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Tragedy: The Magic Ingredient for Bad Tweets and Successful…

This weekend I was offered two lessons on tragedy and comedy.  The first was the now predictable/stale and instantaneous response to the death of Paul Walker within the comedy world.  Now the jokes were coming from people who ranged from strangers to me to people I respect as people and as comedians.  But I have to ask people who made the jokes, what were you thinking (not rhetorical)?  Are you lacking a basic comic nerve ending to actually think anyone needed (just on a humor level, forget decency) a 907th “fast and furious – how ironic” joke.  And there is this cottage industry (unpaid of course – this is comedy) of people who hear about a death and immediately blurt 140 characters or status update whose speed is only matched in its laziness.  I honestly do not understand the thought process.  Step 1 – Person died.  Step 2 – Must be first to hacky joke that I am not sure is hacky because my mind is consumed with quickly generating something mocking the death (or know is hack, but because we treat comedy like a useless, disposable commodity who gives a shit if I throw out some clunkers).  It borders on compulsion.

Because here is the thing – if you honestly believe you wrote something original and then there are 10,000 jokes identical to it on Twitter within an hour, then there is a chance you not very good at making jokes (or in the very least you need not defend some of these weak ones).  That is not my opinion, that is just a fact based on numbers.  I read a couple of good jokes (literally like 2-3) and found myself less annoyed because at least when making something you know is offensive you should be pretty sure that it is funny.  Otherwise you are shitting on someone without providing comedic benefit.  Like comedians who think talking about eating ass is automatically funny, just because Patrice O’Neal could make funny jokes about it.

The real problem is that anyone with a few mics under the belt believes their comedy is unassailable because they are automatically “truth tellers” and on the front line of the defense of the First Amendment.  I am not saying you cannot say what you want. Feel free to.  But if your joke sucks, don’t automatically assume it is because you are too edgy and pushing the boundaries of decency like a modern day Lenny Bruce.  You might just be mediocre at writing jokes.  And that merely highlights the laziness, the indecency and the shamelessness of an otherwise lame joke.  Of course I have friends who made some F & F jokes and for some it represents a microscopic blip on their overall quality comedy landscape.  But other folks I see in social media consistently produce lazy crap that is offensive, but then claim Constitutional and artistic protections to hide the fact that the jokes suck.  Like someone who doesn’t show up for work for a month, gets fired and then claims racism, sexism or some other form of discrimination is the cause.

And then, the second thing that occurs after hastily constructed hackery and the almost as quick backlash against said hackery are folks within comedy that claim that self-righteousness, or policing of comedy, is the real problem.  I don’t know if any of the comments on my Facebook feed were directed at my comment referring to this stuff as evidence of bad comedy, but the fact remains if you enjoy me criticizing Louis CK, or hecklers, or hacks, or alternative comedy or Kevin Hart or anything else in comedy, what makes you think that something as ubiquitous as bad jokes about celebrity deaths would get a pass?

I have always defended comedians’ rights to workshop harsh or offensive material because that is the only way to find the funny.  But if calling Jeff Dunham a shit show is generally accepted among comedians, why is calling a hack joke about a tragedy tasteless and lame suddenly beyond the bounds of the unwritten comedians’ code?  And Twitter, as Jim Rome said, is in ink.  Unlike an open mic, social media, for better or worse, is a final draft once you publish it.  And if you can have the balls to chance a bad joke about a sad event, then at least have the balls to own up to creating a weak joke for exploitative purposes (if clicks, hits or retweets trump “funny” in your calculation of whether or not to put out a joke, you have already lost the protection due to comedians for that joke because funny was not your main intent).   If you added me as a friend, or followed me on Twitter because you like the approach I have to calling out stuff in comedy and mocking it, then this is merely in keeping with why you like my stuff.  Like I said, I don’t know if any of those comments were directed at me, but I don’t police comedy.  I just take shots at bullshit without wondering what the cool kids think.  Sometimes they like it and sometimes they don’t.  Oh well, rant portion over.

There was a more positive lesson learned this weekend from tragedy and comedy.  The fund raising campaign for my web series Comedy Academy ended and $2630 was raised!  Since family members contributed less than 10% to the campaign it was nice to see that there are still fans, friends and colleagues that have some degree of respect for the stuff I have been working hard to produce.  And of the groups of people who contributed most (in dollars and number of contributors) the most came from law school classmates and fellow comedians.  The lesson?  Endure tough experiences with people and they are more likely to support you.  So the lesson I guess is for you struggling comedians to join the military.  Because if the rigors of law school and the impoverished misery of comedy can breed more loyalty and support than other groups in your life for a lot longer, just imagine what a few tours in Afghanistan could do for fundraising campaigns among your brothers-at-arms when you get back stateside!

