The Blog of Young America

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We Got A Real Red Wagon!


I love Waiting for Guffman, and liked Best in Show and A Mighty Wind. The latter two sometimes got a bit dull, and many of the characters fell flat for me. A Mighty Wind, in particular, struck me as a little long on nostalgia and short on humor. Fred Willard, though, is truly a special American. He could do this stuff in ANY context and I would think it was spectacularly hilarious.

Seriously, I think if Fred Willard was on Entourage I would love it. If he was just working at a Taco Bell, I would think it was hilarious. A real Taco Bell. He could do this same schtick for 45 minutes straight, and I would laugh the entire time.

There is only one Fred Willard.

Podcast: TSOYA Classic: All World Knowledge with John Hodgman and Fred Rees


We continue our journey into The Sound of Young America's vast audio archive with this program from The Sound of Young America Classics.

This week, we obtain ALL WORLD KNOWLEDGE. John Hodgman is an author and television personality who talks here about his first book, "The Areas of My Expertise." Fred Rees is the creator of The Book of Cool, a DVD box set of instructional videos on amazing skills, from trick roping to skateboarding.

Please share your thoughts on the show in the comments section!

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MaxFunCon 2009: It's On.


A couple years ago, I asked Dan Grayson, the guy who wrote "Maximum Fun" with me, what he was up to. He looked at me and said with utter conviction, "the greatest artistic work of which I am capable." Dan doesn't fuck around when it comes to that kind of stuff, and it was amazing to hear him say such an outlandish thing with such commitment. I never thought I'd be able to do the same.


MaxFunCon is the greatest work of which I am capable.

I have known in my heart for years now that is about much more than just a radio show -- it's about a mindset, a way of thinking and being. MaxFunCon is my attempt to take that out of the realm of the abstract and make it real.

Here's what MaxFunCon is:
A long weekend in a beautiful mountain conference center and resort in Southern California.
A chance to see some of the funniest people in the world perform.
An opportunity to learn to be more awesome.
A chance to share a weekend with your new best friends.

Here's who'll be there (so far):
John Hodgman
Merlin Mann, Scott Simpson & Adam Lisagor of You Look Nice Today
Jimmy Pardo & Matt Belknap of Never Not Funny
Jordan, Jesse Go!
Hard N Phirm
Mark Frauenfelder & Xeni Jardin of
...and more to come.

So cop those tickets now.

Podthoughts by Colin Marshall: "The 40 Year Old Boy"


Developing Ghostbusters, Aykroyd and Reitman ran into trouble filling the role of Winston, the fourth Ghostbuster, which they wrote for Eddie Murphy. Beverly Hills Cop scuppered that plan, but that turns out to have been fortuitous: on the DVD commentary, the filmmakers admit that Murphy, for all his stunning accomplishments in laughmaking, would have pushed the viewing experience into comedian overload, with each comic/actor jockeying tiresomely for position. Now, there's a podcast that many Max Funsters love, most podcasters love, and many comedians secretly love, but it is a podcast that, alas, this particular Podthinker only likes. I hear snippets every few months, I have fun, I laugh, I think — but I'm not begging for more. The podcast I speak of is none other — here comes the heresy — than Never Not Funny. My problem? Comedian overload. Just an eensy bit too much comedian.

Mike Schmidt used to be part of of the NNF pack, but tensions arose and he rode into the sunset, memorably appearing on Jordan, Jesse Go! afterward to tell his most horrible gym stories. Listening to Schmidt paint a mental picture of middle-aged men swallowing pool water and aggressively deodorizing unspeakable body parts, I found myself wanting more. Nearly a year later, he answered my prayers with his very own podcast: The 40 Year Old Boy [iTunes link], inoculated against comedian overload by virtue of the fact that, behind the mic, it's Mike and Mike alone.

