Posted tagged ‘comedy’

Remembering Leslie Nielsen

December 1, 2010

RIP Leslie Nielsen 1926 - 2010

Where does one even begin with a tribute to absolute master-craftsman Leslie Nielsen? Probably with an opening paragraph. Leslie Nielsen was a brilliant actor. He began his career playing very specific serious genre roles, and launched himself into superstardom parodying those exact parts with the most dead-on satirical accuracy the medium has ever seen. You may think I’m being hyperbolic here, but surely I’m not. Nielsen was as in touch with the nuances of genre-pictures enough to make the most absurd exaggeration seem subtle and deliver a hearty belly-laugh in kids aged one to 92.

As a product of the 80s, I can’t be alone in having many of my first comedy memories being glimpses of Nielsen in his many endlessly-rewatchable classics. The steam-roller gag from the ending of the first Naked Gun is my earliest recollection of slapstick comedy. I fondly remember its sequels as being the movies that delighted both my grandparents and I on days I was home sick from school. I even vividly recall Easter weekend 1996 when my Dad thought I was finally old enough to appreciate the Airplane movies and we watched them both over a weekend where I first discovered quoting something that makes one laugh will make one laugh once again.

But along with Nielsen’s celebrated classics, there’s even something endearing about his performances in his lesser films. No matter what the material he was laced with, he always gave it his all to get as many laughs as possible. Even working lowbrow, the man was nothing short of a class act to the very end. One of the best to ever to do it, he leaves behind a rightfully celebrated legacy whose complexities and endless re-playability will ensure his body of work will be around forever.

And now, my favorite Nielsen-isms:

“Who are you and how did you get in here?” – “I’m a locksmith. And, I’m a locksmith.”

“What was it we had for dinner tonight?” “Well, we had a choice of steak or fish.” “Yes, yes, I remember, I had lasagna.”

“Women and me are like water and fire: wet and flammable.”

“Don’t move. I’ve got a gun. Not here, but I got one.”

“Your lies are like bananas. They come in big yellow bunches.”

“We can go away right now. I pack light. Everything we need is right here in my pants.”

“When you shot me at point blank range, I knew you loved me.”

“The Beatles said it best…’She loves you, yeah, yeah, yeah’.”

“It’s true what they say: Cops and women don’t mix. It’s like eating a spoonful of Drano; sure, it’ll clean you out, but it’ll leave you hollow inside.”

“It’s a topsy-turvy world, and maybe the problems of two people don’t amount to a hill of beans. But this is our hill. And these are our beans!”

“I’d known her for years. We used to go to all the police functions together. Ah, how I loved her, but she had her music. I think she had her music. She’d hang out with the Chicago Male Chorus and Symphony. I don’t recall her playing an instrument or being able to carry a tune. Yet she was on the road 300 days of the year. In fact, I bought her a harp for Christmas. She asked me what it was.”

“Like a midget at a urinal, I was going to have to stay on my toes.”

“Like a blind man at an orgy, I was going to have to feel my way through.”

“Kinky. But I like my sex the way I play basketball, one on one with as little dribbling as possible.”

“Hey! You call this slop? Real slop has got chunks in it! This is more like gruel! And this Château le Blanc ’68 is supposed to be served slightly chilled! This is room temperature! What do you think we are, animals?”

“I’m sorry I can’t be more optimistic, Doctor, but we’ve got a long road ahead of us. It’s like having sex. It’s a painstaking and arduous task that seems to go on and on forever, and just when you think things are going your way, nothing happens.”

“Now, Jane, what can you tell us about the man you saw last night?” “He’s Caucasian.” “Caucasian?” “Yeah, you know, a white guy. A moustache. About six-foot-three.” “Awfully big moustache.”

“I see a lot of familiar face-lifts.”

“I want a world where Frank junior and all the Frank juniors can sit under a shady tree, breathe the air, swim in the ocean, and go into a 7-11 without an interpreter.”

“I’m single! I love being single! I haven’t had this much sex since I was a Boy Scout leader!”

“I couldn’t believe it was her. It was like a dream. But there she was, just as I remembered her. That delicately beautiful face. And a body that could melt a cheese sandwich from across the room. And breasts that seemed to say…’Hey! Look at these!’ She was the kind of woman who made you want to drop to your knees and thank God you were a man! She reminded me of my mother, all right. No doubt about it.”

“You spend every possible waking moment together, while I’m out running around with a bunch of twenty year olds who only want a good time and cheap sex sex sex. Girls who can’t say no. Girls who can’t get enough. ‘More, more, more. It’s your turn now to wear the handcuffs’…”

“Looks like the cows have come home to roost.”

“This is Frank Drebin, Police Squad. Throw down your guns, and come on out with your hands up. Or come on out, then throw down your guns, whichever way you wanna do it. Just remember the two key elements here: one, guns to be thrown down; two, come on out!”

