Saturday, November 08, 2014
Today marks the twentieth anniversary of the death of one of my all-time comic heroes and chiefest influences, Michael O'Donoghue. Which I was very much hoping to be able to commemorate on this very blog before the day ended. But alas, all manner of obstacles and technical difficulties have blocked my way, and the rather ambitious post in his honor is, as yet, incomplete, and, as I'm headed off to work now (where internet access is extremely problematic), will have to remain so until tomorrow. The only thing I can think to do at this moment in tribute is to find a cane and smash this fucking laptop to fucking fucking atoms. But I did not want the day to pass completely without some sort of tribute. So here - a taste of O'D heaven, one of the very few from that show he used to work for that somehow has escaped the YouTube copyright-enforcement wood chipper (maybe because it was shot camcorder-kinescope-style, I dunno), with the promise that some far more intriguing (and way less obvious) material is soon to come. So stay tuned.
And, because I just can't leave sick enough alone, please head over the jump for a portrait of the great man that is surely and undoubtedly the way he'd have wanted us to remember him. Bless you, MO'D. More tomorrow...
Tuesday, October 21, 2014
While you're waiting for me to finish one of the dozens of posts on this blog that lie in various states of composition, why not hop on over to Biocarbon Amalgamate, the film blog recently founded by widely-respected pop culture journalist and tireless freelancer Robert Ham (hmm? Well, yes, now that you mention it, he does have the same last name as me. What are the odds...?) and take a shufti at a few posts I've managed to complete under his tough-love tutelage and editorship. So far, I've written about:
- The 78 Project Movie, a film following a pair of filmmakers as they criss-cross the country, recording musicians from John Doe to John C. Reilly on authentic vintage equipment;
- Razing the Bar, a documentary about the short but happy life of Seattle's most beloved punk club; and
- a short piece about the unpleasant intimations regarding the future of one of L.A.'s most beloved rep houses.
That all three of them have something to do with the struggle to keep a small part of the charmingly ramshackle side of America's not-so-distant cultural heritage alive in the face of technical obsolescence and/or gentrification and/or unmitigated avarice, we'll just chalk up to sheer coincidence. Feel free to look over the entire blog - there's some fine writing throughout - and check back frequently, as I'm at work on several more pieces; now, if you'll excuse me, I need to consult with someone who knows a little bit about these magic computer boxes - apparently, one's not supposed to write on them using a quill.
Saturday, October 04, 2014
Well, what the hell - while I'm reconstituting long-wilted word salad in lieu of producing fresh, um, prose produce, I may as well serve up some more recent cuts of lean (oh, Christ) Tweet meat. Fuck, if Steve Martin can slap his Twitter feed between covers and charge people the same price they'd pay for an actual book for it (yes, yes, I know it was for charity - buzz off, I'm in the middle of a delicate rationalization here), then there's no reason I can't transport a few damp squibs of near-cleverness from one barely-noticed area of the Internet to another. So here are some items I posted the other day on Twitter (@williamham) under the hashtag #NationalFirstDraftPoetryDay, plus a few bonus ones whose brilliance could not be contained in a mere 140 characters. I just bet some of them may even push the 147-character envelope. I know. I can't be stopped.
how do you like your blueeyed boy
* * * *
I should have been a pair of ragged claws
Scuttling across the floors of silent seas.
But, whatevs. Costco's hiring.
* * * *
Shall I compare thee to a summer's day?
Well, how about a Summer's Eve, douchebag?
* * * *
Because I could not stop for Death –
He kindly stopped for me –
And beat my brains in with a rock –
Because he's fucking DEATH.
* * * *
Tyger, Tyger, burning bright,
won't you guyde my sleigh tonight?
* * * *
How do I love thee? Let me count the ways.
Three, tops. Four if it's your birthday.
* * * *
I met a traveller from an antique land
Who said, "What the fuck kind of middle name is Bysshe, anyway?"
* * * *
This Is Just To Say
I have eaten
that were in
you were probably
If you send
one more note
I will eat all
and leave pits in
* * * *
And what rough beast, its hour come round at last,
Slouches towards Bethlehem for its microdermabrasion appointment?
