Tag Archives: Woody Allen

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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December – Blog Snow and Recaps

You might have noticed a couple of subtle changes to the blog format today.

First, the overall theme was slightly revised to use a clearer, crisper font. I was perfectly happy with the old one, which has served me well for 698 daily posts. But WordPress was phasing it out and substituting this revised one effective today; since I didn’t see another I preferred, I figured I’d roll with the punches.

The second is a favorite of WordPress bloggers – snow! I’m also happy this is back, because with my border image it looks more like atomic fallout.

This is also the time where I start to circle back and look at some of the television shows, films, music and comedy releases that peppered 2010. My “best of” lists post in January, but I’ll try to use this month to call out several that were not specifically covered on the Prescription. Many times that third listen is the charm, and there is a pile to still wade through for the first time.

Hope you enjoy following along.

And Happy Birthday, Woody Allen!

Woody turns seventy-five today and is still going strong (two films in progress as we speak), although his recent track record can’t match profile of his majestic run in the 70s and 80s. But whose can? His work as a comedy writer alone makes him first-string on the all time team. Despite the oddities surrounding his personal life, he has to be rated as one of the greatest filmmakers in history.

Woody’s Wiki page  includes an interesting collaborator chart.

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T.G.I.F. – Gene Wilder Edition

Who doesn’t love Gene Wilder?

I smile every time that commercial airs on television where Gene’s wonderful voice croons a line from “Pure Imagination” from Willie Wonka and the Chocolate Factory. I don’t even remember the product (nor would I pimp it here if I did) but I tip my cap to their choice of material. Actor, writer, director, producer…Gene Wilder has given the world many laughs.

How would you like to start your film career in Bonnie and Clyde and then star in The Producers as your second effort? Or within a few short years, star in the iconic Young Frankenstein and Blazing Saddles and go toe-to-toe with the manic Richard Pryor? (Ironically Pryor was supposed play sheriff Bart opposite Wilder’s Waco Kid in Blazing Saddles – the part went to Cleavon Little, who the studio thought was a “safer risk”)?

Wilder’s film career all but stopped after the death of Gilda Radner in 1989, and in fact didn’t make as many films as you’d probably expect. But he sure had a high percentage of winners.

So Happy Birthday, Gene Wilder. These are ten of my favorite moments you’ve given me from a wealth of great performances.:

The Waco Kid in Blazing Saddles – “You can’t hold a gun let alone shoot one!”

Eugene in Bonnie and Clyde – “I’m gonna tear them apart! Those punks!”

George Caldwell in Silver Streak – “I can’t pass for black!!

Dr. Ross in Everything You Ever Wanted to Know About Sex – “If I could see Daisy alone…”

Victor Frankenstein in Young Frankenstein – “Putting on the Ritz

Skip Donahue in Stir Crazy – “We don’t take…no shit. That’s right. No shit!”

Dave Lyons in See No Evil Hear No Evil – “YOU…are a dumb idiot!”

Willie Wonka – “Pure Imagination

Claude and PhillipeStart The Revolution Without Me – “Crazy? I’ll show you crazy!

Leo Bloom in The Producers – “I’m wet! I’m hysterical and I’m wet!”

Gilda’s Club

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Stand Up Wit…David Feldman

David Feldman is an award-winning television comedy writer who, despite that success, toiled behind the scenes for years before doing his own material onstage on a regular basis. And when the stand-up appearances were successful, it still took him almost the entire decade to release his first comedy album. Hopefully Left Without Paying will generate enough buzz to prompt him to jumpstart the pace a little bit; I’d like much more from him before I punch my ticket off this mortal coil.

Feldman is pretty old school in his delivery, he enunciates dramatically with a slow and clear cadence. It’s as if a more hyper monologue-centric comedian was slowed down; imagine Rodney Dangerfield not sweating and using a bigger vocabulary, or early Woody Allen with less stutter and more confidence.  As expected from a writer for Dennis Miller and Bill Maher, two comics known for their biting sarcasm, Feldman’s barbs are fast and razor-sharp.

