The Curse of Lottery Ticket – Always Be Funny…

I should have known yesterday was not going to go as planned.  Perhaps it was the fact that Friday I secretly went to go see Lottery Ticket, the uproariously boring and unfunny film that feels one-third Friday, one-third Tyler Perry and one third after-school special all jumbled up.   For $6 the risk was very low, yet the film still underwhelmed.  Let me put it this way, Mike Epps is the funniest part of Lottery Ticket.  I did not realize that, like the old woman in Drag Me To Hell, Lottery Ticket placed an unfunny curse on me.

As Saturday rolled around I was very excited for Always Be Funny, my monthly show at the Village Lantern.  The lineup was power packed and it looked like we were going to have a big crowd.  So in preparation I plunked down for a few hours to play MLB10 The Show, the greatest sports game I have ever played.   My Yankees team had been playing .500 ball since I restarted the season (I was 20-70 in the previous season, which meant I was creeping in on irrationally murdering my PS3), but post-Lottery Ticket viewing I got swept resoundingly in a three game series.

If there were an action-horror film about comedy this would have been the point where I go, “I gotta bad feeling about this.”

The show was supposed to be an 11 pm show, but the 9pm show went late for the 1,456th straight time so we ended up starting at 1130pm.  Of course before then I was attacked verbally and physically by the cu*t of a waitress that was working that night.  Here’s the play-by-play of the pre-show encounters with the waitress:

– The Village Lantern comedy room entrance is sort of a tight squeeze as it is as the bottom of a stairwell, which leads to a narrow hallway which also has the spot for the waitress to process checks (do we call those digital panels registers?).  But there is room for a few people to stand and wait and not interfere with the waitress, if she is not a cu*t.

C.W. “Hey, could you tell people to wait before coming to the show so I have time to clean up from the earlier show.”

J-L – “Sure”

3 minutes pass – a couple of people are talking to me that I know, still out of the way, as much as possible an 4 people I do not know walk down the stairs.

C.W. (pushes me angrily) – I fu*king asked you to keep people out of here and you are just standing there talking to people (trail off into more insults and expletives)

J-L (to people on the stairs) – Sorry – please go upstairs and I will come announce when the show is beginning (inner thought) – does this cu*t know I am not her employee?

C.W. – Well if they’re already down here they can go in.

J-L (inner thought) – Were we engaged?

Now I don’t believe in hitting women, but I do hope that one day C.W. dates a man who does not share my upbringing and beliefs.  There must be something on my face that ranges between “gentleman” and “bitch ass” because this is the second time I have been assaulted (in the legal sense) by a woman at a comedy show.  Now the first time was a little understandable (but not ok) because the girl had heard my routine where I compared an ex’s vagina to a concentration camp, but C.W. was just a little flustered and she got physical (and then like a bipolar woman, also known as a woman, she apologized).  Damn you Lottery Ticket curse!

So the show began at 1130 with Sean Donnelly emceeing and doing a nice job.  First comic was Sheng Wang and he, unknown at the time, would have by far the best set of the night.  The crowd was enjoying him and I actually thought the Lottery Ticket curse may not be true.  Further confirming this was when Brian McGuiness, the second comic of the night, also did well (he updates his PS3-cyber-awarded trophies on his Facebook page so it’s not a slam dunk that someone that does that will also do well at comedy).

Then the clock struck midnight and the horse and carriage turned into a bunch of mute fu*king pumpkins.

Owen Bowness went up next and did a set that was very close to the one he did several months ago at Always Be Funny, that absolutely killed.  But on this show he could have been Daffy Duck following Bugs Bunny for 2/3 of his set.  It was as if the brains of our audience were swapped at midnight with the minds of a terrible comedy club audience in the panhandle of Florida (trust me, the worst weekend of sets of my life took place in Destin, Florida).  They suddenly became slow to laugh, slower to get punchlines and not laughing at any funny setups to funnier punchlines.

