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Funny Friday

March 7th, 2008 No comments

I am so sad that the goldmine that was holygoof.com is no more, apparently zapped by the site’s host. The Holy Goof was a like a supernova: it appeared suddenly, was quite a spectacle, and disappeared as suddenly (that’s what supernovas do, right?). I have not come across a finer audio comedy site, and my life “” and iPod “” is emptier without the fine comedy which the Holy Goof shared. So, for funny Friday, a bit of comedy; some of it samples from stuff I found at the Holy Goof.

Ali G – Ali G Meets Posh Spice And Beckham.mp3
Ali G has been eclipsed by Borat, who was much funnier in small doses than in a feature film. This interview with Victoria Beckham and her little pet monkey is Baron Cohen at the height of his game. He makes Posh repeat what football fans used to allege about her supposed unlocking of the tradesman’s entrance. When he sets up David with a poor joke, it is not the punchline that makes us laugh, but the way David walked into it. And through it all, Victoria handles it with grace, making me almost like her.

Chris Rock – Real People Of Ignorance (Friend of a Rap Star).mp3
Chris Rock – Real People Of Ignorance (Tattoo).mp3
Chris Rock – Tip Your Hat To Whitey (Pineapple).mp3
Chris Rock – Tip Your Hat To Whitey (Jamaica).mp3
Chris Rock – Tip Your Hat To Whitey (Mars).mp3
Five short skits from Chris Rock’s Never Scared album, a collection of stand-up and skits. While I regard Chris Rock as the funniest and most penetrative stand-up comedian of his generation, his skits are a mixed bag. The five on offer here, however, are very good indeed. Rock’s backing vocals on the “Real People Of Ignorance” bits are total genius “” hear his comments on nightvision goggles and the purposelessness of vaginal tattooes (and those in Sanskrit). The Friend of a Rap Star one comes from an earlier post.

Jim Norton – Michael Jackson Is The Artist Of The Millennium
Be warned: Jim Norton smacks you in the face with some entirely inappropriate gags. You may laugh because it is funny, but even then you gasp and think: “He didn’t say that, did he?” Michael Jackson is, of course, an easy target. Britney Spears, another target in this bit, was not yet the pitiable wreck she is now. With Norton, one understands after a while that the offensive lines, often self-deprecating, are merely gratuitous, not representing an agenda or manifesto. By Norton ascribing shocking conduct to himself, he opens his way to be as shocking and scathing about the targets of his jokes. Still, fuckin’ hell, man!

Patton Oswalt – You Are Allowed 20 Birthday Parties.mp3
Patton Oswald is only marginally less ready to offend than Jim Norton. His CV lends him some credibility: voices for various versions of Grand Theft Auto; appearances in several movies and TV shows, and a voice appearance in the Pixar movie Ratatoullie. His routine is laced with pitchblack humour, offset by a certain self-deprecating geek charm (indeed, self-deprecation is a popular technique among contemporary comedians. Ãœbergeek Woody Allen used to it great effect in his stand-up days).

Eddie Izzard – Americans.mp3
Eddie Izzard – The Future.mp3
When I big up Chris Rock as the finest stand-up comedian of his generation, I feel a need to send an apology to that cross-dressing genius Eddie Izzard. I love Izzard’s voice and delivery, but it is his way of weaving a narrative “” not unlike that other giant of British standup, Billy Connolly “” which merits total admiration. So it was quite difficult to cull a couple of tracks out of the context of that narrative. Izzard’s humour is insightful, playing with absurd concepts and the surreal, rather than turning to aggressive sarcasm for laughs.

Paul F Tompkins – Cherry Picking.mp3
A veteran of TV comedy programming, Paul F Tompkins’ debut album Impersonal is a bit of a hit-and-miss affair. Some bits, like this one, are very amusing; others seem to try too hard in their stretch for surreal humour. But Tompkins’ delivery is likable “” you feel that you are in the company of somebody who will make you laugh at some point; and sooner than later he does. And even the chuckle-free bits hold the listeners interest because Tompkins knows how to tell a story. Sides will remain unsplit, but one is not likely to regret the time spent listening to Tompkins’ brand of observational humour.

