AKA 5TH BARON CHRISTOPHER HADEN-GUEST – Marilyn Armstrong

CHRISTOPHER GUEST – (born February 5, 1948) who is usually known simply as Christopher Guest, is a British-American screenwriter, composer, musician, director, actor, and comedian who holds dual British and American citizenship.

So there we are, Garry and I, watching “A Few Good Men.Garry looks at me and asks, “Is that Christopher Guest?”

I didn’t know the answer because he’s one of those guys who looks entirely different, depending on his makeup, costume and whether or not he is wearing a beard and if it’s a comedy, musical, or drama.

Christopher Guest

Or maybe he’s just the guy linking arms with Jamie Lee Curtis.

Christopher Haden-Guest, 5th Baron Haden-Guest is the son of an important Labour Politician in England. His father got the baronage, but Christopher inherited it.

These days, he’s both British and American and I love him most of all for making two of my favorite movies: “Best In Show” and “A Mighty Wind.”

He has a group of actors who he uses for many of his movies. He is goofy and funny. He loves folk music and dogs, so what could possibly go wrong?

I knew everyone else is writing about company coming or going or expected, but I just wanted to let you know that having looked up Christopher Guest, I thought he was really interesting and no, I didn’t know he was married to Jamie Lee Curtis. Or that he used to be in the House of Lords.

He is one year and one month younger than me. I’m sure that must mean something, but I have no idea what.

TOP TELEVISION THEME SONGS – Rich Pachall

Comedy Division, by Rich Paschall

sitcomsonline.com

This was a tough category to narrow down.  Even just considering comedies over the years you can compile a massive list.  There really have been quite a few good ones.  When tossing songs from consideration, I found I had to let go of some of those jingles that are more of a novelty than a good song. That would include things like Car 54 Where Are You? and The Beverly Hillbillies. For this same reason, I eliminated a few of my favorites like Gilligan’s Island, Mr. Ed and The Addams Family.

Cartoon themes could easily have been a component here, but I liked too many of those and think I may have to produce a Top 10 list some day.  I will hand out an honorable mention to The Simpsons for this category, however.  The long-running prime time series, now in its 30th season, is known by just about everyone with a pulse.  So you certainly know the opening theme.

We can also give an honorable mention to a closing theme.  While the opening tune for All in the Family may be well-remembered, the closing had a completely different song, Remembering You.  The tune was written by Roger Kellaway with lyrics by the show’s star, Carroll O’Connor.  If you search YouTube, you can find a performance by O’Connor singing the song, and not as Archie Bunker, or just hit the link here.

10. WKRP theme.  The fictional radio station was quite a hit in the 1970s, along with the theme by Tom Wells and Hugh Wilson.

9.  Making Our Dreams Come True, from Laverne and Shirley.  The Happy Days spin-off had a theme by the same pair that gave us the Happy Days theme, Norman Gimbel and Charles Fox.

8.  I Love Lucy. The tune was not written by Desi Arnaz, although his orchestra played the famous theme. Eliot Daniel wrote the music but was not given credit at the time, since he was under exclusive contract to another studio. The lyric by Harold Adamson was only sung by Arnaz on the show one time.

7.  Movin’ On Up, from The Jeffersons. The All In The Family spin-off produced a great opening theme by Ja’net Du Boise.

6.  Where Everybody Knows Your Name, from Cheers. Yes, this popular tune makes the top of some lists. The song was performed by the composer, Gary Portnoy, and was so popular he recorded a longer version for release after the show began. It also earned him an Emmy nomination.

5.  The Muppet Show theme by Muppets creator Jim Henson and Sam Pottle.  The prime time puppet show was way beyond Sesame Street.  The little ones may not have gotten all the jokes, but the show was always fun to watch.  The openings varied each season, but the music was the same.

4.  The Andy Griffith Show theme by Earle Hagen, Herbert Spencer, and Everett Sloane.  It’s Hagen that is doing the famous whistling.  Sloane wrote words and Griffith later recorded that version, with him singing instead of the whistling.

3.  Welcome Back, Kotter by John Sebastian.  The former Lovin’ Spoonful singer did not have much of a solo career until this number 1 hit song in 1976.  The television series was a hit as well.