“There, there. You had no way of knowing the man you were dating was a vicious, murdering sociopath.”

“A parachute not opening… that’s a way to die. Getting caught in the gears of a combine… having your nuts bit off by a Laplander, that’s the way I wanna go!”

“I wouldn’t wait until the last minute to fill out those organ donor cards.”

We give Leslie Nielsen a Five Out of Five

So until next time… let’s agree to agree!

On Mitch Hedberg vs. Anthony Jeselnik

November 17, 2010

My fake plants died because I didn't pretend to water them

I got a phone call late last night telling my Grandmother's only got a day left to live. I don't want this to sound cold, but I'm not going to pay the ransom.

Recently, according to the internet, there’s been quite the hoopla about hot *it* comedian Anthony Jeselnik and his new album Shakespeare. Personally, I find this fanfare well deserved as the man is quite funny. He’s crafted a unique one-of-a-kind style, fine-tuned his performance and really makes me laugh. However, when discussing/sharing Jeselnik I’ve found a growing number of people have started to bring up the late great Mitch Hedberg. These mentions have ranged from comparative compliments to accusations of biting. As a longtime admirer of both, I can see why one might remind people of the other. They’re both one-liner comics with their own specific brand of logic that pulls the audience into their specially-designed world. However, I believe there are three major difference between the two that show Jeselnik is more than his own man.

1 ) The Darkness
– If there’s one obvious trait about Jeselnik, it’s that he’s a comedian with subject matter so dark it’s pitch black. In any other venue than stand-up comedy, his tales would convince you that he’s quite possibly the worst human being who has ever lived. We all told dead baby jokes in junior-high, but to relegate Jeselnik to this status would be doing his craftsmanship and utter depravity a tremendous disservice. For him, it’s not enough that the baby’s dead, rather there’s an even grimmer circumstance as to why it’s dead and a sinister anti-comment on society to be made, said with the most gleeful stoicism possible. Hedberg, on the other hand, wants to cuddle with koalas and buy ducks Subway. He’s sweeter than Sweettarts. I’m pointing this out because it isn’t enough to merely state one is a bit more morbid than the other. They’re on completely opposite ends of the spectrum.

2 ) The Confidence
– Mitch’s delivery was as quiet and hidden from the audience as possible. His persona was rooted in being shy. There’s a telling moment in his first Comedy Central stand-up special where, after an applause from the audience goes longer than expected, Hedberg half-looks up and says “I smile when I’m happy.” It’s that natural uncontrived vulnerability that allowed the sillyness of his humor to thrive. Anthony Jeselnik is dry, no banter, “these are my jokes” and making direct eye contact with you the entire time. His persona is the man on a mission to let you know through his heartlessness that he’s the coolest guy in the room. Hedberg is the stoner buddy, AJ is the door-to-door salesman of doom.

3) The Fluidity
– Hedberg had an almost stream-of-conscious structure to his jokes where his one-liners would seem to just pop in and out of his head. The order of how he delivered them could change, but he knew how to use the bricks he had to build a special padded wall of comedy. His performances had the warmth of late night campfire stories. Comparatively, Jeselnik is as detached and cold as the HAL-9000. AJ punches his jokes in-and-out like he’s reading a grocery list, using a smirk and the occational “yeah, I’m good” head-shake as his only transition. His agenda is to tell you these jokes and that’s it. Hedberg is there to hang out and whatever happens happens.

Bring the darkness home for the holidays!

That’s not to say there aren’t similarities. They’re both in-and-out setup-punchline comedians at a time when that’s fairly rare. There’s more-than-likely a Hedberg influence on Jeselnik, but watching a performance of the two back-to-back shows that they’re pretty different beasts. As someone else pointed out, to call Jeselnik a copy of Hedberg is like calling Hedberg a copy of Steven Wright. I don’t believe the stark differences between the two makes one better than the other, rather I believe they should each be celebrated for the tremendous hilarity that both bring to the table.

So until next time…let’s agree to agree!

Greg Giraldo’s Best Roast Performances (I Got 5 Honest)

October 1, 2010

Roast in Peace

Last Wednesday, the day I planned to see him perform in NYC, Comedian Greg Giraldo left this world after 44 years of comic excellence. In reading one of the numerous tribute threads on messageboards across the web, I read one fan refer to him as “a Colombian who never played up being Latin and had the snapping capabilities of an entire black kid lunchroom table.” A touching sentiment, with an unfortunate cloud cast over it by Viacom spending the day after he died removing all clips of his performances from the internet under the guise of copyright infringement. Fortunately, there are no rules on the wild west known as ‘everywhere else on the internet’, so here via hyperlinks of varying sites and quality, are my five all time favorite Greg Giraldo performances!

Again, my apologies on the varying video quality and weirdness of the sites. Going all out for Greg here.

