Hooray for Captain Spaulding

Wednesday, April 30, 2003

Chewbacca is gonna be in the third Star Wars picture. Article here.

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Groom-to-be uses wacky photo in engagement announcement with high-larious consequences. Highlight of story:
We tried to determine whether it was a joke photo, or if this couple had a mutual attraction based on poor eyesight. But you don’t ask a woman if she’s pregnant unless you’re absolutely sure. On the same principle, we decided not to call the couple to ask if they really looked that goofy. The photo was published.

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Wednesday, April 23, 2003

Max Power quotes a passage from a New York Times article where Andrew Firestone, of the Firestone tire family and TV's The Batchelor, rejects a woman because she likes the Olive Garden. This is understandable as he probably prefers the Spaghetti Warehouse or the Old Spaghetti Factory. I mean, what's the point of being a rich guy if you can't eat Italian food in an authentic trolley?

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Mark Evanier has changed his weblog address. Adjust your permalinks accordingly.

Mark discusses the death of Charles Douglass, the inventor of canned laughter, and derfnds its use noting that "some programs -- M*A*S*H would be the best example -- would not have been as good had the authors had to constantly think of evoking [laughter] from a studio audience." Simpsons writer and producer George Meyers agrees stating in this New Yorker article
One of the main reasons [why sitcoms have changed]...is the tyranny of live studio audiences, which I think have ruined television comedy. Leave It to Beaver, unlike most sitcoms today, was not taped in front of a live audience. If that show were in production now and Beaver made some kind of gentle, sweet remark about his collection of rocks, or whatever, that line wouldn't get a laugh from the audience during rehearsal, and it would be cut. With a live audience, you always end up with hard-edged lines that the audience knows are jokes. Audiences hate it when they have to figure out whether something is funny or not -- I think because people have an anxiety about laughing in the wrong place, almost like a fear of speaking in public.
The article goes one step further stating that any laughter (live or canned) hurts sitcoms:
On almost all other sitcoms, dialogue was interrupted repeatedly by crescendos of phony guffaws (or by the electronically enhanced laughter of live audiences), creating the unreal ebb and flow of sitcom conversation, in which a typical character's initial reaction to an ostensibly humorous remark could only be to smile archly or look around while waiting for the yucks to die down. On "The Simpsons," funny lines could be topped immediately by other fanny lines, and the humor could be layered with great subtlety. In an episode written by Meyer called "Homer the Heretic"-- in which Homer skips church on a frigid Sunday morning and then has what he believes to be the best day of his life -- Reverend Lovejoy describes the religion of Apu Nahasapeemapetilon, who runs the local Kwik-E-Mart, as "miscellaneous." Apu indignantly says, "Hindu! There are seven hundred million of us." Lovejoy smiles at him condescendingly and says, "Aw that's super"-- a quick joke that would have been too delicate to float above superimposed peals of laughter.
(I approvingly quoted the same article here to prove how dime-a-dozen the same most sitcoms today are. One show fairly different is The Pitts, a show which has a nice, loony Get a Life feel to it. I can't tell if Fox running two episodes on Sunday means they're burning off episodes or trying to promote it so you might want to watch it while you can.)

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Tuesday, April 22, 2003

More on Safety Last and how it was done: This site quotes Lloyd on the climb itself.
There was no back projection in those days, of course, so when you see me climbing, I'm really climbing. We had platforms built below the skyscraper windows - they were about ten to fifteen feet below, covered with mattresses. After the picture, we dropped a dummy onto one of the platforms, and it bounced off into the street. I must have been crazy to do it.
The facade I discussed here was for the clock part of the stunt (as we learn from this site):
For instance, in one scene he hangs from a clock, which is one of the movie's classic moments, but the clock was only about ten to fifteen feet high, not one hundred or more...The clock tower actually stood on top of the building, so if Lloyd fell, he would only fall to the top of the building from the top of the clock tower construction.
(Hat tip to my brother for pointing the first site to my attention.)

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A site about the British MAD magazine found in a Google search inspired by an ebay sale for this issue of British MAD featuring a Dr. Who satire (called, I assume, "Dr. Eccccchhhh").

