Jamé McCraw

"Book Review: 'Bunny, Bunny: Gilda Radner, A Sort of Love Story' by Alan Zweibel" by Jamé McCraw

Bunny, Bunny: Gilda Radner, A Sort of Love Story written and illustrated by Alan Zweibel is a tender and very personal glimpse into the relationship between a writer and performer who meet in summer 1976 during the freshman year of Saturday Night Live. Zweibel is responsible for penning scripts to the sketches featuring outrageous and memorable original characters such as Roseanne Roseannadanna and Emily Litella for Radner.

A series of dialogues and simple line drawings tell the story of the duo’s delicate friendship. A friendship cut tragically short after 14 years when Radner passed away from complications with ovarian cancer on May 20, 1989.

Sparse vignettes recreate moments of tension, fear, and confrontation but do not feel overly voyeuristic. Zweibel lovingly paints himself as the “asshole” during times of conflict. Gilda is his champion and closest ally. The pair have a profound love for one another that endures during times of uncertainty.

When she is instructed by Zweibel to hold onto casino winnings he could use to pay credit card debt, Radner has hotel security escort him away from her hotel room door when he comes begging out of the arrangement. There is a playfulness to this gesture and her apology the day after the incident comes in the form of a letter, which is hidden in the lavatory of his aircraft during his flight home.

This secret is revealed to Zweibel by a stewardess who tells him: “I was so touched by how warm and funny and loving this person was that I felt like I knew her my whole life and would’ve done anything for her.”

Fame is inevitable for the beloved performer who is approached by strangers so fond of her that they feel she is a familiar friend and call her by name. It is at this point that she asks Alan to call her Gilbert.

A romantic affair between the two of them nearly causes a rift as things fizzle out and they begin to explore the possibility of other partners. The picture Zweibel paints during these passages are stark. Small-talk on elevators and in hallways is painful to witness after knowing how well they are able to communicate with one another. This period of estrangement is resolved when Gilbert tells him, “I need you in my life because I trust you more than anyone and I don’t want to lose that.”

When Radner discovers Zweibel is in the grips of cocaine addiction, she confronts him directly. She tells him what he is doing is not only dangerous, but especially unwise for someone as “naturally insecure and paranoid” as he is. She encourages sobriety. At this time, she encourages him to clean up his act if he is serious about pursuing a relationship with a woman named Robin Blankman. The advice from his champion, Gilbert, is taken to heart. Zweibel and Blankman were married in 1979.

Over the next 10 years, Zweibel and Radner’s conversations appear to be spaced further and further apart as their lives take new paths. They did, however, manage to fulfill the role of a touchstone for one another in instances ranging from hilariously mundane to life-altering.

I am thankful to be privy to moments from such a special friendship. I have read Bunny, Bunny at least a dozen times over the past 13 years. Every month, I think of Radner telling her dear friend Zweibel that saying “Bunny, Bunny” as soon as you wake up on the first day of the month would bring good fortune. It is a sweet fairy tale that I have incorporated into my life. That being said, June 1 is just a week away.

Bunny, Bunny.

Jamé McCraw is a current student at DCH and performs with Watermelon. She enjoys watching squirrels through the windows of her little old house while holding hands with her cat, Stanley.

(Image: LIFE)

"Rogue Tooth Fairy Menaces Small Town" by Jamé McCraw

Edna Waterson, 82, was the most recent victim of an unsettling crimewave that has menaced the small town of Smithfield, Iowa. Waterson woke on the morning of May 12 to find that her dentures were not in their usual place by the bathroom sink. What she found instead was a small stack of shiny quarters. Smithfield residents of all ages have been losing teeth and waking up to loose change. This is the first reported incident of someone losing a full set of false teeth.

Sheriff Donald Doppler has been leading the investigation of more than 38 reported incidents.

“At first, we thought it was a prank by some rough and tumble elementary school kids," Doppler said. "Everybody knows that when you lose a tooth, the tooth fairy is gonna come for that tooth. It seemed like the kids were setting traps to fall down intentionally. But then we got reports of teeth not just falling out, but being removed entirely.”