Thursday, October 02, 2014
In keeping with the newly-minted Twittition that is ThrowBackThursday and out of a desperate need to put something up here that doesn't apparently expire whilst still in "Draft" mode, I offer this - a five-year-old posting from the Forced Exposure Magazine Appreciation Society Facebook group about a twenty-one (!!) -year-old letter section of said magazine, in which, because of the increasingly gaping gap between issues culminating in what we can assume was the final issue of said uber-zine (I don't recall any official word that publication had ceased - maybe issue #19 is still being painstakingly grunted out), they published a letter I had written almost three years previous to that. Which makes this a Triple Throwback. Which sounds like an arcane dodgeball move. Anyway, enjoy the following, whose resemblance to the dense, compressed scribe stylings of one Mr. Byron Coley (a writer every bit as seminal and inspirational to me as Saint Lester ever was) is purely and cravenly intentional.
(Pictured above: the cover of FE #18, the issue in question. If the picture is a bit hazy, well, so are my memories.)
Sunday, August 24, 2014
Exciting stuff - exciting to me, anyway - is soon to come to this here blog there, but first, a quick appetizer: a funny, clever tribute to the inimitable Don Pardo, who split on an all-expenses paid trip to the great vocal booth in the sky last week at age 96. (If you've read my typically-overlong Facebook post on the subject, feel free to skip it: the whole thing after this paranthetical aside has been cut-and-pasted from there, with a few minor changes throughout.)
Thoughts, relevant and otherwise:
1) I am at least 65% convinced that Kristofferson didn't realize he was on TV.
2) One of the reasons I still revere the first few years of this program - not just that it made room for smart sketches like this, but it respected the individual voices of its writers to the point that the attentive viewer could tell who wrote what. If this wasn't Tom Schiller's doing, I'll eat Werner Herzog's other shoe.
3) How long do you think my clever video subterfuge will stave off the inevitable cease and desist order? (edit - not very long at all, apparently. Fine, NBC/Universal, I'll rake in unconscionable amounts of money through alternate means. But I don't have a rake! And rakes cost money! It's like that O. Henry story, Title of Story Blocked Due To Copyright Claim By Nestle.)
4) Don Pardo, unless there's a crew member or two I missed, was the person who pulled an SNL paycheck longer than anyone - 39 seasons, and his baritone Ur-Game-Show bellow graced the 8H loudspeakers for all of them but one (the seventh, 1981-82, supposedly at the insistence of Michael O'Donoghue, who reportedly wanted to fire him on-air during the season premiere. I plan on talking A LOT about that season, or at least the first seven shows, on my blog in the near future. So, y'know, that). Such a seemingly small part of the show's overall feel, yet crucial; there was always comfort knowing he'd be there, a reliable consistency that played well against the ever-shifting theme music (and if his hire was originally for ironic kitsch value, that morphed into true affection by the last sketch of the first season [which this is] - they honored him almost every week for many years with the very last joke of the night.) It's sure gonna be a different beast when it comes back, I'm sure. I feel a little like I felt when the Stones' semi-secret weapon Ian Stewart passed on some years back - some small bit of savor is gone now, never to return. And it just might not be worth the strain of its continuing. Not that NBC will take this show off the air, ever, but SNL sans Pardo feels wrong, somehow. We shall see. Or hear, whatever. One of the great voices - quite literally - in broadcast history is no longer with us, and I present this as tribute.
(All rights belong to NBC/Universal and Broadway Video)
Friday, October 25, 2013
My excruciatingly slow recaps and analyses of Monty Python's Flying Circus now continue where I left off, at approximately the one-third-of-the-way mark of the first(-recorded) episode, "Sex and Violence." We had just gotten a pretty decent example of the latter, with a bunch of small, harmless rodents being musically bashed by large wooden mallets; it only seems right to follow that with an exploration of the subject to the left of the titular ampersand...
