Monday, December 26, 2016

Stand Up Comedy Videos, 2016

Jokes from the godawful disaster of a year, 2016.

Here's me in the YooHoo Room at Flappers doing some political jokes on August 2nd. There are some old jokes mixed in at the beginning and end. If you want to hear just the new stuff, you can watch this shorter set from Tao Comedy Studio on July 26th, but the Flappers set was really good.

Here's another Flappers set, in the Main Room on November 1st, right before the election. 

And here are some post-election jokes at Tao on December 17th, my last set of the year.

Here's a couple others from earlier in the year. Most of this is stuff that I used in the other sets, but this one has my Marco Rubio joke, and this one has a Bernie Sanders joke that I didn't use elsewhere.

Stand Up Comedy Videos, 2014-2015

For aggregational purposes, here are some links to all the videos of myself doing stand up comedy in 2014 and 2015.

My 50-minute set from August 2014 is here.

My 30-minute set from August 2015 is here, along with links to some podcast appearances.

While we're at it, here's a really good set at the Ice House in September 2014.

Tuesday, December 15, 2015

MOVIE NERDOLOGY

I did something like this with music a while back, and I was meaning to do it with movies but never really got around to it.  Earlier this year, I kind of ended up doing it on Twitter with the #80sTen hashtag (and every other decade).  As it turned out, I got the years of a couple of these movies a little wrong, but here it is anyway. Oh, and I attributed them to directors just because that's the tradition (and the easiest way to specify), but I don't really see how anyone can be ascribed authorship when they're collaborating with Ray Harryhausen or Busby Berkely or The Marx Bros. or Ennio Morricone or Roger Deakins or Charlie Kaufman or Barbara Stanwyck or...well, you get the idea.  This digression is my tiny protest against the auteur theory.

I don't feel like I can really do much justice to the silent era, so I'll just start with...

The 1930's:

So a couple of these turned out to be from 1940, but I'm going to leave them because the competition is much stiffer in the 40's. Or, if you want a more logical rationale, you could say the 40's don't really begin until the U.S. enters WWII in 1941.

1. King Kong (Merrian C. Cooper, 1933)
2. Duck Soup (Leo McCarrey, 1933)
3. Fantasia (Ben Sharpsteen, James Algar, Norm Ferguson, et al, 1940)
4. Gold Diggers of 1933 (Mervyn LeRoy, 1933)
5. The Wizard of Oz (Victor Fleming, 1939)
6. Mad Love (Karl Freund, 1935)
7. Swing Time (George Stevens,  1936)
8. The Great McGinty (Preston Sturges, 1940)
9. Vampyr: Der Traum Des Allan Gray (Carl Theodore Dryer, 1932)
10. The Thin Man (W.S. Van Dyke, 1934)

The 1940's:

I consider this the height of the Classical Hollywood Era. I had to drop a couple off this list that turned out to be from 1950. I was torn between The Clock and It's a Wonderful Life for that last spot, but ultimately decided to give the lesser-known film some love.

1. Casablanca (Michael Curtiz, 1942)
2. Nightmare Alley (Edmund Goulding, 1947)
3. To Be Or Not To Be (Ernst Lubitsch, 1942)
4. White Heat (Raoul Walsh, 1949)
5. His Girl Friday (Howard Hawks, 1940)
6. Stormy Weather (Andrew L. Stone, 1943)
7. Brute Force (Jules Dassin, 1947)
8. Citizen Kane (Orson Welles, 1941)
9. I Walked With a Zombie (Jacques Tourneur, 1943)
10. The Clock (Vincent Minelli, 1945)

The 1950's:

When I think 1950's, I think sci fi, but as I made this list I realized it's really the golden age of film noir. 

