August 26, 2012 | 10:55 pm
Posted by Steven Alan Green
So, what’s with all the shootings? It’s becoming a regular thing; a new randomly scheduled reality show. Instead of The Apprentice, it’s The Assassin. Six contestants are hired at six companies. Then, a co-worker stabs them in the back somehow. The psycho who commits the most creative public massacre (as voted by Simon Cow-elle, as well as the home audience) and achieves the highest kill count wins. Their prize? Execution by firing squad. I mean WTF!! Maybe when companies hire, or universities accept, shouldn’t there be a little box you have to tick, indicating that, “In the event of a life-crisis, you promise not to return and shoot everyone up”? I lived in England for nearly 20 years (a land where “madness” is an accepted form of socialism and where there are comparatively few privately owned fire-arms); and in all that time, there was only one major shoot-up I can remember, in Dunblane, Scotland, when in 1996, 43-year old Thomas Hamilton, entered a school, shooting and killing sixteen children and one adult before committing suicide. Why can’t these guys just commit suicide
Gun violence and horrific massacres are not funny. Don’t email me. I’m talking about logic. More specifically, illogic. We have to treat everyone better from the get-go. In 2004, at the Edinburgh Fringe, I debuted my one-man show, “Service Not Included,” about how rudeness and cultural confusion led to 9-11. The point was that what really matters the most is how we are with each other on a day to day basis. England – a very small island - has the built-in manners system. You can’t just go up to a stranger on the street and say, “Got the time?” He’ll look at you as if you are incredibly rude and potentially dangerous, then go running looking for a Bobbie. Instead, you have to say, “Oh, sorry….” (Then the man will look up from his paper) “Is it possible – I mean if it’s not too much trouble; and I know this is quite an awkward situation – but is there a likelihood that – and again, I could be completely mistaken, so please forgive me up front – but, do you think you might possess a watch (no, that didn’t sound right) and then assuming that watch is running on time (oh, dear), do you think you might be able to impart to me – a complete stranger, who has obviously accosted you, interrupted the flow of your day and even perhaps put you in mind of a little potential random street danger – do you happen to know what time it is?” By the time you’ve asked your question, both time and the man have moved on. And, you can’t really be direct with anyone either in regards to their honesty. In America, we’d say, “Bob, you’re full a shit!” You can’t do that in England. There, you have to say, “You know, Bob. If one didn’t know you any better, one might think you were playing with the truth.” Much more icy. Leaves Bob with a stiff whiff of paranoia, not mention a potential “stiffy” (an English term; don’t worry about it now).
For many years, I carried with me, and passed through airport security all over these United States and Canada with a fake handgun. A theatrical prop I purchased at Joe Berg’s, the old magic and prop store on Hollywood Blvd, which by the way, both prop-gun and store have since mysteriously vanished. I initially wanted one of those guns that shoots out a flag with the writing, “BANG!” on it, the one that Ernie Kovac’s used? But, the ones they have these days are designed not to look real on purpose, and I wanted an emotional effect of my audience. I wanted them to “feel it”. I wanted the audience to believe I was serious. I wanted to be taken seriously. The reason for the gun prop was that in October ’86, after five years of making the audiences at The Comedy Store laugh their guts out, I was fed up. I was broke, sleeping in my car and just plain frustrated. So, I went up one night and told the audience as casually as possible, “Tonight is my last show, I’m leaving the business.” I was completely and totally sincere. I just had to share that with the only true friend I had, the audience. I was done with the game. I was Spartacus. But, to my complete surprise, two magical things happened; things I didn’t expect in a million years. One, the audience paid attention. (You can imagine.) But, more importantly, suddenly, I didn’t care anymore. I was no longer worried about Mitzi walking into the showroom, seeing me have a 5 second lapse of laughter and fire me. I was tired of all the politicking, which often boiled down to if you did coke with Sam Kinison or not. I was tired of making some rich club owner’s audience laugh for little or no pay. I was tired of not being famous. So, I quit. Plain and simple. But, by performing my farewell performance, I unwittingly magically lifted all the heavy, but invisible pressures off me. And because the pressures weren’t there anymore, I had fun, resulting in one of the funniest and most risk-taking comedy sets of my life. At the end, the audience was cheering, “More!!” I found my niche. An act which completely was the mirror opposite of the reputation I had easily built for myself 25 years ago in this town; that of a desperate crazy comedian. Though some called it a safety net, my farewell performance literally became my creative therapy; and thank god for people like Beth Lapides and Greg Miller, by the way. Go back later and read my review of Uncabaret. That show didn’t just happen by accident. Uncabaret is exactly the kind of creative camaraderie nurturing I want to see more of on the Island of Los Angeles, scratch that; I mean Hollywood, the evil incestuous rapist of young and innocent LA.
