The Blog Awakens

Hello neglected readers. Again, the perfect storm of procrastination, distraction, and general malaise has lead to blog atrophy. Since I’m no longer encumbered by a day job, I figure there’s no time like the present to put off the job search and give you something to wrap your eyeballs around.

The big day is on the horizon. The newest installment of Star Wars will be forcing itself on the movie-going public in a matter of days, shattering box office records and re-branding just about every consumer product in the known universe. Before it gets here and sets the new standard by which all seventh movies in a franchise will be judged, I thought we should take a moment and figure out which movie series is the current holder of the title: Best Seventh Movie. Obviously we’re not going to use any objective metric like box office gross or award nominations. In many cases, except for a couple of the ones on this list, any franchise that has gone that long is at the point of self-parody by plucky number seven. Let me point out that I haven’t actually seen all of these, but don’t let that dampen my expert-sounding tone.

7. Diamonds Are Forever (James Bond) – I’ve never been a James Bond guy. Sure, Sean Connery is the definition of cool, but when I was a kid I was more drawn to his turns in Highlander and Time Bandits. Awesome as being a super spy was, I wanted to be immortal and time travel with a group of British midgets. So, this belongs in the category of “haven’t seen,” but since this is the first major franchise to have a seventh movie (besides the Bob Hope and Bing Crosby “Road to…” movies), I figured it deserved a mention.

6. Wes Craven’s New Nightmare (Nightmare on Elm St.) – While I wasn’t much of a James Bond guy, I am a die hard Freddy Kruger guy. I’ve seen all of them. The recent reboot, like most recent reboots, is sacrilege. With franchises that run this long there is a general rule of thumb as far as quality. With the Nightmare on Elm St. movies, it’s the odd numbered ones that stand out. This first is a classic, Dream Warriors is fantastic (with a cast that includes Lawrence Fishburne and Patricia Arquette), and Dream Child is one of the campiest entries, with Freddy at his catch-phrasiest. Which brings us to the New Nightmare. This was Wes Craven’s attempt to make Freddy relevant again by rooting him in the “real lives” of the people who made the original film. Freddy has now transcended the screen. He’s pissed that the series is over and the only way to stop him is for Wes Craven and Heather Langenkamp (Nancy) to make another movie. They try to up the creep factor by making Heather’s son, who looks like he just came home from the Overlook Hotel, the conduit for Freddy’s reemergence.

It mostly pays homage to the original movie and tries to recreate some of the iconic deaths. Even if it’s not close to as scary, this was the precursor to Wes Craven’s Scream series about a “real life” horror killer that you have to follow a set of cinematic tropes to take down.

5. Star Trek: Generations – Like I mentioned earlier, there’s a general rule of thumb when it comes to any long-running franchise. With Star Trek, it’s the even numbers. Wrath of Khan, Voyage Home, and Undiscovered Country are all varying degrees of awesome. The only redeeming quality of Search for Spock was Christopher Lloyd as the lead Klingon… funny that they ended up time traveling in his ship for the next movie. Anyway, Generations had a tough legacy to overcome. Not only that, this movie was to be the bridge between the decaying original cast and the new class of Federation heroes that would carry the torch. Obviously, in order to do that, time needed to be rendered irrelevant. So, we’re introduced to the Nexus, an extradimensional realm which allows those who enter to experience their pasts over again, whenever and however they choose, to ultimate and unending ecstasy. Kirk is stuck there and Picard must convince him to leave so they can team up to stop Soran, Malcolm MacDowell, from chewing the scenery into oblivion. It’s a fun romp and we get to see Kirk get one last hurrah before taking up the mantle of Priceline Negotiator.

4. Furious 7 – This goes into the category of ones I haven’t seen. I take that back. I have seen the first Fast & Furious, so I’ve technically seen them all. Cars, guns, bad-assery, and combinations of all three jumping out of planes, crashing through skyscraper windows, and ignoring any basic laws of physics. Not a complaint, mind you. Movies like this are about spectacle and this one bugs the viewer’s eyes out like the love struck wolf in a Tex Avery cartoon…
Plus, now that I’m looking at the cast, you’ve got Tony Jaa as a henchman. Holy shit. If you don’t know who Tony Jaa is, allow me to enlighten you…

Long story short, do not fuck with this man’s elephant. Furious 7 also features the emotional goodbye to Paul Walker, who died doing pretty much trying to rehearse for the movie. Again, haven’t seen it, but I plan on giving it a looksee.

3. Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Pt. 1 – The first half of the last in the Harry Potter series finds Harry and his pals on a quest to destroy Voldemort’s horcruxes. I think that’s the plural of horcrux. The plural of vortex is vortices, so maybe it’s horcuces. I’m not going to try to parse the grammar of made up words. I’m just glad it’s not a damn emoji or something. This movie marks the first time in the series where it wasn’t super creepy to look at Hermoine in the way that most creeps were doing since The Sorcerer’s Stone. This was also the first movie in the series that broke from the formula that was established in the first one: Professor of Defense Against the Dark Arts turns out to be a tool of Voldemort, Harry figures this out, wins a Quidditch match, uses whatever object happens to be in the title to beat back Voldemort, rinse, repeat.

2. X-Men: Days of Future Past – The X-Men franchise has been spotty. It’s got two real quality entries, X2 and X-Men: First Class, and two that are widely regarded as two of the worst comic book movies ever made, those being X-Men: The Last Stand and X-Men Origins: Wolverine. Days of Future Past, much like Star Trek: Generations, serves as a bridge between the original cast (again with Patrick Stewart) and the prequels that have rejuvenated the franchise. Wolverine, who is basically just walking sinew at this point, is sent back in time to prevent the cataclysmic future that the X-Men are currently facing: Sentinels that can adapt to their mutations to take them out. This movie hinges on two great set pieces. The first is the prison break of Magneto with the mutant Quicksilver. Since Marvel and 20th Century Fox both technically have rights to the character, both decided to include him in their respective sweeping super storylines. This is the superior handling of the two.

The second awesome set piece is Magneto picking up RFK Stadium and dropping it on the White House lawn. The action in the movie is great and Michael Fassbender does a great job lending gravitas to a role that was previously inhabited by one of the best actors of a generation.

1. Creed (Rocky) – If you haven’t seen Creed, GO. SEE. CREED. When I mentioned that many franchises that go this long become a parody of themselves, this was where the Rocky franchise had gone. People forget that Rocky won the Oscar for Best Picture. Rocky II was a good movie. Rocky’s III and IV are 80s cult classics, but they’re cartoonish as hell. I need to go back and watch the boxing sequences in the first two movies, because watching the matches in Rocky III and IV, it’s a wonder how any of those fights went longer than 30 seconds. They just pummel each other in the head with no thought of defending. The fifth and sixth in the series are hot garbage. Creed brings the respectability back to Sylvester Stallone that makes you all but forget Stop or My Mom Will Shoot! Google it. It follows the story of Apollo Creed’s illegitimate son, Adonis, who seeks out Rocky Balboa to train him. I mentioned the boxing from III and IV, well they actually make the boxing look and feel real this time. The only thing that was missing was a dream sequence that could’ve brought Carl Weathers into it somehow. Sort of like in Happy Gilmore. Or maybe as a ghost Jedi.

Thanks for reading. I hope I can make a regular go at this again, but I’m easily distracted…

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Stupid People Are People, Stupid

Hey gang… Again, I’ve neglected you. Just when I thought I was in a good bloggy rhythm, I went on vacation, got distracted, then just plain got lazy. Before you know it, I’m a week away from going 0 for April. So, in the hopes of getting back on track, here I am for your mild amusement. A quick update before I get started.

Thank you to everyone who voted for me in the Washington City Paper Best of DC 2014 Reader’s Poll. If you look to your right, you’ll see the fancy new widget declaring my runner-uppery. I’m winded from running up. My nipples are chafed. It was a long race. So, the pressure is off this year, since I’m only “one of” the best comedians in DC for 2014. Congrats to my buddy, Jimmy Meritt for taking the top spot. Next year will be the tie breaker.

Onward to my pithy musings…

I saw on Good Morning America that people are getting plastic surgery so they can look better in selfies. These people apparently have low selfie-esteem. Plastic surgery isn’t going to fix the problem because they’re flawed on a deeper level. Since they’ll be under anesthetic already, why not take a melon baller to the part of their brain that gives a goddamn about selfies? I don’t understand the obsession with selfies, probably because I’m old. Maybe they think because artists paint self-portraits that their duck-faced vanity is a form of expression. I think these people would be much happier with themselves if they had friends to take pictures of them.

Another thing I saw on GMA was a segment with chef Emeril Lagasse. They had viewers tweet him the leftovers in their fridge so he could find creative ways to “kick it up a notch”. The stuff people were sending in didn’t take a master chef to figure out what to whip up. The one I saw was basically, “Brace yourself Emeril. I’ve got eggs, bell peppers, mushrooms, swiss cheese, and flour tortillas. I can’t wait to see what you do with that! I’m uncreative and I’m starving.” I want to see what he does with the contents of the average American refrigerator, “I’ve got day old bologna, half a tuna fish sandwich, a six pack of Miller Lite, a box of baking soda, and I heard a voice say ‘Zuul’.” If he can come up with something besides the number for Poison Control, then color me impressed.