For more opinions, comedy and bridge burning check out the Righteous Prick Podcast on PodomaticiTunes and NOW on STICHER. New Every Tuesday so subscribe on one or more platforms today – all for free!

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Fast Five – Because Every Generation Deserves A Police…

I gave up movies for Lent and successfully made it just over 6 weeks without seeing a movie.  This “accomplishment” startled my brother who believed that my viewing of movies was bordering on a crippling addiction.  But I did it.  And yesterday I saw my first movie in several fortnights – The Lincoln Lawyer.  I am not sure if it was withdrawal or not, but the movie was quite good.  It had various things working for it:

  • Matthew McConaughey finally doing a good movie again.  He burst on the scene with the lead in A Time To Kill, and I suppose after doing 437 terrible romantic comedies he either made a conscience decision to do a good film again, or it was an accident and he thought the Lincoln Lawyer was about a lawyer from Lincoln, Nebraska who falls in love with Kate Hudson, but finds it hard to win her over because he is the only guy in Lincoln, Nebraska who never wears a shirt.  Either way – good choice on the movie.
  • It has Bryan Cranston of Breaking.  After a year without a new season of Breaking Bad it was just good to see the dude doing his thing.  (Best show on television and anyone who knows me and has ignored this advice is stupid).
  • It has Josh Lucas.  Anyone who can remember the preview for the film Sweet Home Alabama, can recall seeing that preview going, “Who the fu*k is that dude pretending to be Matthew McConaughey?”  They share the screen in this film and it is like the scene in Double Impact when the bad guys realize that Van Damme is actually a twin.

 

But the good cinematic times are not to continue I suppose because this Friday the ever-encroaching Summer movie season (seriously it used to be Memorial Day, but at this rate they will be releasing “Summer movies” on Valentine’s Day) begins with the 5th installment of the Fast and The Furious franchise, which is to movie franchises what Arby’s is to fast food franchises – a piece of sh*t inexplicably still in business.  Move over Police Academy and Saw, there is a new, awful franchise sheriff in town.

This edition, simply entitled “Fast Five,” but I think they could have called it “Quick Buck.”  The movie stars Vin Diesel, Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson, Paul Walker, Tyrese Gibson, Ludacris, and Jordana Brewster.  Jordana Brewster is appropriate as an ex girlfriend of Derek Jeter because the cast of this film sort of looks like a Yankees team form 5 or 6 years ago – overpriced stars whose careers are headed south.  And what about Michelle Rodriguez and Bow Wow?  Were the stars of the critically acclaimed Battle: Los Angeles and Lottery Ticket too busy for this reunion?  Always a bad sign when Michelle Rodriguez is too busy to do your film.

Police Academy, Saw and now Fast and Furious joins the pantheon of "How the fu*k did that become a franchise?"

But let’s take a quick look at each cast member:

  • Vin Diesel  – broke into Hollywood with a supporting role in Saving Private Ryan.  Has anyone ever had a greater disparity in first major film and rest of career?  It would be like if Matt Damon did Good Will Hunting and then immediately signed a lifetime deal with Tyler Perry studios.  Except Vin Diesel is a terrible actor.
  • The Rock – there is no shame in being the best on the mic specialist in WWF/WWE history.  He could  make a lot of money doing that and he was great at it.  And he also had a decent first major effort (not counting The Scorpion King, which sucked) in The Rundown.  But his latest movie, “Faster,” was “Awful.” 
  • Paul Walker – very good looking guy.  Very un-talented.  Isn’t LA full of pretty people?  And there was no one that looked like him that could act a little bit? 
  • Tyrese – one of his hit songs when he was a model-turned singer was “How you gonna act like that?”  Good question Tyrese.  He may be best know as “Black guy in Transformers who says the “black guy stuff that Michael Bay likes to write into his films, like ‘Damn!’  ‘Shiiiiit!’ and ‘That is wack!'”* character.

* Not Another Teen Movie

  • Ludacris – Who’d think that it would be Chris Bridges might have the best acting resume on this cast?  He was in Crash, a good movie (but also arguably the worst best picture of all time) and was also in No Strings Attached, which was not good, but might be the best 2nd best movie of anyone on this list.
  • Jordana Brewster – hot if I worked with her in an office, satisfactory for a Hollywood actress (I file her under “Angie Harmon looking chicks with thicker eyebrows), but fortunately she has boatloads of talent on top of good looks.  For example, this is her third Fast and Furious movie.

Fast forward to Monday morning next week – I am reading the New York Times and see the listing of box office receipts from the weekend and it say $47.9 million Fast Five.  Congratulations America – hopefully you enjoy your reward for your poor choices and market influence – Thor opens up next Friday (I am not sure Thor will be awful, but it sure has the warning signs).

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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:

THE LOSERS

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!

The Fisher Family will change your life.

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.

Here's an objective truth about a show about a scientist - Breaking Bad is the best show on television.

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.