Bill Hicks – On The Bright Side.mp3
This is from the Shock & Awe album, recorded in Oxford. While Izzard is an Englishman speaking to an American audience, so is Hicks the Yank trying to explain his country to an English audience, and trying to make sense of Britain. This is not Hicks at the top of his game ““ for one thing, he’s is far less aggro and much more laid back than on other recordings “” but even Hicks not at his best is preferable to many other comedians. Just two years after this show was recorded, Hicks died of pancreatic cancer,

on February 26, 1994. While he never attained great fame, his influence on any number of contemporary comedians, including some featured here, is evident.

Peter Sellers – Party Political Speech.mp3
I have said it before: Peter Sellers is not by any stretch of the imagination a favourite comedian. I find absolutely nothing mirth-inducing about “Birdy Nam Nam”, and the Goon Show leaves me cold, other than to acknowledge the debt owed to it by Monty Python and everything that took influence from that ensemble. But when Sellers was cooking, he really was great. His satire of a political speech which is high on pomposity and empty of content might sound dated in delivery, but remains relevant today. And on the subject of politics: what is the fucking matter with fucking Ohio? Bush in 2004; HRC in ’08?

Make 'em laugh

November 13th, 2007 8 comments

I’m good at telling jokes. Which would be great, except there are only two jokes I remember. Both have been my staple for donkey’s years. This means that once I’ve told them, I’m sold out of jokes. So my stand-up routine is rather limited, and to entertain I need to rely on recordings of my favourite stand-up comedians. Some of these, and some other stuff that makes me laugh, follows below. First, however, let me share with you my two staple jokes. You will have to forgive the absence of my physical “comedy” (machines rattling, basically) and fake German accents (as opposed to my natural German accent). The first joke requires us to move back in time, to the early ’90s.

Hitler in the Amazon
The time is the early ’90s. Germany has just been reunified, but things are going poorly. In short, Germany is in terrible political and economic trouble, and the politicians can see no way of solving the problems, until some bright spark ascertains that the only man who can help Germany now is in fact still alive, living in a little hut in Paraguay. And so a delegation is dispatched to South America to persuade Adolf Hitler to return and save Germany from ruin.

And so the delegation is cutting its way through the jungle, until the group happens upon that little hut. They look at the door bell. Sure enough, it says “A. Hitler”. They ring the bell, the door opens, and there stands Adolf Hitler. The figure is a little bent now, the greasy hair with the side-parting has over the years turned white, and so has the Chaplin moustache. Nonetheless, it is unmistakably the Führer.

“Ja, vot do you vont?” Hitler barks.

“Führer,” the head of the Federal Republic’s delegation says, “we have come to ask you for your help. You see, things are very bad in the Vaterland now. We’ve had this unification, and that has created all sorts of problem. Only one man can help our Deutschland now, mein Führer, and that man is you. We have come to ask you to become the Führer of Deutschland once again.”

“Nein,” shouts Hitler. “Zis is out of ze kvetchon. Ze last time you peeple didn’t apprechihate me, and I vill never go back to Deutschland agaen.”

“But, Führer, please reconsider, for the welfare of the Volk and of our beloved Vaterland.”

“Nein, nein, nein,” Hitler replies with the kind of agitation which made him such a favourite with cartoon movie producers. “I am out of ze Füher buzinezz!”

But the delegation continues to persuade Adolf until he caves in.

“Ja gut, I vill be your Führer agaen,” says Hitler. “But only under vun condition!”

“Yes, Führer?”

“Zis time …. No more Mr Nice Guy.”

