Posted by Steven Alan Green
A lot has been said about my life-changing experience in working with Jerry Lewis; and primarily by yours truly. Truth is, actions speak much louder than words. And no action speaks louder than sex. It was a lovely London Sunday morning. The last of the drunks had waddled home from the pub and were neatly tucked away into their own warm blankets of vomit hours earlier. A horse-drawn hearse clip-clopped across the cobble-stone by my Notting Hill multi-level flat, taking some lucky English soul to that big pub in the sky. The electric milk truck quietly spun its rounds, dropping off fresh milk and cream to my new neighbours, Madonna and her Brit-Gangster flick director husband, Guy Richie. My lovely girlfriend of five years, Emma, had just given me the greatest “wind-employment” since Hurricane Katrina herself, as a prelude for some foreboding news she was about to impart my way. Sitting down on the couch next to me, as if she was about to announce she was secretly pregnant with Prince Harry’s child, Emma let me know, in no uncertain terms, she was leaving me. The reason was Jerry Lewis. Emma was sick of hearing my Jerry Lewis story. She was sick of my talking about it, writing about it, performing a one-man show about it, and most of all: Emma was sick to death of hearing of a “film I was developing with an Oscar winning producer based on my historical life-changing misadventure with Jerry Lewis.” She could care less and thought my obsession with Jerry Lewis was well beyond the pale of normal comedian madness and suggested I immediately seek psychiatric help, which I did, but my psychiatrist then left me for the same reason (he was a Dean Martin fan), but there was no “wind-employment” there, and why should there be, that would be just wrong, let me continue. You see, for me it was all business. Jerry Lewis was the biggest thing to ever happen to my career. When Jerry Lewis collapsed at the London Palladium, September 8, 2002, it made international news. Go ahead, Google it. We’ll wait. Ladies and Gentlemen, while the skeptics can’t wait, let me thank you, my loyal readers, who will politely wait until I’m done. Oh, they’re back. Was I right? ‘Nuff said. When Jerry Lewis collapsed at the London Palladium it created a flurry of questions hurled at me from all ends of the comedy industries in London, New York and LA; all repeating the same mysterious and annoying mantra, as if I, a “still-trying-to-figure-it-all-out-comedian” had somehow possessed the answer to the meaning of life itself:
“Did Jerry Lewis fake his collapse?”
1a Mortimer Square was a multi-level “maisonette” with a loft office under a skylight, a very high open gallery living room, and an indoor BBQ in the kitchen. I loved my home. It was the first bit of property I ever owned. But, I got carried away (or should have been!). Notting Hill had been a very low-rent district for 30 years. But, in the ‘90’s (much like New York’s Soho district in the 80’s) it became hip and prices went through the roof. There are two modern historical periods for Notting Hill, the former home and subject matter of George Orwell, Thomas Hardy and G.K.Chesterton. Before and after the eponymous film starring Julia Roberts and Hugh Grant. Lissen up Hollywood moguls: One. Buy as much property as you can in the worst section of LA. Two. Package a romantic comedy set in that section of town. Three. Collect your money. I had bankers coming round my flat every six to eight months offering me 100,000 Pounds just to live there. Of course I stupidly signed on the dotted line. After losing my home in London three years ago, I came back to LA to take care of my sick mother, to resume dating a woman I was newly in love with (in other words: she really didn’t know me that well yet) and to try and co-produce the film based on my experience with Jerry Lewis, alongside and under the mentor-ship of a very well respected and accomplished Oscar winning producer who looked like Danny DeVito and talked like Joe Pesci. Steven Alan Green and Julian Krainin’s “How I Nearly Killed Jerry Lewis” or “Why Dean Drank” had the buzz of top Hollywood actors and directors; as it was/is a great story of Shakespearian proportions. A very dysfunctional comedian is saved by his childhood hero, who ultimately befriends him, then lets him down, nearly dying in his arms, causing the comedian to reconcile with his dead father. Hilarious right? In real life: Jerry Lewis was both my best friend and worst enemy. And, thus that became the pervasive narrative in my head: Was Jerry Lewis ever really my friend? And in the end, who in Hollywood is EVER our “friend”? And, I thought I had it all categorized and sorted. But, when I started to lose my mind…Scratch that. I don’t think you ever can notice when you “start” to lose your mind. I think its more like suddenly noticing the cat licking itself. Maybe I better not talk too much about my own sometimes questionable mental health. The best way people can get to know me, and to trust me, is to simply be me for one day. Be the man who nearly and accidentally killed Jerry Lewis.
Lisa Coburn, a great lady, good friend and daughter of the late great James Coburn, called me up, inviting me to her Christmas party. Lisa says to me, “Steven, I would love to have you come to my Christmas party…..but you have to promise me you will leave Jerry Lewis at home.” What on earth was she talking about? I don’t live with Jerry Lewis? Lisa explained to me that apparently (I have no proof of this unfathomable fantasy one way or the other) I had gained a reputation of constantly talking to anyone and everyone about what Jerry Lewis did to me, my life, my show, my business, etc, etc and that I had been boring her friends to tears, almost as badly as if I were indeed Jerry Lewis himself showing up uninvited for breakfast, fast-talking about film theory, when you’re just trying to chew, swallow and transport. Once I realized Lisa was right, that I must have engendered said reputation, I fessed up and said, “You know what, Lisa…I can do that. No problem!” So, I gets (not a typo) to Lisa Coburn’s and it’s a full party. John Barrymore, Mellissa Torme March, Stephen Hawking: all sorts of interesting showbiz and literary people and plenty of traif. What more could a nice non-practicing Jew want. (oy, I’m gonna get emails!) I sit down on the couch, biting my lip until it nearly bleeds, thinking of Willie Mays, as I repeat over and over in my head: “Do not say the words: Jerry Lewis”. Rick Overton sits down next to me and talks with another comedian. “Did you see that comedian on HBO last night? I’m telling you, man, he was amazing! His physical movements…just like Jerry Lewis!” I slowly get up and zombie walk (continuing to repeat my mantra) to the other side of the living room where there was the entrance to the video lounge. I went in for shelter. They were playing blues videos. Guess who was on. Jerry Lee Lewis. I about faced it like Bilko getting busted and who should coming running after me, but none other than Lisa Glucksman, daughter of the late Ernie Glucksman, who directed Jerry on the ground-breaking Colgate Comedy Hour. “Steven! Let me tell you what Jerry did to my father! You know my father blah, blah, blah, and Jerry blah blah blah blah” I picked up my coat, left Lisa’s party very quietly and proud that I fulfilled Lisa’s wishes of my not mentioning Jerry Lewis to anyone. I didn’t have to; everyone else did it for me. And that would continue to happen again and again and again and in more bizarre ways.
In 2009, The Academy of Motion Pictures Arts and Sciences was honoring Jerry Lewis with the Jean Hersholtz Award for Philanthropy, for all the great things Jerry Lewis has done to help bring awareness, and most importantly money (which buys invaluable life-saving and life-improving research) to his life-long pet cause, that of finding a cure for Muscular Dystrophy. Jerry Lewis has saved and bettered tens of thousands of lives; make no mistake about that. I’m sure Jerry was fully appreciative and humbled of receiving recognition for his massive philanthropic achievement, but I betcha, inside, Jerry was secretly a little miffed, as I know I would be. The Academy has never honored him artistically for his incredible worthy life’s body of film work. I mean, the comedian who broke the modern forth wall? Or the comedian who appealed to all ages at once? The comedian who has run the gauntlet of the critics, whom he all proved wrong? The comedian who succeeded in all areas of ShowBiz?
. Or the irrefutable fact that Jerry Lewis remains the only person to ever dominate both movies and television at the same time. Jim Carrey never did that. He was one, then the other. Jerry Lewis was number one in television and movies
at the same time
. Forget the Video-Assist. Jerry invented the Comedy-Assist. Jerry Lewis, for all his faults; for all his flaws: Vanity, compulsiveness, erratic and condescending behavior, are really only minor blips (if not indicators of) of one of the greatest comedic science minds of all time. If the Oscars had a comedy category, Jerry would dominate, but they don’t and Jerry would agree with me that the reason they don’t is that they don’t understand comedy and how it works. I got news for you all. Nobody does. Pure Comedy as a value unto itself sometimes gets lost in Hollywood, in the very same odd way the MDA spookily erased the patron saint of sick children Jerry Lewis from their future branding. What numbskulls. That’s just dumb business. The Tonight Show With Jay Leno is a completely different show than The Tonight Show Starring Johnny Carson. Johnny was the star. Jay is just “with”. Maybe that’s ‘cause Jay is more of a regular guy than Johnny and Jay’s tip of the hat to his hero. Be that as it may, beyond a doubt, Jerry Lewis is living proof, that just like nuclear power, you have to accept the bad with the good with everybody. Jerry just happens to be better at both than most. That’s his sin. My sin was yet to be revealed. As my friend and oft personal guru, Beano says, “I like people. It’s their behavior I sometimes have trouble with.” And Hitler was an excellent dancer.
Here I was, in the third balcony of the Kodak Theatre, peering down upon the man who was both the greatest and worst thing to ever happen to me. The man who helped me create a disaster. The man who broke my dream in two. The man, whom I seriously thought was the bestest friend I ever had. Imagine being a kid getting drunk with Santa Claus. That’s what being friends with Jerry Lewis was like. A nobody comedian of no time, connecting on a very deep level with the greatest comedian of all times. As I watched Robert DeNiro extol his appreciation for and to Sean Penn, I flashed back seven years ago, to when I was happy and hopeful and frankly, building a business. Like all the horrible events in life (war, funerals, marriage) things usually begin with a formal invitation. My misadventure with self-proclaimed “Super Jew” himself, a former skinny kid from Jersey not known as Joseph Levitch, the man who brought laughter and salvation to the once tear-stained cheeks of a little boy lost in the middle of an horrific divorce, the great Jerry Lewis was no different than a Christmas party, and too required a formal invitation.
……and so in closing, in honor of your great accomplishments in Comedy and Charity, I hereby invite you to come to London (First Class travel and accommodations) to perform at The London Palladium and receive the first ever High On Laughter Award. I thank you for your kind consideration and very much look forward to hearing from you.
Steven Alan Green
As I drove down to meet my childhood hero, little did I know, I would be drafted and braced to go down in Show Biz History, as the man who inadvertently nearly killed Jerry Lewis.
September 8th, 2002
Sunday night at the London Palladium
The audience had been enthralled by twelve great comedians from the US and the UK, including Zach Galifiniakis, Bobcat Goldthwait, Emo Philips, Paul Provenza, Rick Overton, Boothby Graffoe, Earl Okin, Rick Right, Jim Gaffigan, Shelagh Martin, and the pretty-great yours truly. All of us went up on that great plank of wood still scuffed by the shoe tattoos of Laurel & Hardy, Abbott and Costello, Judy Garland; and of course, Martin & Lewis. This was my show now, not Budd Friedman’s or Mitzi Shore’s. I was the producer. The man in charge. Over eight months of prep-work, investing my life savings by re-mortgaging my Notting Hill multi-level flat along with the hardened experience of two previous years’ High On Laughter shows, made this show the biggest of my career. Career? Who was I kidding. I was a mid-forties comedy refuge and this was just another pathetic —albeit, very expensive—showcase. High on Laughter is a comedy-charity show I created that benefits Turning Point Scotland, a drug and alcohol charity launched by Princess Diana. I had gained a small buzz, doing my infamous “farewell performances only” stand-up act, where I told every audience I was “addicted to the laughter and had to quit” and every show was my last. I performed over 5,000 “farewell performances” in 16 years, and now I wanted to help real addicts as a poetic gesture of goodwill. Plus, the charity endorsed me. Peter Grahame, one of my best mates, who runs the oldest and best comedy club in London (Downstairs at The Kings Head) slowly makes his way over to me backstage that Sunday night of “The Palladium Incident.” I could see the look in his face. It wasn’t good.
“Steven, Jerry won’t come out of his dressing room until you leave the theatre.” I looked Peter in the eye; he was dead serious. One of the most jovial and trusted movers and shakers on the British Comedy Scene was now telling me something I just couldn’t believe I was hearing. My star (and one-time childhood idol) the one and only Jerry Lewis, the man whom I was giving a lifetime achievement award to for all his contributions to Comedy and Charity, had told my show-runner, that before he’d come out of his dressing room to accept the award I was giving him, I, the producer of this show, the financier of this show, the creator of the show, would have to immediately leave my own theatre. I can still feel my own eyeballs popping out of my head like a Tex Avery cartoon character. This was my baby, my pride and joy! Not his! This one I was filming for television. But after three months of working with Jerry Lewis I was at the end of my rope. Jerry had pulled out of the show one too many times. He would call me up daily, either in tears over the state of his career (“What am I gonna do, sell men’s shoes?”) OR frothing at the mouth angry with me for what reason I never knew (“I eat people like you for breakfast!... or lunch!…depending on when I wake up!”) OR as the most gentle, professional and courteous collaborator I ever worked with (“Steven, you and I stand on the same part of the stage.”). But, I managed to survive the inconsistencies in Mr. Lewis’s personality. I finessed my way around; I cajoled Jerry by reminding him how “They’re gonna love you in London!” or by laughing at his truly funny banter. He was a handful, for sure. But, I think that’s exactly what he liked about me. I too was a handful. A handful of piss and vinegar and for once in his lifetime and career-time, he was not dealing with the usual types: sycophants that stars – legendary stars – surround themselves with. The biggest, most obnoxious ShowBiz ego of all time had finally met his match. A short-tempered, unappreciated in his own country comedy loser, who found respectability, fame, and a fleeting fortune in a European country. Jerry Lewis was dealing with Steven Alan Green. God save his clownish soul. I camouflaged myself amongst the bizarre Tim Burton-like sets and props from the West End production of “Chitty-Chitty-Bang-Bang,” and what I was about to see was one of the saddest things I’d ever witness in my entire life.
