Comedy

The New York Times Makes Me Laugh

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I wanted to write about this immediately when I saw this last Friday. But, I really don’t write about politics per se, and my comments here have nothing to do with politics anyway.

But, since I just wrote a few minutes ago regarding Caroline Kennedy’s endorsement of Barack Obama, I had little trouble convincing myself that this was in that same vein. 😉

So, last Friday, The NY Times endorsed Hillary Clinton in this op-ed. I don’t begrudge them their opinion (they even label it that 😉 ), but I do find some of their phrases amusing (to say the least). This is, after all, supposedly the paper of record. What a joke.

Tell me if you think the following sentence doesn’t make the editors of The New York Times sound like schoolgirls:

“The idea of the first African-American nominee of a major party also is exhilarating, and so is the prospect of the first woman nominee.”

Exhilarating? Really? No, wait, sorry, they too realized what an extremely silly thing to say that was, since they followed it up immediately with the next two sentences:

“‘Firstness’ is not a reason to choose. The times that false choice has been raised, more often by Mrs. Clinton, have tarnished the campaign.”

Ah, so, it tarnished her campaign to bring it up, yet you (the vaunted editors of The NY Times) couldn’t resist coloring it even further with the word exhilarating.

When I read that, I had an immediately exhilarating thought as well, some might even call it ironic. What if Condoleezza Rice were running for president. Would The NY Times editors be exhilarated at the thought of the first African-American Woman nominee? Let’s not waste too much time on that imponderable. 😉

Barack Obama Kennedy

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This past Sunday, Caroline Kennedy penned this editorial in The NY Times, endorsing Barack Obama for President. A day later, her uncle, Senator Edward/Ted Kennedy also endorsed Obama, and both appeared with the candidate.

This is not a blog about politics, nor is it likely to ever become that. This is a blog about things that interest me on a personal level, that I wish to document or comment on, mostly for my own amusement.

Comedy, irony, satire, etc., are very important aspects of my life, and that’s the only reason that I choose to comment on this particular endorsement.

For the most part, Caroline Kennedy waxes eloquently. I have little doubt that it is heart-felt. But, both she and her famous uncle felt the overwhelming need to add either code words or code phrases to their respective endorsements, to ensure that people would understand that they were going out of their way to differentiate between Obama and Hillary Clinton.

Ted’s was less complicated, when he told the crowd at American University: “I know that he’s ready to be President on day one.” This was specifically targeted at no one other than Hillary Clinton, who continues to claim that Obama simply isn’t ready, but she (of course) is.

Back to Caroline. Her endorsement is very historic, and I don’t discount that. Why then, in choosing her anti-Hillary code phrase, did she have to muck it up so badly with the following?

“And when it comes to judgment, Barack Obama made the right call on the most important issue of our time by opposing the war in Iraq from the beginning.”

True or not (meaning, Obama’s position on Iraq, versus Hillary’s), it actually separates Obama from her father, rather than making him the second coming of JFK. I found it quite ironic.

There is little doubt that JFK inspired the masses. If his life hadn’t been tragically cut short, who knows what else he might have accomplished. That said, there is also little doubt that he was instrumental in plunging us into the Vietnam war. A war that so many are so quick to equate with the current Iraq war. Here is one take on JFK’s role in Vietnam (typos and all).

He also came desperately close to plunging us all into World War III, with his handling of the Bay of Pigs.

History is a harsh mistress. We are all (myself included) geniuses at this moment in time looking back at President Bush’s decision to invade Iraq, and second guess it. Most Americans feel the same way about our involvement in Vietnam. That said, while many blame and deride Bush with ulterior motives, few would hold JFK’s motives up to that same harsh light. He simply acted in good faith, and things didn’t work out as planned.

So, in my opinion, Caroline should have avoided that specific line of thought…

I should stop now, I know that (deeply). That said, since this is about irony, I simply can’t help myself. I can’t help recalling, now that we’re remembering past presidents and comparing them to current candidates (and their spouses perhaps?), that JFK also shared some very strong traits with Bill Clinton. In particular, their well-known dalliances. JFK was lucky enough to live in a time when it was unseemly even to report such matters, let alone investigate them…

Now back to our more regularly scheduled musings. 😉

Gotham Comedy Club

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In this post, I mentioned that we might go see Jamie Lissow (again) at the Gotham Comedy Club.

After enjoying the Vienna Boys Choir at Carnegie Hall in the afternoon, we relaxed in the apartment and watched most of To Catch A Thief by Alfred Hitchcock, starring Cary Grant and Grace Kelly.

For the second night in a row, which was also only the second time in forever, we took our car out of the garage and drove a whopping 11 blocks to eat at a wonderful vegetarian Indian restaurant called Pongal on 28th and Lexington Avenue. On a typical Sunday night in NYC (especially in the winter), parking should have been a breeze down there.