The Roast of William Shatner

– The reason Greg was such a favorite at these Roasts is because of how effortless a crowd pleaser he was. Any kind of joke for any kind of celebrity or “celebrity” he had. Here, he runs the gauntlet of topics and subjects that any Roast audience would want from a performer.

Greg Destroys a Heckler in Jamaica (2007)

– While nobody could prepare a roast like Giraldo, few could come off-the-top with such firepower either. You can almost see how the joke-writing side of his brain works here as he evaluates the situation where an “old New England-looking man with a beard” approaches him and his instant-arsenal unfolds.

The Roast of David Hasselhoff (2010)

– Because of his ability set a night of with everyone laughing, most of Giraldo’s roast appearances had him going first. Fortunately, before Greg’s untimely passing he had an opportunity to close a major televised roast. This past summer’s Roast of David Hasselhoff saw him bring the same mastery he applies to kicking off the night to go out with a bang, leaving the audience wanting more.

The Roast of Flavor Flav (2007)

– This one’s my personal favorite. I’m not going to spoil it. Just watch.

The Roast of Larry the Cable Guy (begins at 3:57) (2005)

– This right here may be Greg’s masterpiece. Perhaps overlooked because of the absolute Larry the Cable Guy saturation at the time, Greg manages to vivisect the Cable Guy that on the surface works as just a great roasting, but probing deeper reveals the perfect exasperated venting of a lover of comedy in a world where one of the art’s most successful names otherwise represents everything he loathes and detests about society. Giraldo’s just barely playing nice as the frustration of the Cable Guy-era is perfectly encapsulated in one five minute assault.

One of the best.

We give Greg Giraldo a Five Out of Five

So until next time…let’s agree to agree!

Dinner For Schmucks – Movie Review

July 29, 2010

More like 'Dinner for Kinda Sucks,' amirite?

From the depths of the sea, back to the block Steve Carell returns to the silver screen alongside Generation X-Y-Z heartthrob Paul Rudd in Dinner for Schmucks, the new motion picture from Meet the Parents director Jay Roach. With Roach’s filmography predominantly consisting of the awkward situation nervous-laughter of the Meet The… series and the brash obnoxiousness of the Austin Powers franchise, pairing him with Carell and Rudd (who both thrive on a hybrid awkward-obnoxiousness) seems like it would either be a chocolate-peanut butter harmony or a oil-water styles clash. Instead, it’s an oil-peanut butter concoction that is something delicious and other times inedible and incapable of powering any automobile. Are you confused? Good. So is this movie.

The film follows Tim (Paul Rudd), a long-struggling executive on the “loser floor” of his office whose hard-work and ingenuity has finally put him in a position to land a promotion that would put him shoulder-to-shoulder with his company’s giants. Unfortunately for him, his higher-ups share a bond through the fraternity of a shared game called “Dinner for Idiots” where each employee brings an unsavory eccentric guest who isn’t in on the joke that they’re being laughed at. Despite his fiancee-to-be’s objections, Tim plays along and invites tax-auditing taxidermist Barry (Steve Carell). Barry winds up being the catalyst who almost causes Tim to lose his job and relationship until he makes the parties involved realize truths about themselves.

The cast is one of the best comedic lineups in recent memory. The promise of a supporting cast including Ron Livingston (Office Space), Larry Wilmore (The Daily Show) and Andrea Savage (Stepbrothers) seems like a can’t miss prospect. Add The Hangover‘s Zach Galifianakis as Barry’s arch-nemesis and show-stealing Lucy Punch (Hot Fuzz) as Tim’s psychotic scorned stalker, and you have a team that can score a hearty laugh just by being onscreen. While Rudd proves here he can finally carry a starring role and Carell continues to find heart and humor in places most are scared to look, an over-restrictive script leaves them without much to do.

Who wouldn't want to be buds with the Rudds?

Having Roach directing is really what muddies the film’s identity. The dark premise (lifted from the French film The Dinner Game) seems perfect for a Will Ferrel/Adam McKay parade of the absurd or an Apatow-style series of awkward cringes that tells us something positive about our early-20s. Sadly, Roach’s direction seems to play it too close to an older-audience skewing Mother-Focker crowd, too conservative and conventional for talent involved, causing the handful of blatantly crude moments to seem woefully out of place. It’s not a movie that feels like it’s holding its talent back. It’s a movie that has them tranquilized.

Such tameness makes the more outrageous plot developments seem plodding and completely disconnected me from the movie. A scene where Barry and Tim break into an apartment where they believe Tim’s girlfriend (The Devil Wears Prada‘s Stephanie Szostak) is cheating on him with one of her sexually promiscuous art clients just seemed too utterly stupid, even within the logic of the movie. I’m all for the suspension of disbelief, but not for its complete waterboarding.

