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More than 5,000 pages of America


I found this piece in the NY Times fascinating. The Historical Statistics of the United States is 5,000 pages of data about this country... can you imagine?

Among the information inside:

Fewer than 1 in 10 black children under 5 live with both parents; workers with the highest hourly wages now work the longest hours; there are more religious workers (also bartenders, gardeners and authors) than ever recorded, and more shoemakers than at any other time since the Civil War; only half of Americans have access to fluoridated water; a growing share of poor people live in the suburbs; philanthropy compared with the gross domestic product has been declining since 1960; more Protestants and Jews say they attended religious services within the last week than at any time in the last 50 years; the nation is producing record amounts of broccoli; it took four days on average to travel between New York and Boston in 1800; attendance at horse-racing tracks peaked in 1976, but rodeo attendance is at an all-time high; and the proportion of people who have no opinion in presidential approval polls is the lowest in a half century.

Norm MacDonald


I think I discovered Norm MacDonald when I was about 14, and all the way through high school he was a huge hero of mine. He's never quite gotten his act together since his SNL days, although his first sitcom was pretty decent. I met "Big Time" Gene O'Neill when, our Freshman year in college, he let slip that Norm was his hero, too. This is Norm on Letterman, immediately after he was fired from SNL's "Weekend Update," purportedly because the head of NBC, Don Ohlemeyer, was pals with OJ.

Some Thoughts on Improv Everywhere...


As translated by Babelfish from this German blog.

Perhaps the world would be a better place, would give it in each city a troupe like Improv Everywhere. Meanwhile for the fifth time they celebrated this year the NO Pants Day in the New Yorker underground, one day, which becomes obviously each year more popular.

And they even liked our interview with Charlie Todd, the founder of the group.

The interview on the side linked above is rather good, in order the group knows to learn, it is also a rather hear-worth consequence of the transmission.

Check out Improv Everywhere

The Greatest Yearbook Ever


Over at Swapatorium, some wonderful scans from The Greatest Yearbook Ever.

She writes:

Apparently they set up a photobooth in their school in 1969 and asked students to pose. Those photobooths were then used as the yearbook images.

If this yearbook isn't New Sincerity, then I'm not America's Radio Sweetheart.

There's more too.

Culture Clash - "Saving the Pinche World Since 1984"


As long as we're talking about my comedy heroes, let's throw Culture Clash into the mix.

I grew up in the Mission in San Francisco, a working class, largely (but by no means exclusively) Latino neighborhood. At the time, at least... these days it's an Authenticity Theme Park for assholes who eat black beans and tofu in their burritos and drive Jettas. But I digress...

When I was about nine or so, my mom quit her job working in an antiques store and went back to graduate school. She ended up getting a master's degree in Latin American Studies. One of her classmates was a member of Culture Clash, a comedy group that was then starting to gain some notoriety around SF and LA. Another member of the group worked at the Galleria de la Raza, down the street from my house. I was pretty dubious of attending anything my mother reccomended, but I went to see Culture Clash with her, maybe on the San Francisco State campus, I can't remember. What I saw blew me away, and I've been going to see CC as often as I can (not too often, they live in LA now, and theater ain't cheap) ever since.

What's great about Culture Clash is the way they combine a set of pretty disparate elements into a whole that feels really organic... it's sketch comedy, there's some clown influence, some traditional Artistic Theater, some politics, some La Raza Pride (a subset of politics, of course). And they're FUNNY.

In the years since I first saw them, they've broadened their scope, with a series of documentary theater pieces about various places... one of them was actually about the gentrification of the Mission. They've also tackled Aristophanes and even a TV show on FOX (this was back in the "Married... with Children" days)

When Carlos Mencia got famous last year for telling stupid offensive jokes about "beaners," then patting himself on the back for breaking down barriers or whatever, I thought of CC. These guys really do break cultural taboos without fear, really do satirize both the racial politics of America and Latino lifestyles, and they really are FUNNY. Really, really funny. Above all else.

Culture Clash have a new show about Zorro, called "Zorro in Hell," about to premier at Berkeley Rep. Richard Montoya, one of the group's members, will be on the show this weekend. I'll try not to gush.

Check Culture Clash out online, where they bill themselves as "The Original Exploiters of Che!"

Comedians we love and the music they love...


The always wonderful Onion AV Club debuted a great feature today. They ask folks they like to genuinely and truly put their iPods on shuffle and describe the attraction of the tunes that come up.

Among the participants...

Eugene Mirman

Jethro Tull, "Up The Pool"
EM: I have lots of Jethro Tull because I also am mad at organized religion. When I was in high school, I really liked Jethro Tull, and I still enjoy it. I think that I really loved and identified with their brand of arrogant orchestral rock...

