Tag Archives: David Cross

4-4

April 4th is a pretty amazing day, all things considered. On any given day I could list a myriad of familiar names; people who were born on this day or who left this mortal coil before the stroke of midnight. Today is no exception, from births (Muddy Waters, David Cross, Robert Downey Jr., Maya Angelou, Berry Oakley) to deaths (Johnny Stompanato, Red Sovine, Edgar Buchanan, Dr. King and William Henry Harrison, the first President to die in office ).

But consider these true game-changing events.

  • NATO was created  in 1949
  • The Beatles ruled the charts, with #1 #2 #3 –#4 –#5 in 1964
  • Martin Luther King was assassinated in 1968
  • The World Trade Center was dedicated in 1973
  • Microsoft was founded in 1975
  • Space Shuttle Challenger made its maiden voyage in 1983

So…what did you do today?

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T.G.I.F. – Ten Literary Laughs

“Looks like we got us a reader…”

Ever since a relative spoke that horrific (and ironic, considering the skull it was emanating from) comment about one of my young daughters, it stuck in my head like glue. I don’t know if it’s in the DNA or it’s just a nice skill to develop, but yeah, I raised a couple of “reeedurzwho will hopefully continue and enjoy the science of mental absorption until they take their final dirt nap.

Arguably, as an adult with a busy schedule, it is hard to find the time to plow through books; even my pop magazine consumption has fallen off the cliff. When I do get in the swing of it I tend to grab a few things with a common theme, be they historical recollections, humorous fiction or pop culture biographies. For example, a recent viewing of Public Enemies whetted my appetite for the golden age of FBI vs. bank robbers, so I grabbed a few books about crime during the Depression Era. Similar spontaneous tangents have seen me devour a few books at a time on political corruption, alien invasions and the birth of the television industry.

I am a Renaissance Man ready for my day on Jeopardy.

So I noticed that a gaggle of books by or about comedians was hitting the shelves and thought I’d pass along a few tips. I haven’t read most of them, but I’ve got a few in hand and some of the others seem to be no-brainers considering the source. I’m not sure why such a plethora of comic pulp has descended upon us in such fashion; maybe a certain relative wandered into a publishing house and dropped a famous observation in the lobby?

Of course, like the environment I created for my children, I had a loving mentor making sure I was exposed to the wonders of the written word from the moment I could pay attention. My Mom wasn’t a career woman, the word they had back in the day was housewife. Of course, we know now that a housewife not only cooked and cleaned and shopped and managed the household but also had the ultimate responsibility of talking these little lumps of flesh called kids and molding them into people. In my house, Mom was the moral compass who taught by example first and words second; how to be kind and unselfish, how to be confident without being boorish, how to develop an independent personality and find your voice in a world that was increasingly pushing vanilla.

And yes, how to read. By the time I entered first grade I could read at a middle school level, understood basic math and had a fairly voracious vocabulary. And although that description screams nerd, I wasn’t. That jump-start on my education provided an incalculable advantage for me throughout my life, even if I didn’t always seize the opportunities that came my way. She also had a great sense of humor, something that she encouraged me to nurture, and although our tastes in comedy would eventually veer off from the basics, she was the one who celebrated my attraction to the comics I would see on Ed Sullivan and Johnny Carson (and hear during the first great wave of recorded comedy).

I drift off onto this tangent because today marks twenty-five years since my Mom died from cancer, far too young and far too suddenly. There’s so much that she never got to see, and it pains me that I never got to share so many events and accomplishments with her. But I am comforted that I carry her spirit in my heart every day, and I see her best qualities in my daughters , the ones she never got to meet. So as skeptical and confused as I am about life and religion and human condition, I know that whether you call it DNA or a soul, there’s a bit of her sweetness and greatness that is preserved beyond her time.

Twenty-five years? That sometimes seems like an eternity and other times like yesterday. Thanks for everything, Mom.

I doubt Mom would have read these books to me as a child. But here are Ten Literary Laughs – books by comedians for those of us who need a little diversion in a difficult world. The brain exercise is just a side benefit.

