Saturday, May 30, 2009

Looking for some new moves at the club? Look no further!

It's tough to make an impression on the dancefloor nowadays. I mean, everybody knows the Robot. And the Running Man, the Roger Rabbit, even the Charlie Chaplin. The Kid N' Play isn't kitschy fun anymore. I think it's time we found some new inspiration...may I suggest the following?

This is a serious go-to on the dance floor...

If it's good enough for Link, it's good enough for you, young dancer...

Do this, and you're a diaper-full of awesome!

Remember...WAVE for catfish, SCREAM for ribs!

Tiny Seth Green wants you to do it!

That's just what Barbie needs...all that pressure on the dancefloor. It was during these years that Cocaine Habit Barbie was created.

Sprinkle some cheese...on your new-found popularity.

To be used ONLY in case of SNAP! emergency...

What are you waiting for? Get out and DANCE!

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

They say you always remember your first...

I've seen a lot of great bands live in the past--David Bowie, Lou Reed, U2, Neil Young, The Frames, The Pixies, David Byrne, Pavement, Radiohead, Arcade Fire, The Police--the list could go on and on. I'll never forget my first time experiencing "live" music--and that was at CLUB MTV LIVE.

It was the summer of 1989. I was enjoying being 12 years old and eagerly anticipating the beginning of my junior high years. Summers of swimming, Capri Suns and Nintendo Power magazines (and their expensive helpline) blended together with memories of staying up late, eating Mike 'N Ikes and chugging Mountain Dew. This particular summer would bring the mighty troubled behemoth that was the Club MTV Live Tour to Arco Arena in Sacramento, and thanks to some primo tickets set up by a friend's folks (one of which worked for PG&E and thus the hook up), we found ourselves knee-deep in pop synth-rock heaven. Semi-mirroring the format of the popular(?) show of the same name on the network that used to show music videos, the tour was hosted by curly-haired, fedora-wearing Downtown Julie Brown, who had me at "Wubba wubba wubba."
DOWNTOWN JULIE BROWN, seen here in front of a cheap Keith Herring knock-off, or the opening credits of In Living Colour.

The show started with what may have been the only ACTUAL musical chops on the bill:

Don Was, frontman and primary musical talent in Was (Not Was), has carved out quite a career producing records for the likes of Carly Simon, Bob Dylan, The Rolling Stones, The Black Crowes, and yes, Hootie and the Blowfish. But his band may best be remembered for that catchy ode to reptilian exercise, "Walk the Dinosaur." Ahhh...who could forget those lazy afternoons, when we would all get together and open the door, get on the floor, everybody walk the dinosaur. Oh...and I almost forgot...Boom boom acka-lacka lacka boom.

Not to be outdone, next on the bill was:

After all these years, I still remember one detail of their set vividly. The lead singer, Kurt Harland, made a big deal out of "everyone thinks everything is pre-recorded. But we're not!" and then we were treated to a rousing electronic drumkit solo. Fear not, they did indeed play "What's On Your Mind (Pure Energy)" and "Walking Away."

Harland's comment makes oh-so-much more sense now, considering the band following was:

Let us not talk ill of Rob and Fab. Pure showmen, they simply BROUGHT IT. Sure, what they brought was pre-recorded droning dance rock with a great probability of skipping, but they brought it nonetheless. Plus, one "lucky" audience member was serenaded on a conveniently-placed park bench onstage during the stirring ballad "Girl, I'm Gonna Miss You." Not a dry eye in the house. And when they decided to toss blame at the sky's precipitation, the place went ape-shit. 

In a similar vein, next up was the bat-shit craziness of:

Seen here with superior musician/better-grounded animated feline MC Skat Kat, Ms. Abdul tore into "Cold Hearted Snake" at the top of the set, and then proceeded to bring out an onstage changing-curtain for a quick wardrobe switcheroo. She delighted the audience with her "quick" wit, asking for a volunteer to help her change, only to revoke said offer with hilarious quip "psyche!" Boy was I in stitches! STITCHES, I tells ya!

Closing out the evening of audio bliss was the Wild Thing himself:

Yes, that's his YO! MTV RAPS Rookie card. Man, the Beckett value of that thing has to be well into the dollar. The Club MTV'ers saved the best for last, combining coolness with product endorsement, with the Locster appearing out of a giant Corona bottle. After the dizziness from such an audacious entrance subsided, the crowd was whipped into a frenzy again after Tone took the momentum (as well as our hearts) into his hand, prompting one half of the audience to say "Bull" and the other half to say "Shit", alternating between them and creating quite an interactive Electric company compound word moment that we would all never forget. And after reminding us one final time that hey, you two, he was once like you, and he liked to do the wild thing, Loc disappeared into that giant cerveza container, taking with him our undying love and respect. 