(Note: to increase confusion, I am retaining the time-code reference points referring to the YouTube embed of the full episode included in the last post; however, for the purposes of more immediate reference, I am embedding the second ten-minute chunk of the show also available on YouTube in this post. The time codes in parentheses refer to the shorter videos. Got that? Good. Now, please explain it to me...)
10:30 (0:00) - By Python standards, "Marriage Guidance Counsellor" is a rather conventional piece of sketch comedy: a pretty basic premise (couple goes to counsellor out of concern for wife's possible infidelity; counsellor cuckolds husband right in front of him), delivered straightforwardly (at least to a point). With very few changes, the main body of the sketch could have come straight from an old vaudeville show, right down to the trope of a woman getting undressed behind a screen and tossing her clothes over the top of it. (Why a marriage counsellor would have such a screen in his office is never explained; perhaps it's a subtle indication that this isn't the first time he's pulled such shenanigans. Maybe this counsellor's always "on the job" in more ways than one.) Nonetheless, it's still a funny sketch, and noteworthy for the first appearances of two important, erm, figures in the Python universe.
Saturday, October 19, 2013
From: Jeroboam Glasier, Head of Publicity Department
Re: The Campaign
I've got to hand it to you guys - I thought the telekinesis-in-the-coffee-shop gag you came up with for Carrie was clever, but you've really outdone yourselves this time. The movie's not coming out for months, and already the work you've done for Dumb and Dumber To has to qualify as the most inventive and audacious in the history of viral marketing. The way you've used social media, what seems like every comment thread on the Internet, and that fake cable "news" channel you started is nothing short of brilliant. I can't begin to imagine how much planning, coordination, and sleight-of-hand it's taken to make it look like a mass outbreak of sheer, shameless stupidity has overtaken the country, but we couldn't be more impressed with the results.
My only concern is that you might be going a little too broad - the "ranting stenographer" gag the other day was a hoot, but too many more bits like the guy who wants to take a class-action lawsuit against homosexuality and you'll sacrifice the believability at the heart of all good pranks. Save the really silly stuff for opening weekend. But, really, amazing work - IFC's interested in signing that troupe you've been working with (The Tea Party, right?) to a development deal, though they might want to wait until that whole "SNL Diversity" issue dies down first; a troupe that big could use a LITTLE ethnicity, at least. And as for that smaller troupe you hired, they recommended you sign them up for some classes at the UCB, or get an Odenkirk or an Apatow to help them whip their material into shape; you can't fault their commitment, but a little nuance will keep their schtick from seeming too one-note. "The Westboro Baptist Church" is a great name, though - make sure they keep that.
Oh, and one more thing. You might think I'm jumping the gun, but if this one hits, Peter & Bobby are talking about making the threequel all-female. Amy & Tina don't seem interested and they're already dead set on Melissa McCarthy/Rebel Wilson for Shallow Hal II (I know, I know, but let's not break it to the boys until after we open - it's like they say about waking up a sleepwalker). No promises, now, but they've been pretty impressed with that ditzy-cougar duo of yours - Bachmann/Palin Overdrive or whatever they're calling themselves this week. Could be perfect; they're reasonably easy on the eyes, obviously have no fear of looking ridiculous, and if they can spew out that nonsense patter for hours at a time like you say, it'll practically write itself. But let's keep that on the q.t. for the time being - we wouldn't want it to go to their heads and wear out their welcome on Day One like that Cruz kid you hired. (The Seuss estate was not happy, by the way, but we'll talk about that when you're in town. Bet you've never seen a rhyming cease-and-desist letter before.)
But, really, guys, outstanding work so far, and I've no doubt there's more to come. I'll be honest; some of the studio guys had grave doubts about putting so much time and so many resources into this campaign, and even I had my doubts that you could sustain such idiocy, such ludicrous, counter-intuitive notions for so long without the American public catching on to the gag or even questioning how anyone could be so dumb and not choke to death on their own drool. But you did it. And let me tell you, that's going to help us out a lot when we start developing next year's pictures.
P.S. - Jeff D. just called from the set - wants to know when he can finally 'fess up to our gag and give the Emmy to its "rightful owner." Having a real hard time keeping a straight face.