Feldman can dole out quick 1-2 punch lines but also revels in leveraging his physical appearance as a safe and ordinary looking guy to bait the audience into unsuspecting turns. What will start out like an innocuous topic that gets supportive applause will turn on a dime, or he’ll launch into an offensive joke demeaning women or the elderly. Of course, the crowd will take the bait and gasp, which sets him up to feign shock and with a shrug and a dismissive “Whaaat?”

Video: Cannabalism

He wouldn’t be a successful, award-winning writer if he didn’t have a boatload of great jokes, and this CD is loaded with them. I won’t spoil them here, but you’ll be pirating several at the office the next day. Favorites include the greatest Elvis impersonator, wet dreams, frozen sperm, cheating lists, deadbeat kids, the football injury, the Humane society for people…there are a few dry spots, but he’s wry and clever far more often than not. And, of course, wriggling out of a bit gone horribly awry is just as much fun for him.

Video: Sexual Harassment

Recorded with crystal clarity at the Acme Comedy Club in Minneapolis in front of a strong crowd, Left Without Paying is  a solid debut. Although Feldman currently records podcasts, I hope we get another album, and soon.

Buy Left Without Paying here.

David Feldman’s website

David Feldman wiki page and IMDB page

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T.G.I.F. – Ten More Impressions

 

Matt Damon as  Matthew McConaughey.

A contestant on Next Big Thing nailing  Al Pacino.

Joe Alaskey as Jackie Gleason, Art Carney, Don Knotts, Alfred Hitchcock, Walter Brennan and Peter Lorre.

Barry Mitchell does Woody Allen.

Another mystery guy channeling  Christopher Walken, Joe Pesci, Robert De Niro and Jack Nicholson.

Jim Carrey as David Caruso in CSI Miami.

Dre Parker doing Dave Chappelle, Bernie Mac and Damon Wayans.

Another anonymous YouTuber imitating Gilbert Gottfried.

Ray Ray in a skit as Regis Philbin and Owen Wilson.

Rob Magnotti as Ray Romano, Brad Garrett, Michael Richards, Bill Cosby, Dudley Moore, Paulie Walnuts, Nicolas Cage, Al Pacino and John Travolta.

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R.I.P. Jim Carroll, Larry Gelbart

"Jimmy, I'll miss you more than all the others / and I SALUTE YOU , Brother..."

" I'll miss you more than all the others / and I SALUTE YOU , Brother..."

Poet. Rocker. Punk. Junkie. Jim Carroll, who was all of these,  passed away at his desk while working on new material. He first became famous for his novel The Basketball Diaries, but I didn’t discover that until after his album Catholic Boy blew my doors in. I can still sing “People Who Died” from memory and was fortunate enough to have seen the man himself do the honors. Many people believe he was the poet of our generation, a post-Beat Beat writer. Now he’s gone. Wicked, wicked gravity.

Larry Gelbart is probably best known as the creator of M*A*S*H, an accomplishment which would outshine many people’s career resumes. But his writing spanned generations – he started writing for Fanny Brice and Bob Hope, wrote jokes for Red Buttons and Danny Kaye, hit his stride in the incredible writer’s room for Sid Caesar (a crew that included Mel Brooks, Woody Allen, Neil Simon and Carl Reiner) and capped it off with M*A*S*H and Tootsie. His work is so good that I forgive him for AfterMASH.

