Remember that one time I was a bowl offender?
I was emailing George Edelman my thoughts about the latest episode of Mad Men when I stumbled across a little bit of trek magic.
Actually, this is one of the first episodes of the season that felt like it was course correcting to get back on some semblance of a track.
George, you’re right about them jamming every single possible plot line into this episode. It was overkill, but at least SOMETHING happened. This season has been a meander and at least they finally hit the gas and picked a direction…or eight. They could have cut about 4 of the plot points out of the show and probably would have been a lot better, but better that than no plot points.
What I enjoyed most was the resurgence of Don Draper and Roger Sterling. As I harped on before, Don is our central character and we need to see him move his life in a direction. Forward is great, backward is fine, but spinning the wheels screwing the Geek downstairs while his wife gets the glory is boring. Watching Don being Don is the central part of Mad Men.
But before we address that, the resurfacing of Roger Sterling is a pivotal moment. They’ve been beating up Roger almost as much as Don, maybe worse. He gets divorced, loses clients to Pete and weeps about a shoeshiner. Again, not what we want to see. Roger is Don’s Id, unrepressed sexuality and ability to say what Don can’t. He’s the Jester, and only the jesters can make fun of the King or speak the clearest truths. Getting Roger back on top (or on bottom with the stewardess that can only fall in love with a 60 year on man on TV) of his game allows Don to step into his strong and quiet role. Roger says the outrageous things we all think but won’t say, while Don says nothing but we think he’s brilliant.
I’m meandering with this email, but it’s thematic. I’m going to add Pete Cambell into this little equation as well. Pete is anti-Don. Whatever Don does effortlessly, we watch Pete struggle and fail. Cheat on his wife? Caught. Drop a horrible client? Instead, he gets dropped. Get into a fight? Get punched out by a Brit. But we need to see him fail to understand that what Don does is not easy. Pete isn’t a foil for Don, so much as a broken copy of him.
And this leads me right back to Star Trek! Don is our Captain Kirk, a fearless leader that loves the women. Between him is Roger and Pete. Despite his bacchanal impulses, Roger is Spock because there’s an ultimate logic behind his advice. Roger is mostly amoral and therefore driven by a default logic of chasing the easiest path to booze and women. Pete is McCoy. His caution and lack of impulsiveness is driven by deep human emotions of fear and guilt. His advice is often the right course, but never the sexy one.
So when both Pete and Roger are at the top of their game, the show thrives. When there’s a business decision to be made, they both pile on Don with advice. The advice is usually too extreme in either direction, allowing Don (and the audience) to choose the sensible middle ground. Don looks like the hero and the audience is happy.
I havet to concede it’s not fair watching Game of Thrones right next to Mad Men. They’re both amazing shows, but GoT is in it’s prime right now while Mad Men is heading for the exit. But I felt like both shows were waffling for the first three episodes before GoT started moving while Mad Men stalled. So maybe I’m tainted by Game of Thrones rapid pace and unending introduction of new characters and am now finding Mad Men a little static. They don’t have dragons or white walkers, so they have to rely on drunks and prudes to drive the action.
Damnit! Is there anything Star Trek has influenced?
I’m not going to write that all cap word that precedes the spilling of secrets to movies, books, TV shows or whatever has a secret that can be spilled. If you can’t read my highly informative title and glean that I’ve seen the movie when you haven’t, then anything I say won’t ruin the experience for you anyway.
To steal a line from my friend, Iron Man 3 plays like a good episode from some unmade Iron Man TV show. It’s entertaining enough in places and there’s a lot of robots fighting dudes with fire skin. But to look at it as a stand alone movie…well, it had some issues. And since deconstructive criticism plays better on the net than praise, let’s dig into the bad things and elevate them for scrutiny…
In no particular order:
Okay, I’ve bashed enough. Now here’s some things I actually liked about the movie…
As a final thought, I will say that any bitching done by me and 10,000 other nerds about the finer points of this movie will be unheard over the barrels of cash pouring into Disney’s coffers for this film. And to be honest, they deserve it. Iron Man, Thor, and Captain America are all third tier heroes as far as Marvel properties go. And yet, they’ve somehow managed to turn each of them into huge cash cows. While DC struggles with their A list heroes not named Batman, Marvel hits homeruns with everyone not named Daredevil. That certainly earns and “Excelsior” from this dude.
This is the Viking funeral for Clap Party, and more specifically, the character of Torvald. We kind of messed up episode #2 of Clap Party and did every thing that we vowed not to do. Serialized story? Check. Dark episode? Check? Convoluted story? Yup. Less of what the title promised? Hells yeah! Ben and I spent both screenings of the show with our hands literally over our eyes. Boo to us!
Afterward, I got a lot of feedback from people asking why I took my character, Torvald out of most of the show. I didn’t have a solid answer. So I called up Ben, and the Monday before the screening, he and I shot me eating eggs at his house for two hours.
The results were oddly the same and different. We came in 6th place, again, to a show with cats as nemesis, again. The difference is that we had changed the stakes for both ourselves and the audience and it paid off. We worked smart, not hard and the audience laughed about 3 million percent more than the previous month. In a contest where laughs are really the only reward, that felt like a win.
Of course, we actually lost. Sort of. We don’t get to make another episode of Torvald cleaning bathrooms or performing heart surgery, but that was the inevitable direction and demise of a show with limited scope. The good news is that Torvald doesn’t have that shitty ending and I can come up with even stupider characters to amaze audiences and irritate Kyle Riter. So set the boat ablaze, Torvald is going to a better place.
