Tag Archives: Comedy

A List of Ten: On Cinema at the Cinema

1. For Tim Heidecker: cinephile supreme, Gregg Turkington: perpetual guest/loyal #movie friend. Connoisseurs of not only fine cinema, but all cinema. Two who honor film with bags of popcorn, sodas, or champagne at the Oscars.

2. Because the seas of knowledge have twisted into an edited helix, a tangled reel of pure film-joy (ThingX). The empty theater where friendship creates impressions. The unending trail of film–upset words.

3. Turkington: To be possessed by The Hobbit, to fall in love with a classic.

4. Because forgetting titles, lines, botching names, arguments over Star Trek, disagreeing and then bumbling the rating systems are all more human, more beautiful than any polished review in this, the age of the raw.

5. Cinema for life. Cinema is life.

6. We inhale Hollywood on cinema at the cinema: you will find us seated. You will find us spooling ourselves in film until the dim comes.

7. Heidecker: the world is watching at the cinema.

8. Because bubbling up from beneath, spreading laughter from unpredictable angles, from how social media infiltrates the media landscape: podcast, video, Twitter and beyond. These are the reasons we watch.

9. Turkington: “Film Buff”

10. The sheer immensity of output, audio file, web clip, a mashing of movie-landscapes to leaves us confused, giggling silly and full of wonder. Yes, this is cinema.

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The On Cinema Podcast

On Cinema at the Cinema

Tim Heidecker

Gregg Turkington

On-Cinema

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Larry Charles on “Cracking the Code”

Not all of us are as good at improvising as director/writer/comedian, Larry Charles (Seinfeld, Curb Your Enthusiasm, Borat, Religulous). Maybe we can learn to develop that capacity for improvisation.

In this short video, he briefly opens up the idea of “cracking the code” for a piece of art (in his case, film/TV). I admire his story of walking with Larry David and allowing the thoughts to kind of “bubble up,” – stream of consciousness. It seems that some of our greatest ideas can come not when we are sitting down at our desk, thinking hard, but when we are in route, on a walk, or alone in those “in-between” moments of life. This is not to say that planned “thinking sessions” may be productive and useful, but that we should (might want to) learn to develop the skill of thinking, even in those routine moments of life.

In the coming weeks I will try to further flesh out this idea and apply it to a television program or film. Of course, I will share the results with you here.

What is the “code” for the trajectory of our own life?
Should we be merely studying “about” the code or “how to” create the code?
Is this something that one should “study” or something that one should “live out?”

Perplexed as always.

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The Unexamined Life is Not Worth Living: Demetri Martin’s “If I”

I haven’t spent much time with Demetri Martin’s comedy material, but through some great stroke of serendipity, stumbled across this hour-long special for the BBC, entitled “If I.” To my delight, this performance is not simply “stand-up,” but examines such things as communication, choices, life-making, creativity, meaning and thinking. Martin unpacks the word “if” and uses it to point us in the direction of how our lives are influenced by our choices and the power of imagining our lives through the “if.”

While watching this video, I couldn’t help but be drawn back to Lee Thayer when he wrote, “…there is no dynamic in what ‘is.’ What stirs the human mind to life is not what ‘is,’ but what could be, or what should be, or what might be (from “Pieces”).”

In addition, Martin uses original artwork, music and photography to help pull us into “his” world. He is a brilliant public speaker and I hope you can use this video (and the other five, which can be found on Youtube) to enhance your life in some meaningful and constructive way.

Notes on “Left for Dead in Malaysia”

In these troubled times, it’s more important than ever that people have the opportunity to enjoy a good laugh. Well, my job is making people laugh.” These are the opening two lines to Steve Moramarco’s short film “Left for Dead in Malaysia” starring “America’s Funnyman” Neil Hamburger. Music for the short film includes a song from Mimicry Records’ recording artist, The Secret Chiefs 3.