Damn you Lottery Ticket!

The bloodbath then began.  Comic after comic went up and received audience response ranging from apathetic silence to grumbling hostile silence. Sean Donnelly, as emcee continued to try to work the crowd hard.  Keith Alberstadt, a clean comic who has appeared on The Late Show with David Letterman, was driven to curse and call out the crowd for their apathy.  He sounded like a minister standing in the middle of a town being burned to the grown trying to plead with marauders.

Right before my set I asked C.W. for a bottle of water (hey my show packed the room, which means lots of tips you don’t deserve and the regular waitress always gets me a bottle of water if I ask nicely) and she acted like I had just asked her to blow a yak.  So she brought me a tap water, because, like I said, she’s a cu*t.  I resisted the effort to throw it in her face.

I went on after Keith and was actually happy with my set for the most part.  Probably because my first line was “You people fu*king suck.”  I think I owe Keith a debt of gratitude because he seemed to re-focus the crowd.

After me was the surprise of the night.  High school classmate and 2008 Olympic Silver Medalist Tim Morehouse (fencing, calm down ladies) did a 6 minute set (he’s been doing comedy for 2 weeks) and he was pretty good (actually off the charts for a guy doing it 2 weeks, which proves that motivational speaking engagements for terminally ill children is great preparation for stand up comedy).

Ryan Conner closed out the show nicely for the 15 people who remained.

The next Always Be Funny will be on September 11th, obviously.  I don’t know, even given the date of the show, if we could possibly match the apathy of last night’s crowd, but hopefully when I build a model of an Islamic Cultural Center on stage it will get a reaction out of people.

And in case you missed the point of this blog – don’t see Lottery Ticket.


The Top Ten Movies of 2009 (and the decade)

I thought this year was a really good year for movies, despite the garbage that was listed on this site yesterday.  Before getting to the top 10 movies of 2009 (and the decade) here are some special (mostly positive) awards for movies in 2009.


Most Surprisingly Good Movies (in no particular order)

1) This Is it– Thoroughly enjoyed the concert (rehearsal) documentary about Michael Jackson.  Great music and a worthy tribute to the fallen icon and aficionado of play dates with tweens.

2) Taken– The Liam Neeson film is a perfect example of how a movie that has no ambition, only one star and a simple plot can still deliver if it just tries to do the simple things well.  And the scene where he shoots his friend’s wife to show that he means business was one of the best this year.

3) Crank 2– Either the most ingenious quasi-spoof of action movies ever or just a ridiculously entertaining goof.  Either way I had no idea that I would enjoy this movie as much as I did.  It now validates Jason Statham’s work visa to me, though his films have only grossed slightly more than my YouTube videos.

4) Drag Me To Hell – This Movie almost made the top 10.  Funny, creepy, gross, and all on purpose.  A good, but not great movie.  However, there were very few movies I enjoyed more than this one.

Take My Wife, please.
Take My Wife, please.

The Any Given Sunday Award For Most Disappointing Movie Based On Awesome Trailer

Watchmen.  Blue genitals and a waste of time is all I remember from this movie.  The trailer, however, was perfection.

The Two Towers Award For Great Trailer That Delivered Great Movie

Nothing.  But The Men Who Stare At Goats was my favorite trailer of the year and the movie was solid, but still did not meet expectations.

2009 Honorable Mention (A/K/A The Unpaid Guestspot of Movie Awards)

Avatar, The Hurt Locker, Two Lovers, Food Inc., State of Play

2009 Top Ten Movies

10) (tie) Sugar, The Messenger

Sugar is the story of a Dominican immigrant seeking to become a baseball star.  Came out early this year to rave reviews, but has long been forgotten.  Anyone who is a baseball fan or interested in the immigrant experience should see this.  Or just hang out by Yankee Stadium.

The Messenger is the best war movie this year.  It is about two soldiers who report to next of kin of the loss of loved ones.  The things people do for work in this economy.  Really strong and simple movie.

