Tag Archives: celebretards

R.I.P. Wild Man Fischer

One of the great things about college radio – at least back then – was that you could play anything you wanted to. I had a late night radio show where pretty much anything hit the airwaves depending upon my mood, whether it was progressive rock, powerpop or comedy. Since there were no commercials – and since I refused to play the news that was recorded and scheduled for the top of the hour – four hours of programming was a shape-shifting blob of whimsy.

Except for times when I would play a lengthy prog tune (often an entire album side) to buy myself time for a snack and a bathroom break, the world was my aural oyster. The station was serviced by most record companies, although thanks to collegiate theft, we usually had to bring our own vinyl. The station was usually staffed by the DJ and no one else, so many of the classics disappeared not long after their arrival.

One album that didn’t was An Evening With Wild Man Fischer.

Look at that cover. And this was an effort blessed by Frank Zappa? If you’re a college DJ in the early 70’s, you have to put that on the turntable. And when you did, the first thing you heard was a deranged man yelping the refrain of  “Merry Go Round” over percussion supplied by paint buckets and tambourines. You really don’t want a song like this stuck in your head:

Come on, let’s merry-go, MERRY-go, merry-go-round.
Boop-boop-boop.
Merry-go, MERRY-go, merry-go-round.
Boop-boop-boop. …

Video: “Merry Go Round

And it just got stranger from there. Of course, when you’re young and immature, you’re not thinking to yourself  “here’s a guy who’s obviously suffering from a mental disorder; this is sad“. No…you’re playing this for anyone who will listen and laughing your asses off in disbelief that anyone this atonal actually had a record deal. Given the times, an itinerant street poet dumping his thoughts into a microphone was perfectly acceptable. This was the counterculture, after all.

Video: Wild Man Fischer on the streets

But in reality, Larry Fischer was a man suffering from both acute schizophrenia and manic depression who had been institutionalized as a teen and now took to the streets selling songs for a dime whenever he felt the pep (his word for muse/inspiration, likely when his manic side kicked in). Soon his window of fame with Zappa would close, although he would later get more notoriety via Dr. Demento and by collaborating with Barnes and Barnes; he was also immortalized in comic form.

A quarter century later, on a much bigger stage, the entertainment industry would use William Hung for its own amusement in a far sicker display of public humiliation. But then again, as all television producers have learned, Americans will do anything to get on television, including debasing themselves, in pursuit of what is mistaken for celebrity. Several of the most popular shows on television are based upon the concept of people exposing their faults or fabricating a lifestyle to feed the voyeuristic, isolationist society that we have become. H.L. Menken once said that “nobody ever went broke underestimating the intelligence of the American public“. I don’t think he realized an entire industry would be created in the process.

But these celebretards are all too eager to volunteer. Larry was drafted.

Knowing all that I do about Frank Zappa, what was once a benign thought is now a curious question. Was Frank simply flipping the bird to the pop culture establishment by posturing Fischer as a street poet genius while putting some coin in his and Larry’s pockets? Or was Frank so prescient about the banality of pop culture that this was simply another absurdist cash cow, a latter day Elephant Man who would be carnival-barkered to the public for a short shelf-life and then disposed of when done?

Larry released three records for Rhino, but this original album has never been issued on CD because Gail Zappa owns the rights. (Apparently, Larry once threw a jar at her daughter’s head, terminating his relationship with Frank. Gail can hold a grudge.)Ironically, last week I stumbled across a documentary about Larry’s life entitled Derailroaded. While waiting for my copy to arrive, I hit the Internet on Friday in search of some reviews and comments about the film, which is how I learned of his passing on June 16th.

Larry Fischerdead at 66.

The words rest in peace have rarely been more appropriate.

"My name is Larrrr-y..."

***

And just as was set to release the above post, I learned that The Big Man has sadly left us as well. Clarence Clemons died last night from complications following a recent stroke.

I’ll let Bruce Springsteen’s words say it for me:

Clarence lived a wonderful life. He carried within him a love of people that made them love him. He created a wondrous and extended family. He loved the saxophone, loved our fans and gave everything he had every night he stepped on stage. His loss is immeasurable and we are honored and thankful to have known him and had the opportunity to stand beside him for nearly forty years. He was my great friend, my partner and with Clarence at my side, my band and I were able to tell a story far deeper than those simply contained in our music. His life, his memory, and his love will live on in that story and in our band.”