Driving down to San Diego to meet Jerry three months earlier, I was starving. Jerry had told me to “Bring a big appetite!,” and so I inhaled a muffin, washed it down with some instant and got on the 405. My heart was doing 90 in the slow lane. Time was beginning to change all around me. I’m going to meet the great Jerry Lewis! On his yacht! Wow, Steven, how far you’ve come! (Oh, no. I haven’t even passed through Irvine.) I get to the big hotel, I ask for “Jerry Lewis’s yacht” and was pointed where to go. I went to a gate where I was met by Jack, one of Jerry’s assistants, who walked me to a beautiful classically appointed boat, representing the world-class accomplishments of a great man. I go on board, down the stairs to the cabin. And, right there, sitting at his computer, was Jerry Lewis. Now bloated beyond belief like some surreal Thanksgiving Day parade balloon (the result of him taking Prednisone, a steroid that saved his life), Jerry pointed a camera at me and shouted, “Say cheese!” A flash went off and I was now, and forever, in Jerry’s World.
The first story Jerry told me was about Steven Spielberg. How after E.T. premiered in Cannes, the Jaws-dropping director got an incredible standing-O, which just wouldn’t stop. Spielberg, as if he were merely an actor who had just performed Richard III for The Queen, directs the audience to a royal box and elegantly bows. King Jerry stands up and waves graciously to his loyal subjects. I snap out of it. Where’s this flippin’ lunch? Jerry asks me if I’d like another Popsicle. A what? Two-and-a-half hours of Jerry telling me this story and that story. How he got drunk with Peter Sellers, partied hard with Jack & Bobby Kennedy, Peter Lawford and, of course, Marilyn. He was handing me loose chapters of his upcoming book, “Dean and Me,” assistants were giving me more and more popsicles, so much so, that I had to excuse myself several times to pish, and once in his bathroom, I couldn’t help but notice the multitudes of antibacterial hand sanitizers. When I came back to the main cabin, Jerry does what Jerry does best. He takes over. Jerry Lewis listed – as if I was his Errand Boy – what he needed from me. Seven people traveling with him, First Class, Five-Star accommodations, 24-hour limo & security, a giant video screen, plus a 36-piece orchestra. On exit, I told him I was filming the entire thing. He said, “Fine! But I charge $150,000 for 12-month worldwide rights!” I was okay with that. I had Jerry Lewis. What was I worried about? I left in search of a burger and drove back to LA. The next morning, he calls me up, his voice all nasty-like.
“Steven Alan Green? This is Jerry Lewis.I’m not doing your show!
And without missing a beat, I said, “Good! Who the hell needsyou
Jerry laughed and we became instant friends. Scratch that…we became partners. Scratch that too. He became my boss. He’d be calling me up every day. I was going on Buffy auditions, the phone was ringing off the hook, I was praying it wasn’t Jerry Lewis. The High On Laughter Award? Jerry wanted me to call it The Charlie Chaplin Award, but when I checked with The Chaplin Estate in Paris, and they said “No way, nes pas?” Jerry harrumphed and said, “That’s Okay. We’ll call it The Jerry Lewis Award!” (“And the nominees are: Jerry Lewis…Jerry Lewis….Jerry Lewis…Jerry Lewis….and Myron Pickleman.”) I was actually giving Jerry Lewis, the first ever Jerry Lewis Award. (Can you see why my last psychiatrist actually fired me as a patient?) Meanwhile, my publicist in London never even heard of Jerry Lewis and thought I was bringing over Jerry LEE Lewis! And it turns out most of modern day Britain never heard of him either. After all, England is another world; they never even heard of Jay Leno or Dennis Miller. Why? They don’t get HBO or NBC over in England. I needed a film star. A legend. And because Jerry had reneged on his very important promise to give me two weeks for press interviews, to be there for me, even though he said: “Steven, nobody knows what it’s like to produce a big show like I do, I’m gonna be there every step of the way,” on the word of our publicist, just for insurance, I booked a gifted British comedian sight unseen, who had just won the prestigious Perrier Award up at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival. Daniel Kitson’s opening line, as Jerry had locked himself in the dressing room with my wife Tamsin, telling her he was upset with me for making the advertising say: “Starring Jerry Lewis” but he wanted “Honoring Jerry Lewis” (which he never told me) the two bodyguards in my employ were now telling me, “We work for Mr. Lewis now” and not allowing me access to my star…The British dysfunctional comedic genius Daniel Kitson’s opening line was: “It’s always been a dream of mine to play a third-full Palladium to people who’ve come to see a dying man
.” And indeed, it seemed as if that little joke was all about to sadly come true…
The stage was set. The 18-piece orchestra sat in front of a giant projected “High On Laughter” logo, instruments in their laps, no musical charts because someone in Jerry’s crew forgot them and when I asked Jerry about them at rehearsal, he screamed at me again, but this time in front of the entire crew: “I’ve been in Show Business for 50 years! I’ll give you a show and you’ll like it!” Bobcat Goldthwait (whose earlier set stole the show) returned to the stage to the mass approval of the audience. You could just feel the anticipation. Showing sincere appreciation for his chaotic comedic soul-mate, Bobcat introduced the clips, explaining that, “Jerry Lewis didn’t just pave the comedy road we’ve all conveniently travelled on; he pretty much invented it.” The giant video screen descends and my heart literally stopped, as I realized that this was a huge moment, not just for me, but for my friend Jerry. Black and White Buster Keaton Jerry, Vegas Nightclub Jerry, Telethon Jerry, Errand Boy Jerry, Cinderfella Jerry; all of them, sparkling like comedic Rushmore moments in time; Dean Martin mysteriously absent from them all. The live audience at the Palladium laughed alongside the relatively ancient audiences recorded in some of the video. I was seeing my dream come true. That I, Steven Alan Green, once considered the worst thing you could call a comedian: unfunny; having discovered the ugly duckling truth that another country – a much smarter and older country’s culture, would appreciate even a lowly wretch like me for what they saw as, “Brilliant!”—was now sharing my archeological find (the great British comedians and audiences) with the world. I believed that, indeed I was in fact resuscitating the fallen career of my childhood hero. Looking back at it now, I must’ve been crazy, and if you can add all that up and hold it in your mind’s breath for just a moment, then let the reality of the following situation become your exhale.
As I hid in the wings, watching the comedy genius who turned my childhood tears to laughter, stand on the opposite end of the Palladium stage, staring up at the video clips on the giant screen, of himself fifty years previous, thin, young and at the top of his game…then watching The King of Comedy wistfully look out at the less than sold-out house, and then…and then….heCOLLAPSES! Boom
! To the floor! I literally said out loud to myself: “I’ve just killed Jerry Lewis.” Oxygen (which he conveniently had demanded last minute before he’d get on the plane from Vegas) was rushed to his side. I had to go out on stage and announce that “Unfortunately, Jerry Lewis was taken ill and taken to hospital…pray for Jerry,” that announcement getting on the AP and reported worldwide. Jerry was stretchered out to an ambulance, briefly smiling while removing the oxygen mask, simply to whisper to his filmmaking friend Pierre Etaix (whom I flew in from Paris at Jerry’s request) “I’m okay, Pierre!” But, I wasn’t so sure my friend was okay.
The bodyguards (still on my payroll and yet mysteriously now in Jerry’s control) were now guarding the ambulance at the back of the Palladium as if it was a mobile Rat Pack wet-bar and I was Jack Carter. They wouldn’t let me near King Tut. The ambulance screeched off down Oxford Circus, slowly strobed by a pathetically small flutter of paparazzi flash, which magically seemed like Medieval fireflies as seen through the prism of light English drizzle. The official report from the London Ambulance service was, “a man whom we cannot name, was picked up at the stage door at the London Palladium on or about 11pm on the 8th of September, 2002, was treated on site for minor exhaustion and taken directly back to the Dorchester Hotel.” I can’t prove it, but my guess is that passenger was probably Jerry Lewis. My announcement made international news as The King of the Pratfalls flew back across the pond home the next day on my dime, without so much as a “would you like my autograph?” I later heard he told Gareth Valentine, the orchestra leader, moments before, “If I fall, just leave me there.” And the endless repeating question began, as every comedian, every comedy agent, and every club owner asked me the same exact goddam question. A question, which, to this day – nearly 10 years later – I still cannot begin to answer. “Did Jerry Lewis – the King of the Pratfalls – fake his collapse
?” My answer to everyone was always, “Jerry Lewis is the greatest comedian to have ever lived. Jerry Lewis is my friend,” and then I’d walk away wondering if they bought any of it. After all, although every contemporary comedian is completely fascinated with Jerry Lewis himself, few of them will ever admit he indeed is their secret comedy pleasure.
Tamsin and I sent the award to Jerry’s address in Vegas, but we never heard from our friend again. As I stood on Chelsea Bridge, watching the London sunset vaguely illuminate Big Ben in eerie orange, I thought to myself: “Now I know why Dean drank.” I smiled and laughed to myself then walked down to the nearest pub for a nice cold glass of Guinness and a Cuban cigar. Little did I know that my future would so be forged of these events. But, that’s Life, isn’t it. Just when you think you’re on top…You’re reminded, that just like the rest of us schmucks, you’re always gonna be somebody’s patsy, sometime.
Enjoy the Veal,
Steven Alan Green
Part Two of “Jerry Lewis: The Devil’s Genius” to be published next month.
FACEBOOK TWEETS OF THE WEEK:
It’s Barton Fink hot!
Until this country accepts mental illness as a real illness and offers unabashed treatment for those who think they might be mentally ill, there will continue to be crazy public massacres, as well as Romney supporters.
Gun violence, over-medication, mental illness, financial strife, bitter politics…America. The greatest country on the planet! Well, at least we have Montel Williams. And some Olympic gold. And Betty White. And Burning Man. And Taco Bell. As I was saying, This is the greatest country on the planet!
I’m tired of all these so-called “Hate Groups” here in America. From the KKK to the Tea Party. How ‘bout a “Love Group”? We can organize and we can….You know what? Let’s just have Group Love.
Everything’s like midget porn out here in LA. Nobody wants to give an inch.
LATE BREAKING NEWS: The Mars Rover Curiosity has discovered Mitt Romney’s tax returns!
One of the primary missions of the Mars Observer is to see how dim Mitt Romney is from outer space.
THIS WEEK’S COMEDY RECOMMENDATIONS:
Beth Lapides’ Uncabaret upcoming shows:Sunday Aug 12: Mary Lynn Rajskub, Rick Overton, Christian Shirm, Karen Kilgariff, We Govern We, Sunday Aug 19: Casey Wilson, The Sklars, Rory Scovel, Selene Luna, Sunday Aug 26
: Mary Birsong, Michelle Lee, Carlos Kotkin
Perry Kurtz @ The LA Comedy Awards @ The Hard Rock Cafe,This Friday, August 17
. The Hard Rock Cafe, 6801 Hollywood Blvd #105, Hollywood. Red Carpet at 7pm. Showtime 10pm. No Cover. Parking: You’re on your own.
Read the ETV Interview with Perry Kurtz
ODDZ ‘N ENZ:
Regarding Caleb Medley, the local Aurora, Colorado stand-up who was severely wounded in the so-called “Batman Massacre,” I’ve spoken with some of his friends and he’s hanging in there. Please, if you can, the Medley family has a huge hospital bill. Donate directly to the Caleb Medley fund set up by his family. Thank you.
Help Caleb Medley
To hire a comedy writer or to complain about anything: firstname.lastname@example.org
10.11.13 at 1:51 pm | Steven Alan Green back from the comedy dead.. . .
5.23.13 at 2:31 pm | On the occasion of my old pal and nemesis Jerry. . .
5.16.13 at 12:22 pm | A great new opportunity for our favourite. . .
4.7.13 at 5:32 pm | It seemed like an impossibility before, but I am. . .
2.20.13 at 1:09 pm | My long-awaited review of Nato Green @ The. . .
1.15.13 at 9:49 am | My public appeal to the director of Duel, 1941. . .
9.26.12 at 3:32 pm | I hereby call upon the powers that be in. . . (11)
5.23.13 at 2:31 pm | On the occasion of my old pal and nemesis Jerry. . . (6)
11.29.12 at 5:27 pm | It's been a very busy few weeks here at Enjoy the. . . (4)
August 4, 2012 | 4:08 pm
Posted by Steven Alan Green
Contemporary nomenclature in the Show-Biz Arts can be misleading. We all hear about “porn star,” but never about “porn ingénue”. We’re all impressed when someone is “a producer,” but the average citizen doesn’t really know what a producer actually does. Hell, I don’t, and, I’ve been a film and TV producer. Perhaps the greatest misunderstanding amongst the parlance of our “chosen profession” is that of “the extra”. Extra what? If I’m an extra, then why do you need me? A little over a year ago, I had the good fortune to be employed for a day as an extra on HBO’s Curb Your Enthusiasm. It wasn’t my first time as an extra. In 1987, when answering phones at The Comedy Store, director Larry Cohen (writer of Phone Booth starring Colin Ferrell) called up on a Sunday, desperately looking for a stand-up comedian to “be an extra” in his second sequel to the infamous horror series, “It’s Alive”. Putting him on hold, I quickly called up George Bennett, the then talent coordinator at “The Store”. George told me to go ahead and take the gig. I soon found myself down at Santa Monica Pier, doing a scene in a nightclub, playing a comedian with another real comedian William Randolph. And, so while the two of us jokesters stood on the little stage, telling jokes to en empty house (save for the entire film crew) Michael Moriarty had a scene in the foreground with Karen Black. Michael walks past my stage and I’m supposed to insult him. “Say, you got an act to go with that suit?” Then I cackled like a jerk, as he walked over to Karen to discuss what to do with “their child”. Everything went well and at the end of shooting day, Larry asks if I’d come into the studio and do some looping, record some dialog, my comedy routine. I ask Larry about the fact that since I technically spoke on camera, didn’t that qualify me to get Taft-Hartley’ed, enabling me to join the Screen Actors Guild and would he be kind enough to sign the necessary paperwork? Larry agreed. So, they roll the scene, I’m at a mic and I’m just making shit up. Just me and the mic. No audience, but I rattled out as many “joke jokes” I could remember, as I wasn’t gonna give up any original material without a struggle. At one point I ran out of material, so I started improvising. When the film screened, I could clearly hear in the background of the scene where Michael Moriarity is talking with his wife/girlfriend Karen Black about what they are going to do about their cannibalistic mutated baby, “So, Steven Alan Green walks into a bar….”
