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A Manifesto for The New Sincerity

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Word came down from America's commentary class around September 13th, 2001. Irony was dead. In what would come to be called "The Post 9-11 World," there would be no room for that particularly distasteful form of discourse. It was to be replaced by soft, sweet sincerity. Somewhere, an eagle shed a single tear.

Of course, reports of irony's death were greatly exaggerated. A few weeks after the tragedy, irony made a heroic, if modest, resurgence. Great exemplars of the form like The Onion and Jon Stewart went back to their grindstones. Hipsters in Williamsburgh, Brooklyn slapped on their Roos and drowned what was left of their trauma in Pabst Blue Ribbon. Within two years, America was watching The Simple Life and basking in contempt.

The great irony of all this is that the pundits and prognosticators who declared irony dead three years ago were absolutely right. Irony is dead. Their account of it's death, however, was greatly flawed. Irony died not in a fiery explosion, but slowly, quietly, of old age. And it wasn't replaced by a return of the old guard. This time around, there�s a new cultural paradigm, itching to get in the ballgame.

This radical new ethos has a name. It's called: The New Sincerity.

What is The New Sincerity? Think of it as irony and sincerity combined like Voltron, to form a new movement of astonishing power. Or think of it as the absence of irony and sincerity, where less is (obviously) more. If those strain the brain, just think of Evel Knievel.

Let's be frank. There's no way to appreciate Evel Knievel literally. Evel is the kind of man who defies even fiction, because the reality is too over the top. Here is a man in a red-white-and-blue leather jumpsuit, driving some kind of rocket car. A man who achieved fame and fortune jumping over things. Here is a real man who feels at home as Spidey on the cover of a comic book. Simply put, Evel Knievel boggles the mind.

But by the same token, he isn't to be taken ironically, either. The fact of the matter is that Evel is, in a word, awesome. His jumpsuit looks great. His stunts were amazing. As he once said of his own life: "I've had every airplane, every ship, every yacht, every racehorse, every diamond, and probably, with the exception of two or three, every woman I wanted in my lifetime. I've lived a better life than any king or prince or president." And as patently ridiculous as those words are, they're pretty much true.

So now, dear reader, you're in on the Next Big Thing. Something more Hedwig than Rocky Horror; more Princess Bride than Last Unicorn; more Bruce Lee than Chuck Norris. Something new, and beautiful. So join us.

Our greeting: a double thumbs-up. Our credo: "Be More Awesome." Our lifestyle: "Maximum Fun." Throw caution to the wind, friend, and live The New Sincerity.

Is Karl Pilkington Real?

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Debate has been raging on the internet over the authenticity of Karl Pilkington, the Ricky Gervais Show co-host whose idiotic ramblings are fodder for the scorn of Gervais and Steven Merchant.

Matt (aka Sasquatch) over at ASpecialThing breaks it down, and quite reasonably, I think:

No one's saying he's completely oblivious to the fact that people find his idiotic ramblings funny -- obviously he's smart enough to know that if the way he's acting and talking makes a world-famous comedian laugh and want to keep talking to him, then he should keep it up. That's not even smarts, that's human nature: when you crave attention (as every human does to some degree) and a certain behavior results in you getting attention, you will keep up that behavior and even amplify it (kids and bad comics do this all the time, which is why they're annoying).

Does he really believe every bit of Monkey News? No. But he believes some of it, and believed a lot of it at some point I bet -- now it's a segment they have to fill, and he understands his role is to read the stuff as if he thinks it's real. Is that "doing a character?" If it is, then every person is doing a character at some point in his life, whenever he has to tell a white lie to spare someone's feelings or pretend to be excited by a project at work that is, in fact, total crap. That said, some people are inconceivably gullible and believe everything they read until someone points out the inconsistencies. I think Karl could be one of those people. Above all, he WANTS to believe stupid urban myths and conspiracy theories.

Bottom line: he is self-aware and understands his place on the show, so he gives Gervais, Merchant and the audience what he knows they all want, even if it's an exaggeration of his personality. Even if it means taking the abuse he's given for his views without complaint.

Character or not, Pilkington is a hoot, and the Ricky Gervais Show is very, very funny.

Aspen Stories: Brent Weinbach

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Two weeks ago, the HBO's Aspen Comedy Festival brought comedians and comedy industry insiders from all over the nation to a little resort town in Colorado. Several Sound of Young America pals were among the attendees, so we thought we'd debrief them on their experience.

