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Keep it Up: Elbow Patches


Elbow patches are a great way to prolong the life of a favorite sportcoat, and they lend everything you do a professorial air.

Keep It Up, Elbow Patches!

When Good Shows Happen to Bad People

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MTV2 just announced a premier date for season two (and season one on DVD) of Wonder Showzen, which was probably the best TV comedy to premier last year. Expect DVDs on March 28th, with season two premiering March 31st. (Looks like the creators will be on The Sound of Young America, too, knock on wood.)

Wonder Showzen is an angry, brilliant, borderline anarchist deconstruction of kids television (it was originally titled "Kids Show"). It's not a particularly new concept (it's a lot like Robert Smigel's "TV Funhouse"), but it's fantastically well executed. It gets at more than just the banality of kids' TV, which is a fat target; it also gets at hypocrisies, banalities, and small sadnesses in broader American life.

This segment, called "Beat Kids," visits the horse racing track, and the contrast between the sweet little kid and his mean, sad words is amazing.

Once in a while on the show, the meanness overwhelms the funny, but the hit ratio is pretty high. It's hard to maintain this kind of thing, but I think they've got a shot at it. I'm interested to see where the show goes from here, and I'm guessing it may blow up.

This post, though, is really about something broader than just Wonder Showzen. It's about good shows and bad people.

Remember when South Park first premiered? What a breath of fresh air it was. That first time you saw the show, it blew your mind.

But then it started to catch fire... and all of a sudden, when you thought South Park, you didn't think of the great, subversive humor. You thought of a-holes doing Cartman impressions. The worst parts of the show were the ones that were picked up by the mainstream, and it truly changed the meaning of the show. South Park is still going strong (financially and creatively, for the most part), but even now I can barely watch it.

Watching Dave Chappelle on Oprah, I got the feeling he ran into this same wall -- and since he's a standup, it hit him square in the face. He realized he wasn't writing his show for "us" anymore, he was now writing it for "them." In his case, of course, this has racial implications as well.

Black Studies scholars have spent a lot of time working on this idea of cultural production for "us" and cultural production for "them." I'd give you citations, but I'm at work. Chappelle's liberal use of the n-word, for example, has a very different meaning if the audience is "in" than if the audience is "out." When he stood on stage, trying to practice his art, and he heard 29 frat boys yelling "I'm Rick James, Bitch!," he flipped. For two years, he'd been writing an "us" show, and he realized in a flash it had become a "them" show. Not only might the satire (like the Black White Supremicist) be flying over the new audience's head, but the tossed off racial burlesque stuff (like say, the Mad Real World) was reaching an audience that wouldn't understand it, and could interpret it in racist ways. When he started work on the third season, he didn't know what to do about that, and he freaked.

We'll see if Wonder Showzen really does take off, and we'll see what effect it has on the show. As their audience changes, will they change? Will the new audience be there for the satire, or simply be attracted to the "outrageousness?" Does Wonder Showzen have more satire in the tank, or will they start to substitute easy shock for tough truth? Tune in March 31st, and find out.

Ben Franklin's Guide to Clean Living

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Have you ever read the Autobiography of Benjamin Franklin? If you haven't, it's great. Not only is he a great writer, and very funny, he's so full of s**t that you get double the laughs-per-page. Most of his baloney, though, is *very* New Sincerity.

When he was 20, he made a chart of the 13 virtues he wanted to have in his journal. Then, at the end of each day, he would check off the virtues he'd displayed that day. He kept score and tracked his progress over time, until he found that chastity was kind of a bummer, and bailed on the whole thing.

Here's some info and a picture of the chart.

Check out our Rockets show (MP3 Link), wherein I discuss the chart with Josh Kornbluth, who (in addition to being a public TV personality) has traveled the nation performing the monologue "Ben Franklin: Unplugged," which details his search for the "real" Franklin.

Via BoingBoing

Many men... wish death 'pon me.


When I was in college, a guy down the hall from me was interviewed for a man-on-the-street feature in the school paper. The question was "What would you do if there were no laws for one day?"

He responded, "Shoot the president."

It turns out that threatening to kill the president is really, really illegal. The Secret Service practically busted down the doors to our building trying to get to this guy, who was just kidding. He came very close to being expelled.

I guess that's pretty much what happened to Morrissey.

I don't think you should put your DVDs on your iPod.

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I want to make that clear. But let's say you did want to do that, over my vehement protestations. Here's how you might do it.

Monty Python - 1975 update

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That not-seen-since-1975 Monty Python footage is on it's way. I was up late last night with my good friend Tyler MacNiven, director of the film Kintaro Walks Japan, getting it ready. Expect iPod-ready video coming down the pipe tommorow or Wednesday, and web-ready video here around the same time.