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A Genuine Horror Movie

Finally got to see the Oscar-winning documentary Inside Job last night. When you hear that phrase, you normally think “bank robbery”, and you’d be right on the (ahem) money if you did. The problem is that the crooks did it in broad daylight while the security guards sat on their hands…or more likely, their wallets.

I avoid politics in this blog as much as possible, so in case anyone is reading anything into my intentions let me clearly state that this is not a Democrat vs. Republican argument – clearly both sides were complicit, ignorant, or both. But it’s absolutely frightening to consider that people elected to the public trust could not figure out that this Ponzi scheme of predatory lending coupled with betting the house on its failure would only lead to the inside investors getting ridiculously wealthy on the backs of millions of people who thought they were protected by institutions like The Securities and Exchange Commission…and their own government.

Trailer for Inside Job

Simple math will tell you that if you inflate the value of a house to twice its realistic value and then let someone borrow 95% of that amount, that person only has at best a 5% equity stake in the property. Drop the house value a mere 10% – still 90% overvalued, mind you – and now the person owes more money on the house than it’s sellable for. Drop that value down 50% and the owners are in a hole they can’t escape from unless they forfeit the house and everything else they own and declare bankruptcy. And then the banks can write another mortgage on the reclaimed property and leave that owner in a grave.

That’s not to say that individual greed didn’t fuel the economic collapse. Bankers and traders funneled absurd amounts of cash up their noses and down their throats, while people barely out of college were buying homes for hundreds of thousands of dollars and living way beyond their means. A shell game is just that – there’s only one marble, and when it moves somewhere the others are left empty. If someone is raking in millions of dollars, someone else is losing that same amount. Had an accountant tried this at a small company they would be fired and jailed; a student who crafted this as their Doctoral thesis for economic solvency would flunk out of school.

The fact that no one from a major bank, insurance firm or investment house went to prison is far more frustrating than watching athletes and celebretards skate free for crimes you and I would do hard time for. Groups of people who live beyond the law brazenly raped and pillaged millions of people, paid comparatively tiny fines and were able to do so without admitting wrongdoing. Inside Job is a collection of interviews and media clips covering the global economic collapse, and who is willing to speak is almost as interesting as who isn’t. In particular, you will come away looking at Eliot Spitzer in a whole different light and start to wonder whether his fall from grace was engineered for a bigger reason than you thought.

Although the film is obviously targeting one point of view, Matt Damon’s narration of filmmaker Charles Ferguson’s script is even-keeled. There’s no need for hysterical pitch and emphasis when the horror speaks for itself.

The official website.

They shot the sherriff...

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Stand Up Wit…Adam Carolla

I’ve never been a big Adam Carolla fan.

I always found Carolla to be a bit smug, although in fairness it’s pretty much the role he was playing on such highbrow fare as Loveline and The Man Show. And frankly, people like Dr. Drew and Dr. Phil (never trust a doctor with only a first name, says Dr. Bristol) are as twisted and codependent as their idiot callers and guests. Carolla just played the bystander who was really pity-mocking the poor saps on the help shows and doing what any overgrown adolescent would love to do on The Man Show…if they had the freedom and the budget.

But Carolla’s book In Fifty Years We’ll All Be Chicks is pretty funny, because he remembers the first rule of comedy – make yourself a target as well. That way no matter how petty or whiny or condescending you get, you’re really saying “I know, right?” rather than defending your lofty perch. There is no shortage of people, institutions and concepts to attack, and Carolla does so with vigor.

The book reads like a collection of related thoughts rather than a narrative flow, which is perfect for bathroom reading (coincidentally the subject of chapter 7), and his rambling observations and caustic asides are peppered with anecdotes involving some of his famous friends, most notably Jimmy Kimmel. Some fo it is a little whiny and pretentious, but a lot of it is pretty damned funny.

Read excerpts here.

But he has a point – look at that cover picture and focus on your first thought. That’s right – biker leather no longer makes you think of tough guys like Marlon Brando or Lee Marvin…you think Village People. When did that happen? The book is loaded with observations that wonder aloud when common sense took a backseat to popularity, and why celebretards – people famous only for being famous – should be worth anyone’s precious time.