For the love of all things holy, please peel the stickers off of your baseball caps. I don’t care what race you are, you look like a moron. You might as well leave the price tags on your clothes and make a boutonniere out of the receipt. Congratulations on your purchasing power.

As I was washing my hands (I know, “Stop bragging.”), I noticed that the soft soap had directions on the back of the bottle. They read, “Use to wash hands as you would use any liquid hand soap”. Listen, if you’re going to assume that someone is dumb enough to need directions to use your soap, then don’t assume they’ve used any other soap. Your apparent target audience is a feral wolf-boy who has only recently entered civilized society. You can’t use the word you’re trying to define in the definition. It’s lazy and if it was genuinely meant to instruct someone to use soap, then give them a three step method or something. Shampoo does “Wash, Rinse, Repeat”. Don’t you guys have the same writers?

Thanks for indulging me. To be continued…


Big Money, No Whammies

Hey gang. I’ll pretend you both noticed and cared that this entry is late and apologize accordingly. I just got back from a fun show at the Bucks County Playhouse in quaint New Hope, PA. I had the pleasure of working with my good buddy and frequent comedy co-star, Kelly Terranova, the funniest comedian in his price range. A good time was had by most.

Everybody dreams about having a dump truck full of cash emptied in front of their house. Sure, earning money is fine, but we’re a nation of dreamers, and dreaming takes no effort. Over the past couple weeks, I’ve missed out on a possible $1,400,001,500. Let me break that figure down for you. Many of you may have heard that Warren Buffett has offered up $1 billion for anyone who can fill-out a perfect bracket. Through the first four days of the tournament, only one bracket is still eligible for the prize. Some guy named Biff Tannen. That guy has a bright future.

I filled out a bracket, hoping to take my 1 in 9.5 quintillion shot at the contents of Scrooge McDuck’s couch cushions. My chances disintegrated after the first game, when Ohio State lost by one point to Dayton. $1 billion out the window. I’m horrible at picking these games. I had a couple 12 over 5 upsets, but those are easy to pick when 3 of the 4 5-seeds crap in their hat and get bounced. The tournament is great theater. The plucky underdog vs. the national powerhouse, over and over again. Once my brackets got busted for gambling purposes, I just started rooting for chaos. If I can’t be right, let’s see if I can be the least wrong. And sometimes it’s great to be wrong. I had Duke getting out of the first round and I’ve never been happier to watch my incorrectitude. The sun shined just a little bit brighter after the Duke, the Cobra Kai of college basketball, took a crane-kick to the mush and got ousted by a 14-seed. Yeah, so what if UMD didn’t even make the NIT? Shut up!

One digit down from the billion, the $400,000,000 was the size of the recent MegaMillions jackpot. I’m starting to think the numbers you get from fortune cookies don’t mean anything at all. And it turns out the numbers of my anniversary and my birthday aren’t that special after all. It’s hard to maintain a sense of self-importance when the universe seems so oblivious to your demands.

A couple zeroes down the line was my most realistic missed opportunity to cash in. I meant to bring this up in the previous entry. A couple weekends ago, I got a call from a comedian buddy of mine. Someone had cancelled last-minute for a show at a synagogue and he thought I might be a good fit. Unfortunately, I was already booked that night, so I told him I couldn’t do it. His reply, “That’s too bad, because they’re paying $1500 for 30 minutes.”
“Give me the number,” I said. “I’ll find a way to make it work.” I gave the lady organizing the event a call and, unfortunately, they had just filled the spot before I got to her. I was still in disbelief, so I asked her, “How much were you offering again?”
“We have a $1500 budget. Why, how much do you charge?”
“Significantly less,” I said. I told her to keep me in mind for anything they have going on in the future. Congrats to the lucky bastard who snagged it. It’s just crazy how much people outside of comedy think our services are worth is in stark contrast to the money we get at actual comedy venues. Just sayin’ is all.

¬†For those of you who enjoy pro-wrestling, do me a favor and mark June 19th on your comedy calendar. I’ll be opening for the hardcore legend, Mick Foley when he comes to the DC Improv. The stage will be surrounded in barbed wire. Have a nice day.

