Under Ware

McSweeney's Issue 13 was guest-edited by Chris Ware, creator of Jimmy Corrigan: The Smartest Kid on Earth (from which the above image is taken). Ware also designed Issue 13, and the result is stunningly beautiful.

The guests on this episode of The Connection are three contributors to Issue 13: Chris Ware, Daniel Clowes, and Ben Katchor. This show was originally broadcast on September 28, 2000.

Chris Ware and Daniel Clowes were interviewed together again on the November 30, 2000, episode of Bookworm.

On the February 8, 2001, episode of Bookworm, Chris Ware was the only guest.

Here's a CNN article, from October 3, 2000, about Ware and Jimmy Corrigan.

An excerpt:

The compact imagery, the compacted plot and subplots, make "Jimmy Corrigan" more akin to a novel by Faulkner or Dickens than to "The Adventures of Spiderman." The book is not a quick read. Skim a page and you'll miss a tiny delight -- a Thumbelina landscape; a postage-stamp still-life; an entire treatise, in Lilliputian letters, on vinyl siding as a metaphor for life.

It took Ware seven years to do the book's scenes and sequences -- most of which initially appeared in his Jimmy Corrigan comic strips and comic books, published in Ware's "Acme Novelty Library" and sold in comic book and specialty stores. It not only takes time to draw such meticulous detail, but to research it: Ware says he can spend hours researching an image for a single frame or panel.

He collects and uses real objects as models; he draws from history books and from photographs. To get just the right look for the segment in the book where Jimmy goes to a small town in Michigan to meet his father, Ware went to a small Wisconsin town and took snapshots of the diner, the burger place, the gas station.

He worked from old photographs of 1890s Chicago for the stunning architectural drawings that illustrate the novel-within-a novel about Jimmy's grandfather. "Turn of the century -- I prefer things from that era," said Ware. "The style then seemed to have more respect for the viewer. What was presented was something handmade, something crafted with care and skill."


Loona Rover
Louis C.K. is driving his dog across the country again, but he's not going to stay in any hotels this time -- instead, he and his dog, Loona, will be camping. He's blogging and posting photos for each day of this latest trip here.


Dick, Jokes
Here's an interview with Dick Cavett, from Shecky magazine, in which he talks about comedy.

An excerpt:

Shecky: Since you are primarily known for your interviewing prowess, do you think most people are surprised to learn that you were a standup comic?

Cavett: They shouldn't be surprised if they've done their homework and read "Cavett" (Harcourt Brace Jovanovich $8.95 1974) I'm not sure how to take the fact that there are so many copies of it on Bibliofind,etc. I assume people want to give others the chance to laugh. I recall some valuable rapping in there about comedy writing. Not to mention the laughter and tears saga of becoming a club comic. (And watching Woody become one.)

Shecky: When and where did you make your standup comedy debut?

Cavett: I debuted (funny looking word) at the Bitter End and tell in the book the gory details of how my first night was a bitter beginning. Not even triumphant later appearances there and elsewhere can erase the memory.

Shecky: How do you think your standup material would work in today's comedy climate? Have you been in a comedy club in the "modern era" (Post Comedy Boom, 1981 or thereabouts)?

Cavett: I recently found a notebook I thought was lost and there was my old act, not written out but with abbreviations ("Chinese-German food," "Wedding gifts," etc.) and in one margin I had noted: "Woody said, 'Great joke, Cavett' " It reminded me of the sweat and labor of getting a second show, something I'd not foreseen. I used to stretch my Richard Loo impression nearly fifteen minutes to have something new for the bastards who stayed to see me twice. What struck me was that virtually all of it would work today. I'm trying manfully not to say, "Funny is funny," but I'm afraid it's true. I might update the act some by uttering "motherfucker" every few minutes. Years have passed since I have set foot in a comedy club. If the comic is doing badly it's painful, and if the comic is doing brilliantly, it's extremely painful.

