The Day I Was Supposed To Die – A…

When I travel to a gig I usually get an early flight so I can get to the location early, christen the bathroom and still have time to spare before the gig begins.  Thursday was no exception.  Having secured a $68 flight on Southwest I decided to to take a break from my lucrative Greyhound/Amtrak endorsement deal (don’t worry I am taking a 19 1/2 hour Greyhound trip back to NYC on Sunday) and take a quick flight to Indianapolis.

Readers may or may not know that I have a slight fear of flying/heights, which is ironic given my choice of profession and the fact that I am very tall. My flight was to depart at 11:20 am and we were only running about 15 minutes late when the plane started speeding down the runway.  But then, just after I had said a silent “Please God don’t let me die” and then just as I was about to do my customary urine-in-pants move, the pilot hit the breaks on the plane.  I said out loud, “that’s interesting,” and inside I said, “We are going to die on this plane! (accompanied by the opening shriek that Prince does in the song Get Off)”

The pilot told us that while we were going on the runway there was a landing plane crossing our path or something to that effect.  So under that explanation I saw that I almost died the way many people died on the season 2 finale of Breaking Bad (in retrospect at least a dozen comedians would be right to make the connection while mourning my loss on Facebook).

The pilot told us that because of the aborted takeoff we would need to return to the gate to refuel.  This sounded strange to Dana, the Mom from Maryland sitting to my right, who informed me that her father had been a pilot for Pan Am.  When we got back to the gate men in Southwest windbreakers began coming onto the plane (Southwest polo shirts – safe, Southwest windbreaker – bad).  Then the pilot told us after about thirty minutes that an emergency light had gone on and that they were trying to figure out if there was a technical problem with the plane or just with the emergency light.  In other words I think our pilot lied as to the original cause of our slow down.  I have always suspected pilots of being liars.  Like when then pretend not to be afraid of severe turbulence with that generic, horsesh*t, calm voice that they all seem to have.

So we waited two hours, listening to a Southwest flight attendant crack jokes on the loudspeaker (to which Dana said, “Oh she thinks she’s a comedian” in a way that sounded scornful of the flight attendant’s jokes (justified) and stand up in general (only semi-justified).  So I was committed to keeping my secret identity a secret and then we started talking.

“Are you from Indianapolis?”

“No. Going for business.”

“Oh, will you be late with the delay?

“Nope, not working until tonight.”

“What do you do?”

“Stand Up Comedian.”

That is how long it took to break me.  When I said comedian, the sophomore college student headed home for fall break next to me, Mackenzie, if my memory is correct, piped up and asked:

“You’re a comedian?”


“That’s cool.”

“It’s ok.”

“Do you know any famous comedians?”

(inner monologue) Have you heard of Patrice O’Neal or Dave Attell? Probably not.

“You mean like Dane Cook?”



Now during these pleasantries with these two women (Mackenzie – a 20 year old woman who hates Twitter, does not have Internet on her phone and likes math and science – sort of like the 20 year old I would clone for a better America if I had the machine from Weird Science and Dana, the Al Gore hating, Barack Obama-voting (I have a soft spot for politically varied people, even if I don’t agree with them) mom) I never lost the thought that these might be the last two people I would ever speak to.  You may think I am being too paranoid of flying, but the passengers on this plane gave me reason to be concerned.  First we had a female co-pilot.  And second, two rows in front of me, for several rows, was a deaf high school (or small college) football team from Maryland.

You may be asking yourself what is the big deal about a deaf football team?  Everything!  First off when a crowded plane goes down there is always some sympathetic story.  How does the headline “200 perish in plane crash, including entire Inspirational Team of Deaf Football Players.  President Obama mourns the loss of these heroes and 160 losers who could not afford Delta on short notice” sound?  I mean they would make an inspirational sports movie and call it something like “Heard Around The World” or “Deafinitely”  or “Heard and Long” (my favorite)  or “The Sounds of Silence” and it would probably have Marlee Matlin as a fictional team trainer who becomes the romantic lead for the head coach.  But you know who is not in this movie?  The hilarious comedian killing it in row 20 of the plane.  He is an extra or an under 5 at best.  Oh and did I mention the co-pilot was a woman?

Well the plane eventually took off and I had a pleasant conversation with both women (I gave them both my website and I think passengers around me thought I was a male escort with a wide age range (I work at night, I have banter with 19 and 56 year old women, and he caught me masturbating uncomfortably in the bathroom).  I have found that conversation is often the best way to be calm during a flight. We did not crash, obviously, unless I am a character from the show Lost.  So now it is time for some Dave Attell shows.  (I will give a full recap of all shows on Monday – like how on Thursday I divided the crowd between people with brains and without when I asked who believes climate change is a myth).  So Indiana – I survived and I am going to make you wish I’d died on that plane!  I mean I am going to kill!  That’s the expression I was looking for.


