Category Archives: comedy

What I Done Saw At Edinburgh 2015

I’m back from a sunny (!?!) and fun-packed week up in Scotland’s craggy and beautiful capital city.  For those readers not in the know, the Edinburgh Fringe Festival is one of the most important events on any comic’s calendar…certainly in the UK but, increasingly, abroad too. In fact, the US-based comics of note who came over this year include Kyle Kinane and Michael Che.

Gorgeous Every Single Time

Gorgeous Every Single Time

The festival lasts a little over three weeks (inclusive of a few ‘preview’ dates) and also features theatre, music, dance, family friendly shows, puppetry, street performance, you name it.

The whole city has a deliriously giddy arts-camp sort of feel with every other person you encounter ready to flyer you for their show.  As most shows typically run in hour long slots, you can make a mission of it and try to cram up to 7 or 8 shows in a day (that’s allowing for the oh so necessary beer and pie breaks–if you don’t drink or eat you could probably fit more in).

I had planned on going up for the whole run this year, which would have been my first time doing so, but my plans changed when I didn’t get the venues I’d applied for.  Doing a full run in Edinburgh is hellapricey. You have to consider your accommodation for the  month, which is always extortionate, your promotional costs, eating, drinking, etc… As crucial as the experience is, doing the entire run at the Fringe is a slog, a drain, and a real test of your stamina. Some people barely make it out alive. I snapped a picture of this shrine to desperation on Niddry street.

Whatever gets you through the night, comedy soldier.

Whatever gets you through the night, comedy soldier.

 

To be fair, I got a later offer of a midnight slot at a venue…but it wouldn’t have suited my comedy. I’m not aggressive. I’m not blue. I’m an American lesbian comic nerd abroad.  I don’t need to invite more heckling into my life. As such, I’m saving my pennies until next year. I’ll apply again and cross my fingers for the venue lottery to swing my way.

Happily, however, I got to go up for a week of shows.  I was hosting Gag Reflex’s compilation show (Gag Reflex Presents…) and improvising with ComedySportz.  It was a real treat to be asked to work with Gag. They are a powerhouse of a comedy agency in the North and the professionalism with which they run and promote their acts and gigs is refreshing and emboldening (special thanks to Forest, Connor, Alex, and Hannah). I was on the bill with 4 acts:  Chris Washington, Sean Nolan, Benji Waterstones, and Tom Lucy. I’d never worked with any of them previously and I found them all to be delightfully funny, cool guys.  Also, The Boy With Tape On His Face stopped by to do a ten minute set. Unbeatable.

Moi

Moi

The ComedySportz shows were also a treat. Initially concerned about our 7:30PM slot…we found, in the long run, that being a kid-friendly show at that hour may have actually benefited us as there was much less competition around at that time.  We had lovely, up-for-it crowds, genius children, and quite a few folks who came back to 2 or 3 shows.  Frosting on the cake? We got to play with the Chicago team’s Nathan Jansen, Nick Semar, and Bethany Remeley. Amazing improvisers and a hell of a show.

Now, I’m back from the fun, I’d like to pass on some recommendations for gigs up there…if you’re planning on heading up before the close of the festival (and you totally should).

What I done saw this year:

Baby Wants Candy:  I see this show EVERY year. Why would I go and see the same show for £14 pounds every dang year? Because it’s different every time. BWC is long-form musical improv (with a full band) as performed by some of the world’s best improvisers. They, unfailingly, make me laugh my face off. I hope they never stop spending their August in Scotland.

Nick and Nathan of BWC

Nick and Nathan of BWC

 

Speaking of classy improv:  Austentatious.  This London-based improv show has been in receipt of glowing reviews since they brought their show up north and I finally got to catch them this year. It’s pitch-perfect, knowing, clever-silly fun. May have to make this an annual exercise as well.

Went and saw my good buddies at Gein’s Family Gift Shop for their ‘Volume 2’ hour of sketches. Darker and funnier than ever, Kath Hughes gets a bit more stage time and is perhaps the most menacing of them all. My friend Kat came to their preview at Sidekick recently and now feels like comedy is ruined forever because nothing will ever be as good.