1. The 7th Voyage of Sinbad (Nathan H. Juran, 1958)
2. Touch of Evil (Orson Welles, 1958)
3. Gojira (Ishiro Honda, 1954)
4. Invasion of the Body Snatchers (Don Siegel, 1956)
5. Night of the Hunter (Charles Laughton, 1955)
6. Rififi (Jules Dassin, 1955)
7. Pickpocket (Robert Bresson, 1959)
8. Pickup on South Street (Samuel Fuller, 1953)
9. In a Lonely Place (Nicholas Ray, 1950)
10. Earth Vs. The Flying Saucers (Fred F. Sears, 1956)

The 1960's:

I never really thought of the 60's as one of my favorite decades, but when I look at these lists, this is the one I could seriously sit down for a 24-hour viewing marathon and be very happy.

1. Playtime (Jacques Tati, 1967)
2. Dr. Strangelove, or, How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Live With the Bomb (Stanley Kubrick, 1964)
3. Night of the Living Dead (George Romero, 1968)
4. Faster Pussycat! Kill! Kill! (Russ Meyer, 1965)
5. The Good, the Bad and the Ugly (Sergio Leone,  1966)
6. The Connection (Shirley Clarke, 1962)
7. Youth of the Beast (Seijun Suzuki, 1963)
8. DOUBLE FEATURE: Black Sunday/Danger: Diabolik! (Mario Bava, 1960/1968)
9. La Dolce Vita (Frederico Fellini, 1960)
10. The Manchurian Candidate (John Frankenheimer, 1962)

The 1970's:

The hardest one, no doubt, because there are so many great 70's films, and so many different kinds of great 70's films. So let's say the top 5 are written in stone, the next 5 are almost random. Ask me tomorrow and I'd give you 5 different movies.

1. Beyond the Valley of the Dolls (Russ Meyer, 1970)
2. Star Wars (George Lucas, 1977)
3. Monty Python's Life of Brian (Terry Jones, 1979)
4. Dawn of the Dead (George Romero, 1978)
5. Coffy (Jack Hill, 1973)
6. The Holy Mountain (Alejandro Jodorowski, 1973)
7. Fritz the Cat (Ralph Bakshi, 1972)
8. The Conversation (Francis Ford Coppola, 1974)
9. Death Race 2000 (Paul Bartell, 1975)
10. Baby Cart on the River Styx (Kenji Misumi, 1972)

The 1980's:

I could easily do a whole top10 of just gory horror movies that I left off: Return of the Living Dead, Day of the Dead, Re-Animator, Hellraiser, An American Werewolf in London, Creepshow, Near Dark, Parents, The Fly, A Nightmare On Elm Street Part III: The Dream Warriors and (of course) Evil Dead 2. But just consider Evil Dead to be the representative of that genre.

1. Evil Dead (Sam Raimi, 1981)
2. Pee Wee's Big Adventure (Tim Burton,  1985)
3. Do the Right Thing (Spike Lee, 1989)
4. Blue Velvet (David Lynch, 1986)
5. Repo Man (Alex Cox, 1984)
6. DOUBLE FEATURE: John Carpenter's The Thing (John Carpenter, 1983)/Aliens (James Cameron, 1986)
7. Brazil (Terry Gilliam, 1985)
8. Afterhours (Martin Scorsese, 1985)
9. Heathers (Michael  Lehman, 1988)
10. The Shining (Stanley Kubrick, 1980)

The 1990's:

The first decade that I entered with my "adult" taste pretty much fully formed.

1. Heavenly Creatures (Peter Jackson, 1994)
2. Dazed and Confused (Richard Linklater,  1993)
3. Natural Born Killers (Oliver Stone, 1994)
4. Fast, Cheap and Out of Control (Errol Morris, 1997)
5. Pulp Fiction (Quentin Tarantino, 1994)
6. DOUBLE FEATURE: Drunken Master II (Lau Kar-Leung, 1994)/Police Story III (Stanley Tong, 1992)
7. Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas (Terry Gilliam, 1998)
8. South Park: Bigger, Longer and Uncut (Trey Parker, 1999)
9. Princess Mononoke (Hayao Miyazaki, 1997)
10. The Nightmare Before Christmas (Henry Sellick, 1993)

The 2000's:

I just noticed that this is the only decade for which I have a Coen Bros. movie, which seems...inadequate. Also, it could just as easily have been O Brother, Where Art Thou?