Shecky: When you first began doing standup, you said you could write in someone else's voice, but it was difficult to write in your own. Once you learned how to write in your own voice, was it then difficult to write for someone else?

Cavett: Very astute question. I'm not sure why writing for others became harder. Probably a reluctance to give away anything you might conceivably use yourself caused a block. I did it, but it remained hard when it had once been easy. And what a rude shock it was to first sit and try to write for myself. Who am I? What am I? Those were the questions. Of course now with Scientology, all that is easy.

Shecky: Do you think it's easy for someone to write for Dick Cavett?

Cavett: I think I'd be pretty easy to write for. Anyone you've seen and heard should be writeable(sp?) for. The mistake people have made in writing for me has been to make the false assumption that I don't need hard jokes, just 'observations'. My Chinese-German restaurant joke was my most stolen joke. "Chinese-German food is wonderful. The only problem is, an hour later you're hungry for power." That's a solid joke and I needed 200 like it. That's not to say that I can't also get a laugh by something that, out of context isn't a joke--like "...and there I stood." What's ahead of that can make it a knock-out 'joke.'

Shecky: Is there any contemporary comedian that you think you would want to write for?

Cavett: Barry Humphries. His "Dame Edna," soon on tour, may be the funniest evening of my life in the theatre. I went three times and got to know Humphries. There is not a particle of female or resemblance to Dame Edna in him and thank God my inborn aversion to most drag and all camp didn't override a director friend's insistence that I go. Every student of comedy should see Dame Edna at least twice. And have your paper on my desk by Friday.

Shecky: What surprised you most about doing standup comedy?

To read the rest of the interview, click here.

The Booby Prez
The following is from the London News Review.

Bush Bike Tumble: why George Jr is the unfunniest clown in town
May 23, 2004

President Bush has hurt his chin. Gave it a good old scrape on a dirt track after hitting a bump and flying face-first off his mountain bike. It must have been quite a sight – not something that his secret service bodyguards and private physician, who were pedaling along with him, will forget in a hurry. The President sprawling like a toddler, with scuffed knees and a chinful of gravel.

According to White House spokesman Trent Duffy: "He had minor abrasions and scratches on his chin, upper lip, nose, right hand and both knees. Dr Tubb [his physician] cleaned his scratches and said he was fine." Duffy blamed the weather for the spill: "It's been raining a lot and the topsoil is loose.”

Whatever the cause of the fall, the result is going to be a load of more jokes about goonish Mr Bush and how he’s always toppling over (remember the pretzel incident? And the Segway tumble?)

And the problem with these jokes is that, no matter how barbed they are, they make us chuckle and think "what an idiot!" - and that is not the appropriate reaction to President Bush. There is something oddly indulgent about this laughter, and President Bush is not someone who should be cheerfully indulged.

Remember how he gooned around in that presentation he made for journalists in Washington? Made a joke out of the Coalition's failure to find any WMDs... here's how the Guardian reported it:

A slide showed Mr Bush in the Oval office, leaning to look under a piece of furniture. "Those weapons of mass destruction have got to be here somewhere," he told the audience, drawing applause.

Another slide showed him peering into another part of the office, "Nope, no weapons over there," he said, laughing. "Maybe under here," he said, as a third slide was shown.

Quite amazing. And again, not funny in the slightest.

President Bush is no laughing matter. Gone is the time when we can chuckle about what a klutz he is. The man stole an election by dispossessing black voters in Florida. Nothing funny about that. He is carving up the environment to suit his big-business buddies. And he is ultimately responsible for the slaughter, the ongoing slaughter, of thousands of Iraqis. Not to mention the hundreds of coalition troops who have paid the ultimate price for American pride and profits.

Oh, and Afghanistan. That wasn't funny either.

D'Or Prize
The following is an excerpt from this New York Times article, which was published yesterday.

