Archive for April, 2012

In Which Remaking The Three Stooges Signifies Everything That’s Wrong With America

April 14th, 2012 No comments


Major Caveat 1. I don’t like the The Three Stooges to begin with. I don’t get them. Even as a kid, before I knew how to be all snobby and shit, I didn’t get them. That’s not to say I don’t understand them or why people like them. I just don’t think they’re funny.

Major Caveat 2. I  have no basis in fact for anything I’m going to write. None.

That said…

If you’re reading this, I’m hoping you’ve seen the movie In Bruges. It took me awhile to get to this movie because the trailer sucked. We visited Bruges when we took the kids to Europe and it really is “a fucking fairy tale place.” The trailer for the movie made it look like some wacky comedy about hitmen. What it left out was the depth and complexity of possibly one the greatest screenplays ever produced. Watch it a couple of times. Track the use of the word “bottle.” The fat American guy at the beginning of the movie comes back at the end of the movie with the line, “The Tower is closed. An American had a heart attack.” That, my friends, is skill and craft. And, if you’re paying attention, it’s hilarious.

Americans, though, don’t care about paying attention. They want it, to use the title of a documentary by Erol Morris, “Fast, cheap and out of control.” Well. Not cheap, per se. They spent $40 million dollars to make The Three Stooges.

Let’s pause there a moment to think about that. Forty. Million. Dollars.

In Bruges cost $15 million.

Let’s think about how The Three Stooges got made. Movies start with ideas. I can think of several ideas that started production of The Three Stooges

  1. I really love them. They were an influence on my life. So, I’d like to pay homage to them by…bringing them into the 21st century.
  2. I can do this better than they could
  3. What icon of Americans’ childhood haven’t we raped yet?
  4. We need a film that’s gonna make a lot of money.
  5. I’m a lazy fuck so let me just repackage something that already exists.

To my mind, none of these reasons even come close to justifying even the consideration of piece of shit.

  1. If they were such an influence, go out and prove it by creating an actual homage that celebrates what you loved about them.
  2. No. You can’t.
  3. Nuff said
  4. Nuff sad
  5. Nuff said

How does this tie in to what’s wrong with America? Simple.

For the cost of The Three Stooges, three In Bruges could have been produced.

To put it in context:

For the cost of the Iraq and Afghanistan wars, we could have probably turned around al Qaeda’s demonetization of America. Rather than bomb, cut and run in the 80’s when Reagan referred to the Taliban as “freedom fighters”, we could have stayed and helped them rebuild everything that got blown up. We could have kept them on our side.  Instead, we took that money and made the geopolitical version of The Three Stooges.  Why? Because America isn’t about substance.

Americans don’t like substance. Americans want pure, straight out entertainment. I’ll refer you to Paddy Chyefsky’s visionary movie, Network, in which he predicted the decline of the American news industry. It’s no longer about news. The death of a has-been celebrity will take over the news cycle for anywhere from 24 hours to a week. Literally, take over. This is well beyond the old axiom of “if it bleeds it leads.”

In a brilliant example of self-reference, the phrase “media circus” gets invoked…by the media…to talk about the circus….created by the media…that poo-poos the “media circus”.  Everyone gets all up in arms about it. But no one changes the channel. They’d rather watch The Three Stooges for a cheap, thoughtless thrill than In Bruges which is funnier, deeper and, ultimately more satisfying.  They’d rather vote to keep recycling the same, comforting ideas they’re familiar with rather than try something new that might bring about an actual change.

I’m guessing The Three Stooges with make a ton of money and we’ll see The Three Stooges Two. Who could resist a name like that?! And The Three Stooged Cubed! Boy, oh, boy! I can’t wait! God bless America….again.

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In Which I’m Here To Bury BBN, Not To Praise Him

April 9th, 2012 No comments

You know what one of the worst things you can say to a performer is?

How’s that thing that you do going? That was really good.

This ranks right up there with the following exchange that every musician knows and hates

Fan: You guys were fucking AWESOME!
Musician: Thanks! Wanna buy a CD?
Fan: CYA!

Billy Bob is dead. Irrevocably and irretrievably dead. Jon Stewart could ask him to come back and he wouldn’t. It’s done. After eight years it’s obvious that the character as I created him would languish in semi-obscurity. Thus – time for the shotgun.