We shot Curb Your Enthusiasm in Westwood and it was a lovely sunny day with delicious food and plenty of green to take in from the surrounding Veterans Hospital grounds. I was playing a Jew. In the plotline, Larry David has found the greatest chicken he’s ever tasted. He’s literally orgasmic about it. Unfortunately, the roasted bird in question happens to be exclusively served at a Palestinian owned restaurant. Larry, who was caught in the middle of an argument between Bob Einstein and Suzie Essman, used the chicken situation brilliantly, amping it up as a simple metaphor for ethnic cuisine versus complex geopolitics. The scene was this. Larry goes into the restaurant and enjoys some unbelievably delicious roasted chicken at the Palestinian restaurant. When he’s finished, he hides his face, fearing someone might recognize him as this Arnold Benedict of American Zionism. To his shock, he finds two large groups of shouting protestors lining the driveway to the restaurant. On one side, Arab dressed extras holding placards saying simple things like, “Chicken is good!”; on the opposite side, “The Jews,” smartly dressed yarmulke wearin’ men and wig-wearing women; their placards shouting, “Chicken is bad!” I suppose the metaphor for avian occupation was not just Islamic fanaticism, but Judaism fanaticism as well: food. Generously embedded in each respected protesting mob were Einstein and Essmen who argued with one another on a personal matter, shouting over the protestors to make their respective emotional points, as Larry is supposed to run the gauntlet between each opposing poultry philosophical side.
The AD (assistant director) tells all of us extras (I was playing a Jew, by the way) to yell out “anti-chicken” things. That’s all he said. He couldn’t give us any specific lines, because then we wouldn’t be extras then; SAG-AFTRA projects employ union and non-union extra’s (as long as they don’t have “lines”), which makes productions less expensive to produce. So, “and….AC-tion!” Everyone in my group and everyone in the other group start shaking their signs and shouting the most boring pro and anti-chicken things I’ve ever heard in all my days as strictly an anti-chicken protestor. Just then, Larry David exits the Palestinian restaurant and starts walking towards us. With a “I can’t believe this” jaw-dropping look on his face, he slowly glided between the two warring factions like a ghost on a slow moving skateboard. “Chicken bad!” or “Chicken good!” is apparently the extent of creativity in the LA Extra’s Community, but I wasn’t gonna be outdone by anyone else’s creative limitations! I cup my hands around my mouth and, “PLUCK YOU!” “PLUCK YOU!” “PLUCK YOU!” shouted at the top of my lungs as Larry David’s open-gob came into my frame. He kept walking slowly through the cacophony of mayhem, but his face was affixed on mine, causing him to slowly crane his neck back to me as he slowly passed me by. “I made a connection!” I thought. I knew I wasn’t supposed to be ‘an extra’, Hell! I’m Steven Alan GREEN!” We do another take from another angle and once again, Larry walks by me, face affixed on mine, mouth agape, as I repeatedly shouted, ““PLUCK YOU!” “PLUCK YOU!” “PLUCK YOU!” at the HBO star and co-creator of Seinfeld. “and….CUT!” said the director. Chatting with a few of my co-workers, I look around and Larry David is walking directly to me! Wow! He’s gonna offer me a speaking part! Larry looked at me like I was standing on his mother’s grave and said, “Don’t do that.”
Perry Kurtz is the most famous stand-up extra on the LA Stand-Up Comedy Scene. Perry is everywhere. Perry never stops. Perry gets there, does his job, is nice to everyone and leaves the audience begging for more, the women often wet between their thighs, but that’s because Perry drools. Entering the Business of Show as a 10-year-old Cub Scout (by throwing his voice into a sock puppet) and leaving a successful graphic design career in the dust, Perry suit-cased it from Philly to Frisco, making his mark as the greatest emcee ever at the Off Broadway Male Burlesque Club in San Francisco’s North Beach, giving birth to his infamous “Comic Strip Routine”. Perry’s multiple appearances with Chuck Woolery on Love Connection became the stuff of salacious Daytime TV legend. And, all that’s just because Perry is such a comedy whore. He’ll perform at the drop of the bomb. This national working headliner (I’m not saying which country) can be seen at the important mainstream comedy clubs (Comedy Store, Ice House, etc.), but on the same night ventures out to Karaoke clubs where he woos an unsuspecting audience with raunchy made up on the spot comedy lyrics, then jumping back in his car, driving across town and just making it on time to pick up his guitar and jam the blues with the best of ‘em at The Roxy. I’m telling you. Perry Kurtz is the hardest working comedian in ShowBiz and why he’s not super-duper famous is as big a mystery as to what IS Kim Kardashian’s actual talent. I recently had the opportunity of sitting down with Perry as we both waited in line at the Unemployment Office.
SAG: Perry, what gives you the greatest pleasure in performing?
PK: Knowing that I have made people happy, even for a short time, makes me feel like I DO make a difference in the world. I want to make everyone in the world laugh at least once. I know I’ve got over a million so far.
SAG: Has the “age factor” affected your work in any way?
PK: Actually, I relate to younger folk quite well, I love modern music. And women under 40.
SAG: How do Karaoke audiences compare to comedy club audiences?
PK: They are very forgiving and do not expect to see quality talent. But when they do, they go crazy. I have a very large Karaoke following.
SAG: Where would you like to see yourself one year from now?
PK: Hosting a national talk show or as a lead in movies. Or getting another hip replaced.
SAG: Who were your comedy influences?
PK: Cosby, Belle Barth, Winters, Berle, Carlin, Carson.
SAG: What was the funniest thing to ever happen during one of your shows?
PK: During an improv piece where a woman from the audience acts like my arms, she unzipped my pants, reached in and grabbed me. We dated for about 3 months.
SAG: Wow. Give me a minute while I shake that image out of my head forever.
PK: That’s okay, take your time. I have that affect on people.
SAG: Yes. Okay, where was I…Oh yes. Switching gears completely, I understand your daughter Bella sometimes performs with you.
PK: I was taking her to open mics and when I’d tell a story about her, she’d run off stage, pretending to be embarrassed. It always got a laugh and she knew it. Before I knew it, she was writing half the act and having her name up there on the marquee with me, her dad.
SAG: You mean, Bella has showbiz ambitions like her daddy?
PK: She doesn’t want to be a comedian really. She does it because she knows how happy it makes me. The 1st time she decided to “wing it” and not use her joke list, I cried openly.
SAG: Speaking of emotion, you recently received a very big honour!
PK: Yes, I did as a matter of fact.
SAG: Well, tell us! Tell us!
PK: If you give me a chance, Jesus Kee-Riste! I had my name (along with 11 other very worthy stand-ups) painted on the wall of The Comedy Store.
SAG: Wow! That is an honor. That’s like a movie star getting their footprints at a theatre in China. Congratulations; I’m very filled with nachos.
PK: It felt good to have my name finally on the wall after 20 years. And I have gotten a lot of Congrats from everyone. But I don’t think anything will change in my career. There are people’s names up there that are already out of the business. But, at least it shows that I DID work there.
“Perry Kurtz, window 5, Perry Kurtz, window 5” said the anonymous woman on the PA at the Employment Office.
PK: Well, I’d love to stay, but my public demands me. Thanks for the interview!
SAG: Thank YOU and good luck!
Perry grabs his electric guitar and goes to Window 5 and begins to make up one of his favourite comedy blues, wooing it to the blonde woman on the other side of the window.
“There’s a pretty lady, sitting in the window. I wonder where she gonna be. I wonder where she’ll go. I thought I’d try to hit on her. But, I knew so little chance. There’s absolutely no way I’m getting in her pants.”
I slowly back out of there, edging my way to the exit, getting into an awaiting open door to my imaginary limousine and drive back to my suite at the Chateau Marmont. I’ve got Johnny and Keith over for tea in about an hour. I have to say I really admire Perry Kurtz. He’s like the Energizer Bunny; he won’t ever stop; and god knows I’ve tried. As Hyman Roth in The Godfather: Part II said, “This is the business we’ve chosen.” Not me; I was drafted.
Enjoy the Veal!
Steven Alan Green
Perry’s Hit Comedy Video: Beer & Cigarettes
FACEBOOK TWEETS OF THE WEEK:
Mitt Romney wins the Gold in the 400 Meter Position Flip-Flop.
KFC Supports Shotgun Marriages.
Amidst the controversy of South African runner and double-amputee Oscar Pistorius having “an unfair advantage” due to his leg blades giving him extra spring and his body-weight being less than average, the Chinese have vowed to amputate some of their runners until an even playing field is achieved.
The music of today all sounds like the same crap. When I was a kid, it all sounded like different crap.
Micheal Phelps wins one more gold medal and he gets the next one free.
I believe if Romney gets elected, he’ll make us all billionaires in the first 30 days of office.
Don’t expect me to keep up with your narrative; I can barely remember my own.
THIS WEEK’S COMEDY RECOMMENDATIONS:
The wonderful Keith Blaney performs in ‘Tell It,” tonight (Saturday Aug 4) at 11pm at The Lex Theater in Hollywood. More info:www.theprodco.com
Beth Lapides’s Uncabaret - next week - Aug 12, guests include Mart Lynn Rajskub. http://uncabaret.com
ODDZ ‘N ENZ:
I promised some of my “Jerry Lewis story”; that’s still in the works, bear with me. In the mean time, sending my best wishes to my old friend, Jerry Lewis, and his soon to open Broadway production of The Nutty Professor.
Regarding Caleb Medley, the local Aurora, Colorado stand-up who was severely wounded in the so-called “Batman Massacre,” I’ve spoken with some of his friends and he’s hanging in there. Please, if you can, the Medley family has a huge hospital bill. Donate directly to the Caleb Medley fund set up by his family. Thank you. Help Comedian Caleb Medley
To hire a comedy writer or to complain about anything: email@example.com
July 28, 2012 | 11:02 pm
Posted by Steven Alan Green
1961 was the breaking point for two creators of mass fantasy: 20th Century Fox and post WWII Germany. Whilst the last gray brick was laid in the dreaded, highly symbolic and literally divisive Berlin Wall, ten thousand miles away, in the highly appointed office of the head of what was once the most important film studio in the world, facing a board unceremoniously honored with a stinging run of recent box office failures (most notably Cleopatra) studio president Spyros Skouras convened his finest army of architects and charged them with a desk-pounding master plan to create a “city within a city,” which would be partially funded by Fox’s new owners, The Aluminum Co. of America, more commonly known as Alcoa. And, thus, like a futuristic set going up on the former famed Fox Lot was born Century City. An aluminum Oz in the foggy distance from Beverly Hills, and with equally incredibly flippin’ high parking rates. Century City. Home to HBO, Comedy Central and Ronald Reagan’s former private office. Century City, where Fox HQ doubled as Nakatomi HQ in Fox’s 1988 mega-hit Die Hard, which if came out today, would sound like a Will Ferrell film about a mortician on Viagra. Three years ago, after coming back to LA after living in London for nearly twenty years, I had the unique experience of staying in Century City for more time than I care to remember. London is full of parks and people walk the street and life is everywhere. Not this industrial park. Well, there was a little bit of life in the near distance. The Coffee Bean at the base of what can be considered the Sphinx of Hollywood: the Creative Arts Agency HQ monolith.
The hustle-bustle of robotted suits made way every morning, when I’d grab my favorite stool, open my laptop and sip on a nice cup a joe. One day, I ventured my way there and saw that there was a long line, thought to myself, “Hmmmm,” perhaps I’ll travail elsewhere this morrow,” which is clearly odd behavior to me now, considering having lived in London for 20 years, I finally learned the art of patience via the “queue,” the cornerstone of British Civilization. Nonetheless, I was now playing an American. I’m not gonna stand for a line! Who do they think I am! Don’t they know who I think I am?!!!! Pirouetting on the heal of my Nick Ashley motorcycle boots, I suddenly found myself face to face with an overly-perky young lady, who beamed eyelash to eyeball with me, blurting out enthusiastically as if she were a paramedic shouting, “CLEAR!”, “Are you Sam?” I just smiled, nodded and whimsically said, “Who else?” (Subconscious here: This just might not turn out to be just another adventure-free day.)
Part of the reason I came back to LA was to tend to my then very ill mother, the late great Gloria Green. She was an incredible lady who survived all kindsah shit you wouldn’t believe, turned her life around with a vision and helped tens of thousands of other people turn their lives around too. I’ll write about her one day, but she always talked about “a wrong number” which became the serendipitous key to her incredible success. I have a nephew. Sam is his name. My grandfather’s name was Sam and my initials being “SAG,” my nickname is sometimes “Sag,” as given to me in the early eighties by Comedy Store cover girl extraordinaire Marianne Basford. My mother loved my nephew so much and she loved me so much and being the youngest of three children in my family and my nephew being both the youngest and oldest in his, she would what often who confused was saying she. (see how I did that?) We were in New York once, staying at The Plaza, my mother says, “Steven, get me a yellow.” I had no clue what she was talking about. What, was she Elvis? What gives? She meant, “Call me a cab.” Flashback forward, so there I am, completely out of the blue being called, “Sam” by someone who didn’t know me. The proper thing to do would be to say, “Excuse me?”, but ever since moving to England, I found that “Excuse me,” no matter how inflected, can indicate a challenge to an argument. “We” say, “Sorry” over there. In any case, that’s not what I did.
