Archive for the ‘Totally Biased with W. Kamau Bell’ Category

arcSOUNDTRACK: HARI KONDABOLU-Waiting for 2042 (2014).

hariI knew Hari Kondabolu from the much missed Totally Biased with W. Kamau Bell (in fact the liner notes even have Hari thanking Kamau for employment—although at the time of this release, that employment was terminated).

As Hari jokes at one point during this show (recorded in Oakland, CA in 2013), he is “obsessed with race.” And how could he not be. To be alive in 2014, you should be obsessed with it, especially if you are paying attention. And his jokes about race are not only salient, they are different. Like the first one on the disc, “My White Chocolate Joke.” The set up is simple, chocolate is dark and creamy and delicious, why would anyone need to make a white version of it? This leads to a punchline that if you like white chocolate you are racist. But as with most of Kondabolu’s jokes, the punchline is just a set up for a much deeper joke—this one having to do with White Jesus. It’s very funny and really well done. “A Feminist Dick Joke” is self referential and funny, especially when he criticizes his own joke for not going far enough. “Moving to Canada,” pokes fun at Americans who say they are leaving for political reasons and then pokes fun at Canada for not being the panacea these people say it is anyway.

I loved “Environmentally Friendly Pollution Machines” which is about how eco-tourism is encouraging us to see things before the tourism industry destroys them.  “Toby” is such a wonderfully extended joke in which people like me who don’t get the initial joke are gently upbraided until the joke is fully revealed to us and even though we just had a joke explained to us, it was still funny. And the call back at the end of the disc is genius.

“Weezer Broke My Heart” is a very unpolitical joke about the band Weezer and that their fan base demographic has not changed in a decade–and how that’s really creepy.

There’s a lot of race jokes in the next few pieces. The title track about how in 2042, whites will be the “minority” is simply hilarious (whites are only the minority if you consider that the races are “whites” and “everyone else”).  And then the hilarious joke about how “Asians are Well-Behaved” (the Chinese restaurant bits are awesome) and the wonderful dichotomy of Mexican stereotypes (stealing our jobs but also being lazy). There’s also the very funny joke about how minorities never get to time travel for real (referencing the Martin Lawrence movie Black Knight and Back to the Future just to show how current and hip he is) because there would be some real changes.

There are also a number of jokes about homosexuality, and how heterosexuals are totally flamboyant even though they don’t realize it (showing off your spawn is pretty flamboyant, frankly). And the extended riff in “Matthew McConaughey on Tolerance” is just terrific.

Jokes dealing with all of these topics are bound to be inflammatory, but Hari is also not afraid of the deadly curse words, (he actually makes me uncomfortable in one joke with how many times he says the word fuck, although is very funny).

All in all this is a very funny standup show from a comedian who is very funny and will, with any luck, find a wider audience. (Of all races).

[READ: June 20, 2014] Arcimboldo

Giuseppe Arcimboldo was a phenomenal painter who is best known for his paintings of people’s portraits which are made out of fruit.  But he was also a master of detail in realistic sketches, drawings and painting as well.  This tiny book (270 pages) with a paragraph of text on every other page, is a wonderful introduction to the man beyond the fruit.

Perhaps the most amazing thing about his work is that it was done in the 16th century.  I think many of us tend to lump him in with the surrealists or the modern period.  But he worked in this style long before.  For context, his father was friends with a student of Leonardo da Vinci.

Arcimboldo was born in 1527 to nobility.   Interestingly, there are variations on the spelling of his name: Acimboldi, Arisnbolde, Arcsimbaldo, Arzimbaldo and Arczimboldo.  Giuseppe even signed his first name in different ways as well: Giuseppe, Josephus, Joseph or Josepho.  The book doesn’t indicate if this was some kind of intentional obfuscation.

The first dozen or so pages contain amazing illustrations by Arcimboldo–primarily studies of nature, both flora and fauna. They have a distinctively 15th/16th century style, and they are amazingly detailed.  A little later, Arcimboldo began doing studies in deformed creatures–birds with three legs , goats with weird hooves.  Whether this was just because he wanted to explore nature in great detail or because he liked weird things, the book doesn’t say. (more…)

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2014 continues to throw new shows into the mix while other shows are already reaching their conclusions.  It’s very hard to keep regular track of shows when networks don’t follow the rules.  It also means that new shows pop up and quickly become favorites before going away possibly never to be seen again.

We’ve learned about the cancellation of a number of shows (but fortunately, none of the great ones and surprisingly not all of the bad ones).  And of course I’ll be sad to see How I Met Your Mother end, but it had a very good run.  And Cosmos has been mind blowing.

But I find that more and more my attention is turning to cable shows.  Although we don’t watch horror shows, I’m intrigued by Fargo.  And the cable shows are so much better at taking risks with their comedies.  We started to watch Orphan Black a while ago and then lost it, but I think we’ll be trying to catch up this summer.  And in old TV news, we just learned about Destroy Build Destroy (from 2010) and we are hooked.  Good thing there’s only 20 or so episodes.