And yes, Mom, they’re in alphabetical order by author

(01) – Mike Birbiglia: Sleepwalk With Me

(02) – Jim Breuer: I’m Not High

(03) – Adam Carolla: In Fifty Years We’ll All be Chicks

(04) – David Cross: I Drink For A Reason

(05) – Tina Fey: Bossypants

(06) – Greg Fitzsimmons: Dear Mrs. Fitzsimmons

(07) – Gilbert Gottfried: Rubber Balls and Liquor

(08) – Paul Mooney: Black Is The New White

(09) – Patton Oswalt: Zombie Speceship Wasteland

(10) – Sarah Silverman: Bedwetter

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Best Comedy DVDs of 2010: #8, #7

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

#8) Darren Frost: Dead Inside

If there’s anyone else out there plowing the road Darren Frost is on, there’s no way they’re doing it anywhere near as well. Funny, sick, twisted and absolutely for an adult audience not afraid to step out on the ledge with him, Frost holds nothing and no one sacred, including himself. Don’t confuse him with a vaudevillian pervert like John Valby; Frost is a solid writer who sees the same dark thoughts that you and I do, except that he doesn’t filter anything to avoid an uncomfortable moment between strangers. Nope, if you board this ride, you committed, and he’s not letting you dismount. How’s this for a credo?“I do every fucking show like I’m never fucking coming back…”

This is Frost’s third release, and every one of them is packed to the gills with hours of outtakes, commentary, video clips, failed experiments, high-wire acts and heckler mania. Unlike many, Frost gives it to you warts and all, as if he’s his own documentarian. It’s certainly not for everybody, but as he likes to say, “you saw the sign on the door before you came in“. This is daring, gutsy comedy and we are lucky that we have a man brave and honest enough to plunge in and do it, taboos and repercussions be damned. (Comedy Whore)

***

#7) David Cross: Bigger and Blackerer

In an unusual bit of cross-pollination, Sub Pop issued this title separately on CD and DVD, but the material is wildly different. Unlike previous simultaneous Cross releases, where the different titles confirmed different content, it wasn’t until people started comparing reviews that they realized what they were missing between these. So if you know anyone pissed off at this marketing campaign, please don’t remind them that Cross wrote a book, also. Find out when their birthday is and get them a three-pack of DC.

But format aside, Cross has made a strong and welcome return to recorded stand up. Equally intolerant of social, religious and political buffoons, yet willing to point the barrel of the gun inwards as well, his stage work is a combination of logical rants and surreal thoughts. Sure, it’s snarky and offensive, and on occasions he might tread in areas that make even the most open-mided comedy fan cringe. But sacred cows are there for the tipping, and Cross remains a master.  (Sub Pop)

***

The countdown continues tomorrow with #6 and #5

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Comically Bad Advice

Thanks to an event that occurred last night, I sought out some words of wisdom and comfort this morning. Along with the obvious and the occasionally inspirational, I decided to go for the absurdly comedic angle as well.

There’s no Chicken Soup for the Funny Bone, but there is this:

You’re A Horrible Person But I Like You

The pretense is a twisted version of the advice column, where someone (often fabricated) writes in with a question so the columnist can dispense some words of wisdom. Over the years these responders have been straightforward helpful types, wiseass sarcastic vipers or pompous amateur psychologists. and almost without exception, the columns were popular, the printed version of a train wreck that can’t be avoided.

In this book, a group of comedians take a whack at the same Q&A task, asking and answering a few apiece. While the results are uneven, each comic usually has at least one good one, with several (Patton Oswalt, Jim Gaffigan, Todd Barry and Paul F Tompkins) especially strong.

How’s this for a list of advice givers? Aziz Ansari, Judd Apatow, Fred Armisen, Maria Bamford, Todd Barry, Samantha Bee, Michael Ian Black, Andy Borowitz, Michael Cera, Vernon Chatman, Rob Corddry, David Cross, Larry Doyle, Paul Feig, Jim Gaffigan, Zach Galifianakis, Janeane Garofalo, Daniel Handler, Todd Hanson, Tim Heidecker, Ed Helms, Buck Henry, Mindy Kaling, John Lee, Thomas Lennon, Al Madrigal, Aasif Mandvi, Marc Maron, Adam McKay, Eugene Mirman, Morgan Murphy, Bob Odenkirk, John Oliver, Patton Oswalt, Martha Plimpton, Harold Ramis, Amy Sedaris, Michael Showalter, Sarah Silverman, Paul F. Tompkins, Sarah Vowell, David Wain, Eric Wareheim, Rainn Wilson and Lizz Winstead.

It’s a perfect book for a quick scan; each chapter (organized by comic) is but a few pages long and can be read in a few minutes. And although the chapters themselves can be read out of order, some of the writers have some clever call-backs that would be easily missed if their chapters weren’t read in their entirety.

