Nightmare Season is upon us as AMC's chilling zombie show The Walking Dead returns. A record-setting 7.3 million viewers tuned in last night to see Rick, Lori, Shane and the gang continue their apocalyptic journey.
'Tis the season of waiting for premium cable lovers. Most of the truly addictive programs shown on HBO and Showtime (and on many basic cable channels, for that matter) wrapped up in late fall and now all the Dexperts, Trubies and Maddicts are starting to get the shakes because it'll be swimsuit weather before their favorite shows return and it seems like Two and a Half Men is taking over the tube.
They say you only roast the ones you love, but what can be said about someone with few redeemable qualities, who's essentially spent the past year roasting himself in the media? Quite a bit, apparently.
Eddie Murphy’s best story about his early success has been told in various forms, but this is my personal favorite.
Murphy, of course, became a sensation in the early ’80s as a cast member on Saturday Night Live and with his frenetically urban stand-up act. He then showed his power as a box-office draw with 48 Hours, Trading Places and Beverly Hills Cop. In 1984, Murphy combined his two greatest assets — his viscerally funny stand-up act and his undeniable film presence — into his first concert movie, the well-received Delirious.
After the film’s release, Murphy got a call from Bill Cosby, one of his comedy idols, who chastised Murphy for his incessant use of foul language and cautioned him that his career would be short-lived if he continued to work “blue.” “Blue” as a comedy term reportedly dates to vaudeville’s Keith circuit and club managers’ practice of censoring comedians by informing them via blue envelopes of objectionable material that had to be removed from their acts (all of which dates further back to the Puritans’ Blue Laws, a moral code that was printed on blue-tinted paper).
Murphy was devastated by Cosby’s scolding and called his friend and raunchy comedy mentor Richard Pryor to get his take on the situation. After hearing Murphy’s tale, Pryor, referencing one of Cosby’s ubiquitous commercial endorsements of the time, responded, “Tell that motherfucker to have a Coke and a smile.”
Murphy’s act, Cosby’s reaction and Pryor’s response to Cosby’s reaction is a passion play that has been re-enacted in the comedy world since Lenny Bruce paved the way for shockingly honest humor with his obscenity conviction in 1964. In the nearly half century since then, comedians have found massive success by finding their niche on either end of the spectrum (Brian Regan, Greg Hahn on the clean side; Louis CK, Lisa Lampanelli on the dirty) or deftly straddling the boundary between family friendly and fucking filthy (the late George Carlin and Patton Oswalt spring to mind).
Two current examples of the clean/dirty paradigm are the wildly funny and relatively chaste Jim Gaffigan and the equally hilarious and breathtakingly profane Doug Stanhope.
On Gaffigan’s August-released eighth album, Mr. Universe (the concert video of which is currently available to view on Gaffigan's website for $5),
the hue-challenged honcho of hilarity follows his standard operating
procedure of turning a slightly jaundiced and definitely twisted eye
toward life’s mundanities and finding the unlikeliest of laughs. He
mines a natural vein of humor from the fact that he has four children,
but in ways that Bill Cosby probably never imagined (“Four kids … if you
want to know what it’s like to have a fourth, just imagine you’re
drowning and then someone hands you a baby” or “I have more pictures of
my children than my father ever looked at me”).
And Gaffigan is a genius at finding the funny in food; his love of bacon is renowned, as evidenced by his lengthy discourse on 2009’s uproarious King Baby, but on Mr. Universe, Gaffigan gets both McDonald’s and Subway in his crosshairs, with the former actually earning a measure of praise and the latter obtaining a fairly thorough thrashing — “I think the toppings are free to distract us from the fact that we shouldn’t be paying for the meat. They’re so stingy with that nasty ass meat at Subway, they peel it off like it’s from a wad of ones or something. ‘Here’s three slices of ham, get yourself something nice’ ” and “What level of delusion are we in where we view a meatball sub as a healthy alternative to a hamburger? How do you make a meatball sub? You roll five hamburgers into balls, cover them in cheese and put them on a bun that holds five hamburgers. Eat fresh.”
