishing??

Jon Dore is one of the most out-there guys around. The Canadian comic’s name might not be on the lips of the general public, but his bold and absurd takes are flat-out hilarious. How many comics would risk digging themselves a deep hole on purpose just for the fun of climbing out of it, and then spending half the set going off on a tangent to cap it off with a sight-gag as a call back?

But that’s exactly what Jon Dore did when he was the first comic to guest star on Conan’s new show. I watched this again this morning and fell out of my chair again, so for the benefit of those of you who did not see it, here is his set from Conan on November 11th.

Jon also had his own self-titled show which ran on The Comedy Network for two years and then was rebroadcast on IFC in 2010. A mockumentary that takes the spirit of  Jason Lee’s quest in My Name Is Earl and turns it on its ear, Jon “fearlessly throws himself in the line-of-fire as he sets out to correct his faults and make all his “wrongs” right again.” through a series of interviews and crazy antics. What makes it hilarious is watching this normal looking guy torture himself (and others) by asking outrageous questions and setting himself up for disaster, all with a poker face.

Video: The STD Clinic

If you’re a Jon Dore fan, none of this is new to you but you’re probably smiling when you read this. And for those of you who were not familiar with Jon Dore?

You’re welcome.

IFC guide to The Jon Dore Television Show.

Leave a comment

Filed under Comedy, Film/TV, Reviews