1. Hedwig and the Angry Inch (John Cameron Mitchell, 2001)
2. Oldboy (Park Chan-Wook, 2003)
3. Kill Bill (Quentin Tarantino, 2003/2004)
4. Pan's Labyrinth (Guillermo Del Toro, 2006)
5. Shaun of the Dead (Edgar Wright, 2004)
6. Battle Royale (Kinji Fukasaku, 2000)
7. No Country for Old Men (Coen Bros., 2007)
8. The 25th Hour (Spike Lee, 2002)
9. Y Tu Mama Tambien (Alfonso Cuaron, 2001)
10. The Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind (Michel Gondry,  2004)

The 2010's (so far):

This is interesting. A lot of movies on this list that don't seem like the kind of movies I usually obsess over. I guess my taste changes as I get older.

1. Moonrise Kingdom (Wes Anderson, 2012)
2. Black Swan (Darren Aronofsky, 2010)
3. We Need To Talk About Kevin (Lynne Ramsay, 2011)
4. Holy Motors (Leos Carax, 2012)
5. We Are The Best! (Lukas Moodyson, 2014)
6. Mad Max: Fury Road (George Miller, 2015)
7.  Act of Killing (Joshua Oppenheimer, 2013)
8. Ex Machina (Alex Garland, 2015)
9. The Raid (Gareth Evans, 2011)
10. Inside Llewyn Davis (Coen Bros. 2013)

Monday, December 14, 2015

New Video and Podcast Appearences

Wow, it's been almost a year since I posted here. Here's some stuff I've been meaning to put up.

In August, I recorded a 30-minute set at Tao, warming up for Bobbie who was recording her new album, FEMINAZI C*NT (Go download it from iTunes, and rate and review it and all that! It's the best hour of comedy you'll hear this year!) Here's the video of my set. Beginning and end are old, reliable material, the middle is newer stuff.

If you just want to see the newer stuff, I broke it into a few videos. This first part is about 15 minutes, and it's all my stuff about racism and what have you in one place. Most of it is new, but there's some old stuff  mixed in there.


I like this next one because it's not really the kind of stuff I usually do. More personal, less punchlines. About 3 minutes.

And here's another new, somewhat political bit. About 4 minutes




You can also hear me on the latest episode of the Sonic Safari podcast. I don't show up until the end, but I'm very proud of my crazy Ric Flair-style rant wherein I manage to reference Steve Martin, Monty Python, Dazed and Confused and Harper Lee.

And last month, I was on the Crab Diving Progressive Radio Podcast with Ryan Pfiefer and Patrick Viall, discussing politics, the election, Religion and Smokey and the Bandit. Hilarious, raucous show!

Wednesday, December 31, 2014

So How Was Your Year?

Major accomplishment of 2014: performing a 50-minute set of standup comedy.  I was a bit unsatisfied with the conditions, so I didn't go through with my plan of posting the audio as an "album," but I posted the video on YouTube.  I may try to re-record it at some point, but I dunno, I'm onto new material, so...we'll see.  Anyway, I got some really good responses to this, and I'm quite proud of it, so here it is:

I also recorded eight episodes of Sleestak Lightnin!!!, the musical podcast that literally no one listens to!  So hey, if you want to hear some eclectic tunes and madcap commentary, download some of these.  (Episode 12 is a good starting point.)

And we continue to build the reputation of our venue, Tao Comedy Studio.  We have an open mic every Friday night, a women-only open mic (Laugh Riot Grrrl) every Monday night, a variety of shows and workshops.  The feminist-themed Pussy Riot show is starting to pick up a following.  We have made it a goal to run a safe space for female comics, and we book the shows and run the mics accordingly.  And the space is available to rent for shows, classes, meetings, readings, whatever. 

Plus, I got to see Acid Mothers Temple live.  So I had a pretty good year.