The film opens in an “exotic” nightclub in Kuala Lumpur and quickly moves to Neil Hamburger on-stage drinking and visibly uncomfortable. His manager, Art Huckman, seems to be the only English speaking audience member in attendance. While on-stage, realizing that apart from himself and his manager, no one speaks English, Hamburger’s “jokes” move quickly away from humor and into self-focused rants in his own language. At one point he even consults a phrase book, but quickly gives up.

From across the night club, we see a mysterious figure with an eye patch adding tension to the situation. Huckman, meanwhile disappears into another part of the club, transfixed by two hostesses. This scene is juxtaposed with the eye patch wearing man, laughing maniacally. I assume that this mysterious figure would portray the villain in the full-length.

It seems that this film was to be a precursor to another film called “Funny Guy-Itis,” although it has been awhile now since this short film was made and it seems doubtful that the “Funny Guy-Itis” project is still underway. Meanwhile, Hamburger has been gaining more and more television attention, through his visits to the Fox TV show, “Red Eye” where he offers various social commentary on American pop culture. Also, anyone who used to watch the Tom Green channel, will be well familiar with Neil Hamburger’s frequent appearances and short-lived cult show, “Poolside Chats with Neil Hamburger.”

The “Left for Dead in Malaysia” short is featured on the “The World’s Funnyman” DVD released through Hamburger’s record label, Drag City. The DVD features the hour long “That’s Not Gold, That’s Dung!” live show in Australia, Canadian and Australian documentaries about his work, and more. If you are interested in Neil Hamburger’s stand-up and want to gain some perspective on his work, this DVD is a nice place to start.

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Three Questions with America’s Funnyman Neil Hamburger

Neil Hamburger

One person who has continually impressed us at “The Eyeslit-Crypt” and throughout the years is the prolific artist/entertainer, “America’s Funnyman,” Neil Hamburger. From his older material on Amarillo records to his new country album on Drag City records and everything in between, Mr. Hamburger has consistently amused us with his razor sharp observations of contemporary news and pop culture, his charming fashion sense and his ability to send us into epileptic fits of uncontrolled laughter. Several months ago, we briefly wrote about “Poolside Chats with Neil Hamburger,” which I still believe to be the most interesting and engaging call-in/talk show that I have ever seen.

We caught up with Neil Hamburger for the second installment of our “Three Questions” series (although, it is actually four questions). This comes on the heels of his glorious album “Sings Country Winners,” which has been one of my perpetual soundtracks for driving my pick-up truck through the lonely backwoods of Northern Michigan while on vacation. One thing that struck me was the range of “country” music that is employed on this album. Moving beyond parody, this album actually seems to open a true country space, an authenticity of country, channeling the ghosts of the great country singers of old.

So, without any further ado, I present to you “Three Questions with Neil Hamburger.”

1. What musicians, if any, inspired you on the “Sings Country Winners” album?

Neil Hamburger: We were inspired by the “Bakersfield Rebels” compilation CD (low budget Bakersfield country circa 1969), as well as Porter Wagoner, Glen Campbell, Merle Haggard, John Entwistle, Ferlin Husky’s “Walkin’ and Hummin’ album, and in particular, the Telly Savalas track “Rubber Bands and Bits of String”.

2. Do you read a lot on the road? If so, what are some Neil Hamburger literary recommendations?

Neil Hamburger: I read a lot of newspapers, usually at least a week out of date. I find them in recycling bins after midnight, in residential neighborhoods.

3. What is your favorite food while on tour?

Neil Hamburger: Rice, or chickpeas.

4. Or, if you are interested, It would be great to hear what Neil Hamburger thinks about “noise” music.

Neil Hamburger: I think it’s awful.

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We, at The Eyeslit-Crypt, would like to thank Mr. Hamburger for taking the time to share his thoughts with us and, of course, we wish him all the best in his comedic and musical endeavors.

Fortunately for those of you lucky enough to be in North America, Neil Hamburger is hitting the road again. Please see his Myspace page for tour date information and remember to help support Neil by digging deep into your pockets and spending some money on a man worthy of your hard-earned money.