9)Capitalism: A Love Story.

This movie is a reminder that America used to be a place where a middle class person could thrive (middle class meaning one blue collar job with could salary and benefits, not $5 million dollars or less like John McCain seemed to think).  Now thanks to a selfish, never too rich mindset the wealth is more concentrated at the top than ever before.  Sadly for working Americans and Michael Moore, America is one big casino and the house always wins.

8) 500 Days of Summer

The fact that Music and Lyrics was my favorite romantic comedy before this movie came out (yes I have seen Love Actually, but have not seen When Harry Met Sally yet – gasp!) may diminish my credibility in this genre,  but I am probably not the only person telling you how great this movie is.  Funny, heartfelt and thoroughly enjoyable.  And the lesson of the film couldn’t be more optimistic: if you find yourself in a relationship with a cu-t, don’t worry because eventually you may go out with Derek Jeter’s girlfriend.

7) Bruno

The selection most likely to anger people.  First, yes I thought it was funnier than Borat.  Second, the best opening of any film since The Dark Knight.  As the techno music began blaring and the words “black guys” and “taint” flashed on screen I could not stop laughing.  For many the film was too crude.  Other complaints I heard was that Borat had a point in showing some ignorance in funny ways, whereas this just went for cheap laughs.  Probably true.  Perhaps it was easier to embrace a character who was exposing racism and sexism and, most flagrantly, anti-Semitism in Borat and feel good about laughing than in Bruno, where you are just laughing at the absurdity of a gay character’s libido on steroids.  My advice to the self-righteous – take the champagne bottle out of your ass and watch Bruno pour some champagne out of his boyfriend’s.

6) Precious Based On The Novel Push By Sapphire

Fat, pregnant by her father (again – fool me once shame on him, fool you twice… shame on him again in this rare exception to that saying), illiterate and Mariah Carey as your social worker.  And I thought being a comedian was tough.  This movie is a powerhouse and Mo’nique’s performance is one of my three favorite this year (Christopher Waltz in Inglorious Basterds and Paul Rudd in I Love You Man being the other two).  And I would like this movie to win Best Adapted Screenplay so that Sapphire, who probably negotiated the self-indulgent title has to hear the dumbest phrase ever uttered at an awards show: The winner is Precious Based on The Novel Push By Sapphire Based On The Novel Push By Sapphire.

5) Up

The opening to this movie may be the most touching sequence in movies this year.  It is just another great movie from Pixar.  Normally stories of old men hanging out with young fat kids is awkward (think Herbert the Pervert and Chris Griffin from Family Guy as one such pairing), but this movie is nothing of the sort.  Plus it has a talking golden retriever, which will always get support from me.

4) Inglorious Basterds

Christopher Waltz was amazing, but surprising to me was how good Brad Pitt was.  A funny, intense, enjoyable movie about Nazis and the Jews that hunted them.  It was also a welcome relief from the usual parade of mediocre, maudlin films about the Holocaust that are raised to critical praise because of the subject matter.  After Schindler’s List I think Hollywood could have just waited for this one .  After all slavery has had what, Roots and Amistad?  I think 6 Holocaust movies come out last year alone.  But I digress.  Basterds is awesome (and my favorite Tarantino film – that is what I think, but I am also writing it because I want to anger those who worship at the altar of Pulp Fiction).

3) Cloudy With A Chance of Meatballs

Even more than Bruno, this choice is likely to bring on some WTFs.  I did not even want to see this movie, but then reviews kept talking about how much fun it was.  The biggest shock of the year for me was this movie.  It was hysterical from start to finish.  It was like the humor of Family Guy, but not as crude or easy.  I flirted with putting this #1, but the last two choices, upon reflection, were the two best movies of the year.