And that, as they say, was that. It was over. A night of highs...and lower highs. Sorry, Genesis. Your "You Can't Dance" Tour will just have to settle for concert #2. For nothing will ever replace...CLUB MTV LIVE.

**WOW. Did I really take a week off from blogging? I blame it on an actual acting gig. I still feel terrible about it. So about Scott Baio with a lovely valentine?**

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Little Actors, Big Talent

I was flipping through the channels on DirecTV this evening, when I happened across Tom McCarthy's brilliant indie charmer The Station Agent. I hadn't seen it in a while, and I was once again sucked in by the mesmerizing yet subtle performance from Peter Dinklage. It started me thinking about the handful of brilliant, working little people we have in TV and Film today, and throughout the history of entertainment. I thought maybe it was time to put names with the faces of these fantastic actors.

Notable roles:
Stewart on 30 ROCK
Marlow Sayer on NIP/TUCK
Miles Finch in ELF
Leflore in SAFE MEN

The list could go on and on--Dinklage is a master of the slow take and can rattle off sarcastic one-liners like nobody's business. He was a great foil for Tina Fey's Liz Lemon, and a sledgehammer-wielding hitman in Safe Men. His first film appearance was in Tom DiCillo's Living in Oblivion, a great skewering of low-budget indies, in which he plays an integral part in an awful dream sequence. He pricelessly rips into Steve Buscemi's Nick, complaining "Have you ever had a dream with a dwarf in it? Do you know anyone who's had a dream with a dwarf in it? No! I don't even have dreams with dwarves in them. The only place I've seen dwarves in dreams is in stupid movies like this! "Oh make it weird, put a dwarf in it!". Everyone will go "Woah, this must be a fuckin' dream, there's a fuckin' dwarf in it!". Well I'm sick of it! You can take this dream sequence and stick it up your ass!"

Notable roles:
Willow Ufgood in WILLOW
The Leprechaun in LEPRECHAUN
Professor Filius Flitwick in The HARRY POTTER films
Marvin the depressed robot in THE HITCHHIKER'S GUIDE TO THE GALAXY

Davis started his storied film career in the early '80s, donning the Ewok suit in Lucas' third Star Wars film and later taking the lead as brave and noble Willow Ufgood in Willow. His sweet natured performances took a drastic about-face when he assumed the role of the gleefully evil Leprechaun in the successful horror series. Truly versatile as an actor, it's always a pleasure to see his Professor Flitwick take he screen in the Harry Potter films.

Notable roles:
Mini-Me in the AUSTIN POWERS films

Yeah, he'll always probably be Mini-Me, but he definitely stole every scene he appeared in in Mike Myers' Austin Powers films. I try to forget his drunken peeing incident on VH1's The Surreal Life, and I am eagerly awaiting Terry Gilliam's Doctor Parnassus film, notable mainly as Heath Ledger's final and unfinished performance.

Notable roles:
Marcus in BAD SANTA
Various roles in the EPIC MOVIE/DATE MOVIE/DISASTER MOVIE series

Wickedly funny actor Cox chewed-scenery beautifully in Terry Zwigoff's unabashedly bawdy dark comedy Bad Santa as Marcus, Billy Bob Thornton's partner in crime. He also has my favorite line in the film--after Thornton remarks "You can't drink worth shit," Marcus quickly counters "I weigh 92 pounds, you dick!"

Notable role:
Simon Birch in SIMON BIRCH

John Irving's A Prayer for Owen Meany is one of my all-time favorite books. Yes, they pretty much butchered it (and just explored the first 100 or so pages, really) for the film adaptation Simon Birch, and the film itself is overly-sentimental and tugs at your heart strings (and I'll admit, it fully worked on me), but Smith gives an outstanding and incredibly naturalistic performance as the title character. His only foray into acting, I believe he's currently a student at MIT.

