Thursday, January 28, 2010

Why I Should Be at Genesis' Rock HOF Induction

I would like to take a moment to diverge from my blog's usual comedy subject matter to state my case for why I should be present for Genesis' induction into the Rock Hall of Fame in March. There is no bigger Genesis fan in New York City. I have been listening to their music since I was 11 or 12, and quickly discovered the Peter Gabriel-era material as a kid, even though I wasn't fortunate enough to have been of age when it was originally created. I've carried my love of their music well into adulthood, and I maintain that I even might have a had a little something to do with their 2007 reunion.

Hearing that Phil Collins would be performing on the Rockefeller Center Plaza for the Today Show in 2006, I trooped down there early in the morning and got a prime spot by the stage with a banner reading "Phil: Genesis reunion?" (with "Genesis" in the angled lettering of the band's best logo). Holding the banner high while Phil was between songs, I caught his eye, and got a shrug and a smile. But I like to think I planted the seed ...

So if the guys are out there reading this, please designate a seat for me in the Waldorf-Astoria ballroom March 15. I hope Phil and Peter both make it, even if Phil can't play drums right now.

Saturday, January 23, 2010

Conan's Last Tonight Show

On watching the last Conan O’Brien Tonight Show last night, after seeing one of the highlight montages of various stunts Conan had done in his seven-month run, including bits of the cross-country run through various landmarks that opened his first episode, it occurred to me that Conan had racked up more classic, truly funny highlights in seven months than Jay Leno probably has to show for 17 years.

Some of Conan’s stunts in this run -- being “bowled” down a lane and smashing into giant pins, tipping over rows of people in domino formation, and the like, definitely came from the line of Steve Allen and David Letterman stunts. Still others had Conan’s own personality to them.

20 years from now, or when Conan and Leno are both long gone, I’ll bet Conan’s work is going to be much more well-remembered and cited as innovative than Leno’s. And, in keeping with my takes on SNL, especially in this most recent review, I hope -- nay, predict -- Letterman and Conan should individually and collectively both trounce Leno in the ratings on his return.

As in the commentary linked to in my previous entry, sure, it could be said that all Leno ever wanted was the Tonight Show, and so one should understand his machinations now to take it back from Conan, but what was or is the point of having this show when Leno puts so little of his skills as a stand-up into making it a good program, rather than a middle-of-the-road accessible one. At least Conan pulled no punches.

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Men of a Certain Age

Awhile back, I pointed out that I thought Ray Romano had done a good job in the small independent film "Eulogy." In the past month or two, his talent for playing other types of characters, a shade different than the version of himself he played on "Everybody Loves Raymond," has come through on the TNT series, "Men of A Certain Age."

On this show, Romano, as actor and producer, mines comedy out of a different set of foibles -- those of a divorced forty-something and his two closest friends -- an out-of-work actor played by Scott Bakula and struggling husband and father played by Andre Braugher. Bakula's skirt-chaser is the diametric opposite of his best known role from the 1980s sci-fi show "Quantum Leap," and Braugher, too, plays someone different from his usual more kinetic detective and professional characters.

They provide unexpected good counterpoint to Romano's portrayal of his character's own struggles as a divorced dad -- shaping a whole episode recently around the re-telling of his first serious post-divorce date, interspersed as longer flashbacks between brief banter with Bakula and Braugher interrupting the re-telling. Imagine the banter of diner scenes from Tarantino movies, delivered by Tarantino-caliber actors, who know the right places to pause in delivering a line for utmost comic effect. That's what I'm seeing, week in and week out, on this show.

Sunday, January 10, 2010

Booknotes and other notes

Been several months since I've had time and ideas to blog about here ... A lot of other life stuff took over during the fall. So I'm just back on now to give a couple quick recommendations of comedy or comedy-related books, in lieu of full reviews, since these books have been out a couple months already.

Richard Belzer's "I Am Not a Psychic!" is his follow-up pseudo-detective novel, where he in effect plays himself solving a case, this time related to a decades-old murder and political scandal that swirled through Las Vegas. With this book, Belzer stakes a claim to making this concept or formula into a long-running series.

Tracy Morgan's "I Am the New Black," an autobiography, shows the serious side and struggles of the SNL and "30 Rock" star. Morgan lets his offbeat and loopy side, which is put to such good use on "30 Rock," come through in the pages. Morgan's got a strong point of view about being true to oneself in life, not just in comedy, and that also comes through in this book, which is what really makes it a compelling read.