Unfortunately, NBC was shooting something down there, and the police had signs all over the neighborhood saying “No Parking” after 7pm. 🙁

I dropped the others off, and after circling the neighborhood twice, found a great spot two blocks away, so it ended up being fine.

We had a fantastic meal that all of us enjoyed, but we also all felt stuffed to the gills afterwards. One of the five of us didn’t have an interest in the comedy, so she walked back to the apartment and relaxed there for the evening. The rest of us drove to Gotham Comedy Club, and we got a great spot on the street, directly across from the front door.

It’s a beautiful club, with a spacious layout between the tables (a very welcome change to lots of NY venues where you are packed in like cattle). Unfortunately, the seats are extremely uncomfortable, and need way more padding. In addition to a cover, they have a two drink per person minimum, or a food order. Obviously, we were too stuffed to order food, so two drinks it was going to be.

Again, unfortunately, our waitress was hyper-aggressive about wanting to start the drinks rolling. We were seated at 8:15pm for a 9pm show, so it was disappointing to get that much pressure/attitude that early in the evening. To boot, the gratuity is built in to the check…

We really went to see Jamie Lissow, who was the MC last night. When he came out, he was pretty funny, but 95% was interacting with the crowd (“Where are you from?”, followed by funny ad-libs, etc.). He was definitely good with the crowd. Unfortunately, while he was on stage between every act, he only told two or three jokes, instead just making introductions the rest of the evening.

There were roughly seven other comedians last night. All of them had good stage presence, and each had at least one good joke, a few of them a handful. Unfortunately, all but one of them resorted to ultra-crude humor to try and get laughs. We haven’t been to a comedy club in ages, so perhaps this is the norm. It just happens to not be that clever (in our opinion) and is, in fact, lazy.

The crudeness actually doesn’t bother me at all, but it really bugs Lois, so I cringe when they say something that I know is flat out offensive. Jerry Seinfeld (among many others) has proven that you can have a 100% clean act and still make it. Of course, perhaps it’s much harder to actually think about everyday life, and spin it in a funny way, rather than another sex joke filled with curse words…

The last comic, Kevin Flynn, who was the best of the bunch (not including Jamie) was introduced as having been in a movie with Ben Stiller (The Heartbreak Kid). IMDB doesn’t list him, but oscars.org does, so I am not 100% sure.

After the show was over we were fortunate enough to have the opportunity to say hello to Jamie, and let him know that I was the guy whose blog he commented on. Hopefully, he got a kick out of that.

We definitely enjoyed the evening and were glad we went, but on balance, we’d rather see live music than gamble on the quality of comedians we haven’t seen before.

We got back to the apartment a little after 11pm, and watched the end of To Catch A Thief. We didn’t discuss the movie afterwards, as Lois and I went straight to bed. But, just based on body language, I’m guessing that I enjoyed it more than the other four people combined. 😉

Jamie Lissow Strikes Again

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If you read this post, and this one, you know that we thoroughly enjoyed seeing Jamie Lissow perform with Kevin Meaney at Tarrytown Music Hall last Friday night.

If you have lots of extra time on your hands, and also read the very few comments made on my blog, then you also know that I only found out Jamie’s last name because he posted a comment and that’s how I discovered it. 🙂

Once I learned his last name, I went to his site. There, I found out that he was appearing on a TV show called Red Eye, on Fox News Channel. This is a comedy show at 3am that does a fast-paced take on items in the news. I’ve seen it once or twice in the past.

So, I set the DVR and we’re watching it now (it was on at 3am this morning). The entire show is actually pretty funny, and Jamie held his own really well! During one of his very funny lines, they flashed a message that he was appearing this coming Sunday at the Gotham Comedy Club in NYC.

I went to their site, and he wasn’t listed. There are two shows on Sunday, and both are audition shows. Lois called, and Jamie is the MC of the second show at 9pm.

Under normal circumstances, we would definitely go. This weekend, we have three people staying with us. When we have company, we work hard to find things that they will enjoy, rather than things that we might otherwise do ourselves. So, if this isn’t their cup of tea, we will end up passing.

In order to leave our options open, we made a reservation for five people for the 9pm show, just in case, and we explained the situation to the person who took our reservation. 😉

Obviously, we’ll cancel well in advance if we end up doing something different.

Whether we go or not, if you want to see a funny comedian (and perhaps many of them), then go to the Gotham Comedy Club this Sunday night for the 9pm show!

My iPod Nano Teaches Me New Tricks

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Mostly, I listen to music on my iPod. On occasion, I have listened to an audio book or two, while exercising. One thing I have never done is watch a video. My old iPod 30GB probably could do it as well (it certainly could display photos), but I never even tried (not even a photo).

Up until very recently, I never subscribed to a podcast either. I have listened to a dozen podcasts directly from their authors’ websites, mostly poker podcasts, but never on the iPod, or through iTunes.