Kath and I got to try the new wings joint in Edinburgh (It’s helpfully called ‘Wings’) and it’s amazing. Lots of varieties from gloppy blue-cheese to buffalo ranch, a fun beverage list…and…most importantly…a shit ton of pop culture crap just strewn about the joint. The tables are all themed. There was Star Trek, Star Wars, Doctor Who…we got to sit at the Jurassic Park table.  You need to go there. Regretfully, I did not vine a wee video of my water glass wobbling.

Kath Hughes, being a winner, per usual.

Kath Hughes, being a winner, per usual.

Canadian comic Mae Martin is doing a free gig at City Cafe this year. Her solo show ‘Us’ was excellent. Her affable and confessional story-telling ability made the hour fly by.

Kyle Kinane. A thoughtful buzzsaw of comedy. Of course he impressed. But then again, I’m a fan. Apparently he mixes up different material every night. No two shows are exactly the same?

AFVS: Another Fucking Variety Show. A Gag Reflex show, legend of the burlesque and cabaret scene, Lili La Scala comperes a glorious variety of acts onto the stage. On the night I attended, Christina Bianco (as featured on Ellen, impersonating everyone from Babs to Whitney) was there.

I didn’t have time to see all the shows I would have wanted to. But, here’s a few more shows that I saw preview versions of and which are also absolutely killing it with amazing reviews at the festival:

Michael J. Dolan: Miserable Guts

Fern Brady: People Are Idiots

Peter Brush: Older The Oldest Dog That Ever Lived

Lou Conran: Small Medium At Large

Jonny Pelham: Before And After

I can also recommend a whole fleet of comedy friends and colleagues whose Edinburgh shows I HAVEN’T seen but who I know for a fact, are amazing: Joby Mageean, Red Redmond, Freddy Quinne, Dan Nicholas, Kiri Pritchard-McLean, Joe Lycett, Steve Bugeja (who will be at Sidekick Comedy in September), Harriet Kemsley, Bobby Mair, Phil Ellis, Seymour Mace, Silky, Martin Mor, Sam Gore, and a buh-billion more, so I’ll have to stop now. The point is…there are tons of shows, both free and ticketed, that are worth your time and money. The city is absolutely lousy with choice.

Get yourself to Edinburgh!

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Bumford & Rons

Had some fun with Photoshop today.

I don’t HATE Mumford & Sons. Sure, I think they are a bit sucky…but this isn’t a blood feud. I just think bums are funny and Ron Weasley is also amusing.

Mumford and Sons

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I Believe I Can Fly

Memes. Oh how I love you so.  You take a clever idea and then make it better and better (and then eventually boring and worse).

A new take on the motivational poster is all over the show. Lots of people are taking the quotes of famous film or television characters and inserting them into the inspiring, typically office-bound, prints.  I’ve seen all sorts…Karen from WILL & GRACE, Jenna from 30 ROCK, Malcolm from THE THICK OF IT, etc…

It’s cute.  But once you get the joke, you get it.

Or DO you?

Let’s see what Clarence J. Boddicker has to say about that.

Poster 1

Poster 1

Poster 2

Poster 2

Poster 3

Poster 3

Poster 4

Poster 4

I hope these have inspired you. Contribute your own in the comments.  And have a great day.

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Campaign Surfing

The elections are coming up here in Great Britain and, as it is with most countries, there are parties who represent every shade of the political spectrum.

Some of the more conservative outfits are using Immigration as a wedge issue and engaging in some successful fear-mongering.

Hitting back at this campaign of misinformation, Movement Against Xenophobia has unleashed a promotional campaign which features a variety of immigrants who contribute in essential ways to like in the UK.

Here is the website: http://www.noxenophobia.org/

The posters they’ve created, I think, are effective. Here’s a sampling:

1 of 2

1 of 2

2 of 2

2 of 2

Anyway, I thought I’d use this new progressive meme to help further my own selfish aims.  So, I’ve done my own. I hope you like it and think I’m super clever and good at Photo Shop

Please To Have All The Gigs?.