2.  Happy Days by Norman Gimbel and Charles Fox.  The song perfectly fit the nostalgic TV series set in an earlier time.  The original opening was Rock Around the Clock by Bill Haley but was soon replaced by this original theme song.

1. Those Were The Days from All in the Family.  The tune by Lee Adams and Charles Strouse was so popular that Carroll O’Connor and Jean Stapleton, the stars of the show, performed it for each studio audience.

See also: TOP TV DRAMA THEME SONGS

FLYPAPER (2011) AND FILM CRITICS – Marilyn Armstrong

A while ago, Garry and I watched what is I am sure among the lowest grossing movies of all time. I don’t say this lightly. In its theatrical run, it grossed exactly (according to both Wikipedia and IMDB) $1100, which even for us is not a giant sum of money. No, there aren’t any zeroes missing. That’s the real number.

This is not the lowest grossing movie ever. In 2013, Storage 24,  the British sci-fi/horror flick grossed just $72 (in the U.S.) after it was released for one day, on one screen. In 2012,  Playback cost $7.5 million to film but only grossed $264 — the lowest-grossing film of that year.

Still, the all-time loser is definitely 2006’s Zyzzx Road, starring Katherine Heigl which grossed $30. You can look this stuff up. You might be surprised at how many films lose money on initial release, though some make it up later when released to cable and DVD. The bigger the initial budget, the larger the potential for disaster, so despite these horrific numbers, many movies actually lost much more money.

Flypaper only cost $5,000,000 to make, so they only lost $4,998,900. For a Hollywood bomb, that’s small potatoes. The movie was universally panned. It opened in one movie house on two screens, then disappeared until it popped up on cable. Garry didn’t recognize it, so he recorded it on the bedroom DVR. A couple of nights ago, while I was reading in bed (my favorite indulgence), I noticed the bed was shaking. He was laughing. Really laughing. Garry doesn’t normally lay in bed laughing. He told me that he was going to save this one because he thought I’d like it. If Garry thinks its funny, it’s funny. He has a discerning sense of humor.

Flypaper is a good little comedy. Farce, if you like. A parody of bank heist movies plus a bit of slapstick, technobabble, and some fine explosions. The dialogue is witty, which is more than I can say for a lot of movies the critics thought were great.

I do not understand critics and often wonder if we saw the same movie they reviewed. Sometimes, I wonder if they actually saw the movie at all or they read someone else’s review and are just repeating what they heard.

Flypaper features Ashley Judd and Patrick Dempsey. It’s directed by Rob Minkoff. The writers were the same guys who created the characters from The Hangover. Rob Minkoff is known for co-directing The Lion King. So they’ve got their bona fides in order.

My first thought, as the credits were rolling, was that it reminded me of the credits for the Pink Panther. And, it turns out, the movie reminded me of the Pink Panther too, minus Inspector Clouseau. Okay, it isn’t Blake Edwards, but it’s the same sort of “What else could go wrong” humor. It’s not a great movie, but it is a good one and fun to watch. Certainly worthy of at least a straight to DVD presentation.

I would normally not write about it, but it’s gotten a bum rap: horrible reviews and no support from its studio. Showing it for a week in one theater on two screens, with no advertising or PR is not exactly a grand opening. It deserved better.

The reviews in IMDB and Wikipedia demonstrate whoever wrote them never saw the movie. The descriptions are wildly inaccurate. I guess anonymity is not always bad. I wouldn’t sign my name to that drivel either. Then again, I wouldn’t review a movie I’ve never watched or a book I haven’t read. Call me old-fashioned.

Critics heap praise on movies that are boring or worse. They pan movies that are creative, unique, and interesting. They apparently take special pleasure in negative reviews, the more vicious the better. Meanwhile, they glorify obscure movies in which no one will be interested. They seem to believe that a good movie has to be dull. Ditto books. “Literary fiction” produces the most boring books I’ve ever read.

There will always be people who love things that don’t make sense because they figure it must be full of secret meaning. I went to school with these people. Didn’t we all?