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Monday, April 21, 2003

A reporter quotes a guy named Heywood Jablome in this story. And issues a mea culpa here. (Courtesy of Romensko)

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Yesterday, my brother and I were watching Harold Lloyd's Safety Last! which features this famous scene of Lloyd hanging from a big clock. The obvious question while watching was "How'd he do that?" Nowadays you got the blue screen and the computers and all but Lloyd's methods were unclear.

Here is what I've pieced together over the web: Lloyd built a facade of a building on the rooftop of another building. So he was in fact as high above street level as he looked but had he fallen, he would have fallen several feet onto the roof, rather than hundreds of feet onto the ground.

You can watch a clip of the scene here.

UPDATE: More on the topic here.

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Sunday, April 20, 2003

An article about how the kids today even with their crazy video games and their Music Television enjoy silent movies. Silent movies are actually enjoyed more than old non-slient stuff
The pratfall comedy, the Chaplin comedies, the Keatons, the [Fatty] Arbuckles, the [Harold] Lloyds, they work," says John Flowers, who teaches psychology and film at Chapman University in Orange. "One of the strange things I've seen is that if we try to get [kids] into later black-and-white films of the '40s and '50s, it's not going to work as well... As soon as a kid develops a sense of what's contemporary, it knocks out the middle ground of older films, because those are too much like what they watch now, but not as good. Silents work because they are totally different from what they watch now."

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The Other Side of the Wind is not to be confused with A Mighty Wind, a funny film you should go see. The website is also very good and contains video clips not in the film.

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"Jolly Jim" Treeacher called my attention to The Other Side of the Wind, an uncompleted Orson Welles movie about a director trying to complete a film. Had it been released, it possibly would have been the first film to do the switching to different film formats that the kids like so much these days.

And no discussion about unreleased films would be complete without The Day the Clown Cried, a tale of a clown who gets caught in the Holocaust. The film is actually completed; it remains unreleased because the producer's option for the screenplay expired while the film was in production and the screenwrites refuse to sell their copyright.

A question I want to ask Harry Shearer (who saw the movie as revealed in this article) if I ever meet him is whether The Day the Clown Cried is really any worse than Life is Beautiful. Whatever else was wrong with Clown, at least Jerry Lewis didn't try to claim that his clowning skills would have saved lives during the Holocaust. Regardless of Shearer's answer, it's not difficult imagining Jerry shooting his TV after Benigni won a Best Actor Oscar.

Let me just note parenthetically that I agree with Life is Beautiful's tagline that love, family and imagination conquers all.
Except maybe Zyklon B.

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The Jewish Museum in New York is doing an exhibit on Jews in show biz or rather the discussion of the connection between Jews and show biz. This exhibit is the first I've heard of The Goldbergs, a sitcom about a Jewish family (If you click on the picture of credits from ths how, you can see a clip).

A book about the exhibit is also available for those who can't make it to New York by September 14th.

UPDATE: Thanks to reader Eric Mulkowsky for pointing me to the exhibit. Keep those cards and letters coming!

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Thursday, April 17, 2003

An intriguing never-made movie is discussed in Fametracker: Storm of the West, a Sinclair Lewis co-penned allegory of World War II in a Western setting.

The script itself was published. While it is currently out-of-print (and only available at the LA library as a reference book), it does show up used at reasonable prices at various online sources. I will probably have a report in a couple of months when I purchase it (this month Passover and the tax man have taken a decent-sized bite out of my book-buying budget for the month).

Meanwhile here is the career of "Hitler impersonator Bobby Watson." In addition to many an uncredited appearance as Hitler, he was also in The Wizard of Oz as "Ozmite" (I'm a huge fan of Oz and even I'm stumped what that means; my best guess is a citizen of Oz (albeit a Hitler-looking one)) and Singing in the Rain as the dialogue coach who inspires the song "Moses" (song link courtesy of Reel Classics).

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Tuesday, April 15, 2003

FUN-TIME TAX DAY ACTIVITY: Whenever the TV or radio at where ever you happen to be (work, restaurant, store, etc.), says "Well, it's tax time today...", put on a look of panic, shout "Taxes?!?! Due today?!?!" and run out hurriedly. Minutes of amusement.

