Tag Archives: Comedy

Bobcat Strikes Again

Just when you think he couldn’t get stranger…

Too many people know Bobcat Goldthwait from his lesser accomplishments – several Police Academy films, that screeching banshee voice (too many people missing the great jokes within) and lighting Jay Leno’s chair on fire (in retrospect, something more people wish they did). But Goldthwait, who occasionally returns to the stand-up stage, has made his mark as a television director, and with three unique films in five six , as a screenwriter and filmmaker as well.

It seems like a billion years ago that Bob made Shakes The Clown, “the Citizen Kane of alcoholic clown movies“, but it holds up twenty years later as a raucous and psychotic comedy. If you laughed at the gang-fight in Anchorman, you might want to check out the movie they lifted the idea from.

But while his later movies have been funny, they have mined humor from uncomfortable and disturbing situations. Consider the sick relationship in Sleeping Dogs Lie, the creepy father-son bond of World’s Greatest Dad, and finally this year’s God Bless America, which on first pass sounds like a cross between Repo Man and Natural Born Killers. Goldthwait’s newest film reportedly kicked ass at the Toronto International Film Festival. I can’t wait to see it. (Goldthwait told the L.A. Times that he thought the gun-happy film “was his own Springtime For Hitler”.)

Many people bailed on Bob after it seemed that his career would be a series of loser films like Burglar and Jumping Jack Flash. But Goldthwait, 50 next year, has found his true calling as a filmmaker with a unique voice.

As one of the biggest Kinks fans on the planet I am thrilled that he is making Schoolboys In Disgrace with the full cooperation of Ray Davies. Maybe Bob will get The Kinks the recognition they deserve…and get his own in the process.

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Louie

Shameless? More like fearless.

So I’ve been catching up on life after the sabbatical, and given the need to lift the spirits I opted to start with the saved episodes of Louie and Wilfred. There is too much to see and not enough time, and since I had been fairly current with both shows before the departure, they seemed like the logical places to start. Wilfred, of course, did not disappoint – still riotously funny and as black a comedy as we’re likely to get on television this year.

But Louie is playing at another level.

Where last year’s shows had been irreverent and original, the second season of Louie is exponentially greater. Not only has Louis CK become a better actor – partially because his character is so much richer – but the writing has been sharper, darker, and yes, fearless. He’s always been able to write himself as the central figure in uncomfortable situations, but now he is not only scripting extended guest roles into the mix, he’s getting compelling performances from fellow comedians.

Doug Stanhope’s recent turn as a bitter and despondent road comic was outstanding, as he skewered the celebrity of mass appeal comedians while reaching some poignant conclusions about his own life. So too was the performance from Joan Rivers, playing herself, chastising Louie on his lack of work ethic and his inability to overcome insecurity. Although Stanhope’s “Eddie” was a fictional character, he inhabited it with much of his own persona; he was the yang to Rivers’ yin as polar opposites on the comedy hierarchy.

But the jaw-dropping moment had to be Dane Cook, who Louis humbles himself to meet backstage at a gig hoping to score some Lady Gaga tickets for his daughters (the logic is that Gaga and Cook share an agent). In the scene, Cook – who has long been accused of ripping off jokes from Louis CK in real life – is bitter towards TV Louie for not coming out in his defense. Louie explains that although he didn’t think Cook stole the jokes on purpose, he likely knew that they had come from somewhere else and didn’t really stop himself, either. TV Cook is clearly angered by the lingering accusations, and amazed that Louie would still put himself through the humiliation just to get the tickets, but both men get to speak their piece without either really backing down.

About halfway through this exchange, I realized that I was watching two people who didn’t want to have this conversation in public actually have this conversation in public, albeit within the framework of a script. As clever as it was for Louis the writer, it was an equally ballsy move by Cook to participate.

And that’s just one part of one episode. Louie will not likely win the award for best comedy or best drama, but right now it just might be both.

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Finally, Barney Miller.

Finally, the entire classic series is available.

Barney Miller ranks right up there with Soap, Cheers, Taxi and the other great sitcoms of the 70s and 8os, although up until now it has gotten sold short in the home video market. Thanks to Shout Factory, yet another great blast from the past gets the proper treatment with a box set complete with extras.

I must admit I’m a little PO’d that they didn’t release the other seasons individually, but the reason is that Sony didn’t sell enough of the first three seasons to warrant releasing the remainder. But at the price – certain to dip a bit over time – I can buy the whole shebang cheaper than if I picked up the remainder of the shows year by year. Eight seasons and one hundred sixty-eight episodes plus commentaries, booklets and even the first series of Vigoda’s spin-off, Fish. That’s a great deal, even at list price.

Video: some early highlights

I won’t go overboard trying to sell you on the show; like most long-running programs there is enough video and commentary to let you make up your own mind. But it does give me a chance to tip my cap to a great ensemble who provided me with years of laughter over eight seasons: Hal Linden, Barbara Barrie, Abe Vigoda, Jack Soo, Ron Glass, Max Gail, Greg Sierra, James Gregory, Ron Carey, and my favorite, the late great Steve Landesberg. The parade of oddball guest stars in the precinct house also featured a bevy of now-recognizable actors.

So I guess my Dad (who loved the show) will be the beneficiary of my three seasonal box sets. Come October, I’m all in on Barney Miller.

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Birthday Party

Why do certain dates feature a gaggle of celebrity birthdays?

Maybe it’s just that a lot of people are born in early July, which…hmmm…would be nine months after the kids finally go back to school. Coincidence? Frightening to track your own conception back nine months and try to find a reason. I’m a week off from being an obvious St. Patrick’s Day conception myself.

