America and Netanyahu Remind Me of Casino

I am not an expert on Israel. I have heard anti-Semitic things from people who claim to simply be against the “genocide in Gaza.”  I have also heard people of conscience complain about the crisis in Gaza.  I have heard people of decency defend the broadest parameters of Israel’s self-defense.  I have also heard people whose integrity I deeply question portray everything Israel does as part of its right to self-defense.  Twelve years ago I wrote a tweet saying that I thought the relationship between the United States and Israel was like that of Ace Rothstein (Robert DeNiro) and Nicky Santoro (Joe Pesci) in the movie Casino.

The implication was that there was a long standing friendship between one friend with considerable power (Rothstein) and another, smaller friend full of volatility (Santoro), but that the friendship was exploited and manipulated by the smaller, volatile friend at the expense of the powerful friend.  But now, while trying to write something within my self-imposed, New Year’s Resolution of weekly writings, I looked up and saw that 12 years ago, Benjamin Netanyahu was in one of his earlier stints as Prime Minister of Israel.  So, perhaps it is not actually Israel that is Santoro, as the country has been both bellicose, militant, self-defensive and peace-seeking during my life.  I would only be the 100 millionth person to condemn or criticize Netanyahu, but from my relatively ignorant, yet observant vantage point, it seems that he is as bad for the United States as he is for Israel and it is time for everyone to cut ties with him.  He seems to think that he, like Santoro, not only has a blank check to do what he wants, but that he is the main character in the story.


A Lesson from The Fan on Comedy

In 1996 a fairly bad movie called The Fan came out.  It starred Robert DeNiro and Wesley Snipes as an obsessed baseball fan and the object of that obsession, respectively (in case you thought the old white guy was the athlete and the cut black guy was the fan).  After murdering a rival interfering with Snipes’ character’s success, DeNiro has a conversation with Snipes hoping to receive some indirect credit for his daring actions, but is instead told by Snipes that his renewed success was the result of no longer caring.  Accepting that it is merely a game and that there are more important things than baseball relaxed him to the point of re-gaining his skills.

I feel like the same advice, applied in a different and much more “Murphy’s Law”, could apply to my comedy career.  In 2013, the comedy videos I made stemmed from a “who gives a sh*t” and “what are they gonna do, continue to not book me?” attitude grew my reach exponentially and garnered me a bit of respect, as well as a fair number of requisite haters.  I had been in a comedy troupe and decided I did not like the cautious direction they were taking so I struck out on my own and starting making the videos (since April the video view score is 380,000 to approximately 2,000).  Here’s the clip from the fan if you don’t know it:

Of course, the flip side to all of this effort was less time working a paying job and more time producing content that was free to enjoy, but not free to produce.  Also detrimental was being part of an entertainment community with increasingly cautious rising stars who claim to be free speech warriors, but are generally safe in the content they produce (e.g. accepted controversial targets like religion, which are actually incredibly safe in the warm bosom of comedy) and the targets they question.  Veterans and newbies like my stuff, but those rising middle class doesn’t seem to embrace my stuff as much.  They are like the Republican voters (I will avoid a house-field slave comparison – oops) who do not have the 1% loot, but may have a shot (or think they have a shot at it) so they vote against their current interests in hopes of being part of the 1% one day.  Comedy Academy, the biggest project I put together in 2013 will definitely be a no holds barred, I-Don’t-Give-A-Single-Fu*k project I have ever done and it will be funny to many, but to the comics with heat they will probably avoid it like the plague because as much as some of these guys act cavalier and brave, they are the ones who now “care” a lot.  Maybe too much.  Oh well.

But that is all preamble to the day job search that I am currently doing.  I even found a few jobs in law that would be perfect for my particular set of skills (which I say like Liam Neeson in interviews) that I applied to in the last week.  Because I am done waiting and worrying about the comedy cliques, booking practices, choices and management-booking synergy that is denying some people of fair shots at spots, I can be a little more relaxed knowing that all I need is just enough money to remove the stress of desperately hoping for industry/cool kid approval.  But this is of course when comedy rears its Murphy’s Law head because just the very week I start finding jobs that would be good for me…. I get 4 paid gigs to round out the month of January (have not had a month like this in 6 months).

I am convinced that comedy is just a spiteful bitch in permanent ex-boyfriend/girlfriend mode – it’s only concern is to keep you emotionally and/or financially insecure.   But fortunately I don’t care anymore so hopefully that means more good news is on its way.

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!


