Monday, July 31, 2006

Just a Colbert boy

Stephen Colbert is brilliant.

There. I said it and I'd say it again if I thought you still doubted me.

This is his report on two separate boycotts being planned against the Dukes of Hazzard movie - one by former Congressman Ben Jones, also known as Cooter (and addressed by Colbert as "Snatchter" and "Muffter"), and the other by the president of the local NAACP.

Colbert's response to the NAACP head's comment at around 4:10 amazes me. One, because he comes up with it in a half second flat, and two, because he has no qualms about saying it out loud.

It should also be said that the frat boy on the right is pretty damn stellar himself.

Saturday, July 29, 2006


I didn't see a lot of Davey and Goliath when I was a kid, on account of being a churchgoing lad, but I thought it would be a treat for you all to see a new take on it. After all, it is Sunday morning.

For those not in the know, back in '77, the Son of Sam was haunting New York City. When he was captured, he revealed that he was taking orders from a dog. And if that wasn't enough warning, I'll just come right out and say you might find this a touch on the disturbing side.

Except for Goliath's comment at 1:37. If you don't laugh at that, you'd better stop it there and go back to the Sunday comics. I hear Fred Bassett's a real kneeslapper today.

High, Bob

My friend Zach in DCish suggested here that I link to video from a Jeopardy winner. I like it, Z, but I got one better...

The Price is Right played host to one of the greatest subversive moments in game show history when Evan Gatti made it onto Bidding Row and bid 420. Repeatedly. Who knows if Bob Barker knew the herbal connotations, but the audience clearly did, giving him bigger and bigger cheers - check out the two guys behind Gatti's left shoulder.

If you don't have the patience to sit through the show, the bids happen at :39, 1:54, and 3:14.

By the way, here's a great Bob Barker quote, when Larry King asked him what he looked for in a model, other than the obvious:

"Well, obviously, they have to be very attractive physically. They have to look smashing in a swimsuit. And we would like to have them be bright and able to make a refrigerator come alive for you."

May you all have someone to make a refrigerator come alive for you today.

Friday, July 28, 2006

Are We Not Men?

Robert Christgau once dismissed Devo as "Meat Loaf for college kids." Millions of college kids replied, "What's wrong with that?"

Imagine it's October 1978 and you're settling in to watch Saturday Night Live. Fred Willard introduces the musical guest, and here's what happens:

With SNL getting huge ratings at the time (a 39 share), there had to be a lot of people watching who'd never heard of Devo and, I'm guessing, couldn't believe what they were hearing or seeing. Seriously, had middle America ever seen the like?

I used to work at a nuclear power plant, and I wanted so badly to smuggle one of their yellow jumpsuits out of the place and write DEVO on it, but I couldn't figure out a way to get it past the supersensetive radiation detectors. Oh well.

Thursday, July 27, 2006

Say the secret woid and win a hundred dollars.

I'm the sort of person who would rather say funny than do funny. So while I appreciate the visual gags from folks like Chris Farley, Buster Keaton and Harpo Marx, I aspire to the verbal brilliance of Jon Stewart, Woody Allen, and Groucho Marx.

Groucho Marx was my very first favorite comedian. I loved how fast he was with his words, how he could come up with comments in a split second that would never occur to me in a hundred years. The fact that the remarks were scripted dimmed the joy a touch, but then I found out he was just as fast in real life and turned the joy back up again.

Here's a brief clip from "You Bet Your Life," the game show he hosted throughout the '50s. I love the vim with which he delivers the zinger at the end.

Wednesday, July 26, 2006

Threepio wouldn't say it if it wasn't true

When I was a kid, Star Wars was everywhere, and I mean everywhere - I got a free poster from a box of Cheerios, every sports highlight reel had John Williams's music, kids played with the Millenium Falcon between Saturday morning cartoons.

(Tangent: in that last, the kid ran through his backyard, holding the MF, yelling, "Jump to lightspeed! We're gone! On to the Death Star!" I questioned the logic of announcing the destination when that was not, in fact, where they wanted to go. Even at six, I was too literal-minded for my own good.)

Anyway, the gang showed up in public service announcements too, and they were lighthearted ones, in contrast to just about every Smokey the Bear ad being designed to scare the shit out of you.