Without missing a beat, I pumped up my newfound American enthusiasm to match hers and said through my huge nightmare clown-like grin, “And, you are….?” “I’m Cindy, your new agent’s assistant! I’m so excited to meet you! Let me buy you a coffee!!” (WTF, right?) So, we get to the cashier and I order an iced latte, not anything hot: I had a plan. So, I ask her, “So, you say you are a fan of my work, what’s your favorite..uh..of….my….work?” Immediately she chimed back, “I think my favourite book of yours….” (Oh, I thought to myself: she is confusing me with a book writer, not a screenwriter.) “…My favourite book of yours is Utopia.” I thought and thought and repeated “Utopia” under my breath like I was searching for my car keys. “Yes, Utopia. Yeah, I really liked writing that one. Thanks. You know, there’s more than one Sam…are you sure….” And before I could finish, she said, “There’s only one Sam Miller!” Okay, it’s starting to come clear to me. I’m a book writer named Sam Miller who wrote a book called Utopia; and she’s my new agent’s assistant at CAA. Cool. It’s a book, and this is CAA, so it must be about movie rights. I have a screenplay or two…No. I must put an end to this folly immediately, come clean, apologize and maybe – who knows – make a connection for my own writing or not. The iced latte arrives and I ask her to hold it for me, explaining she’s gonna want to pour it over me in a second when she realizes what’s going on. Completely ignoring me like the good agent’s assistant she is, she said enthusiastically, “Oh, don’t be silly! Let’s go outside, grab a table. I’m such a HUGE fan of yours!” Sitting at one of the little metal tables in the CAA plaza like I was in The Bourne Mistaken Identity, she then asks me if I’m alone or is my writing partner coming. I revealed to her, “Look. I’m not who you think I am.” Acting completely shocked, she said, “You mean you’re not Sam Miller who wrote Utopia?!!!” Extending a friendly hand, I said, “No, my name’s Steven Alan Green, I’m a writer and comedian and have been working with an Oscar winning….” She jumps up and as if she were screaming rape, “AND YOU MADE ME BUY YOU A COFFEE!!” She ran off, complained to building security, who laughed, giving me the thumbs up once she was gone. This is what Sit ‘n Spin is all about. Having a funny true personal story to tell that involves awkward embarrassment, farcical randomness, fantastical tangents, dashed dreams, ironic positioning and mostly of all, that extremely rare commodity in Hollywood: Authenticity. Maggie Rowe and crew have created a literal cathedral of authentic story-tellers, in fact, story-writers (scratch that: story-livers); and the whole thing convenes every other Thursday at The Comedy Central Stage in Hollywood. Sit ‘n Spin is the grandmammy of the LA story-telling circuit, and yet she’s a granny in a hiked up mini-skirt, breast-line exposed, thumb out, ready to hitch a sexy and dangerous ride with the smelliest Hells Angel she can find.
The stage is simply set, with flats, a table and a microphone stand. The audience is gallery perched and you know straight away, this show must be good: they don’t charge to get in. Unlike 90% of the shows this reviewer has seen, Sit ‘n Spin actually started reasonably on time. 8:10pm start for a 8:00pm advertised start is pretty damn good. Compare that to most shows I see, which can start as much as an hour late. That can’t be good for audience or performers. I know why this is. The venues want to sell as many drinks as possible and they “don’t want to disturb the show”. But (and I’m gonna write extensively about this another time), take a cue from England. The comedy clubs over there use the Interval System. A break or two breaks, between every other act. For the audience to get up, stretch their legs, have a fag (a smoke), take a splash (go for a piss) and buy a drink (buy a drink). Anyway, a delayed start is a big annoyance that Sit n Spin fortunately doesn’t offer. Off to the right of the stage, Franklin Bruno, a single man on electro-guitar, sang a little ditty narrative of a woman buying cheap sunglasses and moving onto Faustian misadventure; the lesson learned: Live life like a pair of cheap sunglasses you don’t care if you lose. I like that.
First up, was Ilyse Mimoun… Oh, can I interrupt myself and point out there was no emcee, no introductions of any kind, the entire show had a certain “parole board” feel to it, which for this writer, was quite nostalgic. So, where, oh yes. Ilyse. “The word ‘vagina’ gets bandied about these days…” (I can see why there was no introduction.) Ms. M then begins to explain her purpose of focus, by establishing herself as a sort of Ludwig Wittgenstein of pussy. Harping, as it were (British readers get the joke), on the fact that that what most men call “the vagina,” is in fact, “the vulva”. I didn’t quite see where this was going at the beginning; but in due time it served as metaphoric prologue to the main plot of her story: fashion choices. “I reject the notion that a woman should be appealing,” “I think men are not as shallow as we think,” and “I try to get this outfit together; I don’t want to die alone” are her inner narratives, defending her against her best friend Rena, whose interventionist sage fashion advice includes, “Underwear can work for you!” Postulating Loser-ville Hell is wearing skinny jeans to Trader Joes, Ilyse Mimoun brought it home with irony from men; her next boyfriend confirming for her what she knew all along: “Belts are for suckers!”
Danielle Bernabe was next up at bat, and I mean “bat”. “So, four of my friends have planned their own deaths,” was her opening salvo; and let me tell ya’, nothing like going from fashion to death to make you question your own sense of Life’s priorities. Explaining more carefully than she needed to, Danielle clarifies the fantasy stems from her own insecurities. “As a narcissist, I wish people would talk about me like that now,” referring to common-place all-bets-are-off eulogizing. She muses on her own funeral, trying to reassure the audience – who sat like individual tombstones – that “I’m not planning my own death, just the party after.” Meeting with her After-Life Coordinator, post-life use of Facebook, and demanding that all pallbearers wear ties, Danielle carried on with detail after detail of what dying really means in terms of what we all pay attention to all the time in life: vanity, confirming that, much like the soul, neurosis carries on. The Martha Stewart of Death suggests how horrifying it would be to die in her apartment; seeming her day job would prohibit anyone finding her body for a day and a half and that the first dance at the after party would have to be either Sweet Caroline or Don’t Stop Believing. Again – not to be rude – but one thing I definitely learned in England is that, Woody Allen being the exception, Americans have a problem connecting death and humor. Should Danielle Bernarbe ever play the UK, they would love her. To death.
Michael Feldman, a blurry visual cross between Jessie Eisenberg and Howard Stern, opens with, “I first learned about the word ‘nigger’ by accident.” Oh my. So did just we. Trying to wind out of trouble with his mom, Michael explains to his family that he thought a video game he was playing used the term. Soon enough, he developed the unconscionable habit of beating the side of his head exactly three times, saying to himself, “No, no, no!,” thus was his OCD born. Perfectly neurotic and practical, he apologies to god before masturbation, winging his way to a delightful little number of his toilet-sitting ritual of singing a little song. Insightfully noting that, “It’s much easier to believe in rules than randomness” actually touched deeply upon the theme of not only this evening of story-telling, but all of personal story-telling. The one defacto rule I’ve noticed in story-telling is that everybody’s protagonist are themselves and that’s not just an “LA Thing,” that’s the world we live in. Or should I say, “I” live in.
Julie Lynch (the only one to sit down at the table) starts her story in mid-conversation; how she met “Ted” at a bar, giving us a unique eavesdropping quality. Looking like she was just brought in for questioning, made the audience feel like the parole board at Shawshank. “Give me the fucking dollar!” was part of her casual parlance as a professional stripper; replacing it with “would you like fries with that?” were she doubling the late-shift at Taco Bell, would be merely a lateral employment move. Julie sinks her very sharpened teeth into it, as she tells us of Ted, a regular customer at The Satin Dolls Club, whose weekly encroachment put to shame and erased the imaginary Gaza Strip border between Titty-Shaker and “Gentleman”. Like an obedient dog, Ted brought Julie weekly gifts: cash, a whip and handcuffs, as a sinister prologue for giving her the most disturbing of gifts: his business card. A weekend gig at The Palace arrives with Ted giving her a heavy hat box containing a massive vibrating dildo was the breaking-point. In Ted’s mind, they were in a relationship, culminating with a hotel room sexual soiree, where Julie at long last realized, Ted didn’t give two flippin’ cents about her feelings; something she reminded herself she still had, ending a very scurrilous story with just a tincture of required dignity.
Keith Blaney took the back-alley evening in the completely other direction, with his fourth grade recount of getting on The Skipper Chuck Show, populated by First Mate Scrubby and Officer Freddy “teaching us to walk our bikes and not be assholes”, “jungle juice” and Yoo-Hoo Sponsors. This TV kids show – with chimpanzees dressed as train engineers – got him through Catholic School. Peace, Love and Happiness was his mantra and ultimately, even though Keith never knew what kind of navy Skipper Chuck ruled, he knew he wanted in. We follow Keith in his firsthand adventure to the big city and into the television studio with the same kind of “you know this world” quality in Wes Anderson films. Returning to the show and winning the big contest, affords Keith and his crazy fighting family the worst of all possible inflicted punishments: a Disneyworld vacation together. His mother throws up on the Mission to Mars ride, his father vehemently insists on having ice cream on Main Street are only two of the reported neurotic infractions the Blaney Family accrued – their actual crime (according to Keith’s subtext) was that his controlling family cannot live and enjoy life in the moment – and how Keith himself seemed to be randomly caught up in their cosmic comeuppance, as the aeroplane they were all on suddenly loses an a propeller, forcing them, for the very first time, to get along. We never found out which was more disappointing for him: Skipper Chuck or his family surviving, but beyond a doubt, Mr. Blaney has a clear grasp on comical narrative, which is a difficult Olympic event to begin with, but to add being an unwitting player, makes it unquestionably the more difficult of all tasks; and this is why Keith Blaney is a master story-teller. He knows his opinion is all that really counts in entertaining us. And in this, “Who am I to judge?” modern world we live in, Keith Blaney proves, that even though he’s still that kid who never got over the Skipper Chuck let-down, he’s the man. And, speaking of survival…..
Suzanne Whang (a TV presenter and comedian who has survived breast cancer) resets context for us all with a great story of her paternal Grandfather, the honorable Rev. Chai Kyung Whang, being more famous than her own House Hunters fame. Making for a very rich cultural stew, he was funny in church, played multiple musical instruments and made it clear to her from the start, that you only have one grandfather in this life who is a minister and plays the musical saw. Communicating the simplest emotions to his favourite grandchild often got chopped up along the way from Korean to English; “I’m impressed” transposed to its bang opposite, “I impress you,” mirroring exactly what is Hollywood’s number one problem. Language awkwardness unwittingly scribed a birthday card to her Hadabuji (Korean for “grandfather”), which she mistakenly misspelled as “Hadaboji,” (which means grand vagina) literally ending up with “Happy Birthday Vagina”, and yet he became an important spokesman for the modern zeitgeist of the Korean people, appearing on The Voice of America, being asked the secret of eternal life, raising a finger to his head, then suddenly dropping dead then and there from an aneurism, living and thus dying by his own life’s motto: Always leave ‘em laughing. Suzanne implored us to know that she is brave only because of him, triggering many in the audience to emit challenging sniffles amongst the rest of us cold-hearted cynics. Ultimately, Ms. Whang underscored with a truly breathless, “I am funny because of him,” leaving one and all to venture on the notion that indeed, like it or not, we are mostly made up of our ancestor’s DNA.
Sit ‘n Spin was created at the HBO Workspace by Jill Soloway in 2001 (with producer Jaclyn Lafer in tow) and moved to The Comedy Central Stage in 2004; with Maggie Rowe joining production in 2002, Anderson Gabrych as second mate and successful TV writer/producer (and formerly of the funniest comedy duo since Bush Cheney, The Funny Boys) Jim Vallely as the show’s respected mascot. There is no better piece of live entertainment in Los Angeles, and at zero ticket cost, I recommend making your reservations now. You never know what you might learn about yourself through other’s lives. Especially, if they lived to tell about it.
I give Sit ‘n Spin a grand 9 out of 8 Menorah’s!
Enjoy the veal,
Steven Alan Green
FACEBOOK TWEETS OF THE WEEK:
The American sprinting team has been caught planning on cheating in London. Olympic officials confirmed a plot was unearthed which would’ve exposed the US Sprinting Team to images of Jerry Sandusky just prior to the starting gun.
How come a guy with a shaved head looks tough, but a bald guy looks like an accountant?
The Golden Rule does not apply if you are a masochist.
I’m tired of seeing that guy on television with orange hair. And, I’m talking about Regis.
In the first reported copy-cat crime since the tragedy in Colorado, a man broke into the new Woody Allen film, and complained to the crowd.
New Enjoy the Veal feature…
THIS WEEK’S COMEDY RECOMMENDATIONS:
Caleb Medley is a local Aurora, Colorado stand-up comedian who was severely wounded in the recent Batman shootings. As he lays in hospital, uninsured, his medial bills mount up. Let’s help Caleb and his family by contributing whatever you can to the fund set up by the Medley Family. Thank you, Steven
Help Caleb Medley
To contact Steven Alan Green email firstname.lastname@example.org
July 21, 2012 | 3:10 pm
Posted by Steven Alan Green
What a great week for a comedy blog! Two theatre shootings in as many weeks. Colorado and Fred Willard. It’s depressing, I tell you! Depressing! The world seems to not just be getting worse and worse, but indeed like Demi Moore recently, revealing long hidden or camouflaged hurt. Well, as a comedian, comedy writer, super-lover and supper-lover, it is incumbent upon me to continue to try and show you – “The Discerning Comedy Public” – not just why live comedy is a very important part of your daily dose of mental vitamins, but how it works. On you. The audience. You see, I don’t really think most of you out there in Comedy Audience-land actually understand both the powers and responsibilities you possess. For, just like this coming national election, the power for change is always at the base. And the same thing in Hollywood. The dumbing down of Hollywood perfect stormed when the take at the gate pinnacled with Rambo: First Blood. Heck, you didn’t even have to understand fucking English, to enjoy this family fun packed summer comedy hit. You see, it’s all about getting close to the water. The Beach. Semi-Innocent Bikini dancing California Girls is what the old ugly limp-dicked limo’ed billionaire wants. His master plan (being to take over Hollywood) includes “getting the girl,” and the only way that is gonna happen is if he can produce a mega-crap-hit. We, the audience, being of stoned minds and fat bodies, deserve better. But, like Mitt Romney, we don’t know any better. We need to learn how to be an audience, because after all, at the end of the day, the audience is profoundly the most important part of not just the commerce of the Entertainment Industry (mental picture: a dirty smoke-stacked factory in the business of assembling modern culture) but also the part of the Entertainment Industry we seem to continuously ignore at our own peril: Curation. Curation of the audience. (“WTF! I HOID dis Steven Alan Green was a nut-job pseudo intellect type guy, but DIS over-fabricated nonsense takes the Rugelach!”) Read me out….