Someone Must Stop Adam Sandler

During the Cold War, the United States and the USSR battled for the future of the world, in part through a massive arms race.  In the process, many dictators and tyrants in developing and third world nations were put and kept in power, leading to the oppression of millions worldwide as both superpowers kept spending billions on weapons.  Eventually the United States emerged victorious, but billions upon billions of dollars had been wasted and countries from the Middle East to Haiti had been victimized by the global power struggle.

The reason I bring this up is because there appears to be an arms race in Hollywood with many parallels and Adam Sandler appears prepared to destroy anything he can to be the world’s worst movie maker.

I recently saw a preview for Jack and Jill, which is Adam Sandler’s newest movie.  Here is the preview:

The preview for this movie seemed like an effort to put Kevin James in his place.  For me Kevin James has been the worst star in movies since he emerged (the way Marlon Brando had a small, but powerful group of performances that made him an inspiration to younger actors, Paul Blart is Kevin James’ anti-Godfather).  But I feel like Jack and Jill is Adam Sandler’s answer, as if to say, “In case you forgot, I am the king of shitty movies so take this!”  Like a rap artist dropping an incredible comeback album full of vengeance and spite, or an athlete taking a challenge seriously and then destroying the competition on the field.  Jack and Jill is Adam Sandler’s declaration to the world that screams, “You cannot do shittier movies than me no matter how hard you try!  I will take Kevin James and Rob Schneider humor and incorporate Martin Lawrence and Tyler Perry sensibilities into my movies.  I dare you to try and beat that!”

And what is great about Jack and Jill is Sandler wanted to do more than destroy Kevin James and America’s sense of humor (the audience is the third world victim in the Sandler-Cold War scenario).  He was going to finish off a Hollywood legend.  I do not know how he got Al Pacino to agree to this, but now Al Pacino will have the ultimate blemish on his resume (apparently replacing Righteous Kill which sucked something fierce).  “Serpico, The Godfather, Dog Day Afternoon, Scent of A Woman, Heat, The Insider and… Jack and Jill.”

Now some people have said to me that Pacino is in cruise control like Robert DeNiro and I disagree.  Robert DeNiro has not touched a good movie in 11 years (Meet the Parents).  He has debts or dementia, but clearly he has decided that he is never going to make a good movie again.  However, Pacino has won an Emmy and been nominated for a Tony in the last couple of years.  He certainly has garbage on his resume in the last 10 years, but it is not near DeNiro’s legacy.  And for the record someone seriously should have killed them both before they were allowed to make Righteous Kill.  But when Sandler had the option of ruining a titan of cinema, he probably thought, “DeNiro is done, but Pacino still seems to have some passion for the craft in him.  So let’s rape that to death.”

So this Fall we will get Jack and Jill.  The shame of this is that when Sandler was new to movies they were funnier.  Then we made him rich and gave him control over his own production company.  Now, left to his own devices he has done the act opposite of successful Hollywood players.  Usually, actors who become A-listers get passion projects made that normally would be tough to get greenlit.  Sandler seems to be an example of a guy who actually benefited from more studio control.  He is like a mentally retarded kid with a 100 mph fastball.  If the coach is constantly guiding him on where to throw it he can make some decent things happen (Happy Gilmore).  However, if the coach leaves him alone he can cause tremendous damage to the fans in the stands (almost every movie he has made in the  last decade).  Heads up – Jack and Jill is headed straight for your face!


Conan & Obama – Hard Work, Nice Guys &…

It was a tough week for professional comedians and half black men, but it was also a tough week for Conan O’Brien and Barack Obama.  Conan O’Brien’s dignified speech towards the end of The Tonight Show was very impressive and inspirational, but at the same time felt like a scolding for me.  He said not to be cynical (too late) and that nice people who work hard do have good things happen to them (apparently he missed the Cohen Brothers’ “A Serious Man”, and the bringer system of NYC comedy clubs).  I feel like the motto this week should have been “Be Careful What You Wish For” for two of America’s most prominent public figures.

In The Untouchables, Robert DeNiro’s Al Capone said to a reporter, “We have a saying in my neighborhood, ‘you get a lot further with a kind word and a gun than you can with just a kind word.'”  Despite its cynical undertone, Conan and Obama would be wise to consider it (metaphorically, at least in Conan’s case) from here on out.