Notable roles:
Keenser in STAR TREK
Mr. Soggybottom in BIG FISH

A favorite of Tim Burton (who utilized him in Planet of the Apes, The Corpse Bride, Big Fish and as all of the Oompa Loompas in his remake of Charlie and the Chocolate Factory), Roy is a gifted physical comedian. He was great as Simon Pegg's sidekick in the Star Trek reboot, but I'll always remember him best as the Snail Racer from childhood favorite The Neverending Story.

Notable roles:
High Aldwin from WILLOW
Noodles MacIntosh from UHF
Screwball from LEGEND
Otto Kreigling from UNDER THE RAINBOW
J.J. MacKuen from FOUL PLAY
Various characters on THE SPIKE JONES SHOW
Billy McGuire in tons of MICKEY ROONEY SHORTS

With over 170 credits to his name, Barty started working in Hollywood in the 1920's and continued to work well into the early 2000's. Old-Hollywood in the best way, Barty certainly learned a lot from teaming up with Mickey Rooney for several years in the '30s. His facial ticks and priceless takes highlighted a career full of memorable performances, including the sadistic German spy Otto in Under The Rainbow, the wise Aldwin in Willow ("The bones tell no lies!"), and the Hawn-chasing baddie J.J. in Foul Play. Sadly, Barty passed away in December of 2000.

Lots of memorable moments from these great actors...Honorable mention to Jordan Prentice, who was not only one of several to take on the Howard the Duck suit, but was hilarious as the drugged-out racist actor in my favorite film from last year, In Bruges.

Monday, May 18, 2009

Cinematic gems #9: The Long Goodbye

The Long Goodbye, Robert Altman's 1973 take on Raymond Chandler's most popular creation, Philip Marlowe, is a brilliant, darkly funny detective tale. Elliot Gould gives a sly, hangdog performance as the title sleuth, who is thrust into a murder-mystery involving his best friend Terry (former Yankees hurler Jim Bouton), an alcoholic writer (Sterling Hayden, delightful in a Hemingway-esque role), his blond trophy wife (Nina Van Pallandt), a Jewish kingpin (Mark Rydell, sometimes actor and director of the films On Golden Pond and Cinderella Liberty, very good here) and his thugs (among them, a very young Arnold Schwarzenegger). Marlow finds himself traversing the underbelly of '70s Hollywood, surrounded by sex, money and buckets full of deceit. Not to spoil anything, but the film's explosive ending was met with lots of controversy, with Marlowe purists up in arms about the hero's actions.

All of the trademark Altman moves are there--the overlapping dialogue, with shifting focus, the dark humor, and even some gratuitous nudity (which is used to hilarious effect, as Marlowe's free-spirited neighbors constantly distract the thugs sent to rough him up). The film opens with an outstanding sequence in which Marlowe goes to great lengths to try to get the favorite food for his finicky cat--a hilarious pre-cursor for what is to come. The film works brilliantly on two levels--as both a film noir-ish detective story, and as a complete send up of the genre and the trappings of all private eye conventions. Written by Leigh Brackett (who wrote the original script for The Big Sleep) and shot by master cinematographer Vilmos Zsigmond (he lensed Close Encounters of the Third Kind, The Deer Hunter, and Altman's McCabe & Mrs. Miller), the film is a truly unique and satisfying experience. It's a great example of a film that was disastrous at the box office and critically mixed at the time of its release, only to end up on several critics best-of lists in the near future.

**Broke my own rule. It's been 4 here's your Scott Baio photo. Rockin' in a pink world, he is.

Thursday, May 14, 2009

Albums you should know #5: The Divine Comedy's Regeneration

Neil Hannon is one of the greatest song writers and lyricists working today--known for his ambitious chamber pop, his band's 2001 album Regeneration was a bit of a departure from The Divine Comedy's earlier works. Produced by Nigel Goodrich (who has worked with Radiohead, Beck and Travis, to name a few), the album has a lot in common sonically with Travis' The Invisible Band, or Radiohead's The Bends. Hannon's lovely baritone glides beautifully over 11 carefully arranged tracks, starting with the somber but aching "Timestretched" and transitioning into the playful "Bad Ambassador," in which Hannon sings "I wanna feel real/I wanna free-wheel/I wanna steal the show from under their noses/I want to get you off/Ain't that enough?"