Neil’s Myspace with updated Tour dates
Music Video for “Jug Town”
America’s Funnyman Site
Drag City Records: Neil Hamburger

The Publicity Image: Zach Galifianakis and Absolut

Zach Galifianakis

Zach Galifianakis recently made a commercial for Absolut Vodka (featuring the comedic duo “Tim and Eric“). Apparently, Galifianakis was given complete control in the making of this commercial. How are we supposed to react to this video? What is this publicity image saying to us? What creeps in below the radar and why is this such an uncomfortably funny video?

In his book “Ways of Seeing,” John Berger analyzes ‘the publicity image’ in contemporary culture and through the lens of oil paintings. Today, I will try to see the Zach Galifianakis Absolut ad in a different way, paying special attention to it and try to flesh it out a little bit.

First, the visual aesthetic of the commercial is important as this is a highly stylized piece. That is, the first thing we notice is that we are somehow not in the ‘real’ world. What I mean is that, it seems that the commercial takes place in some kind of margin of reality, a zone located somewhere between our common everyday experience and an obscene dream-space where anything can happen. Perhaps, the semblance of reality is just that, a semblance, perhaps we have truly entered into Galifianakis’s fantasy space: the strange wigs blurring the genders of the characters, the white robes, symbolizing purity, comfort and affluence or the modern suburban sterility of the room and talk of the hot-tub seem to transport us to a kind of “soap-opera” realm of intrigue.

And, what role does Absolut play in all of this? Well, it seems that Absolut is portrayed as being an elixir from the Gods, a substance both sublime and terrifying. I like how Galifianakis and crew savor the vodka, smelling its aroma, stirring it, sipping it and fully embracing it as a holy fetishistic object. The whole idea of “Absolut on ice,” simply being enjoyed by itself is unsettling. Moreover, despite the bizarre nature of their conversations, when the Absolut begins flowing, everything is momentarily restored to a deceptive serenity (until Zach’s agressivity is unleashed). What this is saying is twofold, perhaps threefold: First, there is Asolut as decadent fetish object (the smelling, excessive savoring), then there is Absolut as monster (Galifianakis snapping violently about the temperature of the hot tub), third, Absolut as peace-bringer (if only you drink Absolut, harmony will temporarily be restored to your life…a terrifying serenity).

Berger, in his book writes: “Publicity persuades us of such a transformation by showing us people who have apparently been transformed and are, as a result, enviable. The state of being envied is what constitutes glamour. And publicity is the process of manufacturing glamour (Berger 131).” The transformation that he speaks of is the way we will come to see ourself after buying the new product, after giving in to the publicity image. However, it is very difficult to read the Zach Galifianakis Absolut commercial in terms of envy. We can easily see the glamour image as represented in the decor of the room, the robes, the hairstyles and the music, but there is something absolutely evil underlying this publicity image, which is what I really admire about this commercial. That is, Galifiankis does give us a taste of the transformation, but the transformation is so disconnected from our everyday reality that it is terrifying and uncomfortable. Do we envy Galifiankis’s character? Does the spectator-viewer wish to transform his or her life into this kind of maddening phantasmatic nightmare? I would even go further and ask, are we supposed to think that these are human beings? Are they not portrayed as some kind of perverse angels (spirits) existing in a horrifying zone of fantasy?

However, I think many of us when watching this can easily relate to it on some level. That is, although a bit unsettling and funny, when we hear the empty conversation, the, as Lacan may say “lure” of converation, we understand what is going on. For Lacan, the “lure” is the intentional deceptive conversational game that we play in our everyday life. It is talking about hot tubs when we really want to say something else. What is really being talked about in these empty conversations? In this commercial, I see an underlying aggressivity and unpredictability exuding from these characters: the outburst of anger, the excessive laughter, the opening conversation scene in all its deceptive banality…But, again, Absolut is seen as the elixir, the horrific and calming savior in this vague world of deception.

I admire Galifianakis for making this “commercial,” and it is great to see him able to exercise his genius. Now, where is my absolut on ice?

The Absolut Video by Zach Galifianakis can be seen here: ABSOLUT ZACH