Here are two I remember watching during the Captain Kangaroo show. One encourages kids to get their shots...

...and here's an anti-smoking one. You've got to admit, Artoo looks cooler when he's working on a Marlboro.

And just in case you missed the adult appeal of Star Wars, here's a "don't drink and drive" PSA that's based in, you guessed, the Mos Eisley Cantina.

Tuesday, July 25, 2006

Amazing Amazing Grace

I'm of the opinion that "Amazing Grace" is the greatest song ever written, and every now and then I'll hear a new version of it and it's always a treat seeing how it got interpreted this time.

I'm at a moment in my life when I could use a little grace. So this one's for me.

Victor Wooten is probably best known as the bassist for Bela Fleck and the Flecktones. My brother, a bass player, once saw him at a music store and got so flustered he had to leave. This guy's incredible, and here he gives a gorgeous performance. I hope you enjoy it as much as I do.

Monday, July 24, 2006

My all-time favorite ad

A perfect example of selling the sizzle and not the steak:

They never show the product in this ad. The closest we get is a remote control car. But the storyline, the editing (I count 45 cuts in under a minute), and the inspired use of music brings across the sense of exhilaration perfectly.

The guy at the end showed up in all the Nissan ads of the time. He was always just a little bit creepy.

Sunday, July 23, 2006

Moody Rudy

Art Clokey, who invented Gumby and Davey & Goliath, tried marketing a toy named Moody Rudy, a Clark Gable lookalike (if Clark Gable had nothing between his neck and ankles) whose countenance could be messed around with to no end. And as we all know, a creepy toy deserves a creepy ad.

I can't imagine why it bankrupted Clokey.

This is a perfect example of truth in advertising - my mind has indeed been turned into coffee grounds. Whether by Rudy himself or that vibrating butt he's riding at :48, I'll leave up to you.

Saturday, July 22, 2006

A-B-C-D-E-F-Cookie Monster

I was going to hold off on posting another Muppets thing for a bit, as I'd just posted two, but this is just too adorable to hold off on.

Among other great things about it, it has, at :08 and :24, my two favorite Kermit expressions.

Seriously, you may need a dose of insulin handy for this.

Friday, July 21, 2006

Two Muppet Preview Parodies

Another double shot coming your way today. Wunza Matrix trailer with computerized Muppets standing in for everybody...

...and wunza takeoff of V for Vendetta, prompted by the real-life revelation that Cookie Monster was going to start scarfing healthier foods.

A student of comedy could really go to town analyzing why these are funny. In the first, the familiarity of Matrix gets turned on its head by the Muppets' presence, while in the second, it's the Muppets' familiarity that gets a whole new spin. Yet in them both, the Muppets are a grounding presence, a conduit for the idea.

Or, as the Swedish Chef might say, "Un de hurr de hurr de hurr."

Wednesday, July 19, 2006

Going Down to Liverpool

Assuming you're a faithful reader who's already seen yesterday's clip, you'll know that the surprise guest was William Shatner. So let's move on to an unexpected appearance by Leonard Nimoy.

He directed this clip by the Bangles, two years before "Walk Like an Egyptian" made them too huge. (His son Adam went to school with Susanna Hoffs.) It's from All Over the Place, their debut album and one of the best pop albums the '80s had to offer. Criminal that it's out of print.

A few notes:

*The Bangles did some of the best covers in the business - this was originally written by Kimberley Rew for Katrina & the Waves, of "Walking on Sunshine" fame.

*You'll notice that when Leonard goes to turn off the radio at 1:18, he actually turns it up, all audio evidence to the contrary.

*Debbi Peterson's the drummer/lead vocalist here, but every time we see Susanna, I forget about Debbi instantly. (So does Leonard, I suspect.) Vicki Peterson (Debbi's sis) and Michael Steele are no slouches themselves. For more of this sordid thinking, check out the Saw Doctors' song "I'd Love to Kiss the Bangles."

*How about those shoulder pads! When they're in silhouette they look like the Oakland Raiders' secondary.

*I now very much want to go down to Liverpool and do nothing all the days of my life.

'70s B Movie Gold

One good thing about bad '70s flicks was being able to count on there being a Known Personality on hand, so's they could sell the product. And it seemed like the more KPs they had, the worse the product, and therefore the more fun the movie.

