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Comedy Stray Notes January 10, 2021
On pilots read on Zoom, the best sketches on Instagram and a forgotten Scorsese movie from 1999
Comedy Stray Notes
• Another week with history making highs (Warnock and Ossoff!) and stupefying lows (everything else!). Yes, these events took up most of mine and everyone else’s mental energy for the entirety of these past seven days but luckily, there were some moments of levity as well. Most notably, I had the honor of witnessing the Zoom reading of Dylan Aames’ edgy half hour pilot “Unfit.” The show is about a group of lovable misfits and cynical opportunists who aren’t exactly qualified to own a gym or train there but somehow do. After reading a few drafts of said pilot and seeing Aames’ steadfast devotion to writing and rewriting (I’ve never met someone who actually wrote fifth and sixth drafts; I thought more than three drafts was a myth), it was incredible to see the comedy come to life performed by Aames himself, Anna E. Paone, Ronnie Fleming and Pete Burdette. They made airheaded and vapid characters come to life with their line readings; I can’t wait to see where this goes next. I see great things in this show’s future.
• Exactly ten years ago, I was shooting my thesis film at ASU. It was my first time going all out and to make sure the quality matched the effort, I reached out to local professionals rather than just students. One of those actors was Debbie Jennings and she came in, absolutely crushed her scene as the flabbergasted teacher (her second grade student was tendering his resignation) and we parted ways. We stayed in touch over the past decade over social media and this week I had the honor of profiling her and her flourishing real estate career in Chandler, AZ. The best part are the Zillow reviews of hers I included in the piece that exemplify her skill like:
“Debbie leaves no stone unturned to find you what you need. If not for her I would have ended up in an apartment again.”
If you want to learn a little about real estate, as well as a few other reviews, or need an agent in Chandler, you can check out her profile in the comments below.
• We’re all inside (well, unless you’re in DC). With live comedy taking a backseat, sketch and short films are taking the steering wheel and driving most of what I’m consuming these days and I’m loving every second of it. Here’s a few quick hits of great things I saw this week that I think you’ll enjoy:
- Dan Rosen and Jeff Ayars’ “Cannibal Milkshake” is pound for pound one of the most consistent quality sketch factories there is. If you follow, you get a new great video every other day or so; it’s wild that they produce so much and with nary a dud. Highlights this week include “Lin Manuel working on the musical about this week” and “pitch meeting for a startup that is Airbnb for post it notes.” You can find them below; it’s a very worthy follow.
- I’ve been a big fan of Tynan Delong’s short films for ages; this week, I came across his freewheeling, naturalistic nine-minute “Landlady.” Told in a nonlinear fashion, it examines the odd, almost familial relationship tenants have with their supers. This is New York in a nutshell. A landlady and her silly, entrepreneurial son played with comic verve by Bardia Salimi; her sweet resident and a Scrabble game. It’s lived in, has well-earned tonal shifts and moves at such a quick clip, I couldn’t believe nine minutes had passed when it was over. Worth your time.
- You ever go to Penn Station and wait for your LIRR train times? It’s anxiety inducing. You stare at a big board and wonder if they’re ever even going to put your train’s track up on the board. I’d never seen anyone approach this from a comedic angle and I’m so glad I finally have. Jeremyah Schur and Camden Pollio’s “The Big Score” posits Schur as a lo-res Howard Ratner from “Uncut Gems” betting on train times. The stakes get higher and higher in this three-episode web series that I watched on a loop this week laughing at the absurd take these guys found on something I had experienced so many times. If you love commuter comedy, check the comments. There’s a treat for you.
• Watched an odd variety of movies this week. Listened to a podcast. Here are some brief thoughts:
“The Vast of Night” (2020): At the beginning of the pandemic, I watched like eight minutes of this movie. Said, “I’ll get back to it.” I do this a lot. Put a bookmark per se in a movie and then come back to it eight months later for no real reason. Anyway, I’m glad I did. For those not in the know, this 50s period piece is a love letter to radio operators and science fiction; in this film, an aspiring radio personality and his switchboard operator hear a bizarre sound on air and chase after said sound to its logical conclusion. The film riffs on Orson Welles’ “War of the Worlds” and “Close Encounters of the Third Kind” with a helping of Humphrey Bogart in there as well. It’s also the rare example where “telling” instead of “showing” actually builds dramatic tension. As the story gradually revealed itself, we fall more in love with the stylized dialogue and lead characters. I got goosebumps, now I understand why plays on the radio pre-television were so stirring. DON’T PUT THIS ONE OFF LIKE I DID (Streaming on Amazon Prime).