Two months ago, Lois sent me a link to a podcast from KCRW’s The Business, where they interviewed the producer of the show Wicked, Marc Platt. She didn’t listen to it, but asked me to check it out. I found it extremely informative, and I ended up subscribing to The Business podcast through iTunes.

I still hadn’t listened to any of the additional six episodes that automatically downloaded to my iTunes and then sync’ed to my iPod, but I knew that one day I would.

For 10 years, Lois and I commuted daily on the Metro-North railroad to NYC. I can’t recall the last time I’ve been on that train, but it has been years, for sure. Last night, a good friend was in town from Minnesota. We agreed to have dinner in Grand Central and I took the train in and back.

At first, I thought I’d bring along my Grado SR80’s and really enjoy some music on the train. Then I realized that the rumble of the train would cut into my enjoyment, since the Grado’s are not noise canceling, and my Sony and Bose NC’s were both in the city.

So, I realized that this would be a perfect opportunity to listen to a podcast or two. I already had episodes of The Business loaded up, but it occurred to me that this was a unique and ideal opportunity to see if there were some interesting video podcasts available. Clearly, I can’t watch video when I’m driving in the car (or can I?). 😉

So, I used iTunes to search for some video podcasts, specifically concentrating on comedy first. I read reviews of the Comedy Central stand-up excerpts, and most people were really disappointed with them. Then I read glowing reviews of a podcast by scantily clad women doing the news. People swore it was hysterical, and pleasing on the eyes as well.

How could I resist? So, I downloaded a dozen episodes (they average roughly three minutes each). I then downloaded 10 episodes of the Onion video podcast (I have read a few of their mock news articles online, and usually enjoyed them thoroughly!).

On to the train, turned on the Nano, and started watching the ladies doing the news. They are indeed easy on the eyes, even on a tiny Nano screen. That said, 95% of their material is mind-numbingly boring. You can see where they are aiming (on occasion), but it’s really tedious. Hard to imagine something three minutes long can get tedious, but they achieve it brilliantly!

So, while they beg (on every episode) for bloggers to link to them, I just can’t bring myself to throw them a link. I’m unsubscribing from them.

Of course, since they are so short, I watched them all…

Then I moved on to the Onion. Way more professional (meaning, superb fakes of real shows, like their spoof of the Today Show). The comedy though is very up and down. All of the ideas are clever, but some of the execution is not only tedious, but feels like watching a train wreck. Others though, are delightful and brilliant. So, I’m not unsubscribing the Onion just yet.

The real point is that the experiment worked. I could use my crappy ear buds, on a raucous train ride, since high fidelity was not necessary. The video made the focus of attention easy, and the ride in both directions quick. That said, I finished the ride with another audio-only episode of The Business. Even though I had no video to keep me entertained, the content was way more interesting, and therefore kept me much more engaged. I am most definitely going to continue listening to future podcasts from them. They average close to 30 minutes in length, so it’s a commitment.

Jamie Lissow and Brian Kiley

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In this post, I mentioned two guest comedians whose names I wasn’t sure about.

Thankfully, one of them, Jamie Lissow, commented on my posting, so I now have his correct name and website (now linked to his name earlier in this sentence). A very funny guy who you should try and see live if you get a chance!

That inspired me to check for Brian again. It turns out I guessed the spelling of his last name incorrectly. It’s Brian Kiley, one of the writers on the Conan O’Brien show. He’s extremely funny as well.

I feel better now that the record has been set straight on these two talented comedians! 🙂

Kevin Meaney at Tarrytown Music Hall

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A while ago, Lois and I had to make a decision as to which of two shows to attend last night (December 7th, 2007). There was another Dave Koz and friends concert (including Jonathan Butler, who blew me away the last time), at the Beacon Theater, and Kevin Meaney at the Tarrytown Music Hall.

We loved the Dave Koz concert last time, so that would have been an easy one to pick. That said, we like to spend weekends at the house whenever possible, and I like Kevin Meaney (and comedy in general), so we decided to see Kevin.

It was snowing much of the day, so only having to drive 10 minutes was welcome, though we had to walk very carefully from where we parked.

Kevin was pretty funny right off the bat. I knew that he had a few guests scheduled (it was his Christmas Show), so I was actually a little surprised that he opened the show himself.

He brought out seven little kids (the oldest had to be 7 or 8). He interviewed each of them, and it was absolutely hysterical. Then they all sang one Christmas song together, and the kids were done. Very cute.

After a little while, he introduced a comic whose name I didn’t catch, but both Lois and I think his first name is Jamie (see comments, as we now know his last name is Lissow), and he lives in NYC. He had a slightly strange style, and it took a few minutes for him to warm up, or for the crowd to warm up to him, but once he got rolling, he was really funny. Cheeks were officially hurting by the time he was done.