'Fahrenheit 9/11' Wins Top Prize at Cannes

CANNES, France, May 22 - At the awards ceremony that wrapped up the 57th Cannes Film Festival on Saturday night, the jury gave "Fahrenheit 9/11," Michael Moore's stinging critique of the Bush administration's foreign policies, the Palme d'Or, the festival's top prize and one of the most coveted honors in international cinema.

The announcement, made by jury president Quentin Tarantino, met with enthusiastic cheers from the audience in the Grand Théâtre Lumière, where Mr. Moore's film had received what many thought was the longest standing ovation ever at Cannes when it was screened here last Monday. "What have you done?" Mr. Moore asked Mr. Tarantino as he accepted the prize, looking both overwhelmed and amused. "You just did this to mess with me, didn't you?"

It was a night of many surprises: a 14-year-old boy won the award for best actor; the first Thai film ever placed in competition shared a jury prize with an American actress; and all three French films in competition were given awards.

But Mr. Moore's victory outdid all of them. For one thing, Cannes is notoriously indifferent to documentaries. "Fahrenheit 9/11" was one of only three nonfiction films allowed in competition in nearly 50 years.

The meaning of Mr. Moore's Palme, however, extends far beyond the cozy, glamorous world of Cannes. "Last time I was on an awards stage in Hollywood, all hell broke loose," Mr. Moore said in his acceptance speech, referring to his antiwar remarks at the Oscars last year. His new film, which does not yet have an American distributor, has already begun to stir passions in the United States, as the election approaches and the debate over the conduct of the war in Iraq grows more intense.

With his characteristic blend of humor and outrage - and with greater filmmaking discipline and depth of feeling than he has shown in his previous work - Mr. Moore attacks Mr. Bush's response to Sept. 11, his decision to invade Iraq, and nearly everything else the president has done.

"I did not set out to make a political film," Mr. Moore said at a news conference after the ceremony. "I want people to leave thinking that was a good way to spend two hours. The art of this, the cinema, comes before the politics."

He also said that Mr. Tarantino had assured him that the political message of "Fahrenheit 9/11" did not influence the jury's decision. "On this jury we have different politics," he quoted Mr. Tarantino as saying. It is also a film financed by Miramax, which distributes Mr. Tarantino's movies.

Mr. Moore noted that four of the nine jurors were American: Mr. Tarantino, Kathleen Turner, the director Jerry Schatzberg, and the Haitian-born novelist Edwidge Danticat. "I fully expect the Fox News Channel and other right-wing media to portray this as an award from the French," Mr. Moore said. Only one juror, the actress Emanuelle Béart, is a French citizen.

"If you want to add Tilda," he said referring to the British actress Tilda Swinton, "then you could say that more than half came from the coalition of the willing." (The rest of the panel was made up of Benoit Poelvoode, a Belgian actor; Peter von Bagh, a Finnish critic; and the Hong Kong director Tsui Hark.)

Johnny English
The following is an excerpt from this New York Times interview with John Cleese, which was published on May 16. (Via Return of the Reluctant.)

[JENNIFER] SENIOR: Now that "Fawlty Towers" is back in our living rooms on BBC America, I'm curious: what do you think of that network's big hit, "The Office"?

[JOHN] CLEESE: I think it's very, very good.

SENIOR: Do you think an American adaptation could be successful?

CLEESE: I doubt it. I've seen an enormous number of English shows adapted for America. They've three times tried to adapt "Fawlty Towers," and each time it was very poor. They always decided they needed to change it. The second time, they wrote the character of Basil Fawlty out of the series.

SENIOR: You're joking.

CLEESE: They got rid of Basil and gave Mrs. Fawlty all of Basil and Sybil's best lines. And that is an idea so excruciatingly bad it's absolutely astonishing anyone would have spent good money on it.

SENIOR: What is it like for you generally in Hollywood? You've been there for a while now. Have they figured out what to do with you yet?

CLEESE: I'll tell you exactly what the problem is: as I got older, I realized that I didn't want to be in the position where I put aside three years of my life for a single project. And I didn't want to do something on American television, because if it was successful, they would want 100 episodes. So I decided to be a hired gun for a bit. But then you're dependent upon people finding you a role. In the last 12 months, I think I've done half a day on a feature film.

