Wednesday, August 26, 2015

Jason Statham, Punchin'

I'm a little embarrassed that I watched this entire thing.  I'm perhaps even more embarrassed that I've seen so many of these films, though really, Statham's IMDB page isn't *that* bad as far as generic action movie stars go.  And Statham spoofing his entire existence in "Spy" was hilarious.

Friday, August 21, 2015

Jordan Schlansky, Off The Market

Let's talk for a moment about Jordan Schlansky the performer, and how he quietly plays up the "Jordan character" during these remote bits with Conan.  You can see him occasionally almost breaking up, though for the most part, he does a solid job of keeping a straight face during all of Conan's nonsense.  I actually believe that these are unscripted --- I can see Conan wanting to keep the situation as fresh as possible.  At most, he says "hey Jordan, we're coming by your office at 3pm, be ready for something random" so he doesn't catch Jordan when he's in a meeting or something.  (Though Schlansky's actual job duties have long been in question.)

This leads to the wonderful little moment when Jordan actually gets Conan to break as well, with his answer of "You."  Point, Schlansky!  And I guess also point, stripper since judging from Conan's reaction, I'm not sure she was actually supposed to get topless during the scene.

Wednesday, August 19, 2015

A Nu Viewing


For a TV season that seemed to demand multiple viewings, I only just recently gave Arrested Development’s fourth season another watch.  And, as predicted, it got better (or, “It Gets Better”).  For one, this time I was going into it with more reasonable expectations, rather than the mixture of glee and uncertainty I carried into the series’ revival in the first place.  This is definitely a fanboy thing to say, but it could be that I was just so worried that it would be a disaster that I couldn’t fully enjoy it.  Secondly, this time the plot density and odd structure of the episodes weren’t a surprise, so I knew what I was getting into from the very beginning.  Having seen it before, the plot was also obviously easier to follow this time; now I could actually tell you, for example, what the hell was going on with George Sr.’s wall construction storyline, or the exact machinations that led to GOB and Tony Wonder somehow sleeping with each other.

Some of the observations and comments about the fourth season, after two viewings and two years of hindsight…

* I still have to fault the episode order, and the placement of all the VERY plot-heavy eps right up front.  Buster’s episode, for instance, ended up being only tangentially related to the rest of the season’s storyline and was more or less a stand-alone.  With a few tweaks, it could’ve been placed fourth or fifth in the season (rather than 14th) if for no other reason than to break up the plot onslaught of the opening six episodes.  Getting a big dose of Tony Hale (who’s barely in the season outside of his episode) would’ve added some variety to the cast early on, as it’s basically nothing but Michael, George, Lindsay and Tobias in the opening six, with a decent amount of Lucille and some George-Michael in the first ep.  Also, making Buster’s episode fourth in the running order would’ve allowed for a “Fore-Hand” joke and…..y’know what, I’ll leave the silly jokes to the experts.  Never mind.

* Buster’s episode featured several of Tony Hale’s then-current and future Veep co-stars — Diedrich Bader, Lennon Parham, Phil Reeves, Andy Buckley, even Zach Woods showed up.  Holy crap, Zach Woods’ character was great on that show, they need to find a way to get him back for an episode in between ‘Silicon Valley’ breaks.  His scene verbally destroying Jonah was incredible; the sight of Zach Woods decimating what was essentially a Zach Woods character already was mind-blowing.

* The opening credits featured different little musical cues for each character.  You didn’t really notice them the first time since they often didn’t make sense until you actually saw the episode, i.e. a woodblock for George Michael’s episode.

* Also, while we’re talking about picking up references before they’re actually made, the show is (as you’d expect) absolutely full of them.  Michael and Lucille 2 are humming the “Getaway” song before the GOB episode that actually introduces it, for instance.

* Continuing the ostrich theme that runs through the season, Maeby’s high school’s team mascot is the Ostriches.

* The final episode doesn’t end on the usual “on the next…” teaser (it’s saved for later) but rather it immediately cuts to the closing credits and, in an unusual move for the show, there’s a song playing.  I didn’t notice it the first time since I may have still been laughing and/or shocked over George-Michael punching Michael in the face.  Anyway, the song is called “Boomerang” by Lucy Schwartz and it’s awesomely catchy.