Like the best observational comics, Gaffigan’s genius lies in amplifying standard issue eccentricity to an unbearably odd level — like wondering how long one should retain a sock after losing its mate, then admitting he has 80 single socks. Gaffigan further caricaturizes his comedic persona by using a variety of vocal inflections and accents that range from hilarious to slightly grating; he has long used a whispered falsetto as a device to anticipate audience criticism and now he even works imagined criticism of the voice itself into his set.
While Gaffigan will often will drop a mild obscenity or two into the proceedings (“Scarlett Johanssen got a haircut, why do I give a shit?”), Mr. Universe, like the bulk of Gaffigan’s catalog, easily translates to midday or late night television talk shows.
Doug Stanhope is a completely different kettle of filthy fish. His just-released new CD/DVD package, Before Turning the Gun on Himself, is predictably rife with the abusively frank language for which Stanhope is famous. Before Turning the Gun is so caustically themed that one might consider donning a hazmat suit before pressing “play.” It also happens to be one of the drop-dead funniest comedy sets of the year.
Stanhope wastes little time setting up the first portion of Gun, which is essentially a rolling rant about the industry of treating addiction, his primary targets being Dr. Drew Pinsky and AA. The album’s second piece is titled “Dr. Drew is to Medicine What David Blaine is to Science.”
Being agnostic, Stanhope finds the God-based 12-step programs associated with AA and many rehab programs to be less than satisfactory. On the album he rants, “Even your religious friends do not want to hear about God during a medical diagnosis. That’s the last word you ever want to hear from a doctor — ‘Doc, my fucking lymph nodes are swollen out of my neck, I look like a bullfrog, I’m shitting blood with clumps in it, I can’t keep food down.’ ‘Ooh, sounds like someone needs a higher power.’ ‘Can’t we do some blood work first? A series of antibiotics? A CAT scan?’ ‘Nope, get on your knees and pray, faggot.’ ‘You’re a doctor?’ ‘Yup, and I’m on TV, too.’ AA makes Scientology look credible.”
Stanhope even insists at one point that “there’s no such thing as addiction, on the most minor levels … there’s only things that you enjoy doing more than life.”
Stanhope really gets going on the subject of people bitching about the economy or their simple dissatisfaction with the place they live. On “Just Move,” he rightly notes that it only requires a bus ticket to change your surroundings and recounts hearing an autoworker in Flint, Mich., complaining about Obamanomics making it impossible to earn a living.
“You make cars and you still don’t leave,” Stanhope observes. “That’s like being a prisoner forced to make keys to your own cell for a living and you never put two and two together. Just move to where there’s work.”
He continues that line of thought on “Simple Man,” where he compares having children to a bad bet and hacks on the Flint autoworker by again rightly noting, “I don’t think the economy is a new problem here; I think Roger and Me came out in like 1986, yet you’re bitching about Obamanomics exporting jobs.”
Stanhope gets hellbound rough on “Keynesian Economic Theory as Applied to Private Sector Independent Contractors,” where he advances the idea that prostitutes fare the worst in tough times since they’re already doing degrading things for money, and that a hooker’s concession to recession would be to offer anal services to her clientele.
What follows is a nauseating and heart-stoppingly hilarious roller coaster ride of sexual references from Stanhope and his fictional streetwalker, featuring such phrases as “sour milk-smelling cock,” “gravelly good morning Starbucks shit” and “ass kegels.” In alluding to anal sex, Stanhope (through his whore character) uses the euphemism “shit pussy” or “ass pussy” no less than six times in two minutes before breaking into an erudite refutation of Keynesian economic theory. It’s breathtaking, really.
Elsewhere, Stanhope advocates registering as a sex offender to avoid having your friends bring their children to your parties, describes his favorite medicinal past-time (“Sometimes I’ll take two Xanax and two laxatives at bedtime and I’ll play chicken in my sleep. It’s like three highs at once, because it starts out as a downer, turns into gambling, wakes up as a huge amphetamine”) and gives a brilliant example of his perception of the laziness of songwriters, describing some self-righteous artistic types as “a bucket of cunts.”