What I Watched in 2014: Movies

The Ten Best New Movies I Managed To Watch This Year:

1. We Are The Best! - Three middle school girls in 1981 Sweden decide to form a punk band.  Two of them can't play at all, but they have a lot of fun.  We Are The Best! is a perfect example of a small indie film brimming over with enthusiasm, and focusing in on character and relationships.  And the band's anti-P.E. anthem, "Hate The Sport," deserves to be this year's "Let It Go." Also, lots of Ebba Gron.

2. Grand Budapest Hotel - You often hear about such-and-such a movie being "like a live-action cartoon."  I don't think that phrase has ever been more apt than it is to this film.  Look at all those perfectly-framed shots, all that vibrant color, and marvel!  It's also fascinating as a pitch-perfect parody of a genre of fiction that I've never encountered, but which must exist, or how else would Wes Anderson have nailed it so well?

3. Jodorowsky's Dune - I've heard people talk about Alejandro Jodorowski's failed attempt to make a movie out of Dune before, but it always sounded like a joke to me.  I guess I thought it was just an idea in Jodorowsy's crazy brain, and I was sure if it actually had been made, people would be talking about how they wish David Lynch had had a chance to make it.  This documentary changed the whole way I look at the project.  I had no idea how far the thing had gotten, and the collaborators that Jodorowsky had signed on.  There was a thousand-or-so-page storyboard/comic drawn by Moebius, additional design work by H.R. Giger and Chris Foss, Dan O'Bannon was signed on to design the special effects, Pink Floyd and Magma were going to compose original music for the film, and Orson Welles, David Carradine and Salvadore Dali were attached to key roles.  It seems as though the only reason it didn't get made is that Jodorowsky insisted, quite insanely, that it be 14 hours long.  AND the documentary goes on to argue that the project was strip-mined for inspiration for dozens of influential sci fi films of the late 70's and 80's, a sort of ghost-father to the modern blockbuster.


4. Inherent Vice - IV is an odd film.  It's not like any other film P.T. Anderson has made, but it totally feels like a P.T. Anderson film.  It's a hilarious stoner comedy--I can't think of a film with more pot smoking in it--but probably not destined to become the kind of Saturday night pizza party staple that, say, Dazed and Confused or The Big Lebowski or Up in Smoke are.  It's just a bit too odd, and most of the jokes are sort of thrown away.  It feels like it was written by someone really, really stoned (which, I guess, would be Thomas Pynchon).

5. Night Moves - Not even sure what I like about this movie, which tells the story of some eco-terrorists attempting to blow up a dam, but looks at everything from an odd angle, focusing on small moments while the "big action" is taking place in the background.

6. Obvious Child - Jenny Slate is great in this indie drama/comedy.  Gaby Hoffman is pretty great too.  Even if it weren't that great, I'd probably want to put it on my list just as a fuck you: this is a movie where the main character wants an abortion, and goes through with it.  And not even in some worst-case scenario that absolves her of responsibility!  Since we're on the subject of SNL actors doing a great job with semi-dramatic roles, let me also use this space to give a shout out to The Skeleton Twins, with Bill Hader and Kristin Wiig delivering some kick ass performances.

7. The Rover - It's the slow-burn neo-noir version of Mad Max that you didn't know you needed!

8. Dawn of the Planet of the Apes - It was a pretty good summer for blockbusters: two good Marvel films, a Godzilla film that left me very satisfied (even if it failed to make me care about the human characters), and another excellent entry in the rebooted Planet of the Apes series, which is really surpassing the original in my mind.  The secret is that these films understand what made the original so appealing, and they work at bringing those qualities into the modern film universe.  It's emotionally upsetting, politically honest, and still a thrilling action film.

9. Locke - I dunno, I'm just a sucker for these high-concept films.  You tell me "it's just a guy in his car on his cell phone for 90 minutes," and I'm hooked!

10. Journey Into the West - Unlike Stephen Chow's recent films Shaolin Soccer and Kung Fu Hustle, Journey Into the West is a big ol' mess.  It makes little sense in terms of character motivation or plot mechanics.  But if you like wild monster design and crazy kung fu moves (and of course you do!), there's more than enough to satisfy you here.

