There are a lot of great comedies out there, well-known and deservedly so. Dr. Strangelove, Blazing Saddles, Airplane!, even Ghostbusters are all famous for making people laugh for decades. In the wake of the passing of comedy legend Harold Ramis, I’d like to take the opportunity to spotlight a few of my favorite comedies that aren’t so widely known, but deserve to be praised just the same.
Dr. Detroit (1983) – It only seems right to start with this 80’s gem that stars Ghostbusters co-star Dan Aykroyd as a college literature professor who gets suckered into “managing” four beautiful prostitutes in Chicago. (Once again, I am not making this up.) This movie is 80’s screwball comedy at its finest, with Dan Aykroyd turning in a stellar Jekyll-and-Hyde-esque performance, only in this case it’s all an act until the final reveal. Fans of 80’s beauties will be pleased to see Donna Dixon at her finest, and a young Fran Drescher takes a turn at the risqué long before her debut on The Nanny.
The Big Hit (1998) – Coming out in the same year as The Big Lewbowski, it seemed among my friends you could only love one of the “Bigs”, and personally I have never understood how anyone can even sit through The Big Lebowski. But I digress. The Big Hit is a throwback to that 80’s screwball style, with class, gender, and role-reversals abounding throughout the film. In particular the concept of the sympathetic, pushover hitman is innovative and fun, and played with remarkable skill by Mark Wahlberg, while Lou Diamond Phillips turns in a surprisingly funny yet loathsome villain. Fans of One Crazy Summer or Better Off Dead will find a lot to like here (especially the “Trace Buster Buster”).
PCU (1994) – I know I said this was all because of Harold Ramis, and truly it was inspired by Harold Ramis, but the world is not about Harold Ramis. I only say this because I do not now nor have I ever been able to grasp the obsession some people seem to have with Animal House. There are a few good lines, but that’s it. The movie does nothing for me. Sorry, but that’s just how I feel. Maybe it’s a generational thing. As far as I’m concerned, you can keep Animal House. This is my offensive college movie of choice. Jeremy Piven as Droz represents the modern character of the “big man on campus”, slightly rumpled, disheveled, and a few years past the prime of what a college student should be. The exaggeration of the oppressive PC culture on display is (sadly) even closer to the mark today than it was when the film was first released (although nobody is spared the barb, even the protagonists). Unabashedly rude, shamelessly corrupting, and magnificently over the top, I recommend this film to anyone who can laugh at themselves.
Hello everyone and welcome back to The Greatest Music Festival That Never Was! I know most of you are freezing right along with me and it’s hard to remember those soft, warm summer days when we all got together and basked in the glow of our shared love of music and good times. But that’s why I’m here today! To remind you of the joy, the laughter, the fun.
And to pimp my wares.
That’s right, Bobapalooza is selling out, just like all your favorite bands! But first, the moment you’ve all been waiting for:
The Official 2013 Bobapalooza 2013 Playlist
The Doors – Break On Through
Nirvana – In Bloom
Death – Politicians in My Eyes
The Heavy – Short Change Hero
Preston Reed – Ladies Night
Divine Fits – Civilian Stripes
Awol Nation – Not Your Fault
Matsiyahu – King Without a Crown
Sting – Desert Rose
Garbage – #1 Crush
KMFDM – Juke Joint Jezebel
Nine Inch Nails – Head Like a Hole
Animal Collective – My Girls
Axis of Awesome – King of the Hipsters
Nirvana – All Apologies
Volbeat – Sad Man’s Tongue
Johnny Cash – Ring of Fire
K’Naan – Take a Minute
Sting – If You Love Somebody (Set Them Free)
Aesop Rock – None Shall Pass
Dream Theater – Pull Me Under
Nine Inch Nails – The Hand That Feeds
Johnny Cash – Hurt
The Doors – Riders on the Storm
In many ways this is probably the most challenging playlist for Bobapalooza to date. I feel it has levels of complexity and depth that have been missing from the others, and a richness of character that has only been hinted at before. Not only that, I actually had to go back and look over the nominations from last summer to put this list together, and I have to say again how overwhelmed I was and still am with the sheer quality of artists nominated for Bobapalooza. Just to give you an idea of what I’m talking about, I turned down James Brown. THE GODFATHER OF SOUL. That’s how fierce this competition gets, and it’s all because of you, folks. Thanks for being a part of this.
And now for the part I’m most excited about: the Bobapalooza Swag Store is now open! Love the show? Get the gear! Show your support for the greatest music festival that never was! Remember, I only make a tiny little commission on every purchase, so make sure to buy a lot! Tell your friends, tell your enemies, tell your frenemies! I have no artistic integrity! The Bobapalooza Swag Store: Selling out since 2014.
