Tag Archives: Roseanne Barr

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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T.G.I.F. – Ten From Dangerfield’s

In yesterday’s essay about the loss of Robert Schimmel, I mentioned his early break on the Young Comedians Special on HBO. It’s amazing to look back at the number of famous comedians who were launched from that showcase, and to this day many still single out Rodney Dangerfield as the guy who helped them take that next crucial step in their careers.

A lesser comic might have been concerned that these new guys might overshadow them or at least become viable competition. After failing in his younger days as Jack Roy and then reinventing himself as the Rodney persona, I think he had an appreciation for how fragile success can be, and made an effort to help those he thought were worthy of a shot.

And I doubt he was worried about competitionRodney was the master.

So here are Ten From Dangerfield’s in NYC, featuring some great comics – many of whom got their career-making break from Rodney himself. Wish they’d release these old shows on DVD – people like Maurice LaMarche deserve better.

01) Bill Hicks

02) Bob Nelson

03) Richard Lewis

04) Bob Saget

05) Andrew Dice Clay

06) Fred Stoller

07) Tim Thomerson

08) Sam Kinison

09) Andy Kaufman

10) Roseanne Barr

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Stand Up Wit…Whitney Cummings

Careful...she'll cut a bitch.

Against all conventional logic, the glass ceiling in the comedy world remains intact. One would think that if Joan Rivers and Phyllis Diller could achieve great success almost half a century ago, we’d be flush with popular and successful female comics in 2009. Instead, the woman with the biggest draw is Lisa Lampanelli, who has extrapolated “I’m fat and I bang black guys” into a large venue following. Meanwhile, the brilliant Maria Bamfordeasily one of the ten best comics working today regardless of gender – is better known for her recent commercials for Target than for her consistent excellence as a writer and performer. Don’t blame her for that.

Over the years we’ve seen Roseanne Barr and Ellen Degeneres and Whoopi Goldberg find tremendous success, and during the 80’s comedy boom there were several that were household names. So what’s wrong in 2009? There’s no shortage of strong current female comedians worthy of adulation, but fewer are breaking through at the level that many of the male comedians attain. Try asking a friend to name five current female comedians. You’ll likely get LampanelliSarah Silvermanand a blank stare

Maybe they’ll come up with Wanda Sykes or Margaret Cho or Kathy Griffin, all of whom have had wider exposure thanks to multiple television shows. I doubt many would come up with Whitney Cummings, but after laughing my ass off listening to her first album (Emotional Ninja) I predict that will change very soon.

Cummings doesn’t have a schtick or a character, and her material is pretty much old school observational comedy about sex and relationships. But while she can be crude and vulgar, she’s also ferociously funny. She’s strong with a quick one liner but also has well-structured longer pieces that pile one laugh on top of another. She’s able to play both ends of the men vs. women card in such a way that you laugh at all of it regardless of your gender…probably because you realize most of what she’s talking about is absolutely true.

Cummings doesn’t talk down to the audience, she places herself within it, so we’re on her side even when we’re the butt of the joke. She’ll humble herself with a self-deprecating stinger, but she’s no victim. She might launch some vitriol towards the losers and bad dates, but she’ll also admit to being a sneaky manipulator. Basically she’s showing that we’re all playing games…so let’s get those cards on the table and laugh at how shallow and absurd it all is.

The bits that aren’t about relationships are topical but universally funny, like the banality of social networks, the true definition of yoga and wondering why we reward our friends’ biggest mistakes with gifts. I won’t spoil the punch lines, but my favorite bits – her breast exam, sleeping her way to nowhere, how women snoop on and argue with men – had me rolling. She excels at stringing together a wealth of material with exceptional timing and delivery, adept at a pregnant pause before a punch line or punctuating a sarcastic retort.

I’m not exactly going out on a limb here by praising her work. In the past couple of years her profile has soared; she’s been tagged as a rising star by Entertainment Weekly, Variety and Alternative Press. Her panel time on Chelsea Lately is usually brilliant, and her breakout performance on the Comedy Central roast of Joan Rivers was a logical next step (she had been writing for them for a couple of years). Cummings is only in her mid-twenties, yet she’s already proven to be a prolific writer and a strong performer. She’s attractive, she’s very smart, and she is fearless.

There are thirty-three tracks on Emotional Ninja, most under two minutes, and there might not be a clunker in the bunch. This is truly one of the funniest comedy CDs of the year – go get it.

Buy Emotional Ninja online

Whitney on Showtime’s Live Nude Comedy

Her killer set on Comedy Central’s Roast of Joan Rivers

Compilation of panel bits from Chelsea Lately.

Whitney Cummings website.

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Filed under Comedy, Features and Interviews, Reviews