* Joke I didn’t notice the first time #1: a character uses the preface “get this…” every time they reference Beverly Hills.  As in, “the gala took place at a hotel in, get this, Beverly Hills.”  I have to believe this is Mitch Hurwitz making an in-joke about an actual unknown person, yet if only we knew the context!

* There’s very little Kitty in the season, which is unfortunate since I’m president of the Judy Greer fan club.

* It’s a sign of how good Steve Holt’s makeup, wig and physical difference was that, even watching a second time, I still totally didn’t realize it was Steve Holt (!) until the show revealed it.

* Didn’t realize this until going some reading online, but the weird mustard-and-parmesan cheese snack various characters are eating at the model home is a specific joke.  Martin Mull plays both Gene Parmesan on AD and he played Colonel Mustard in the old “Clue” movie.  All I say to that is GOOD LORD, who thinks this stuff up?

* All of the Fantastic Four stuff seemed especially timely given the recent disaster of a movie, and I think I can safely say that even Tobias might’ve done a better job with the Four than Josh Trank.  Though, get this, Josh Trank was actually in an episode!  He has a cameo as one of the many process servers who give Tobias a cease-and-desist notice for his use of the Fantastic Four’s trademarks.  In hindsight, that was probably the highlight of Trank’s whole F4 experience.

* The character Lucille is playing in the F4 musical is an actual obscure villain from the comic books.  I guess they had to use one of the few female villains in order to get Lucille roped in, though I was wondering why a more well-known villain wasn’t used.  Then again, you had Tobias as a doctor who was always bringing doom to himself and others….he was both an FBI mole and dressed as a mole in the “Mr. F” episode of S3…and the word “analrapist” sounds a wee bit like “Annihilus”….holy crap, was Tobias supposed to be Dr. Doom, Mole Man and Annihilus wrapped into one?  Now I kind of want to rewatch again to see if Tobias is wearing Doom’s traditional green-and-gray colours the whole time.

* Joke I didn’t notice the first time #2: the “coincidence” musical cue popping up at many times, akin to the old “Mr. F” jingle.

* Speaking of hidden crap, check this one out for being a particular hidden gem.  Lindsey repurposes the old “You’re Killing Me, Buster” banner as a campaign sign for Lucille 2, which ties into the running joke about the family using that same damn banner over and over again.  Anyway, Buster is standing on that very same banner when he momentarily (?) sees Lucille 2’s body sprawled on the staircar’s steps.  A hint towards Buster being accused of “killing” Lucille 2, and a hint towards that murder mystery (presuming she’s really dead) being the main thrust of Season 5.

* Let me complain about the season structure again, and I’ll also wonder what the opposite of ‘jarring’ is.  If something is jarring, it’s generally suddenly off-putting, whereas in S4, the general realization that you haven’t seen a character in several episodes is….not ‘jarring’ since it isn’t sudden but it’s also like, “hey, we basically haven’t seen George in four episodes.”  I’m pretty sure Michael is the only character in every single episode, though it at least *seems* like Lucille is around a lot; she seems to have significant roles in every episode.  For the others, GOB basically doesn’t show up until midseason, Buster (as mentioned) is essentially not even in the season at all aside from his solo episode, George-Michael essentially vanishes through episodes 2-10 until becoming the star of the last five, Tobias/Lindsay/George all vanish in the last five episodes, and Maeby is also basically not there until that last stretch as well, though her being a peripheral figure is kind of a part of her storyline.

* And finally, we have a Blendin sighting!  As we all know, “Blendin” is the fake company name the FBI uses for their undercover operations spying on the Bluth family.  Spotting the various Blendin businesses is one of the highlights of the first three seasons (since they’re everywhere, from very early in the series) but I didn’t think there were any in S4 until boom, right there, guy who’s cleaning the floor in the condo’s hallway, it’s Blendin Maintenance.

Friday, August 14, 2015

The Hateful Eight

This movie looks gorgeous and awesome.  And I'm not just saying that because "GorgeousNAwesome" is my dating profile screen name.