So last time, I did a tally of networks.  Let’s see who wins this time (nightly shows like Late Night boost the numbers so I put them in parentheses):
FOX: 5 NBC: 4 (6)  CBS: 3 (4)  ABC: 3 SyFy: 3 Comedy Central: 2 (4) Lifetime: 1  IFC: 1 FX: 1

I can’t believe Fox still wins, but it has four comedies that I really like.  Actually Fox comedies are almost always good until they cancel them.
NBC is teetering away, but Thursday night helps it.
CBS is the old person’s network, and they’re losing a comedy that I like (and none of those promised new comedies look any good).
ABC is slowing building it’s comedy line up back, which is nice
And the cable networks combined really shine.

Oh and speaking of TV…how awesome was the Veronica Mars movie!!!!!!

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Fall 2013 brought in a whole slew of new shows that we wanted to check out.  And while we dropped some after an episode, we still have a few that are lingering on the DVR which we are never really all that excited to watch them.

Perhaps the biggest surprise is that a couple of shows that we thought were sure goners are still around.  And of course, there’s always those shows that we never watched and when we see an ad for it we say, “that’s still on?”

So last time, I did a tally of networks.  Let’s see who wins this time:
NBC: 4  FOX: 6   CBS: 3  Comedy Central: 1  FX: 1  ABC: 3  Lifetime: 1 SyFy: 1   (more…)

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2013 has been cruel to TV that I like.  Between the shows that have been cancelled and the shows that are ending, there’s not much to look forward to for the Spring.  Ben and Kate is gone, the US version of The Inbetweeners is gone, Don’t Trust the B—- is done (but we had stopped watching anyhow), 30 Rock is done, The Office is finishing up, Parenthood & Bunheads have budget issues which means there is some amount of question about their future and The Mindy Show is awful.

And yet, after that introduction, it’s not like there’s nothing on.

So here’s what’s on our schedule as February draws to a close.  I never bothered to tally shows by network before but let’s see:
NBC: 4  FOX: 3   CBS: 3  Comedy Central: 2  FX: 2   PBS: 2  ABC: 1  Lifetime: 1 SyFy: 1  IFC: 1 (more…)

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This season signals the end of a lot of shows, shows that have been with us for a long time.  This season also promised a slew of new comedies that were going to be amazing (I know they promise that every year, but some of them got really strong praise from objective sources).  And yet, here we are, half way through the season (Grimm is taking a Mid-Winter break or some such thing) and I didn’t really like anything new.

Next season is shaping up to be rather a wasteland. (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: DEERHOOF-Live at CMJ Gibson Showroom (2008).

I don’t know much about Deerhoof (I certainly didn’t know they’d been around over a decade).  I heard them on Pitchfork TV (they had two videos on it about two years ago which I rather liked).  This set was recorded live at CMJ by KEXP.

The DJ is very familiar with the band, and the repertoire is casual and funny (although the Gibson joke falls flat).  They play four songs and each one is virtually an instrumental.  The voice is mixed so low on “Blue Cash,” I didn’t even realize she was singing until the third time I listened, so I don’t know which songs have words.  “Tears of Music and Love” is a bit wilder (with some great crazy drumming in the middle).  “Fresh Born” has a bit more of a sinister edge what with the intense riff and the scratchy feedbacky bridge.  It’s my favorite song of the set.  “Basketball Get Your Groove Back” sounds a bit like “Roadrunner” so it’s less than thrilling end to the set.

I expected the band to be a lot weirder than this, I admit, but it’s still a good set.  You can listen here.

[READ: September 20, 2012] How to Be Black

Karen at A Just Recompense posted about this book a little while ago and after just a few lines, I had to stop reading her post so I could get the book.  I had no idea who Thurston was before I read the book, but it sounded so good.  And it was.  Although it wasn’t exactly what I was expecting.

This book is a combination autobiography of Thurston and “how to” book.  Thurston went to a Quaker School and a black militant program at the same time and also went to Harvard before becoming a stand up comedian; he’s co-creator of Jack & Jill Politics and director of digital at The Onion (that’s some serious cred for a geek like me).  As I said, in addition to being his autobiography, this is also something of a how-to manual for being black.  It’s funny, but not cheesy-over-the-top funny (stereotypes are played with but also deconstructed), it’s “serious” funny, and it’s very enjoyable.  And it covers topics that one might not expect, like talking about the Nigerians he has met who are offended at his name.  Baratunde is a twist on a Nigerian name, although his family is not Nigerian, his mother wanted him to have a traditional African name.  And he is quite annoyed at the Nigerians who assume he doesn’t know what his named means.  He does (and the example he gives is very funny). (more…)

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