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For those who are interested in extracurricular activities, we have a wide range of options to choose from. The Lambda Betas are the most popular fraternity on campus, but there are plenty of other activities too. We maintain a Navy ROTC program, and from swimming to camping, there are all kinds of outdoor fun to be had. We’ve also recently changed our school mascot from the politically insensitive Indian to the environmentally conscious Crocodile. That hasn’t stopped us from maintaining a friendly rivalry with our neighboring school, the Buccaneers!
So if you’re serious about graduating from college while you’re still young enough to take advantage of your degree, just send your application to the second star to the right and straight on ‘til morning.
As I stare down the barrel of “the Big 4-0”, I’ve been giving some serious thought to my midlife crisis. This is the sort of thing you only get to do once, and I really don’t want to screw it up. There are so many options, and I want to be able to look back on it and say, “yes, I made the right choice”, instead of being one of those pathetic guys who is even more morose and unhappy after the fact.
So far, I’ve identified the following broad categories of Midlife Crisis:
THE CLASSICAL: Go out and buy an expensive car that you can’t afford, probably a Mercedes-Benz. Tool around town in it. Act like a tool. Pretend this makes up for all the failed and waste dreams of your youth.
THE NEO-CLASSICAL: Go out and buy an expensive sports car that you can’t afford, probably a Ferrari. Zoom around town in it. Act like a tool. Pretend this makes up for all the failed and waste dreams of your youth.
THE MODERN: Get a mistress, preferably one who is much younger than you. Lavish her with money, gifts, and promises that you will divorce your wife. Pray that nobody ever catches you.
THE POST-MODERN: Get a trophy wife, preferably one who is much younger than you. Lavish her with money, gifts, and promises that you will never divorce her. Pray that nobody ever catches you.
THE NOUVEUAU: Quit your job and do something “that would make the 15-year-old me happy”. Wait for your wife to divorce you.
THE ART-NOUVEUAU: Quit your job and take a swing at whatever unrealistic artistic endeavor you abandoned sometime in your late teens or early twenties when you decided it was “time to get serious about life”.
THE HOBBYIST: Devote all of your time and energy to some sort of meaningless and quite possibly insanely dangerous hobby, such as skydiving, bear-baiting, or gardening (REAL gardeners know what I mean).
THE EXTREMIST: AKA The Sampler. Quit your job, divorce your trophy wife, and let your mistress drive your brand new Ferrari over a cliff while you both go skydiving out the open top.
While I’m more than a little tempted to go for The Neo-Classical, I somehow doubt My Not So Humble Wife would approve. Plus I can’t drive stick, so a Ferrari is kind of out of the question. Besides, I want to do something truly exceptional, something that will set me apart from all the other men who have gone before me and had midlife crises of quiet desperation.
And so I have set out a plan. A most audacious, stunning, some might say awful, plan. It is epic in scope, awe-inspiring in its execution, and if successful, will enshrine me in the annals of history:
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And then, as I spike the head right there on live television, I’ll look straight into the camera an say with a smile, “I’m going to Disney World!” because, you know, sponsors.
So that’s my plan. Is it bold? Certainly. Is it insane? Probably. Is it illegal? In every country and jurisdiction on Earth, with the exception of two. But it will guarantee me immortality.
And isn’t that what it’s really about?
Admit it, you missed me.
Well, I have to say it’s nice to be back. I didn’t miss much, did I?
Okay, gonna regret missing that one. Lots of fodder for commentary there, but really, I’ve had my fun with Obamacare. It’s not like somebody died, amirite?
Oh, come on. That’s just not fair. Well, there’s not really much I could have added to the chorus of voices around the world. What else you got?
Meh. Rob Ford was God’s way of mocking late night comedians. A walking slow pitch like that is the divine equivalent of saying “you suck at your job”. I’ll pass. It’s not like he was some sort of bizarre fusion of my two darkest obsessions.
What. The. Hell. The Guardian knew about this ever since Snowden dumped ALL the documents on them at once. They couldn’t break this story a few months earlier? Maybe a little later? I take this personally.
WASHINGTON, DC – The NSA announced today that, working in cooperation with several other branches of the Department of Homeland Security, they have managed to identify a massive underground homegrown terrorist organization here in America. This organization has been active for decades, secretly working to recruit and train operatives in survival skills, weapons training, and small unit tactics to some unknown purpose. Speculation has it that high-ranking and long term members of this elite organization have even managed to infiltrate our very government, even to the highest levels. They go by the code name “The Boy Scouts”.