It’s not gut-busting funny, but it did put a much-needed smile on my face today. As always, your mileage may vary.

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T.G.I.F. – Ten Free Digital Samplers

They say you can’t get something for nothing. Wrong

Having grown up on 45 singles and gatefold albums, I’m still a tactile music lover. I’m being dragged kicking and screaming into the digital distribution world, even though I realize that it’s more convenient and less expensive. Can’t help it. Old habits die hard.

So since I’m not constantly surfing iTunes and Rhapsody and other music services, I sometimes miss out on titles that come out exclusively for the digital market, be they music or comedy. Hell, it’s hard enough to keep track of everything and I’m proactively looking…I can imagine how hard it is to find everything passively. And record companies – small and big – realize this also.

There’s nothing new about samplers, but pressing and distributing vinyl and CD platters cost money and couldn’t be offered for free in large quantities. Warner Brothers used to sell them for two dollars through the mail, which probably was a break-even point for them, although it wasn’t that much cheaper than a normal retail priced album at the time. When CDs became deceptively cheap, the market was flooded with indie samplers, although most would up in dollar racks. It would have been nice to try to discover new bands, but with the plethora of CDs in the store, who had the time and the money to experiment?

So here’s one thing digital got right – free albums, a click away from wherever you happen to be. The purpose is the same – hear some new bands, hopefully find someone you like, become a fan and buy their product. It’s the try-before-you-buy policy that is the new paradigm for a fractured industry. I’ve stumbled across several by pure happenstance; I’m sure you’ll find tons of others. Many bands are happy to give their albums away hoping you will come out to the show and support them on tour.

So here are Ten Free Digital Samplers that I found worthwhile; no-risk free records for the taking. Imagine – a money back guarantee!

01) Ike Reilly digital sampler – one of the best songwriters around and a dynamic performer, a cutting edge Dylan-influenced poet. I’ve got his whole catalogue and if you don’t know him, trust me, you will love this guy.

02) Americana Music Awards Sampler – featuring cuts from John Hiatt, Buddy and Julie Miller, Steve Earle and James McMurtry to draw you in, you’ll come away as fans of Jason Isbell and The Avett Brothers.

03) Wicked Cool Coming Attractions – A great sampler from Little Steven’s label (and Underground Garage playlist) including The Chesterfield Kings, The Breakers, The Cocktail Slippers and contenders for 2010’s best album, The Len Price 3.

04) Merge Records 2010 Sampler – Indie wonderland, featuring Destroyer, She and Him, Clean, The Clientele and The Shout Out Louds.

05) Alive Records 2009 Sampler – Not dated in any way, this runs the gamut from re-released gems from The Nerves to great cuts from The Buffalo Killers, Left Lane Cruiser and Outrageous Cherry.

06) ROIR: So Indie It Hurts Jackpot! New York Dolls, Johnny Thunders, Suicide, The Mekons, The Fleshtones, James Chance and the Contortions…NYC punk bonanza!

07) Ryko: Flash of Light – Worth it for the acoustic Gary Louris tune alone, but this is filled with great singer-songwriters like Will Hoge and Justin Currie (from Del Amitri).

08) Barsuk Records 2009 Sampler – OK, so I wish that Nada Surf was on here, but otherwise this is a killer collection featuring Death Cab For Cutie, Menomena and Ra Ra Riot.

09) CMJ 2009 Sampler – I imagine there will be a 2010 version floating around soon, but this is stuffed with lesser known bands so what difference does a year make? I already liked  The Black Hollies and The High Strung and came away discovering The Generationals and The Bloodsugars.

10) Best of Yep Roc Singles – This is an absolute steal. When you’re one of the best labels of the past twenty years, of course your roster boasts Nick Lowe, Todd Snider, Dave Alvin, The Apples In Stereo and Reverend Horton Heat.

And what the hell – it’s free one from Sub Pop containing Blitzen Trapper, Wolf Parade, Beach House…even a clip from comedian David Cross!

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You Go, Todd Margaret!

The six-episode run of The Increasingly Poor Decisions of Todd Margaret just ended Friday night, and if you missed this brilliantly uncomfortable show you need to get your DVR primed to recapture the encore runs this week. David Cross is spectacularly cringeworthy in the lead, an inept pathological liar whose life choices are social quicksand. Frequent collaborator Will Arnett is the yang to David’s yin; he plays Brent Wilkes, a character Cross describes as “an unrepentant, crass douchebag“.