After a few more jokes by Kevin, they broke for intermission. After the intermission, he introduced a comic whose name I thought was Brian Kylie Kiley (now we know) (sp?) who is a staff writer on Conan O’Brien. Unfortunately, I’ve tried to search for him (and Jamie) and couldn’t find either, so I am sure I got his name wrong too.

He was essentially a one-style comic, but he had it honed to perfection. He would tell the setup, wait five bananas, and deliver a punch line that was always 100% misdirection. Here is a typical example, though this particular joke is both old, and not even remotely one of his better ones: “Now that I’m a parent, I call my Dad for advice more often. He always says the same thing… (count to five bananas…) ‘How did you get this number?'”.

Anyway, the above joke aside, he was very funny. My cheeks really hurt again when he was done.

The only marginally unfortunate thing is that Kevin Meaney ended the show with a movie that he shot in Tarrytown that afternoon. There were clever moments, and it showed off his skill at improvising, but ultimately, it wasn’t that funny, and there were a few uncomfortable moments as well. It was a waste of time…

I am an over-the-moon lover of comedy. I would rather laugh than do anything else. I am also an easy mark. I am happy to laugh at bad jokes, if I can see where the joke was heading. Lois, on the other hand, enjoys a good laugh, but the joke better be clean, and delivered well, etc. In other words, she’s a much tougher critic than I am.

I really didn’t expect her to enjoy the show last night, and I greatly appreciated that she was willing to go in good spirits. Thankfully, she really liked both Jamie and Brian (again, perhaps we got the names wrong), and 1/2 of Kevin’s stuff made her laugh as well (she was nuts over the part with the little kids).

So, it was a very successful evening!

NBC Got It Right

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I’m a complete sucker for sitcoms. Even stupid ones make me laugh. Yes, I can distinguish between a good one and a horrible one, but like I said, even most horrible ones make me laugh.

Unfortunately, the same isn’t true for Lois. She really loves to laugh, and there are some sitcoms that can really set her off (in the positive sense), but she can’t tolerate stupidity, even if the aim of that is just to get you to laugh.

That puts us at odds. There are a number of shows that I enjoy, that she can’t stand, that I totally understand why. Enter the DVR. I can record those shows, and watch them at some point when Lois isn’t interested in watching TV.

I try fewer new shows than I might otherwise, just because I know I’ll be watching them alone. This year, I decided to try Chuck (on NBC) and Bing Bang Theory (on CBS). I set the DVR to tape both, and we left for our normal trip to Zope.

When we got back, I saw three episodes of Bing Bang Theory, but only two of Chuck. I realized that since I was now taping (how quaint, I meant recording) most shows in HD, even though I have a 320GB disk, I filled it up. The first episode of Chuck got erased automatically.

Some shows (Pushing Daisies for example) go down much smoother if you see the pilot episode, where they set the entire premise. Chuck seemed like that would be the case.

A quick search on Google found the above link to the show instantly. Sure enough, they offered full episodes online, for free. There are certain things that I don’t do, even though I can afford them. For example, there’s simply no way that I would have paid $1.99 to download the episode from iTunes (if that were the only place it was available).

Watching the episode on NBC was quite pleasant, their player is pretty good. I also had to spend 30 seconds a few times during the show to have an opportunity to view Sprint ads. While I didn’t select any of the ads, I was certainly well aware that my viewing pleasure was being sponsored by Sprint, and I had no problem with that at all. Of course, I happen to be a very happy Sprint customer, but that’s besides the point. 😉

I enjoyed the episode. Actually, I enjoyed the premise more than the actual episode. There were a number of weak moments in the episode, but I’m interested enough to watch the two I’ve recorded already, and if those are good too, I’ll watch the rest of the season. So, NBC got a viewer for the show by making past episodes available online, for free. Even if you assume that I will fast forward through every commercial that sits on my DVR, I sat through the Sprint sponsorship online (better than nothing for them!), and while Nielsen doesn’t count me, if they collect anonymous stats from FiOS, they’ll know that I record Chuck, which will count toward their viewership.

I still haven’t watched any of the Bing Bang Theory episodes, so I don’t know if I’ll like them.

For an example of a show that I’ll watch, that Lois won’t, you can check out Kelsey Grammer and Patricia Heaton’s new show, Back to You (on Fox). We were both interested in watching this new show, as we loved Frasier (Lois, especially). I liked Everybody Loves Raymond. Lois didn’t, but she appreciates Patricia Heaton (we also saw her live on Broadway with Tony Shaloub).

Anyway, Back to You qualifies as an incredibly stupid show, that is filled with cheap laughs. The key word (for me) is laughs, cheap or otherwise. I definitely laugh out loud at a number of the lines and situations, but everything about the show is just downright stupid.

So, kudos to NBC (perhaps others, but that’s the only one I’ve needed and tried so far).