Wednesday, August 12, 2015

Motley Cruz

An ultra-important follow-up to the Jumpin’ Jeff Farmer promos posted the other day…now here’s the REJOINDER from the man himself, Motley Cruz


I’m honestly not sure what I was expecting from an 80’s small-promotion pro wrestling heel named “Motley Cruz.”  I guess maybe someone doing a really terrible knockoff of Nikki Sixx or Tommy Lee?  Secretly, I was hoping it was someone who went on to become a super-famous WWF star and this was just his starting-out gimmick in the minors — like, it’d turn out that Motley Cruz was the Undertaker or something. 

Instead we get this guy, who looks and sounds like Wolfman Jack had a son whose life went off the rails.  A thick beard AND an 80’s afro-perm?  Have mercy.

Needless to say, this is a much better promo than Farmer’s (how could it not be?) yet content-wise, it’s just as silly.  The key is delivery.  Cruz isn’t exactly the Rock here, but man, his promo is just better than Farmer’s in every way.  To wit…

* I actually know what the conflict is between these two now!  Farmer beat Cruz in a match, Motley was upset and (I’m guessing) attacked him afterwards, leading to Farmer being upset about ‘having the tables turned.’  This set up their rematch, which Motley won and led to Farmer’s hilarious “welp, I lost, sucks to be me” interview.

* Cruz actually sounding vaguely threatening and tough, which you’d think would be par for the course for any pro wrestler not named Jumpin’ Jeff Farmer.  Consider my “would you like this promo to be cut on you?” test from my earlier post.  If you spilled your drink on Motley Cruz in a bar and he said all this to you, you’d be scared half to death and apologizing profusely/begging for your life.  While Cruz’s hair is the height (literally) of silliness, he absolutely looks like a guy who’s been in a few brawls in his life, whereas Farmer looked like an understudy forced onstage in the wrong part.

* Straight-up threatening to attack Farmer outside of the ring, which is pretty standard wrestling promo fare, but it’s notable here just because of the hilarious imagery of Jeff Farmer on a date.

“Gee Jeff, thanks for asking me out.  I’m having a really good time.  Are you?”
YEP

I don’t know how the third match in this epic rivalry turned out, but in the promo battle, it’s game-set-match for Motley Cruz.

Monday, August 10, 2015

Jumpin' Jeff Farmer

In the theatrical world of pro wrestling, it could be argued that the “promo” is maybe the single most important tool in the box when it comes to getting fans to tune into the next show or to buy a ticket to the arena.  The late Dusty Rhodes and Rowdy Roddy Piper were masters of this art — both men could deliver a speech so impassioned that you couldn’t wait to see the big match when the hero (Rhodes) would finally get his promised revenge on the villain, or conversely, the villain (Piper in his prime, though he was arguably just as good as a hero) would be obnoxious that you’d tune in to see someone kick his ass.  Rhodes, Piper, Ric Flair, the Rock, Mick Foley, CM Punk…the list goes on and on with big stars who could sell a match on words alone.  Even guys who weren’t quite as flamboyant speakers, like Bret Hart or Dave Batista, has innate charisma that allowed them to just be no-nonsense and direct.

And then there’s Jumpin’ Jeff Farmer.


Oh my god, where to begin.

* The interviewer himself is your first hint that something is askew.  He has the weird vocal cadence of a slowed-down, southern Michael Buffer if Buffer was terrible at his job.  Also, I’m no television production expert, but if you’re cutting to a pre-taped segment, wouldn’t it be less jarring to have either the live or pre-taped segment in a different setting?  Also, this can’t be overlooked…it was a PRE-TAPED INTERVIEW.  As in, they could’ve reshot it but were apparently satisfied.  (Or, conversely, they did several takes and that was somehow the best one.)

* YEP

* It should be noted, this all took place in some small-time local promotion in the 1980’s and I actually have no idea what the context of the promo or the feud between Farmer and “Motley Cruz” was all about.  I don’t know if this was a rivalry that this company was actually using to headline their shows, or an undercard bout.  In either case, if “the hardest match [you] ever had in your life” was against a guy named Motley Cruz, your career probably isn’t going places.

* If you had a hall of fame for lame names given to 80’s wrestling heels, Motley Cruz is a first ballot inductee. 

* Emotion is just fine in a promo.  Heck, some of the best promos of all time have been delivered by a face (good guy) wrestler who was on the verge of a breakdown out of either joy or rage.  What generally doesn’t work, though, is when you’re less “passionately emotional” and more “five-year-old on the verge of a tantrum.”

