Thursday, June 25, 2009

An Old Fake New Yorker Joke

Sunday, June 21, 2009

Conan Father's Day Bit

Perfectly executed.

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Wednesday, June 10, 2009

[UPDATE] Horror Stories From SNL in 1995

A choice excerpt, because I don't feel like I have sold this piece well yet. Skip to the end, if you don't like Roseanne, but do like stories about Norm MacDonald punching people:
Lately, the extracurricular action in the writers’ room has been more colorful than a lot of the writing.

The show hosted by Sarah Jessica Parker, in November, included a song contrasting love’s higher and lower impulses. Michael McKean sang chastely to Parker, plunking an acoustic guitar; then Sandler cranked up his electric guitar to underscore sophomoric lines like “I’m gonna give ya the wood!”

During rewrites of the piece, Kightlinger jokingly suggested to the group that the song be made even more explicit—and found herself the target of a crude barrage. “A couple of them turned on her,” says a close friend of Kightlinger’s, “with these really vicious, mean sexual things. . . . She’s one of the strongest people I know. Very tough to faze. And it made her cry.”

Kightlinger, who wrote for Roseanne last year, has been reciprocally shocked by the thin skin of her new colleagues. “I’ve had to pare down my sarcasm big-time,” she says, adding that she now feels “really positive” about SNL. “In the writers’ room at Roseanne, you could shit on each other and everybody would laugh. But here, it’s like, ‘Wait a second—that’s a piece I’ve worked on, dah, dah, dah.’ It gets personal in a hurry.”

In December, Ian Maxtone-Graham, a self-described anti-smoking zealot, complained about Norm MacDonald’s lighting up in the writers’ room. MacDonald shrugged it off. So Maxtone-Graham extinguished the cigarette by squirting MacDonald in the face with a water pistol. MacDonald punched Maxtone-Graham in the head, knocking him to the floor.

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Horror Stories From SNL in 1995

There are a lot of great bleak vignettes in this article—from Chris Farley's sycophantic display at a memorial for deceased SNL-writer Michael O’Donoghue, to Julia Sweeney's personal annoyance with Lorne Michaels' phalanx of high-strung young blonde assistants (widely mocked as "the Lornettes").

I left the article with a sense of the heroic awesomeness that is Jim Downey; pitty for the "too hip for the room" new hires like Laura Kightlinger, Chris Elliot and Janeane Garofalo; a reaffirmation of my love for Bill Murray; and a potentially productive chunk of my day gone.

[Link via a 1995 New York magazine]

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Monday, June 08, 2009

Bruce Sterling's "Eighteen Challenges in Contemporary Literature"

SUMMARY: Easily, not the dumbest thing Bruce Sterling has ever written.

Naturally, everything he says applies just as urgently to cartooning and ought to have been on the agenda for MOCCA's Making Good Comics in a New Era panel.

Below are a few of the challenges* that I have comments about:

2. Vernacular means of everyday communication — cellphones, social networks, streaming video — are moving into areas where printed text cannot follow.

Also true for printed text paired sequentially with images. It's also conceptually indistinguishable from Sterling's #14, which is more a corollary than its own independent "challenge." (Who is editing this blog? Was s/he laid off?)

Something to keep in mind with this point is that: until you become a famous graphic novelist (whose very name is a Brand unto itself), film, TV and animation are your mortal enemies in the attention economy marketplace. Like the other losers (e.g. literature, nonfiction writing and the static visual arts) your twin hopes used to be that your production cost was still relatively lower and that the flexible pacing of your medium's consumption afforded audiences the breathing room to digest smarter, and thus more significant and lasting, idears.

Needless to say, the (relative) democratization of the means of video production, as well as the cheapness of digital distribution, have undercut those hopes significantly. Film, TV and animation will always be more expensive, but by much less than they used to be. And further, the public's ability to parse, edit, repost and generally scrutinize moving images has radically improved thanks to these technologies. The "Cool Guys Don't Look At Explosions" musical sketch from the 2009 MTV Movie Awards, should tell us something about the ascendancy of cinema studies in academia and its convergence with homemade YouTube montages. Namely: the shelf life of every genre convention in the moving picture medium has been dramatically reduced. If that's not a recipe for exponential sophistication, than I don't know what is. (However, I would be willing to debate the amount of drag force that a glut of "lowest common denominator" Reality TV, YouTube response videos and the like are effecting on this exponential up tic.)

8. Long tail balkanizes audiences, disrupts means of canon-building and fragments literary reputation.

This is probably the only leg up we have on our rivals in moving images, whose work can "follow the vernacular" as it hightails it (heh) into the universe of cellphones and streaming video. Comics will always be cheaper and can pour themselves into all kinds of niches faster and deeper. Provided, of course, that they can stop trying to appeal to their own limited niche audiences. You know what they are!

18. The Gothic fate of poor slain Poetry is the specter at this dwindling feast.

Okay. So, clearly, this is not a challenge, but an artfully elucidated statement of fact. Can I attribute this to laziness on Sterling's part? A bit of creative license that forces the critical reader to re-evaluate his entire blog post as capital "P" Poetry? And, if the latter, why not use the cooler British spelling, "spectre"?

There's more (#'s 3-7 obviously), but I'm reticent to spend more time on it.

[Link via Wired]

* ("Challenges" sounds like self-help to me—but I realize that it can also sound like some "NASA-grade inspiring," Camelot-era bullshit.)

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