The Best Old Movies I Watched This Year:

Sante Sangre (1989) - This film has been on my radar for years.  A friend told me about it, and was very enthusiastic that I had to see it, but also made it sound like a real slog to get through, a dark, nonsensical and very long, slow film.  Maybe I was just reading that into what he said (I keep meaning to talk to him about it), but now that I've seen it, this impression was completely wrong!  Sante Sangre is easily Jodorowsky's masterpiece, a completely flipped-out tribute to Fellini (with some Hitchcock and Browning thrown in), as lively and colorful as anything from the 80's, AND just as weird as I expected.

Sweet Charity (1969) - Did you know that the first film Bob Fosse directed was a musical version of Fellini's Nights of Cabria starring Shirley McClain?  And, as you might expect, it's a completely bonkers musical that makes beautiful use of the wide screen.

Privilege (1967) - I'm obsessed with the rock musicals of the late 60's and early 70's.  This is one of the most interesting, portraying the music industry as a sort of fascist brainwash machine.

Invasion of the Body Snatchers (1978) - This movie came out when I was in elementary school, and I remember a couple kids who got to see it.  They all seemed particularly fascinated with the shot near the end of a dog with a human face (the story may have gotten a little confused--I remember being told it was Leonard Nimoy's face).  Finally watched it this Halloween, and man, what an interesting movie.  Lots of visual references to the original (one of my favorite films), but all in that New Hollywood style, like Philip Kaufman was taking everything done over the course of the decade and applying it to a sci fi-horror film. 

Something Wild (1961) - This is a weird one.  Starts with a young woman sexually assaulted, and for the first half it's a surprising (for its time) portrayal of PTSD, as she walks around in a daze, disconnected from the world and always on alert.  Halfway through, things get weird, as another man holds her prisoner in his home.  I can't really figure out what I'm supposed to take away from this, but it's so offbeat that I have to go with it.

The Gang's All Here (1943) - Busby Berkeley in eye-bleeding technicolor, with some really psychedelic Carmen Miranda numbers.  Makes even less sense than Berkeley's 30's movies, but who cares?

Zardoz (1974) - I'd heard a lot of different opinions on Zardoz: it's a bizarro masterpiece, a complete disaster, a "so bad it's good!" classic.  Having finally seen it, Zardoz is a movie that exists beyond "good" and "bad."  It's outrageous, trippy, satirical and awful in equal measure.  I will say this: it would be improved a LOT by casting someone other than Sean Connery to play the barbarian protagonist.  I don't know if he's a bad actor, or just so completely miscast that it can't be overcome, but I can't look at him and see anyone other than Sean Connery.

The Avenging Eagle (1978) - Saw this Shaw Bros. flick on the big screen at the New Beverly, and I loved the way the fights build.  Early on, they seem pretty standard, but each fight is just a little bit crazier than the last, until the final showdown, which is just an off-the-charts acrobatic extravaganza!

Monday, December 29, 2014

2014: The Year Everything Broke

Sitting here on the wreckage of the last days of December, I feel myself resisting the urge to look back on 2014, a depressing, awful year.  Not for me personally--I've had a pretty good year, and that will maybe be another post--but for this country, and the world in general, things are not good.  ISIS, ebola, letting ourselves get dragged back into the quagmire of Iraq.  The emergence of Putin's Russia as a military actor, as if we needed another goddamn problem.  A string of police shootings of unarmed people, resulting in a string of acquitals and failures-to-indict.  Bill Cosby being revealed to the world as a serial rapist.  The torture report revealing the full depth of horror that our country perpetrated in the name of the War on Terror.  The continuously depressing statistics of campus rape, and the miscarriage of journalism at Rolling Stone that provided a full compliment of ammunition to the reactionary forces.  The depressing, never-ending culture wars rippling through comedy and video games.  And to cap it all off, a Hollywood studio bowing to the demands of terrorists.  How do you process all this shit?