The incidents were spread out across town and afflicted children and adults alike. Kevin Sanford, 32, woke to find his incisor was missing. Like other incidents reported, the dental extraction was done with extreme care and precision and resulted in absolutely no pain.

“It doesn’t hurt a lick,” Sanford said. “I wish the culprit had taken the tooth that had been bothering me. I have a rotten tooth in the back that needs a root canal. But now I’m down one of the good teeth.”

A quarter was left beneath his pillow, as well as, but along with a very important, sparkling clue: glitter.

“I’ve known Kevin since he was a boy and there is no reason for glitter to be in the man’s house this far from the holidays. I think we are looking for a rogue tooth fairy,” Doppler said. “We are almost certain of the ideal trap to catch her.”’

The town of Smithfield will host its first "Smithfield Smiling Festival" on June 3 in the Town Square. There will be a mouth-rinse gargling contest, free toothbrushes for the kids, and plenty of plaque candy to go around. Admission is free and the festivities begin at 10 a.m. Sheriff Doppler would like to remind attendants that the “buddy system” is mandatory, as there may be a dangerous tooth fairy in the vicinity.

Jamé McCraw is a current student at DCH and performs with Watermelon. She enjoys watching squirrels through the windows of her little old house while holding hands with her cat, Stanley.

"The Wit of Serafinowicz" by Jamé McCraw

English actor and writer Peter Serafinowicz might be most recognized from films and guest appearances on British TV for almost 20 years. An emphasis is nearly always placed on his character’s height, physical features, and vocal traits. He is an irritable roommate in Sean of the Dead and Tim’s ex-girlfriend’s new beau, who the protagonist just can’t quite measure up to, in Spaced.

In 2002, he and his writing partner, Robert Popper, created the satire series Look Around You, which was lovingly styled as an homage to schoolroom educational videos of the late 1970s and early 1980s. A seven-episode sketch series called The Peter Serafinowicz Show aired in 2007 showcasing the actor’s adept impersonations and absurdist characters in a carefully curated realm of commercially recognizable parodies. He was recently cast in a reboot of Ben Edlund’s series, The Tick.

Sassy Trump videos, a pet project of Serafinowicz, have been trending since last summer. The president’s exact words are repeated verbatim in an effeminate snarl that is dubbed over originally televised footage. He has been making and editing short video projects for years.

What follows is a list of my favorite bits of comedy, but I recommend further exploration.

Brian Butterfield Karaoke Bar Brian Butterfield is a portly, bumbling man who always manages to promote one failure or another. I like this for the sheer joy of seeing this character harmonize with himself while singing ABBA and Queen.

Basil Fawlty Impersonator Chat A late-nite chat service where you can be berated by a wound-up misanthrope without reservations.

Who Would Like To Win £100 This black-and-white WWII-era game show parody is slowly paced. Perry Rogers croons about suicide while the contestant “telegrams a friend” for help. The show is cut short by an air-raid.

Buy It Channel A QVC parody where the hosts (Serafinowicz and Catherine Sheppard) face unusual difficulties and are brutally honest about the quality of their products. In one instance, they go so far as to suggest the Sapharina ring, which costs much less to produce than they are selling it for, and resembles “a discarded boiled sweet in a nest of broken glass.”

Paul McCartney "I’ll Kill" Peter Serafinowicz has several sketches where he takes on the role of each of The Beatles and does song parodies, as well. In this morbid re-imagining of "I Will" Paul offers to murder for his new love admitting to her, “Although I’ll be in prison, I’ll be thinking of your kissing.”

Acting Masterclass with Michael Caine Did you know that sausages look like cigars on camera and vice versa? The Acting Masterclass series of videos feature lessons from Kevin Spacey, Ralph Fiennes, and Al Pacino, as well.

Markets of Britain A marketplace where you can buy discarded weapons from an old murderer and giant pencils.

Jamé McCraw is a current student at DCH and performs with Watermelon. She enjoys watching squirrels through the windows of her little old house while holding hands with her cat, Stanley.