Breaking Bad – The Best Thing On TV. By…

When it comes to television I hold something that some may call an opinion, but is, in actuality, a stone cold fact: Breaking Bad is the best show on television.  By far.  After only three seasons it has already jumped into elite company.  Here are my favorite shows of all time in order (minimum 3 seasons, so although I love Game of Thrones and Eastbound & Down, to name a couple, it would be unfair to put them up yet – it is called the True Blood rule – do not judge a show on one great season because it may become a campy, soft-core porn for women and gay men in the next two to three seasons):

1) Six Feet Under – The best finale of any show I have ever seen and the best show ever at making you feel like you knew the characters as people and not characters.  Also a show whose greatness, with the exception of certain episodes, can only really be appreciated cumulatively, similar to life in general.  When I see Peter Krause on Parenthood, or even Michael C. Hall on Dexter, I sometimes feel like I am watching Michael Jordan play for the Washington Wizards.

2) The Wire – possibly the most important show of all time.  Other than a so-so final season (by Wire Standards that means an A-/B+) it was an incredibly real and entertaining portrayal of the desperate plight of urban America.  Of course its ratings sucked and it never got nominated for a Best Drama Emmy.  I am sure creator David Simon wears that as a badge of honor.  As he should.

3) Breaking Bad*

4) Arrested Development – the funniest show I have ever seen.  So good that it’s diet coke knock off (but admittedly very good) Modern Family is in line for its second Best Comedy Emmy

5) The West Wing – Was always mad that The Sopranos would lose best drama to the West Wing.  Then I actually watched the West Wing.  Given Aaron Sorkin’s hand, it is the dramatic screenwriting equivalent of Arrested Development.  As Rick James might have said regarding Sorkin’s writing, “Cocaine is a hell of a drug.”

6) The Sopranos – Some might have this higher and the fact that it is arguably the first of the new cinematic-style dramas (but check out #9 on this list) means that it should be higher simply out of respect.  But there was too much of a downward trajectory to the show (and the 2 year wait for the season that revolved around a closeted gay mobster remains one of the most disappointing seasons in TV history) for it to maintain a loftier place.

7) All In The Family – Archie Bunker – maybe the greatest single television character of all time.  I still wonder how this show from the 1970s seemed more willing to tackle, mock and explore racism than most shows do in 2011.  A show that I would call ahead of its time if I knew when we would actually catch up to it.

8) Seinfeld – Brilliant and the most quoted show of all time.  This is another show that it would be tough to say “changed the sitcom,” mainly because no one had either the skill and/or balls to make a show about nothing.  And having just watched the entire series this Summer, I forgive Kramer.  Him and Jason Alexander are brilliant.

9) Homicide: Life On The Streets – I must give credit to my older brother, who I still think sometimes wishes he followed his boyhood dream of becoming a police officer, for his obsession with good police dramas (I am not talking to you any shows on CBS).  Homicide, which was partly the work of the creators of The Wire (and arguably was doing the Sopranos shtick several years before The Sopranos).  The show, like #10 on this list, represented a rare network television departure – meaning even though ratings suck, we will keep this going because it is a high quality show.  Homicide featured several things that other later shows, higher on this list, have received credit for.  One character spent several seasons exploring his bisexuality, it depicted crime and police work in a much more realistic manner than had really been done and it featured a rich array of black characters that weren’t Huxtables.  And this was all on Network television.

10) Friday Night Lights – This show’s lack of general success says so much about American culture.  The pitch was probably easy – “how about a show featuring attractive people playing America’s favorite sport, football?”  Sounds great, right?  Except it is going to be a sometimes heroic, but other times sad look at small town American life and all of its good and bad parts.   The result?  Well, with The Wire,  America showed that they generally did not want to watch a show critical of urban blight (isn’t there a CSI on right now?), but surprisingly, America did not tune in in huge numbers to see their small town American fantasy depicted in a realistic light either.  Season 4 of FNL was not very good, but seasons 1, 3 and the 5th (and final season) were top notch television.

Of these shows, there is obviously a recency bias, but I think that makes sense.  As far as television is concerned we live in simultaneously the best and worst time.  The proliferation of reality television has made us dumber.  And made stars out of some of our dumbest citizens.  I feel like there was a brief time where if you were on reality television you were a loser and then, when our culture realized any fame was good fame, we started to turn these people into bona fide celebrities.  I still think if Al Qaeda simply adjusted their mission statement to be, “We will only wage jihad on those who call themselves ‘Real Housewives of anything'” we might be able to find some common ground.  But the growth of reality shows also forced new avenues for actual writers of good television.  It feels almost like if a major sports league contracted one-third of its teams.  if you eliminate the worst 10 NBA teams, the remaining 20 will just get stronger because there will be greater competition for fewer spots.  Similarly, good writers have either been forced to consolidate on other shows or to be more creative in pitching things to places like HBO and AMC.  And the top of this New Television Order is Breaking Bad.