Take the 1974 TV movie "Pray for the Wildcats." (I refuse to ask nicely.)

This clip shows three men road tripping in Baja. On the left, Mr. Mike Brady himself, Robert Reed. In the middle, tapping a mean table, is former child preacher and now totally intelligible Marjoe Gortner. And on the right, playing a drunken letch to near perfection, is Andy Griffith. It's a dark and dismal valley between Mayberry and Matlock.

The lady dances, the three ogle, the cheese keeps on stacking up. And then, in walks the one, the only...

No, I want it to be a surprise. But I will say this: as the years went by, the toupee would get less obvious. And I can't help but wonder if he stole that shirt from the wardrobe department at an earlier acting job of his.

Tuesday, July 18, 2006

Now, a Long Distance Dedication

My friend Jim in Maine took me to task for having far too few postings in this blog about Casey Kasem. Looking back over the the past few weeks, I couldn't help but see he was right. But rather than look at his longtime career at American Top 40 (if you've never heard his "Snuggles" rant, this is the place to do it), I thought we should have a look at his other memorable works:

as TV pitchman for '70s Jem wannabes... the voice of Robin the Boy Wonder (and doesn't the Joker sound awfully Shaggyesque?)...

...and, of course, as a Hitler impersonator.

Monday, July 17, 2006

The Hardest Working Man in Show Business

Turn on my VCR
Same one I've had for years
James Brown on the T.A.M.I. Show
Same tape I've had for years

--The Police, "When The World Is Running Down"

I stopped reading Rolling Stone about a decade ago, after it had turned into Entertainment Biweekly. But my friend John in LA told me I needed to read their recent piece on James Brown. I found it here, discovered it was a Jonathan Lethem piece, and went on to really enjoy it. So, in thanks to John, today I'm showing Mr. Please Please Please himself, Soul Brother Number One, Mr. James Brown in 1964, performing "Night Train" at the T.A.M.I. Show.

The band's fantastic - I love how they absolutely slam to a halt. But the wonder here, of course, is the man himself, working both the crowd and his legs into a delirious frenzy.

Saturday, July 15, 2006

Two Songs to the Siren

It's a wonder I've gone more than two weeks without posting any music videos. Well, here's a double shot to break that streak.

"Song to the Siren" is a song that's resonated since it first appeared on vinyl, on Tim Buckley's Starsailor album. Well, actually, it resonated before that - he performed a folkier version of it a few years earlier, on a Monkees episode.

Nowadays he's best known as Jeff Buckley's father, but Tim was no slouch himself. A four-octave vocal range, a musical palette ranging from folk to jazz to blues and beyond, and some wonderfully written songs. A tragic overdose cut his career short, but not before he released seven albums - my personal fave is a posthumous live one, Dream Letter.

Years later, This Mortal Coil recorded it for their debut album It'll End In Tears. TMC were less a band than an all-star collective, like the Golden Palominos, just guesting for a couple songs each. That's Elizabeth Fraser of the Cocteau Twins with the stunning voice and Twins bandmate Robin Guthrie with the embarassing hair.

Kani Goalkeeper

As promised... Actually, this isn't a sequel, just a very similar one.

Wonder how he would've done in the World Cup.

No, I don't. Not really.

Friday, July 14, 2006

The Calamari Wrestler

I don't know Japanese, but I know what I like.

I love the Rockyesque training sequence, and the kiss on the nose at 1:01. Best of all, the other actors play it absolutely straight. As anyone who's seen Airplane! knows, the second you acknowledge that something's funny, it instantly becomes half as funny.

Tomorrow's comedy math lesson: The Rule of Three. Either that or the sequel to this. Wait for it...

Thursday, July 13, 2006

Stephen Colbert has more balls than a golf course water hazard

Since I posted a roasting gone wrong yesterday, I thought today we could see one done right.

Four years before Stephen Colbert (who'll definitely show up in future entries) did a number on President Bush, he burned Chevy Chase to an absolute crisp. You have to wonder how much of the laughter here is from recognition. I'd imagine that 99% of the room agrees with what Colbert says - 100% if you count Chevy.

And this one's clean, so you can watch it with the kids.

Wednesday, July 12, 2006

"I'm your conscience."