2) Up In The Air

 I am tired of the “this is the movie that defines our times” type quotes, but besides that this is a great movie.  George Clooney’s best (unlike his win for Syriana, no complaints if he gets Best Actor) and a movie that is so good that I cannot exactly explain why it is so good.  Perhaps it is because it is a movie that defines our times… oops.

1) District 9

The most original movie I have seen in a long time.  The biggest crime of the Oscars could be if Avatar gets a best picture nomination and this does not (if they only feel like honoring once sci-fi-ish film).  Since it is #1 I don’t think it needs any explaining, other than the fact that it comes out on DVD today so you should rent it if you have not seen it.


10) School Of Rock – Along with The Wrestler, no movie has matched an actor better this decade than Jack Black and SOR.

9) The Departed – I hate the Boston accent, but that was the only thing I hated about this movie.

8) Eastern Promises– Russian mob in London and the best fight scene in any movie ever.  Sorry Bourne Ultimatum.  You were second.

7) Million Dollar Baby – The only movie that made me cry this decade (joining E.T., Glory and Dead Poets’ Society on the career list).  Clint Eastwood, Morgan Freeman and Hilary Swank all at their best.

6) Traffic – A decade later the violence in Mexico is worse and the liberal pot smokers who abhor the violence of war or the treatment of chickens that are not free-range, but still help fund the cartels that propagate massive bloodshed in and around the border.  This movie would go under the category of wake up calls unheeded.  Great movie.

5) Finding Nemo– My favorite movie from the most consistently great movie studio.

4) 4 Months, 3 Weeks, 2 Days – I am not a big foreign film guy, but this was so intense and so good I regretted not speaking (Romanian if my recollection is correct) the language because even checking the subtitles was too much attention away from the acting.

3) The Dark Knight – I have never seen a movie in the theaters more than this one.  And it’s not even close.  Die Hard, The Matrix and The Dark Knight are the three films that changed and elevated action movies higher than any others in the last 20 years.  To me, it was even more impressive to take action, the way Christopher Nolan and Heath Ledger did, and turn it into art.

2) The Lord Of The Rings – Because of The Godfather III’s mediocrity this is the greatest trilogy of all time.  Shut up Star Wars people. (and if I had to pick just one – The Two Towers).

1) United 93 – I have only seen two perfect movies in my lifetime.  One was Amadeus, my favorite movie of all time.  The other was United 93.  I am not saying it is my favorite movie of all time; it would be hard to make that claim about a film focused on 9/11.  But the realism, the intensity, the respectful rendering of an incredibly sensitive subject and the overall product was second to none this decade for me.  In a sad way I guess it is fitting that the decade’s defining event yielded the decade’s best movie. Besides, a movie about our collective self-indulgence and self absorption called Twitter v. 3.05 would not be nearly as riveting.


The Top Ten Of The Summer

Summer Movies, Had Me a Blast

The Summer film season kick off was Wolverine, which was the worst thing not named Swine Flu, Paul Blart or Blue Dog Democrats to emerge this year.  Fortunately, the rest of the Summer with a few exceptions, turned out to be pretty damn good.  Although I was pleased with last Summer’s movies, especially The Dark Knight, I think this year’s were overall stronger.  Here’s my top 10 if you want any recommendations before heading back to school, work or prison:

1. Up – Amazing and touching Pixar film about an old man who is too busy having an adventure to complain about Obama’s death panels.

2. District 9 – The most creative movie of the year and probably going to get a Best Picture nomination now that the Academy can nominate ten movies.  In short it is about an alien who lands in Africa who is harassed by locals when they begin claiming he was born in Hawaii.

3. Bruno – People were mixed on this – whether they liked it or hated it.  I thought it was brilliant and more daring that Borat.  So what if the only redeeming message was that the only thing more gross/funny to watch than gay male sex is angry, homophobic rednecks and disgustingly ambitious L.A. parents; it was all absurdly hilarious.

4. Drag Me To Hell – This film was gross, creepy and hilarious.  And like Joan Rivers – it was all intentional (have soem Comedy Central Roast people).  I probably enjoyed this movie more than any others this Summer.