Triviera

Hey gang. I had the day off from work today after helping to manage two massive events for the trivia company I work for, District Trivia. I don’t know if I’ve mentioned that before in the blog, but I write trivia questions for a living. We’ve been holding a four month long city-wide trivia tournament which culminated on Tuesday and Wednesday, giving away cash prizes totaling $6500. Not bad for answering the ridiculous questions that germinate in my noggin.

Bar trivia tends to attract an odd cross-section of humanity. People who aren’t typically social go to a bar and compete with Asperger’s level intensity over the tangential minutiae that infests the brains of most thirty-somethings like if Hoarder’s did a cross-over episode with I Love the 80’s. So basically I facilitate the social lives of nerds. That’s not fair to classify all of our players like that, it’s just one end of the spectrum, but the one’s that made it to the Tournament Finals might as well have been anthropomorphic cerebral cortexes. Anyway, they’re smart the way LeBron James can dribble a basketball and when their intellect is challenged, they like to argue. One of the bonus questions was, “Who is the only Muppet to appear on the cover of Sports Illustrated?” I had more than a few people try to argue that Big Bird, which is the correct answer, is not a Muppet. I counter-argued that these people are soulless monsters.

A good time was had by all, but it was a stressful undertaking by the entire staff and I’m glad it’s in our rear view mirror. If you’re interested in trivia, you should check out one of our 25+ in the DMV area. Follow the link above for all the info.

I’m not sure what else I wanted to cover in this installment. I’m slowly but surely getting back into regular comedic activities. I had a fun time headlining the show over at Benny’s Bar & Grill on the mean streets of Potomac, MD. I’ve got a show tomorrow night at a country club in Avondale, PA on Friday. I’ve been trying to pepper in some new material at these gigs, but my brain is so hard wired with my current routine that when I try to shake things up, the needle skips a groove.

I’ll leave you with this very cool conversation between Rainn Wilson and the late Harold Ramis. It’s ten minutes well spent. Enjoy…

Twelve Years a Comic

Hey gang. Welcome to March. I’m usually good about celebrating arbitrary milestones, so I’m happy to tell you that this past weekend marked roughly 12 years as a stand-up comic. *throws handful of confetti in the air* I’ve slowed down in these last six months, but I’ve got some shows coming up this month and I can promise I’ll return to the slow grind of showbiz soon. Following through, is another story, but the promise is the first step on the road to sincerity.

Hey, have the Oscars ended yet? What a steaming pile of dreck that was. I normally like Ellen DeGeneres, but the best thing she delivered all night was the stupid pizza. The writing was lazy, costume changes took the place of clever segues, and it felt like she just decided to wing it at some point. The “this person needs no introduction” gag was cute but tired the first time, but why would you need to use it again? Maybe the rest of America gives a damn about how you’re pals with these superstars, but the patter was awkward and forced. Sure, the star power of the selfie that broke Twitter was huge, but we’re there to celebrate these people in moving pictures. And why did they not give the winners the musical hook? The self-important yammering was endless. It’s fun when these guys talk over the music to thank their kids, but you can’t let these egos go unchecked altogether. What I’m trying to say is it was mildly ironic that a night dominated by Gravity was so heavy and tedious. Ellen will not be winning the Emmy for the Oscars, but whoever worked on Goldie Hawn deserves one for special effects.

Luckily, I didn’t watch this celebrity tribute to the Bataan Death March in real time. My wife and I had tickets to see Book of Mormon at the hungry hungry Hippodrome in Baltimore that night. I had plenty of lead time on the DVR to fast forward past the dumb technical awards. This Oscars had no pop. Say what you will about Seth MacFarlane, but at least it felt like he put some effort into it. Also, if you’re tasked with handing out one of these awards, could you learn to read a a goddamn teleprompter or *GASP* memorize the three lines of cliches before you take the stage? Your purpose on this planet is to make us believe that you’re not a stammering idiot when cameras are rolling. The theme of the night was also half-assed. Heroes. Three stupid montages is all they could muster up. Tell you what, Oscar producers, if you want to celebrate movies and make things fun to watch, play this next year…

And don’t get me started on the In Memoriam segment. Harold Ramis deserved his own tribute for his contributions to movie comedy and kudos to Bill Murray for giving him the extra shout out while he was presenting.

I mentioned that I’ve got some shows coming up. The first of those is this Saturday, the 8th at Benny’s Bar & Grill in Potomac. They made a fancy poster and everything…

Also, if you’re a fan of pro wrestling, I’m filling in for my buddy Justin Schlegel on The Rough House Podcast. That should be available for your consumption on Thursday afternoon.

So, enjoy those avenues that the Mild Amusement Express will be traveling on. See you next time.