These individuals can be identified by the highly stylized “uniforms” they wear, as well as their ritualistic chants and secret signals. They reward members with recognition for completing missions and earning “merit badges”, as well as attempting to ingratiate themselves into the wider community. Sleeper cells have been found across the United States and even in other countries. Radio and internet chatter has been picked up about some sort of mass gathering code named “Jamboree”.
They support themselves through private high-pressure collections in local areas, taking “donations” and “selling” door to door, an obvious front (because really, who even buys popcorn kernels anymore?) Their primary targets for recruitment are boys between the ages of 13-18, although they are believed to have an affiliate group that targets younger boys, as well as a sister organization that targets females and has a much more successful fundraising operation dealing in highly addictive narcotics.
If approached by one of these “Boy Scouts”, citizens are advised to remain calm and move away slowly. Their primary goal at this time seems to be focused on recruitment of young men, except for homosexuals.
Today is the day after Halloween, and we all know what that means.
(“The start of Diabetes Awareness Month?”)
Close, but no. It means that we’ll all be eating lots and lots of candy. Whether you’re a parent sneaking the best bits out of your kids’ hauls or, like me, you’ve got the dregs of what you couldn’t give away on The Big Night, there’s plenty to go around. Temptation will be everywhere for weeks to come, as everyone brings the sweet treats everywhere they go in a desperate attempt to pawn them off on others rather than suffer through the sugar shock of being stuck with it themselves.
Personally I’m in a different boat than I’ve been in before. First I had to miss out on the trick-or-treaters because I had class, which I deeply regret since that’s my favorite part of the holiday. Even more than Christmas I believe Halloween is for children, and seeing them come to my door and beg me for sugar so that I can send them laughing maniacally into the night and leave their parents to suffer with their sugar-crazed fiends for the next several weeks warms my cold, cold heart. Apparently we had quite the bounty of them last night as well, which is why we have so little left over candy, which is both a good thing and a bad thing.
It’s a good thing, because lord knows I don’t need any more candy lying around the house, and as I already mentioned there’ll be plenty around work and elsewhere for me to get my fill. It’s a bad thing because this is the first year I had almost complete control of the candy buying in my household, and My Not So Humble Wife and I agree on candy in general anyway, so it wasn’t an issue. You know what I’m talking about: that one guy who insists on buying The Shitty Candy.
I hate that guy so much. There’s so many things wrong with that. First and foremost is that I’m forced to give out The Shitty Candy to the kids who come to my door. Setting aside the very real possibility of an unsanctioned home delivery of eggs and toilet paper, there’s the simple fact that I have a reputation to protect. I want to be the guy who gives out The Good Candy, nay, The Great Candy, and in great heaping handfuls. So I have to do my best to avoid having The Shitty Candy dumped in the bowl, but inevitably we either run low or (worse) when I’m not looking Shitty Candy Guy starts pouring it in, and he ALWAYS mixes it up. SO then I have to rummage around and try not to give it out, but the kids see me rummaging around, so if I accidentally give them a piece of The Shitty Candy, it looks like I did it on purpose, and I become That Guy.
The next worst thing is the day after, when we have to start eating the leftover candy. (Throw it out? I know each of those words, but your sentence is meaningless.) Despite having insisted on buying The Shitty Candy and handing out The Shitty Candy, I notice he never bothers to eat The Shitty Candy, at least not at first. He always goes straight for the leftovers of the stuff that I bought – you know, The Great Candy. This offends me, not because The Great Candy tends to be more expensive (c’mon, this stuff is like five bucks a bag), but because the whole point of Halloween candy is what it says about you as a person. Are you a Milky Way guy? Are you a Junior Mints kind of gal? Or are you one of those Mary Jane weirdoes? (If you give away Werther’s at Halloween, you deserve what you get.) Eating the leftovers is the reward or punishment for the choices you made, and going straight for someone else’s Great Candy is Halloween identity theft.
This year, I might have missed out on the trick-or-treaters, and I might not have much in the way of leftover candy, but what I do have left is nothing but Great Candy. And that’s worth 100 Grand.