Up next is a perfect gem of a pop song entitled "Perfect Lovesong," in which Hannon promises "Give me your love and I'll give you the perfect lovesong/With a divine Beatles bassline and a big old Beach Boys sound." He delivers just that--a sweet, catchy lovely sing-along. The mood doesn't last long--the slow-building bass-groove of "Note to Self" kicks in, in which an author writes his daily assumptions. There's some clever lyrical statements here, including "The writer writes for himself, not for you" and "A song is not a song until it's listened to." On it's heels is "Lost Property," a veritable check list of long-gone things, leaving Hannon to wonder "just where do those lost things go when they slip from my hands?"

Faith is questioned in the morose minor-key of "Eye of the Needle," one of those songs that manages to get under your skin and you feel like swimming around in all day. As the protagonist wrestles with a seemingly unresponsive deity and waits for some sort of sign, he observes those around him ("The cars in the churchyard are shiny and German/Completely at odds with the theme of the sermon/And all through communion I stare at the people/Threading themselves through the eye of the needle.") An added nice-touch is a low-key church organ that slowly places the song out. The tempo picks back up with "Love What You Do," an optimistic toe-tapper that advises the listener to chase their dreams ("If you want it, you can have it/If you need it, go and get it/Whatever it is, you've got to love it.") "Dumb it Down" follows, a commentary on the sad state of entertainment and things around us, as Hannon sings "It's too tricky to decide between channel one and sixty-three/'Cause everything is mindless fluff/Like the world's not dumb enough."

The trio of songs that close out the album--"Mastermind," "Regeneration" and "The Beauty Regime," all function well together, with the closing track a sweet meditation on looking into the mirror and seeing just how amazing we all are as individuals. Sings Hannon, "Beat stress and rebalance your life/All you need to do is forget all the useless advice and live your life for you/Don't let them sell you impossible dreams/Don't be a slave to the beauty regime/Look again in the mirror and see exactly how perfect you are."

To me, this album is near perfect. And although Hannon bid adieu to most of his bandmates after this record and trudged on solo (still recording under the full-band moniker), this is a wonderful example of many pieces achieving cohesion. I fully recommend Hannon's other work, but this is by far the most accessible for a first-time listener.

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Beverages, we hardly knew ye...

I used to drink soda everyday. EVERY DAY. I'm not a coffee drinker (I can't stand the taste, or smell, largely due to the breath of one junior high science teacher I used to T.A. for), so I would get my caffeine (and SUGAR) fix from what I would call my "morning Mountain Dew" or Coke, or whatever. In an effort to be more health-conscious and get in shape, I've decided to quit soda cold turkey--over two weeks in, and so far, so good (thanks largely to an ice tea brewer!). As soda is now dead to me, I thought I'd take this time to reflect on and celebrate beverages that are no longer with us. So let's begin, shall we?

Born: 1987
Died: 2001

A tie-in with the animated The Real Ghostbusters, the drink featured lovable hot-dog gobblin' spectre Slimer on the box, and was colored green. A must for all juice-box aficionados like myself, it was truly heartbreaking when it was discontinued. First, Slimer left the box and was replaced with some floating lips. Then, it was renamed "Shoutin' Orange Tangerine." And then...R.I.P. Here's hoping that when Ghostbusters 3 hits the multiplexes in the next year or two, Hi-C will jump at the promotional chance and bring the beverage back from the dead.

Born: 1991
Died: 1991

Part of a trio of experimental Pepsi products (known to soda collectors as "The Pepsi Wild Bunch") including Pepsi Strawberry Burst and Pepsi Raging Razzberry, Tropical Chill Pepsi added "various tropical fruits" to the formula. Sadly, it never made it out of the test markets. Happily, I was IN one of those test markets (Davis, CA to be precise). I vividly remember trying it for the first time as I sat down to watch Arachnophobia on VHS and eat a square pan Little Caesar's pizza at my friend Matt Berry's house. I thought it tasted kind of weird. But maybe that was just my reaction to John Goodman as an exterminator. 

Born: 1997
Died: 2003

A citrus soda introduced by Coke to compete with Pepsi's Mountain Dew brand, Surge! had a bright neon green glow and an exclamation point. Norway is the only place you can currently buy the drink, where it goes by the moniker "Urge." With both this and the Dew around, it made relaxed citrus beverage Mello Yello fade into oblivion (vaya con Dios, Mello Yello). 

Born: 1982
Died: 1987

Pepsi's first stab at a caffeine-free formula, the name was later ditched and gave way to the aptly-titled Caffeine-Free Pepsi. Still, Pepsi Free will be forever immortalized by young Marty McFly in the second Back to the Future film, where he orders one in a futuristic cafe, only to be told "If you want a Pepsi, pal, you're gonna have to pay for it." Nothing better than soda-based comedy in my world.