First up: Brent Weinbach. Brent is one of San Francisco's most unique and succesful comics. His delivery veers between pitch-perfect impressions and a soothing monotone. His passionate Bay Area fans are known for attending his "Advanced Weinbach" shows, which feature his most bizarre routines, and wearing his trademark Weinbach t-shirts. Recently, he's spent more time in Los Angeles, with a TV development deal and a growing fan base in the Southland.

Had you been to Aspen before?

No.


What did you expect it to be like?

I expected it to be really cold and the audiences to maybe be kind of sucky. They ended up being very kind of sucky.

What surprised you about it when you got there?

I was surprised about how nice my hotel room was compared to my friends'. I had a jacuzzi with a skylight over it, a microwave and refrigerator, a couch, and an extra sink. And other stuff too. Also, I was surprised at how little I had to spend while I was there, due to there beingfree buffets and stuff. I spent less than $50 for the whole week.

What was the audience like for your show(s)?

The audience was composed of three different kinds of people.
  1. Industry. They were the only ones who laughed and were the best portion of the audience.
  2. Old, white, rich, Republicans whose frame of reference was very removed from what most of the comics were talking about on stage. They did not laugh, because they didn't get it. You would see rows and rows of people with white hair or baldness, sitting there with still faces. I guess they were expecting something else.
  3. The worst portion of the crowd: country red-necks from surrounding towns. These people constantly yelled things out, heckled, and loudly answered rhetorical questions. At such a prestigious festival, you would think they would organize security to deal with these things, but they didn't. Comedians had to sometimes battle it out with these people, as if they were in Modesto or some place like that. During one of my sets, someone yelled out, "Get a job."
What was the best social event you attended? Why?

Apparently, the one party I missed was the one that everyone said was the best party, the one at the Goldberg house. I guess the best social event I went to was -well, I don't have an answer. They were all the same to me. I'll tell you what though, about nine of us went snow mobiling one morning. If you consider that a social event, that was the best. It was like a video game or an action movie or something, sort of. It was very fun. We rode through the mountains and ate burgers at this log cabin and raced at the end. We met amysterious man named the Red Zinger.

What was the best show you saw that wasn't your own?

The Whitest Kids U Know. I was falling out of my chair because I was
laughing so hard. Great acting, silly, over-the-top -they were the best thing
I saw at the festival, and I saw almost every show.

What was the strangest social interaction you had while there?

Well, this one well-known manager introduced himself to me and said he really liked my stuff and so on. Then I brought up this story about him and my manager that may have been too innapropriate for just having met him. After I mentioned it, he didn't really laugh. Neither did the couple of agents I work with who were there too. There was a brief awkward moment and then the subject was somehow quickly changed, but I was still very embarrassed. I felt like I
really put my foot in my mouth and stressed out about it the rest of the night. In the end, I don't think he took any notice of it or cared. I hope.

Would you reccomend it to others?

Yes. As long as you go in expecting to have mediocre to decent sets, it's a very fun time and a great opportunity to see other acts from around the country.

Brent Weinbach Online (His CD, "Tales From the Brown Side" is reccomended)
TSOYA: "Laugh Riot" featuring comedy from Brent (MP3 Link)

Next up: Sherry Sirof

Improv Everywhere on This American Life

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This weekend on public radio stations across America, the wonderful This American Life will be re-running their program which features the nearly-as-wonderful Improv Everywhere.

IE's motto is "We Cause Scenes." They organize events which are a cross between theater, comedy, and situationism... like installing a bathroom attendant in a McDonalds, faking a rooftop U2 concert, or offering boat tours of a public fountain.

The show airs this weekend on your local station, but if you're impatient, you can listen to the show now.

Or, you can listen to IE founder Charlie Todd on The Sound of Young America:
Download "Odd Ends" with the Charlie Todd Interview (MP3 Audio)
or
Listen to the RealAudio stream of the interview

And yes, he was on our show first. EAT THAT IRA!

Bob Newhart in El Tiempo

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There's a nice article in the New York Times today about the great Bob Newhart, who's performing tonight in Brooklyn. For some reason, they went to Bernie Mac for a quote... he delivered a great one:

"A lot of people define courage as being out front and in your face," Mr. Mac said, "but Bob didn't come out of his picture frame for anybody. That bland style, that plaid jacket, with the hair combed to one side over the bald spot — that was Bob. And there's nothing wrong with that. Because it takes courage to be yourself, and he showed everybody that."

Link

On tommorow's show...