At the end of my comedy set that fateful night at The Comedy Store, I told the audience that I had such a great time, that, “If it’s okay with them, I will be performing another farewell performance tomorrow night, thank you and goodnight!” They gave me a standing ovation. I made the audience save me. After a few weeks of this mad Kabuki farewell performance, audience members started to shout out during my set (when I’d announce it was my last show), things like, “You said you were gonna quit last week!” or “Why are you quitting?” All of these public inquiries forced me to create a paradigm. I, the comedian, was the “addict”. I was literally “addicted to the laughter” and had to quit. The audience was the co-dependent and the club owners, the pushers of the drug I so desperately needed:Stage Time
. I wrote a book, Confessions of a Show-Biz Junkie, in which I interviewed comedians, asking them to seriously compare their getting high on cocaine, alcohol and heroin, with “getting high on stage.” All of them, from Steve Kravitz to Alan King to the great namesake of mine, Steve Allen: all of them agreed there was no difference in “the high”. King personally telling me the reason he carried Bourbon on the rocks on stage was, “I never drink alone.” I used to watch Richard Pryor greeted by his gaggle of insider-followers with a newly cut line of the finest cocaine Hollywood has to offer, just so he can “not come down” from the stage high. But, it was when I met and interviewed Norman Cousins, that I knew I was onto something. Cousins was Editor-In-Chief of the Saturday Review for 30 years and also served as Adjunct Professor of Medical Humanities for the School of Medicine at the University of California, Los Angeles, where he did research on the biochemistry of human emotions, which he long believed were the key to human beings’ success in fighting illness. In his seminal book, Anatomy of an Illness: As Perceived By the Patient, Cousins told of how he healed himself back from a crippling arthritic condition with what he called, “Laughter Therapy” (watching Marx Brothers films) coupled with “large doses of Vitamin C”, the combination increasing the levels of the body’s natural healing pharmaceuticals: serotonin and encephalin, both of which have a funny side-affect. They make you deliriously happier. Cousins was also a man of great humor, and his biggest and most appreciative joke was his answer to my question: “If a person does anything that makes them happy, be it eating chocolate cake, running, having sex, doing stand-up comedy; and as you postulate in your book, all those activities make us ‘naturally high’; is it possible that those same brain hormones serotonin and encephalin, can also become addictive; thus making my postulated addiction to stand-up comedy a potential actual malady?” His answer? Like Curly from The Three Stooges: “SOY-ten-ly!” He then poked me in the eye.
Steve Allen (the creator and first host of The Tonight Show) was a known skeptic, but he wasn’t a conspiratorialist. In fact, Allen was as skeptical of those guys. I was born in 1956, the year NBC offered Allen a new prime-time Sunday night variety hour, The Steve Allen Show, aimed at dethroning CBS’s top-rated Ed Sullivan Show. My parents (both secretly frustrated comedy actor-comedians) named me, not after the established King “Ed”; no, they named me after an innovative rebel. Good thing there are no known time machines (trust me, I checked Craigslist) or you can call me Conan O’Green. The Steve Allen Theatre in Hollywood is situated in the back of The Center for Inquiry, the Los Angeles branch of CFI-Transnational, an educational nonprofit organization that explores and advances critical thinking, freedom of inquiry, and humanist values through education, outreach, and social services. Comedian Ron Lynch’s mad scientific comedy science experiment, “TOMORROW!”, a comedy and music cabaret review, replete with séanced Vaudevillian Tradition, tempered by cutting-edge humor technology, and populated by omni-creatives: comedians, musicians and actors, whose main goal seems to be: “To chop down the forest of comedy convention right before your very eyes – be careful, there may be blood,” happens every Saturday night, starting at midnight at The Steve Allen Theatre. A perfect evening? Grab some cheap and delicious traditional Italian at Palermo (the cops dine there; it’s good), do a nice walk up and down Vermont quietly sneering at all the Faux-Hipsters, grab an after dinner cappuccino at Figaro Café to keep your ass up, then breeze over to The Steve Allen Theatre – get there by 11:30 (@ only $8, it often sells out) and treat yourself to the most memorable and original comedy show in town, second only to the shitty Los Angeles public transportation system.