Some people may be saying what about Mad Men?  Mad Men is good.  That is all I have to say about it.  I have repeatedly called it The Emperor’s New Television Show.  It has won three straight best drama Emmys (the same body that never once nominated The Wire, but saw fit to hook Boston Legal up with multiple DRAMA nominations) and has young people feeling a hip nostalgia for an era that they never experienced.  Other than the confusing feelings I get admiring the handsomeness of Jon Hamm and the incredible Jessica Rabbit come to life that is Christina Hendricks, I don’t think the show is any better than good, which stands in contrast to Breaking Bad.

I owe a debt of gratitude to Nick Cobb and Ross Stephenson, two friends who told me after the first season of Breaking Bad had aired that I needed to watch it.  No show on this list has had the trajectory of Breaking Bad.  The first season was excellent.  Then season two was beyond excellent.  And then last year season three aired and was even better.  More specifically, episodes 7-13 of season 3 is the greatest six episode stretch of any show I have ever seen.  There are a few reasons why I think Breaking Bad has been so good:

  1. The cast.  Bryan Cranston has won three straight best actor Emmys for a reason.  What he has done with Walter White has been superb – taking him gradually and believably from mild mannered cancer-stricken high school teacher, to alpha male quasi-villain.  But the rest of the cast is also perfect.  That is what is so great – there is not a weak spot in the cast.  Everyone is bringing their A game.  It reminds me of watching a Christopher Nolan movie, where even the guy with two lines seems to know what is at stake and knows that those two lines must be delivered perfectly.
  2. It reminds me of The Fugitive (the movie).  Let me explain.  I have a friend from college, Mike, who often waxed on how it seemed in the early 1990s there were movies that were both wildly entertaining, but also had real substantive cinematic quality (unlike today where it sometimes feels more bifurcated – you are either seeing The King’s Speech or Transformers).  Movies like In The Line of Fire and The Fugitive came to mind – where you could actually have a legitimate Summer movie, which also had serious Oscar quality.  That is what Breaking Bad is for television.  It packs great dramatic moments, with action packed scenes and incredible tension.  It is so good that you get both the feeling of watching a guilty pleasure and fine art at the same time.
  3. As several newspaper and magazine articles have indicated – Breaking Bad follows a different route than other dramas in its class.  It is following the moral destruction of its main character.  And yet we still root for him.  Other shows like The Sopranos or The Shield (which was hit and miss, but the second to last episode of The Shield is one of my five favorite episodes in TV history) had characters who had paths that were downward, but they were already villains to start.  Walter White, on the other hand is the good guy who you root for who forces you to rationalize still rooting for him as the episodes go on.

So tonight is the season 4 premiere and the question I have is how much better can the show actually get.  But I put an asterisk next to Breaking Bad on my list because it has the potential to be the best of them all.  It doesn’t have the emotional depth of Six Feet Under or the societal importance of The Wire.  That is what makes it so special – it is simply great for being the most entertaining thing on television.


10 Favorite Things from 2010

If there was an Oprah of bitter and tall New York City comics who are struggling just to attain the mediocre life of a working comedian, then it probably would not be me, but I might be the Gayle King of that group.  So before embarking on 2011, here are my ten favorite things of 2010 (it should be no shock that Manny from Modern Family and did NOT make the list):

10.  Gilbert Arenas.  The funniest/ballsiest photo of the year (and all due respect to Louis C.K. and his legions of hip fans – this was the ballsiest thing in comedy since Stephen Colbert’s address at the White House Press Corps dinner) was snapped in the first week of January and belongs to the former Washington Wizards guard.  He was facing federal gun charges and a suspension from the NBA, but that did not stop him for orchestrating a mock gunfight during player introductions.  Stupid, insensitive and hilarious.  Great way to kick off 2010

The ballsiest thing in comedy this year.

9.  My Brett Favre Wrangler Commercial.  Thanks to Comedian Nick Cobb and the rest of the cast who helped make this my most viewed clip on the web (5,000 views – not great, but I’m pleased)