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I just finished up an interview with writer George Pelecanos, and I have to say I'm *very* excited about tommorow's show. The theme's going to be Elements of Style...

Last week, I had a really fascinating conversation with Maira Kalman, who created an illustrated version of the classic writer's guide "The Elements of Style." When I heard about the book, I was intruiged, and when I saw it, I was sold a bajillion times over. One of the really amazing things about the original Elements of Style is how surprising and funny it is. One of the most wonderful things in writing is extreme pithiness, and EB White had that in spades. Kalman's illustrations bring that to life in amazing ways... the one above is for the entry, "Illusion: see allusion." She had wonderful things to say about it.

Later on today, I'm talking with Nico Muhly, who wrote a song cycle about the book. He's my age (24), and has already worked with John Adams and Bjork. We'll see if there's room for that in the show, otherwise it's going up on the web here. They were nice enough to let me use Nico's music in the show. Here's a beautiful artwork/interview about his work with Bjork.

And as I mentioned earlier, I also got to talk to George Pelecanos. He's a brilliant crime novelist, and a writer/producer for HBO's The Wire, which I'm pretty sure is the best show on television. He just edited a new compilation of stories called "DC Noir," and he's working on The Wire now. I talked to him about both of them. After the interview, I allowed myself a moment to gush... I told him how many copies of his books I'd sold to people when I worked at Borders at 18th & L in DC.

Total Annihilation

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YOU SAY COOL AND I SAY HOT / TOGETHER WE MADE A ROBOT

Ever since my (10-year-old) brother Brendan played the first song his band ever recorded on The Sound of Young America, people have been asking me about his band, Total Annihilation. Brendan (aka Eddy Demon) sings lead vocals and plays guitar. An awesome guy called Pete (Pietro D'Amato), who recently turned 13, plays drums, and our family friend Damon (D. Harmoniak), who's a grown-up, plays bass. They play punk rock music, with lyrics influenced by General Awesomeness and Metal.

Total Annihilation is on MySpace, and their first CD is available in stores... or more accurately, a store. If you visit Aquarius Records in San Francisco, you can buy their debut EP, which features original songs like "Rock & Roll on a Friday," which features the awesome lyric printed above. You can hear it on the MySpace. If you don't live in San Francisco, call Aquarius at 415.647.2272 and order it over the phone... they totally do mail order. Each CD comes in an amazing hand-colored package with a special art card for each song. My dad think it costs $10, but he can't remember.

They're also looking for gigs in the Bay Area, in venues that allow kids to perform. Warning: they play very, very, very loud.

Thanks for linking Brendan, BoingBoing!

The Human Giant Hosts Comedy Death Ray

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If you live in LA, prepare for a confluence of comedy forces of such awesome power that even having heard many of them on our show before will not protect you.

Comedy Death Ray, Tuesday night at the Upright Citizens Brigade Theater, features...

Todd Barry, Neil Hamburger, Morgan Murphy, The Human Giant, and MORE. This is a pretty monstrous lineup. Aziz Ansari says The Human Giant will be playing their short Illusionators.

Tickets are only $5, so make your reservations now, or cry yourself to sleep Tuesday night, and dream of what you missed.

For those who don't live in LA, Live the Magic through these amazing links to past Sound of Young America programs:

February 18th, 2006 - The American Dream with Neil Hamburger (MP3)
July 9th, 2005 - Qay Into You with the founders of Comedy Death Ray, Scott and BJ (MP3)
Todd Barry Interview (realaudio)

A peak at the new Outkast record...

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from the Fader blog.

The highlights were "Morris Brown" (paying tribute to the college who's marching band is featured on the song), containing an inescapable "My heart is like a marching band..." hook by Purple Ribbon R&B wunderkind Scar, and a woozy, "Whole World"-style banger mixing live drums and loops with juke-joint instrumentation. Both were being considered as lead-off singles to the soundtrack...but then Andre decided he wanted to rap again, and it's back to the lab. ANDRE 3000 IS RAPPING AGAIN. STAY TUNED.

What's Your Podroll?

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On the right, you can see a list of podcasts that I listen to. I also listen to a lot of KQED-FM and KPOO-FM here in San Francisco. KQED is the local giant NPR affiliate, KPOO is a community station that plays music... mostly "urban" music. I got my first MP3 player a couple months ago, a Rio Carbon, and I really enjoy it. I've been downloading MP3s since the pre-Napster days.

What podcasts do you listen to? Why do you like them? How did you find them?

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