Sunday, May 31, 2009

James Ellroy

Didn't think I would get a comedy-related blog item directly out of attending the Book Expo this weekend, but a great moment happened out of going for crime novelist James Ellroy's autograph at his publisher's booth yesterday.

Unlike a lot of the other authors who sign at the convention, Ellroy, by the time I made it up to him in the line, seemed to be conducting an hour-long stand-up act/profane circus barker monologue where signing was beside the point. Gesturing with a twinkle in his eye, he said, "Do you want to hear a joke?" as he invited booth staff and everyone near the head of the line to listen in:

A lion is fucking a zebra in the jungle, and the zebra's husband comes along. 'Quick,' the zebra tells the lion, 'pretend you're killing me.'

A pause settles as everyone realizes that's the drier-than-dry punchline. An apt joke coming from the author of such dark fiction.

Not to knock authors without such animated patter -- grateful that they do sign -- but a close second to Ellroy in booth patter was Elliot Tiber, author of "Taking Woodstock," his true-life story that is the subject of an upcoming movie starrting Demetri Martin. Tiber seemed to have running jokes going with two staff members working in the booth with him, and spying me, asked if I was sure I was over 18 and old enough to be reading what's in the book. "Don't look at page 46!" With a smile, I told him I'd be sure to turn to that page first.

Thursday, May 28, 2009

Romantic misadventures

Nearly a year ago now, I dabbled not so successfully in stand-up comedy at open mike nights, but it was valuable for trying my hand at writing my own personal stand-up material, inspired by my own experiences and perceptions, just like many stand-ups do.

I'm not actively writing this stuff now, but every once in awhile have a thought or two that could be worked out on a stage, and I just had a couple I thought I'd put out there.

I guess I'll never understand the objections some dates had. These were sort of in-between relationships, not just one blind date that didn't click, or a full-fledged relationship of some months or more, but one of those little pseudo stillborn things that took a little longer to not click. In one, I should have known when I tried to hold hands on a date -- not a first date -- and got an objection, "what are you doing?" Yea, I'm trying to hold your hand and be romantic, that's so terrible ...

Another time I saw a date into a cab, and kissed her goodbye, and she said, bland and businesslike, "thank you." Who reacts that way? I didn't get it.

Anyway, those are the two bits. I don't know if they would be helped or hurt by delivery in person, or if they play well in print, but consider them a few stray pieces of that stand-up career that never was.

Sunday, May 3, 2009

Parks & Recreation

The pseduo spin-off of "The Office" on NBC, "Parks & Recreation," is getting a faster start than that show did, as it spent its first several episodes simply recreating what happened on the BBC original.

With Amy Poehler in the lead, P&R uses the same documentary and interview style as The Office, and its creators are already having a lot of fun with the incompetence of some of the characters. Supporting player Nick Offerman makes an impression as Poehler's boss, a right-wing anti-government true believer who just happens to work for a government. Jester noted his gift as a completely different type of character on the short lived Comedy Central show, American Body Shop, where he played a spacey savant mechanic and was the only good thing about that show.

Also, Aziz Ansari, another Upright Citizens Brigade-spawned performer, gets more screen time and gets to do much more than on his brief stint in the final season of "Scrubs," as a subordinate who enjoys undermining Poehler and sucking up to Offerman. And UCB player Lennon Parham (see interview: had a memorable cameo on the show recently, as an opponent of Poehler's park plans.

Just as great Daily Show and UCB players have added to "The Office," "Parks & Recreation" benefits from a premise and situations that might be spawned in improv performances that the UCB is known for.