SENIOR: That's it?

CLEESE: That was it. It's not that there haven't been other scripts sent to me. But apart from one thing, there hasn't been anything that I thought was good. Whereas I've been lucky enough to work with the "Will and Grace" people. It is a deeply disreputable show. It is morally repugnant to all right-thinking citizens, but everybody thinks it's hilarious.

SENIOR: Is it also harder to age gracefully in comedy?

CLEESE: Oh, I don't think so. I think if people know who you are . . . like if Michael Caine walks on screen, everybody knows it's Michael Caine, and they don't realize that he's 130 or whatever. Because it's Michael Caine, and we've loved Michael Caine for as long as we can remember, so we just see Michael Caine. We don't think, "Who is that extraordinarily ancient man?"

SENIOR: Among your old Monty Python cohort, Terry Gilliam has had the most success navigating the shoals of Hollywood. Is it because he's American?

CLEESE: Oh, I don't think so. You just have to want to continue to do it. I think being a film director is about as awful a job as you can have.

SENIOR: Really? But they have so much control.

CLEESE: Well, exactly. You want to be responsible for every single decision that's made over a period of two and a half years. Now, there are some people who are sufficiently megalomaniacal to want that kind of responsibility. But most of us would be very happy to say, "Not today, thank you."

SENIOR: Are you saying that Terry Gilliam is a megalomaniac?

CLEESE: I'm saying all film directors are, without exception.

SENIOR: What projects are you up to now?

CLEESE: It'll make you laugh, but I'm really, really getting interested in a Web site.

SENIOR: Really?

CLEESE: I get lots and lots of funny ideas. And I think to myself: what am I going to do? I don't have a show. So it seems to me the best thing I can do is to buy a little camera, write funny things, and then perform them very, very simply in front of this camera, and put it on the Web site the next day. Apparently, there are people who will pay 50 cents a week to download bits of funny material.

SENIOR: What will it be called?

CLEESE: Well, it can't be John Cleese because some pest has already taken that. So let me just ask my dear assistant. [Speaks to someone in the room.] Oh. Thejohncleese.com.

SENIOR: You've already got it up and running?

CLEESE: Yes. I've got a little slew of work I'm getting through at the moment, but once that's out of the way, I'm going to sit down and start creating material. I love the idea of running a kind of — what would you call it? — a sort of nanochannel.

SENIOR: Would you also want to include a blog?

CLEESE: Yes. There are all sorts of things I'd put in. I've been thinking of a funny greetings card. I can never find very good funny greetings cards anymore.

SENIOR: Such as?

CLEESE: I'm sorry I ate your gerbil.

SENIOR: Right.

CLEESE: I'm extremely sorry I murdered your aunt. I really shouldn't have done it.

SENIOR: Would you collaborate with others on this project?

CLEESE: Oh yes. I mean, I did think it would be rather funny to do a film about the War of Independence and call it "1776 1/2" and shoot it all at the ranch with three people in each army.

SENIOR: Who would play General Washington?

CLEESE: My teeth are sufficiently bad. I think Washington would be a doddle to play.

SENIOR: A what?

CLEESE: Doddle. It means something extremely easy to do. As in "The Life of Brian," when the old man says, "Crucifixion's a doddle." It's one of my favorite lines in all the Python films.


Breaking News
Click here to watch some clips from the upcoming Will Ferrell film Anchorman.


King of Comedy
Click here to listen to an interview with Alan King, who died on May 9. This interview was originally broadcast on New York & Company with Leonard Lopate on June 11, 1996. (From here.)


Circus Fliers
Today's episode of Fresh Air featured archival interviews with four members of Monty Python, namely, Graham Chapman, John Cleese, Michael Palin, and Eric Idle.

Rearview Mirrors
The following was written by Dave Eggers and is from his Spin magazine review of Kings of Leon.