8. Utah Jazz vs. Oklahoma City Thunder game in Salt Lake City.  I made my first trip to Utah to see the Jazz play and I was treated to a 140-139 overtime win in what was the best game in the NBA last year.  That also capped a year where I saw 5 Jazz games in person and the Jazz went 5-0.  They then promptly went 0-4 in the playoffs.
7.  Inception.  Seriously if you don’t like this movie go fu*k yourself.  It is great and original and hope that Adam Sandler, Kevin James, Tyler Perry and Twilight have not ruined movies.
6.  Two songs – Bad Romance and Jean-Louis Be Goode.
The first of these songs was an absolute beast by Lady Gaga and I am not sure if I should be ashamed to say that.  But because the song is so enjoyable I don’t care (once again I am not against pop music – I own a Hanson album and have 4 backstreet boys songs on my iPod – I have no pride if something sounds good – BUT, I am against crap like Bieber and Katy Perry’s “California Gurls” – the worst song ever made that is both pop and unlistenable)
The second song I wrote in an inspired trip to Baton Rouge where I performed in a mist of cigarette smoke for 4 shows in front of 110 people (combined, not per show) sung to the tune of Johnny B. Goode:

Deep down Louisiana close to New Orleans
Way back with people obsessed with LSU’s  football team
There stood a comedy club made of earth and wood
Where telling jokes was a boy named Jean-Louis Be Goode
Who actually learned to read and write very well
But he preferred telling jokes inside a comedy hell

Go go
Go J-L go
Go J-L go
Go J-L go
Go J-L go
Jean-Louis Be Goode

He used to carry legal papers in a leather sack
Now he walks aside the roads and the railroad track
Oh, doing shi*ty southern gigs with no car
Since Ferguson wondering how he fell so far
The people watching his act would stop and say
Oh my when is the headliner gonna play

Go go
Go J-L go
Go J-L go
Go J-L go
Go J-L go
Jean-Louis Be Goode

His mother told him “Someday you will be a man,
And maybe then you’ll abandon your comedy plan
Dozens of people coming from miles around
To ignore the jokes you tell when the sun go down
Maybe someday your name will be in lights
saying  “Manager on duty tonight.”

Go go
Go J-L go
Go J-L go
Go J-L go
Go J-L go
Jean-Louis Be Goode

5. War.  By Sebastian Junger.  Phenomenal book by Vanity Fair writer who was embedded with a combat division for four months in Afghanistan.  I did not make it through the documentary Restrepo, filmed by Junger at the same time he was reporting, but the book was much more riveting than the hour of the film I watched.

4. The Rock N Roll Hall of Fame.  During one of my several trips to Cleveland to perform this year I made a visit to this museum.  I spent six hours there.  That is significantly more time than I have ever spent in a museum, including school mandated sessions.  Cleveland may have lost Lebron, but there will always be at least one reason to visit.

3.  Inside Job and Bill Maher.  I have already written how I felt Inside Job is the best movie of the year and should be required viewing in 9th grade classrooms.  But equally valuable to the political discourse has been Bill Maher this past season.  I am not in complete agreement with Bill Maher on everything, but this season he was absolutely brilliant.  Jon Stewart gets a lot of credit, but, ever since his tirade on Crossfire where he basically pulled the bait and switch that he has also pulled on Jim Cramer (hey I’m a comedian, you’re not prepared for me the way you would normally be for a political interviewer and then WHAM!  I crush you on television by coming prepared with ideas from my smarter team of writers while I make you look like a jerk on your own show!).  Now Stweart is often right, but Billl Maher never tricks people – you know where he is coming from and what his agenda is from start to finish.

2. All the people (especially friends in different cities, but certainly not excluding New York City) who came out to see me perform and also gave me couches and beds to sleep on.  Thanks very much.  You make my meager “career” possible.

and the best thing of 2010….

1) Breaking Bad– Season 3.  That is right, better than my favorite movie of the year, better than anything I made (thus defeating my own high sense of myself) and even outranking friends who have given me a place to stay while on the road is Breaking Bad.  For anyone who prefers Dexter or Modern Family or The Good Wife – shut up.  And I have dedicated too many words already for the pretentious who have elevated Mad Men from a solid period drama into the greatest thing ever filmed.  There is a rumor that AMC has delayed the 4th season of Breaking Bad to allow John Hamm to win best actor for Breaking Bad because Bryan Cranston has won three straight.  So AMC is showing who their favorite child is, but they are also tipping their hand on who the better child is.  Do yourself a favor in 2011 – catch up on Breaking Bad before season 4 begins in July (I think AMC is starting from the beginning next week some time so get the DVR ready).


Patrice, Glenn & Walter White: Big Weekend in D.C.

It was a quite eventful weekend for me in Washington, D.C.  I had the honor of emceeing shows for Patrice O’Neal.  Normally I would not be jazzed to be emcceeing, but a comedian of Patrice’s stature generally draws a good and big crowd and all five shows were sold out.  Now I have opened for many headliners of different levels, but Patrice was the like playing in the major leagues after a career in the minors, with all due respect to the people I have opened for.  It was an incredible experience.  The man is so funny, raw and honest with the crowd that it is both intimidating and inspiring.  He does things that I try to do at open mics, but he has the skill, experience and courage to do it in front of 300 paying customers every show.  It is cool when as a comic you can watch the headliner and be turned into a comedy fan instantly, laughing like you’ve never been exposed to comedy before.

