I started writing this post a good while ago. It’s taken me a bit longer than usual to pare down what it is that I love about today’s great thing. There’s just way too much enthusiasm on my part. Plus, there’s scads of Youtubery on the subject available on-line and I was just so happy to take those trips down memory lane. I wish I could post all the clips and interviews I watched/read. To say that she influenced my own comic sensibility is a massive understatement. Today’s great great great thing is songwriter, comedian, actress, MTV personality, and object of my comedy obsession for the greater part of my pre-teen years.
77. Julie Brown
Though she pops up in almost every medium of comedy culture with her film appearances, cult classic television shows, cartoon voice work, parody songs, and recent screenwriting of the Disney hit “Camp Rock”, it was really the MTV show “Just Say Julie” that sparked my love of Julie Brown. It was around this time (1989) that MTV first started creating original programming. Now, I hate most of that junk today. I resent the fact that there are even more reality stars out there, like the rich brats from “The Hills”, that I can’t identify in magazines–making me more and more disconnected with youth culture with each ensuing spin-off. But, at least JSJ played three music videos during every show. Hilarious as her interludes were, it was still all about pop-culture and the music. Crazy that, MTV focusing on music videos. In fact, that was one of the only demands that MTV put on the creative team of JSJ–play three videos…ANY three–even if they were just so she could skewer them (common targets were Sheena Easton, Madonna, and Debbie Gibson. Otherwise, as Julie Brown professes, they had very little regulation or supervision. That must be why the show was so awesome. She was ripping on overblown popstars and inserting herself into their videos via the magic of green-screen way before Beavis and Butthead were first doodled onto an animation cell.
It’s worth noting at this point that Julie Brown was one of TWO Julie Browns employed by MTV at the time. here’s the other one.
The other was some chick from London that was strictly a VJ and host of MTV’s dance program “Club MTV”. She used to say ‘wubba wubba wubba’ a lot. (Who knows?). THAT Julie Brown called herself “downtown” Julie Brown (again, who knows? Actually, I can think of a filthy joke to insert here but I’m battling that impulse.) Anyway, OUR Julie Brown, the funny American, one quickly dubbed her “The Evil Julie Brown”. You know…so we could tell them apart. Always helpful, our Julie.
My elementary school bestie, Ansley, and I taped all the episodes and would practically watch them on a continuous loop. It’s the first program that I learned to memorize and quote bits from (“Arrested Development” and “30 Rock” provide that fodder nowadays–which is awful because not a lot of Brits watch those shows and I’m often left to chuckle at my own references by my lonesome.) It’s a difficult program to describe so I’ll let this IMDB reader do that work for me:
This is a gem, an underrated classic.The wardrobe looked like it was designed by Betsey Johnson on a binge; yes, Julie was kooky. And that was all played to the hilt. But that’s what made the show work, because instead of fluff and nonsense you got satire and commentary with no apologies. This show was not afraid to be politically incorrect before it was even fashionable. Popular videos were interspersed with Julie’s unbiased opinions, often putting her employer MTV at odds with the outraged artists. After a Sheena Easton video, Julie suggested that maybe we should all sleep with Prince so he could write hit songs for us as well. Other favorite targets were “Whine-y” Houston and Tawny Kataen (in her role as wife-at-the-time of David Coverdale). The running joke was her delusion of Jon Bon Jovi as her fiancee. I would love to see a version of this series for a new generation. Can you imagine how she would skewer the Boy Bands and artists such as Britney Spears, etc.? Shows like “Ally McBeal” seem contrived as they strain to be offbeat, quirky and smart. This show just is.
I’ll just add to that little review that the show never actually seemed mean spirited despite her biting sarcasm. Perhaps because she clearly didn’t take herself very seriously. She played the character of valley girl almost in the same way that Steven Colbert plays right-wing blowhard on “The Colbert Report”. The show also has a serious camp sensibility. She’s definitely playing to the right audience in that regard. It’s usually the queers that truly appreciate funny women. In fact, her comedy origins start at the gay clubs in Los Angeles and she still participates in loads of pride celebrations and similar events in the area.
It’s been difficult to select a clip that I think fairly represents the humour on the show. But, give this clip a try. In it, Julie takes her show to the streets of Los Angeles in her quest to prove once and for all that blondes are dumb:
Did that clip please you? If so, there’s tons more on youtube and for sale on Julie Brown’s website (which can be found here: Julie Brown –she maintains a very funny blog there as well).
Julie Brown is a native of Van Nuys, California but really kicked off her comedy career in San Francisco–like so many of my favorite comics–Ellen DeGeneres and Paula Poundstone inlcuded. Though she plays the quintessential valley girl, you can see that she’s much smarter and self-effacing than that prototype. She’s also got great taste in comedy. Her own personal heroes include Lily Tomlin (who actually helped her to get started in the biz) and Catherine O’Hara.
Her parody songs, while perhaps not charting as high as some of Weird Al’s are also terrific. Two of my favorites include “I Like ‘Em Big and Stupid” and “Homecoming Queen’s Got a Gun”. Rather than a direct parody of a particular song, most of Julie Brown’s songs are satires of the times or of certain musical styles. Homecoming Queen is a pitch perfect send-up of those ‘tragedy songs’ of the late fifties and early sixties–like “He’s a Rebel” for example. The song was recently updated– skewering Sarah Palin during the election– as ‘The Ex-Beauty Queen’s Got A Gun”. It too, is hilarious and it’s refreshing to know that Julie’s still got the sarcastic valley-girl commentary down pat. Here’s a link to that clip on youtube: Sarah Palin Dig. But first, check out the original here:
In my feverishly obessive Internet root-around for interesting info about Julie brown, I came across this great interview with her at retrojunk.com: recent interview
I couldn’t even remember that she was a guest star on “Murphy Brown” once. (The show had a recurring gag that revolved around poor Murphy’s bad luck with secretaries–there was a new bumbling idiot/weirdo every week). In the last season they had a parade of celebs as the secretaries. I’m going to chalk this lack of recall up to the fact that I kinda missed out on “Murphy Brown’s” final season as I was at college that year–spending my time not getting drunk and not hanging out at cool parties.
Ahhhh, Julie Brown…it’s been a fantastic week catching up on so many of your clips on youtube.
I wish I had buckets of money. I would totally organize a comedy-palooza that would highlight America’s best parody songwriters. The line-up would include: Julie Brown, Weird Al (who was a guest on JSJ once), They Might Be Giants, Flight Of The Concords, and Julie Goldman. They would tour major American cities as well as the standard Canadian ones and a few venues in the UK. Anyone want to set that up?
Oh, and who is Julie Goldman, you might ask? Your answer is here:
Anyway, I would totally pay up to 50 US dollars to see that ticket.