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Sunday, April 13, 2003

An article about the work that's involved in creating intentionally bad songs for Spinal Tap or the upcoming A Mighty Wind.
You need to know -- and you need to like -- the form you're mocking, Folksman and "Mighty Wind" director Guest says. "The early parodies that talk-show people did of rock 'n' roll in the '50s were terrible," he says. "They didn't know it, they didn't like it -- and that's a lethal combination."
This is also key to why it took about fifteen years or so for genuinely funny rap parodies. It wasn't until the mid-90's or so that comedy writers and comedians included people who had grown up listening to rap. Before then, rap parodies consisted of a bad backbeat and occasionally saying "Yo".

Parenthetically, a joke of the early 90's was
Q:What do you always hear after a white man rapping?
A: "Enjoy your headliner!"

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Mark Evanier, while discussing hidden camera prank shows, displays this cover of Action #345 depicting Clark Kent getting caught changing into Superman by Alan Funt and Candid Camera. While Mark's objections to hidden camera shows are all well and good, he doesn't answer the question "How the hell does Superman get out of this fix?"

SPOILER WARNING --- I will be giving away the ending of a 27-year-old comic book: It starts with Perry White getting caught on Candid Camera; specifically he thinks Superman has stolen the Daily Planet building (No one, of course, asks the question "Shouldn't Superman be stopping a volcano or something?"). The Perry White sequence is so successful that Funt decides to pull a prank on Clark Kent and explains that while they normally pre-tape their pranks, this one will be shown live (because even 8-year-olds would have seen through that plot hole (even if they don't understand the concept of the signed release)).

The prank is a staged robbery and when Kent runs into the phone booth to report his scoop (and maybe, call the cops! (unless the Daily Planet is like CNN and doesn't want to jeopardize its access)), he will find that the phone doesn't work. Funt opens the door to find Kent in mid-switch.

How does Superman get out of it? Kent finishes the costume switch to reveal he is wearing Batman pants, boots and utility belt. Kent explains he was listening to the show on a miniature TV set, ducked the cameras, snuck to a hero-related souvenir shop* across the street from the museum (established earlier in the story) and bought the various costume parts.

Superman then reveals to the audience that he actually heard Alan Funt with super-hearing. While Supes could have just switched back to Clark Kent in super-speed, he decides to give Funt a taste of his own medicine. He drills his way out of the musuem (Superman did, not Alan Funt); he flies to Jimmy Olsen's apartment to borrow his mini-TV and Batman costume** and returns to the museum at super-speed (also fixing the hole he drilled).

*This comic was written at the end of 1966 with Bat-mania in full swing. A shop dedicated to superhero-related merchandise isn't that unreasonable.
**Jimmy Olsen had his own comic book at the time and so needed a disguise trunk (and possibly to dress up as Batman).

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Thursday, April 10, 2003

As Passover is approaching, the grocery stores of most major metropolitan cities will be carrying Kosher for Passover Coca-Cola. This can be distinguished from regular Coke by a 'U' surrounded by an 'O' followed by the letter 'P' on the bottlecap. The difference between the two Cokes is that corn syrup is forbidden during Passover (Here's why) and so Kosher for Passover Coke uses sugar instead.

Now the Coca-Cola corporation will tell you that Coke with corn syrup is just as good as Coke with sugar. They are, of course, liars.

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Saturday, April 05, 2003

Harold Lloyd, the great silent film star, is this month's TCM Star of the Month. More details and schedule here.

Lloyd, who's just as funny as Charlie Chaplin and Buster Keaton if not funnier, has gotten the short end of the stick recognition-wise (partially his own fault for not allowing his films to run on TV). You can see some short clips of Lloyd in action here.

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Scientists have dubbed the gait elephants use while running as "Groucho running." Finally, we have an answer to the question that has haunted mankind for years: How did an elephant get in Groucho's pajamas?

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The Martin Savidge selfless Marines story I referenced below turns out, alas, to be an urban legend. The post itself gave the impression that the poster had seen it himself on CNN. This is, of course, par for the course for many ULs (The teller himself after asking did not see it but a friend of his did and so forth).

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Wednesday, April 02, 2003

Even wartime can't stop LT Smash's celebrating April Fools Day (here and here)

And if this story doesn't touch you, you have no soul.

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Tuesday, April 01, 2003

Here is my contribution to "Make Fun of Dick and Lynne Cheney" day:

Heh, heh, heh, "Dick", heh, heh, heh. (Hey, I never claimed to be Art Buchwald.)

How would Mark Russell handle such a day? It might go a little something like this:
"And then I go and spoil it all/By saying something stupid/Like I'll sue you"

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