We were also fortunate this weekend not to draw too many Glenn Beck fans to the club.  He was holding his white power rallies at the Lincoln Memorial this weekend and I know at least on the Friday late show there was a group of women (white, obviously) who were in town for the “Enhanced Rights For Dumb, White People” event on Saturday.  But I did not see them walk so perhaps they were not as offended as I thought they’d be (perhaps a black headliner is given a little more leeway from the Beck crowd because entertainment is an acceptable job for black men, as opposed to President).

Overall the weekend was a great success.  All shows were great, all my sets went well and I never had direct contact with any of the legion of Beck-and-Palin-loving old white men and white families on the red line (the only train line deemed safe enough for the out-of-towners by the Beck-ers) in.  And then I received a Tweet at 11 pm announcing that Mad Men had won its third straight Best Drama Emmy, beating Breaking Bad for the second consecutive year.

I think the only problem with America greater than its collective stupidity is when they heap awards on shows like Mad Men because it makes them feel smart and cultured.   The show is fu*king boring!  Does no one else recognize this?  I feel like I’m taking crazy pills!  Breaking Bad manages to do what Mad Men has generally failed to do – it creates realistic characters while building tension and interesting plots.  Mad Men’s cache as a glimpse into a bygone time is over – we get it – people were white, women were subservient and they smoked and dressed well.  But into its fourth season now all Mad Men is has pretentious people still boosting it because they are afraid to appear uncultured or stupid for not liking it.  It is The Emperor’s New Show.

Breaking Bad is the best show on television.  End of discussion.  The best shows on television have never won though.  Six Feet Under lost to The Sopranos and The West Wing, worthy opponents for sure, but the brilliance of SFU will outlast those other two shows.  The Wire was never even nominated, but lots of black people obviously scare Emmy voters.  Arrested Development did win best comedy once, but it should still be winning just for repeats it was so good.  But Modern Family has already taken home the award for Best Comedy Series.  It is a funny show, for sure, but it is also as if some television executive pitched it like this:

“Alright, remember that show Arrested Development?  What if we took away 60% of the subtlety, added some cop out heart felt moments and put it before Cougar Town?”

Despite that Modern Family is one of the best comedies on television right now so I cannot hate the player.  But Breaking Bad has been royally fu*ked over.  If you have not watched it you should. And if you watch Mad Men and think it is the best show on television stop fooling yourself.   People, including my mother have asked me if I own stock in Breaking Bad. No, but in the last 15 years, partly because of reality television forcing more talented writers onto fewer original shows (my theory), we have lived in a golden age of television.  But we still seem to settle for second best.  It is as if every year the Emmys give the Oscar to Dances With Wolves instead of Goodfellas or to Forrest Gump instead of The Shawshank Redemption.   You may think I have overreacted, but do yourself a favor and watch Breaking Bad – you’ll see that I am at least right.


What You Should Be Watching On Television

While spending a few hours on Facebook the other day I stumbled on to a discussion on my friend and comedian Nick Cobb’s page.  He was asking for a new show recommendation and friends of his were offering suggestions as to what they thought the best show of the last decade was and what the best show currently on is.  There were some sensible answers and some real awful answers.   Here are some examples and shows that did not make the cut:


House – who are you my parents?

Lost – you are too stupid to appreciate the list I am putting together

Rome and Deadwood – these are the people that in a music discussion of the best band of all time would ignore the obvious rule that you MUST say Rolling Stones or Beatles (my favorite band is Guns N Roses, but my answer would be Rolling Stones).  Those who drop Rome and Deadwood – a good and a very good show, respectively – are the people who drop Nirvana in a “best band” discussion.  Shut your mouths and just accept that sometimes, like a broken clock, American culture gets it right.

John Adams – it’s a miniseries. read Nick Cobb’s question.

The Mentalist – seriously?  CBS is the network that produces dramas to make Jay Leno fans feel smart.

True Blood – a show that like Glee, seemed to realize that their main demographics were women and gays and decided – to hell with writing – we’ll just get everyone on this show in a gym, skimp on story and consistency and still draw ratings as long as we amp up the sex, gore and campiness.  Headed down a path of awfulness this season.  The real shame is that Alan Ball, who created a television masterpiece in Six Feet Under, is also listed as a creator of True Blood.  My guess is that after Six Feet Under he made a ton of money, found himself a trophy wife/husband (no idea what his sexuality is) and after season 1 of True Blood said – “Hey, you are shallow and pretty dumb – wanna write this show for me? Most of it is written in a book already – you will just have to add more breasts, blood and campiness?  What’s campiness?  Well you know when you think something is good? Right, like Paul Walker or Dexter – just write it with that same feeling.”

