Resilient Rabbit

It's all about bouncing back

Monday, July 13, 2009

Classic Comedy Clip of the Day: The Smothers Brothers' "Boil that Cabbage Down"

This even pre-dates The Comedy Hour. The video quality is terrible, but that only adds to its charm. Tip to remember: "puma" is always a funny word.

Thursday, July 2, 2009

Return Engagement / Final Engagement

Final Engagement

Marc Maron
2 Stand-up Comedy CD
Stand Up! Records 2009

Unprofessional though it may be, I'll start with a personal note: Yes, I'm back. Yes, it has been a long time. And no -- I don't feel like talking about it. (Okay fine -- we can talk later. But after this. I'm busy.)

Personal note #2: Maron's latest, "Final Engagement" was taped at Giggles in Seattle -- so I had the pleasure of sitting in the audience for the taping. It has been a long time since I reviewed the CD of a live performance that I attended; but it's always a treat. I love to compare the anticipation and surprise of hearing the material fresh to the more analytical experience of examining it repeatedly on tape. Hearing it again months later, knowing every punch line in advance, I still enjoyed remembering how each one arrives and lands.

But that's enough about me. What's been up with Maron? Quite a good nasty deal, it turns out. As usual.

Marriage number two is over. And in typical fashion, he uses the tale of that gruesome change as an opportunity to make himself look vulnerable -- so we can feel compassion and empathy for his story, even though he willingly admits that he may have driven her away. Even though he confesses that, in the back of his mind, when he reflects on her departure, he thinks only: "Good for her. I've been trying to leave me for years."

I enjoyed this material for many reasons; but I think my strongest connection to it arises from the associations with middle age. Let's be honest: the break up story of an attractive and virile 25 year old is frequently trite and overplayed. But the story of being left again at 40 is a far richer tale. But it takes confidence and skill to find the funny in an experience that is not only painful but which could easily spill over into pathetic if not diced precisely. Thankfully, after 25 years at this, Maron can avoid those traps with artistry.

Instead, it's all handled deftly. By the time of this taping, he had the whole separation defined and summarized by one or two quick jokes. "My wife recently brought it to my attention that I have an anger problem. But she didn't say it like that; she said: 'I'm leaving.'" And everything from that point forward is just exposition. With that simple set up, we maintain enough sympathy to hear out his side of the story.

The non-divorce sections of the performance focus on more classic Maron material. The core of it is reflecting on how to get by in the world as an aging romantic who is constantly at risk of turning [even more] cynical. Who can't relate to this? It's the joy of day to day mental struggle. As in: "[I]f you walk up to someone and say 'Hi, how are you doing?' and they say "Fine", what they really mean is 'Help me! Don't walk away! . . ." But you can't say that because they will only respond 'Don't worry you'll be fine.'" It stays with you throughout the day and makes life's little interactions and annoyances all that much easier to bear.

Recommend. Download immediately.

Monday, June 29, 2009

Crowd Control

Last year, not long after Bernie Mac passed away, Todd Jackson over at Dead Frog posited that this brief Def Comedy Jam performance -- taped when Mac was quite young -- was, quite possibly, one of the most perfect little bits of stand up on record. The canonical example of how to turn a hostile crowd into a worshipful throng.

Recently I was thinking about this bit again and pondering: was Todd's observation (with which I agreed at the time) just hyperbole born out of our collective grieving? It's an interesting point to debate, especially for me. Because I'm someone who wants to spend hours in scholarly analysis of comedy, dissecting jokes line by line and wondering how each will be remembered -- how each will impact broader society. And there's just no room for that here. This is very simple and base material. As a scholar, it leaves me cold. As a woman, it makes me swoon.

Because what this performance has is power, timing, commitment, raw charisma and audience control at a level I've never seen in a comedy club -- a level reserved for a handful of the greats (and Bernie Mac was most certainly one of those). How does he do it? Can skill that intense be taught or cultivated? I am dubious. Some people are just born with it -- and it's always a joy to behold.

Sunday, May 3, 2009

Coulton and Hodgman: Tonight You Belong to Me

This was just too adorable to pass up. Brings back happy memories of Hodgman's last book tour -- which was a delight. Enjoy.

Thursday, March 12, 2009

Ricky Gervais Taunts Elmo - Muppet Fights Back

As the parent of a preschooler, this brought me great glee:

Friday, September 26, 2008

MaxFunCon -- Sold Out

For those of you attending -- can't wait to see you there!

For those of you who missed it -- how can you ever hope to become truly awesome?

Lucky for you, the ever generous Jesse has started a wait list. Check for more info.

Letterman Spanks McCain

It is probably the most popular video on YouTube today, but I wanted to post it here on the Rabbit both to assure a complete historical record and as a public service to those of you who may have been living down a rabbit hole for the past 24 hours. It is a true thing of beauty. God bless David Letterman.

My warmth towards Dave has really grown these past few years. It seems to me that, since his heart attack and the birth of his child, he is a different man. I don't think he particularly seems to care if what he says offends network leadership -- or anyone else. He is old -- he is successful -- and he has proven himself. He has earned to the right to call it exactly like he sees it -- and not too many people in television are in that position.

It must feel great. :-)

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Patton Oswalt, Seattle's Moore Theater, Sept. 6, 2008

I’m really not in the habit of crying tears of laughter five minutes into a comedy show. Especially when the headliner’s performance opens with a fairly straightforward (albeit long form) dick joke (no pun intended). Yet somehow Patton Oswalt managed to bring me to this state during the very first story of his show at Seattle’s Moore Theater. And I am still completely amazed.

It’s a testament to his skill. The very fine specificity of his word choice and delivery can bring even the simplest premise to an unanticipated level of funny – and quickly. I especially enjoy the way his marries that careful attention to detail with his own unique enthusiasm for his subject matter (even when that is not his own penis). The central joy of watching him perform is that it doesn’t matter whether he’s talking about his dick or the Bush Administration – whatever the topic, he engages with it fully and completely.

I don’t necessarily have anything against comics who define themselves by their cool and semi-contemptuous distance from the world around them; but Patton’s warmth and excitement for day-to-day existence is completely enchanting – and it is a big reason why he has become such an engaging performer.

I’m not suggesting, by the way, that his worldview is innocent or childlike. Quite the opposite. The natural and inevitable result of bringing such an upbeat, curious, energetic approach to the real world is, I suspect, repeated disappointment. And that disappointment provides him with more than enough cynicism to produce effective, mature commentary. In fact, he has a great piece in the show where he tells a story that comments on how the two parts of personality -- the upbeat and the cynical -- clashed while on the press tour for Ratatouille.

On the one hand, the exuberance and zeal that Oswalt brought to the role of Remy makes his character endearing to children. (In fact, I’ve heard Patton say in previous interviews that it was his enthusiasm and joie de vive that caused Brad Bird to cast him). Yet, at the same time, he acknowledges that, in his dealings with children during the press tour, he finally recognized how much he actually relies on cynicism as the basis for many of his dealings with the outside world. He encapsulates this with one of the best lines of the night by saying that: “my family coat of arms should just be two rolling eyes, a bag of Cheetos and the work “Fuck!” Crisp – perfect - awesome.

By the end of the evening, what really shone through the entire performance was Patton’s full-hearted passion– for life, and for his art. Frankly, it’s something that I, as an avid comedy follower, just don’t see enough of these days. And it truly sets him apart.

Thanks for stopping by Seattle, Patton!