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Archive for the ‘Mr Show’ Category

[ATTENDED: April 3, 2016] David Cross

cross I have enjoyed David Cross since the old days of Mr. Show, and the as Tobias on Arrested Development and even in Alvin and the, well, actually I’m just happy for him that he got a lot of money for it.

When he released his previous stand up album, Bigger and Blackerer, Sarah and I listened to it in the car on a long trip and we had tears in our eyes from laughing so hard.

So when I heard he was touring I thought it would be fun to see him live.  And, yes, it was.

But we ran into a few bumps along the way.  We had to leave very late because our babysitter had car trouble.  She arrived just late enough that we weren’t sure if it was worth still driving the hour to Philly.  We decided if traffic was terrible we would just stop somewhere and have dinner instead.  I even called the Theatre to see if there was an opening act (nope) and if the show really started at 7:30 and not 8 (yup, he would start at exactly 7:30).  Traffic was light and the GPS said we’d get to the garage at 7:35.  I missed the turn for the alley that our garage was on, and then we got slightly lost on the walk from garage to theater and as we got there at 7:40… there were still a whole bunch of people milling about in the lobby.  And then they flashed the lights telling us to get to our seats.  We missed nothing!

And we even got to tsk at people who arrived later than us.  Cross even joked that he would wait to start his joke because “it’s not fucking distracting or anything” when people are being seated.  I was frankly shocked that people seemed to still be arriving around 8PM! (more…)

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I was planning to write this post early in the TV Season.  I found out that the TiVo website rather helpfully includes a page of all the premiere dates of shows, which in addition to telling us when shows started, has also turned out to be a good way to keep track of the shows that were cancelled already.  Our goal is basically to get every good show cancelled so that we can watch our poor Netflix DVDs (which now that we had to change our policy we have mercifully fewer discs that we are not watching).  Um, thanks for the hike Netflix?

Anyhow, it’s now  about seven weeks into the season and we’ve already lost a number of shows–some as quickly as two weeks in…which, really?  I mean why bother.  Surprisingly, none of the FOX shows were cancelled yet.  That’s probably because FOX didn’t pick anything cool or interesting enough for me to want to watch–that’s actually not true, they have some good new shows this season, but nothing like Arrested Development.

So, this time I’m breaking it down by day of the week (which is silly since we TiVo everything and watch it whenever).  And this time red shows are shows we have given up on and Green ones are ones that we’re still enjoying. (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: DAVID CROSS-Bigger and Blackerer (2010).

I’ve liked David Cross for years, both in Mr. Show and everywhere else he’s been (I love comparing his nebbish character in Arrested Development to his obnoxious hippie in Running Wilde). And his standup is just fantastic.

This new(ish) CD (which has the same name but different content as the DVD) is wonderfully obscene and profane and all around hilarious.  What’s particularly fun is the nonsensical “titles” he gives to his bits (although these are more accurate than on his previous disc): “REALLY Silly Religious Crazies, I mean, Double, Triple Crazy!!” and “Random Goofabouts”

The disc opens with a song(!), a swinging song ala Tom Jones which Cross sings (his voice isn’t very good, but he’s never off key, which is something) which actually features some cool time changes and a bit of pathos.  But the jokes are very funny.  He opens with an extended bit about drugs (mostly about drugs he has taken).  It’s a bit long, but the details are hilarious and the payoffs at the end are wonderful.  I also enjoyed that the drug bits are a cautionary tale, yet he never turns preachy, in fact, he inverts expectations throughout.

The race jokes are really great too, especially the MLK license plate bit.  But indeed, Cross really shines when it comes to religion.  I’ve never really heard a riff on Orthodox Jews before, and his dismissal of Catholicism is brutal and short, but it’s the Mormons who get the bulk of his abuse (mostly because of the awesome power they wield), especially since the religion is a sham.

He’s also not afraid to make observations that will offend some (although no one who listens to him) but are spot on.  There’s an excellent bit about Obama haters who bemoan the state of the country but who will immediately fight any “elitist” who bemoans other aspects of the country.  And it very funny, indeed.

Cross has spent some time in England (filming The Increasingly Poor Decisions of Todd Margaret) and his British accent is quite good now (it’s used to excellent effect in heaven).  He also has great rapport with the crowd, who are exuberantly noisy.

This CD is an excellent introduction to Cross’ standup.  The jokes aren’t really timely (although the health care yelling bit will date it somewhat, except that the debate itself will go one for years to come, so maybe it won’t), so even if it’s five years from now, the jokes will still be funny.

Cross is not a delicate comedian and his jokes are not for the faint of heart, but, man, is he funny.

[READ: November 9, 2010] It is Right to Draw Their Fur

Polymath Dave Eggers is back with another fascinating (and fascinatingly bound) title.  This time, the collection contains a series of drawings.  Most of the drawings are of animals and they all feature words on them.  (This sort of thing: Picture + words + humor (from many different artists) is presented in a book that I am currently enjoying called More Things Like This).  Similar items also appeared in McSweeney’s 27 (you can see my Post about that issue here)).