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Draggedy Ann

I’m convinced that RuPaul is a magical alien from an advanced civilization who has descended to Earth to spread fabulousness and that one day, her space-ship will return and she will leave us for her home planet. So, appreciate her whilst you can, citizens of Earth!

I’m a bit late in catching the RuPaul’s Drag Race fervor, we’re now well into the 6th season,  but now that I’m here with the rest of you fanatics, I’m loving it.

The BEST Power Ranger.

The BEST Power Ranger.

I’ve binge-watched seasons 2-4 (I was told to skip the first season as it was rather low budget and still finding its feet) and I’m 5 episodes in to season 5. The goal is to catch up to season 6 entirely so that I can tweet and make comments and throw shade with other fans in real time. (Cheer me on, readers, in this most heroic of heroic goals.  A true test of human endurance and Cheetos consumption–it’s my go-to TV snack as of late!)

I had avoided watching Drag Race for the last few years because I felt so DONE with reality television. I didn’t want to spend time investing in yet another manipulative yet brainless exercise in ‘unscripted’ (but totally coerced) television when there’s so much fantastic scripted television out there to watch. (I still haven’t watched the final season of THE WIRE, but shhhhh….it’s a dirty secret.) Furthermore, I hate ‘reality’ TV stars. If one more ‘real housewife’ becomes a real household name, I’m leaving my body.

Speaking of ‘real’, of course now that I’ve been consuming these shows at such a clip, I’m starting to use drag lingo way too much in my everyday life. I reckon it’s like when people binge on too much BBC America, they just pick up the colloquialisms. They start talking about rubbish and crisps, car boot sales and demanding canapes on silver trays instead of garbage, chips, garage sales and eating out of the trash can.  I’m particularly fond of the terms ‘kiki’, ‘reading’ & ‘realness’. In season 2, Tyra Sanchez, in bragging about her natural feminine beauty rattles off this gem. “I’m daytime, I’m real!” This hearkens back to PARIS IS BURNING…a wonderful documentary that I can’t recommend enough. It pulls back the curtain on the Harlem drag balls of the early eighties (from which Madonna ripped off the dance-style for her “Vogue” video). The drag balls in Harlem housed an amazing tradition for a hugely interesting subculture of African American drag queens and the occasional king. And when they ‘walked the ball’, they would do their best to look ‘real’ in any category. And the categories were broad…I’m talking anything from teenage girl babysitter to military man, to street thug. Keeping it ‘real’ was the name of the game and this is sometimes much different to the drag we see in something like PRISCILLA QUEEN OF THE DESSERT for instance…a super fun film, but one that shows a more fantastic and outlandish side of drag performance.

Here’s a clip from PARIS IS BURNING that explains ‘realness’.

If I had to walk at a drag ball, I think I’d shoot for Seth Rogan realness. I’ve got enough novelty teeshirts and big sneakers to just make it work, I reckon.  I can’t stop using ‘realness’ in my life now. Recently went to a costume party where the theme was ‘heroes’. Of course, my first urge was to dress up like a lesser-known superhero, being a giant fangirl and all. Maybe Nova or Artemis.  But I thought about it longer and not wanting to be so predictable, I decided to diverge from my usual leanings. I figured I might be able to pass for Annie Lennox a la “Sweet Dreams Are Made Of These”. I put a can of orange hair spray and an electric blue tie to good use and was pretty happy with the results.

Sweet dreams--

The Real Annie Lennox

--Are made of these.

Annie Lennox ‘Realness’.

Anyway, enough of my lookie-likie success, and back to the show. Drag queens, largely, are versatile, artistic, funny, and talented performers and I’m truly happy that this show has brought it back to the front of the American pop-culture bus. When I was a student in New York City, I remember drag queens being absolute club royalty.  I was no club kid. I probably went 6 or 7 times to the BIG clubs of the day when I was a student. (I’m talking Limelight, Tunnel, Club USA…90s clubkid era). But, when I did, I knew you had to look like a fabulous freak to get in. I remember hitting TJ Maxx to look for weird items to piece together. I settled on a curly sky blue knit top and gold lame pants for my first ever visit. That was a good look. Another one was a dark silver-sparkled leotard with black rubber trousers and Doc Martens. That look get me my butt pinched by a drag queen who was using the lady’s facilities. It was like the biggest compliment ever. I was over the moon. My butt? Noticed by a drag queen! I high-fived myself in congratulations.  Good drag queens are like the unicorns of the gay world. Magical, horny, and with great hair.  I even went to Wigstock and got to see the amazing Lady Bunny perform.

