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Robot Repair

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This classic Phil Hartman sketch, suggested by Jordan Morris, "Boy Detective."

Sly & the Family Stone Live

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Here's Sly & the Family Stone live in the early 70s. Greg Errico (drums) and Larry Graham (bass) have already quit the band, but Sly's relatives are still by his side. So is a violinist, for some reason. They perform "Thank You (Falletinme be Mice Elf)," "Everybody is a Star," and "I Wanna Take You Higher."

Here they are on the other side of their career, in 1968 or so, performing "My Lady" and "I Wanna Take You Higher," at a televised talent contest at the Ohio State Fair. Sly takes the opportunity to do some crazy dances while Cynthia slides behind the organ to jam and Freddie and Larry Graham do a frantic version of the Chuck Berry duck walk. Needless to say, they walk home with the $10,000 prize.

And here's one last later clip, with Sly clearly high, but nonetheless putting in a great performance of "Stand"

Has anyone seen any footage of sly performing any of the big tunes from There's a Riot Goin On or Fresh? I'd love to see him singing my all-time favorite song, "If You Want Me To Stay."

Sketchfest NYC: Fempyre Interview

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The Sound of Young America is proud to sponsor this year's Sketchfest NYC. We're featuring a few interviews this week with artists performing in the festival.


Fempyre are two of the hardest-(mock)-rocking chicks you'll ever meet. Janet and Kit tear into female empowerment armed with nothing but a bass and an acoustic guitar, releasing a torrent of psued0-feminism designed to achieve maximum airplay on Alice-formatted radio stations across the country. I talked with Janet, who's also a co-founder of SF Sketchfest and the co-host of a TV show, about Fempyre's "steaming cup of femininity."

Where did Fempyre come from? What was the genesis?

We've been working together for about a year and a half. We had written one song together shortly after we'd met through a mutual friend; it was written for CJ Arabia's Sci Fi/Fantasy Pageant. Based on that show, we were invited to do a show in LA called "Hot Bitches of Comedy." We started thinking about the sort of mixed signals put out by a show of that name, and while joking about the use of the term "bitch," intended ironically by the guys who programmed the show, we came up with this idea to write a song parodying that type of Chick Rock that portends to empower women, but really ends up pushing the point so hard, it has the reverse effect. After writing our first song in that vein, we developed a taste for it and eventually ended up as Fempyre.

Are you a fan of the sort of act you're parodying here or does the humor come purely from contempt?

Pretty contemptuous, I'm afraid. It's not like we're parodying Chrissie Hynde, or someone who legitimately and inarguably kicks ass - it's more about those bratty songs you find on soundtracks like "Legally Blonde" that make you embarrassed to even discuss feminism. Whiny, misinformed, and almost anti-feminist, all the while trying desperately hard to seem tough and edgy. We always say at our shows that we're dedicating our work to Meredith Brooks's song "Bitch," which is essentially unlistenable. Is that a word?

You're the rare all-female group in a dude-dominated field, but your joke, in part, is at the expense of women in another dude-dominated field, rock. What's up with that?

This goes back to who we're taking the piss out of. Or "out of whom we're taking the piss," I guess, if we're going to be stodgy about grammar. We have no issues whatsoever with fantastic, strong female musicians. Or fragile demure ones, for that matter - it's a really specific archetype we wanted to parody, and then beyond that we started to develop the idea that our characters are just morally questionable people who are looking to get famous and just happened upon feminist rock as an option. The main problem being that they don't accurately represent feminism.

You recently married (are still engaged to? I dunno) another guitar comic. Well, a melodica comic. Do you two listen to Weird Al around the house?

Thankfully, no. But that doesn't mean we don't both know all of the lyrics for the album "Dare to Be Stupid." What can I say? My dad raised me right. And Hardwick and I have been known to indulge in a fair amount of Tom Lehrer. I think he's just happy he found someone who's seen "Tron" as many times as he has. If I ever had any, my coolness factor is in the toilet right now.

The two of you are obviously pals. How has being in a musical comedy duo affected your relationship?

It's been fucking awesome. We work great together, and we're pretty good about staying on task, despite the urges to just sit around and make each other laugh. Kit is ridiculously talented and extremely cool. I don't think we've ever fought creatively - it's totally synergistic. I'm gagging on all my enthusiasm, here, so I'm sure anyone still bothering to read this is wretching violently.

Download Fempyre's "Me & My Vagina" (MP3)

Previously:
Sketchfest NYC: 10 West interview

Sketchfest NYC: Ten West Interview

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The Sound of Young America is a proud sponsor of Sketchfest NYC, and for the rest of the week, we'll be featuring some brief interviews with groups performing in the festival.

Ten West are a Los Angeles-based duo who perform a hybrid of sketch comedy and old-fashioned vaudeville clowning. Their show is hilarious, sad and remarkable in it's raw craft. They've made a name for themselves in the sketch comedy world in the past year or two with accomplished, genre-destroying performances. I spoke with Jon Monastero about where the group stands in the sketch comedy firmament.

10 West seems to have one foot in the comedy world and one foot in the theater world. What do your theater backgrounds bring to your work?
I don't think the two worlds are mutually exclusive. Theater demands an empathy and understanding of one's audience, and an attention to staging and story telling that definitely complements and enhances our comedic work.