Dexter – I made it through one season.  Some of the worst acting I have ever seen.  Michael C Hall should die poor and be remembered for David Fisher than collect paychecks with that cast of nothings (though I hear John Lithgow was good in later seasons – too bad I give a show one full season to at least entice me.  It didn’t).

Special Note – Why I have no faith in Showtime – You may notice that Dexter is the only Showtime show even mentioned by me.  That is because Showtime is stupid.  Their shows are made with the following concept – can we write one character, line up one credible actor or actress and surround him or her with mediocre writing and acting?  Yes, well then we want to make your show!  Even USA at least says “CharacterS welcome.” Showtime’s phrase should be “Character welcome as long as long as character brings mediocre humor, drama and/or co-stars.”  I hate Showtime in all its forms – Lakers, Cable Television, etc.  If HBO, AMC, USA and Showtime all went to school together, HBO would be the Harvard bound quarterback, AMC would be the slightly arrogant and nerdy valedictorian, USA would be the guy who chicks inexplicably liked and Showtime would be a Goth kid.  No, it would be the girl that dates the goth kid, but is not goth herself.  Loser.

Treme – wake me up from my coma – have they cancelled it yet?

Mad Men– Mad Men to me is once again, like sushi – it is something that lots of people like, but also something that lots of people like to say they like because they want to be people who like things like sushi and jazz and other overrated things.  Mad Men is a well done show.  But like Treme, Mad Men sometimes feels like a documentary on early 1960s life, which can be somewhat boring.  I found Season 3 of Mad Men (until an admittedly great finale) to be an excruciatingly boring endeavor.  I often defend shows like The Wire by praising its authenticity, but it helps that there is actually some intriguing plot development to go with the realism.

So here for all of you is the definitive list of what shows from the last 10 years you should watch.  It is objectively correct.

1) Six Feet Under – Funny, moving and the most realistic look at relationships and human fears of any show ever made, by far.  if the show feels “too gay” for you, rent Queer As Folk, watch it and then re-start Six Feet Under.  f the show is too troubling or upsetting for you then it is working.  And it is widely and justly considered to have the greatest finale in television history – take that MASH!

2) The Wire– Would be number one, but Six Feet Under is just more personal.  If this show is too slow for you, then watch The Shield and consider yourself ignorant.  If the show is too black for you, watch Southland and consider yourself slightly racist.

3) Arrested Development – The best comedy I have ever seen.  Nothing is actually close, especially this decade.  So naturally it only made it three seasons on television.  I blame the South.

4) The West Wing– If this show is too political for you, then you are dumb.  As impressive as the dialogue, plot and acting is, the details of the show are incredible. To say nothing of the fact that they basically predicted the election of Barack Obama before he had even announced his candidacy.

5) The Sopranos – The first of the Big Three for HBO (Seriously in an 8 year period HBO dropped Six Feet Under, The Wire and The Sopranos on America – to me that will go down as the greatest accomplishment in original television programming).  Sopranos, unlike The Wire and Six Feet Under did not quite end in a way that met with its overall impact and quality.

6) Breaking Bad– the best show on television right now by a mile.  It is dark, filled with tension and excitement, well acted and yet feels incredibly plausible and realistic at the same time.  This is the first drama I have seen that clearly indicates that HBO has dropped the ball recently.  Mad Men gets mentioned as the one HBO let get away (especially because that might have meant naked Joan!), but Breaking Bad is so superior to Mad Men it’s a joke.  More entertaining without sacrificing anything in terms of writing or acting quality.  If the show can finish with way its first three seasons began then it may move towards the top of this list.

I feel I must mention Eastbound and Down (but only 1 six episode season to show so far) and I have not seen In Treatment – an HBO show that has been highly recommended to me.  Other than that those 6 shows above will entertain you and raise your expectations for what television can do.  Then when you are done with them you will look down on most other people’s television show opinions like only a condescending six-foot-seven comedian can.


Toledo Nights 1: Glee, The Funny Bone & Deposed…

Last night was an interesting night to be performing in Ohio.  The pending “decision” of LeBron James at 9 pm was perfectly preceded by a show at the Toledo Funny Bone.  But the day was just full of perplexing and disappointing news.

Glee was nominated for 19 Emmys.  That number of Emmy nominations is usually reserved for shows like Six Feet Under (what I believe is the best show ever made) or, in an alternate universe where white people are not afraid to nominate shows full of nuanced black characters, The Wire.  But Glee?  Between Twilight and Glee I am starting to think that perhaps teenage girls and gay men should not be having quite the influence on our pop culture as once seemed desirable.  The show had a couple of promising episodes to start the show, but veered so far off into a cheap and campy format (I am not including the outstanding Jane Lynch in this analysis) that it became unbearable.  I feel Glee is sort of like sushi – plenty of people genuinely like it, but many people just like being the type of people who say they like sushi.  The show is not good.  I hope Modern Family (Arrested Development Jr.) wins.