* When Farmer stumbles over the “things aren’t going my way” line, the interviewer gives a quick glance at the camera.  He does this a few times during the course of the promo, but I’d like to think that first one was a quick “uh oh, this is going off the rails” reaction and the rest were just to cover it up.  Kudos to this interviewer for both keeping a straight face throughout and also resisting the urge for a Jim Halpert face reaction during those looks at the camera.

* If you turn the tables on someone, you’re reversing things to your own advantage.  But if Motley Cruz “turned the tables in the wrong way” on Jeff Farmer, shouldn’t that mean that Cruz somehow screwed himself over?  It could be that Farmer doesn’t know what a double negative is, but nahhh, he’s a linguistic master.

* My guess is that Cruz cheated to win a match against Farmer at some point, hence this, um, enraged promo from Farmer.  It’s possible they might’ve been tag team partners and Cruz turned on him, thus inspiring the “you backstab me one way or another” line.  The point is that I’ve listened to this promo about 20 times and still have no idea whatsoever what the point of this feud is.

* Maybe the best way to judge a wrestling promo is to transpose it to a real life situation.  Forget about even the content, let’s just focus on the delivery.  Imagine you’re at a bar and you accidentally spilled a drink on Jeff Farmer.  He turns around and gets upset in this same quivery, semi-tantrum state, maybe even “issuing a challenge” to fight right then and there in the bar.  Are you worried, or do you laugh in his face?  (Of course, the gentlemanly thing to do in any drink-spilling scenario is to buy the person a drink of their own to apologize, though admittedly, even the nicest guy in the world would have a hard time stifling a laugh while calling the bartender over. 
“Jeff, would you like another Coors Light?” 
YEP.

* The only way this promo could’ve been any funnier would’ve been if Farmer had pointed his finger so that his hand completely obscured his head as he spoke.  I presume that’s what happened in the first 6-7 takes of this interview.

* I may have to start using the term “goin’ FULL FORCE” several times a day.  Like, I won’t just be taking the garbage out in my usual way, no, I’ll be goin’ FULL FORCE.

* The interviewer couldn’t have wrapped that thing up any quicker if he tried.

So there’s that promo, which I can only presume led to a Wrestlemania-caliber match in a sold-out 90,000-seat football stadium.  The kicker comes in the follow-up promo….


* That’s right, Jumpin’ Jeff LOST THE NEXT MATCH.  I can only presume that the company promoter saw the original promo, realized that pushing Farmer as a star was a lost cause and quickly rebooked the match result.  Best of all, Farmer openly admits it was a clean loss, which is kind of rare in the 80’s when heels generally always cheated no matter the opponent.  How far down the totem pole was Farmer even in this small potatoes company when he can’t even get a tainted loss to a heel?

* Content-wise, this promo is 100 times better than the first one.  Farmer actually sounds like an actual pro athlete discussing a loss; it’s a basic “I got beat, opponent had a good strategy, I learned from it and I’ll get him next time” sound bite.  I’m actually not sure I’ve ever seen a promo quite like this before in pro wrestling — just a complete humble-pie interview from a face after losing to a hated heel.

* “I learned well, it don’t take me long” is followed up by a near-total derailment of his train of thought.  You can see it in Farmer’s eyes, as they suddenly start shifting all over the place.  So while he may be a quick study at wrestling…

Saturday, August 08, 2015

Random Nonsense

Oh, nothing, just a clear view of the dark side of the moon as it passes in front of the Earth.  If you want to fire up “The Great Gig In The Sky” for the remainder of this post, feel free.

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“Drake vs. Meek Mill” sounds like a rec league softball game between two high-end furniture stores.

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I have this text document on my desktop that contains random ideas, phrases, brief writings, lists, and quite a bit of the material that has been shaped into blog posts over the years.  This document dates back years and it’s quite lengthy, so I realized just recently that I hadn’t actually read the whole thing from start to finish in a long time. 

Opening it up, I randomly scroll halfway down the page (since starting at the beginning is too simple) and come upon on this sentence: “I was born awesome and stayed that way, baby.”