I won’t go back and watch The Man Show (and I like Joe Rogan and Doug Stanhope even more than I like Jimmy Kimmel), and I’d take a bullet to the head before watching something like Loveline. But if I ever see Adam Carolla, I’m going to buy him a beer, or ten.

And I guarantee it won’t be light beer

Smug as a bug in a rug

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Lights Out for Lights Out

FX, why do you do this to me?

You promote a series heavily and I watch it and get invested in its characters, and then you kill it. FX announced that it has cancelled the freshman boxing drama Lights Out, only two episodes away from the end of the first season (a new episode airs tonight). Bad ratings? I guess the judges’ cards will show that Patrick “Lights Out” Leary lost on points.

The cast has been almost uniformly excellent, featuring a breakout performance from Holt McCallany and strong support from Stacy Keach, Pablo Schreiber, Catherine McCormack and Billy Brown (as conflicted champ “Death Row” Reynolds). Reg E. Cathey (like Schreiber, an alum of The Wire) dazzles as Don King inspired promoter Barry Word, and guest roles have been showcases for powerful actors like Bill Irwin, Eamonn Walker and the great David Morse. Sure, the teenage girls are a bit annoying, but isn’t that also realistic?

If there was a weak point, perhaps it was the strong focus upon Leary’s drive to get another shot at the title, a plot element that has been accelerated to at such a rapid pace that we are almost upon it after eleven episodes. I don’t know if they planned to have the fight take place by the end of the season or planned to make the fight the centerpiece of the next season – I guess I’ll find out in a week – but after he either wins or loses, it would appear that the momentum would shift. Of course, if you don’t have a strong and fast pace you’ll get cancelled for that, too.

Unlike Terriers, which suffered from a ridiculous marketing campaign, people knew exactly what they were tuning in for. It’s just sad that there are so many more people who want to watch celebretards cat fight or try to dance.

Welcome to America, 2011.

At least FX picked up Justified and Louie for second seasons. Here’s hoping they don’t screw that up.

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Oversouling

I knew there had to be a word for it.

That ridiculous vocal yodeling (my term until today) that pop singers seem to think expresses emotion…not realizing those of us with ears and taste hear cats being herded into a woodchipper? Audio pyrotechnics, somersaults on the scale, the machine-gun burst of notes squeezed into one syllable of a song that rips any chance of credibility out of the picture and probably adds the song (as well as the artist) to my brain’s “Do Not Fly” list?

Yep, that’s an insult to yodelers – so let’s adopt oversouling.

Add in the liberal presence of Autotune and I am seriously wondering what the hell is wrong with people who aren’t revolted by a large segment of what passes for hit songs these days. I’m not someone pining for the good old days and refusing to accept that music has changed over the course of my lifetime, but I am shocked that the appreciation of musicians takes such a back seat to celebretards and vapid excuses for pop singers.

(Really, if you need recorded loops and Autotune…what the fuck are you actually doing on that stage?)

So when I got the email link to the Huffington Post essay by John Eskow today – courtesy Rock & Rap Confidential – I couldn’t help but smile and fist-bump myself (better than fist-bumping an imaginary companion, even if it does take the hands off the keyboard for a moment). For John not only nailed the main problem with Christina Aguilera’s trainwreck of a National Anthem, he hit the bulls-eye on the whole trend of oversouling.

“This is the same grotesque style — 17 different notes for every vocal syllable — that has so dominated the pop and R&B charts for years. Mariah Carey and Whitney Houston are relatively minor offenders, but singers like Aguilera — who admittedly possesses a great instrument — just don’t seem to know when to stop, turning each song into an Olympic sport as they drain it of its implicit soul, as if running through the entire scale on every single word was somehow a token of sincerity. It’s called melisma — the bending of syllables for bluesy or soulful effect — and what’s creepy about the way it’s used now is that it perverts America’s true genius for song…”

I implore you to read the entire essay and continue to the bottom for even further bemusement; his mention of Jerry Wexler elicits charges of racism from the great unwashed in Mommy’s basements across our fine land.

At least Roseanne Barr was joking…and she got the words right.

