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Comedy Stray Notes August 9, 2021
Featuring a new sketch, an introduction to a goofy rapper and a tribute to the late, great Trevor Moore.
Comedy Stray Notes (late Monday edition)
• In March of this year, Delta Airlines put me on hold for seven hours. That’s not an exaggeration. They were so backed up, I spent what must have been nearly someone’s entire shift listening to elevator music waiting to hear from a representative. It felt like a cruel joke. Why didn’t they just hire more people if the wait times were seven hours? Couldn’t they have done one of those callback deals where I give them my number and they reach out to me later? Nope. Either way, I left the conversation inspired and wrote a sketch called “I’ll Be With You In A Minute” loosely based on the experience. Starring the deadpan king Peter Wong, animated spark plug Anna Paone, subtle Samantha Mishinski, and understated Barak Ziv, I low key released this sketch in May holding off on giving it a proper social media release. Well, now here she is in all her glory for your viewing pleasure. Not sold? What if I told you the sketch is only 90 seconds? Now you’ll give it a shot? NICE.
SPOILER: If you don’t live in New York, this is the perfect trip around the City’s most scenic, touristy spots that will make you feel like you’re visiting for a few days. Enjoy.
• Late last Sunday, I received a text from producer/actor/comic/zen master Matt Vita asking if I was around to be a Production Assistant the next weekend up in Killington, Vermont for his feature film aptly titled “Killington.” The two directors Mark Dudzinski and Frank Perz along with cinematographer Josh Miner were filming pickups and could use a hand. I signed up right away. What followed was a 48-hour filmmaking fantasy camp. Although the crew was only filming inserts and missed coverage, they didn’t take a single shot for granted. Best of all was an improvised dolly tracking walking feet done with just a towel. We were a small but mighty team but using just a Black Magic, Tascam, a few kino flow, and Arri lights, the principal crew showed me just how much you can get done if you’re motivated. I can’t wait to see the finished product of this inventive horror-comedy. You’re going to be hearing a lot about this puppy very soon.
• On the set, I learned the film’s composer Dave DeCeglie used to rap under the moniker MC Comeczechmi (link takes you to Spotify). His Russian character has serious flow but what keeps me listening to his album on repeat is how funny the rhymes are (and the fat beats don’t hurt either). One of my favorite lines that I kept rewinding was “Throwing Pampers into the pasture” from his track “Communist Rock.” Such a wild image. If you’re a fan of goofy, USSR-inspired hip hop, I think I found your new favorite artist. Check the long Spotify link in the comments.
• No big whoop but I did a quick drop-in on my dude Camden Pollio’s Monday night Joey Bats show last week. This was my first “show show” in way too long and although I was mad rusty, I technically did eight minutes of stand-up comedy. I’ll take that as a win. Plus, I’m way too proud of my riff when passersby walked by, and rather than saying, “Free comedy” I blurted out, “$75 show. You can pay in installments.” Felt like I was sort of back to my old self for just a fleeting moment.
Should also be noted that all the other comics on the show brought the goods but I want to especially shout out Camden for taking the bullet spot and hosting. Not only did he give the show a light, friendly vibe but he also busted out the best take on Amber Alerts I’d ever heard. You gotta see him live to see what he does with the premise. Also, major props to Danny Rathbun who performed on the show and made fun of Mr. Pibb from an angle I’d never even considered. It’s inspiring to be back out and about every once in a while to hear jokes live. This is what New York is all about. Monday nights. 10 PM. Joey Bats. Lower East Side. Add it to your comedy diet.