A week before this U.K. trip, I had one of those mind-crushing conversations with a friend who thought -- who always thinks -- everything is less good now than it once was. My friend, and people like him, need to be beaten with clubs, subdued, and then caged and poked with broom handles. I don't even know why I'm bothering to give this bastard, who never shaves his neck, the benefit of my brilliant argumentative skills. His and his ilk's pessimism is never a reflection on the actual state of the world or of any art form, but more often a mirror of their own decaying bodies and brains. They look back fondly on some time when they weren't secreting so many gases and liquids, when they didn't scare small children, when they could dance in public without looking epileptic. But are they actually paying attention now, to the changing world? Are they open to it; are they actually trying to enjoy new things but somehow failing? No, no, no. They close their ears and eyes, and they bitch about better days. There is legislation making its way through the House of Representatives that would require the removal, via carnivorous birds, of these people's tongues, and I support this legislation wholeheartedly.

Hamburger: Helper
The following letter was published in the "Mail" section of the May 17, 2004, issue of The New Yorker.

I was married to Philip Hamburger for twenty-three years, after which, as the late writer William Maxwell predicted at the time of our divorce, Phil became my best friend, as did his wonderful wife, Anna (Postscript, May 3rd). Phil's death, on April 23rd, so soon after Anna's, left a void that, at eighty-seven, I can't fill. Phil and I met in 1939 in the library of the Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism, where he had been a student the previous year, and which I was attending at the time. We began a conversation that lasted sixty-five years.

In addition to two delightful and loving sons, Jay and Richard, we shared an abiding belief in the greatness of the system of government in the United States. We both believed that the balance of power among the executive, the Congress, and the judiciary was the sacred foundation that made our democracy work. It was a clumsy system, sometimes out of joint, but it always seemed to right itself. After the Bush Administration began its disastrous preëmption policy, our conversations centered on the steady erosion of democracy in the United States. Each day brought new grief: the polarizing politics at the Supreme Court, the heartless legislation of the Republicans in Congress, and, above all, the misuse of the executive functions of the Presidency -- the destruction of individual rights; tax shields for the wealthy and a massive deficit that is out of control; secret agendas, distortions of truth, and outright lies; the smashing of international treaties and the contempt for longtime allies; and now a disastrous war in Iraq, with heartbreaking loss of life for all sides.

Anna's admirable way of expressing her indignation was to write a personal letter, almost every day when she felt pressed, to the President of the United States. Philip's way was to write with strength and beauty about the great diversity and marvellous qualities inherent in this country, and in its people. He cherished the right, as he often said, "to vote the bastards out." Beyond all his charm and wit -- he was the funniest person I ever knew -- Phil had an awesome regard for the grand nature of the democratic process that defines America. This was his religion.

Edith Iglauer
Garden Bay, B.C.


Cross Roads
The current issue of ReadyMade features a short interview with David Cross. It's part of their series called "How Did You Get Your F*&% Awesome Job?"

Here's the interview:

ReadyMade: Hi David. How did you get your f*&% awesome job?

David Cross: I started out in Atlanta, but I wasn't really working regularly until I moved to Boston in 1983. I went to Emerson College, where I was in a sketch group. I dropped out of school almost immediately, but kept performing with them until it got to the point that I couldn't pretend to be part of Emerson anymore and started doing stand-up.

RM: So, did you just saunter in and say, "Hey, I'm funny. Put me on stage"?

DC: I got very lucky. I was coming of age in a place where there was a glut of clubs that needed to fill spots. But it was basically just doing open mics and making friends and connections, until one day you get thirty bucks to drive an hour into western Massachusetts and do some cowboy bar for 15 minutes. Eventually I made a little name for myself.

RM: How did you start working in Hollywood?

DC: When I was in the sketch group in Boston I became friends with Janeane Garofalo, who performed with us occasionally. She went out to L.A., and within a year or so she was on the Ben Stiller Show. Sometime around 1992, I got a call from her that they needed an emergency midseason writer. Initially, I wanted to stay in Boston and do my own thing. But then I took a look around at the New England winter, in my sweats with the oven door open, and I was like, "Fuck this." The next day I flew out there, dumped my shit at a friend's place, and started writing.