Mike Schmidt is one of those guys to whom a lot of stuff happens, and who does a lot of stuff to others. He's weighed 500 pounds. He's had surgery to lose those pounds. He's smashed a guy's face into the House of Blues' corrugated tin wall. He still hasn't graduated high school. He's blasted a six-year-old with a bag of bell peppers. He's helped a friend break the school ceiling. He's picked a fight with Rick James. He's visited a swinger's club with a buffet of deviled eggs. He's lost a photo of his wang in cyberspace. He's cut off communication with most of his brothers. He's crammed his mouth full of sushi only to spit it out in the bathroom. He's sung "Don't You Want Me?", badly, to a married crush 18 years his senior. In his fifth decade, he still lives like a thrillseeking kid: indeed, he's a 40-Year-Old Boy.

He tells these stories and many others, beginning with an assessment of some seemingly mundane recent life event and swerving, digressing, looping and doubling back to touch on a countless harrowing, horrifying, humiliating — and, to go for quadruple alliteration hat trick, hilarious — tales of his own existence and others'. Speaking of digressions, I've gone on a few too many myself lately, so I'll keep the Podthought short, savory and to the point: one man simply speaking into a microphone while his producer cracks up in the background, whether said producer is the angry-wife-having comedy nerd Eric of the early shows or the squealing burlesque dancer Lily of the newer ones, does not sound like an engaging format. But it is. Mike Schmidt is a master storyteller, and boy howdy does he have stories. In fact, I'd planned to review another podcast this week, but I was so rapt by Schmidt's storytelling skill — one nearly lost these days — that I just jumped the tracks and wrote up his. If that's not an endorsement, what is?

Vital stats:
Format: one comedian talkin'
Running since: April 2008
Duration: 20m-1h15m
Frequency: slightly more than weekly
Archive available on iTunes: all

[Freelance podthinker Colin Marshall has a posse, 5'10", 150 lb. Also an e-mail: colinjmarshall at gmail. Discuss Podthoughts here, or submit your podcast for the next by-Max-Funsters column here.]

Theresa Hossfeld and Jesse Thorn


Thanks Francesca and Emily!

826 LA Comedy Benefit


You may have heard me mention this show on The Sound... but I wanted to take this opportunity to alert my LA people to it. 826 LA's Fall-Time Yukfest, Wednesday, September 10th at the Avalon in LA.

Al Madrigal... Patton Oswalt... Janeane Garofalo... Jimmy Pardo... Bill Burr... Tim & Eric...

Brilliant comics performing for charity. Can you top this? Certainly not. Unless you add performing dogs. Which they have done.

Buy your tickets NOW NOW NOW.

Podcast: The Submarines

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The Submarines are a Los Angeles-based indie pop duo, whose latest album is entitled "Honeysuckle Weeks." The group's two members, John Dragonetti and Blake Hazard, were romantically linked -- then romantically unlinked -- before forming the ensemble. They came back together while sharing a studio and hearing the breakup songs each was writing about the other.

This special episode of the podcast is hosted by departing MaxFun staffer Chris Bowman.

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If you enjoyed this show, try these:
Nellie McKay
Dan Kennedy

Jordan Morris and Jonah Ray for President of Comicon

See more funny videos at Funny or Die

Jordan visits Comicon with Fuel TV, and brings along the always-funny Jonah Ray.

Podthoughts by Colin Marshall: "The Cool as Hell Theatre Show"

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Loath as I am to admit this, dear Max Funsters, I dragged my feet a little on this one. Figuring it was high time to review a program covering the legitimate goings-on of the live stage, that theater of the mind and body, I picked a theater podcast. The Podthinker's is a two phase job: first comes "listening", then — and only then — comes "writing". I kept trying to start the listening phase this time around, but kept stepping back. My fear? Drama geeks.