If you’ve got a sturdy callous built up on your indignation bone, Stanhope is one of the funniest and most incisive stand-ups around. And if you are easily offended, Stanhope has a ready answer for your thin skin.
Well before admitting that “the most terrifying part, when you realize I’m not even a bright person, but I’m still probably in the top three percent of the smartest people on this planet, and I’m pretty fucking dumb,” he defends his use of any and all offensive language by describing it simply (and accurately) as “a sound you make with your mouth” and further posits “if you’re offended by any word in any language, it’s probably because your parents were unfit to raise a child.”
This explanation, which gets even better, by the way, is placed in the context of a bit Stanhope titled “Giant Black Cock.” This is one funny motherfucker.
So what conclusion can we draw from the above compare/contrast critique? Perhaps it’s that people who are easily offended would be advised to stick to the likes of Jim Gaffigan and avoid Doug Stanhope like an atomically mutated STD. But it might also be that funny is funny, regardless of how many prurient phrases and ideas are peppered throughout its presentation. People who like dirty as well as clean humor are laughing twice as much as you straight-backed chucklefucks with rancid pickles jammed sideways up your twats.
I think maybe that’s the point.
Editor's Note: We here at the CityBeat editorial staff figured it would be an alright idea to allow one of our summer interns, Bobby Goodwin, to leave his post for a couple days and go out on assignment to fulfill his life's dream of attending the Bonnaroo Music Festival, provided he write a highly detailed chronicle of his misadventures in a series of four blogs. Here's part two of what transpired.
I love video games. Always have, always will. I grew up watching Mario stomp koopas, Link slay moblins and Kirby inhale enemies to copy their powers. Games will always have a special place in my heart.
As much as I like the classics and the stuff being released by the big name companies, however, recently my attention's been diverted to a select few independent companies and developers. People say these past few recent years have been some of the best times for indie developers to get into the gaming market, and, frankly, I agree with them. As of late the indie game market's really been booming, and it's no wonder why. There are some really great indie games out there to find if one knows where to look. And unlike pricey console games, many of these independently developed games can be downloaded onto your computer for as low as $20, $10 or even $5.
Given, these games might not have the newest, most-cutting edge graphics, and might be relatively simple when compared to some of the things we see Nintendo, Sony and Microsoft releasing. However, that doesn't change the fact that they are good games nonetheless. And many gamers seem to agree with me.
One shining example of an indie game that's risen from obscurity is Dokutsu Monogatari, better known by is Americanized name, Cave Story. The game was originally made as a freeware 2D platform-adventure game by independent developer Daisuke Amaya (art-name "Pixel") in 2004. He developed the game in his spare time, intending it to be a tribute to classic popular titles he had played in his youth, such as Castlevania and Metroid.
After it's initial release on the Internet, Cave Story slowly gained popularity as a indie game, and was praised by many gamers for its compelling story and gameplay. Fans of the game eventually developed an English translation, spreading the game even further.
Later on, Nicalis, an independent video game company, worked with Amaya to bring an updated version of Cave Story with new modes of gameplay and improved graphics to Nintendo's WiiWare service in 2010.
Since then the popularity of Cave Story has skyrocketed, leading Nicalis to work with Nintendo to bring yet another updated version of the game to the Nintendo 3DS under the title of Cave Story 3D.
And Cave Story is just one of the many success stories told about independently developed games these days. Several other popular titles have risen from the depths of obscurity to become commonly known titles to gamers everywhere: Minecraft, Super Meat Boy and Angry Birds just to name a few.
Unfortunately, there are also risks involved for gamers who chose to invest their money in independent games. A method many indie developers seem to be taking recently is releasing a “beta-version” of their game over platforms such as Steam for a low price, with the promise of free updates as the game is further developed. A prime example of one such game is Re-Logic's Terraria, a 2D “sandbox” game featuring exploration, crafting, resource gathering, and combat with a variety of different creatures.
Upon its initial release in January 2011, Terraria's sales boomed. Over 1 million copies of the game were sold, gamers being drawn in both by the unique style of gameplay and the prospect of future updates to the game. Head developer of the game, Andrew Spinks, made regular posts about planned features to the game in his blog, keeping the community informed about what they could expect in future updates.