Let's say you're Jamie Foxx and you're MCing a roast for Emmitt Smith of the Dallas Cowboys. The comedian at the podium is thoroughly mediocre, and you need to get him to stand down so you can keep things moving. Do you:

(a) stand up, clapping and fake-laughing, and say, "Real funny stuff! Let's hear it!"
(b) heckle him within an inch of his life.

I'd probably go with (a). Jamie chooses (b); that's why he makes the big bucks. And the only thing that keeps this from being mean is the fact that Jamie is so funny. If you don't have time for the mediocrity, skip ahead to the 3:20 mark.

(Lots of R-rated language - you have been warned.)

NOTE: For all those who wanted to make anonymous responses, now you can! I've changed the settings so you can say whatever you'd like. Go nuts...

Tuesday, July 11, 2006

Jonathan Winters

When I was a kid, I used to bring Jonathan Winters's album Another Day, Another World home from the library on a semiregular basis; I can still recite much of it, and I wouldn't be surprised if other family members could too. His ability to make up brilliant material on the spot floors me to this day. He can be hit or miss - it's hard not to miss with material that's only a few seconds old - but when he hits, it's dead center.

The biggest laughs usually come from non sequiturs that paint a vivid picture. In one of his routines as dirty old lady Maude Frickert, she explains how her nephew became the first man to fly: "He Scotch-taped a hundred forty-six pigeons onto his arms." At this, the audience breaks up so completely that he can't continue for a full thirty seconds.

Here's Jonathan as Maude with Dean Martin, who doesn't even try to maintain character as he sings "Embraceable You." Listen at 3:49 for one of those moments you never thought of before, but which you can see perfectly now.

Monday, July 10, 2006

Hooray Beer!

I like to think that I'm not overly influenced by advertising - I mean, nobody wants to admit they tried something because a guy on television told them they should, right?

But I have to say that watching this commercial really made me want to support the Red Stripe company. Anybody who comes up with a genius pitch like this deserves my support.

Their other ads are worth your time, too.

NOTE: YouTube has taken down most of their WKRP postings, including the one I opened this blog with, due to copyright infringement. Which just goes to show how transient these postings can be, so enjoy them while you can...

Sunday, July 09, 2006

The fish slapping dance

What is it that's so funny about these fifteen seconds?

The term "fish slapping"? The merry music? Michael Palin's knees-up jig? The little "smek" sound of the fish? The surprise ending?

I submit to you that it's the way Palin falls. Not only is it a steep drop - a one-foot drop wouldn't have been as funny, don't you think? - but there's almost a resignation to it that flailing arms and legs would have obliterated. Just turn and drop face-first and you'll have your high hilarity.

Oh, and the huge splash helps too.

Saturday, July 08, 2006

Mario Savio

Last night I said to one of my coworkers, a man in his fifties, "Mario Savio is in danger of being forgotten."

"Who's Mario Savio?" he asked. And he wasn't kidding (though he did see the humor in his question).

For those who don't know, Savio was a grad student at UC-Berkeley in the 1960s, and a leader of the Free Speech Movement. He was articulate, magnetic, seemingly a born leader. Somewhere along the way, he seemed to lose his spirit, and he died far too young at 53.

To this day, he's best know for the speech he made on the steps of Sproul Plaza on December 2, 1964. These steps were officially renamed the Mario Savio Steps in 1997, and these words still resonate to such an extent that, among other things, they were paraphrased in an episode of Battlestar Galactica (with the permission of Savio's widow).

Here's his signature moment, taken from the documentary Berkeley in the Sixties.

Somebody please make a film on this man's life.

Friday, July 07, 2006

Coocoo! Coocoo!

Last week Coco Crisp, center fielder for the Boston Red Sox, made a tremendous catch that finally made him more than "Johnny Damon's replacement." And somewhere in America, a child was watching...

It's so much fun watching really little kids jump and dance - they always stick their arms out and don't bend them. And I love how you can tell this kid loves Coco Crisp not because of his abilities, but because his name is Coco Crisp.

Even if she says it "Coocoo."

Thursday, July 06, 2006

Big Bill Hell

And you thought yesterday's entry wasn't worksafe...

The enthusiasm, the bad graphics, the anonymous music, the repetition... all they're missing is a shot of a car punching its way through a snowbank.