In the drama category Breaking Bad must win or I will be forced to dedicate an entire blog to its greatness.

(My top shows of all time, in no certain order are Six Feet Under, The Sopranos, The West Wing, Arrested Development and Breaking Bad).

So with bad news already beginning with Glee’s dominance of the Emmy nominations and the clouds ominously gathering in Ohio (literally and metaphorically) I headed to the Toledo Funny Bone.

I noticed that the audience was about 93% white and suburban, which sometimes (almost always) is a bad omen.  But things started turning around immediately as I was brought on stage to Rick Astley’s “Never gonna give you up.”  The crowd turned out to be excellent.  So with Glee scoring an early win for crap entertainment and me scoring a win for mediocre entertainment it was up to the main event – where would LeBron go?

And LeBron announced that he was taking his talents to South Beach.  Here are the repercussions of this decision:

1) Mass suicide in Cleveland – seriously Cleveland is a nice city with good people that gets dumped on all the time.  Now their own son has spit on them.  It is very sad.


2) Making Me a Kobe Bryant fan versus the Heat.  I never thought I could root for Kobe in any situation, but like a pro wrestling move there has been an instant realignment.

3) A lot of unjustified hatred from Knick and Bulls fans.  You would have been villains lite if he had gone to your team and you had no other claim to him other than an unjustified feeling of entitlement.  Cleveland is the only town with a legitimate gripe here.

4) Pat Riley is now the Suge Knight of the NBA and will be played by Gordon Gecko in a biopic (Michael Douglas is not good enough).  I expect to see Dwyane Wade and LeBron to throw cash at a video camera with Chris Bosh dancing in the background while Pat Riley, a la Suge Knight, calls out Dan Gilbert.

5) Led to a Twitter explosion of creativity by me on possible names for the new Miami trio.  I came up with Miami Pound Machine because a) it is a clever pun; b) this team will crush the competition and c) it captures the homoerotic undertones of this bizarre reality show episode.

6) Miami fans are about to become the worst people on Earth.  LeBron reminds me of private school girls from NYC , though this type exist in lots of places (and I even dated one once).  You take a hot shallow chick (the Miami scene) and add to it a talented, wealthy career driven person that is ugly (LeBron) and they have kids that are not as smart or talented as the Dad because he married a shallow hot chick, but not as attractive as the Mom because she married a wealthy ogre.  Their offspring is demanding, insecure and shallow all at the same time.  And now they will populate the stands of the Miami Heat.  Good luck the rest of the NBA.  49 other states are rooting for you.


My Top HBO Characters of All Time

Being 2 discs away from finishing 6 Feet Under via Netflix I was thinking of how amazing the roster of HBO shows has been.  This also happened because I was watching Lost last night and thought, “Wow, this is supposed to be one of the best shows on Network television and it is basically a big budget mediocrity.”  Other than The West Wing and Arrested Development I don’t think I have seen anything on Network television to compare with HBO’s level of quality (all due respect to the CSI fans who adore that crappy franchise).  AMC is doing some good things (the slightly overrated Mad men and the very under-praised Breaking Bad), but HBO really is the cream of the crop (even though True Blood and Big Love, the two flagships shows at this point, are not close to the incredible things HBO produced last decade).  And I know that some people out there love Showtime, but having watched several episodes of Showtime shows they feel like a good junior varsity team to HBO’s state title winning varsity.

So without any more explanations or caveats here are my top 13 HBO characters of all time (apologies in advance to the Crypt Keeper, the cast of Not Necessarily The News, everybody from Dream On (terrible) and The Larry Sanders Show (never saw it, but heard it was good stuff back in the day):

13) (tie) Dennis Hof – Cathouse and Lafayette – True Blood.  This is the only reality character on the list, but how can a guy who looks like Rush Limbaugh and acts like pre-wheelchair Larry Flynt not be on the list.  the Cathouse series, which follows a real life Nevada brothel features many women have sex, which is a relief because at least when you turn it on ou know what you are getting, as opposed to the HBO Real Sex series which could just as soon ambush you with a segment on nursing home gang bangs as they could with attractive women.  Dennis is the supreme scumbag that makes the show go with his array of women from the daddy issue-riddled, to the tranny looking one to the midget.  One thing is obvious – he has had sex with all of them.

Speaking to HBO’s diversity, Lafayette, the drug dealing, sassy gay black short-order cook/male prostitute on True Blood is only the first of two gay black men on this short list.