In the meantime, check out Tyler's film. It's a feature-length travelogue about the six months he spent walking from one end of Japan to the other (the long way). He did it to impress his (Japanese-English) sweetheart, and to find the place where his father Jamis, founder of Buck's of Woodside, was born. He was armed with only a sketch of shoreline his grandmother had made, but he found it.

It's a pretty beautiful and inspirational story, full of humor and verve, with a dash of myth thrown in for good measure. Tyler is an amazing guy, the warmest person I've ever met, and he makes more friends along the way than you can imagine. He literally made the film himself -- he used a consumer camera, and shot and edited the whole thing without help (except when he gave the camera over to folks along the road, so they could shoot him). It's really a remarkable achievement.

Tyler recently completed CBS' "The Amazing Race," (it debuts Tuesday night) so I'm hoping that will bring some more light to the film. He sells it over the web, and you can also watch the whole thing on Google Video. He also told me you'll be able to watch it on business-class American Airlines flights to Japan, so if you've got an extra couple grand, that's a good way to see it, too.


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Tony for Maaaaayor

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There are a lot of New Sincerity rappers, but it's tough to top Ghostface in that department.

Case in point: the Ghostface f. Jadakiss and Comp - Run video, in which Ghost wears one of the most amazing and New Sincerity hats ever worn by any man ever in all times. Not that it's hard to find Ghostface wearing something New Sincerity.

Not to mention lyrics like this one, selected almost randomly from "Supreme Clientele:"

Hit Poughkepsie crispy chicken verbs throw up a stone richie
Chop the O, sprinkle a lil' snow inside a Optimo
Swing the John McEnroe, rap rock'n'roll
Tidy Bowl, gung-ho pro, Starsky with the gumsole
Hit the rump slow, parole kids, live Rapunzel
but Ton' stizzy really high, the vivid laser eye guide
Jump in the Harley ride, Clarks I freak a lemon pie

And here's a bonus treat:
GFK prod by Jay Dilla - "One for Ghost"

"I Could Eat A Knob At Night"

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I'm one of the last to add my voice to the chorus of supporters for the Ricky Gervais show. The round-headed object of ridicule on the show, Karl Pilkington, is the focus of a neat little Times piece. (signup required, or just bugmenot it)

Karl Pilkington has debated the merits of eating a kangaroo's penis for breakfast, envisioned a wristwatch that counts down the time left in a person's life and proposed a new population control system in which elderly women give birth at the moment of their deaths. He has mused on topics ranging from caveman "bear pants" to dishwashers on Mars, and reported "news stories" about the triumphs of chimpanzees as bricklayers and television talk show hosts. In so doing, Mr. Pilkington, a 33-year-old unemployed radio producer from Manchester, England, has become the object of a global Internet cult, a Guinness world record-holder and the unlikely harbinger of a technological revolution.

The Gervais show is going pay, and the success or failure of the gambit will be closely watched by podcasters like myself. Personally, I don't have much interest in charging for The Sound, but I do have an interest in quitting my real-life job and working on the show full-time. Or even just making some money for it. Or even not losing so much money on it.

The trick of pay media, of course, is that for entertainment, you pretty much have to be famous first. So maybe I should get famous the way Neil Hamburger suggested on last week's show. "Some sort of strangling, or poisoning, or maybe becoming a vegetable like that woman in Florida."

Also... here's a little audio interview of Gervais by Mark Ramsey of Radio Marketing Nexus, about how to make something great.

The Magic of Elaine May

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I've been thinking about Elaine May lately, and just I ran into this nice piece on her films in the Times.

As half of Nichols & May, and a founder of the Second City, she helped invent contemporary improv and sketch comedy in the 50s and 60s. It would be easy to diminish her work in that time by calling her a great female comic (as opposed to a great comic), but I think her gender is significant.

Comedy tends to reward women who are either beautiful accesories (like the women in a Frat Pack movie) or disgusting embarassments (think of the female characters on Mad TV). May's characters drove the Nichols & May sketches, and they were never simply outrageous debasements. In fact, they were quite the opposite... and they weren't ditzy or steely bitches either. To do that and be as funny as they were (and even are) takes astonishing talent, and courage besides.

Besides directing four films (most famously "The Heartbreak Kid" and most infamously "Ishtar"), she's stayed pretty quiet since the Nichols & May days. She had what I thought was a hilarious small part in "Small Time Crooks," which was one of Woody Allen's better outings lately. She wrote two films directed by Nichols, "The Birdcage" and "Primary Colors." She's largely been quiet, though.

She's appearing Sunday February 26th in New York. Tickets are a million bucks, but it might just be worth it.

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