Songwriter and producer Lee Hazlewood would have been 82 today. Singer Marc Almond, drummer Mitch Mitchell and even Root Boy Slim (of the Sex Change Band – that one’s for you, Billy Campbell) would be sharing a cake. Bon Scott died at 33, so it’s hard to picture him fronting AC/DC at 65, but that’s’ what he would have been doing today. Jack White, who is helping to coordinate the Michigan Music Festival I wrote about, is still a spry 36.

Some great actors were born today – Brian Dennehy, Tom Hanks, Jimmy Smits, the underrated and magnificent Chris Cooper. Fred Savage, who survived child stardom to become a solid director and producer, is still only 35. Pam Adlon – so wonderful as Louie CK’s wife in Lucky Louie and a producer and recurring character on his current show Louie (they really have to work on their show names) turns a MILF-y 45.

Of course, not all celebrants are nice people. Some might have even offed their spouses and gotten away with it, like this guy and that chick.

Odds are it’s someone’s birthday among the Prescription readers. So if you don’t have any plans, at least now you know some parties you can crash. (It’s going to be a little quiet at the Scott and Mitchell houses, but the rest should be rocking…)

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Children’s Hospital

After the first two seasons, I didn’t think it could get stranger.

Wrong!

A parody of hospital dramas and soap operas that started as a webseries on the WB, Rob Corddry’s show was eventually picked up by Adult Swim and is now in its third season. Episodes are only twelve minutes long, but consistently hilarious, irreverent, absurd and cutting edge. You don’t have to be familiar with (or abhor) the source material to appreciate the jokes, although I’m sure there are subtle zingers that I’m missing. and while there is some thread of continuity, any episode is extremely watchable as a drop-in. That’s how I found it, and I’m thrilled it made it to DVD.

It’s not really a children’s hospital – it’s named after Dr. Childrens – and yes, that clown doctor tries to cure people with the healing power of laughter. It’s sexist and racist and vulgar and offensive to every religion and nationality, but absurdly so; it deflates these vile emotions by exposing how ridiculous they are. Corddry, Jonathan Stern and David Wain have created a show that follows the path of Arrested Devlopment and makes a hard left turn. It’s not for everyone, but neither are cashews.

The ensemble cast is airtight, featuring Malin Akerman, Lake Bell, Erinn Hayes, Rob Huebel, Ken Marino, Megan Mullally and Henry Winkler. Frequent guest stars like Nick Offerman and Nick Kroll add to the madness, and Michael Cera’s character of Sal Viscuso is a great running gag as well as a clever tribute. In the closing episode of Season Two (“The Sultan’s Finger”) the show perfectly mocked the recent trend of comedy shows fawning over their ability to perform a live broadcast, combined with a priceless nod to Tootsie (Jon Hamm can do no wrong).

Combined with Delocated and the upcoming National Terrorism Strike Force: San Diego: Sport Utility Vehicle (a spin-off from CH that starts July 21st), Adult Swim has a 1-2-3 punch that will keep me going all summer.

Children’s Hospital at Adult Swim

Children’s Hospital episodes

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Major League – Another Sequel?

As my team craps the bed with the worst record in baseball, thoughts turn to happier rawhide moments. I don’t know of any baseball fan who doesn’t love the movie Major League. There are several great baseball movies, from Fear Strikes Out to Bull Durham, but none is as quotable.

Talk now centers around another sequel, either the second or the third, depending upon whether you count Major League III (sorta the Godfather III of the franchise). Many of the major actors are not only available, but willing. Let’s face it, Corbin Bernsen and Tom Berenger aren’t getting a lot of A-list offers, and Charlie Sheen has some time on his hands. Dennis Haysbert – and don’t you wish you had President Palmer handling our problems in 2011 – has given thumbs up as has Bob Uecker.

I found it hilarious that director David Ward hired Uecker as the announcer based upon his funny Miller Lite commercials, not realizing that Uecker was the announcer for the Milwaukee Brewers. Just goes to show you that when ESPN thinks only two teams matter, many Americans follow suit.

I’m hoping they do this. Baseball is such a rich subject, with so many in-jokes as low hanging fruit, that making a funny script should be easy. The trick will be finding actors who look convincing playing baseball. Things like this just won’t pass muster these days.

But damn, I’ll miss James Gammon.

Click here to read Sports Illustrated’s oral history of the film.

Click here for ten revealing facts about the original film.

Lou Brown plays for the angels now...

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Happy Birthday, Mel Brooks!

I was flipping channels and caught the end of the Get Smart movie starring Steve Carell and Anne Hathaway, and while it was mildly entertaining, I couldn’t help think how it paled in comparison to the brilliantly written series.

Of course, I can watch that whenever I want – a majestic box set.

And it made me miss Mel Brooks. Yes, I know he’s alive, and a spry 85 at that (pickles are nutritious, you know). But Woody Allen keeps spitting out films at a rapid pace, occasionally hitting the high marks again. But he’s long since given up zany comedy. Most of today’s comedy films are so broad and cliché that they quickly fade from memory. But the world of today is a crazy, insane place. We need crazy, insane comedy.

We need Mel Brooks now more than ever. I know he has lost so many of his reliable company; Harvey Korman, Marty Feldman, Dom DeLuise, Rudy DeLuca, Madeline Kahn, Ron Carey and Kenneth Mars have all left this mortal coil.

But as Mel himself would say, “we have much to do and less time to do it in.”

Happy Birthday, Mel! Now get busy

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