Here are a couple of other lessons I think they could learn:

1) Young People Can Get You To The Top, But Cannot Keep You There

Obama – all the new voters, especially in the young and African-American communities, (as I stated when he was inaugurated) were excited about Obama the idea and Obama the fad, but not enough were interested in Obama the policy maker or Obama the executive.  Here is an analogy – when Jay Z or Green Day come out with an album it sells well in the first week, but then tails off greatly because of iTunes and an overzealous anticipation of that first week.  However, if you want to sell a lot of albums today you want someone like Susan Boyle – someone who benefits from the media saturation of today, but whose base is old school and will support their artist in a substantial way that lasts longer and in a more traditional way (i.e. massive CD purchases).  Obama played the new technology in a great way making him a superstar, but a lot of his supporters will not support the old, boring white (albeit inspiring to some people) Susan Boyle’s who make the laws year after year (midterm elections).  They are just waiting for 2012 when the new metaphorical Obama album drops.  And by then he will have lost Congress and they’ll be complaining about his ineffectiveness.  See, Republicans are not to blame for all of Obama’s problems.  Just most.

Conan – his fans woke up when it was too late.  In the end the folks that eat up the road comics’ jokes on GPS navigation systems, erectile dysfunction and how odd white people can be to black people (and vice versa) have decided they want the safe guy back.  And like Congressional Republicans, Jay Leno had no interest in what was right and only interested in getting (more of) his.

2) Getting Tough Works

Obama – I hope he stops his moderate, reach across the aisle rope-a-dope and lives up to his recent speech in Ohio.   He will help himself and his country in the long run if he digs in and says enough is enough.  The word moderate has to have an objective value, which it does not for Republicans.  Instead, when Republicans hurl the term “moderate” they really mean, “We will prop up the Glen Becks, Sarah Palins and Tea Parties, pretending they speak for mainstream Republicans, even though we really believe they are far-right crazies, but then we will claim ‘the middle,’ by comparison, which is actually very right of center.  We will then bash the president for not moving halfway between rational and batsh*t crazy.”  But he should also get tough with the far left morons who are calling him George W. Obama.  They still need to live in the real world and not in a progressive utopia that is impossible with the Internet, 24 Hour News and the Constitution.

Conan – It may have seemed cynical or mean-spirited, but dropping the hammer on NBC was great (and funny)television.  He may not want to, but I think becoming the anti-hero of late night television would be great.

3) If all else fails, be a little cynical.

They both work in a country where a guy named The Situation may have more enduring popularity than either of  them.


Aging Gracelessly

Brett Favre has become a big joke to many sports fans with his inability to stop playing football and pronounce his name correctly.  This is often the case with great athletes, unable to hang up the cleats or sneakers or skates because their lives have had no other real goal or purpose other than excelling at sports.  But that is excusable in a sense because to attain the level of excellence they have achieved they had to be single minded from a young age and dedicated beyond reason to get where they are.  Sort of like Michael Jackson minus the all the abuse.

But it seems to me that from Facebook and fantasy sports to Harry Potter and plastic surgery our culture is obsessed with staying in our teens and twenties no matter what.  And to compensate for this, we’ve begun to add the words “classic” and “historic” to things that have not really obtained classic or historic status in any objective sense of the word.  Harry Potter is not a “classic” as is printed on the book covers.  And unlike its true classic predecessors, The Lord of The Rings and The Chronicles of Narnia, which have withstood a test of time, Potter has no deeper meaning or societal commentary that is usually necessary for something to gain elevation beyond pop relevance.  But to justify our culture’s unwarranted obsession with things puerile and fleeting we tag them with words like classic so that instead of feeling vapid we feel like part of something important.  And boy do we live in a golden age of importance!

Ipod now refers to the regular iPod as “iPod classic” – how many decades was Coca Cola in business before they threw classic on their beverage.  Watching the E! channel against my will yesterday I heard Ryan Seacrest make a bold proclamation that the cast of Dancing With The Stars this Fall was the largest in the show’s “History! ” It just seemed to cheapen the word History.  I think of History in terms decades and centuries, not in terms of a few television seasons.  To say nothing of the fact that the word “star” is still a misnomer for this show.

At this age I was already "classic" in today's terms. As opposed to the bow tie look, which was and is classic in the more traditional sense.
At this age I was already “classic” in today’s terms. As opposed to the bow tie look, which was and is classic in the more traditional sense.

Fame has always been fleeting and cheap, but even by that low standard it feels like we are actually living through a time where the value of celebrity is being downgraded.  If he had known what we know now Andy Warhol might have re-stated, everyone will get their 2-3 seasons of fame.  Like the Kardashians.