As a still-working stand-up comedian, I crave an audience. But, not just any audience, I crave a smart audience. I mean let’s face it. For more than two decades now, with the possible exception of the Laugh ‘n La’Chaim Comedy Show at my local retirement home, like Joan River’s magical face, the audience has gotten younger and younger; while at the same time, and going in the bang opposite age direction, most of my generation’s comedy geniuses are growing older and older, but also getting funnier and funnier; and rarely the twain shall meet; ‘cept for maybe at an awards show; and even then. Why is this? Why has the audience become so flipping stupid? And, more importantly, who cares? Well, I care ladies and germs and here’s why I care: I want my mommy. Comedy has become an irrefutable boy’s club and we all know where boy’s clubs can lead: religious and sexual oppression like we see in foreign countries such as Saudi Arabia and Disneyland. Free the Woman, I say! Free the woman in all of us. Beth Lapides is the Emily Post of Comedy, by way of Batwoman (metaphoric compliment courageously created after, and inspired by the tragedy in Colorado). What Beth has curated in legendary comedy show Uncabaret is as remarkable as it is an underground institution. When Lincoln freed the slaves, he had no idea about Rap Music any more than he did about theatre safety. And yet, the invisible and ever-present connectivity of all romantic and magical events is there: Irony. Mega-perspective which keeps us safe on the road and cleanses our soul. If you’re over 35, you’re not going to a comedy club. Why would you? Comedians on television are most often in their early twenties, and while many of them are good, few of them are great enough to deserve a personal visit. Going to see a live comedy show has become like seeing a contemporary popular music show. The older generation, the better part of the audience (educated and having lived life a little) is simply not invited. And since the comedian on stage is likely to talk about things like Droid vs Apple, weed law and conquering pussy – clearly subjects the older audience don’t give a royal fuck about; they’re just gonna stay home instead, zap some Trader Joes and try and figure out why the hell Huell Howser talks like that. And given that the major comedy clubs serve alcohol with the age of 21 being a requirement to enter (and 37 to exit), mathematically, you have a very narrow comedian/audience demographic aggregate age of around 25. However, if by chance (I’m just sayin’) you could bring modern comedy artists into a mature and intelligent work environment, and add a psychoactive twist to it all, and set it in a Deco-sconced time-machine, then you might just again start to regain my coma’d interest.
Fifteen years ago, Beth Lepides got the idea that comedians needed active participatory triage with their chosen art. Before Larry Charles directed “Curb” or “Borat,” Kathy Griffin got on the D-List, or Judd Apatow directed “Knocked Up” (and by doing so, recreating a new golden age of Hollywood Comedy) they all came to (and through) Beth Lapides’ Un-Cabaret to find their authentic voice, re-connect with their creativity, share their pain, vent their anger and turn their lives into comedy. Un-Cabaret creator, host & and featured comedian Beth Lapides and founding producer Greg Miller applied artistic criteria to stand up and created an ‘alternative comedy’ revolution, valuing story over jokes, meaning over form, urgency over polish, and intimacy over schtick, and I sincerely thank http://bethlapides.com for not just the aforementioned information, but 99% of the wording as well. Couldn’t have written it better myself. What Beth does are two things. Two very important things. First, Beth books the most interesting comedians, story-tellers, and raconteurs alive (and not in prison), but secondly and much more interestingly frankly, Beth runs both ends of the show: The show on stage and the show in the audience’s collective head. After opening with an original cabaret song about change (“change makes us so unhappy, but you gotta change to be happy”) accompanied by Mitch Kaplan on piano and Denise Fraser on drums, Beth, in her semi-transparent bustier, and perfectly balanced under her Two Joans (Crawford & Jett) hairdo, welcomed the first act of the evening, the ininimital Margaret Cho. And as the “orchestra” plays on the Cho-ster, Beth races backstage, out some secret door, unobtrusively re-entering the club like many men and women in this town do (from behind) and over to her Ice Station Zebra command station, a lone standing microphone in the dark of the audience, where Beth will inflict her Potter-esque magic, like the white witch of comedy she is (“White Witch of Comedy” is a registered catch phrase of Enjoy the Veal; the sole international rights ownership belonging to Enjoy the Veal, Steven Alan Green, and his vile imagination.) Completely unelected, she represents the audience at this human trial; and with trained surgical caution of interrupting onstage flow, Beth’s “talking from the Back Mic” is the higher audience’s id, questioning, leading, and prodding her performers to talk about things in the literal now, most importantly: who they are now. No reminiscing here, unless it happened this morning. In a world of overly-prepped product based on market study, this is not just the most unique form of audience interaction, this is true revolutionary intervention. Because, at the end of the day, all we the audience ever care about is authenticity. Something that rings true, but without those annoying irrefutable details, is like a medieval chastity belt; we can never actually put our finger on it. And, that’s just the point in this Conflicting Information Age we are trapped in: we don’t really want nor need answers or even the right questions for that matter, we need, and we know we need, Human Connectivity. But, enough about poor Fred Willard.
Margaret Cho, irresistibly Cho-Rageous (“Cho-Rageous” is a registered…Oh, never mind…) in her tattooed arms and guitar round her neck, reminded me of Winona Ryder when we liked her. Maggie explains to us she is a bisexual; that’s she’s the “B” in LGBT; the “B” often silent. And with that first joke, we the audience know we’re in for a great night. I mean, what comedy club opens with Cho? You close with Cho! What this says to me is that Beth wants to not just push the comedian into the pool, but the audience as well. Are you strapped in? Good. The American born Korean-American doesn’t work alone. Her Korean immigrant mother is her Dead Costello to her Living Abbott, whom Cho evokes in exorcisably frightening authenticity. I mean, I never met her mom, but feel like I wouldn’t want to; she scares me. Greatly illustrated personal stories of how when you sublet, you buy into the property owner’s life, making their giant dildo fair game; or how accepting the existence of some Atlanta peachy bitch who wouldn’t return Margaret’s rental deposit; the logic of because it was cheaper than bail, are not just hilariously emoted with expert patina of detail, but actually become prologue for upcoming stories of growing up in real fear of her father’s deportation or her mother’s penny-pinching, peer group humiliating ways, such as telling her daughter she doesn’t need glue for school, just use rice paste instead. Taking us back to puritanical filth, a story of a motorcycle accident was difficult to hear, and yet the most visually rewarding as she explained very clearly, that motorcycles, in general, are the world’s biggest vibrators. You can see why her parents had to come to America. They knew Margaret was on her way and didn’t want to get thrown in Korean prison. Beth joined Margaret on stage and the two hippy lovebirds closed out with four attempts to sync up in a truly uniting coffee house song about her dog. I was ready to go home; then I realized, Hey! This show just started! Next up was perhaps the most interesting man in the world; and I don’t mean that Jewish actor who portrays the Spanish guy in the beer commercials.
Taylor Negron is Oscar Wilde meets Holden Caufield by way of Ikea. Negron, a successful actor in this town, leads several double-lives, including being perhaps the Larry David of his day; meaning: All the comedians in the know, knew the future Seinfeld and Curb creator, was special way back when, even when Larry David would curse out the audience for being dumb and walk off in a rage. Well, Mr. Negron’s manners are much more Taylored than that, and, in a way, that’s what Taylor’s act is all about. Manners of confusion. “I’m so old, I remember when Gunsmoke was on the radio”; “I remember when the smart money was on Jermaine Jackson”; and, “I went to UCLA……for lunch!” are Taylor introducing himself as if he were applying for enrollment in playschool. Taylor was so laid back, he delivered the UCLA line without the pause that makes it funny, signifying to us that ultimately, he doesn’t need to rely on it or anything. He doesn’t know what he needs; and that’s part of his fascination. His grandma was a socialist who took in lesbians; he lived in a huge Pasadena house once owned by a silent film star….and that’s when the molestations began”; to which Beth chimes in, “To you or by you?” evoking the biggest knowing laugh of the evening. (I know what Beth is doing here. She’s auditioning straight men.) Negron, ever-fascinated with celebrity worship, but not with the actual celebs themselves, told of how he recently saw Roseanne on Larry King (I hope it wasn’t literal, because Piers Morgan’s the guy now) opening up too much about being molested, and publicly fantasized if he (Taylor, not King) were actually molested, he’d be a big star, which was an interesting algorithm to ponder, but we couldn’t because we were sideswiped by Taylor’s mother (who, my guess, hangs out with Cho’s mom) chiming in, “But, who’d molest you?” Taylor is just that; a tailor who weaves the channel-surfing emotional landscape; embroidering it with charming little cultural insights, as if he’s been studying us Earthlings; knowing he’s superior to it all, and yet can’t let go of his favorite earthbound emotion: being completely bewildered every day of his fucking life. Publicly unveiling he had a tumor removed last year and being at Cedars hearing on a distant radio that “Taylor had died” and believing he was dead until the readjustment of facts revealed the news referred to Elizabeth Taylor; and counter-setting with escaping to Puerto Rico and watching South Park in the hotel, Taylor Negron is the jewel in the crown of live story-telling; because he’s lived to tell about it and does it so concisely. “Dreams are vacuum packed – when you’ve lost everything” combines the timeless with the pointless, which ultimately is how Taylor Negron sees the concept of Life itself. As just that: a pointless concept.
Tig Notaro (Comedy Central Presents and The Sarah Silverman Program) is the great-great-granddaughter of the Mayor of New Orleans, immediately segregating Hollywood stereotypes from the rest of us. Supplanting her mantra of revealing her mother just died, with a quick and enthusiastic, “Thank you so much for coming out tonight!,” Tig, a pixie-like waif (who looked like Justin Beiber were he male) continued the much-loved theme of the night: death, with a true story of how after her mother died, the hospital sent her dead mother a questionnaire, asking her dead mother how was her stay at the hospital. Hilariously going through each severely inappropriate question, including everyone’s favorite, “Do you have any suggestions?,” to which Tig replied, “Yeah, stop sending brochures to dead people,” Tig moved from the surreal to the primitive, with an incredibly brilliant physical comedy routine, based entirely on the squeally sound the stool makes when pushed on the very stage, with her or especially “Tom” from the audience sitting on it. I can’t explain it to you or anybody for that matter; but trust me, this stool pushing routine was the funniest thing this comedy writer has seen since a double-act I once saw, where one guy is the ventriloquist and his partner, the dummy, who was really a child under the spell of muscle relaxers. And just when you completely forgot of the reason we’re all there, Beth Lapides, the White Witch of Comedy, from the Back mic reassures us and Tig, she didn’t just tell a story, she created one. Oh, Lord. Good to be back in nursery skool. And, that’s what Uncabaret is also about: Regression. Death and Regression. I guess you gotta go one way or the other.
Closing out the show and opening his set with the brilliant line, “I’m kinda scrambling now, ‘cause I had a bit on Tig’s mom dying,” was longtime Simpson’s writer, comedians’ favourite Dana Gould. “Nothing is as it seems and everything is a disappointment” and “When you stop believing in god, you can be happier” are laying out his theme menu. Stretching our muscles with the post-ironic conception of the premise that any comedian (meaning himself) would do a joke based on “Retardo Jesus,” hopes the audience collectively understands that the audacious execution of said joke is the joke. Nailing his point even further, Gould asks our trust in that even “rape” jokes can be funny (it’s all about context) and then eerily side-stepping to a piece about imaginary class-warfare at Comic-Con and its simply being another form of child abuse, “…like Frank Sinatra Jr.” Looking back on this post-Batman-Colorado, Dana retroactively proved himself not just a great observer of the important intricacies of modern human behavior, but also – in this case – acted as Comedy Clairvoyant, warning us, basically, that the future is now and we should be scared; and very much so. And just when Gould seemed to be even frightened of his own powers, he brought us back into the warm and fuzzy now with marriage, which he described as, “Small lies and compromise until the sweet embrace of death” (there’s the “mommy theme” again); remarking how “we’re all here because of the internet,” which acted as a seemingly misplaced No Trespassing Sign, just before it all too soon morphed into a take on how the Internet’s original business model was porn; finally bringing us home to the notion that “people believe that if you live life according to the rules, you get to live in a cloud-based gated community,” Dana Gould proved to us once and for all, that when the much anticipated and over-hyped Apocalypse finally arrives, he’s the comedian you want to be listening to. He knows less than we do and that’s only, because like Beth Lapedis, he asks way too many goddamn questions. Uncabaret “experiences” every Sunday @ “First & Hope” and Beth wants me to remind you that, in spite of the venue being downtown, it’s really easy to get to and parking is plentiful. Now, there’s neurosis for you. Apologizing for downtown.
I give Uncabaret a Fellini-esque 8 ½ out of 8 Menorahs!
Enjoy the Veal….
Steven Alan Green
FACEBOOK TWEETS OF THE WEEK:
Delta Airlines out of Amsterdam found several needles somehow snuck into their on-board food. Not missing a beat, American Airlines not only offering needles in their food too, but are adding a charge for it.