“My Spy” (2020): This was one of the first movies that lost out on its theatrical release last March. Well, it was originally supposed to be released in August 2019 but got pushed and now it never saw an AMC. This movie comes from the long Schwarzenegger, The Rock, John Cena comedy genre where you “put a brooding, hulking giant in a fish out of water situation” this time with Dave Bautista. For what it’s worth, the genre still has legs. Here, Bautista plays a spy who has to keep an eye on a single mother and his daughter, he gets too close to them and you already know the rest. It’s in the details where movies like this shine. Here, we get to see the sensitive side of Bautista who gives the role quite a bit of color as a poor dancer with a soft spot for Britney Spears. The film (yes, I called “My Spy” a film), directed by Peter Segal of “Tommy Boy” fame, genuinely surprised me in places (I did a double take at a third act reveal) and while some of the actual “spy action” stuff felt tacked on, I really enjoyed this movie despite its 47% Rotten Tomatoes rating. Plus, you get Kristen Schaal at the top of her riffing game (a movie about her character would have made for a better movie) and Ken Jeong as a dickish boss. IF YOU’VE SEEN “KINDERGARTEN COP” TOO MANY TIMES, THIS WILL DO (Streaming on Amazon Prime).
“Bringing Out The Dead” (1999): I’m no Scorsese completist (not by choice but because he’s put out so many movies, shows and now...series with Fran Liebowitz?) but this movie about a paramedic played by Nicolas Cage co-starring John Goodman, Ving Rhames and Tom Sizemore fell right in the sweet spot of things I had always wanted to see but could never find. Well, now it’s streaming and I completely understand why it’s not considered a classic as was so hard to find. It’s not a capital B bad movie but it doesn’t match the quality of Scorsese’s best; in fact, it feels most like a 90s version of “Taxi Driver.” In this movie, we see Cage slowly unravel as he deals with the insomnia and PTSD of having to deal with tragedy after tragedy. There are a few incredible setpieces like when Cage tries to revive a dying elderly man to Sinatra and the time lapses of 90s NYC set to The Rolling Stones have a real kick to them but for the most part this felt oddly low budget and schlocky. FOR THOSE FASCINATED BY AUTEUR MISFIRES (Streaming on Amazon Prime).
“You Made It Weird” with Brian Koppleman: I’m a sucker for interviews with screenwriters. I procrastinate and procrastinate on my own work but I’ll spend hours listening to them talk about their own work ethic and you just “have to do the work.” This was one of those with quite a bit of practical advice thrown in from the writer of “Rounders” and “Ocean’s Thirteen.” He advised that you shouldn’t buy screenwriting books- watch the movies and read the screenplays of things that inspire you. “If you want to make a heist movie, research heists.” I love that advice. The rest of the interview included name dropping stories (the best was about how he had dinner with Joel Coen and couldn’t stop saying “Joel”) as well as nuggets of wisdom about being kind to strangers. He said, “You don’t know if people have been in horrible accidents so always treat them with respect.” Not a lot of laughs here but I felt 5% wiser after having listened.
What’s going on with me this week? Glad you asked. On Wednesday, I’ll be doing a set on Stuart Allard’s “Semi-Regular Wednesdays” show at 8 PM EST. You better believe I got a link for you.
I’m going to bed
Comedy Stray Notes Links:
01.) Debbie Jennings Profile: https://aprofileaboutyou.medium.com/debbie-jennings-is-just-as-legit-as-her-zillow-reviews-say-8f35bc3655cb
02.) Dan Rosen and Jeff Ayars’ “Cannibal Milkshake” Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/cannibalmilkshake/
03.) Tynan Delong’s “Landlady:”
04.) Camden Pollio and Jeremyah Schur’s “The Big Score:” https://www.instagram.com/camdencomic/
05.) “You Made It Weird” with Brian Koppleman: http://youmadeitweird.nerdistind.libsynpro.com/brian-koppelman
06.) Stuart Allard’s Semi-Regular Wednesdays: https://www.facebook.com/events/155239009438156/