The Blog of Young America

Maximum Fun is your home on the internet for things that are awesome. Our blog will guide you, our family of podcasts will entertain and inform you, and our lively forum community will connect you with others. About

Podthoughts by Colin Marshall: "The Reduced Shakespeare Company"

| 0 comments

Let's be clear: this is not a podcast meant to spoon-feed The Bard's words in puréed, sugar coated globules to shiftless, slack-jawed, grafted-to-their-white-earphones members of Generation Y. It's not the audio book of the Sparknotes to the Cliffs Notes. It's not even strictly about Shakespeare. "But surely," you stammer, flummoxed, "the very title... ?" Permit me an explanation.

The Reduced Shakespeare Company is a bunch of guys — and sometimes gals — who have been around, in one form or another, for upwards of 25 years, all the while re-interpreting — dare I say "remixing" — Mankind's Important WorksTM live on stage all around the world, even in the countries that don't speak Middle English. They take their name from their bread-and-butter flagship show, The Complete Works of William Shakespeare (abridged), but they also do Western Civilization: The Complete Musical (abridged), The Bible: The Complete Word of God (abridged), The Complete History of America (abridged) — godless Euro-Max-Funsters, you are now free to snark about how the previous two can't be that different — All the Great Books (abridged) and Completely Hollywood (abridged).

To do all those shows, you'd have to be both well-cultured and quick of foot and brain. Fortunately for them and for us, the players of the RSC all pack foot, brain and culture with no room in their luggage to spare. I think the costumes are shipped separately, but I don't know because they haven't put out a podcast about that yet. They have, however, released 78 episodes so far [iTunes link], many of which get into the nuts and bolts of what it's like to be a Reduced Shakespearean: how to play to a tiny crowd riddled with decrepitude [MP3], how to improv your way through flubs [MP3] and how to react to laughs that don't come [MP3]. If you're keen on joining the troupe, they even tell you how to audition [MP3]. (Don't get your hopes up.)

But it's not all stage geekery; there's also plenty of specifically Shakespeare geekery: note the humor-leavened discussion of the "authorship question" [MP3] that has dogged Shakespeare's plays for so long and has caused so much ivory-tower hand-wringing, or the one about the difficulties of teaching Shakespeare to middle- and high-schoolers [MP3]. (Solution: let the kids use modern-day swearing.)

And let's not forget the internet geekery. Unlike so many staid theater groups that look down their noses at the whole of technology culture, the RSC is on the vanguard as internet presences go. There's the podcast, sure, but they've got a MySpace page and a Facebook group as well. In one podcast, they even discuss, in detail, the relative merits of MySpace versus those of Facebook [MP3]. (My understanding was that MySpace was for poor people, but apparently it's more complicated than that.) And while we're on the subject of geekery, in another podcast they discuss the difference between a "nerd" and a "geek" with The Word Nerds [MP3].

The podcast hits the tubes every Monday, with an average of twenty minutes of content per week. It's quick, and it's slick: they seem to pay as much attention to the music as they do in their live shows — and if you haven't seen one, they're on DVD — and they'll often go the extra mile with conference calls including even more members of the group or segments recorded on location at whatever theater they're playing at the time. And if you're really lucky, they sometimes send an original, Dickens-based audio production your way [MP3].

Humanities scholars say that "reductive" is the worst slur with which you can be tagged. But with their podcast, as with their other ventures, the Reduced Shakespeare Company has proven once again the detachment of humanities scholars from reality. If reduction is wrong, I don't want to be right.

[Direct all correspondence to colinjmarshall at gmail. Podthoughts discussion thread available here.]

Today is the last day of Maximum Fun Drive 2.

| 0 comments

As we used to say at Public Radio Summer Camp, "Donate now, or forever hold your pee."

Podcast: Jack Handey, Author, TV Writer and Creator of "Deep Thoughts"

| 1 comment
Show: 
Bullseye


Make a few clicks on the internet and you'll run across ten fake "Deep Thoughts," and if you're lucky, a few real ones. Our guest Jack Handey created the seminal Saturday Night Live interstitial segment and authored several book collections of the material. He also wrote numerous other classic Saturday Night Live sketches, from "Happy Fun Ball" to "Unfrozen Caveman Lawyer." The past few years, he's been writing in The New Yorker's Shouts and Murmurs section, and these writings, plus work for Outside Magazine and other publications, have been collected in the hilarious "What I'd Say To The Martians: and Other Veiled Threats."

Special thanks to the great public radio show Studio 360 for letting us use some audio of Jack reading pieces from the book.