Flypaper is funny. We enjoyed it.  We laughed. A comedy should make you laugh. This does. It’s every bank heist movie you’ve seen with Murphy’s Law running amok. Everything that can go wrong does. Parts of the film remind me of Wily Coyote cartoons. You know something’s going to happen, but it doesn’t spoil the joke.

The pacing is appropriately frantic. The cast manages to keep straight faces. The dialogue is funny and well-delivered. You have to listen because good lines are easy to miss if you aren’t paying attention.

Our favorite bit of dialogue is between two of the older bank robbers complaining that they miss the good old days when all you needed was a gun and a brown paper bag. This in the midst of what could only be called the most catastrophically unsuccessful bank heist ever attempted.

The ending is predictable … or maybe not. It depends on how your mind works. If you bump into it on cable or somewhere, give it a look. It’s pretty good. Really. I’m not kidding. I did watch it, including the credits.

Available from Amazon on DVD, Blu-ray, and download, most people who actually watched it, liked it. I’m still trying to figure out why the critics were so negative.

The more I write know about movies, the less I understand critics.

“BEING THERE” – A MODERN DAY REVIEW – Garry Armstrong

Last night, Marilyn and I watched “Being There.” We hadn’t seen this comedy from 1979 in a long time, probably years. What a difference time has made!

I recall seeing “Being There” when it opened. I enjoyed the farcical Hal Ashby film about a mentally challenged man who somehow influences high and mighty power brokers including our Commander-In-Chief and his aides. It seemed like a Capra-esque flight of fantasy in 1979.  Couldn’t happen in real life. Our political leaders couldn’t be so naïve or vulnerable. We were caught up with Jimmy Carter versus Ronald Reagan. Many laughed at the notion of an actor becoming President.

It wouldn’t happen, we smart folks reasoned with our historical savvy. No way a B-movie actor, revered for his roles as a beloved college football player and pal to a chimp named Bonzo — no way that guy could become the most powerful political figure in the world.  So we smugly thought.

Being There, 1979 poster

Peter Sellers is “Chance.” AKA Chauncey Gardner, a middle-aged gardener. The simple-minded assistant to a wealthy man who dies at the beginning of “Being There.” We don’t know much about Chance except he apparently has the mental capacity of a child. He is a brilliant gardener and likes to watch television. Chance is a sweet-tempered fellow whose world revolves around tending the garden — and watching television. He can’t read or write. He just gardens. And likes to watch …. television.

Chauncey Garden walking through Washington DC

Through a series of farcical plot twists, Chance becomes the house guest of an elderly, dying business tycoon and political king-maker (Melvyn Douglas) and his capricious wife (Shirley MacLaine).  The new benefactors mistake Chance’s observations about gardening as metaphors for Wall Street and fixing what ails our government.

The President (Jack Warden), a close friend of the tycoon, thinks Chance — now accepted as the mysterious Chauncey Gardner — is his benign Henry Kissinger. Chauncey’s garden recipes become talking points for the President’s economic directive.

Peter Sellers & Shirley MacLaine in Being There (1979)

There’s one hilarious scene in the middle of the film where the Black maid who raised Chauncey from infancy — and knows he has “rice pudding between his ears” — rails at her friends and points out that “all you need to become president is to be white.” That was a joke in 1979. Not so funny these days.

In 1979, the movie plot seemed outrageous and outlandish. In those days,  many of us didn’t believe Ronald Reagan could be taken seriously. None of us conceived of him as what we called “a president.” We would have deemed it impossible. I still do.

As “Being There” reaches its conclusion, Melvyn Douglas’ tycoon dies. At the cemetery, as he is laid to rest, the tycoon’s pals and the President’s aides quietly share anxiety about the country’s future. They don’t think the President is strong enough to lead the country out of its economic swamp. There’s a final quiet agreement that only one man can save the country, the man with the savvy garden metaphors, Chauncey Gardner.

Closing scene

The man who would be President is seen wandering through the woods and into a lake, staking his umbrella in the water, perhaps divining a miracle. The end credits roll with outtakes of Peter Sellers laughing his way through many retakes of plays on words.

