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.
Channel your inner Marie Antoinette while supporting Transitions Global during tonight’s ELLiPSiS…The Masquerade. Guests are encouraged to dress in their best mystery disguise while enjoying music, art, cocktails, eats and a fashion show. Tickets are $35, $100 for VIP early admission, champagne, hors d'oeuvres and prime catwalk seating. Proceeds benefit Transitions Global, a non-profit organization that helps rehabilitate rescued sex traffic workers and reintegrates them back into society as strong, independent women. Learn more about this important charity here. Tonight’s masquerade at The Bell Event Center opens to the public at 7 p.m.
Actor and comedian Kevin Pollack performs at the Levee Funny Bone
tonight through Saturday in support of us upcoming book, How I Slept My Way to the
Middle: Secrets and Stories from Stage, Screen, and Interwebs. Pollack, who got his big movie break in the
Ron Howard/George Lucas adventure, Willow,
is best known for roles in A Few Good Men
and The Usual Suspects as well
as his spot-on impressions. Tonight’s show begins at 8 p.m.
He does a mean Christopher Walken.
If you missed this summer’s Fringe Festival or couldn’t make it to every show (it’s a difficult task!), Know Theater is presenting four encore Fringe performances through Saturday. Tonight’s Fall Fringe offerings include OCCUPY This: Tales of an Accidental Activist and Kevin J. Thornton: UNFRINGED. Solo performance OCCUPY This (7 p.m.) tells the story of a man who went to Occupy protests just to carry humorous signs but ended up believing in the cause. Thornton’s unscripted show (8:30 p.m.) blends comedic storytelling with original music to create a uniquely engaging performance every time. Find tickets and more information here.
Ricky, Julian and Bubbles, better known as the Trailer Park Boys, come to Madison Theater tonight. The Canadian mockumentary-style comedy series makes a fun transition to stage with the “Community Service Variety Show.” If last year’s live show was any indication, expect more skits, audience participation and white trash goodness than you can throw a rum and Coke at (and you know Julian will have plenty of those). The show is sold out, so try your luck with the fine scalpers of Covington!
This American Life went live last
Thursday, broadcasting the show in theaters across the U.S. and Australia. The show featured its standard true storytelling format, but with ample
visual components. In addition to anecdotes from David Sedaris, Tig Notaro and
others, there were also dance performances, an NPR-inspired short film from Mike
Birbiglia and an interactive performance by OK GO. If this sounds amazing (which it was) and you missed out, you're in luck! The broadcast will screen again tonight in several area theaters.
Pro Tip: Download this free app
before you go — the TAL crew pulled some strings to allow audiences to use
their phones at one point in the performance. Go here to find nearby theaters. The show begins at 7:30 p.m. and tickets are $20 (more than a 3D movie, but way less crappy).
Northside Tavern hosts a fundraiser for End Slavery Cincinnati tonight from 5-10 p.m. Learn about human trafficking in the country and right here in Cincinnati, and what you can do to help raise awareness and bring it to an end. from 5-10 p.m. Enjoy live music from The Flavor Junkies and Wild Mountain Berries, door prizes and treats, for a great cause. Admission is $5 at the door.
Know Theater welcomes two local comedy groups onstage tonight. Underbelly Comedy and Off the Rocks Improv team up for a "Little Big Night" of laughs. There will be stand-up, improv, sketch comedy and more from some of the city's truly talented performers. Five bucks gets you a seat and a beer! What more could you possibly want? Doors open at 7 p.m. and the show begins at 8 p.m.
Today is also the kick-off of American Craft Beer Week. That’s a thing! Cincinnati has a rich brewing history, so it’s no surprise that local watering holes are celebrating the creation and consumption of delicious craft beer. Tonight, Arnold’s taps Bell’s Third Coast Ale — one of two fifth-barrels in the entire city. Find Arnold’s full ACBW schedule here.
The Crazy Fox in Newport hosts open mic and all-night happy hour every Monday. All musicians are welcome to perform in a friendly atmosphere, beginning at 8:30 p.m. The Seedy Seeds’ Margaret Darling guest hosts this week.
It's Only A Day Away
Tomorrow, Northside Tavern hosts a fundraiser for End Slavery Cincinnati. Help raise awareness about human trafficking in the country and right here in Cincinnati from 5-10 p.m. There will be live music from The Flavor Junkies and Wild Mountain Berries, door prizes and more, for $5 at the door.