I have zero recollection of ever writing this, nor do I have any recollection of what it was in reference to.  Did I think this was a clever line for some long-forgotten story or novella idea?  Did Bruce Campbell hack into my computer at some point?  It’s bizarre….the self from even a few years ago can seem like a completely different person. 

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If you’re Canadian, you’ve seen those “Justin Trudeau: Just Not Ready” commercials roughly 50 times a day for the last umpteen months.  They’re hilarious to me on two levels…

a) the Conservatives have spent the last four years ignoring the NDP (you know, the actual official opposition) and hammering away at Justin Trudeau to such an extent that it has seemingly impacted his support…except those voters are now favouring the NDP, not the Conservatives.

b) so the conceit of this ad is that this imaginary hiring panel are the Canadian people looking at resumes for their next prime minister.  Doesn’t a hiring panel imply that, y’know, there’s a job vacancy?  Most companies don’t have a person in place they’re satisfied with and go headhunting anyway.  So even the Conservative Party’s own commercials are subtly implying that Stephen Harper’s time is up.

***********

Big news my ongoing quest to discover the best and worst streets in Toronto.  The embattled Queens Quay Boulevard has finally finished its three-plus years of construction and re-opened, and it looks….pretty nice, I guess.  Not sure if it’s really so eye-popping that it required three years of shutting down a major artery just in the name of (basically) widening a bike lane, but whatever, I’m not a city planner.

The most important news here, however, is that Queens Quay has gone from a traffic nightmare to a traffic dream.  You see, three years of horrific driving conditions has essentially scared people away from the road; for all I know, the greater Toronto public doesn’t seem to realize construction is actually over.  So for this brief window of time, it is absolute smooth sailing down Queens Quay, despite there being only one lane in either direction.

Case in point, I was caught in a major traffic snarl from the CNE to Bathurst, taking roughly 20 minutes just to traverse that short distance.  I was in the right lane and dreading having to somehow fight my way over to the left lane when suddenly I decided to just turn down Bathurst onto and get onto Queens Quay, and wouldn’t you know, there wasn’t a car in sight. 

I’m giving it two weeks before the general public catches on and traffic again reverts to a Mad Max state.  I’d say less due to this post, but c’mon, nobody reads this blog.

Wednesday, August 05, 2015

Rudd Reviews

Why exactly was everyone certain that “Ant-Man” was going to suck?  Allegiance to Edgar Wright?  Maybe a secret yearning for a Marvel backlash since their movie universe has just become so all-encompassing?  Or maybe a little of both, as the firing of Wright from the project led some to believe that Marvel was becoming too big for its britches, and true ‘creative’ types weren’t going to be allowed to really imprint their styles on the movies?

While I enjoy Wright as much as the next guy (Hot Fuzz and Scott Pilgrim, both former Markademy Award Best Picture nominees!), he’s also not the be-all and end-all of filmmaking.  Would I have enjoyed seeing an Edgar Wright Ant-Man movie?  Absolutely.  Would I have enjoyed see an Edgar Wright Ant-Man movie at any time in the last seven years, since he actually started working on the project way back in 2007?  I can’t really blame Marvel for a) wanting to finally move ahead with this thing and b) perhaps feeling that they wanted from Wright in 2007 and what they wanted in 2015 were two radically different things given how their ‘cinematic universe’ has so grown since then.  The downside of having an interconnected universe of films is that one weak link (or even an oddball link) in the chain can threaten the entire thing, so I can understand Marvel’s point from a business sense, even if I don’t like it from a creative sense.

But this all being said, it’s not like Marvel is making bad movies.  At worst, you get “meh” movies — Thor 2, the last two Iron Man movies, and maybe even to some extent, the somewhat anti-climatic Avengers sequel.  I’ve never left a Marvel film feeling disappointed or even angry, which is more than I can say for any number of Superman, Spider-Man, Fantastic Four or even X-Men movies (though X3 is the only actively horrible chapter of the otherwise solid X-Men series).  Marvel may be more or less sticking to a formula by this point, but it’s a pretty strong formula, and Ant-Man is no exception.

