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Garrison + Orchestra = Gimme A Break


Garrison Keillor and the New York Philharmonic
? Someone tell me this is a joke. I think I just threw up a little in my mouth.

Fallen Idols...


Like most other folks who love hip-hop, I love Run DMC. They redefined the form in the mid-80s, brought it to a whole new audience, and their style and energy still can’t be matched. I saw them in concert in high school, and I still treasure the Adidas Superstar I took off my foot so they could sign it.

But this new DMC single is one of the worst songs I’ve ever heard. And I really mean that. I’m stunned at how awful it is. I thought it would be bad, and it blew away my expectations. I feel like it isn’t real, it’s so terribly terribly terrible. DMC is a bad rapper, and he had the mind-explodingly bad idea to hook up with Sarah McClachlan. And then he was like, "how about you sing "Cat's in the Cradle?" And it got WORSE from there. None of this is a joke. It’s like the Battlefield Earth of songs, only without the creepy charisma of John Travolta at his craziest.

I was at a friend’s house, and it came on TV, and I just sat, slack-jawed, for like three minutes, feeling my soul being sucked out and spit back in.


Aspen jury awards announced...


HBO-U.S. Comedy Arts Festival Announces the 2006 Jury Award Winners for Live Performances and Film Discovery Program

ASPEN, CO March 12, 2006 – HBO and the U.S. Comedy Arts Festival (USCAF) announced the 2006 Jury Award winners for Live Performances and the Film Discovery Program, sponsored by Variety in a ceremony hosted by comedian and USCAF performer Robert Wuhl. Presenting the awards for the Film Discovery Program was Jeffery Tambor and Brian Henson.

The winners for Live Performances at this year’s Festival are:

Best Stand-up – Aziz Ansari and Mitch Fatel
Best Alternative – Kristen Schaal
Best Sketch – Whitest Kids You Know
Best One Person Show – Rick Cleveland, My Buddy Bill
Entertainment Weekly Breakout Award – Eliza Coupe

Tied for Best Stand-up was Aziz Ansari and Mitch Fatel, voted by a jury of over three-dozen industry executives who judged over 20 standup performances. Ansari, who performs regularly and hosts the New York’s Upright Citizens Brigade’s show Crash Test, will appear this summer in the Todd Phillips/Scot Armstrong film School for Scoundrels with Billy Bob Thorton and Jon Heder. Fatel is currently a regular correspondent on The Tonight Show with Jay Leno and tours nationally.

Rick Cleveland is a former writer for the West Wing, in addition to serving as an executive producer and writer for all five seasons of HBO’s Six Feet Under. My Buddy Bill explores Cleveland’s unique friendship with President Bill Clinton and his dog Buddy. Cleveland won an Emmy and Writers Guild Award in 2000 for his writing on The West Wing. Eliza Coupe, a graduate of CalArts Theater program, developed her solo sketch show at the Upright Citizens Brigade in New York. She has also trained at the Groundlings Theater and Improv Olympics. Kristen Schaal, a native of Colorado, is known in the New York comedy scene for her quirky, witty and endearing characters and is also the winner of the New York Comedy Festival’s 2005 Andy Kaufman Award. Alumni of the School of Visual Arts in New York City, The Whitest Kids You Know, perform their weekly Wednesday night show at New York’s Upright Citizens Brigade Theatre to sold-out crowds.

The 2006 Film Discovery Program featured 23 feature films, 23 shorts and six world premieres. A panel of industry executives determined that the following films, directors and actors were most deserving of this year's honors.

The Film Discovery Program's Award Winners, sponsored by Variety, include:

Best Feature - Friends With Money
Best Screenplay - Keeping Mum
Best Actor - Justin Long, The Sasquatch Dumpling Gang
Best Actress - Olivia Wilde, Bickford Shmeckler's Cool Idea
Best Director - Tim Skousen, The Sasquatch Dumpling Gang
Breakout Filmmaker Jason Reitman, Thank You for Smoking
Best Live-Action Short - K-7, director Christopher Leone
Best Animated Short - Angry Unpaid Hooker, director Steve Dildarian
Best College Short - Check Out, director Dan Eckman
Cinemax Audience Award Winner – Shut Up and Sing

Ike Quits South Park (and I'd have done the same)


According to news reports, Isaac Hayes has quit South Park, citing objections to the show’s strong anti-Scientology stand. I’m no Scientologist, nor am I a Scientology apologist. I, personally, am an aetheist, but I do work at a church, and if you made a list of religions, Scientology would be one of the few that I had more negative than positive feelings about. And I have generally positive feelings about South Park, which I think is typically a very bright (though crude) satire.