Most of my favorite characters on DRAG RACE  have been the ‘comedy queens’. Girls that were able to be charming and funny as WELL as dress up all fancy and walk in heels (notably, Pandora Boxx, Jujubee & Jinkx Monsoon). I’m a sucker for the ‘nice’ girls.  I don’t generally favor the contestants who are just pretty faces or the ones who are cruel in their game-mastery.  I grudgingly came around to loving Willam, which surprised me because she’s a bit of a dick.  Willam, initially at least, came across as much too cruel to be funny. But, she’s broken me down. I can’t resist her evil charms. She’s got a hilarious channel on YouTube.  Willam’s Beatdown

It shouldn’t be surprising how funny so many of the contestants are. Being in a (sometimes) persecuted minority can really help develop those comedy muscles. I loved Pandora Boxx’s persona so much on the show that I subscribe to her Facebook page now. Recently, she posted this video. It’s of Coco Peru playing GTA. If you like video games and/or laughing, you will enjoy this:

The show succeeds in presenting fresh takes on reality-challenge tropes. One of my favorite (and one which returns every year) is “Snatch Game”. It’s a take on MATCH GAME, with the queens all having to do their best and most entertaining celebrity impersonation. Of course, it’s always a game where the wittier, not prettier, girls succeed. Pandora Boxx doing Carol Channing was a personal fave. RuPaul is a masterful host who is able to be a mother figure to the contestants without it coming across as too cloying, a black-belt in pop-culture knowledge, and an award winning punster and catchphrase generator. One of my favorite Ru catchphrases is when, after consulting with the panel of judges, she shouts ‘SILENCE!’ (usually when no one is even talking). Here is a supercut of those moments:

Honestly, why RuPaul hasn’t been the comic lead in a Broadway play yet, I don’t know.

All in all, I’m loving this show and am thrilled by its success. And of course, since we’re at it, let’s brainstorm drag personas for me (not that I’d ever try my hand at it. I’m far too lazy to learn how to apply make-up good).

–Man Hathaway

End of list.

Further Reading (The library is open!):

Spin Profile

NYTimes Profile

Short Video

Twitter Feed

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Catherine The Great

Lordy lordy! Christmas is almost here!  It’s my favorite time of year you know…this and Halloween…and summer for, like, a week.  Threw a Christmas party at my flat earlier in the month…as is the custom.  This year, I decided to treat my Brit-pals to real US-Stylee Christmas cookies.  The English are forever stuffing their jolly and rain-drenched Christmas faces with overburdened pie crusts and doorstopper Christmas cakes…jammed full of crap like orange peel, figs, and brandy soaked raisins.  We get it…you like to eat bags of potpourri.  Your burps must smell like Yankee Candles.  Americans, on the other hand, go for the quick-burning simple sugars and e-colored frosting found in/on most cookies.  The variety can be staggering, but this year, Karey made Amy Sedaris’ recipe for chocolate chips.  (Amy Sedaris–is there anything her influence DOESN’T improve?)  I made two types of spritz cookie–chocolate and almond.

The chocolate dough was most agreeable.  They happily came out the bottom of the press in the shape they were supposed to maintain.

Well behaved cookies!

They were both yummy and pretty.  Success!  The almond spritz, however, had a much softer dough which I couldn’t tame.  As hard as I tried, I just couldn’t get them out of the press in tidy shapes.  It all would just…glob out.  So, instead of baking pretty, almond flavored trees and wreaths, I just squirted out the mucky clumps and baked those.  The dough still TASTED good and it’s a shame to waste all that butter.  So, I just repackaged ’em as ‘grinch poop’ instead of spritz.  I think Sedaris would have approved.