Also, I quite enjoyed how Ant-Man itself seemed to purposely carve out a small (pun intended) niche for itself as opposed to the world-shaking events of the other Marvel movies.  Scott Lang isn’t trying to save the planet, he’s just trying to pull off a heist and keep the Ant-Man tech from falling into the wrong hands.  The smaller scale (again, pun intended) was a refreshing change and it may be sign of how Marvel’s next phrase may go smaller (again…) given the street-level heroes on their Netflix properties or even their version of Spider-Man, before ramping things up against for the Avengers’ battle with Thanos.

It’s also just fun to note that Paul Rudd is now involved in the Marvel Universe and, assuming he signed one of those crazy seven or eight-picture deals, he’ll be popping up in these movies as comic relief for years to come.  We won’t see an Ant-Man 2 until 2020 at the earliest given the packed Marvel film schedule, though maybe we don’t even need to — Rudd is an okay leading man but he works best in an ensemble.  The same kind of goes for the rest of the cast; Michael Pena is an awesome supporting actor, Evangeline Lilly is lovely but not strong enough of an actress to carry her own film as the new Wasp*, and Michael Douglas seems made for years of cameos as Hank Pym popping in to give technical advice and getting into arguments with Tony Stark.

* = it’s a damn shame that the Wasp will only exist in the MCU as the rather generic Hope Van Dyne rather than the awesome Janet Van Dyne, one of the comics’ finest characters.  From day one, she could’ve been the signature female hero that Marvel has been lacking; imagine what Joss Whedon could’ve done with Janet since that type of character is right in his wheelhouse.  Maybe that was one downside of Wright taking so long with the Ant-Man project…all of the related characters were tied up with him, so Whedon and company couldn’t use Pym, Janet, etc. in the Avengers.  

So yeah, Ant-Man, solid movie!  Really creative action scenes, some genuinely funny moments (though not really as much of a comedy as it was sold as) and Judy Greer keeps getting’ den cheques.  Good lord, if someone had had the idea years ago, we could’ve had Judy Greer as Janet Van Dyne THIS WHOLE TIME.  Dammit, Wright!

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As a 97-minute movie, Wet Hot American Summer was hilarious.  As eight 30-minute episodes, the “Wet Hot American Summer: First Day Of Camp” probably would’ve made a great 97-minute movie.  As eager as I was to see the TV version of this great comedy come to life, and as much as I enjoy the talents of virtually everyone in the cast, four hours was a stretch.

The funniest of the many storylines in the series were, by far, Beth and Greg’s attempts to uncover the government conspiracy around the camp and the dissolution of the Gene/Gail marriage and Gene’s slow transformation from Jonas.  Not coincidentally, these were also the two stories that actually developed the most and actually had new jokes and new plot points in every episode.  Every other story kept hitting the same beats over and over with little to be gained comically.  Between this and the fourth season of Arrested Development, should I be worried about any revival of a long-departed comedy property that involves John Slattery and Kristen Wiig in supporting roles?  (And I guess technically Michael Cera too?)

Also, come on, David Hyde Pierce is in the thing for maybe five minutes?!  I was looking forward to a major DHP showcase, his first since Frasier ended!  Can they not make an entire Dr. Neumann spinoff series?

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While I’m here, I might as well do a quick rundown of every Paul Rudd movie I’ve seen.  Pretty strong track record for the Ruddmeister here!  Tons of excellent films and only a few absolute stinkers.

Classics: Anchorman, Clueless, Forgetting Sarah Marshall, The 40-Year-Old Virgin, I Love You Man, Role Models, The Shape Of Things, Wet Hot American Summer

Classics (but Rudd just had a cameo role): This Is The End, Walk Hard

Pretty Good: Ant-Man, Knocked Up, Our Idiot Brother, They Came Together, Wanderlust

Pretty Blah-To-Mediocre: Admission, Anchorman 2, The Object Of My Affection, Prince Avalanche

Pretty Crappy: Dinner For Schmucks, Romeo + Juliet, Year One

Friday, July 31, 2015

Amateur Dream Analysis

DREAM: Myself and a group of friends arrive at my local library, the old Byron Public Library  on Commissioners Road, to participate in some kind of a new game show.  Other friends had recommended it to us, in the way that thirtysomethings all recommend escape rooms or other social activities.  As we all arrive* in the library’s main conference room, a group of executives hand us waiver forms and inform us that we’ll be participating in a series of real-life improv situations where we’re “part of the action.”