That said, I’m a bit disspointed by the early reactions to the story, which have come down strongly against Ike. The South Park team has pointed out that Hayes had no apparent problem with skewering other people’s religions in the show – after all, the short film that landed South Park on TV centered on a fight between Jesus and Santa. They say South Park has made it a policy to skewer everything on the cultural landscape, without exception, and Hayes is drawing the line now due solely to self-interested.

I buy that, pretty much completely. But I still respect Hayes’ decision. Since when is it unreasonable to value your own religion more highly than others when it comes to decisions about your own life? Hayes isn’t starting a war, or even advocating censorship. He just doesn’t want to participate in a show that has demonstrated contempt for his faith (nutty though it may be).

South Park is a brilliant show, but it’s also very mean-spirited, and Hayes is a significant part of its public face. If I were in his position, I probably would have quit, too.

The Sound of Young America: "Southern Soul" MP3 Link (includes much discussion of Hayes)

Keep It Up - The Smithsonian


Seriously, have you ever been to the Smithsonian? It's amazing! I mean, the art museums are only pretty good, but they have the actual Spirit of St. Louis! Space capsules! Mr. Rogers' sweater! It would be quite easy to spend two weeks there. And it's free! Totally free! God bless the USA. KEEP IT UP, THE SMITHSONIAN: AMERICA'S MUSEUM.

Blackalicious Headed Out on Tour


Blackalicious are headed out on an extensive national tour, per Pitchfork. I say sincerely now that you won't see a more fun hip-hop show.

Blackalicious on The Sound of Young America (MP3 Link)

Hang It Up: Merrell Shoes


Where did these awful shoes come from? They're the new corporate-logo polo shirt, the ultimate sign of stylessness. They're Birkenstocks without the subculture, leaving only the ugliness behind. Most often seen in countless generic versions, or on the feet of embarassing funeral and job interview participants. Hang It Up, Merrell Shoes.

The American Song Poem


Loyal listeners who recall our Holiday show may remember Song Poems. They're kind of an amazing phenomenon. Here's the deal.

Hucksters placed ads in the back of general interest magazines (like Life) saying that major music publishers were looking for lyricists. You could send your sample lyrics to a certain address, and they would be evaluated by trained professionals to see if you had talent. Folks would do this, and of course, anyone who sent something was automatically deemed to "have talent." The people who placed the ads would write back, saying that if the consumer would pay for the cost of recording, they would have trained musicians write a song to the lyrics, record it, and distribute it to song publishers.

What's interesting about this scam was that the "record companies" would actually write and record the songs, and in many cases they were shockingly competent. The drug-addled folks behind the music would record dozens of songs a day. The combination of the bizarre amateur lyrics and compelling pop arrangements thereof is solid gold.

Right now, Everything's Surreal has the anthology pictured above up for download. You can also learn more about Song Poems from this wonderful This American Life story on the topic by the son of the greatest practitioner of the form, Rodd Keith (realaudio), or by checking out The American Song-Poem Archive.

How to Write Comedy


Well, not exactly, but David Cross sat down with Neal Brennan (Chappelle's Show) and David Wain & Michael Schowalter (Stella) to talk about writing comedy at a very expensive event last year in New York. Luckily, Wain is a nice fella, and he scanned the transcript/article that resulted for all of us to read.

Writing Comedy

Stella on The Sound of Young America (MP3 Link)

Thanks to Brian Palmer

Quality Entertainment


The Museum of Television and Radio is one of the world's greatest things, so why wouldn't they have a great blog?

Their "Blog Potato" only offers a couple posts a week, but they're almost always thought-provoking (though I must ask: whither radio?). Today, a thoughtful few paragraphs on the "New Quality Drama"... the 21st century's answer to Hill St. Blues and thirtysomething.

These programs are also distinguished by frequently top-notch writing, which sometimes attracts A-list movie actors and directors looking to make a “quick and dirty” artistic statement. Journalists love to write about these shows, as their preoccupation with the zeitgeist dovetails nicely with any state-of-the-culture pieces that have been assigned by features editors. Their demographics are to die for. They’re smart, stylish, relevant, and I watch them compulsively.

So why do they so often make me want to scream?


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