Marilyn and I laughed as the credits rolled by. Then, we looked at each other. Quietly. Very quietly. Through some bizarre upside-down ill-starred event, during the heart of a perfect political storm, Chauncey Gardner became America’s president after all. Not benign — and definitely not a gardener, yet surely as stupid and illiterate.

A gardener would have been a better choice. At least he could have grown a few roses.

COMEDY, COMEDIANS AND COMEDIC RANGE – BY TOM CURLEY

This is a blog that’s been bouncing around in my head for I while.  Events that happened recently brought it to the forefront. I love comedy. Always have. When I was a child and got a transistor radio, I didn’t care much for all the songs about love and romance. I loved the novelty songs. The silly songs. I grew up worshiping Alan Sherman.

I still can recite the lyrics to most of his songs by heart. He was a genius at parodying old standard songs. His song “Glory, Glory Harry Lewis” is a parody of “Glory, Glory Hallelujah. The hero is Harry Lewis, a clothing worker who worked for Irving Roth.

The best line in the song?

“Harry Lewis perished in the service of his lord. He was trampling through the warehouse, where the Drapes of Roth are stored.”

Genius. Today, his mantle as been taken up by Weird Al Yankovic.

I have always prided myself on my comedic range. By that, I mean I think pretty much all types of humor are funny. I love intellectual humor.  For instance, Oscar Wilde:

On God: “I think that God, in creating man, somewhat overestimated his ability.”

Or Dorothy Parker: Use the word “horticulture” in a sentence.  “You can lead a horticulture, but you can’t make her think.”

I love the comedy of the Three Stooges, The Marx Brothers, Carl Reiner and my comedy God, Mel Brooks.

I love science jokes. “If you’re not part of the solution, you’re part of the precipitate.”

I love fifth grade humor: “What is a shark’s favorite game show? Swallow the leader.”

I love lawyer jokes: “Why don’t sharks eat lawyers? Professional courtesy.”

I love elephant jokes: “What game do four elephants in a mini-van play? Squash.”

I love “dumb” jokes. These are jokes that at one time were ethnic jokes. They were German jokes, Irish jokes, Italian jokes, Polish jokes, North Dakota jokes, South Dakota jokes and blonde jokes.  “Why did the blonde stare at the orange juice box? Because it said ‘Concentrate.’”  

Which brings me to another type of humor I love. Tasteless humor. I have no problem with tasteless humor, as long as it’s funny.

Extra points if you get this joke.

“What’s the difference between an art student and a pizza? A pizza can feed a family of four.” That was the tamest one I could find. Unless you’re an art student, most people would find it funny. Let’s get real. Most art students would laugh the hardest.

I love roasts. Roasts are where you are supposed to be brutally funny and tasteless. You insult your guest as hard as you can. When all the quests are done insulting the subject of the roast, the subject of the roast gets to do a ‘rebuttal’ and insult all the guests right back. It’s fun. Roasts started at the Friars Club in New York City.

Now they are done on Comedy Central. Another example of a roast is The White House Correspondent’s Dinner. It’s supposed to be a roast of the President and the press. Then the President gets to roast everybody back. Steven Colbert made history when he roasted George W. Bush. It was an amazing example of speaking truth to power.

Here’s my favorite line from the roast. “Critics of the President Bush  say his administration is sinking. They’re just re-arranging the deck chairs on the Titanic. I say no. His administration isn’t sinking. It’s soaring! They’re re-arranging the deck chairs on the Hindenburg!”

Our current so-called President will not even show up to this dinner because he can’t stand being made fun of. Two years in a row now. There’s a popular theory that the only reason Colt-45 ran for President is because of how President Obama took him down in the 2012 Correspondents dinner. “People say Trump is running as a Republican. I thought he was running as a joke.”

Actually, Seth Meyers said that, but you get the point. 

A “burn,” or a “roast” is done out of affection. You “bust balls” on your friends because you like them. You do “Your Mama jokes.”

“Your Mama’s so stupid she puts lipstick on her forehead to make up her mind.”

A science your mamma joke!

My family was famous for “busting balls”. If we goofed on you, it was because we liked you. If we didn’t like you, we were very polite around you and said nothing. We would never dream of saying anything that was actually hurtful. Because, well, that would be hurtful.