RM: How did Mr. Show happen?

DC: I met Bob at the Stiller Show. Alternative comedy was starting to hit, and we started doing shows together. We wrote some material and that became Mr. Show. We never pitched it; we just asked people to come down and see it.

RM: Do up-and-coming comics ever come to you for advice?

DC: Occasionally I run into somebody at a party or a show or something and they'll ask. The advice I end up giving, "Go out and do it, find your voice," is so obvious I always feel kinda lame saying it.

RM: Give us a little taste of your new CD?

DC: Well, there's my 10-minute bit about why dogs sniff each other's asses, but I do it in funny voices, like as if the cast of Will and Grace sniffed each other's asses. I can't really go into it, because I don't have the props for it over the phone. But that's really the bulk of it, getting down to the nitty and the gritty of it.

RM: If you could have any job would it be this one?

DC: Yeah, it's all I know how to do really, and mostly I enjoy it. Sometimes it's shitty.

RM: When is it shitty?

DC: Well, I was just named the 19th most loathsome New Yorker by the Press. Sometimes it's tough. There's always going to be somebody's expectations you didn't meet. But I have to be open to criticism. I dish it out, so I should be able to take it. And anyway, sometimes they're right.


Allen & Company

Laughing Academy
Here's an article about Harvard's impact on the comedy-writing business.

An excerpt:

In the comedy writing world, being a Lampoon (or even just a Harvard) alum at least guarantees some recognition. But being funny is an obvious prerequisite. "No one would hire a bad writer from Harvard over a talented one from somewhere else," says Michael Reiss '81, formerly executive producer of "The Simpsons." Other alums dispute the notion of a direct "pipeline" to Hollywood. "The big myth about the Lampoon is that you'll automatically get a job," says Malis, although his credibility is suspect.

talent vs. opportunity
Lampoon connections, however, do ensure that scripts get read, one of the biggest obstacles to making it big in the entertainment biz. "Talent is one thing, but opportunity is another," says Mark O'Donnell '76. While writing for SNL, a job that he landed without the help of the Lampoon, O'Donnell saw countless unsolicited scripts come in the mail, an indication of the tough market that exists for aspiring comedy writers. "There were piles and piles of them in this one room," he says. "It looked like a Staten Island junk yard." Not always on the receiving end, O'Donnell once found himself at a Christmas party chatting with the editor of the New York Times Sunday Magazine. "I love your humor; you should send it to us," he said. "I already have," O'Donnell replied. Where luck is key, the Lampoon can make you luckier. There's no shortage of wannabe writers, and almost everyone in the business acknowledges that being Harvard, and particularly Lampoon, helps to rise above the crowd. "The industry is connection-based," says Gail Gilmore, a councilor at Harvard's Office of Career Services. "I encourage students to use the connections." Harvard writers tend to work on shows with a number of fellow alums--"The Simpsons" employed 10 Lampoon writers out of its total of 12 at one point.

Almost all alums in hiring positions try to downplay the deference they give to other grads. "I don't necessarily give any preference to Lampoon people, but sometimes they have more experience," says Bill Oakley '88, a one-time Simpsons writer, now producing his own animated show, "Mission Hill." The large number of Lampoon grads in Hollywood and the perception of easy connections to jobs has given rise to the nomer "Lampoon mafia." "There is a definite Mafia," says Patricia A. Marx '75, the first female member of the Lampoon. "The Lampoon has a lot to do with it. We came out of college having done this for four years." The Lampoon comp is similar to getting a job in the real world, where writers produce speculative scripts, a sort-of comedy writer's resume. Says Reiss, "They really weed out a lot of people."