Upon Terraria's version 1.1.2 update, which included new enemies, biomes, resources and a slew of new items to be discovered and crafted, popularity of the game boomed even more, resulting in the game being named as the No. 1 of 2011's Indie of the Year Player's choice.
Unfortunately for fans, Spinks suddenly decided to halt production of Terrarria, announcing in his blog on Feb. 21 that there would be no further updates to the games despite the fact that the several planned features that had been announced in his blog. Many members of Terraria's online community protested, feeling that the game had been cut down in its prime, and had yet to reach its full potential.
Sadly, however, this seems to be a route that many independent game companies take. Several indie games seem to be halted before they are considered to be “finished.” Lacking the resources that larger game companies have, independent developers either run out of money for production, or simply become burned out, no longer having the time or interest to continue working on their projects. It's disappointing for the fans who pay to play these games in the early stages of development, however, it's also a risk people take when they decide to play independent games.
Is it enough to scare people away from the indie game market? Certainly not, as there are still many gems out there to be found if one is willing to spend the time and money. Indie gaming is on the rise. And things can only get better as time goes on.
Covington's Carnegie Center presents its sixth annual Art of Food show, opening tonight. As you might've guessed, this art exhibit is centered around all things edible. The reception features beautiful culinary creations (that you can actually eat) by everyone from BonBonnerie to La Poste, Queen City Cookies to Taste of Belgium. Admission is a little steep ($60 at the door for non-members), but you'll leave with your left brain and stomach both very satisfied. Admission after the reception is free. Get details here.
The opening reception kicks off at 8 p.m. In addition to checking out the artwork, electronic musician/wizard Dan Deacon will perform 8-9 p.m. If you haven't heard of him, here's a preview:
If you didn't score tickets to tonight's sold out Black Keys show, there are plenty of other music options. Eli's BBQ on Riverside Drive hosts Downtown Country Band tonight at 10 p.m. Tickets are $12. And really, any concert that also features barbecue is probably a sure bet. The Harlequins hosts an album release show Saturday at Mayday in Northside. Peep our interview with the crew. There are tons of other live music shows this weekend. Find them all on our music blog.
It turns out that an alleged old Radiohead demo called “Putting Ketchup in the Fridge” is actually called “Sit Still” and not by Radiohead at all. It’s by Toronto bakery owner Christopher Stopa. “As nice as it is, because I like Radiohead, and on some technical level it means I sang [the song] well, I don’t really want to be known as the person that was mistaken [for] Radiohead,” Stopa said in an interview with the Torontoist. You can stream the single and read the full story here.
Hold on to your knickers, girls! This weekend is full of excellent music, arts, theater and shopping events. Here we go:
Ides of March premiers tonight (FINALLY). Check it out and see how many Cincinnati landmarks you can spot. Or just look at Ryan Gosling. Read our interview with an actor who is not Gosling or Clooney here, and check out our review.
Clifton Heights Music Festival is back for its fifth installment! Bands of all genres take over six Clifton-area bars (in walking distance of one another) tonight and Saturday. The ever-growing fest continues to be one of the most affordable - $8 gets you in all venues for one night, $12 for both nights. Go here for the full lineup and venue details.
Rapper Machine Gun Kelly plays Madison Theater tonight. My little sister wants to marry him. Important facts here.
It was announced today that Actor/Director/Humanitarean/Total Heartthrob Jeff Spicoli Sean Penn is receiving the 2012 Joel Siegel Award at the 17th Annual Critics Choice Movie Awards on Jan. 12 for the relief work he has done in Haiti. This will be only the fifth Joel Siegel Award given by the BFCA, and dedicated “to those who understand, as Joel did, that the greatest value of celebrity is as an enhanced platform to do good works for others."
“While it was heartening to see such an outpouring of support and aid for the Haitian people in the immediate aftermath of the tragedy, the long-term commitment made by Sean and his organization is particularly notable," said BFCA president Joey Berlin.