12) Murray – Flight of the Conchords – The show’s first season was very good.  The second season was incredibly mediocre.  With all due respect to Jemaine – Murray was the extremely poor man’s Ari Gold on this show, literally.  Sadly, the actor that plays Murray is intent on beating the dead horse in a series of new commercials for some product where he is basically playing the same character, but with far fewer laughs.

11) Ralphie – The Sopranos. Sadly Ralphie only got two seasons on The Sopranos (3 & 4), but he won an Emmy for the second one and created a character hated above all in his first season and then, once accepted, became the funniest character on the show.  For me, his signature line will be after being confronted by Tony Soprano after beating to death a stripper carrying his child he simply yelled, “First of all she was a whoooour!”

10) Samantha – Sex and the City.  It would be hard, even for a misogynist, to leave off all characters from HBO’s third most popular show of all time. So I picked Samantha, who turned man-like sexual cravings into “empowerment” for women ages 17-60.  My favorite scene of hers may have been when she was dating Smith, a model who would be more likely to visit Samantha in the course of volunteer work at a nursing home than to actually bed her, and she runs into her ex-boyfriend Richard at a party. In front of Smith she goes upstairs with Richard and gets railed from behind and then comes down crying to Smith, saying “I don’t know what’s wrong with me.”  Message? Empowerment.

9) Lester Freamon – The Wire. The first of three characters from The Wire.  Quiet, unassuming and the best detective on the show.  My favorite moment, after coming up with evidence off of a soda can to potentially catch a cop shooter he is asked what unit he’s from. He replies with a straight face: “pawn shop.”  You have to watch the show to get that, but it was great.

8) Tony Soprano – The Sopranos.  Nothing much needs to be said, except for the fact that he is only the second best character on the show (and no, the Bada Bing club is not #1).

7) Kenny Powers – Eastbound and Down.  Racist, stupid and angry. If he had not been a baseball player, he might have been leading a Tea Party movement.  Who knows if the shows subsequent season(s) will match the perfection of the first, but it takes a special character to make the line “I love you April, and not just in a make me come kind of way,” mean something, especially when said at an 8th grade dance.

6) Al Swearengen – Deadwood. In a word? Cu*t.

5) Ari Gold – Entourage.  This show is like watching the Cleveland Cavaliers play basketball a few years ago. It was LeBron James doing amazing things and four guys around him barely keeping up.  I thought after the first season they should have spun the show off and made it about Ari. They didn’t and now it’s a mediocre show with one dominating star.  But he still makes the show worth tuning in to each week that it’s on.

4) Omar – The Wire.  People reading this may have expected Omar at #1, but that would be too easy. I figured I’d sneak up on you like Kenard and… well, I don’t want to give away anything to the people who are just getting over their fear of Negros and Negro-filled shows, but Omar was the most entertaining character on the best show ever for sure, but he’s only my #2 from it.  Indeed.

3) Nate Fisher – Six Feet Under.  I don’t think any character on any HBO show (or any show for that matter – though Walter White on Breaking Bad is doing a nice job) has taken as varied an emotional journey as Nate Fisher.  At times he is both the most identifiable and the most polarizing figure on this unbelievable great show (Seriously, the fact that at one point HBO had The Sopranos, 6 Feet Under, The Wire all at the same time is like an NBA team having LeBron, Kobe and Kevin Durant at the same time – I think The West Wing would be Dwayane Wade for this analogy).

2) Tony Soprano’s Mom – Perhaps you forgot about her because she only made it on to the first two seasons of the show, but it says something that the show went from an A+ to an A without her.  The idea that a woman could be evil or just experiencing dementia, or possibly both was brilliant and gave Tony the best conflict on the show until he and his wife hit the skids in season 4.  Tony’s Mom was an absolutely brilliant character and played brilliantly.  Menacing and funny all at once.

1) Stringer Bell – The Wire.  I had a friend once tell me that she was going to see the movie Obsessed with that handsome black guy and Beyonce.  I replied that’s Stringer Bell from the Wire. She replied, i don’t even remember him from the Wire.  There are only two possibilities here and I will just propose the second – she missed the first 3 seasons of the Wire.  Omar got all the hype, McNulty got all the posters, but I found the intelligent criminal Cain to Avon Barksdale’s Abel the best HBO character of all time.  Watching Stringer try, but fail, to bring the Barksdale drug business into the legitimate world of Real Estate showed that the “legit” world is just as corrupt as the drug trade (as my brother told me – what is so different than the operation of Starbucks and the corner boys in The Wire – you give money and order to one person, then walk around to another area to pick up the product – he was kidding.  The difference is obvious – if coffee were made illegal a lot more white people would be killing each other than black folks on The Wire).

On a side note, I was told a couple of years ago that the actor that played Stringer was a doorman at Caroline’s at night while he auditioned during the day.  More evidence that everyone in the comedy business except comics can make money. Congratulations Stringer Bell – you are #1.