What Goes Up…

Hey gang. I wanted to get another installment of the blog up just so I can put it in the “trend” category. The last two could’ve been a mere coincidence, but this one proves I really mean it. What “it” is, I have no idea. In any case, here we are. Before I kick this off, let me take this final opportunity to lobby for your vote in the 2014 Washington City Paper Reader’s Poll. Go ahead and click the big orange button on the right and help keep my ego afloat for another year. Polls close at midnight. If I get this thing done in time, that should give you mere minutes to validate me in this giant parking lot we call life.

As the witching hour approaches, let me tell you of some of my recent exploits. I am 38 years old, but I like to put the emphasis on the 8. As my childhood spins away from me like Sandra Bullock in Gravity, I’m doing my best to stay tethered to it, lest I be permanently grounded in curmudgeonly adulthood. To that end, I joined my buddy Seth and his family at the SkyZone Indoor Trampoline Park for an hour of escape from the confines of Newton and his laws. Here’s something I quickly learned: Bouncing is for the young. They don’t have as far to fall, they haven’t been calcified by time, and they lack the mechanism in their brains that tell them they’re mortal. As I was jumping up and down, I could feel my innards undulating and my spinal column compressing. And I was sweaty. You wouldn’t think some as simple as jumping would tucker you out so much. Not only were there trampolines on the floor, but there were wall trampolines as well. These were tempting. You always imagine yourself being able to pull off moves like Spider-Man, with the agility of a gazelle. I, it turns out, have the agility of a cinder block. I discovered another law of motion: For every action there is an equal and opposite injury. Luckily, the foam pit allowed for a soft landing…

Some crappy news recently in the world of comedy. We lost two giants, Sid Caesar and Harold Ramis. Without Sid Caesar, TV comedy as we know it wouldn’t exist. Sid Caesar pioneered televised comedy and paved the way for the modern day sitcom and shows like SNL. And Harold Ramis was as important to comedy in the movies. Without him we would’ve never had Animal House or Caddyshack or Ghostbusters or Groundhog Day or Groundhog Day or Groundhog Day. If they don’t get their own private In Memoriam segments at the Emmys and Oscars, respectively, it would be a mockery, and not in the good way these guys did it. Sid, Egon, we hardly knew ye…

Again, vote for me, while you still can. I promise to stop bugging you about it. Next time.

Quacey Frimpong

Hello neglected readership. Last week was a fluke, this week is a coincidence, and hopefully I’ll turn this into a trend. I want to tell you about the muse for this week’s blog. His name is Quacey Frimpong. At least I think that was his name. It was the name on the placard next to his teller window, so I assume it was him. I’m unsure because it doesn’t sound like a person’s name. It sounds like a style of underground Vietnamese table tennis. Do you train in a dojo on a mountain top to learn the essence of Quacey Frimpong? Does the fate of humanity hang in the balance of a Quacey Frimpong tournament? If so, to all of the players who are Quacey enough to play Frimpong, thank you for your sacrifice so that our way of life may remain untouched by the void of evil that seeks to unseat the champion of Quacey Frimpong.

I will never know the glory that comes with hoisting the Quacey Frimpong Golden Championship Skull.

Speaking of elite athletics, we are in the midst of the Winter Olympics in Sochi. I’ve watched bits and pieces of the games, but I haven’t gone full Quacey Frimpong about it. With the time difference and the constant flow of information, it’s tough to maintain suspense with every result being spoiled hours before broadcast. I do love how we treat every American victory over the Russians like the last five minutes of Rocky IV. It does give new meaning to the term “Cold War,” but Russia is hardly the superpower they used to be, no matter how many bears Vladimir Putin bludgeons with a shark on horseback. One event that has captured the ever-dwindling imagination of Americans is the story of Ice Dancing gold medalists Meryl Davis and Charlie White. The plucky youngsters who have been skating together for 17 years skated into our hearts and caused a lot of internal damage because ice skates are very pointy. They’re very talented but, since the surface of figure skating is inherently shallow, I find myself taking them, or rather her, at face value. What the heck is up with her face?

It’s kinda flat. It looks like she was the love child of the dish running away with the spoon. It’s very distracting. Every time I see her skate, this is what runs through my head…

Yes, I realize I’m a horrible person. Please to encourage me by voting for me in the 2014 Washington City Paper Reader’s Poll! It’s kinda like my Sochi, except without the stray dogs, the athletic achievement, or shoddy infrastructure. I think we can all agree that I deserve another term as Best Comedian in DC. Last year’s reign was cruel, but fair. Don’t do it for me. Do it for Quacey Frimpong.