This American Life presented a live cinema event last Thursday that featured its standard true storytelling format, but with ample visual elements. In addition to anecdotes from David Sedaris, Tig Notaro and others, there were also dance performances, a hilarious short film from Mike Birbiglia and an interactive performance by OK GO. The theater in Newport where I watched the show was far too empty — I found the show more entertaining than any movie in theaters right now! Those who missed out have another chance to check out the program in theaters Tuesday. Sure, it will be a recording of the live show, but the charm and excitement of the live format will surely shine through. Without spoiling anything, the stories they were able to assemble were killer: laugh-out-loud, misty-eyed, thought-provoking TAL goodness.
Be sure to download this free app before you go — the TAL crew pulled some strings to allow audiences to use their phones at one point in the performance. Go here to find nearby theaters screening the show tomorrow at 7:30 p.m. Can I gush any more? No. It’s worth the $20 ticket. Please go.
Ricky, Julian and Bubbles bring the trailer park to town for
a night tomorrow! For those unfamiliar, Trailer Park Boys is a Canadian
mockumentary-style comedy series and movies that has developed a
cult following over the past decade. It’s white trash hilarity at its finest.
If last year’s live show was any indication, Tuesday’s “Community Service Variety
Show” is sure to bring the LOLs. Buy tickets here.
Dayton's Ruckus Roboticus is currently featured on MTVu.com as one of this week's "Best Freshman Videos." The funky Hip Hop bot's "Take Me To The Disco" Video, featuring local actors, is vying for a spot in MTVu's permanent rotation. To celebrate the vid's lead in votes, the crew invites everyone to happy hour at the Moerlein Lager House. Enjoy cheap drinks and a vote-a-thon — bring your smartphones and other space devices beginning at 5:30 p.m. Voting for the video continues through Friday.
Support the Junior League of Cincinnati while checking out a sweet showcase tonight at Scene Ultra Lounge. JLC's "I Want Candy" fashion show will feature items from Knickers XY and Fetish Boutique, hairstyles by High Five Salon and Bobbi Brown cosmetics from Saks Fifth Avenue. Ten bucks gets you in the door; the show begins at 9 p.m.
Who is the most hilarious Tri-State resident? Each year, Go Bananas tries to answer that question with the club’s Funniest Person in Cincinnati Contest. Tonight the competition kicks off with semi-pros Dwight Simmons, Ranaan Hershberg, Jebb Lyons and Lindsay Boling and several amateurs. Five bucks gets you in the door to check out some of Cincy’s up-and-coming comics. The competition will continue weekly through August, when the favorite comedian will be crowned
Jenny “The Bloggess” Lawson makes a stop at Joseph-Beth Booksellers at Rookwood Pavilion tonight — kind of. The Internet superstar will discuss her “mostly true memoir,” Let’s Pretend This Never Happened via Skype at the book store. The Bloggess’ literary debut features mortifyingly hilarious anecdotes that helped shape an awkward girl into a wildly popular writer. The book talk begins at 7 p.m. Admission is free.
Obama kicked off the night with a dig at his recent “hot mic” incident, and
continued by poking fun at other politicians, odd celebrity guests and other
of diminishing journalistic integrity, how ‘bout the rise and (immediate) fall
Gawker’s Fox News mole? Earlier this month, Gawker announced
a new column by a Fox News employee, who was prepared to share the deepest,
darkest secrets from everyone’s favorite conservative channel — or something.
Two days later, the “mole” (revealed as O’Reilly
Factor associate producer Joe Muto) was found out by the network and
subsequently fired. So that’s the end of that, right? Not quite. Muto
was served with a search warrant early Wednesday morning. New York’s District
Attorney’s office seized Muto’s laptop, cell phone and some notebooks as part
of an open investigation. Fox News is accusing Muto of conspiracy and grand
larceny, according to this warrant.
The best/worst part of the whole debacle is that Muto only managed four Gawker
posts, which included juicy Fox dirt like a photo of a bathroom Bill O’Reilly
uses and a clip of Mitt Romney talking about his horses to Sean Hannity. Yawn. UPDATE: Muto apparently grew up in Cincinnati. Represent!
Pizza Hut’s new pies with cheeseburgers instead of crusts to the Heart Attack Grill
living up to its name, junk food on ‘roids is all the rage right now! Las
Vegas’ Heart Attack Grill is known for its over-the-top diner grub, including a
“Quadruple Bypass Burger,” so should anyone be surprised that eating there
could potentially be harmful to one’s health? For the second time this year, a guest collapsed at the restaurant, which boasts the Guinness World Record for
highest calorie hamburger (9,983 — about five times the calories recommended
for one day).
People go to Vegas for the thrill of a gamble — the Heart Attack Grill just
offers a unique spin!