Unruly!

Mercifully, my corn flake wreaths turned out a bit better.  Ah, corn flake wreaths–Americans are experts at re-purposing otherwise healthy foods.  Green bean casserole, creamed corn, pumpkin pie, and merry little corn flake wreaths.  Start with a healthy low fat and vitamin fortified breakfast cereal, add bags of gooey marshmallow, lashings of food dye, and enough melted butter to stop your heart.  Wunderbar!

The only problem is that I couldn’t find any holiday cookie sprinkles (red and green jimmies…or little silver balls…or red hots…or anything).  So, I had to purchase Barbie sprinkles (all I could find, OK?) and separate out the white jimmies from the pink ones and just use those on the wreaths.  So very dedicated to my junk food, I am.

Christmas cookies on one side, it’s ALSO a byproduct of the holiday season that films like Beetlejuice and Home Alone and The Nightmare Before Christmas are broadcast on television.  What do those movies have in common?  Why it’s today’s great thing and national treasure (via Canada)

171. Catherine O’Hara

https://i1.wp.com/upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/thumb/1/16/CATHERINE_OHARA.jpg/220px-CATHERINE_OHARA.jpg

Actress, Comic, Singer, and Stock Photo Model: Catherine O'Hara

You grow up sort of knowing that she’s good…she pads out the role of ‘Mom’ in a ton of PG films quite nicely and she sings so sweetly as Sally in The Nightmare Before Christmas.  But, it was really in my early twenties…with the advent of the Christopher Guest mockumentaries that I noticed how excellent she is.  I mean–her version of “Midnight at the Oasis” as performed with Fred Willard in Waiting For Guffman will always overrule how I hear the song.  Sorry, Maria Muldaur…but I’m going to need some coffee for that ride.

It goes without saying that she’s a terrific improviser.  She understudied for Gilda Radner at Second City (improv mecca).  She later went on to write and perform sketches for “SCTV”.  But those Christopher Guest films are always a treat.  I’m eagerly awaiting the next.  What a dream it would be to act with that Christopher Guest lot on one of those impro-films.   John Michael Higgins, Jane Lynch, and Michael Hitchcock..they are so good I just know I’d get all sweaty and nervous in their company.  I’d big myself up then try to be all self-deprecating…failing at both…try to insert my most interesting stories into conversations where they obviously didn’t fit.  Probably block every scene with bad improv.  Maybe get tanked and awkwardly perv on Parker Posey.  Oh the ways I could embarrass myself on that set. Michael McKean would tweet something funny about it, I bet…(he has funny Tweets).

O’Hara is a notable comedy hero because, like Tina Fey, she’s an all-star.  She’s a great actress, improviser, AND writer.  And, back in the era when she was on sketch television I reckon it was even harder for women to get their material on air.  Here’s a sketch which she wrote where a game show host has to suffer through idiots.  I reckon you’ll see where that Will Ferrell/Alex Trebek sketch was born.

Here’s something weirdly personal to know (I always like to include something ‘stalker’ level in my blog posts): O’Hara has a condition called Situs Inversus which is apparently where your major visceral organs are in ‘mirror’ or I guess what you’d call a reverse position to how they are normally.  I don’t think it has to be a problem (although there can be issues) …no..no side effects for O’Hara…EXCEPT MAKING HER AWESOME!

Last year, she played Funkhouser’s mentally instable sister on “Curb Your Enthusiasm”.  I like it when funny people that I admire, find and work with other funny people I admire. Someday, I hope Amy Poehler works with Stephen Colbert.  Thanks for making friends, Larry David and Catherine O’Hara.  It makes me all happy.  In my head, you all had a super-fun after party when the shoot was over with pizza and board games and laser tag.  Maybe you still send Christmas cards to each other.

In other holiday-related news, please enjoy this link to some wintery Star Wars Snowflakes.  Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays, readers!