At exactly 12:05, Ron Lynch, who is the luckiest man in Hollywood (“Mr. Lynch” in basically every role he’s played – from Home Movies to The Sarah Silverman Show to Bob’s Burgers) enters the stage to authentic (not perfunctory) applause. You can tell straight away, we’re at midnight comedy mass. “TOMORROW!” was created in 2003 by Lynch, Brendon Small and Craig Anton, debuting the same year at the same theatre. A handlebar mustache magically holds up the silent film star’s marionetted corpse, as we zoom into extreme close-up of Lynch’s mysterious peepers. If ever there was a real show going on tonight, it was behind those eyes. Lynch is up to something. Always. And like a master travelling carnival showman, he immediately welcomes us to his world, directing stage right to a completely unexpected treat, in the form of Ketchup Soup, an Americana-Punk-Brechtian musical trio, including not one, but a pair of accordionists, backing up one of the most enchanting and sultry singers since Madeleine Peyroux. As much as I’ve been whining about missing London, suddenly I felt like I was back home, travelling on the Eurostar, sleep-heading to the smarter cultural edge of Europe, down in Le St. Germaine, staying at the Odeon Hotel and slurping a very expensive café latte at the Café de Flores. I was blissfully swept away by Ketchup Soup’s opening gambit, an original, “Brothers and Sisters, this is not real. Love is what’s real.” “Mrs. Hobbs,” as she’s known, sung her next number, a sexy 1920’s Vamp, “Don’t Care to be Misunderstood” through a megaphone, the instrumental through a drinking straw, as accompanied by tambourine. “Magic 8-Ball” (“This song is not about drugs- you’ll probably figure out what it is”) was a Mississippi Blues on two accordions and guitar; followed by classic Bessie Smith, “I Need a Little Sugar in my Bowl” whiplashingly culture-counter-pointed by kazoo solo. “I Met the Devil” was next, as Lynch himself returned to stage, accompanying on drums (I almost typed: “accompanying on drugs”) and closing out this substantial upfront set with “Rising Sun Blues”, a Porgy and Bess soliloquy and dialog, banked off the House of the Rising Sun, with Hobbs speaking all French, sad and sexy. I came to realize, the idea of having an extended musical set as a comedy show’s opener was reverse traditionalism, when a comedian would normally open for a musical act.
Then, from an off-stage mic, “And now, please welcome the guy who’s talking now…Ron Lynch!”
Ron returns, spawning a Southern white evening jacket, like Fitzgerald after a 3 day binge, yet much tidier. (I’m sorry. I just can’t help but stare at Lynch.) Ron introduces to thunderous applause his co-host for the evening, the one and only Emo Philips, whose standup comedy stems from the use of paraprosdokians and garden path sentences spoken in a wandering falsetto tone of voice and a confused, childlike delivery of his material to produce the intended comic timing in a manner invoking the ‘wisdom of children’ or the idiot savant (at least that what Wikipedia says and incidentally, I called Bradley Cooper, who also confirmed this, then asked me how I got his number and why I was calling him in the first place). The audience cheered seeing not one, but two of their favourite comedy geniuses, one specializing in mental gymnastics, the other having the advantage of extraneous funny facial hair. “Speech separates us from the animals, and amplified speech separates us from the Amish…or the audience”. Thank you, Emo. I needed that. And the Glimmer Twins are off on a sort of random Waiting for Godot Comedy Land Travel Guide, as they appetize in semi-cruel onstage banter about blind people. “Harpocracy”, Emo explains, “is when you have to change your seat at a Marx Brothers film because a homeless person sits next to you.” He then introduces his “acting coach,” Kipley Brown (a non-Jamaican actress/comedienne pretending to be a Jamaican), who then “reveals” she isn’t, staying in character as the imperious snobby acting teacher, launching into a virtual infomercial for how you can fool a traffic cop “in real life” (remember, we’re already at least two “real life” layers up) by making believe you have a child in the back seat. Emo gives her “scriptures” to read, Brown demonstrates to Lynch “how” to do sarcasm, finally winding up with a brilliantly physical 3-varient demo on “How to Bow”: 1) the “I don’t deserve it” bow, 2) the “I’m exhausted” bow, and the, 3) “I’m Done” bow; exiting the stage to thunderous farting. I mean applause. Lynch and Emo back up on stage at the near 50-minute mark, so it must’ve been ironically, when Ron says, “Are you guys ready for the show?” Up next was comedian Matty Goldberg.