Download This Show (MP3)

Subscribe in iTunes
Discuss this episode on the forum!
Please Donate to Support the Show

Listen to This Week's Show Online


Please allow our low-bandwidth server a little time after you click "play"

Embeddable Audio Player Code (Copy and Paste)


If you enjoyed this show, try these:
Steven Wright
"Late Night" writer Brian Stack
Former "Daily Show" head writer Ben Karlin

Who are you on "Sex and the City"?

| 1 comment

Jordan Morris "Boy Detective" wrote this sketch, which was performed for Funny or Die by the amazing, amazing, amazing improv group Naked Babies -- John Ross Bowie, Rob Corddry, Brian Huskey and Seth Morris.

I VOTE FUNNY.

A message from MaxFunster Darryl From Montana

| 3 comments

OK, kids, the fundraising drive is winding to a close, but the need to keep Jesse fed will continue. As an esteemed donor, I will exercise my right to feel superior and lord it over all you non-contributing deadbeats. (Isn't that what my $5 per month bought me? I thought so!) So, I want to give you some inspiring words that might help push you from non-donor to donor.

My personal story: This is the first public media I have ever contributed to. I grew up watching PBS (Nova, Monty Python, Fawlty Towers, uncounted specials, etc, etc) and whenever it was pledge time, I felt not a twinge of guilt or compulsion to donate. I laughed at their pathetic pleas for help. I scorned their miserable attempts to make me feel guilty. I spat on their offers of tote bags, record albums, 8-tracks, and other hippie paraphernalia. (My mom made me clean the spit off the TV but it was so worth it.)

But now, I am a donor. A whole $5 a month. That's really not enough. That is a pitiful amount. I am a grown up person with a job and everything! But, I know many of you are in the same situation I am, financially. There are times when there is not $5 left before payday. It sucks, and it's not because I blow it on Hot Wheels cars and whiskey. I'll spare you the miserable details, but I am a single father of a high shool graduating daughter, and my cash is spoken for by an ex-wife, attorneys, and the IRS before I even see any of it. Plus being a dad costs a lot too. For someone with a decent career, and a good amount of freelance web design work, I'm still just squeaking by.

All that to say: my own needs are such that I can easily not contribute, and not feel a bit of guilt about it. I'm sure your specifics are different. You certainly married better than I did, or did not marry at all, avoiding the whole "paying-an-ex-with-blood-from-a-stone" scenario. And you may not be a single parent, or have the IRS breathing down your neck. But, you have other things: school expenses, dorm fees, hookers and blow, bus passes, clothing, big dank, and, probably even purchases of that rock and rap music you kids love so much. (This is because you are too dense to have learned how to get it for free, like normal people, but that's another story.)

In any case, there's plenty of reasons you can't donate, and that's fine. But as I often tell my daughter when she feels overwhelmed by a task:


Quote:
Don't say "I can't." Say, "How can I?"


Here's some creative ways to donate:
First open a PayPal account if you don't already have one. Move whatever money you can into that account. $5, $10, $20, whatever. Then, donate $5 a month. (Or more!) You will have a cushion so the $5 doesn't come out of your bank account when you least expect it, and you have to scream OH SHIT because you overdrew.

Then. keep funding the PayPal account by selling things on eBay, skipping a lunch or two (eat leftovers!), donating plasma, begging your friends, or signing up to be a test subject at a medical facility.

There are countless ways to figure it out if you really try. One movie each month is more than $5, even at matinee prices. It might take some sacrifice. It might take some time. But it can be done. And you can do it!

If it turns out you really, really, can't donate right now, that's fine. It's just one more person for the donors to feel superior to. But, keep listening to the podcasts, and telling others about them. The more people who listen, the better the chances of Jesse of getting more support. Spread the Word of Jesse. Tell your best friend that Jesse loves him and has a wonderful plan for his life. Think of how empty and dark your life was before Maximum Fun came in and gave you hope and laughter. Don't let your friends remain in the dark!

-Darryl

Podcast: ESPN Anchor and Author Kenny Mayne

| 3 comments
Show: 
Bullseye


Kenny Mayne has been a fixture on ESPN for fifteen years. He's best known for his exceedingly dry wit, which he displayed as an anchor on SportsCenter in the 1990s, and in semi-fictional field pieces for ESPN's Sunday NFL Countdown. He recently published his first book, a combination humor book and memoir called "An Incomplete and Innacurate History of Sport."

Download This Show (MP3)

Subscribe in iTunes
Discuss this episode on the forum!
Please Donate to Support the Show

Listen to This Week's Show Online


Please allow our low-bandwidth server a little time after you click "play"

Embeddable Audio Player Code (Copy and Paste)


If you enjoyed this show, try these:
Bill James
Nick Hornby
Jarret Grode

Baby is the Bagpipes

| 1 comment

Thanks to maxfunster girlofdestiny, who pointed out that there are a ton of Viva Variety clips on YouTube. Timely, since our Reno 911 interview unexpectedly included a lot of Viva Variety talk (well, on the podcast it did, anyway). Above: "Baby is the Bagpipes."