The typewriter is mightier than the sword

The typewriter is mightier than the sword

My comments on these two is certainly no slight by omission on the recent passing of others. I just had more invested in the works of Carroll and Gelbart.  But over the past seven days the Grim Reaper has been working overtime:

  • Pierre Cossette, a TV and Broadway producer I had the pleasure of working with when I was in Artist Management. Total pro, as was his team.
  • Army Archerd, whose news items in Variety predated today’s gossip rags and TV shows…except Army had ethics and didn’t just blast rumors to get attention.
  • George Eckstein, a producer/writer for some great early TV shows.
  • Paul Burke, star of Naked City and 12 O’Clock High
  • William Beck, the owner of the Charlotte Bobcats, who at least was saved from witnessing Michael Jordan’s embarassing Hall Of Fame speech.
  • Frank Batten, creator of The Weather Channel, saving millions of people from having to rely on that antiquated tool of looking out the window.

This idiot died last night, but only on stage. (I’m no fan of Beyonce’s music, but that was a class move at the VMAs.)

Christopher Kelly– hmmm, not suspicious at all, right?

And if the Universe had a better sense of irony,  this jackass would have died a day earlier.

***

Awww crap11pm update. I knew this was going to happen but not this soon.

And damn, Reaper – Wednesday update – you socked it to him, too?

***

Jim Carroll Wikipedia entry

Larry Gelbart page at IMDB.

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Under The Radar: Eytan Mirsky

I'm always ready for Eytan

I'm always ready for Eytan

Eytan Mirsky has been on my radar for over a decade, but thanks to the wonderfully closed shop we call pop radio, he’s probably flying under yours. Then again, you might be familiar with his work by accident – a few of his pop chestnuts have adorned films like American Splendor, Happiness and The Tao of Steve.

Mirsky has four albums out, all good, but if you’re going to start somewhere I suggest his 2000 release Get Ready For Eytan (my original review follows below). And keep an eye – or ear – open for his songs in some of your favorite independent films where this talented man enjoys a broad and diverse career.

eytan mirsky get ready

New Yorker Eytan Mirsky might be filling up his press kit with clippings about his soundtrack contributions, but if Get Ready For Eytan gets some circulation, the accolades will start flowing in from that as well. In the independent film Happiness, Michael Stipe and Rain Phoenix sing the Mirsky-penned title track, an ironic title for a film centered on so many dysfunctional characters. Mining the same territory, Get Ready is a fourteen track collection of vignettes about unrequited love, betrayal and just plain neurotic romanticism, and if Mirsky isn’t culling notes from his own scrapbook, he’s done a great job of scoping out his behaviorally stumbling peers.

Lyrically funny and straightforward, Mirsky is drawing comparisons to Marshall Crenshaw and Nick Lowe for his clever wordplay and knack for classic pop hooks. But I hear something much more left of center – Michael Shelley, Jonathan Richman and especially Ben Vaughn come to mind time and time again. Why? Well, I’m laughing my ass off at him and feeling sorry for his misfortunes at the same time, like an audio Woody Allen experience. More often than not, the songs find this lovable loser – and who hasn’t uttered this one – looking in the mirror asking “What Did I Do?”. And when he does get lucky, he still gets screwed – like when the girlfriend in “All The Guys You Loved Before” insists upon divulging her past to the cringing Eytan.

Well I’m not saying / that you’re promiscuous / but did you really have to go / and make a list?

Mirsky wrote all the songs and sings lead and background vocals; the band is a simple guitar/bass/drums/piano combo that is energetic but not loud, equally effective ripping through surf riffs or steering slow dancers through mid-tempo ballads. Larry Saltzman, in particular, does not let the sparse production prevent him from rocking out when called for (especially on “Record Collection” and “Outta Sight). And just one look at song titles like “Somebody To Blame”, “Allergic To Fun” and “The Vulture Of Love” tells you this is something different and worthwhile. As he sings, his yearning, confusion or misguided superiority (the hilarious “Drop That Loser”) comes across loud and clear even though his style changes as subtly as a facial expression.

Writing this off as quirky pop tunes is unfair. Mirsky is a clever writer with the ability to make the three minute pop song sound new again – no fog machines or lighting trusses necessary.

Visit Eytan’s MySpace site.

Grab some Eytan via CDBaby.

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