5. The Hurt Locker – Interesting and tense movie about a guy who diffuses IEDs in Iraq and seems to like it.  They are talking Oscar potential for this one, but my guess is because it is not political enough and because Sean Penn is not blowing anybody, its chances are not that high that it will be remembered in February 2010.

6. The Hangover – This will be remembered as the comedy of the year and the film that finally made Las Vegas a destination for young men to go party.

7. Harry Potter and the Half Blood Prince – I thought this was the best adaptation from the books and Alan Rickman does more with little dialogue than anyone I’ve ever seen.  But I wish one of Potter’s classmate’s name’s was Joseph Takagi.

8. Public Enemies – I was disappointed by this film, but that doesn’t mean it wasn’t good.  Oddly enough I thought Johnny Depp was the weakest part of the film – stick to playing weirdos and heartthrobs.

9. Star Trek – This movie surprised me in that it did not suck.  In fact it was pretty good.  Of course I found it strange that the Beastie Boys’ Sabotage was still relevant centuries later (I do not equate Mike D as the Mozart of the 2300s), but it was well done by JJ Abrams and company.

10. Terminator Salvation – Fu-k you, I enjoyed it.  The second half of the film made the first half make a lot more sense and seem relevant and I actually hope they make a fifth and final one.

The only thing left for me to see this Summer will be Inglourious Basterds.  If it is amazing I will make note of it, but more than likely it will just annoy me.


The Most Disturbing Moment of Bruno

Last night I went to see a midnight show of Bruno.  Perhaps my expectations were not as high as they were for Borat (I believed Borat had the potential to be the funniest movie of all time), but I thought it was insanely funny.  There is a lot more sexual crudeness in this film (I will refrain from saying anything that might spoil surprise/horror/shock/laughter), but it is the hardest I’ve laughed this year (apologies to The Hangover and Drag Me To Hell, especially).

But in a movie that featured many shots of male genitalia and several explicit scenes from a swingers club the most shocking thing I saw last night was about four minutes before the show started when two sets of young parents (late 20s/early 30s) came in to the theater with three small children (none older than 4).  There are a couple of problems with this:

  1. It’s midnight – you could be coming to watch Veggie Tales and it would still be wrong (I’ve often wondered about theaters with 10 pm showings of kids’ movies).
  2. It’s Bruno – not to seem all puritanical, but 3 and 4 year olds probably should not be watching anal penetration and blow jobs.

When are movie theaters going to finally step up and start helping parents be parents?  I mean if a movie is R children must be accompanied by adults.  If a movie is NC-17 (not really sure how Bruno got an R rating) then children under 17 CANNOT see the film, which is why the movie industry tries to avoid those ratings at all cost.  Why can’t theaters say – no children under 10 after 10 pm?  Why don’t they?   And why not say if you are under 10 you cannot see an R rated film?  I was once at the Texas Chainsaw Massacre and a man brought his 2 year old in.  naturally when a woman pulled a gun out of her vagina in the opening scene and killed herself the young child began bawling.  Clearly the tot knew he shouldn’t be there.  Parents can have plenty of time and opportunities to fu-k up their children.  But movie theaters do not have to have to help expedite the process.

It’s simply being responsible for parents who clearly are not and it helps consenting adult movie goers enjoy the film without hearing children talking and/or crying.  To the credit of the kids they did not say anything during Bruno, possibly because one of the fathers responsibly said, and I quote, “Shhhhhh, you need to be asleep right now.”  I agree sir, but in a bed with stuffed animals, not in a theater with images of bleached, stuffed anuses.

The movie is really really funny and I recommend it highly.  And I also recommend movie theaters start taking a modicum of responsibility for their viewers, both the ones that should be there and the ones that shouldn’t.