I’m hard pressed to tell you why this was one of the funniest shows I have ever seen on television without ruining the experience. Cross plays Todd Margaret, an inept temp worker who Arnett’s character misjudges; he pegs Todd as the perfect guy to launch a new energy drink (Thunder Muscle) to the Brits. Starting as a tale about a guy who gets in over his head, it quickly devolves…and then keeps getting worse. As Cross stated in an interview, The one thing that was important to everyone involved was that this project not simply be a fish-out-of-water comedy. Like, “Hey, you drive on the wrong side of the street!?” None of that.

On The Office, David Brent (or in America, Michael Scott) makes one cringe but you know there’s a sliver of common sense under the false bravado. Todd Margaretnot so much.  Compared to Todd Margaret, Tobias Fünke has his life together.

Suffice to say, if you are a fan of Cross or Arnett and can find humor in even the most uncomfortable situations, you will absolutely love this program. And a DVR alert – although the show blocks out at a half-hour, IFC runs the episodes commercial free, filling up the last ten minutes or so with promos and adverts. A great move, since getting up for the commercial would interrupt that perfectly squirming feeling you get from not getting a reprieve as things spiral downward.

“The cool thing about Todd Margaret is that, while a straight ahead comedy show, it tells a story that has a beginning and an end. Every episode starts the next morning after the previous episode so that the sense of inescapable impending doom is heightened exponentially with each subsequent show,” said David Cross.  “There’s no escape.”

 
 

*Not* fron Leeds.

 

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T.G.I.F. – Ten TV Tips

 

OK, couch potatoes – Fall Season is here

Not that I’m actually going to have time to watch all of these – some will actually be better as weekend marathons on DVD – but at least I could find ten new shows that seem to be worth checking out. And sure, the networks are still cloning cop shows and lawyer shows and even sinking one new program’s hopes immediately by casting Jerry O’Connell in it. He is the Ted McGinley of his generation…now that Jason Gedrick isn’t making pilots anymore. 

Yeah, I’m skeptical – and I’m not alone. Before it even aired, Outlaw was savaged by the press, despite the presence (and publicity efforts) of usual favorite Jimmy Smits; the premise was just too preposterous. And despite the always alluring Dana Delaney and Jeri Ryan, their show Body Of Proof might be its own cadaver

I’m not going to get too excited if a show starts out great, because I’ve seen some of the best shows get shot down in their infancy despite stellar writing, casting and performances. I still wince when I think about EZ Streets and Better Off Ted, and there’s a laundry list beyond those two. But before I throw my glass at the television, it’s always half-full. 

So here are Ten TV Tips for the upcoming Fall season, in random order. Remember, there’s no gambling, these suggestions are for personal enjoyment only; we do not guarantee ratings. In fact, you might not want to blink or you could miss a couple of them entirely… 

  

01) Boardwalk Empire – A prohibition-era gangster show on pay cable with Steve Buscemi and Marty Scorcese? Are you kidding me? Reason enough to buy HBO, but I’ll probably wait to watch it all in one weekend. 

02) The Event I’ll admit it, they’ve hooked me with the promos. And anytime Zeljko Ivanek is on a show – especially if he’s a little on the corrupt side – that show is worth following

03) Lone Star Con men rule. Jon Voight rules. Texas rules. I’m in. 

04) Running Wilde – Will Arnett playing an asshole. Do you really need any more information than that to tune in? 

05) Detroit 187 Michael Imperioli back as a cop after the unjustly cancelled Life On Mars. Perhaps the modern clothing and the lack of a porn stache will work this time. 

The next great epic, Boardwalk Empire

 

06) The Increasingly Poor Decisions of Todd Margaret – I’m still pissed at IFC for cancelling Jackie Woodman, but if they are putting David Cross on television I almost forgive them. 

07) Terriers – Already airing and after two episodes I’m liking it. At first I thought it would mimic The Unusuals, but it’s more Elmore Leonard-ish. 

08) No Ordinary Family I’m only thinking of watching this because I can’t picture Michael Chiklis following up The Shield with a crap series. Yes, I saw The Fantastic Four… 

09) Lights Out It’s boxing and redemption. It’s FX. It’s gonna rock

10) Shit My Dad Says – What if Captain Kirk slept with Denny Crane? Yeah, this could suck out loud, but I’ll give William Shatner a chance. 

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