What do you call a European dictator who listens to jazz and wears a beret? Hipler.
Forget Mutt Rimney’s tax returns, what I want to see is his manufacturer’s warranty.
I think if Mutt Rimney wants to be president so bad, Obama should just sublet the White House to him and use the money to pay the mortgages of Bain Capital victims.
NEW OLYMPIC EVENT: The 400 Meter Drunken Dart Toss.
I mean if we can’t all peacefully go see a film glorifying violent vengeance in the safety of our own multiplexes, then what has this country come to? The so-called buttered popcorn is risky enough.
The Batman Massacre in Colorado is the best thing to happen to Netflix in a long time.
Special author’s note: Starting in the next few weeks, I will be launching a blog within the blog, a special series entitled,“Jerry Lewis: The Devil’s Genius,” in which I will examine why the bad boy of comedy (and my former best friend) is perhaps the most misunderstood American comedian since…since…well, since Jerry Lewis. This is how bizarre a blog series this is gonna be. Stay attuned.
July 14, 2012 | 1:22 pm
Posted by Steven Alan Green
Jeb. Wot an odd name. I’ve known a few “Jebs” in my lifetime. Jeb Clampett, for example. No, wait a second; let me google….Oh, JeD, with a Dee. Jeb, Jeb, Jeb… Oh yeah! Jeb Fink, a Canadian comedian whose girlfriend managed the Calgary branch of the Yuk-Yuk’s comedy empire, comes to mind. My second of two Canadian stand-up tours in the late 80’s, set up by Yuk-Yuk’s owner and visionary, a very funny stand-up comedian himself, Mark Breslin. Mark was down here in LA working as talent coordinator for the first TV show on the new Fox Network, The Joan Rivers Show. Me and my cohort-comedy Andrew J. Lederer (not to be confused with Andrew Jonathan Letterer; a famous postman in the mid-west) somehow wrangled Mark to not just see the dozen or so comedy slaves being put up for auction by their “masters of management,” but to also see us: “Store Regulars” (Comedy Store) who were funny, had film and TV acting and writing credits, but for a variety of deep conspiratorial circumstances having to do with the nature of things, never had the opportunity to perform on the all-important Oz’s Tonight Show Starring Johnny Carson; the wizard who could perhaps give Andrew a heart and me a brain. After seeing our shows, Mark spoke with me about my “mostly work the crowd” set, which was highly inappropriate and unusable for a stand-up slot on TV. Nevertheless, my brain grinned, thinking he was leading up to an outstretched handshake and a comically long scroll. Instead he politely said, “No cigar.” All the blood in my body evaporated instantaneously. Then Mark told me to call Connie Winkelmann at the Toronto office; there would be a stand-up tour of Canada waiting for me. Mark was a mench, and I had one of the greatest times of my life, headlining in another country and playing some of the greatest audiences from Halifax to Moosejaw. But, when I returned for my second call of comedy duty, I was sent out west. Starting in Edmonton, the actual Aurora Borealis lit up the sky and I imagined my name in a neon rainbow, leading down to the club. And, indeed it was a great gig. The Edmonton audiences were very friendly to this Angelino, in spite of the fact that their local boy Oilers hockey star Wayne Gretzky was now working for the Kings. Winding my way through Winnipeg (the coldest city in North America) circling the west to my final destination: Calgary; home of the Stampede. Long story short (too late for that, bub!), I got into a stage argument with an audience member who decided to tell me what was and what wasn’t appropriate to joke about. Trying to joke my way out of it; it just got worse, his wife joined in, it led to the manager of the club putting in a complaint about me to Breslin. Somewhere between cocky and nervous, I met with Mark back in Toronto. After frankly explaining my side of things, Mark calmly looked at me and said the following: “Steven, the audience is always in the way….” He then offered me 35 weeks work a year, would I only move up to Toronto. The manager of the Calgary club was Judy Simms and her boyfriend/comic was Fink. Jeb Fink. The man behind a great new performance venue here in LA is named Milne. Jeb Milne. And, just like that slightly horrid experience of mine in “North America,” Jeb Milne has created a completely separate world, void of the common rules and regulations set forth by “The Boring Way Things Should Be Done Handbook,” which for some, swear by. Jeb (a successful animator and all round creative guy) has created a Modern Munchkinville called Wiztend; an animated entertainment and living complex in Venice, nestled tween the soothing sea and roaring Lincoln Boulevard traffic. Jeb Milne is the Munchkin Mayor. In the 1960s the building was a bar and restaurant (4H Club), frequented by Jim Morrison & The Doors and Gregory Hines, who was the lead singer in the house band for several years.
The main reason music venues are so good for the art form of live comedy is that (as a London stand-up comedy agent once pointed out to me) comedy is more about acoustics than visuals. True enough. I’ve always said that one of the reasons The Comedy Store (in Hollywood) Original Room was one of the greatest comedy clubs of all time because of the J.J. Abrams bright train light gunned directly on the stand-up with intense police investigation authority; but, it’s also the sound. Performing live comedy requires a defined balance between the sound level of the comedian against the roaring sea of audience laughter. Plain and simple: If they audience can’t hear you, they can’t laugh. Witzend, being a live music venue provides, not only a sound system that delivers, but also the warm and friendly roadside atmosphere missing from most “Chuckle and Buck” comedy nights produced in every “venue” from crack houses to Laundromats around the mish-mash comedy geography of LA.
Mod Vod (billed as “A Modern Vaudevillian Comedy Show”) is the brainchild of Anne-Marie Symons, an actress and stand-up from Cork City, Ireland. With her flowing ginger hair and welcoming smile, she indeed does display the pixie. But, oh how deceiving looks can be. Right out the box (as it were) she was as filthy as a drunken Ruskie sailor; but she did it contextually, which is good. Gossiping on her relationship with her strictly Irish Catholic mother, who ironically warned her, “For fuck sake, Annie-Marie, you can’t swear in America!”; then quickly moving on to getting mad at her husband enough to want to “cut off his balls,” Anne-Marie set the potential tone of the evening at a place I didn’t expect to be so early in the evening, let alone at all. Usually, a comedy show will build to the dirty, unless of course, it’s billed as a dirty show, then it can start low and dig even deeper. Nonetheless, in spite of the fucking language, Ms. Symons did a great job at vamping up the crowd, bringing enormous supportive energy into the room and gave us a general feeling that we were into a great night of vetted professional comedy. And, indeed it was, though I began to think maybe what they meant instead of Vaudeville was Burlesque, because the first act she brought on was high energy and very funny Chad Korb, whose routine on how ever-changing music trends dictate what music you can have sex with was not only original, but delivered in demonstrated one-man skits, categorizing the nuclear differences between musical genres and sexual positions. Korb’s “cock-Asians” routine was a right cracker, because even though the joke was of Beavis and Butthead thinking, his ability to bury the pun till the end was pure brilliance. Dan Ahdoot (billed as from The Tonight Show) brought notes with him and made it abundantly clear he was trying out new material tonight. Fair enough, but I have to say, I remember in the old daze (cue bitter musical score), when Garry Shandling would come back to The Comedy Store to work on his Tonight Show material, Garry would not open with the new material; he would instead do a set first, and then and only then, if the audience was fed and on his side, would he bring out the sheet of new material. Having said that, Dan was resolute and subtly clever to the point where you ended up questioning your own intellect. Lightly opening with the required “Siri and Droid” material, he quickly moved about the behavioral landscape with very unthought-of-before notions such as “the ex-girlfriend whose left behind hairclip’s smell still makes me sentimental,” reminding everyone in the room that comedians can not just be stalkers, they have to work it into their act.
Returning to the stage, Anne-Marie spoke between the lines with a Tourette’s inspired, “I should not be doing comedy,” smoothly segueing into introducing the “Vaudeville” part of the evening. Joel Ward is an excellent magician and consummate entertainer. From the WTF was that bowling ball dropping out of a big sketch pad drawing of said heavy object, to his absolutely amazing rope and card tricks (both of which were audience participatory and indeed dependent) Ward was funny and a true original. Next was Tracie Walker from Atlanta, whose instinct to work her environment was a hallmark of difference. “The only black girl in a Woodland Hills bar/comedy club” was her anecdotal opening gambit, making it clear to us, that this comedian was a woman first and a black one second. From her societal observations (“I can see why white people wanted to own us….it’s called adoption now!”) to her hilarious “black people talk with their butts” routine (which she demonstrated, but only after she explained the premise; something you’d be surprised how many comedians don’t do), Tracie was the audience’s, as well as this writer’s favorite of the evening. Oh-oh…Here comes our sparkly hostess for the eve, who was appropriately enthusiastic for Tracie’s victory, but also made a crucial emcee-ing mistake. The next act, Scott Mouro, had the polar opposite energy and focus. Whereas Tracie used herself and body in a purposeful, political and entertaining way, Mr. Mouro seemed the victim of his own library demeanor, opening up with acknowledging the sound guy who was his life partner and then took us on a way too personal journey into the shame of coming out to your Southern family. I’m assuming Anne-Marie booked all the acts and therefore knew what was coming. And, what would’ve been very helpful to everyone, including and especially Scott, was if the emcee had done the following: “Let’s hear it one more time for Tracie Walker!” Let the steam out of the room. Next, knowing full well that Scott Mouro’s act had the energy of a mortician eating porridge, Ms. Symons should have toned herself down first, preparing the audience’s focus ready for something much more subtle, something that requires full attention. Instead, she brought out Scott like he was the next trapeze artist, which made it very hard for anyone to focus on the subtleties of being slightly out of place, which is what his act was all about. Closing out the evening was Southern Belle Bobby Oliver, who’d dismiss that moniker as she clung proudly to the front porch of her trailer home. “I recently gave up caffeine and sugar…Luckily I didn’t give up beer and weed!” was exactly the kind of line this audience wanted and needed to hear. Pot jokes. “You’all know I’ve been living in LA too long because I put bottled water in my bong” is not only very funny, but said everything Martians needed to know about LA 2012. Lines like, “The last time I had sex with someone other than my husband, gas was a dollar,” had one foot in the River of Joan and the other foot up the audience’s ass; because this comic doesn’t take shit in life and that includes dumbass audiences. She likes to talk dirty to her husband, so she hired a ghost writer for sex-talk…and ends up fucking the ghost writer is pure Billy Wilder or Preston Sturges. Bobby Oliver may not yet have the respect sometimes snotty LA can be, but it is clear she cuts her own way and after all, isn’t that what we really want from our comedians? To lead us from the madness and confusion of our own lives and into and through the Wicked Forrest of Sick and Demented Thoughts; where, if we’re lucky enough, will not end in sleepy fields of medical marijuana poppies, as we reach out to the ever-distant and misty castle of the Wizard himself.
I give Mod Vod 6 out of 8 Menorahs!
Enjoy the Veal,
Steven Alan Green
FACEBOOK TWEETS OF THE WEEK:
Barack Obama and Mitt Romney are neck and redneck in the polls.
If Mitt Romney was Noah, all the animals would’ve been on the deck of the Ark.
Writing a book on masturbation. Unfortunately the research is playing havoc on my typing abilities.
If the Lone Ranger was a raver and drove a Range Rover, he’d be the Raver Lone Ranger in a Range Rover.
The sight of your face brought a tear to my eye. And, when I say “tear,” I mean my eye ripped from cornea to retina. I’ve got to get to Emergency.
July 7, 2012 | 2:55 pm
Posted by Steven Alan Green
When you check into a fancy hotel, you usually find a mint on your pillow. A nice little gift and thank you for your patronage. But, if in mid-conversation, someone offers you a mint, it usually means you have very bad breath, you ignorant, self-centered loser. Either way, it involves that skull-encased organ above your neck, and in Donald Trump’s case, I don’t mean his hair. Your brain, my friend. Your brain. The thing you own outright, unless of course you still haven’t paid off your student loan. The two most famous brains in history – Albert Einstein’s and the rubber one in the jar called “Abby Normal” by Marty Feldman’s character “EYE-gore” in Mel Brooks’ brilliant classic film Young Frankenstein – are indeed polar opposites and represent the full arc of intellectual evolution and devolution respectively or, more appropriately, disrespectfully. Troy Conrad’s “Set List,” a show where proven stand-up artists are forced to make things up in front of a live crowd, is nothing short of genius, and by total unexpected coincidence (as well as manipulative journalism) is playing at The Mint nightclub on Pico.
Like the Hollywood agent who never returns your email, The Mint is a well-established Los Angeles institution. Since 1937, The Mint has been a local landmark, where many music greats have not only played, but broke to fame as well. Stevie Wonder, Willie Dixon, Natalie Cole, Ray Charles have graced its well-seasoned stage. (And rumour has it, Cher drove by in a limo.) Current venue owner Todd Christiansen (and his front office cohorts Matt, Brandon, Casey and Deana) continue The Mint’s brave tradition of cross-genre bookings. And, just like the ever-completing circle of Life, Comedy comes home to its humble beginnings: the music scene. Many of the modern comedy greats of the last 50 years cut their comedy chops in the 1950’s Jazz Scene and the 1960’s Folk Scene. Lenny Bruce had the sinewy sax lines of John Coltrane, Steve Martin had his Hillbilly come Hipster sincere country folk charm of The Nitty Gritty Dirt Band’s “Mr. Bojangles” and Mr. George Carlin had both. No less than young and fertile master comedy imaginations being consciously nurtured and subconsciously influenced by the echoey presence of harmonic innovative improvisation, and indeed evolving into the “Verbal POV” of their ages. They were underground before it was hip to be, and it was a great time if you were lucky enough to be an anonymous shadow in the crowd. When the Arena Age exploded in the Seventies with giant rock shows and the Comedy Big Bang woke up Hollywood’s all too serious ass, the very hydroponic conditions needed to create great comedy art from nothing seemed to be swept by the wayside in favor of the ever-fearless marketeers. And even though there is no live music at Set List, the plain fact that it happens (when this reviewer saw it) in an historical music institution is no coincidence. Set List presents stand-up comedians like the great jazz artists of their day. It may seem like it’s all about improvising, but it’s really about creating something more emblematic and indeed profound. Set List is artistic self-empowerment; and on that level alone, Set List is not just a great comedy show, but indeed a very socially relevant and important one. Make no mistake; Set List is the hippest show this reviewer has seen so far on his journey as a “Capitalist and Comedy Critic” for this fine established online journal.