I’m a little floored today.
One of my best friends in college, Sandy Lawson, died a day ago. I can’t go into the specifics of how, but I can say it was not expected.
Certainly not by me.
The facebook sort of provides us with “Hallway Heaven.” It’s like being in between classes in Heaven and everyone you’ve ever known is there. You rarely have enough time for more than a passing “S’up,” but you are comforted just aware of the fact that these people from every part of your life is instantly available for a deeper conversation at a click’s notice.
But that’s not true for me and Sandy any more. And I am stunned and saddened by that fact.
I’ll be the first to say that the high water mark of our friendship was 20 years ago in college. She was my forensics duo partner. A spunky, lanky, awkward freshman with brown curly hair and hipster glasses before they were hipster. We were supposed to meet for a few minutes to talk about our performance piece. We ended up talking nonstop for 3 hours. The birth of a friendship.
Sandy was funny. Big time funny. She had a self-deprecating style of humor that lulled you into thinking she was a pushover. But then, she’d slip in a cutting, sardonic aside that would demolish you and any comedy bit you were trying to assemble like a Jenga puzzle. She was beyond funny and into that celestial category of ‘witty.’ But she could also handle physical comedy, improv, stage plays and comedy speeches with a deftness and subtleness that belied her facade of awkward. She was that good and I gravitated to that level brilliance. We made each other laugh every time we got together. And for a couple of years, we were inseparable.
We performed together in forensics. The team went to a campground in west Virginia to prepare for nationals. I made her hike up a mountain with me to simulate the challenge of being the best in the nation at speech. When we got to the top, we hung our underwear on the trees. When we both got knocked out of semi-finals our last year, we sat together on a curb and sulked. We were bad sports, but we were bad sports together.
I made her go to Cedar Point with me to audition for atmosphere entertainment. I was the mayor of the theme park, she was the street sweep. We sang, “We’re happy to be here!” even though we weren’t. We hung out everyday, that Summer. We even tried to get drunk on occasion. Sandy was so worried that she’d get caught (She was 20) that she drank in my car, under a towel. We didn’t get that drunk, but we laughed a lot about it. Two Summers, over a thousand shows and everyday filled with laughter.
I tried to get her to sing. She was terrified of it, but still we practiced. Years later, I found out she conquered that fear and was even in the choir. Bravo to that.
I cast her in my interactive dinner theater. She directed my plays. She was at my wedding, being the only person to roast me. We bickered and argued, then made up. We talked about our lovers, and were there when the other needed us. There was never any romance between us, we were brother and sister from the start and I’m grateful for that.
And then, just as suddenly, we drifted apart. I graduated, then Sandy did. I moved to Cali, then Sandy did. We met up a few times out here, but more often than not succumbed to the ‘SoCal flake effect.’ Missed you this time, but I’ll catch you later.
But I didn’t.
Sandy moved back to Michigan. I stayed here. Things seemed to be going well for her and then…she’s gone.
So, what do I say to you, Sandy? What does ‘Mr. Small mouth’ (inside joke) tell you now that it’s too late? How do I say goodbye to my duo partner, my theme park buddy, my improv gal? Why is it that I was thinking about Cedar Point - today before I heard the news- and dreaming up some way we could both go back and laugh about it? What about the remorse I have that I’ll never get that time we could sit and talk and laugh for hours on end? All those memories I have with you are now under my sole guardianship. I can relate them to others, but I could only share them with you. That’s what makes me sad today.
I shed some tears for you today, which is the exact opposite of how I need to honor you. So I want you to laugh at this self-involved, bullshit, hipster blog post I’m erecting for you as a monument. We’d laugh at this pretension and narcissism, but fuck it, it’s cheaper than flowers or a headstone, right?
I hope that made you laugh. And I hope this makes people remember your laugh. Your laughter was pure light, lady. Whatever troubles people had, when you laughed, they all vanished. That’s a powerful legacy.
I’m leaving a couple of crazy pictures of us for the internet to see. It’s us when we were at our silliest, at our best. Two clowns laughing at the world. I miss you, and the world misses you. But you gave us laughter and insight to who we are. You did that. You, Sandy! Thank you.
Remember when I wrote that cartoon for Skyrim and it was all in German (skip to end credits for confirmation)?
So my Funny and/or Die friends Nick and Charles called me a couple of weeks ago to shoot this crazy short with Gerard Butler. It was supposed to come out the day that Olympus has Fallen came out, hence the billboard.
I have to say, for an internet sketch, it was one of the more satisfying acting jobs I’ve had in a while. My character has to accept the loss of his family and an entire new reality. Oddly meaty stuff for a 3 minute internet video, but a blast to play.
Gerard was great and has unending energy. You can see him beat the shit out of me in a couple of those takes. Just imagine King Leonidas slapping you on the back for 2 hours and you can begin to feel my pain. I had a horrible fear that he was going to get so carried away that he would just absent mindedly neck snap me in the middle of a take and say, “my bad.” Still, it would have made great footage for my demo reel.
Clap Party 2 got canceled at Channel 101 on Saturday, due to a profound lack of audience clapping at the end of the show. The actors all did a great job, as did Ben, Nate and Dawn Cody in their respective jobs.
There’s a lot of reasons that episode 2 failed and lots of possible introspection, blame and soul searching, with a 20% chance of learning to be had. But rather than try to parse that out for you on social media or even post the video, I’m just going to show you this picture of a Carl’s Jr. Bacon Onion ring burger. Enjoy!