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Best Comedy DVDs of 2010: #2, #1

We conclude the countdown of the ten best comedy DVDs of 2010…

#2) Jim Jefferies: Alcoholocaust

Foul-mouthed, inebriated and a master storyteller, Jefferies will no doubt read enough reviews comparing him to Billy Connolly, at least the early era version. While that’s a worthy compliment, it does him a disservice, for Jefferies has evolved into a ribald storyteller whose annual assaults on Edinburgh draw earned comparisons to George Carlin, Bill Hicks and Richard Pryor. I don’t know what type of Hell he has visited, but he came back with a bag of demons that need to be excised, and the more pints that he consumes, the more he rattles that bag. Clearly a skilled and disciplined writer, he hits the stage with absolutely no inhibitions and a fuck you attitude. He’s going to tell the truth as he sees it, and if afterwards you are left like chum in the water, so be it.

Whether he’s cursing out a heckler, cracking a vulgar joke or spinning a yarn that will have you gasping for breath, Jefferies is consistently gut-busting funny. He’s often crass, sexist and graphic, but he’s relentless. His closing story is about trying to set up his childhood friend with a hooker…a friend who is disabled and terminally ill, by the way. Somehow he blends this hilarious over-the-top yarn with the men’s code of honor so that when you piss yourself laughing, you feel noble while doing it. (Comedy Central UK)

***

#1) Stewart Lee: If You Prefer A Milder Comedian, Please Ask For One

For sheer cerebral comedy entertainment, I don’t think there’s a better comedian on the planet right now than Stewart Lee. Erudite and culturally aware, his shows tend to evolve around a half-dozen thoughts at most, yet he mines them with the efficiency of a master surgeon and gets every scrap of meat off the bone. He’s not going to dumb down for you, and if you’re not paying attention, you’ll still laugh at the surface but totally miss the deeper, better levels. He’s had an amazingly prolific career, and although not as well-known in the States he is (rightfully) a legend in the UK. And as great as his recorded legacy is, this latest show might be his masterwork.

What I love about this show is the way you get the full monty – the brilliant opening with its impeccable timing and sight gags, the deep-seated rants against some celebretards clogging the television, an involved story that keeps going further than you dared think it would and then a burst of actual physical comedy with exasperated fourth-wall pleas and overt call backs. And then as a close, the three worst words in the English language – comedian with guitar – juggles both a transcendent emotional moment and a priceless tangent. Lee gives it to you straight, like a pear cider made from 100 percent pears. Absolutely brilliant. (Comedy Central UK)

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Comic Pressure

Still reeling from the loss of Greg Giraldo.

Most people know that comics often admit they are insecure, prone to depression, constantly wondering whether they are funny enough or how long they will be able to keep the pace. I’ve read countless interviews where the comedian states that the stage time is the easy part, it’s the other 23 hours that are a challenge.

The lifestyle is difficult – separation from family and friends, countless hotels and airports, the competition, the back-stabbing, the inability for most other people to understand what really makes you tick. The constant exposure to temporary people who you might not be able to trust. The encounters with those who want to make you dance…the constant stream of jealous people who can’t wait for you to screw up so they can take you down.

The booze. The drugs. The boredom. The need to be validated. The fear of failure. The constant pressure to keep moving, keep improving, keep creating. It can be crushing. Some are able to channel it into their comedy, finding solace in the exposure. Others let it build and gnaw and fester until they are incapable of succeeding…or living.

Those who only know the megastars could never imagine this; how could millionaires like Jerry Seinfeld or Jeff Dunham or Larry The Cable Guy feel pressure? But those who delve into the art and know every club comic and struggling performer often see a different story, as those genuine career breaking opportunities are few and far between; the daily reality is a much harsher grind.

I came across the Comedy Hall of Fame website featuring a wealth of short clips from interviews with comedians. So far I’ve watched a few – Jim Norton, Colin Quinn, Dave Attell– but I’ve seen enough to highly recommend it.

I also came across this naked and telling interview with Giraldo.

In my perfect world, these creative people would get far more exposure and fame, but our society seems fixated on celebretards. Comedians, more than ever, have a responsibility to hold society up and make us look at it, and we are blessed that so many do it so well. We are also cursed that so many leave us so soon.

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