For Aunt Beru and Uncle Owen

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Baby Shambles

So, today’s great thing has already had over 4 million hits on YouTube.  So, there is a chance that you may already be familiar with this little delight.  It’s the funniest thing I’ve seen all week:

169.  Baby Trashes Bar in Las Palmas

Before we begin our dialogue, let’s watch it shall we?  It’s about a baby trashing a bar in the Spanish resort town of Las Palmas–a destination frequented by many British and other European tourists.  The writer/producer/director of this short is Swedish filmmaker Johannes Nyquist.  There are puppets and a baby involved.

Pretty funny, yes?  I am a sucker for stuff like this.  What shall we label this genre of comedy?  I’m thinking that it’s about something real invading the land of the puppet/toy or vice versa–where the puppet or toy enters reality.  Examples that spring to mind include the killer cat scene in Team America, the real-world scene in The SpongeBob SquarePants Movie, and perhaps the interviews of Triumph the insult comic on Conan O’Brien.  Is there already a name for this sort of thing–the collision of the manufactured with the ‘real’?

Does this picture freak you out too? Let this be a lesson to you...don't use Google Image to search for pics of 'real life Sponge Bob'. Thanks for the nightmares, internet.

It goes beyond the humanization of objects/animals.  It’s more than just anthropomorphizing something.  It puts that anthropomorphized thing(s) into a more interesting situation.  What can we call it?  Puppet relocation program? Figures Action? G.I.Go? These are all terrible suggestions.  Please think of something good, dear readers.

Anyway, back to today’s winner, “Baby Trashes Bar in Las Palmas”.  How come it’s so funny?  Without getting too cerebral about it, I think it is so successfully ridiculous because it so wonderfully mirrors real life.  Babies, like drunk people, have very little self-awareness and are primarily concerned with their own happiness and pleasure.  There’s just something uncanny in the way that kid swirls/smells that wine glass and the overturns it on the table…the way she steals food…the way she falls into the table.  In this tow-headed child, we see our own tanked, blitzed, and rat-arsed selves.

Already a hit, the video has already been blogged about and dissected on other better known websites.  As the more culturally sensitive amongst you may have already predicted, some people out there think it’s inappropriate to put a baby in a bra and make her drink juice disguised as beer.  My very own girlfriend was sort of uneasy until I talked sense into her/cruelly mocked her  This columnist asks if the video has gone too far.  Read Here

Well, does it?  Should I be ashamed to find this video so wonderful?  I don’t think so.  I don’t think that what is happening here equates to any sort of abuse.  I do think that there ARE times when we should be more protective of our kids and there are times in the entertainment biz when it’s clear that something is exploitative.  But, I think there’s a difference between what happens in Toddlers and Tiaras, for instance, and what’s going on here.  This isn’t some sad sack Mom dressing her kid up like a prostitute and parading her around just to feel better about herself.  This is a genius bit of comedy/commentary about adults.  I also don’t think there should be a worry about the child and any unwanted exposure.  No one in the world is going to be able to recognize that kid in two years–as they grow they look so different year to year.  No, I don’t have kids, but I’ve seen it happen.  I barely recognize the photos of my adorable nieces that my sister sends.  By the time she’s 3, she’ll have a completely different facial structure.  By the time she’s 10, she’s only going to be famous for this video if she WANTS to be…if she identifies herself and takes credit for it.  This is also why I don’t think Adam McKay’s done a disservice to his daughter for the Funny or Die ‘Pearl’ videos (“The Landlord” and “Good Cop, Baby Cop”–watch them if you haven’t already!).  Who in the world, besides the Family McKay, is going to know what Pearl McKay looks like now that those videos are a few years old?

Anyway, I–for one–am eagerly anticipating the release of the FULL “Baby Trashes Bar…” video (this, apparently, is only a portion).  Here are some promising stills from the continuing saga!

OK, that last pic isn’t from the short.  I found it on Google/Tumblr.  Pretty rad though, yes?  I typed in ‘unicorn awesome’ and this is what turned up.  I forgive you for the real life Patrick the Starfish picture now, internet.

If you, like me, have too much time on your hands and are excited for the full ‘short’ to debut on the internet, go to the creator’s FaceBook page.  That name again is Johannes Nyquist.  ‘Like’ the page and you should get updates when it comes out.

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