Some of these things just don't have a bright side.  The situation in Iraq, for instance, is just bad all the way down.  This army of evil fundamentalists plowing through the country, murdering masses and subjecting the survivors to their totalitarian regime is horrible.  Us allowing ourselves to get pulled back into the war we fought so hard to extricate ourselves from is horrible.  And, if you accept that we had a moral obligation to go back in (not an unreasonable position), the half-ass way we're doing it that ensures no real victory is horrible.  There's just nothing good there.

But a lot of these things that seem depressing now, really do have some positive to them.  I mean, the things we've learned from the torture report (That the program was not limited to "the worst of the worst" in "ticking time bomb scenarios," but rather was a vast program where we tortured 119 detainees, at least 26 of whom were wrongly held in the first place [often based on bad information from other torture victims]; that the program was set up by an outside company who were also charged with evaluating its success, for a cost of over 180 million dollars; that the tortures themselves were far worse than anything we were told about; that the agents carrying out the tortures protested against the methods; that we got much less actionable intelligence from torture than we were led to believe; and that the terrorist threats we were supposedly being protected from were wildly exaggerated in the first place) are horrible, but at least the truth is out there in the open now.  Whether that will make a difference after the next attack remains to be seen, but at least our eyes are now fully open.

It's incredibly frustrating that we're still dealing with the same police situation that we had in 1992, but doesn't it feel like, for the first time, this is being seen as a national issue?  People are angry.  I don't expect change to happen quickly, but I feel like it's going to happen, because there is a political will there now.

And while it seems like there's a lot of rape stories in the news, that's not a bad thing.  It doesn't mean there is more rape, just that people are paying attention to it.  I really think there's a huge cultural shift going on right now, where things that were more or less accepted at one time are not being accepted any longer.  That's what's happening with Bill Cosby, and why a story that's been around for decades is suddenly a story.  Yes, Cosby was supported by a whole system of people who were financially invested in protecting him, but on some level, I just don't think what Cosby did was considered that horrible in the 70's.  Bill Maher even talked specifically about this, recalling the scene in Animal House where a frat pledge ponders raping an unconscious woman.  As it happens, they were running a Cheech & Chong marathon on TV on Christmas Eve and I saw about the same joke in two different Cheech & Chong movies.  People just thought differently about rape, about what rape even is.  And what's going on with the Catholic Church, the military, Penn State, colleges, Cosby, none of these are new situations.  People are just suddenly saying "Hey, that's not OK."  Expect a lot more stories like this over the next decade.

Similarly, those culture wars, specifically Gamer Gate and the various outrages over "politically incorrect" comedy are the result of changing attitudes and triumphs of a progressive agenda.  The only reason Gamer Gate exists is because the world has already changed.  The only reason reactionaries are angry about "political correctness" is that they've found that audiences no longer respond to their "naughty" rape jokes and "transgressive" racist jokes the way they want.  These are the death throes of an old world.

Which leads me to The Interview.  I've been trying to figure out the silver lining here.  Things have settled down a bit now, and I watched the movie on demand last night.  (The hype it inspired probably works against it, making us expect something a bit more substantial for all the fuss when all it has to deliver is a typical Seth Rogan bro comedy with a few good laughs.)  I mean, it's awful that North Korean terrorists (apparently) are hacking Hollywood studios, it's awful that a studio gives in to terrorist threats, you might even argue that it's not that cool to make a movie about assassinating another country's leader (I don't really feel that, but I could see the case).  What good actually came of all this?

Maybe the answer is that people have seen the need for an independent infrastructure for getting movies made.  Movies and TV shows are expensive and complicated works of art, so it's understandable that they haven't really been able to become as independent as music or books or art, but maybe The Interview will be seen as the beginning of a change.  Maybe someone can start working toward building that infrastructure where films can be made outside of a corporate system.  It's a big jump, but hey, bigger changes than that have occurred.  We've passed the Winter Solstice, and these long, dark nights are getting incrementally shorter.  Maybe there's some light on the horizon.