Set against the chaotic otherworld we’re already travelling through, Matty is a nerdy New Yorker and stand-up who immediately breaks our sour hearts as the conductor of the Too Much Information Train. The Goldberg variable was specificity: “I never put lotion on a girl’s back. But, I did get a hand-job on a Greyhound bus,” makes us all cringe, were it not for the quick save, the reconfirming obvious admission, “Yeah, I’m a weird guy.” Revealing he feels “like I arrived,” he writes and reads a love-letter to a random girl in the audience. In spite of lack of restraining order, it was brilliantly funny and I was terminally relieved when it was over and lotion-free. Ron & Emo come back. (No, I mean, Ron and Emo returned to the stage, not, “Ron and Emo, please come back!”) Emo expounds on the personal annoyance of having the same name as the eponymous musical genre, “Emo”, and that his father, Be-Bop Philips, had a very similar problem; then Ron-Emo stage-reminisced where they met eons ago at Detroit’s Comedy Castle. Next act was Sean Conroy, a big bearded guy (big guy, not big beard) football jersey-wearin’ UCB grad (Upright Citizen’s Brigade), who takes his time with words…. and… other …words. His routine about getting carded, thus forcing him to use the voice of a Civil War General to explain what he really looks like is anything but (routine). Conroy’s rhyming “Drinking Rules” are unparalleled in their ability to mix monotony with the mundane: “Whiskey, then beer; all is clear. Beer before whiskey, you’re getting frisky” is the well-known template for drinking slogans gone so wild, I can’t repeat them here. Confronting the illogic of a billboard spouting a photograph of two very attractive young men with their arms around each other, the caption reading “We didn’t come out just to die of lung cancer”, caused Conroy to speculate about other billboards expressing two completely different ideas (like the Romney/Ryan ticket) such as “I didn’t join the Klan just so you could leave empty bottles lying around”; and wishing doctors, upon examination, would stop saying the word “YIKES!,” Conroy was clearly the audience favourite—at this point. Ahmed Bharoocha was next, and I don’t mean kazoontite.
Ahmed (of the current Comedy Store crop) opened with how we eat veal (the babies of cows) as well as putting our missing children on milk cartons of baby food, i.e. milk. Frankly, I don’t think we do that anymore, but I get it; Mobius strip logic. “Killing Goliath” - putting giants on the endangered species list; how in war, the disparity of distance between the strangers we kill and the presidents who want us to kill for them; were all thoroughly thought out comedy paradigms, doing what all comedians should be doing: creating and demonstrating our own “Comedy Logic”, more commonly known as comedy style. This guy’s good. Keep a veal eye out for him. Ron-Emo return, but then some asshole in the audience answers his phone! This jerk actually continues in growing conversation, shouting out, “I can’t hear you; there’s a guy on stage!” In the meantime, ignoring this incredible lapse in manners, Emo brings out his clarinet, but the guy’s phone rings again! Soon enough, a second guy enters the theatre, he too on his cell phone, the other half of the conversation, the lost guy looking for the theatre. Rather than hang up and shut up, the two of them carry on, maybe 15 feet apart, continuing to annoy us as they talk cell phone to cell phone in the same friggin’ room! In spite of this incredibly rude show interruption, it’s now time for the Emo Philips Film Festival part of the evening. Projection screen down (or theatre up) Emo narrates two short films, starring none other than Emo Philips; but he narrates them, not with his voice, but with his clarinet. Film one was Emo grabbing a fake leg in a bar, accidentally knocking the leg’s former owner into a cake and all the random hilarity which ensued. Film two was “Can Man”, a guy on the street (Emo), riffling through a garbage can, dealing with a kid, a juggler and an assortment of characters, coincidences and hilarious physical and ironical outcomes. Both films are exactly what Buster Keaton would make, had he still been alive, and not murdered by Edward G. Robinson on the set of Paint Your Wagon (at least that’s what I heard).