Oddly, most people can dish it out, but can’t take it, the current so-called-president being a prime example.

I am one of those people who can take a joke. Because of this I get goofed on a lot. I don’t mind. If the joke on me is good, I appreciate it. Sadly, most of the time I don’t get to fire back. I’d hurt people’s feelings. My step son is a great example. He is a great joke teller. He knows them all. All the good ones, the bad ones and the ones that makes his Mom leave the room. He also loves busting my chops. All of his burns are funny and on point. I always laugh.  But if I wanted to get him back, all I’d have to do is say “yeah, but I fuck your Mom.” I can’t do that because he’d go into a catatonic state.

Everybody has a line where something isn’t funny anymore. I remember going to see Mel Brooks’ “The History of The World Part One” when it first came out.

It was hysterical. There is a scene where he turns the Spanish Inquisition into an Esther Williams musical number. It was tasteless and funny as hell.

The Inquisition! What a show!

The whole audience was laughing their asses off. Then the next skit came on. Mel Brooks was a waiter at the Last Supper. Also hysterical. Jesus would say “Before this night is over, one of you will betray me.”

And Brooks immediately says “Judas!” Everybody stops and stares at him in stunned silence. Then he says “Would you like a salad?

It was then I noticed I was the only one in the audience laughing. I thought “Wow, torturing Jews was hilarious, but making fun of the Last Supper, not so much.”

Everybody has a line that once crossed, isn’t funny. So, I wondered, where is my line? Do I have one?

It turns out I do. My line is racism. Right wing “humor.” That offends me. Why? Because it’s mean, racist and it’s NOT FUNNY. It’s merely racist and mean. At this point you can say “Hey, YOU, don’t think it’s funny. That doesn’t mean it’s not funny.”

OK, fair enough. But let’s look at this ‘Joke’ tweeted by Rosanne Barr.

VJ refers to Valerie Jarrett, a former adviser to the Obama Administration who is not white and was born in Iran. Both of her parents are Americans. Roseanne “apologized” for her “joke.”

Was that a joke? Hell no. Just racist and mean.

Think about this. How many right-wing comics are there? Name one. I dare you, because I can’t.

A joke can be tasteless, sophomoric, silly, stupid, and dumb, yet still funny. On the other hand, saying something mean and racist, then defending yourself by saying “It was just a joke” is not funny.

That was Rosanne Barr’s defense. That’s the excuse our Racist-in-Chief and his staff use every time he makes a racist statement or tweet.

Finally, why aren’t there any right-wing comedians?  Bottom line? The right-wing doesn’t have a sense of humor.


And racism is not funny.

I hate ending on a down note. So, I’ll leave you with some 16th Century humor.

“Henry the Eighth was so fat when he sat around the castle, he sat AROUND the castle.”

Too soon?

HOW TO STAY MARRIED WHILE WRITING A SCRIPT WITH YOUR SPOUSE – BY ELLIN CURLEY

I write scripts for Voicescapes Audio Theater with my husband, Tom. Writing scripts is hard; writing comedy scripts is harder … and writing scripts with your spouse is — let’s say “challenging,” at least if you hope to stay married.

Tom and me now

We have developed some Writing Rules of the Road to help couples stay sane and civil throughout the stressful process of script writing. Here are a few.

1. When one person says they don’t want to write because they’re not in the mood or because they have a headache, don’t insist on doing it anyway. Someone will get passive aggressive and the other will get pissy. Wait for a time when you both can enjoy it.

2. Never storm out of the room cursing and swearing that you’ll never write another word as long as you live! Use your words – both on the page and off.

3. Chose your words carefully, both on the page and off. Try to avoid phrases like “You’re an idiot!”, “How could anyone in their right mind think that line is funny?” or “No one from this planet would ever call that realistic dialogue.” In fact, avoid negative statements altogether. Start your comments with disclaimers like, “Don’t you think that maybe…” or “I personally feel that such and such might possibly work better here.” Then do not respond to the ensuing insults in kind.

4. Do not throw things; even soft things like fluffy dog toys. They can still knock over lamps or break the vase you paid way too much for at that stupid Tag Sale.