The health machine
A man sits in the bar when he notices a new machine standing against the far wall. Curious, he goes to investigate. On the machine, he reads the instructions. “Take a styrofoam cup from the dispenser, go to the toilet, urinate into the cup, insert a fiver, pour the contents of the cup into the machine, and the machine will tell you your health.”

The man is intrigued. He takes a styrofoam cup, goes to the toilet, urinates into it, inserts the fiver into the machine, pours in the content.

The machine computes and rattles, rattles and computes. Out comes the slip: “You have a tennis elbow.”

“A tennis elbow,” scoffs our friend with scornful incredulity, “really!” So he decides to really test the machine. He takes a styrofoam cup, and goes home. There, he gets his wife to urinate into it, then his teenage son, then his 14-year-old daughter, then his dog. And for good measure, he wanks into it, and gives the stew a good stir.

Next day he returns to the bar, making a beeline to the machine. He inserts a fiver, and pours the contents of the cup into the machine.

The machine computes and rattles, rattles and computes, computes and rattles, rattles and computes, computes and rattles, rattles and computes…and finally out comes the slip.

It says: “You wife is having an affair, your son has the crabs, your daughter is pregnant, your dog has fleas, and if you don’t stop wanking, you’ll never get rid of that tennis elbow.”

Thangyouverymuchyou’vebeenaterrificaudience.

And on that note, a few audio files which cause me to laugh.

Gin And Juice.mp3
A “Desiderata” style interpretation of Snoop Dogg’s “Gin And Juice”. I’ve had that file for close to a decade now, but have never been able to ascertain who might be the the genius performing it. If anyone knows, I’d be obliged to be informed accordingly. Never mind such details, though, this is a wickedly funny parody (except, the word parody sounds so lame).

Ben Folds – Bitches Ain’t Shit.mp3
I uploaded this a few weeks ago with what must be the most spectacularly unsuccessful post ever on this blog, on the subject of hip hop. So nobody downloaded it. All these nobodys made a massive error: Ben Folds interpretation of Dr Dre and Snoop’s misogynistic anthem is viciously funny. And then he turns it on its head by making his straight take so damn catchy that even the most PC among us can’t help but sing along to the appalling lyrics of the chorus. Deliciously subversive. This is a live version from Dutch radio (excellent quality though).

Chris Rock – Crazy White Boys.mp3
Chris Rock – Rap Standup.mp3
Chris Rock – Real People Of Ignorance.mp3
To my mind, Chris Rock is the best stand-up comedian in many a decade. Yeah, better than George Carlin (a mean-spirited bastard). Rock’s observations are acute, and sometimes surpringly conservative. I might have posted his piece on drugs being banned only if they come from countries with dark people, yet cigarettes are legal. But, “could you imagine if the Phillip Morris family was a bunch of jheri-curled niggas from Mississippi? Do you know how illegal a pack of cigarettes would be. You would get 60 years just for a pack of Newports.” Ouch! “Crazy White Boys” coincides with the aftermath of the Columbine massacre. Rock’s opening gambit is that he got out of an elevator, scared out of his mind, when some young white dudes got in. “You ain’t killin’ me”. The other two files I posted last month alongside the Ben Folds track. “Rap Standup” is Rock’s take on contemporary hip hop (“love rap, tired of defending it”), the other is one of the few studio bits that are actually funny: an “homage” to the rap star hanger-on. The line about night vision goggles is pure genius.

Woody Allen – A Love Story.mp3
Woody Allen is rightly regarded as some sort of (patchy) genius for his movies, so much so that his stand-up comedianship is widely forgotten. This clip, from the ’60s, shows why this is a shame. How can one not be slayed by a line like this: “They fixed the ballet. Apparently there was a lot of money on the swan to live.”