* = I’m kinda semi-using the royal ‘we’ here since I don’t actually remember any of the other people from my group.  I’ll just presume it was my regular group of friends since god forbid I go on such an entertaining adventure without them.

So this is the setup, and what happens after is totally bonkers.  The scenes quickly go from basic improv stuff to incredibly elaborate scenarios that would require this to be one of the more expensive TV series ever made.  For the sake of this post, I really wish I could be more descriptive of the various sketches/scenes, yet I only remember a few.  Essentially, we’d finish one thing, walk through a door and maybe down a hallway and into another room that was suddenly 50 times as large.  (Needless to say, the Byron Library would’ve needed to have gone through some extensive renovations, or gained access to an inter-dimensional portal.)

Of the ones I can remember, we had…

* I’m suddenly a contestant on a cooking show, and my ‘recipe’ is just to use a rolling pin to stretch out dough for ten minutes.  This happens, the dough is almost paper-thin by the end, and then I’m just hustled out into the next room.  At this point I should note that some of the tasks given out in these scenes weren’t always actually funny.

* For instance, in one scene, I’m in a holding cell, apparently in a prison with three other new inmates.  They all tell “what are you in for?” stories that vary from depressing to grim, so when it’s my turn, I make up something like “this guy ripped me off, so I pushed him down the stairs and killed him.” (I just recently watched the Staircase)  Everyone grunts and nods, then it’s just dead silence for, like, 10 minutes.  Finally we’re led out of the cell by guards and they go down the hallway while I’m shuttled off into another improv game.  Hilarious?

* The only seemingly successful scene was a situation where I played a PR publicist trying to interpret the bizarrely pretentious rantings of a director (Jason Schwartzman) in an interview with a journalist (Kristen Wiig) while the film’s editor (Michael Cera) kept chiming in from elsewhere in the room as he was literally working on the final cut right then and there.  Apparently my answers were so clever that they kept cracking Wiig and Schwartzman up, which is either a tribute to my hilarity or a sign of their unprofessionalism.

* At least two false endings!  In one, everyone claps at the end of a scene, shakes my hand and whatnot, then I go sign a waiver, pick up my stuff and leave.  I’m out in the parking lot about to get into my car when suddenly, who should call over but Amy Poehler and Chris Parnell.  Their “shifts are over” and need directions to a hotel.  I’m helping them out and trying not to be a fanboy, when I notice that Parnell has my old Nokia flip-phone that I got rid of five years ago. (I think….it may just be in a box in my house somewhere.)  I ask him about it, and he mentions he got it at a garage sale.  Then Poehler says she was at that same garage sale and whips out this old sweater I last wore in 2003.  They proceeded to “give me a lift” back home, only to drive to “their hotel,” which quickly devolved into an improv situation.  First tipoff: Scott Thompson was the hotel’s concierge.  I never did find out why and how Poehler and Parnell had such access to my life. 

I should note that the other twist of this show was that it was absolutely packed with notable stars as the “cast” taking part in the games with the amateur contestants like me.  Off the top of my head, I can recall: Poehler, Parnell, Thompson, Wiig, Schwartzman, Cera, Beyonce, Reese Witherspoon, Margo Martindale, Alec Baldwin, Amy Adams, Tara Reid, the guy who played Courteney Cox’s ex-husband on ‘Cougartown,’ Horatio Sanz, Michael Sheen, Maya Rudolph, Michael Pena, Dana Carvey, and, somehow, Dick Van Dyke aged back into his 30’s.  (One scene featured me on the set of the Dick Van Dyke Show trying to come up with a new gag for the opening scene rather than Dick/Rob Petrie tripping over the ottoman.)  There was no rhyme nor reason to the usage of the stars, nor the size of their parts.  Witherspoon, for instance, solely appeared between “scenes” as one of the show’s production assistants telling me which room I was supposed to go to next.  You’d think a bigger star would angle for a bigger role, but maybe my subconscious didn’t trust Witherspoon to handle anything larger…after all, I’ve seen her half-hearted SNL hosting gigs.