Eggers explains in the introduction that he went to art school.  He was an aspiring painter and then a cartoonist and illustrator.  And in his down time, he spent a lot of time drawing animals.  And they are quite good.  Eggers’ art has an odd quality to it that I can’t quite put my finger on.  All of his pictures seem off in a small way.  It doesn’t make them bad at all, in fact, it actually makes you want to look at them more to see what is off about them.  (I think some people call that “compelling”).

The project comes in a hugely oversized cardboard sleeve (14 inches x 19 inches).  There are 26 large sized posters (they are folded and their unfolded size reaches something like 27″ x 37″).  There’s also a booklet which features even more of these drawings.  The booklet has an appendix with some drawings that are not animals (well, they are humans, so yes, they are animals).  And, the most peculiar part, there’s a bibliography.  The bibliography goes on for four pages and includes all manner of things from Sartre’s Being and Nothingness to Auel’s Clan of the Cave Bear to Gara’s The Presidency of Franklin Pierce to The Collected Poems of William Carlos Williams to Saint-Saens’ Le carnaval des animaux.

You can see two examples here.  In my opinion these are not the best combination art/words in the book (although the drawings are very good).  There are some other ones where the juxtaposition appealed to me much more.

The package is quite expensive (and justified–it is a lot of stuff and beautifully put together), but I have a hard time believing someone would spend $42 on it.  (I received mine as part of the McSweeney’s book club, so that’s nice.)

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SOUNDTRACK: PRETTY GIRLS MAKE GRAVES-Elan Vital (2006).

Every time I listen to this record I think I’m not going to like it, and that is because I really don’t like the first song. I’ve never had a record that rubbed me so badly off the bat and then turned out to be such a fulfilling record overall.

I first heard PGMG when they first came out. I knew their band name from the Smiths’ song, so I had to see what they were about. But I was surprised to hear how unSmithsy they were. Their first two albums were great and then they seemed to go away for a while. When Elan Vital came out I’d read a few mixed reviews of it and it took me ages to pick it up. And, then, as I said, that first song…. I’m not sure what it is about the song that rubs me the wrong way. In and of itself it’s a very generic sounding song, but after listening to the rest of the album I think I figured out what i don’t like about song one.

The rest of the album is very sparse, almost angular, and yet they maintain an incredibly catchy aspect. There’s always at least one interesting part of every song. “Pyrite Pedestal” reminds one of later Lush, but only in the vocals, because Lush has always been kind of smooth and, well, lush. This song keeps the attitude of Lush, but sticks in a very simple melody line and instruments. The simplicity really highlights all of the aspects of the song…nothing is lost. And this is true for the rest of the songs as well. Each instrument, each vocal line, everything is so crisp, it really stands out.

As I’m reliving the record I’m realizing why it’s so hard to describe. It’s because although every song sounds like PGMG, the vocals are very strong and consistent and there’s a punk edge to everything, the styles of the songs vary greatly within the record. “Domino” is practically disco (but angry disco). And yet overall they remind me of X-Ray Spex. Andrea Zollo’s voice is less shrieky and much prettier than Poly Styrene’s and they are clearly post-grunge in their sensibilities, but they hearken back to the 1970s punk scene quite clearly.

Two other things that have changed in the band since their first two great albums: they’d added a keyboardist, who contributes really nice touches, and even carries one of the songs…but the keyboards never “soften” the songs. And, they use horns from time to time. I don’t recall if they did before but it does stand out in the mix now. (They are used to their detriment on the last song however. The main body of the song is quite good, but then it degenerates into a weird 4 minute keyboard and horn jam session. It’s as lame as it sounds. I don’t know what they were thinking ending their album like that.)

Oh, and so why don’t I like the first song? The whole album is clear sounding and immediate. Each song, with its differing styles and sounds is so unique. However, the first song sounds like they threw all of these elements together. There’s so much going on that it turns the whole song into mush. It sounds like a generic 90’s alternative song with layers of noise. But, don’t let that fool you. Skip track one and enjoy the awesome songs of Elan Vital

[READ: February 2008] Comedy By the Numbers.

A sample chapter of this book came with McSweeney’s 23. It was pretty funny so I bought the book. This is one of those strange books that McSweeney’s excels at: It seems like a joke and yet it is quite serious, except when it’s funny. So the premise is that this is a list of 169 comedy tropes that, once you master, will make you funny.

(more…)

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23.jpgSOUNDTRACK: EXPLOSIONS IN THE SKY-How Strange, Innocence (2005).

eits.jpgExplosions in the Sky is one of those instrumental bands that the kids are raving about these days. Bands have been doing instrumentals forever, really, but I guess about a decade or so ago, some bands started specializing in an all instrumental format. Bands like Scenic, Mogwai and Godspeed You Black Emperor are probably the forefathers, although to be honest I can’t think of too too many more bands doing the style (aside from the Constellation Label in general). These bands work a great, atmospheric sound, usually building to a crescendo and pulling away before reaching the ultimate climax. This album is EITS’ first, recently reissued. There are some bands who hit their stride running on their first record, these usually seem to be bands that aren’t too complicated. Nothing wrong with them, in fact their debuts are often stellar, as if they were born playing their style. EITS is not one of these bands. (more…)

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