"Freek Appeal" by Jamé McCraw

I was nearing my ninth birthday and preparing for the fourth grade during summer 1994. My best friend was away for the summer leaving me on my own to search for new ideas and sources of inspiration. I was overflowing with boundless energy fueled by Fruit-by-the-Foot, Gushers fruit snacks, and Welch’s fruit-flavored soda but never any actual fruit. My greatest joy came from staying up odd hours of the night alone and watching videotapes rented from Cox Video.

One night, while looking at the new release wall, something caught my eye. A slender VHS case with a canary yellow spine with the word “FREAKED” in funky, bright-pink letters. The cover was sky blue, featuring unusual characters along the border including a sock-puppet man, a cow man, Mr. T, and Michael Stoyanov who I recognized from his role as the brother in Blossom who doesn’t utter a dumb catchphrase. Freaked stars Bill & Ted’s Excellent Adventure alum Alex Winter. Winter co-wrote and co-directed this feature alongside Tim Burns and Tom Stern. Hideous Mutant Freekz, at its inception, was meant to be an offensive, crude, and violent horror film. After Fox provided the creators with a budget of $12 million, the film was toned down considerably, placing it in the comedy genre with a PG-13 rating and the title was altered to Freaked. It tested poorly and was not widely distributed. Luckily, it wound up on video shelves for unsuspecting weirdos like me to discover.

There are no trailers before Freaked, which opens to flashing strobing images and the most aggressive music my 8-year-old ears had ever heard. Henry Rollins’ guttural screams, fast drums, and jarring guitar riffs blast bombastically alongside an incredibly psychedelic and brightly patterned title sequence by artist David Daniels. Claymation depictions of freaky characters are smeared transitioning into new images. It’s harsh and unsettling, but I absolutely love it.

The story begins with an unusual news bulletin about a “flying gimp” that has been destroyed. It is now safe for people to return to their homes. This is never explained. Why did they have to leave their homes? Your home is supposed to be the safest place you can be. Yet, there is this threat that is exceptional - it can fly but also is hindered -it is a gimp. Crisis averted, so don’t worry about that. The scheduled program resumes, which is a talk show called "The Skye Daley Show." Brooke Shields as Skye Daley appears bubbly and bright in contrast to her guest Ricky Coogin (Alex Winter) sitting in shadows of a heinous silhouette.

Ricky is a has-been child star who becomes the spokesman for a company called E.E.S. (Everything Except Shoes) and is accompanied by his friend Ernie (Michael Stoyanov) to promote a hazardous chemical called Zygrot-24. The pair flies to Santa Flan, an island named after the patron saint of creamy desserts. They trick an eco-activist named Julie (Megan Ward from Encino Man) into traveling with them and fall prey to Freak Show proprietor Elijah C. Skuggs (Randy Quaid). This sun-scorched redneck transfigures the Gen X trio into hideous mutant freaks. The supporting cast features Mr. T as the bearded lady and Bobcat Goldthwaite as a hand-puppet freak called Sockhead. Keanu Reeves is uncredited as Ortiz the Dog Boy. He is covered in fur and sounds like Antonio Banderas. They are forced to perform hokey vaudeville acts for crowds, and chaos ensues. The freaks band together to emancipate themselves from the clutches of Skuggs. In one memorable scene, two walking, giant Rastafarian eyeballs attempt to thwart an escape effort with the entire gang disguised as old-fashioned milkmen. It is amazing.

Freaked
Freaked

Freaked triumphs in its enduring audacity. There are so many tropes and gags jammed into this story, but it never feels overwrought. The pacing is nimble, and the saga is truly unique. The production design, sets, and makeup are unlike anything. While it certainly has a late-1980s/early-1990s aesthetic, repeat viewings are never cloyingly reminiscent of that era. It feels timelessly original. In the midst of a cavalcade of grotesque visuals, there is an endearing sweetness to this passion project.

I have never seen a widescreen version of this movie and was delighted to find that the film is available in its entirety on YouTube with extra scenes. When Cox Video ultimately closed down five years after I first saw Freaked, I purchased the exact VHS copy of the film I had rented countless times. It remains one of my most valuable possessions.

Jamé McCraw is a current student at DCH and performs with Watermelon. She enjoys watching squirrels through the windows of her little old house while holding hands with her cat, Stanley.