Sports Tragedies

This week I was treated to not one, but two great cinematic experiences.  Up, the new film from Pixar, is incredibly touching and fun and, in my opinion, is only second to Finding Nemo in the Pixar universe.  I then, bolstered with confidence form strong reviews, went to see Drag Me To Hell, which like Crank 2, is a deceptively, but completely intentionally funny film, while at the same time delivering creepy and scary moments.  But apparently the entertainment gods believed me greedy because what the Movie Lord giveth, the Sports Lord taketh away.

First was the elimination of the Denver Nuggets Saturday.  I need to give the devil his due.  Kobe is immensely talented and clutch and he demonstrated both characteristics during the Denver series.   However, I cannot ever be a fan.  He and the Lakers are like Alex Rodriguez and the Yankees are in baseball – an obssessively and obviously media-savvy star on an unlikeable franchise.  The talent is great, but it is overshadowed, to anyone who is not a fan, by the need to look and act the part of the star.  And the way Kobe speaks sounds like he bought the Rosetta Stone “Michael Jordan” immersion program because his speech, along with his fadeaway jumpshot, have become more and more Jordan-esque as his career has gone on.   Kobe is the most Jordan-esque player since Jordan, which is one of the non-rape reasons why some people don’t like Kobe.  Dwayne Wade has adopted a more quiet persona that seems unique to him, while LeBron has been the more engaging superstar, Magic-esque, but clearly free of plagiarism of Magic.  Kobe seems to have attempted a re-make of Jordan, and like someone who dares re-make a classic (think Sheryl Crow doing Sweet Child O’ Mine for the Big Daddy soundtrack) it ends up being less likeable than it might have been if it was at least original.  So now I am forced to root for the Orlando Magic.   I actually think the Magic can win, but would not bet on it.  Here’s my matchup breakdown:

  1. Battle of Superstars – Kobe vs. Dwight.  Dwight Howard has proven to be unstoppable in these playoffs, due almost entirely because of his size 72 shoulders and sick vertical leap, because he still does not seem to have a discernible vertical leap.  Kobe has been better.  Edge – Kobe
  2. Eurotrash matchup – Hedo Turkoglu vs. Pau Gasol and Sasha Vujacic.  Because Pau will be marginalized by Dwight Howard and because Vujacic sucks the edge goes to Hedo “I push off every single time I dribble” Turkoglu.
  3. Tall, underachieving black guys who randomly show up and disappear: Lamar Odom vs. Rashard Lewis.  Odom tends to disappear like a pit bull at Michael Vick’s house.  Rashard Lewis can do the same thing, but has been playing with more and more confidence.  However, in his first trip to the finals I expect to see him piss down his leg at least once.  Edge – Odom.
  4. Coaches: Lurch versus Ron Jeremy.  Phil Jackson is “the Zen master,” which is enough of a reason to root against him, but Stan Van Gundy was screwed out of a title by Pat Riley and Shaq, but has still managed to come back with a vengeance with a new team, all while looking like a less athletic Ron Jeremy.  So in this one I have to give the edge to Stan.

So it looks like a draw, which means if the Lakers win I believe it will be because of a great effort by Kobe and I will have to acknowledge that.  But hopefully the Magic win.

But as if the Lakers win was not enough of a reason to step in front of a bus, Rafa Nadal lost yesterday in tennis.  Nadal-Federer has become my 2nd favorite sporting event after a Utah Jazz hoops game.  Mainly because I watch their matches in awe and I probably change who I am rooting for 3 or 4 times during the match.  Insult to injury for Nadal: the French were cheering on the challenger during the match which seemed a little doucheconsidering Nadal is one of the two greatest champions they’ve ever had.   I think I just heard Nadal order some Freedom Fries.

Well this week I have two more movies to consider and two NBA finals games.  The Hangover (sneak preview tonight), which along with Transformers 2 is my most anticipated film of the Summer, and Land of The Lost, which looks potentially funny, but also potentially awful.  Looks like odds are that The Finals will be 1-1 headed to Orlando by the end of this week.