Born: 2004
Died: 2006

Pepsi, with the added "holiday" flavor of cinnamon and nutmeg. Oh, and it's kind of nasty. And I bet the ol' pep with trot it out again one of these Yuletides. Like a sucker, I'll see it and think, "Well, maybe it's not as bad as I remember it being" and then I'll buy it anyway, and give my folks the gift of a holiday spit-take.

Born: Unknown
Died: 1994

Ah, Dr. Slice. Why is it that Dr. Pepper knock-offs all have the Doc prefix? I'm pretty certain this beverage didn't go to soda medical school. Slice, in general, had a bit of an identity crisis, being offered in a bazillion flavors, including orange, apple, grape, lemon-lime, grapefruit, fruit punch, pineapple, and the ever popular red.

Born: 1992
Died: 1993

Pepsi executive: Hey, guys, I've got a great idea! You know how we add that dark caramel color to our previously clear liquid? Let's just skip that step and call it "Crystal!"
World: thank you.
This was pretty stupid. But that didn't stop me from drinking it. I like to be able to see through my drinks. It's liberating...somehow.

Born: 1985
Died: 1992

It's amazing that this thing stayed on the market as long as it did, considering the "sky is falling" reaction it got from the public. Really just a much sweeter version of the original formula (it used a high fructose corn syrup), the idea to monkey with the "ain't broke" classic coke was about a smart as green-lighting a sequel to, say, Ishtar or Heaven's Gate. Though, actually, I'd totally go see a sequel to Ishtar--Telling the truth can be dangerous business...Honest and popular don't go hand in hand!

Hope you've enjoyed this trip down drink-memory lane. I need a non-carbonated, sugar-free beverage...

Sunday, May 10, 2009

Theme Park: "The Supernatural" with Chris Hardwick, me!

Los Angeles--you've been warned! It's time for another installment of Theme Park! One theme. Lots of comics. Endless possibilities.

Live sketch, stand-up and music all based around a single theme. Join us this coming Saturday as we explore the theme
"The Supernatural" with:

(G4's Attack of the Show, Hard 'n Phirm,

(Comedy Central's Crossballs, UCB's A.S.S.S.S.C.A.T. Improv)

(YouTube sensation Girl's Night Out)

and a surprise music guest

Hosted by 
(ME! Um...MTV's Yo Momma,

(TBS' Dinner and A Movie, HBO's Entourage)

The skinny:

@ M.I.'s Westside Comedy Theatre (formerly the Westside Eclectic)
1323A 3rd St. Promenade (in the alley btwn 3rd & 4th, south of Arizona), Santa Monica, CA

Please come out and support this wonderful new theater, and, heck, me!

Thursday, May 7, 2009

Weird Album Cover Art 3: The Search for Slop

Psst...Banarne...don't look at the camera. Stay in the moment...Banarne...Trazan, good work. Keep it up...seriously, Banarne, stop monkeyin'

Is my refrigerator running? I think it...wait a minute...damn you Willie! You and your real phone calls! Drats!

I kept tellin' everyone I had a twelve-inch pianist...

Houston, we have a problem...our ears are far too floppy for space travel.

Let's groove to the off-balance sound of Schuhplattler! Listen to it now...or lederhosen.

I guess that's better than Harpsichord Hallucinations or a Casio Conniption.

No offense, Mrs. Mills, but I don't like to hang out with the lunch lady. Sorry.

Two of the dads defected and started their own show. Those two dads? Greg Evigan and Paul Reiser.

Komm es geht the pre-teen storytelling antics of a soon-to-be arrested man.

Jackpot is right...if you were playing tacky slots.

The earliest American Apparel ad...

Um, Stanley...Harp might not be the best instrument for you. Have you thought about, I dunno, the harmonica or the piccolo?

If only John Candy were around for the biopic!

Awww, crap, Netflix. I meant the Good Fellows with DeNiro and Liotta.

I likes my jihads seexxxxxyyyy...

Dat der a good'n piece a' listenin.' Play dat rekard n' barf.

I WILL get more that 18 followers... I WILL, blogger, I WILL....*sigh*

So...what can I expect on this recording?

FINALLY! A tribute to all those Aussie bands that make rock n' roll great! Let's see...there', there's...let me get back to you on that...