Podthoughts by Colin Marshall: "60-Second Science" and "60-Second Psych"

| 0 comments


It's a modern problem: I'm a busy guy, but I also loves me some science. These two conditions were completely irreconcilable until the advent of the medium known as "podcasting", by which compressed audio files containing spoken information can be distributed to one's portable audio devices. (Or in my case, just to my computer — yeah, I'm one of those guys.) Scientific American, the science magazine whose surprisingly well-crafted articles belie its tacky covers, has come to the salvation of those who have just enough time for a couple daily bites of science, but not enough time to live a normal life: 60-Second Science [iTunes link] and 60-Second Psych [iTunes link].

The conceit is obvious: you give us a minute plus time for an intro and sponsorship announcements, and we give you a fascinating discovery. (They've only broken from the form once, when Ben Stein angried up their blood. [MP3.]) I'd have ensured maximum information density by hiring the guy from the Micro Machines commercials, but the producers have instead opted for a series of friendly-sounding hosts who deliver their knowledge payload in a more relaxed manner, supplying corny jokes when time allows.

60-Second Science tells you the kind of geeky stuff geeky fifth-graders might geek out about. For example:

  • Lasers can generate lightning [MP3]
  • Students forced to learn math via word problems do worse on tests (hatred of those problems about Farmer Brown's pasture: validated!) [MP3]
  • A computer can learn to play the clarinet [MP3]
  • Scientists are being trained to run for political office (shyeah, good luck with that) [MP3]
  • The duck-billed platypus has an odd genome (no surprise there, I suppose) [MP3]

And I, for one, believe that there's a geeky fifth-grader inside us all. If yours has felt a little beaten-down lately, there are worse ways to revitalize it (such as hanging out with geeky fifth-graders).

More relevant but also more speculative — and yes, those of you in the natural sciences, feel free to enjoy a hearty chortle about the fact that "science" and "psych" are distinct podcasts — 60-Second Psych concentrates on the behavioral side of things, showcasing all sorts of discoveries about humans and how we got this way. Revelations include:

  • When we really want something, we're biased toward believing it's rare and vice versa (which elegantly explains the "WOW!" "L@@K!" "RARE!" arms race on eBay) [MP3]
  • Even the meanest among us have enough neuroplasticity to learn to be kind [MP3]
  • The desperate search for evidence of ESP continues to disappoint (well, doi) [MP3]
  • Us FaceSpace-addicted Gen-Yers are no more self absorbed than previous generations (but who's gonna top the Boomers, amiright?) [MP3]
  • The real motivator for exercise? Fear [MP3]

What with all the exciting work being done in a bewildering variety of fields, subfields, and sub-subfields and its implications for the way we live, it's never been more important to be scientifically informed. (Insert rant here about, oh, I don't know, stem cells or something.) 60-Second Science and 60-Second Psych do not by any means constitute all the scientific knowledge you need, and indeed, without a decent grounding in their subjects it's tough to make them stick in your mental latticework. But they are excellent supplements to a steady diet of books, magazines, newspapers and critically-acclaimed television specials.

[Direct all correspondence to colinjmarshall at gmail. Podthoughts discussion thread available here.]

W.A.L.E.D.A.N.C.E.

| 1 comment

The man Wale isn't quite as impressive to me as he is to some, but he does have skills, and that D.A.N.C.E. song is bananas, so the combination is great. A little rapping is great for cutting the general... uhm... Frenchness of the original. Nice to hear someone repping the District, too. Besides these MaxFunsters who are planning a meetup around the Paul F. Tompkins show, of course.

Slick Rick: You Can Stay!

| 1 comment

I'm usually against "Free XXX Rapper" campaigns. Most rappers (not all, of course) have great legal representation, and if they end up in jail, it's because they did some shit they deserved to go to jail for.

My feelings on Slick Rick, however, are completely the opposite. Rick was born in the UK, though he moved to New York as a toddler. Unfortunately, he never went through the many hoops to become a US citizen. In 1990, Rick shot a cousin who the rapper accused of trying to extort and kill him. His plea arrangement in the case was specifically tailored to avoid triggering deportation. After he was released, the interpretation of the rules changed, and the government has been trying to deport him more or less ever since.

Of course, letting Rick become a citizen of the United States is enormously beneficial to our country. He's one of the great musicians of his generation, and he's been working tirelessly to help prevent violence since his release. If you've ever heard him speak, he's an eloquent voice for a better country.

Yesterday, New York's new governor, David Patterson, gave Rick a full pardon. His lawyers will file for a waiver of deportation within two weeks. I couldn't be more pleased.

Hurray for the Rickster!

Here's the full story in the NY Times.

Syndicate content