5. Have a “safe word”. When things get too intense and you absolutely       cannot agree about something and you are about to come to blows, use the safe word and drop the disputed issue immediately. Never bring it up again. What happens in script writing, stays in script writing.

6. Do not mix your personal relationship and your writing relationship. Compromises and concessions made in scripts cannot be thrown up as ammunition in a personal fight. And never bring personal issues to a script fight. The fact that your husband always sides with his mother when she gets snarky with you, will in no way improve your comedy script about speed dating.

I hope that we have been able to improve someone else’s writing relationship with these rules. We’ve actually never used any of them!

A PORN STAR, A PLAYMATE, A PLAINTIFF AND A GUY NAMED PECKER WALK INTO A BAR – BY TOM CURLEY

So the bartender says “What is this? Some kind of joke?”

The answer is, yes and no. It’s not a joke. It’s reality. In so far as reality has become a bigger and bigger joke these days, it is a joke. And the bar they walked into wasn’t a ‘bar’ bar. It was a legal bar.

So, what’s the joke? The president is suing a porn star, Stormy Daniels, because she broke a Non-Disclosure Agreement for talking about an affair the President insists never happened.

I’ve never met this woman!

He’s basically saying: “I did not have an affair with that person to whom I paid $130,000 to not talk about the affair we had.”

What’s the other joke? A former Playboy Playmate, Karen McDougal, is suing The National Enquirer because they bought an interview from her detailing the affair she had with the President.

I’ve never met this woman either!

They silenced her by simply not running the story. The punchline here? The guy who killed the story is named Pecker.

The jokes are the news.

There’s also a plaintiff, Summer Zervos, who is suing the President for defamation of character.

But that’s not funny. Not all news is funny.

I don’t think the news is supposed to be funny. These days, more and more of the news is funny. Absurdly funny. Or possibly ridiculous. Is there a difference? “You can’t make this shit up.”

How many times have we heard that phrase recently?News and comedy are becoming one.

Where do you get your news? The CBS Evening News or Stephen Colbert? The ABC Evening News or Jimmy Kimmel? CNN or The Daily Show?

I usually choose the latter because I get the same raw information, just with jokes. These days you get the jokes more and more just from reading the news.

When I worked on network news shows at CBS, we would have monitors showing the other networks. As you’d expect, all the shows did all the same stories in roughly the same order. Makes sense. These days, I notice the same stories on all the late night comedy shows too. The comedians all tell pretty much the same jokes in pretty much the same order. The thing is, they all thought the jokes up separately. But since the story is the same, they come up with the same jokes.

It’s just the news.

Comedy and news are becoming one.

I know I’m going to laugh when I watch The Daily Show. I expect to laugh. I’m getting the same laughs from CNN and MSNBC. Who are not trying to be funny! They are merely reading the news!

“Hey, did you see Wolf Blitzer last night? He killed!” I didn’t make up the title of this blog. I saw it on TV. Which late night show? None of them. It was a pundit on CNN, Ana Navarro, who said it.

I’m here through Thursday. Try the veal!
Comedy-and-news-are-becoming-one.

That’s not what’s really worrying me. What happens when they separate? When comedy and news split and become two separate things? What happens when the news isn’t funny anymore?

Our current clown show reality has a shelf life. It can’t go on forever. It will just seem like forever. 

What happens after a sane, boring President is elected — and there are no more daily scandals, screw-ups, and shit-storms? No more crazy tweets? No more porn stars, playmates, plaintiffs, and guys named Pecker? The news will continue, but what about all the poor comedians, comedy writers, bloggers, and columnists? They will have to go back to writing jokes again.

They will be forced to think up funny stuff on their own! Our comedic muscles are atrophying! I can feel it. What can we do about it? Are there special comedic exercises? Should we fill in Mad Libs? Improv?

Sure, we could, but why bother? We can’t top reality. We can’t make this shit up.

When that time comes, we’ll all just have to buckle up and get back to work — making up jokes. When that time comes, I think I’ve got a good one.

Picture of Mr. Pecker not included.

A porn-star, a plaintiff,  a playmate and a guy named Pecker walk into bar …

Too soon?