The idea that well-established stand-up comedians, who have spent weeks, months, perhaps years, writing and refining their original comedy material, come out on stage one by one, not having a clue what they are going to talk about is simply too delicious of a concept to immediately accept. There is no established theme of the evening, other than, “You’re on your own, pal!” Out of the nest, and here ya’ go! Many of my good readers must have seen that strange looking homunculus in the dark corner of a comedy club, frantically racing through voluminous hand-scrawled notes like Ted Kaczynski when the Feds were at the door. That is no terrorist. That is a comic. Jokes and ideas and routines scribbled on cocktail napkins all kinda made sense when they wrote ‘em down the night before at the orgy. But, as the spotlight now beckons them like gladiatorial re-birth, as the introduction of their name to 300 paying people becomes imminently a scary reality, their hearts speed up and it can quickly become a matter of self-affirming hypnosis that the proven material (“the stuff that always works”) is still not only very funny and “will work again,” but underlying is the fear of the truth that it is less likely still relevant; or even insanely worse: the “Crutch Material” they’ve been cloning and re-cloning for centuries, and was
all that funny to begin with. That can’t happen with Set List. And, thank God for that. Or should I say, “gods”: Set List Creator Troy Conrad, and producers Paul Provenza & Barbara Romen.
Starting the show off with way too much energy than we deserved was emcee for the night Sean Green. Sean kept it charming, short and sweet by explaining the simple rules of the evening, like a cop, asking if we knew the rules of the road. And there really was only one rule: Make up your stand-up set on the spot. Suggestions flashed on the black back stage wall act as visual cues for the stand-up to start talkin’. And there they go. Lazy-ass comics being forced to make up stuff about “Rodent Politics,” and inconsequentially segueing into the “the last man to use the moon-based bathroom,” was a very fun sentence to write. The amazement comes in several forms here. First off, the imagination of the “get drunk and play Scrabble” suggestions to begin with, but also the well-oiled ability of the comedian (for the most part) to go with it without hesitation or pause. There was the occasionally hemming and hawing as a comic here or there stared down at the suggestion as if it were a draft notice for the Civil War, but, like the surprised cat who looks at you when you catch it rooting through the garbage, any self-doubt was always encased in humble clear glass jars of public self-acknowledgement. And, if the comedian gets stumped on a subject, he or she can always resort to the “Audience Box”, a small box awaiting use on a stool by their side, which contains hundreds of fortune-cookie like random suggestions. In the end, the box often served as nothing more than a fake life-preserver, a Twilight Zone prop; its “help” often proving more fatal than the bird in hand.
Jeff McKinnon was the evening’s first experiment and his opening bane was “Silence Sucks,” which he matter-of-factly morphed into a routine on Marcel Marceau being gay. Flashed topics such as “Tropical Fish Cabaret” and “Global Warming Cookbook” were handled like a plumber trying to fix too many leaks, leading to “My Big Closer” (that’s actually written above the last topic of all performers’ sets): “Earthquake Circumcision”. My first thought was that Jeff took the suggestions too literally, as if he were a marionette, but, then I thought about it. That just might be his thinking and writing style. And, after all, he’s making this shit up on the spot in front of not just the audience, but colleagues, some of them movers and shakers and some without diarrhea or Parkinson’s. This first act confirmed my theory of Conrad’s Theory:
That the real comic is always hiding in there somewhere
. You just gotta trick him out. Following Jeff was Alonzo Boden, whose opening line, “If I paid attention to those emails, I would know how this shit works!” got the first giant laugh of the evening, which was not only deferential, nearly apologetic for temporarily losing ground, but spoke directly to the audience as well, who themselves may not have yet absorbed the concept as much more than “comics making shit up on stage.” Watching Alonzo was like watching a person trying to catch birds with his hands, and yet, that became his act as he fettered away with “Erection Chess,” “Google Therapy” and “The First Person to say WTF!,” which he brilliantly pinned on Eve, Big Finishing to cheers with “Saddam’s Steam bath,” which has “an average temperature of 100 & Fuck!”
This show is about how good comedians are as writers; indeed thinkers. It’s like being in the balcony of the operating theatre, peering down on famed and brilliant Dr. Laurie Kilmartin as she dissected herself from the awkwardness of her first topic, “Psychic Morticians,” moving forward with “the downside of being dead,” which she characterized as “easier than being on this show”; and she did it with the professional control of Sigourney Weaver in Alien (the first film) as she tore through “Taxidermist Tweets,” “Strippers in Church,” and her big closer, “Occupy Disneyland” which was smartly peppered with a nice little call-back to a “Metrosexual Gravedigger”. Jake Johanson was not only next, but he was the first comedian to incorporate the actual game into his banter (I know comics hate that term…”banter”) with gems (and that word) like “Which brings me to my next topic.” Brilliant! Because, in my humble truth (no opinions here) the seamless incorporation of self into the situation – any situation – is the hallmark of any great comedian: Comedy content is mostly dependent on context. (Not so much in reverse as it would disprove god; read more in my fictional book: “I Know Not the Fuck What I Speak” available nowhere.) Not only that, but the game not only shows the sinewy veins and skeletal tissue of the stand-up art-form that Set List Creator Troy Conrad wants to expose, but reveals inspired comedy blood pulsing through it to the brain and from the heart.
Comedian and innovative comedy producer Paul Provenza has become the Gordon Ramsey of Comedy, taking us inside the comedy kitchens with his and Bab’s Roman’s “Green Room” on Showtime (and before that, “The Aristocrats”) and now this; the next logical step: testing comedians at their own game. An “AIRF test”. “Am I Really Funny?,” “really” in this case meaning absolute. Jay Leno can’t play this game; he relies on writers. (Well, Jay would probably do very well at this, but you know what I mean. This game ain’t for softy successful guys.) Aussie Monty Franklyn smoothly followed with “Italian Sausage Envy” and “Dyslexic Astrology” and closed with darker than dark, “Death Camp Microwaves”. Following him was Dylan Brody, the King of False Awkwardness, who made it all seem very real with quips like, “The creative process is anxiety producing”. Dylan (one of my perennial favorites) is the best damn comedy writer I’ve seen since Mitt Romney’s campaign manager. He’s Woody Allen meets Sun Yi. Next was local comedy guru David Feldman who at first seemed as uncomfortable and confused as an Orthodox dry cleaner just getting in a huge order for starched hoods. And yet – because Feldman can’t help it, he was truly the funniest of the night. Dealt the low hand of “Psychedelic Diarrhea” (well under his intellectual pay grade) Feldo hilariously took us back into the classroom to learn of Freud’s parental teachings, segueing into a delightful little number on global imperialistic history, but equally, was charming – and dare I say: Human – with freshly cooked authenticities such as, “I wish I had a joke right now!” And it reminded me what the entire evening was all about. Laughter. CPR (Conrad, Provenza, Romen) and crew actually care about the quality of the comedy going into their black-board comedy stew. They not only care, they know their onions. Puckish British import Matt Kirshen (whose enormous smiling teeth are part of his regular stand-up) desperately succeeded in putting his rubber stamp on just how good his own joke creations and tellings thereof, are, with a big Cruise-ing smile. Picking up on something Feldman was saying about Nazis, Kirshen pointed out that “the camps really needed a makeover anyway” and therefore was the most fascinating to watch because Matt’s mind is constantly working, turning over and over, like a bisexual prostitute on a time-clock. Closing out the evening was Wil Anderson, a high-energy, fast-talkin’ glamour cowboy from Down Undah, who morphed the “just silly” suggestions as “Giraffe Office Cubical’” into seemingly long crafted relevant social diatribes. He was amazing.
And that’s just the point of Set List. To make you forget that what you’re watching and hearing is being created in the very moment. It’s like the lobster in the tank you pick; you can never imagine it being killed, even after you’ve eaten it. Sure, I would’ve liked to have occasionally seen the subjects of a more substantial and real newsworthy category, rather than continual random silliness; and I also thought it might be interesting to lose the seeming randomness of suggestions (which were projected from a carousel slide), making it more of a “directed comedy set” with somebody actually picking and choosing curated suggestions based on where the comedian was already going – But that’s just how I like
burger. Troy Conrad’s Set List has found The God Particle of Comedy here. And if there was a Nobel Prize for The Evolution of Comedy, I would nominate Troy Conrad (along with Provenza & Romen) and I know I’m not alone in that opinion. Then again, if you’re asking me, I would also nominate Snooki. After all, the only real substantial difference in the two is that unlike Snooki, Set List’s controlled comedy chaos is intentionally funny. It’s like “Mission Im-Prostitute”. (ahem...)
I give Set List my first 8 out of 8 Menorahs!
Enjoy the Veal,
Steven Alan Green
Set-List plays regularly at Nerdmelt and UCB and will be at The Edinburgh Fringe Festival, Just for Laughs, and is now a TV show on Sky Atlantic in the UK.
FACEBOOK TWEETS OF THE WEEK:
I drink so much coffee, my name is Macchiato.
I never metaphor I didn’t like.
Liberals tend to be much more intellectually minded than Conservatives.
Conservatives tend to be richer than Liberals.
Moderates tend to be poorer and smarter than either.
Extremists tend to be dumber and richer than them all.
GENERAL COOKING QUESTION: When microwaving fish, is it necessary to remove them from the tank first?
Jesus never worried about demographic.
I noticed dusting the Vatican didn’t yield the God Particle. I’m just sayin’...
Mitt Romney would make the greatest president of all time. And, there is no such thing as global warming. And Santa Claus is real.
Chaos and Calmness were married today and are expecting a baby boy named Commerce.
They’ve found new evidence that Amelia Earhart landed near and lived on a South Pacific Island. Downplayed, but just as interesting, they say amongst Earhart’s artifacts, they found Obama’s birth certificate.
Apparently Tom Crusie and Katie Holmes split because of Scientology. Tom wanted to raise Suri as a full-fledged orthodox cult member, but Katie wanted to raise Suri as Reformed. In the end, a settlement was reached when Tom and Katie both got iPhones; now they can both have Siri.
And, when God said, “Let there be light!,” just who exactly was he speaking to?
June 30, 2012 | 12:28 pm
Posted by Steven Alan Green
The Fanatic Salon is a former hair salon turned comedy theatre space on the outer edges of Culver City, which for my international readers, is home to MGM Studios, where The Wizard of Oz was filmed in late 1938 and where the Munchkin actors famously debauched their way into ShowBiz sexual history, which I know is hitting way below the belt, so to speak. And, like the famed Yellow Brick Road (which has now been paved over with a Starbucks), the art of modern-day solo comedy improvisation and story-telling is guaranteed to be a twisty magical road which promises face-time with the Wizard himself, but also sometimes takes us through the dark and scary forest of WTF to get there. An outgrowth of the stand-up comedy Big Bang, diverted and influenced by the manifest destiny of Chicago-style improv (or “impro” as we say in London) from masters and former students of Second City’s legendary Del Close, and fuelled by really talented people wanting to “get up and play” – what you end up with is what could be the absolute beginnings of a brand new comedy movement, its humble seedlings first showing signs of life here on the Left Coast. A movement where literal rules rule the day and the only precept is to create something new, on the spot, both in content (within the stage walls) and in context, within the oft-barren sit-com mentality which has so infected our amber fields of comedy grain for far too long. What’s happening is a literal Comedy Jazz Age, born too out of worldwide economic oppression, foreign war, and like the 1930’s, a shifting sea-change of political identity. And just like the 1930’s, where the very rich (is there any other kind?) clink Martini glasses in high-towered New York private clubs, the great art of its day is created by the people. Working-class proven comedians, improvisers, writers and actors, who don’t have time to cling to resume, but who say right out front, in big glaring neon letters, perhaps the most heathen group of words ever uttered in Hollywood these days: “We are here to entertain you tonight!”
Top Tale is the creation of Tom Tully and Jonathan Menchin. Started in the spring of 2011, the idea is to create a story-telling competition, which is fun for all involved, including and especially perhaps the singularly ignored and forgotten part of the comedy scene: the art-form of the audience. In the “look at me!” world of too much emphasis on career and exposure, the general live comedy audience has stayed home for the most part these days and for two good reasons: The cost factor of going out and the simple fact that Variety is dead. Everything’s been segmented and divvied up. You want Hip Hop Comedy, there’s a channel for that. But with Top Tale, it’s not just a show with something for everyone, you really have to experience it in person. And with the free open wine bar and easy parking, you can’t lose. Being in the audience for this show is so much fun, you’ll wonder how you got lucky enough to get the job. The packed house at the intimate Westside theatre feels like you’re onboard a cruise ship, as co-creator and well over six-foot tall producer Menchin gently tickles the electronic ivories like Lurch at church, telling us casually with feeling he likes songs that tell stories, which leads into his introducing singer-songwriter Dale LaDuke, a New Wave John Denver, who’s romantic homage to Los Angeles was truly moving, windswept and spiritual. Then, BURSTING into the room with high powered energy is our host for the evening, co-creator of Top Tale, Tom Tully. Tom, co-founder of legendary LA improv troupe Off The Wall (whose original members include George Wendt and Robin Williams) is a shaggy slightly shorter Art Linkletter in a tux, and is perhaps the best host of any LA comedy show this reviewer has seen so far this year. Tom is all about everyone having fun as he then explains the rules to us. The idea is that six pre-chosen contestant story-tellers will come out and each tell us a one-minute story, then a five-minute story, and towards the end of the night, 4 will be eliminated, leaving two story-tellers to compete in a 2 minute story, the winner being the Top Tale of the night. The evening’s set up also includes 3 celebrity judges, a “feather tickler reminder person,” (the lovely Miranda Shane, who quietly waits to see if anyone goes over their allotted time) as well as a built-in heckler, located actually within the audience and played wonderfully by Off The Wall vet Andy Goldberg.