But to quote DeNiro from Heat, there is a flip side to this coin.  While older people are trying to resist maturity, their kids, left under the watchful and protective eyes of cell phones and the Internet, are in a hurry to leave childhood.  I watched Big yesterday, the film with Tom Hanks.  And in it he plays a 12 year old boy who likes playing with toys and does not know much about girls, etc.  It was a fun, humorous film and completely unrelatable to kids today.  Nowadays to get a kid to act like that and have the audience believe it, it would have to be a 7 year old, because by 12 Josh Baskins c. 2009 would be sexting on his iPhone and encouraging Elizabeth Perkins to do that thing he saw in a porno.

If I were to make a satirical film about the future it would just feature a society filled with people who looked 24 – some would be 13 year olds trying to look and act older, neglecting the fun and innocence of youth; others would be 58 trying through surgery and fashion to look younger and neglecting the wisdom and quality that can come from a long and fulfilling life.  Then there would be a group of 24 year olds going, “What the fu-k is going on?”  And it will star Seth Rogan playing all three since he is the only actor in his 20s who acts like a teenager, but looks much older than he actually is.

The Empire State Building was built around 80 years ago in 14 months.  I look around Manhattan and see buildings one-fifth the size taking five times as long to build.  Technology serves a legitimate function, but I feel like our culture in general is taking major steps backwards, while the bells and whistles of technology give us the appearance of progress.  As my Uncle is fond of saying, “Don’t confuse movement with action.”  Right now it feels like our culture is making a lot of movement, but not much action.

Now back to my Nintendo Wii.


Now I Know Why People Hate The Oscars

It is no secret that I love movies.  I actually saw Fired Up this weekend because I love the movies and movie-going experience so much.  And America does too.  How else can you explain Friday the 13th pulling in $48 million in its opening weekend, or even more inexplicably, Madea Goes To Jail, grossing $41.1 million this weekend (kudos to Tyler Perry though – if I had his marketing skills I’d be much bigger in comedy than I am).

And I have always loved the Oscars.  Not for the glitz, but just because it was another night of movies and movie clips, etc.  But last night’s awards show exemplified every thing that people who hate the Oscars have told me in the past.

First off I did not mind High Jackman as host at all, except for the annoying routine headlined by him, Beyonce and those future rehab cases from High School Musical.

Oh wait – maybe I should start with the Barbara Walters special – holy sh*t do the Jonas Brothers suck!  I mean I was willing to give them the benefit of the doubt, but they really suck, even by the minimalist standards of pop music.

Back to the Oscars.  Here are some of the awful highlights:

My biggest issue with the Oscars (besides just two wins for The Dark Knight) was Sean Penn’s win over Mickey Rourke.  I thought Milk was the best movie nominated and that Sean Penn deserved the nomination, but Rourke’s performance (and The Wrestler as a film) was so personal and moving that he was absolutely the clear choice.  Clearly Hollywood, in the glow of Obama’s victory felt like, hey it’s been a while since we had a political acceptance speech.  I think we’re ready again.  Cue Sean Penn, who always looks like he is in pain, probably because he is so tortured and such an involved actor.  But if anybody saw Robin Wright Penn last night – what could possibly be painful for Sean?

Someone told me this and now I finally agree – Sarah Jessica Parker looks like Dee Snyder of Twisted Sister. 

Slumdog Millionaire won eight awards.  I thought this was a very nice film, but 8 awards places it in the company of Amadeus and Amadeus it ain’t.  Not by any stretch.  And someone told me that the female lead of Slumdog recently left her husband.  See, chicks can be douchebags too.

Kate Winslet should not have won Best Actress.  Meryl Streep should have won, gotten on stage and said, “Sorry Kate, you can get Oscar when I’m dead bitch!”

The biggest vomit-inducing addition to the Oscars were the personal introductions by former winners.  Except for Robert DeNiro’s intro for Sean Penn, which seemed genuine because he actually knows Sean Penn well, they were all so obviously fake and just an ego booster for a group of people with already over-sized egos.  My personal highlights of these were:

  • Alan Arkin calling Phillip Seymour Hoffman, Seymour Phillip Hoffman
  • Kate Winslet’s incredibly bullsh*t “thank you so much/oh my God” faces for her introduction – Winslet reminds me of what DiCaprio said to Cate Blanchett in The Aviator: “Look at me Kate.  Stop acting.  Do you even know anymore?”
  • Angelina Jolie’s reaction – see Kate Winslet.
  • Brad Pitt’s thank you with hands clasped together, almost like prayer, and then pointing with them.  This is a signature douchebag move.

The only moments I truly enjoyed were the acceptance speech of the Milk screenwriter and Jack Black saying – I make movies with Dreamworks and then bet my entire paycheck on Pixar at the Oscars.

What an awful show.  At least Eastbound and Down did not disappoint on HBO.