But not attending Harvard doesn't mean you're shit out of luck. "If you have a great script, you can even come from the University of Florida," says Adam Braun, a comedy agent out in LA. "[The Lampoon's] a leg up, but it's not the be-all, end-all." Billy Kimball '81, executive producer for "The Late Late Show with Craig Kilborn," asserts that the Lampoon connection doesn't sway him in any way. "Agents call me all the time saying 'so and so is from Harvard' as if that is supposed to excite me," he says.

Some Poonsters, have had first-hand experience with the "Lampoon mafia." "They slashed my tires and beat me up; I saw them kill a guy. It's very real," says Rodman Flender '84, director of the recent film "Idle Hands." Reiss has a lighter take on the situation. "It's unfair to call it a "Lampoon Mafia" because the Mafia has a code of honor," he says.


Humor, Me

This book, which will be available in September, contains a thing I wrote called "How to Make a Kitten." "How to Make a Kitten" was originally published in ReadyMade magazine.


Paar Five
Here you can listen to a five-part interview with Jack Paar. The interview was conducted by Bob Edwards in 1983.

Radio Daze
Today's McSweeney's piece, about NPR groupies, is a hoot and a holler.


In-the-Wrong Lane
Humor writer Mike Gerber took issue with Anthony Lane's recent review of Monty Python's Life of Brian:

After a truly splendid article on PG Wodehouse, The New Yorker's Anthony Lane follows it up with an incredibly blockheaded (and, frankly, insulting) review of Monty Python's rereleased "Life of Brian." The review is so blatantly, fundamentally misguided that I really wondered if he'd watched the movie since he first saw it as a teenager. Aren't there any editors over there anymore?

Lane starts his review by asking, "What has the movie done, you may ask, to earn the privilege of a Second Coming?" Lane's answer is to paint the Pythons as opportunists looking to cash in on the success of Mel Gibson's movie. Nobody would begrudge the Oxbridge Six (now Five) from making a little money, but here's a less cynical answer: that religious fundamentalism--the satirical target of the movie--has only grown since 1979. In fact, it's become the single biggest threat to humanity's continued existence on the planet. How's that for a friggin' reason, Mr. Lane? HOW OBTUSE CAN YOU GET?

Later in the review, Lane admits that as a teenage fan, he always found the Python TV shows "too fragmented and splintered for their own good." There's no accounting for taste, but given the number of comedy people who consider that series a breakthrough, I think we can conclude that Mr. Lane is a badminton champ trying to play raquetball. The Pythons move too quickly for him. That's not the Pythons' fault.

What pissed me off (i.e., made me mad enough to blog) was the sentence, "The best cure for that fragmentation was to bind it with the kind of narrative glue—one can hardly call it rigor—that holds together 'Life of Brian.'" Emphasis mine, obviously. Mr. Lane, the Pythons were the most intellectual, ambitious, and rigorous sketch comedians to walk the face of the Earth. All that silliness requires a solid framework of logic underneath to support it. As a teenaged fan, you couldn't be ridiculed for not seeing it, but as the freakin' movie critic for the freakin' New Yorker, that ignorance is absurd.

It's okay not to like a movie, obviously, but it's not okay to deny it because you can't be bothered to respect it. "Life of Brian" is probably the best, funniest, and certainly most rigorous piece of cinematic satire since Dr. Strangelove. And like Strangelove, the target of its satire is a clear and present danger. Unlike the quotidian kerfuffles of Bertie Wooster!

Charlie and the Chuckle Factory, Part II: The Audio
Click here to listen to Tina Fey and Lorne Michaels on Charlie Rose. This interview was originally broadcast on April 27, 2004.


From the Frontline website:

This is one of the most requested programs in FRONTLINE's history. It is about an Iowa schoolteacher who, the day after Martin Luther King Jr. was murdered in 1968, gave her third-grade students a first-hand experience in the meaning of discrimination. This is the story of what she taught the children, and the impact that lesson had on their lives.

Watch this 46:00 program here in five consecutive chapters.

Thirty-four other Frontline programs can be seen -- in full -- here.