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Kent Haines' "That Guy"

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MaxFunPal Kent Haines, who we first met at Project Breakout's comedy contest, has just started a new series for something called CSpot. I dunno what that is, but the series is funny, and Kent's a funny guy with a lot of drive and talent. Here's to young people working hard on making good things.

The Best and Worst Thing of All Time

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Regular readers of this blog may remember that Fremantle Media is planning an updated TV version of the Match Game, the minor-celebrity-driven 1970s game show. Friend of MaxFun Mr. Jimmy Pardo has been hosting an amazing live version of the program at the UCB Theater here in Los Angeles, and fans of that show signed a petition en masse to have Jimmy considered to be host of the new TV show.

Well, there's good news and there's bad news.

The bad news is: Jimmy didn't get the job.

Normally, I'd say this is because all television people are idiots. Jimmy is second only to David Letterman as a host in my book. He's fantastically funny, quick, gracious and generous to his guests. Watching him perform is the most fun I've ever had. It's a travesty that he's not on TV these days, and the Match Game is the perfect venue for his talent.

That said, there is good news.

Andy Daly got the job.

Andy Daly is a past TSOYA guest, not to mention star of our version of George Saunders' "Ask the Optimist," and might be my pick for funniest person in the world. I mean that entirely sincerely. He's so funny it hurts my toes. I've never seen him host anything, but I bet he's amazing at it.

Both Jimmy and Andy had classy things to say about it over on AST:

Hey everyone,
Since the petition was started here on AST, I feel I should let you guys know what has happened. I am sad to report that I did not get the job.
Obviously, I am very disappointed but ASTers can rejoice in knowing that the producers picked a great talent in one Mr. Andy Daly.
Andy is a great friend and will do a super job.
I don't have to tell anyone on this board how funny Andy is and I'm sure the show is going to be a great success.
JIMMY

Thanks for the kind words you guys, and especially Jimmy.

As a friend of Jimmy's and a HUGE fan of his and an eager signer of the petition, this is a weird moment.

Like anyone who's seen Match Game Live, I always alternate between cackling at Jimmy's jokes and staring slack-jawed and dumbfouded by the supernatural quickness of his mind. I don't expect to do this as well as he does. I just hope to do the show justice in my own way.

That's all I'll say for now, except that JP is four and half feet of pure class!

I'm still processing this, but here's the part of the take-home I've figured out so far:

* America deserves Andy Daly.

* America also deserves Jimmy Pardo.

We're 50% there, television industry. Let's make this happen.

Do you work at a public radio station?

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I often hear from public radio folks who love The Sound of Young America. Rarely, though, are they the ones who make the programming decisions. Those people have usually never heard of The Sound of Young America. More typically the people who who contact me are cub reporters, associate producers and other strivers.

A couple weeks ago, I met a guy who works at a major public radio station (that does not carry TSOYA). He told me all about how at this station, there are lots of TSOYA fans, and they all wish the station carried the show. So I made him an offer: go back to your station, and find out who's a fan of the show. I would give each of these people a free TSOYA t-shirt, as long as they would wear it to work and talk about the show when people looked at them funny.

This was a great success. Right now, there are eight or ten people walking around this major station in TSOYA shirts. Hopefully the program director is noticing.

So: do you work at a public radio station? If you do, I will give you a free t-shirt. All you have to do is send Chris the intern an email with your mailing address (at the station), shirt size and a promise to wear the shirt to work. His email is chris at maximumfun.org.

It's that easy.

Ready, steady... GO!

Sketchfest NYC: The Full Report

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I got back last night from a great weekend at Sketchfest NYC. Some highlights and lowlights:

I was dead tired the entire weekend. It turns out that Sketchfest NYC runs till like 3AM every night. I usually go to bed at around 10:30. So, even with the time difference, you can see how that'd work out.

I saw a pile of shows over the two nights I was there, and missed a pile more. Los Angeles' Birthday Boys took the "we're goofing around, being silly, don't you love us" model of much LA sketch these days and really knocked it out of the park. Their show, which originated at the UCB, had consistently strong sketches and execution. There weren't any standout performances, but with only a year in existance, they're poised for growth.

Portland's Third Floor put on a really remarkable show full of bizarre twists and turns. They opened with one of the strangest (and best) high school reunion sketches I've ever seen, and closed with one of the best dance numbers I've ever seen in a comedy context.

Troop!, from Los Angeles, performed what amounted to a play in sketches, about a post-apocalyptic world where condiment packets are money and the most valuable commodity of all is toilet paper. I was impressed at how well the show held up over a full 45-minute-or-so runtime, with full characterizations and high production values.

The highlight for me was a consistently hilarious new show from New York's Elephant Larry (above). Every sketch was inventive, hilarious and more than ably played. Geoff Haggerty stood out with compelling performances as a self-conscious, bumbling drill sergeant and a suburban vampire, getting huge laughs while uttering nothing more than what you might call a "vampire noise." (Blurgh? Bloor?) I honestly couldn't tell you why these guys aren't on television.

A bizarre moment: a "sketch" during the closing night "Sketchfest Craptacular" (a collection of the performing groups strangest material) from Kurt Braunolher of Kurt & Kristen. Kurt ran on stage and started to pump the audience up for the greatest experience of his life. He had decided that a great sketch would be a "doing whippets fight," for which he'd purchased $75 worth of whipped cream cannisters. Then he'd decided that that wouldn't be too exciting to watch on stage, so he added a "fighting fight." He cued Andrew W.K. at full volume on the sound system, and several muscled sketch players ran on stage, topless, and started to wrestle (pretty sincerely). He and the lovely New York comic/writer Jane Borden then commenced whippetting at a disturbing rate. Is it possible for pandemonium to be infectious?