ANALYSIS: It probably goes without saying that this was one of the more fun dreams I’ve had in a long time.  It might even be the most fun dream I can remember…uh, non-erotic category, naturally.  As someone who performed improv comedy back in high school and university and whose all-time fantasy job would be to be on SNL, this may have literally been my greatest dream.  The setting of the Byron Library seems odd, yet if I can get deep here for a second, I’ve been signing books out of this library for almost my entire life.  In a way, my imagination was born through the Byron Library, so it only makes sense as a staging ground for this most extraordinary imaginative enterprise.   

As noted, this specific version of the show couldn’t happen due to budget constraints, yet it’s not too big a stretch to see something *like* this actually get on the air.  It’s not too far removed from a hidden-camera type of pranks show, or even those Whose Line sketches when they bring someone out of the audience to participate.  The whole thing seems like a very elaborate extension of a Jimmy Fallon-esque celebrity game show, so it only makes sense that so many SNL veterans were involved (and, these types of actors would naturally be good fits for this fluid format anyway).  Interestingly, I don’t remember Colin Mochrie, Ryan Stiles, Wayne Brady or any of the other Whose Line regulars appearing amongst the myriad of stars within the show, which I can only imagine was my subconscious adhering to network contractual rights. 

Beyond it just being a show, though, there was also a vague sense that I had actually signed away my life in some kind of “be careful what you wish for” situation.  For example, my past was intertwining with the material, as in the case of Poehler and Parnell having my old stuff.  Maybe a hint that I’ve spent so much of my life watching and obsessing over TV and comedy that I’ve let my actual life go by?  Wait, hang on…that sounds like an actual point of analysis and a real dark frame around what was a very fun dream.  Let’s keep living’ in denial and move right along!   

This dream took place during what I call the ‘secondary sleep’ phase of a morning.  That’s when you wake up earlier than expected to go to the bathroom or something, consider staying up and then saying screw it and going back to bed since you don’t have to be up for anything.  I generally find that it’s during this secondary sleep that your dreams get really odd.  To cite an old Louis CK routine, it’s during these extra hours of sleep that your subconscious goes, “okay, you want to see some weird shit?  Here goes.” 

So the moral of the story is, sleeping in is awesome and it leads to you getting to perform comedy with vintage Dick Van Dyke.  I may never schedule anything prior to noon ever again.

Thursday, July 30, 2015

Greece & Boston

Not too many posts this month due to not one, but TWO lengthy vacations to Greece and Boston.  For those of you who are frequent travellers, I have no idea how you do it.  After just four flights within a two-week span, I never want to see another airport again.  Nine hours on a cross-Atlantic flight almost ruined my back, and my sanity was nearly destroyed following 90 minutes sitting in front of the world’s two most obnoxious children on the way back from Boston.  Other silly observations from both trips….

* while driving back to Athens from the lovely little resort village of Monemvasia, I noticed a real peculiarity once we hit the 100-km mark outside of town.  Along certain sections of the highway to Athens, they had road markers that literally counted things down every 1/10th of a click.  For a good five kilometres, all you saw were signs that read “A 97.5,” then “A 97.4,” then “A 97.3” until the road became a bit less developed.  The signs then picked back up again around the 60-km mark. 

This was bizarre.  Why bother counting down such minuscule parts of the distance?  Athens is impressive enough that it doesn’t need this drumroll of a road posting system.  I don’t want to draw a straight line from overspending on needless highway signs to the failing Greek economy, but it’s so, so easy.

* since I developed a massive blister on my foot literally a couple of hours after arriving in Boston (Mark hates walking! Why can’t society, as a whole, agree to just install moving sidewalks in all major cities?), I found myself taking a lot of taxis around town.  On three different occasions during a mere five-day trip, a cab driver (completely unprovoked) brought up the Tom Brady suspension and began to rant about the unfairness of the whole thing.  Needless to say, Bostonians are taking Brady’s side.  I had half a mind to see just how six-degrees-of-Kevin-Bacon I could get with this thing to try to get a cabbie to eventually tie things back around to Brady.

“So, who’s your favourite Venezuelan poet?”
“I dunno, I’m nawt a big reader, unlike how Tawhm Brady can read a defense like the back of his hand.  He didn’t need any deflated footballs, the Pats were crushing the Colts anyway!  It’s absuhd!”