• I had a big week which hindered me from getting in my standard healthy dose of entertainment. However, I did see and listen to a few notable movies, shows, and pods. Here’s a quick round of recommendations:
The Mitchells Versus The Machines (2021): The first 15 minutes of this movie upset me. As you may know, I am currently working on a feature and the opening here was similar to what I’d written but better than anything I put on paper. More heartwarming, funnier, filled to the gills with family tension. Never fun to see a better version of your dream movie just out in the world. Anyhow, this movie is so darn fun and charming that I don’t even mind the parallel thought. To sum it up, imagine an even more average yet eccentric “Incredibles” family minus the superpowers who have to save the world from the singularity. Yes, it’s your standard hero’s journey but it’s chock full of top-notch jokes like the Mom (voiced by Maya Rudolph) constantly comparing their offbeat family to the perfect Instagram fam they keep running into, robots (Beck Bennett) attempting to eat food by smashing oranges in their mouths and constant cutaways to cheaper animation/YouTube viral videos that always keep your eyes on their toes. Coupled with heavy themes like giving up your dreams and the enormous power that Zuckerberg types have, the movie also has quite a bit to say about parenthood as well as the tech monopolies. IF JOHN HUGHES MET THE TERMINATOR MET 90S NICKELODEON (Streaming on Netflix).
*I will say the most fun part of the movie though is the end credits. As each cast and crew member is introduced, a cheap old photo of them on a family trip is shown. It’s an incredibly humanizing moment; they all look just like us. That could be any of us up on the screen.
“That Damn Michael Che” (2021): At only six episodes, I was supremely bummed when this pointed season came to a close. Che has had one of the strongest contrarian voices in comedy this past decade and this show is the perfect vehicle for him to showcase his takes on the police, romance, the pandemic, his status in the comedy world, and physical insecurities. All in all, “TDMC” feels like a distillation of all the best jokes on SNL- ones that seem designed to shock but end up making you think rather than walk away outraged. While each episode on its own is fantastic, I’d recommend Episode Three “Dudley Gets Shot” as a standout among standouts. In it, Che’s friend (Reggie Conquest) gets shot and what follows is a tight narrative where Dudley goes on IG Live as he dies, an absurdist mask-shaming bit on the train, and dead-on commentary about how people would rather die than pay hospital bills. BALLSIER THAN ANYTHING ON NETWORK TV, THIS IS SKETCH COMEDY AT ITS MOST SELF-ASSURED AND BLISTERINGLY ORIGINAL (Streaming on HBO Max).
James Murphy on WTF: If you like LCD Soundsystem, if you like music snobs, if you like the smirking kids in the back of the class who were too cool to be there, this podcast episode is for you. In it, Maron repeatedly qualifies the conversation by saying he “didn’t get LCD” but it doesn’t matter- Murphy has so many great anecdotes that there’s never any tension over Maron’s indifference. We start with an extended tale where he tried to record his dream album at 17 and the technician tried to make him sound like Fleetwood Mac’s “Rumors,” and then get into nerdy fanboy diatribes on 70s legends Yes and Can (two dynamite three-letter band names). He acknowledges how difficult he is to work with but also goes into great detail about trying to get a pilot off the ground for a friend just because he thought he was funny. What a mensch.
Most insightful of all though was how he proudly Murphy wears his influences on his sleeve (one of his biggest hits is “Daft Punk is Playing at my House” for chrissakes) rather than hiding him calling out contemporaries who say they “listen to Billie Holliday but sound like Slint.”
One last thing: James Murphy’s six-year-old son is into the band Magazine. I’d never even heard of him. That kid is going to be cool as hell (listening to Magazine now, I can confirm they do rule).
• Finally, RIP Trevor Moore. Moore was one of the founding members of the pioneering sketch group “The Whitest Kids U Know” from the mid-aughts. The show’s sketches were a staple of any comedy-obsessed early 20-something’s viewing diet. Due to the show’s popularity, Moore and his troupe released the critically derided “Miss March.” At the time, I was working at Arizona State’s TV Station and was given the opportunity to interview him after screening the film.
I wanted to be a goofy smartass and the first question I asked when I sat down with Trevor was, “Did you set out to make a feminist film with ‘Miss March?’” To be clear, ‘Miss March’ is as far as one can get from a feminist film. Trevor, being much funnier than me, took the question in stride and rather than tearing me apart for being an annoying waste of his time, showed me compassion and took it seriously in an ironic way.
I’ll never forget that moment.
Shine on, you crazy diamond.