Jerry Seinfeld – Olympics.mp3
The silver medal: “You are the number one loser.” Presumably, Jerry Seinfeld will be remembered for that show about nothing. Rightly so, for Seinfeld was excellent. Happily, his stand-up tied in with the TV show, up to a point, even if they dropped the stand-up routines from the programme after a while. In contrast to the scatalogy of Rock, the patronising rudeness of Carlin, the self-deprecation of Allen, the sentimentality of Crosby, or the utter rubbishness of Robin Williams (improvisaion is not funny in itself), Seinfeld’s comedy is understated. There is no shtick to his act (other than a certain smugness), just great observational comedy delivered with impeccable timing. This bit always tickles me: “Why can”t sweat smell good? Be a different world, wouldn”t it? Instead of putting your laundry in the hamper, you”d put it in a vase. Go down to the drugstore, pick up some odorant and perspirant. You”d have a dirt sweat sock hanging from the rearview mirror of your car. And then on a really special night, maybe a little underwear coming out of your breast pocket, just to show her that she”s important.”

After he TV series, Seinfeld returned to stand-up. Good thing too. The man is a comedy genius. As Homer Simpson said: “It’s funny ’cause it’s true.”

Monty Python – The Penis Song.mp3
I’m not one of those people who recite Monty Python one lines ad nauseam. In fact, Any Minor Dude, 13, is the bigger Python fan in the family. But I do appreciate a bit of Python once in a while (though having watched the Beatles’ Help! again after a long time ““ the new DVD is fantastic ““ I am inclined to think that Monty Python weren’t quite as original as many people think). “The Penis Song”, from the very uneven The Meaning Of Life, is one of my favourite Monty Python moments, mainly because of the gormless laugh at the end. The melody is pretty good, too.

Rowan Atkinson – The Preacher.mp3
Oh the blasphemy! This sermon is full of little quotable delights. “Do you do children’s parties?” and “They didn’t have so much fun since Nazareth won the cup”, to name just two in an effort to produce a couple of spoilers for you. It is a pity that future generations (and, perhaps, present ones) will remember Atkinson for Mr Bean. If we’re lucky, also for Blackadder (another Any Minor Dude favourite). Alas, Atkinson is not going to be remembered widely for his excellent stand-up comedy. Here we can hear why that is a great pity.

Peter Sellers – She Loves You.mp3
I am not a great Sellers fan. The Goons are not particularly hilarious, though I understand their pivotal role in British comedy (Hancock is funnier anyway). I don’t like the Pink Panther thing (though the Sellers movies easily trump that horrible crap served up by the once very funny Steve Martin recently). I do like Sellers’ affecting, rather than affected, performance in Being There. And his takes on Beatles songs are fantastic. Best of the lot is the teutonic version of “She Loves You”. “She says you hurrrt her so”, pronounces Sellers in an accent you might like to use for my Hitler joke above. “Gut,” ad libs the sidekick. At which point Sellers audibly cracks up. Should I need a reference point for Sellers’ much vaunted comedy genius, this is it.

Ricky Gervais – Freelove Freeway.mp3
I am a big fan of the British original inception of The Office, and was quite prepared to hate the US version. Actually, the American take is quite good. But it cannot beat the Ricky Gervais/Steven Merchant version. The episode when David Brent gets out his guitar, recounting how he basically gave Texas their big break, is comedy at its best. On the surface, it is very funny, and in the details it is inspired. Watching the programme, you could never laugh out loud if you were busy trying to penetrate the many levels on which a gag was funny. Few comedies are like that. Off hand, The Simpsons and Arrested Development spring to mind. And so in the episode in question, David Brent sings his composition “Freelove Freeway” (with some pretty good impromptu harmonising). The lyrics are typical Brent: poorly thought out and cliché ridden. But the melody is pretty good. No, it is good. It’s a hit.