At the end of the film, the two “Cell Phone Guys” were now on stage, revealing them to be – all along (I had a hunch) the brilliant Walsh Brothers, of UCB and “The Walsh Brothers Show” (How’d they get that gig?!) Next up was Marianne Sierk of “World’s Dumbest Criminals,” who was a breath of fresh air from all this comedy. The 36-year old perky actress was the perfect poison for an evening of great entertainment. Other than her imminent need for motherhood, for my money (okay, I got in free), big positive energy Marianne might’ve been served better going up a bit earlier on the show. By the 1:45am point, it was hard, not just for me, but I think for many in the crowd, a bit late for by the book (albeit very good) stand-up. And to be fair to Marianne, my weak bladder was beckoning me to the loo, and once unstrapped from my seat, I went and had a smoke. So, in personal flagellation, I hereby invite Marianne to invite me when she’s performing again, and hopefully in an easier and earlier spot. Maybe if she smokes and has a urinary infection, it’s meant to be. This particular late night is really a psycho boys club and even though Marianne’s a funny chick and all, oh, I don’t know what I’m saying. Letters, I’m gonna get letters…. I fucked up.
At this point, Lynch not only opens the barn door completely, but unhinges it, as The Walsh Brothers return, portraying smart retards, half-finishing and interrupting one another, talking like one brain, rambling as if they were on Judge Judy Judy starring Jim Carrey Grant. While all that was going on, big Sean randomly comes back out, launching into a piece on going on a haunted house ride; and before I knew it, Ron-Emo returned to their job as Frick ‘n Frack of Bizzaro-World, navigating this powerful psychedelic jumbo in for a soft-landing. I made it. Whew! What a ride. You gotta give it to Ron Lynch. He not only knows how to create a mad house, he creates a whole new one every single week, Saturday night, midnight at the Steve Allen Theatre, and unlike the next public shooting, I don’t recommend you miss the next one.
I give Ron Lynch’s “TOMORROW!” show 8 outta 8 menorahs!
Enjoy the Veal,
Steven Alan Green
FACEBOOK TWEETS OF THE WEEK:
Now they’re saying Neil Armstrong was on dope when he went to Mars.
Thanks and have a mediocre day. That way, if its a GREAT day, you won’t be disappointed! (always trying to help)
Does anyone have God’s email address? I have a question.
Call me overly optimistic, but I think Tony Scott is gonna bounce back.
Phyllis Diller was to Fashion what Ralph Lauren is to Comedy.
Well, I guess we won’t be seeing that long anticipated Tony Scott/Phyllis Diller action-packed blockbuster any time soon.
This week’s What To Joke About: The Mars Rover, Mitt Romney and those hilarious fires.
THIS WEEK’S GUEST FACEBOOK TWEETER: The Daily Show and Air America writer Jim Earl
Lance Armstrong cheats at racing, raises millions for cancer research, and is banned from his profession. Mitt Romney cheats on his taxes, raises millions for a campaign urging cuts to cancer care, and is given the Republican presidential nomination.
Who wants to bet hurricane Isaac hits the GOP Convention just in time for Mike Huckabee’s “Loving Tribute to Climate-Change Deniers?
I remember back in the old days when “Pussy Riot” called themselves “Uncontrolled Vaginal Revelry.”
THIS WEEK’S COMEDY RECOMMENDATIONS:
ETV WEEKLY COMEDY VIDEO RECOMMENDATION:
SPECIAL FEATURE: TRIBUTES TO PHYLLIS DILLER:
ODDZ ‘N ENZ:
Next week’s Enjoy the Veal features an interview with British comedy impresario Peter Grahame, who will enlighten and entertain us all with his wit and wisdom regarding American comedians playing the London Comedy Scene.
Coming Soon: My exclusive interview with the legendary Vegas Headliner Tony Clifton, whom I’m told, doesn’t like interviews, but has granted me one because he hates me.
To hire your humble comedy writer (Steven Alan Green Writing Services: Writing Wrongs for Over 50 Years!) or to complain about anything: email@example.com
To submit a piece on comedy or show listings, same email. Thanks, Sag
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