People who enjoyed him might object to “semi-obscurity.” And they’re kind to do so but that’s just a demonstrable fact. At the end, about 25% of YouTube subscribers bothered to watch his videos. A whopping 0.01% of my estimated fanbase bought the CD. I think maybe 10 people donated to his PayPal account over the course of 8 years. Given that the CD cost about $300 to put out and BlogTalk Radio costs $39/mo I had a pretty simple decision: pick up the cost for the entertainment of others or fold. I chose the later.

I’ve always been averse to NPR fundraisers. I’m also a bit of a dick and a little too independent. I also have some social anxiety issues that I disguise by being a bit of a dick and a little too independent. That said, I have a hard time begging for people to pay attention to me or begging people for money. I’ve always gone off the stupid notion instilled in me as a WASP that good work gets rewarded. It’s not always true. But a lot of performance is chance and luck anyway.

And hard work and perseverance. I’m going to be honest – I didn’t have the hard work part down very well. Part of it was laziness. Part of it was knowing that it would come down to luck and chance anyway. Part of it was that I really was pretty much doing this for myself.  It was my vision and I was sticking to it.

After the soccer video came out, I got a call from a guy who produced shows in the vain of America’s Hottest Brides Attacked By Animals. He wanted to talk. So I drove down to NYC. What would I do with a TV show? I’d create an  alt-reality 700 Club right down to the commercial breaks. Effectively, an even deeper cover version of Fernwood 2nite. He was somewhat intrigued. And then we started talking about YouTube views. He pointed out that the Soccer Video was the most widely watched and why did I think that was? I knew where it was going. If I did videos about Lady Gaga and other idiocy, I’d be sitting pretty.

But that wasn’t the point of BBN. And I made it clear that, yes, I understood and no, I had no interest in whoring off Twilight for ratings. We kept up some polite correspondence and slowly the matter dropped. Which was just as well.

Another reason to dump him: the Boston comedy scene is bullshit. Again, through a combination of dickishness and social anxiety, I basically never got booked no matter how strongly I rocked the house. Check out the invitation (slightly paraphrased) I got from one club:

Hey – We’re having a Halloween show and were trying to think of comics that do costumes and we finally remembered you.

Yeah? THANKS! Never mind I did free computer work and some odd digital jobs for the person.

I need, of course, to address my ego a little more in depth. I was taken to task by Mehran once saying that I thought things should be handed to me. I understand where that comes from but I don’t agree with it.

Another story: Norah went to Chicago on business and I tagged along. To take my part off on my taxes I hit an open mic and rocked it. The next day, I had an email from a guy offering me $25 for 10mins at a local club.

“Where did you come from,” he asked?

“Boston. I’m not here for too long. Just visiting.”

“Too bad. I could get you more gigs. You’re great!”

Flash forward a few weeks later at The Comedy Studio. Again, I rocked it. And I was depressed as all fuck.

“What’s wrong,” Mehran asked, “You destroyed up there! God, that was so good!!”

“Yeah?”, I said. “And what’s that gonna get me. Will anyone book me for killing up there? Will you? If you get your own show will you be calling asking me to do your show because I’m a solid, reliable performer? I doubt it. And no one else will, either.” I told him the story of Chicago. He walked away.

After that, I had Mehran on the Hour of Bein’ Good twice. He enjoyed himself both times as did I. Did he ever return the favor. Of course not. Why? You’d have ask him.

Over the course of BBN, I did just shy of 200 videos, a full year of Monday – Friday one minute podcasts (“Briefly Patriotic”), god know how many articles for Shelley The Republican (many weeks I literally wrote the site myself – an article a day) and probably 500+ hour long radio shows. And a ton of stand up gigs.

So, I’m pretty happy with my bona fides. Did I not push and market enough? Probably not. But thus is the path of those with a combination of dickishness and social anxiety. I’m no good a ramming things down people’s throats.  I kind of assume that when someone says “Good, that’s so good” they’ll come back for more. I know that’s not the case and, honestly, I’m trying to work through my own attitudes about it because of this.

Currently, the YouTube total for BBN’s death announcement sits at 878 views.

The video for the CD release is 338. Less than half.

So, the call to end BBN seems justified. The market isn’t there. And I have a good answer to “How’s that thing that you do going?”

It’s dead.

So you don’t have to worry about asking anymore.

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