And therein lies the tragedy of David Brent: beneath the bluff and buffoonery, there resides some talent. The products of that talent ““ here a great melody ““ are however undone by buffoonery ““ the lyrics ““ and an inability to exploit the bit of talent there is. Later in the series (the Christmas special), Brent releases a single. But instead of releasing “Freelove Freeway” (perhaps with reworked lyrics) as the a-side, Brent opts for a gloriously terrible rendition of Harold Melvin & the Bluenotes’ “If You Don’t Know Me By Now” (the video of which is jawdroppingly, and of course intentionally, bad). Brent aims to, and believes himself able to, measure up to Teddy Pendergrass, when he has a decent work of his own which could make things work for him. Gervais later recorded the song with one of the Gallagher brothers from Oasis (the surly one wit

h the monobrow). It’s a decent version, but the song really requires Gareth Keenan’s harmony of “she’s dead” or Tim’s interruption for clarification on the potentially homosexual subtext.

Lame hip hop for lame whiteys

October 14th, 2007 2 comments

Take a look at ‘The Top 10 Rap Songs White People Love’. Not because it hits the nail on the head (it doesn’t), not because it’s amusing (it mostly isn’t), not because we can learn anything from it (we can’t). I’m flagging it because the idea is at once interesting and ridiculous. Is the dude saying that white people are lame for supposedly liking these tracks, or is he saying that the tracks are lame for white people supposedly liking these songs? Either way, is he advocating some kind of a Taste Apartheid?

Of course, it seems evident that cap-in-yo-ass-bustin’ charlies such as 50 Cent, The Game or Fabolous, and even Snoop Dogg, are now marketed primarily at an audience in the ‘burbs, not that in the ‘hood. It would be fair to say that “Whitey” digs Fiddy probably more than Whitey’s African-American counterparts do. But by establishing a racial link between music and perceived audience, one risks engaging in the same silly stereotype which assumes that black people cannot possibly like rock or pop music due to some cultural or genetic proscription. Which, of course, is not true (and here is a blog about non-hip hop music black people like ).

Some rap acts will lack credibility, for a variety of reasons. Some had cred, and lost it when they sold their image to be used in kids’ cartoons (MC Hammer); some entered with no credibility in first place (any number of cash-in copycat herberts); and some are accused of not having any credibility when that is just uninformed nonsense, sometimes based on race (Beastie Boys, by people who know nothing; I’ve heard that even Vanilla Ice had credibility on the rap circuit before he sold out to MTV). Surely credibility cannot be based on whether a melanin-disadvantaged character dances poorly to Eazy E. Because — ha ha ha — Whitey ain’t got no rhythm. Flip that stereotype for a laugh.

A poster on my favourite message board suggested the following juxtaposition: “Transpose the post as ‘Top 10 country songs that black people love’ written by some redneck and see what responses it would garner.” Nail. MC Hammer. Bang.

Incidentally, the latest poll suggests that most readers here don’t give much of a damn about hip hop. I asked: What is the state of hip hop today?

Better than ever…………………..1%
Doing OK………………………………4%
Dying on its arse…………………26%
Who gives a 50 Cent…………..67% (that would be the Sir Mix-A-Lot fanbase, presumably)

Count me in the ‘dying on its arse’ constituency. But, frankly, hip hop has become so corporate that I’ve stopped giving much of a 50 Cent. Can rap be saved? We’ll have our old CDs and the memories should all these gimps invariably featuring Akon on their albums succeed in killing rap.

In the spirit of rap songs being liked by white people, a few random tracks which this (non-nasal) “whitey” likes:
Scarface – On My Block.mp3
Common – Real People.mp3
Jay-Z – Izzo (H.O.V.A.).mp3 (live unplugged)
Grandmaster Flash & the Furious Five – The Message.mp3
De La Soul – Me, Myself And I.mp3
Gil Scott-Heron – The Revolution Will Not Be Televised.mp3 (proto rap track)

And for the fun of it:
Chris Rock – Rap Standup.mp3 (“love rap, tired of defending it”)
Chris Rock – Real People Of Ignorance.mp3 (a few laugh-out-loud moments!)
Ben Folds – Bitches Ain’t Shit.mp3 (live on 3FM)
Richard Cheese – Hey Ya.mp3

(Image borrowed from gregslab.com)