And David Cross

DJ Shadow, "Changeling"
DC: God, what a fucking great… I have amazing taste in music! This album is unbelievable, fucking great, not one bad second on there. If you played it now for people that are doing stuff influenced by DJ Shadow, it's still better than that stuff.

Oddly, the guy from Modest Mouse has an Andre Nickatina track on his iPod. I can't decide if that makes sense or not. One way or the other, Andre Nickatina creeps me out.

Here's the full article

Quick Change


Browsing through the New York Times today, I noticed that the 1990 Bill Murray vehicle "Quick Change" is coming out on DVD. It's a truly underappreciated film (so is "The Man Who Knew Too Little," by the way), and I had no idea he co-directed it.

Early in the film, there's a scene where Murray is holding up a bank dressed as a clown. The elderly security guard looks at him and asks, "What the heck kind of clown are you?"

Murray pauses, gives a perfect hangdog look, and says, "The crying on the inside kind, I guess."

Perfect moment.

One of "Big Time" Gene O'Neill's favorites.

Quick Change

To date, Bill Murray's only credit as a director (shared with the writer Howard Franklin) is on this modest but delightful comedy from 1990. It finds Mr. Murray as a disaffected New York City civil servant who hatches a complicated scheme to rob a Park Avenue bank (it involves a clown costume and a vest of dynamite) only to find his escape plans seriously frustrated by the Brooklyn-Queens Expressway, a situation with which every New Yorker can identify. Accompanied by his co-conspirators, Geena Davis and Randy Quaid, Mr. Murray tries every trick in the book to get to Kennedy Airport in time to catch his plane and is finally reduced to taking a bus, piloted by Philip Bosco, that goes (and here is the important nuance) near there.

"Quick Change" is a crisp, efficient and subtly subversive film that makes you wish Mr. Murray would get back in the driver's seat instead of drifting through another lazy celebrity roast like "Broken Flowers." Mr. Murray has always been a comedian with something more, a secret reserve of melancholy that sets him widely apart from his fellow "Saturday Night Live" alumni. "Quick Change" just hints at the angst eating at his character, and that's enough to lift it to another level. Warner Home Video, $14.98, R. Link (requires registration, I say use

Bathroom Monkey


A big part of my interest in comedy today comes from the Saturday Night Live that I watched as an adolescent. When I was about ten, my dad inherited some stuff from a family friend who passed on. Besides the 1977 Chevy Nova (metallic brown), we got a big black and white TV that ended up in my room. I watched SNL almost every week from about 1991 to 1994 or so. This sketch, with Janeane Garofolo, was one of my all-time favorites, and certainly my favorite fake commercial. "When my monkey's cleaning power is all used up..."

I rode the Disneyland monorail!


I have a soft spot in my heart for Disneyland... I'm not an obsessive like some, but my paternal grandparents lived in Orange County, so I went every other year or so as a kid. I've always been coaster-phobic, too, and Disneyland is a great theme park if you don't like roller coasters.

My two favorite attractions, as a kid, were Captain Eo and the submarines. Both of those are gone now, replaced by "Honey I Shrunk the Audience" and, eventually, a Finding Nemo ride. Thankfully, Star Tours is still there, and it still features the voice of Paul Reubens, aka Pee-Wee Herman. The combination of Star Wars and Pee-Wee was enough to send me into space as a kid, with or without the ride itself.

There are two things I've always wanted to do at Disneyland, though, but have never done. One of them is to visit the secret dining club. Jordan Morris, "Boy Detective" grew up in Orange County, and had never been until college, when he dated a lady whose grandfather was a bigwig at Kodak. He said it's as great as you might imagine. He went to the bathroom, and they refolded his napkin while he was gone. Someday I'll get in there. Someday.

My other Disneyland dream is to ride the Monorail. It used to be that in order to ride the Monorail, you had to stay at the Disneyland Resort. Now, my family had very little money when I was a kid, and I certainly wasn't staying at the Disneyland Resort. More like my grandparent's living room, or maybe the Motel Six in Mission Viejo. So all I could do was admire the monorail from afar.

But I just went to Disneyland with my sweetheart and her family this weekend, and I've got great news... anybody can ride it now!

Well, anyone can make the short, one-way trip from Tommorowland to "Downtown Disney," they Disney mega-mall between Disneyland and California Adventure. But dammit, I rode the thing! MAXIMUM FUN.

What does it say about me that my favorite part of a three-day vacation was a five minute trip on a forty five year old monorail? Well, anyway...

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