10 West's act stands out from the sketch comedy pack for it's physicality. Where does that come from?
It's just easier for us to express ourselves artistically in a physical manner. At least our first impulse is to go in that direction. It's probably part nature and part personal preference.

There's a lot of pathos in your work. Is that a choice? Why?

It's definitely not a deliberate choice. I don't think Stephen & I try to bring pathos to our material. We just write and collaborate and it just sort of shows up in a "Hello! I'm Mr. Pitiful and I'm going to be in your show! sort of way.

What have you learned working so closely with Stephen Simon, who has such extensive clown training, that you may not have learned at the Improv Olympic, where you trained?
Aside from how to juggle and do hat tricks, I've learned that clowning is more than just funny wigs, red noses and balloon animals. In fact, that is a less than desirable stereotype. That's why every time I write a "clown" sketch I include funny wigs, red noses and balloon animals. As long as I mime the balloon animal part Stephen is OK with it.

Both of you also work in children's theater... what are the commonalities and differences between the work you do for adults and for kids?

We don't change too much of what we do for the different age groups. We try to create shows that everybody can enjoy - young and old. That eliminates some word choices, of course, but our style and material lends itself to an all-ages type show anyway. The biggest difference in working in children's theater is that a youth show is a lot more interactive, whether you want it to be or not. Kids will talk to us mid-sketch, ask questions, get up and leave to use the restroom & sometimes join us on stage!

How does working with a single director, Bryan Coffee shape your work?

It shapes our work immensely. We both trust and respect Bryan and vice versa. I don't think either one of us would want to work without him. For example, there are many things that we can't readily see from the stage. He edits, shapes, directs and redirects our work. He shares our vision and has helped to shape it. He is truly an undiscovered & extraordinary talent. Everybody should be so lucky as to have a Bryan Coffee!

Ten West perform Friday at nine PM at Sketchfest NYC. More info or tickets here.

Talk amongst yourselves.

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I'm going to be working 22 hours tommorow as a Field Election Deputy for the San Francisco Department of Elections, driving hither and thither in an official van, protecting democracy. So in the meantime, I encourage you to talk amongst yourselves. Consider this an open topic. Please no meanness or self-promotion.

Adult Swim to air Pee-Wee's Playhouse?

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Yes, according to TV Squad. I used to watch the Playhouse every single week, absolutely positively without fail. I loved that show SO much. And it's still good.

Watch Luck Louie online

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Our pal Louis CK's new HBO series is premiering June 11th, but you can watch it for free online now.

June Suggest a Guest Post

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Hey all -- still working on some of those guests you suggested last month (Terry Gross, Marc Maron, Manu Chao).

So who do you think would make a good TSOYA guest? Read a good book lately? Is there a brand new record you really think is great? A topic you'd like to hear more about? A great comedian or comedy person you'd like to hear from?

Spill the beans!

LA Improv Fest News

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Jordan Morris, "Boy Detective," checks in with some news regarding the LA Improv Festival at the Improv Olympic this week. Jordan says highlights include:

Harry Shearer hosts Armando - Sat. 8:00pm

"Celebrity" w/ The Ladies of "The Office" - Tues. 9:00pm

Beer Shark Mice (a long form improv thing w/ David Koechner and that mean janitor from "Scrubs"; I've see it. It is really great.) -
Sat. 9:00pm

Also, UCB has put together two teams to compete in the Harold competition.

I am in the first heat performing 11:00pm on Monday. This is a free show. We are going up against a team of Second City alumni.

So go see Jordan perform at the festival, and check out the full schedule here.

Bilal is a real singer...

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For the most part, the folks who came along during the Neo-Soul boom (as opposed to before) were lame. D'Angelo? Great. Musiq? Lame. Erykah? Great. India Arie? F'ing awful.

There are only a couple of exceptions, the biggest of which was/is Bilal. People have compared B's voice to Prince, which I think is fair, but Bilal is a real singer in a way that Prince never was. Prince's singing compliments his everything else quite well -- but as much as I love him, his singing has never been interesting enough to be great.

Bilal, in contrast, is nothing but interesting. As ?uestlove points out in this great blog post, he's the rare jazz-based singer who is willing to lay his heart on the line like a gospel singer. Sometimes his choices are wrong, sometimes his odd tonal choices (and they are choices) are tough to hear, but he lays it out every time. The result is often amazing.

On his first LP, First Born Second, he worked with a range of R&B and soul's best producers, from Raphael Saadiq ("Soul Sista") to Dr. Dre (the awesome "Sally" and "Fast Lane"). The rawness of his vocals complimented both of those producers perfectly.

His next record has been promised for quite some time, but it still hasn't come. I can't wait. ?uest's myspace page currently has an amazing jam from the Roots' Radio City Music Hall dates a couple weeks ago... a couple of great Bilal songs including one of the best smooth ones, "Sometimes."

Here's the wildest track from his original demo, now about five years old:
Hand Me Down (on the album it was called "Second Child")

Here are a couple tracks from his upcoming record:
High and Dry (yes, it's a Radiohead cover)
Something to Hold On To

*edited to add*

Bilal F. Dr. Dre & Jadakiss - Fast Lane

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