Our first story-telling contestant was Kevin McGeehan, who in Round One hinted at how low the evening might go (but never did) with his tastefully handled confession of having sex with a drunk girl, which given that Miranda, the Feather-Tickler, sitting slightly behind, looking at her stopwatch, seemed approaching salacious. When Kevin finished, the audience applauded, while the judges (yet to be introduced) nodded and conferred like Munchkin Town Hall. Next up at bat was lovely Deana Barone, an orthodox raised actress, who in her photo-negative of a SWF git-up, released an all too personal and metaphoric saga of “Looking for love through the stratosphere of sewage,” reminding us all that bodily function can indeed be an artistic attribute. Following her was Guy Jackson, whose story of “Offering Leo a chip” and was himself a character out of Of Mice and “Menchin”. Then it was Carl Kozlowski, whose story of narcolepsy and driving was a real smash. “Claire Thomasina J”, an English byrd drifted us off into a snowboarding as a kid story and finally, Josh Filiposki told a great story of coming home to a hot apartment, steaming with frustration and anger, but how things soon turned a wrinkle, with his wife and he getting it on, whilst the ironing was being done. Our inimitable host Tom then instructs the contestants to all please leave the stage and now it’s the judge’s turn, and he does it all with 1950’s quiz show anticipatory panache. This is where one of the funniest of the evening (heckler Andy) awoke from his mysterious slumber and batted them out of the park with his defacto on-stage straight man Tully, who was forced to multi-task as he tried to introduce, “our celebrity judges”.
As with “genius” or “porn star,” “Celebrity” is an all-too-oft thrown about term, and although our panel kinda does fit the profile, I think Tom meant it slightly ironically. After all, in the same way Christopher Guest’s films are all about the pomposity of class, Tom is all about inclusion, not class separation. Having said that, there was certainly Showbiz royalty on the panel this night. How can you go wrong with Fred Willard? From his film-stealing role as the enthusiastic out of touch Colonel on the military base in This is Spinal Tap, to his as clever as the host second-banana on Fernwood Tonight, Mr. Willard proves he’s much more than a famous rat. Nobody working today can create and deliver in the moment, accurate within context super-funny commentary like him; and yet he gives you the feeling that he’s just happy to be invited to something he secretly believes he’s way overqualified for. Like all of Fred’s roles in Guest’s masterpiece catalogue (Waiting for Guffman, Best in Show, The Mighty Wind), Fred remains the wise-cracking naïve for this show as swell.
Sitting next to (and behind) Fred was Leigh Morgan Koechner, mother of 5 and talk show host from everydayfamily.com., who was unceremoniously interrupted by Andy, who was now sounding a little bit fake drunk, “You know, you’d have a lot less people on stage if you had one guy telling a six minute story!” This got a telling laugh from the crowd and of the one minor problem this show needs to work out. And that is the universal fact that sometimes a story being told is not all that spellbinding and when following another story which was rip-roaringly funny, can lie a bit flat, making you wish Top Tale would take a step they’re probably not willing to take: Let Andy heckle the story-tellers too, which might serve to keep them all on their toes at all times, including the judges. We, the audience, are essentially children at the end of the day and we want to constantly be fed with funny. But, we also want to participate. And, though Andy the Heckler does act as our proxy, I would’ve loved it for a real audience member to join in too. If Top Tale was held in a private home to invited guests, of course drunk Aunt Margaret would interrupt a story of any quality or length, just as Buddy or Sally would interrupt and heckle not just easy target Mel but also dearly loved and respected colleague Rob Petrie. Heckling is often overlooked as a supportive gesture. Even if a story is a good one and the teller is good and the audience is rapt with attentiveness, introducing Heckler Andy at the beginning of the show and then only reserving him for inter-staff ribbing and poking, is kinda like holding out red meat to an audience of jungle cats ready to pounce at the first sign of dead-air. Having said ALL that, all of the story-tellers were of a certain vetted quality, possessed and displayed their own quirkiness, and all did excellent jobs doing the most important thing: Keep the show moving, even if and when their stories didn’t quite get all the laughs, they or we may have hoped for. Rounding out the panel of celebrity judges was stand-up stalwart John Mendoza, whose out of nowhere off the cuff quips acted as perfect summation to this Marx Brothers-ian comedy supreme court. Top Tale’s Mendoza as Supreme Comedy Court Justice.
Towards the end of the night, when you could tell the vacation from reality was reaching its climax and the judges coalesced their votes, Tom led us all in a big group hug as we all sang-along an Irish-seeming pub song. “A story…a story…why don’t you give it a twist. A story…a story…we’re hoping that someone gets kissed!” The winner was announced. It was Carl with his story, “My Mother The Superspy”. And, just like that! Like a Viagra commercial on a TV that spontaneously combusts, the show was over. I left the Fanatic Salon feeling like I may have just witnessed the middle stages of something potentially very big. I loved Top Tale and recommend you catch the next one. I just kept wishing, we would’ve heard more from the judges throughout the show, more from Andy the Heckler, and more of a chance for the audience to participate in the voting process, other than to only judge the finals with applause. But these are minor complaints about an already great live comedy show envisioned by Tom & Jonathan, and performed like ballet by all the cast and players. Wife and husband Jane Morris and Jeff Michalski, veteran Second City legends, and venue owner Tommy Mitchell have created a great space in the Fanatic Salon for one of the greatest rides in the Comedy Amusement Park, located close by where The Lollypop Guild did their strut. I just can’t wait to ride it again.
I give Top Tail @ The Fanatic Salon 7 out of 8 Menorahs.
Enjoy the veal!
Steven Alan Green
Note: Next week is the second half of this two-parter: A Tale of Two Spontaneities with my review of Paul Provenza’s Set-List.
FACEBOOK TWEETS OF THE WEEK
SIGNS YOU ARE STILL IN THE MIDDLE CLASS:
1) You’re concerned the price of Hybrid is not about a car.
2) Dining out means eating Ramen Noodles in the park.
3) You consider catching up on email as reading.
No insurance company will cover me because of a pre-existing condition. I’m broke.
There are no hard and fast rules. Just soft and slow ones.
Obama crack corn and I don’t health care.
Reality game show idea. Contestants compete for the prize of most vain. If they win, they get cosmetic surgery. If they lose, they have to donate an internal organ. Show is called Makeover Island and is hosted by the corpse of Joan Rivers.
June 23, 2012 | 1:39 pm
Posted by Steven Alan Green
A few years ago, I got into a literal face-slapping match at a London tea house with Eddie Izzard and our mutual dentist, Simon Godley, a very funny Radio 4 comedian himself. I was trying to show Eddie “The Gestapo Joke” and he just couldn’t get the timing right. You ask your cohort, “Say, have I ever told you the Gestapo joke?” They say, “No.” You then SLAP them across the face at the very second you shout out, “Liar!” If they inquire, “Why’d you do that?” You get in their face, fiercely point to them and say, “
ask zah questions!” Similarly, seeing Andy Dick’s show at The Comedy Store last Wednesday left me feeling a bit slapped – bitch-slapped to be precise; and my face is still stinging, and will for some time. Andy Dick is the Queen of Anomalies. I wouldn’t know how to categorize him as a comedic artist, other than as “Truly watchable!” in the same way a slow and continuous multi-car pile-up can be on a spring day. Whatever you think of him, whatever delicious mud he drags you through, you feel it’s all worth it, because Andy Dick is truly watchable. The trouble is, I just didn’t know what I was watching after a while. A cabaret or a rehearsal for a twelve-step meeting? A coming out party or just another overly-dramatic appearance of Norman Desmond from his indoor balcony? A comedy show or post-ironic “take” on a comedy show? The truth is, as with Andrew Dice Clay, Sam Kinison, Steve Martin and the King of the Put-On-of-‘Em-All….the late great Andy Kaufman, you never knew where the real show ended and the fake one began. I am a fan of the bold fact that “Dice” (the creation of Andrew Silverstein) was in fact a brilliantly invented character. Andrew Dice Clay—in the very early days—would reportedly come on stage as an impressionist. And, after doing dead on impressions of Pacino and DeNiro, he would introduce “Dice” as a compendium of the characters he knew from the old neighborhood, in a vague form of The Nutty Professor’s Buddy Love. Because of the set-up, you knew that whatever Dice did from then on, could only be considered an exaggerated inside joke, which nullified any offense. Andrew was “playing” a bad guy. It was only when Clay dropped the intro/impressions and took the stage already in the character of Dice, did his career skyrocket. But, with Messer Dick, unless he’s actually the master of all masters of staying in character continuously, seamlessly and most importantly: completely believably, he’s just another reality star performing in his own head.
Coming out on stage, perching cross-legged on a bar stool like Andy Dick Van Dyke, whilst swiveling right and left as he looked for Sally and Buddy: friendly targets in the audience, Andy was spell-binding. With his Fogerty like guitarist/singer, Tim Walsh (who could belt them out like the best of ‘em), Dick actually transformed into an almost Leonard Cohen-like non-melodic rants, with hits such as, “I’m So Sick and Tired of Me”. The free flowing “we’re just winging it” attitude Andy employed, worked for him, because that is what the audience loves. Intimacy; moment by moment. Ultimately, that proved the fait accompli for the rest of the entrants on this comedy lounge in a big ole Ionesco burlesque cruise ship heading straight to the bay of comedy hell. There was no emcee, comedians seemed to just pop through delayed curtain after delayed curtain and often, the comedians, as good as some of them were, seemed to have no contextual bearing whatsoever on the show itself. The Comedy Store Main Room (lightly peppered with under 50 people in a cavernous room which seats close to 350) is almost too high holy ground for such display of choreographed decadence. Twenty odd years ago, the likes of Richard Pryor, Robin Williams and Eddie Murphy played there on a semi-regular basis. And twenty before that, the Main Room of The Comedy Store was the most mythical of all Hollywood nightclubs, Ciros. Sammy Davis Jr, Martin and Lewis, even Lenny Bruce played there. And, 20 before that, it was called “The Mein Room,” a Chinese noodle house. (jes kiddin) Perhaps if the roar outside on Sunset were not over-testosteroned German car engines, but were in fact Der Luftwaffe finally bombing West Hollywood, then I think the deconstructed disaster I witnessed tonight would’ve been in context and ruled pure genius. And in a way it was.
way. Andy Dick is fatally loveable and when you’re that liked by the audience, like any good politician, you don’t have to be understood or even say anything meaningful, which allows Dick to play the bad guy so well.
Providing support were impressive comedic performances by Jesus Trejo, whose “Rules are Rules” routine, completely won me over; Bob Wheeler’s, “people in LA suck” POV was dead on relevant, funny and true; Jay Mandium, an Indian from Dallas, provided some insightful examination of the modern American class system to the evening; Arnold Colery, a Frenchman who pretended we believed he grew up in Mississippi, although lacked credence, was absolutely charming; Tony Ray was way too loud for the room, but how can you go wrong with “We’re all gonna die in 2012” jokes?; Eddie Sheively made his parents proud with his “I smoke lots of weed” opener, segueing like a sport into lines like (hide the children first), “I j——d off a guy for Tapioca pudding”; Crazee Cindy (producer of the evening) introduced a certain WWF element to the already male contaminated atmosphere with a sample of Jersey Shore wit, “Would everybody just shut the f—k up?!” (I hate when people quote Shakespeare with no attribution.) “I was married to a Jew, but his nose was bigger than his d—k,” is not the sort of thing this writer should be submitting to a blog for this fine media establishment, but folks, my commitment to veracity, and to you, the discerning comedy public, takes precedence. Once she simmered down, dropping the defensive armor, she began to resolve into a mature and smart woman with a very keen eye for bullshit: Men. And, after all, isn’t that what we want our comedians to do? Point out the bullshit? Following Cindy was Aussie Monty Franklin, whose opener was the laugh line of the night, “This isn’t what I came to America for!” (That’s right folks. Crazee Cindy’s show had its own built in heckler. Nice streamlining of the process!) Well into the third hour of the evening, Kelly Ebsary made an all too brief appearance. This self-admitted “Diva” and Les Miz vet obviously has the kind of talent beyond almost any comedy club pay grade. Kelly entered and played the moment; a tough spot for any performer, going up late etc. This part Native American who “sleeps with Hagen Daz” has a set of pipes on her, pal, and a very charming damn the torpedoes sense of humor. The improvised jazz and comedy number Ms. E belted out was worthy of a sold-out house. She’s talent. No doubt. There were 3 or 4 more comedians to come, but the crowd was thinning. I was getting tired and wanted to go backstage and meet Andy, who was very warm and funny.
Surrounded by the highest quality of friends, lovers, bloodsuckers, sycophants and handlers, Andy held court in the kingly way only he knows how. I felt truly blessed to be that close to him and yet, had the wizard let me see too much behind the curtain? Andy Dick is seamlessly cute, trendy and tragic. Everyone should own one. Whatever it is, like all the great character comics I’ve seen over the years, Andy Dick makes you want to save him by being him. In spite of his troubles; in spite of him having to suffer the ultimate of consequences for any artist, he has to be himself. In the end, I escaped by kissing Andy on the forehead, the same way a parent says goodnight to children in pajamas. My work was done. I wanted to hang around, but had to pedal my bicycle down La Cienega. I just prayed the Nazi’s wouldn’t question me on the way home.
I give Crazee Cindy’s Andy Dick Show 5 out of 8 Menorahs
Steven Alan Green
Enjoy the Veal
Last Week’s Facebook Tweets
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