It’s a flawed film with the most noticeably sloppy editing to come from a major studio in recent memory. Even if you aren’t the type of person who “notices things like that,” I assure you that you will. The momentum-halting start-stop-start-stop fades almost seem intended to kill interest with techniques so poor you would think the movie was completed in Clarisworks. That aside, the performances in the film are just strong enough to warrant a recommendation. The Carell-Galifianakis chemistry in particular is off-the-charts and should at least nominate the film for a position in your Netflix Instant-Queue. It’s a movie that can’t decide who its audience is, but the glimpses of what could have been will make for some highly re-playable YouTube clips in four months. Despite a strong waitstaff, the disappointing Dinner for Schmucks will best be enjoyed as pieces of tomorrow’s leftovers.

We give Dinner for Schmucks a Three Out of Five.

So until next time…let’s agree to agree!

South Park vs. Militant Islamic Radicals & One Angry Red-Headed Kid

April 23, 2010

I spy with my little eye something that is BLASPHEMOUS!

This week saw the airing of “South Park’s” 201st episode, the aptly named “201.” In it, celebrities and Gingers collided over possession of the Muslim prophet Mohammad who both sides believed solely possessed the ability to “never get made fun of ever.” It was a poignant episode that lived up to the hype of the series, now in its fourteenth season, reaching such a momentous milestone. It was not without controversy as, not unlike the last time creators Matt Stone and Trey Parker (Peace be Upon Them) flirted with broadcasting an image of Mohammad (seen as the highest level of blasphemy in certain Islamic circles, punishable by death), there was an overlying fear at the show’s home Comedy Central that death threats would be made. Little did they know that they would incur the wrath of not only Militant Muslims but a Rigorously Rowdy Redhead.

The Islam-centric threats came from the New York-based website RevolutionIslam. I’d like to quote their official statement that mentioned previous artists murdered for depicting Mohammad in the past and specific directions as to how to get to the creators’ (Peace Be Upon Them) homes, but I can’t as their website has since been hacked in the absolute most hilarious of ways. Minor as it may seem, the threat was enough to intimidate the network itself, resulting in every instance of the word “Mohammad” used in the episode being bleeped out, and a large black censor-bar completely obscuring the prophet for the entire half-hour duration. The network went one step further as to pull the episode out of its scheduled rerun slots, as well as made it, as well as every other episode that so much as mentioned the prophet (!), unavailable to stream on both Netflix and the show’s website.

One of these things is not like the others...

Is Comedy Central overreacting? Perhaps.* Without getting into “we can’t let the terrorists win” rhetoric, I have to echo the sentiment of the show’s original “Cartoon Wars” two-parter from 2006 where, addressing the Danish Mohammad cartoon fiasco, declared that in the eyes of parody “either everything’s OK or nothing is OK.” It’s a slippery slope and, seeing as every other religion has been blasphemed to some degree, sets a dangerous precedent. Stone and Parker (Peace Be Upon Them) responded yesterday morning with this message on the show’s official website:

In the 14 years we’ve been doing South Park we have never done a show that we couldn’t stand behind. We delivered our version of the show to Comedy Central and they made a determination to alter the episode. It wasn’t some meta-joke on our part. Comedy Central added the bleeps. In fact, Kyle’s customary final speech was about intimidation and fear. It didn’t mention Muhammad at all but it got bleeped too. We’ll be back next week with a whole new show about something completely different and we’ll see what happens to it.

Also angry with Stone and Parker (Peace Be Upon Them) is a red-headed Youtube “personality” named CopperCab. You’ve probably seen his original outrage video from a few months ago venting his frustration with the show’s treatment of “Gingers,” people born with red hair, pale skin and freckles:

Which became such a phenomenon that the boys (Peace Be Upon Them) aired a clip of Cartman recreating the video as a commercial for the show’s season premiere:

Of course Coppercab saw the clip and, channeling the spirit of Mick Foley, came back with this:

Personally, I find the idea of one of the biggest franchises in cable-television history targeting an obscure 18-year-old boy for something he said on the internet to be hilarious. Coppercab seems non-plused by the entire thing and, following the implicating of Gingers in the last episode, came back with this:

Folks, if you’re like me, you can’t stop watching those opening three seconds. Incredible. I’d make the kid one of my favorite nutzoids, but I’m not convinced his sheer insanity has peaked yet. Could the Gingers and Radical Islam perhaps be in cahoots? Is this a multi-national conspiracy to get “South Park” removed once and for all? How will Matt and Trey (Peace Be Upon Them) respond on Wednesday? Now that we finally know Cartman’s father, it looks like every truth will be coming forward soon.

So until next time…let’s agree to agree!

UPDATE CUPCAKE: As of 3:15 PM ET on April 23rd 2010 AD, London has REFUSED to air episode “201.” More on this as it develops.

*And by “perhaps” I mean “yes.”