Meanwhile, in the Middle East, Pizza Hut is finally solving that boring pizza crust problem (what are we supposed to do — just eat plain dough?!) by swapping it for cheeseburgers and chicken sliders. This came just weeks after we were introduced to The Hut’s hot dog-stuffed crust, which is now available in the U.K. The most shocking part about these pizza monstrosities? They aren’t served in the States (yet)! Are we becoming a healthier nation or is our fatness just rubbing off on other countries?
In movie news, a 2007 viral comedy short is now becoming a star-studded smorgasbord. Jay and Seth vs. The Apocalypse starred Jay Baruchel and Seth Rogan as friends confined to an apartment during the end of the world. Filmed in just four days immediately following production on Knocked Up, the short is only available as a trailer on YouTube:
After the success of Knocked Up, Pineapple Express and other Rogen comedies, the crew is remaking the short into a feature film, currently titled The End of The World. In the film, James Franco (playing himself) hosts a party at his apartment when the world begins…to end. Party-goers will include Jonah Hill, Danny McBride and Aziz Ansari, in addition to Rogen and Baruchel. It’s an Apatowpocalypse!
While these dudes are taking something scary (the apocalypse) and turning it into something funny, this bitch is turning something from my youth (dolls) into the stuff of nightmares. Meet Valeria Lukyanov, “human” Barbie!
Also, this Craigslist ad:
Another TED event takes place locally today, this time on Xavier's campus. TEDxXavierUniversity brings leaders in innovation from across the city and country to speak on the theme "Touching the hearts and minds of others through innovation, service, and leadership." Speakers include emcee Michelle Beckham-Corbin (President and Chief Digital Marketing Strategist of C3: Creating Connections Consulting, LLC), Todd Henry (founder and CEO of Accidental Creative), Rashmi Assudani PhD. (Associate Professor of Management and Entrepreneurship at XU's Williams College of Business) and other CEOs, directors of non-profits and cutting edge entrepreneurs. The free event runs 1-5 p.m. today at the Cintas Center Schiff Banquet Hall. Guests should have already reserved their spot in advance.
Comedian John Heffron makes a tour stop at Funny Bone on the Levee starting tonight. Heffron was the winner of Last Comic Standing's second season and has performed on tons of late night shows and Comedy Central specials and at comedy festivals. A relatively "clean" comic, Heffron avoids politics and controversy in his acts, focusing on the naturally funny aspects of everyday life. Tonight's performance begins at 8 p.m. Find details here.
Tonight marks O'Bryonville's first Third Thursday Benefit Wine Walk of the year. Support the neighborhood's independent businesses like Hemptations, Phyllis Weston Gallery, Ten Thousand Villages, The Bonbonerie, indigenous and many more as you hop from spot to spot, enjoying complimentary wine and bites at each participating venue. This month's walk benefits Pets in Need (a UCAN affiliate) and Cincinnati Pet Food Pantry. The event runs from 5-8 p.m. tonight.
Enjoy a romantic night in Paris...without needing a passport. Art Design Consultants presents en evening with their Design Star, Grace Jones of Dwellings on Madison. Jones will transform the ADC loft space (310 Culvert St., Downtown) into a French apartment. Stop by at 6 for cocktails and stick around for the 7 p.m. unveiling of Jones' designs. Holly Golightly attire is encouraged! RSVP here.
Comedian Jim Norton kicks off his three-night gig at Funny Bone on the Levee tonight. Specializing in dark comedy and self-deprecation, the comic has also acted in television and film and has written two humorous nonfiction books. Many will recognize Norton from the Opie & Anthony radio show, Louie, The Tonight Show with Jay Leno and several small, odd film roles (two words: Furry Vengeance). Norton goes on tonight at 8 p.m. Tickets are $22.
Cincinnati Zoo's Tunes and Blooms series continues tonight with Shiny and the Spoon and The Tillers. The free concert features local favorite musicians performing in the beautiful setting of the zoo's gardens. The concert runs 6-8:30 p.m.; admission to the zoo is free after 5 p.m. (parking is $8). Tunes and Blooms continues every Thursday this month.
Jungle Jim's hosts a mystery mix cigar tasting tonight from 5-8 p.m. The tasting will be held at the Oscar Event Center's Monorail Terrace. Guests can enjoy three different cigars with $15 admission. There will be a cash bar, raffle and plenty of cigars and accessories for sale. Each Thursday, Jungle Jim's presents a different variety of cigars to try. No word yet on whether "mystery mix" is an early 4-20 reference.