Wednesday, July 05, 2006

Siskel vs. Ebert

With Roger Ebert in serious but stable condition following complications from surgery, I thought I should post these clips while he's still around to enjoy them.

When I was a kid, my siblings and I used to watch Siskel & Ebert At The Movies (and, to a lesser extent, Jeffrey Lyons & Neal Gabler on Sneak Previews) and get all excited whenever they'd disagree. They wouldn't just say "you're wrong" - they'd say "you're wrong and you're (fat)(bald)." It was always a little bit of a disappointment that they'd only go so far.

Well, in outtakes, they went further. (This seems like a good place to warn you about playing this at the workplace on account of the language.)

If you were to watch just the first part of this 1987 clip, you'd guess these guys really, really didn't like each other. But as we all know, nothing brings people together like a common enemy, so watch and be inspired as the bitter rivals unite to fight the dreaded... Protestants.

Tuesday, July 04, 2006

Tony Orlando and Dawn and...

Have you ever gone to a concert that it's not cool to admit you went to? (I saw Alanis Morrissette live; in my defense, I went for the opening act, Liz Phair.)

Have you ever been spotted at that concert, much to your chagrin?

You still don't have it as bad as the person who attended this 1974 Tony Orlando & Dawn show. (Click on the arrow, not the picture, or you'll spoil the surprise.)

Monday, July 03, 2006

Now, then. A count of ten.

There are times when you're watching something on TV and you know, you just know, that the people who created this were on drugs. Several Family Guy jokes come to mind. And so do several Sesame Street sketches.

One, which I've not seen for a good quarter-century-plus now, had several cracks in the wall becoming animated - who can forget the monkey singing, "Good day, good day, good day, I'm glad you came my way"? - and finding an evil crack that, in the middle of making threats, has several bits of paint flake away and turn it into a harmless, shapeless mass.

Well, YouTube doesn't have that one (yet). But it does have this:

I'll tell you, it's not the '70s special effects or the Residents-style music that gets me. Nor is the the rubber-band eyes switching places or the mouth nearly coming off in the 8 dot's wake.

It's That Voice.

The very definition of narcotic. Low, buzzed with cigarette smoke, each letter held just a fraction longer than it needs to be.

What's funny, is that all I can see while watching this today are the druggy overtones. But when I was a kid, it was just a part of the overall show, no different from any other count-along-with-me bit.

It's amazing what we don't question when we're learning.

Sunday, July 02, 2006

The Beatles Do Shakespeare

This clip, from the TV special Around the Beatles, shows the Beatles performing the play-within-play of Pyramus and Thisbe within A Midsummer Night's Dream. I saw a picture from this in Nicholas Schaffner's great book The Beatles Forever back when I was just a lad, but it's only due to YouTube that I (and now you) got to see the clip itself.

I don't know what's funnier - our first glimpse of John, or the first time we hear his Thisbe voice.

It's also rather remarkable that we can hear as much as we do. Listen close and you can hear a lot of "shhhhh"s and, at 5:00, 5:09, and 5:27, a few good "Shut up!"s. Not something you heard a lot at a Beatle performance, I'm betting.

Saturday, July 01, 2006

That Wunnaful Wunnaful Sister Ray

I discovered the Velvet Underground in high school, which of course means that I attach more intense feelings and opinions about them than they probably deserve, and that I can't be impartial about them to this day.

So why don't I consider this dubbing on The Lawrence Welk show to be sacreligious?

Because it's too damn funny, that's why. And so well done - check out how closely the drum sound matches the drum visual at around the 1:50 mark.

My younger brother, a working musician who loves bands from the Who to Husker Du, is a big Lawrence Welk fan. There was a period when he didn't have a TV when he'd visit the parents around 4pm on Saturday so he could watch the show. The strange thing is, he did this without any sense of irony. I guess a good musician loves music, period.

Where can I get an orange jacket like that?
I'm the sort of guy who gets wayyyy into YouTube, searching for clips and rejoicing when I find them. I thought it'd be fun to post these clips and go into a little detail about them and how they relate to me. That way, you get instruction and entertainment.

A little tip: click on the arrow in the centered circle and you won't leave this page; click anywhere else on the picture and you'll open a link to the YouTube page. Choose well, wisely, and often.

Let the party begin...