All in all, a great weekend. It'll be a couple weeks before the show goes up, but if all goes according to Hoyle, we'll be able to offer some video in addition to the audio on the podcast.

Podthoughts by Colin Marshall: "I, Cringely"

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Not long ago, amidst research for an interview with a big Silicon Valley guy, I Netflix'd a copy of the 1996 PBS series Triumph of the Nerds. Re-watching the program, a brief history of the early adventures of such personal computer pioneers as Steve Jobs, Steve Wozniak, Bill Gates and Paul Allen, I came away with two impressions: surprise at how nineties everything looked — boy, I never thought I'd say that — and approval of the hosting skills of that guy in the glasses, khakis and tucked-in polo shirts. (That's how we dressed in the nineties, you see.) He not only knew his stuff, but his skills at what us Max Funsters might call "dad humor" were honed to a fine edge.

He of the shirts and the specs is one Robert X. Cringely, a veteran observer of and commentator on the computing scene. He's done a handful of other PBS series, including one nobody but me has heard of where he builds an airplane by himself. More to the point, he writes a weekly column called I, Cringely and, still more to the point, it's available in podcast form [iTunes link].

Robert X. Cringely is many things: "sex symbol, airplane enthusiast and adventurer," his about page modestly proclaims. "A dirty old man," he calls himself in one podcast. Googlism says the following:

  • robert x. cringely is well known throughout the computer industry
  • robert x. cringely is simply the net's best commentator
  • robert x. cringely is in fact a real person
  • robert x. cringely is full of shit
  • robert x. cringely is really getting on my nerves; i'm trying to remember why i signed up to get his column in the first place
  • robert x. cringely is a fun

(I like that last one the best.)

Clearly there's some controversy here. Are we talking about a titan of tech journalism, or some gossipy hack? As anything about which opinions so widely vary interests me, I couldn't help but catch up on his body of work. Agree or disagree with his pronouncements — I considered using the word "opinions," but no, they're pronouncements — you have to admit that he's the most reliably entertaining computer pundit in existence.

I, Cringely tackles the critical technology questions of our time, including, recently: What do information technology consultants actually do? [MP3] Why isn't Apple getting on board with Blu-Ray? [MP3] What's going on in Steve Jobs' head? (That one's sort of a Cringely leitmotif, actually.) [MP3]

Cringely regularly exhibits two tendencies: a fixation on Moore's Law, and a penchant for bold predictions. He's not always on target — his current official batting average is .571, which still beats pure chance — but at least he's not one of those of mealy-mouthed, ass-covering equivocators who play it safe but don't play it with guts. Plus — and this is the most important part — he admits when he's wrong. Bob's predictions for 2008 [MP3] include the personal computer's giving of ground to smaller devices that are already morphing — to use a nineties term — into something more PC-like themselves, venture capitalists' turn away from ad-revenue-only firms like Facebook, and Apple's replacement of the mouse with something more happenin'.

(He also predicts that his program NerdTV — billed as "essentially Charlie Rose for geeks" — which gets my blood moving, as I am the biggest Charlie Rose fanboy who has ever lived, and also something of a geek — will return for a second season. You can download the first one now as podcasts and vidcasts.)

Do note that not every I, Cringely column is of general interest: good luck understanding, for example, his piece on Azul Systems' new mainfraime [MP3] if by quirk of fate you don't happen to do a lot of mainframe computing yourself. And hey, isn't this just Robert X. Cringely reading his column out loud? Yes, but he's hell of good at reading. Besides, reading it yourself would be so Web 1.0.

[Direct all correspondence to colinjmarshall at gmail. Podthoughts discussion thread available here. I'm working on a special series of Podthoughts on podcasts by Max Funsters; if you do one, let me know about it here.]

Podthoughts by Colin Marshall: "I, Cringely"

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Podcast: Comedy at the Edge

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Show: 
Bullseye

Richard Zoglin talks to us about his book "Comedy on the Edge". Zoglin talks about comedians such as Steve Martin, Albert Brooks, Richard Pryor and the effect they have had on American culture.

If you enjoyed this show, try these:
Michael Cera
The Upright Citizens Brigade
Mr. Show's Bob Odenkirk
The Human Giant

Embeddable Audio Player Code (Copy and Paste)

MaxFun Meetup Saturday Evening in NYC

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Whether or not you're coming to The Sound of Young America Live! on Saturday at the UCB in New York, you can join us for our meetup. We'll be meeting at 7:30PM at The Peter McManus Cafe, 152 7th Ave. The "cafe" (more of a pub) has both food and grog.

Meetup discussion here.

Podcast: TSOYA Classic: Belushi

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I'm scared of the new David Simon series.

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The new mini-series from David Simon, creator of The Wire, premiers on HBO July 13th. It's called "Generation Kill," and it tracks a group of marines through the first 40 days of the invasion of Iraq.

I am terrified to watch this show.

There are only two possible outcomes:

1) It is not as good as The Wire, and thus is a terrible dissapointment.
2) It is as good as The Wire, and what little is left of my soul is crushed.

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