Cast your mind, if you can, back to high school. (If you're currently in high school, great job.) Remember drama geeks? I hung tentatively around the edges of their scene, as it seemed to revolve around drama — onstage and off. From a safe distance, I watched them squabble, snipe, and — my hand casts about the air for the proper term — do each other. This goofy, Machiavellian, incestuous circle appeared to constitute the true drama geek's entire world; I'm not sure they realized there was anything outside it. I feared a theater podcast would cater exclusively to such inner circles, dropping references to obscure one-acts and constantly delivering nerdily cutting swipes that I'd feel dirty for either understanding or not understanding. A real no-win sitchyation.

Given these and other psychodramas, it's a miracle I ever hit the play button on The Cool as Hell Theatre [sic] Show [iTunes link] (or CASH, which acronym is, as it were, money). Evidently the creator, producer and host Michael Wayne Rice is a bit of a one-man show veteran, which I read as an additional danger sign. Now, I stopped watching Family Guy a long time ago, but when the show satirized one-man shows, it said it all:

Life sure was crazy growing up in Brooklyn. We had some real characters in my neighborhood, like Frank the Mailman. "Hey, Mark, the ants for your ant farm came today!" And my friend Lonny, that knucklehead. "Yo, Marky, let's play some b-ball." "B-ball." That's what we called it. B-ball. And my grandma. Boy! Was she something else!

So I'm fearful of anything to do with one-man shows that aren't Mike Daisey monologues. Fortunately, Rice steers just about as far as you can get from self-indulgent theater weeniedom. The show comes straight out of the San Francisco Bay Yay Area, where Rice plays roving interviewer, traveling all over the place and recording conversations with the writers, directors and actors of new surprising, innovative, hard-hitting — I'm trying to get through this column without using the word "edgy" — new productions. He's quite possibly the exact opposite of the aforementioned drama geek: laid back, animated without being show-offy, enthusiastic in all the right ways and eager to share the love with all the "ladies and gentlemen, boys and girls, pimps, players and hustlers of the theater world." (Yes, direct quote.)

Rice chats with a wide range of today's Yay Area theater-makers; the projects include a "re-imagining" of Alfred Jarry's Ubu Roi with more thrown food [MP3], a white Jewish rapper's adaptation of a Jewish novelist's story of a fictitious white Jewish guy's journey to rapperhood [MP3], the work of something called a "male feminist" [MP3] and, of course, the antics of the good old Reduced Shakespeare Company [MP3]. The steady format is as follows: first, the guest gets thirty seconds — no more, no less — to describe the show they're putting on. Then Rice and the guest talk for a while. Then Rice demands that "all humility be sucked out of the room" and the guest sell their show hard. Roger Rees did that last bit the best: "Because I'm hot and my show could change your life." [MP3]

Anyone who's been to San Francisco knows that it's a cool place, but they also know that it's something of a double-edged sword: while the city is an absolute Large Hadron Collider of creative energy where one never quite knows what to expect even just walking down the street, it also doesn't seem to realize when it's become a parody of itself. (Good examples of this can even be found on the Board of Supervisors.) As with the city, so with its theater: listening to Cool as Hell, I found myself thinking I'd have to start hitting the skip button if one more guest started talking identity politics. Or any kind of politics, really, though I guess that's what you'd expect from people who produce shows with names like Corporations Stole My Gender, Amerikkka and Something About Iraq. (Okay, so I made those last three up, but they're not far from the truth.)

They don't often get too far into that, though, due to another double-edged sword: the podcast's extremely short length. At between seven and twenty minutes, the interviews don't have the chance to run badly off the rails, but they still feel like they've ended before they've begun. Conversation is an art form that benefits from breathing room, and I'd recommend Rice and make use of that. Otherwise, nice job; I can feel my dramaphobia receding already.

Vital stats:
Format: theater-centric cultural interviews
Running since: June 2005
Duration: 7m-20m (!)
Frequency: just about weekly
Archive available on iTunes: only the fifteen most recent; the rest are on the site

[Freelance podthinker Colin Marshall once played Dean McCutcheon in "Quimby Comes Across". Ask him about this experience at colinjmarshall at gmail. Discuss Podthoughts here, or submit your podcast for the next by-Max-Funsters column here.]

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