10. Russet potatoes feel left out
9. “Wounded Knee” should refer to historic battle, not Robert Griffin III
8. “Pox Ridden Blanket” Theme Night not a big success
7. Other minorities don’t have major league sports teams named after their favorite ethnic slurs
6. Can’t be called the home team because “we were here first”
5. Team owner Dan Snyder insists on referring to season tickets as “reservations”
4. Stadium concessions stands refuse to accept beads and animal skins as currency
3. Tribes can’t scalp… tickets
2. D.C. allows casinos, but won’t put one in the stadium
1. Polls show Native Americans don’t want to be associated with the Federal government
Recently I was listening to the radio (okay, I was in the car and I happened to have the radio on) and I heard an interview with director Randy Moore about his new satire Escape from Tomorrow. It was the first I had heard of the film, which is not terribly surprising since I’ve never really been a film festival kind of guy, but I think I may end up seeing this one. It’s not that I have anything personal against the Big Mouse, it’s just that I think he made an important point in this article:
“Branding is so much a part of our culture, and it’s everywhere. And (Disney) is everywhere. They’re so ubiquitous, you can’t get away from them even if you tried… To not be able to comment or critique or parody that (ubiquity), I just think it’s morally unacceptable.”
However, in the interview I heard he also made another point that, while I think it’s important, makes me feel he missed the mark somewhat by targeting Disney specifically. He said (and I can’t seem to find the interview online, so forgive me for paraphrasing) that the theme of the film is that you can’t be happy all the time. I think that’s an excellent point, especially in an age and culture where we have lost sight of the idea of contentment and we are constantly being sold happiness in its stead. I believe Dennis Leary put it best in his stand-up routine No Cure for Cancer:
“Happiness comes in small doses folks. It’s a cigarette butt, or a chocolate chip cookie or a five second orgasm. You come, you smoke the butt, you eat the cookie, you go to sleep, wake up and go back to fucking work the next morning, THAT’S IT! End of fucking list!”
So yeah. While there’s something to be said for taking a few shots at (as Moore describes them) a “ubiquitous” company that specializes in selling happiness, I think there’s something he loses sight of: Disney is only selling what we’re buying. Yes, Disney Theme Parks™ are the Happiest Place On Earth™ (made so, I have been told by a former employee, by sucking all the happiness out of their employees, powdering it, and then sprinkling it over the park; that’s your “fairy dust”), but they don’t force anyone to go there and then whistle Zippy-Doo-Da out of their assholes a-la Clark Griswald. I think there may be more to be found in making a movie that critically examines a culture fixated on perpetual bliss, rather than the companies that strive to provide it.
Which is not to say those companies deserve to be completely let off the hook; they are a part of the culture, they help make and drive that culture, and they deserve a certain amount of grilling in the space of exploring that culture. But to single out one company for catering to the desires of people to have happiness is akin to blaming one company for Americans being obese.
Here’s a fun little something to do the next time you’re bored. I seem to recall at least one version of this coming from a fantasy novel (and extra happy points to the person who reminds me which one it was), but I’ve also run into people who have played some variation of it who never read any fantasy novels, so obviously the idea has spread, assuming it didn’t originate elsewhere.
The first version I like to call “Bring Me Three Nouns”. Here’s the setup: pretend you’re in a war camp of some kind, and you’re interrogating a prisoner. He’s a tough one and he refuses to talk, but for some reason (political, moral, legal, whatever) you can’t just beat the information out of him. Suddenly you have an inspiration. In the hearing of the prisoner, you say to a subordinate “Bring me… He’ll talk.” Replace the ellipsis with three nouns, any three nouns of your choice. That’s all you get to say. What three items would you choose? Something silly, like “a bunch of grapes, a turkey baster, and a pair of headphones”? Something ominous, like “a chainsaw, a smock, and a gravy ladle”? Or just something bizarre, like “a two dollar bill, a pair of tights, and a statue of Carmen Miranda”?
A more restrictive (and in some ways more creative) version of the game is “Object, Animal, Food”. The setup is the same, only in this case you specifically have to name an inanimate object, an animal (living or dead, your choice) and some kind of food (but feel free to stretch the boundaries of any of these categories as far as the other participants will allow). The results can turn out to be as disgusting as “Bring me a box cutter, a weasel, and some raw hamburger. He’ll talk”, or as disturbingly funny as “Bring me a yoyo, an otter, and a lollipop. He’ll talk.” Half the fun is imagining what exactly you would do with this bizarre and motley collection of items (which is, of course, the imaginary purpose of the whole exercise; it’s psychological warfare).
There’s also a deeper level to the game, if you want to explore that far. This game can be a kind of Rorschach test, in that what you suggest can say a lot about you. What do you love? What do you hate? What do you fear? There’s a certain amount of projection that goes into something like this. There’s also a question of boundaries – what’s over the line, what’s too far and too gross to even suggest, if only by implication in an imaginary setting?
On the other hand, there’s nothing wrong with treating it as a free version of “Cards Against Humanity” and letting yourself and your friends run wild without reading anything into it. After all, it is just a game. Have fun!
Oh, and be sure to share your favorite responses in the comments below. I look forward to hearing them.