Parks and Rec

What We're Loving: Branching Out, Lessons for Kids, Collaborating and Listening

Each Friday, DCH performers, teachers, and students offer their recommendations for what to watch, read, see, hear, or experience. This week David Allison wishes Bruno never returned, Jonda Robinson discovers the right time for treats, Molly Jakkamsetti waxes chumps like a candle.  urlIt’s always a strange feeling when a creative person, whose work you enjoy, decides to branch out and try a different medium. For some, like Donald Glover and Hugh Laurie, it works really well. For others, like Bruce Willis, IT DOES NOT WORK. You’ll notice that I put a portion of that last sentence in all caps, which was intentional as I was trying to reinforce just how much it doesn’t work sometimes. Even worse, these ventures sometimes ruin how much you’re able to appreciate the talents that drew you to them in the first place. It was with that level of trepidation that I decided to check out the band comprised of Harris Wittels, Paul Rust, and Michael Cassady. Individually, the three have done some fantastic work (Wittels-Parks & Rec/Humblebrag, Rust- Comedy Bang! Bang!/Arrested Development, Cassady-Earwolf/UCB) so on one hand, it seems like combining their talents had to work. On the other, they’re comedy writers/actors, so the idea of them starting a band is pretty terrible. So how did it end up? I really liked it! I’m rating the work of the band “Don’t stop or we’ll die” as WHAT I’M LOVING THIS WEEK (Note: This instance of all caps was to remind you of the title of this weekly piece).

Now I’m not here to tell you how to spend your money; I’m not Suze Orman. Plus, the production quality isn’t always the best. But you should at the very least check out these songs, and then, if/when you enjoy them BUY EVERY ALBUM THEY’VE EVER CREATED (Caps for commerce). Here are some of my favorites.

Once In A While -Proof that they can play and sing music!

Lectric Roller Skates -The classic tale of the folly of man.

The Ballad of Bird and Fox -A dramatic take on the parental responsibilities of a bird and fox in a crumbling marriage

- David Allison smart-kidsI read an article this week from Time entitled “How To Make Your Kids Smarter: 10 Steps Backed By Science.” Initially I overlooked it because I don’t have kids, and I enjoy naps too much to want any anytime soon. Then I thought about my students, and also myself, and decided that maybe this article could have something that I could use in my own life. Here is the list, along with my translation of what I’m actually hearing them say for my own life:

  1. Music Lessons (Translation: Dust off the guitar that you bought after an inspiring live performance by Sheryl Crow and finally learn how to play “My Favorite Mistake.”)
  2. The Dumb Jock Is A Myth (Translation: Never stop looking for a smart, athletic man to marry.)
  3. Don’t Read To Your Kids, Read With Them (Translation: Kids better start pulling their weight.)
  4. Sleep Deprivation Makes Kids Stupid (Translation: You SHOULD take all those naps. And sleep in when you can!)
  5. IQ Isn’t Worth Much Without Self Discipline (Translation: Get grits...er, I mean, “grit.”)
  6. Learning Is An Active Process (Translation: You should read on the treadmill.)
  7. Treats Can Be a Good Thing--At The Right Time (Translation: It’s ALWAYS the right time for a treat.)
  8. Happy Kids = Successful Kids (Translation: Choose to be happy, so you can be successful. To reference Sheryl Crow again, “It’s not having what you want/It’s wanting what you’ve got.”)
  9. Peer Group Matters (Translation: Hang out with people who are smarter and cooler than you so you can become smarter and cooler.)
  10. Believe In Them (Translation: Believe in yourself! If you don’t, how can you expect others to?)

In closing, I offer you this quote from the article: “Intelligence isn’t everything. Without ethics and empathy really smart people can be scary.” So get out there, smarty pants! You’ve got so much to offer--use these tips and put those smarts to good use! - Jonda Robinson

mqdefaultIt’s been a rough week in Dallas, amirite? Let me take you back to a simpler time, all the way back to 1999, when MTV aired a special called 25 Lame. It was the 25 lamest videos as chosen by then-MTV viewers. The network vowed that once these videos were played on this special, they were never to be seen on MTV again. (Insert your own comment on how they ‘never play videos anyway).’

The hosts were 4 well known comedians: Jon Stewart (He may have just started hosting The Daily Show), Janeane Garafolo (who is seen smoking on set - no e-cigs back then!!), Denis Leary (sardonic as ever), and Chris Kattan (yeah, he was on SNL then). They watched each video and mocked them as they aired, a la Beavis and Butthead, and at the end they would “destroy” the tapes ( I remember one ended up in a blender).

As you would expect, most of them were one hit wonders (The Macarena, Milli Vanilli, and Rico Suave to name a few) and failed attempts by celebrities to launch singing careers (Eddie Murphy and Don Johnson were in the top 5).

The most uncomfortable moment was when Vanilla Ice made a special appearance to destroy his video for “Ice Ice Baby.” The hosts all acknowledged how awkward it was for them to mock the video while Ice is sitting right there. When they give him the chance to destroy his video, he takes a baseball bat and starts swinging around the set, almost hitting the hosts. I’m not sure if it was all staged, but I remember Kattan looked genuinely frightened. You can hear someone off set saying “that’s enough” so I think maybe it was a planned stunt that Vanilla took too far.

If you search “MTV 25 Lame” on You Tube, you may only find this part of the special. I hope you watch more of it, their comments are still pretty funny. Denis Leary describes Four Non Blondes “What’s Up” as the same thing he hears from a lady sitting on a street corner in New York, screaming “HEYY YEAAH YEAAH YEAH”… - Molly Jakkamsetti

What We're Loving: Fake Letters, Bad Movies, Best Friends, Japanese Climax

Each Friday, DCH performers, teachers, and students offer their recommendations for what to watch, read, see, hear, or experience. This week David Allison hopes to cure his loneliness, Amanda Hahn suggests a visit to the bad part of town, Jonda Robinson doesn't leave her house, and Ryan Callahan is exited for climax.  jpegBooks are the worst. In the fight between sitting down to read a book and going to a cool party, going to a cool party is usually the winner. In fact, going to a cool party is like the Mike Tyson of the category. Sadly, Mike Tyson aged and doesn’t have it in him to battle off sitting down to read a book. And thus, the thing I’m loving this week, is a book. Gross.

My pick comes from one of my favorites, Jon Glaser. Even if you don’t remember his name, you’ve most likely seen Glaser as a writer/walk on artist on Conan O’Brien in the 90s, the recurring character Councilman Jamm on Parks & Recreation, or the brilliant show Delocated. Oh, and let’s not forget about that time he got justifiably mad at Pete Holmes. Regardless of what you know him as, you should be aware of his talents as an author.

My Dead Dad Was In ZZ Top is a collection of short, fictitious letters written by Glaser. The concept of the titular story is that a son cleans out the possessions of his recently deceased father and discovers a number of letters written from the dad to the members of ZZ Top, before they were famous. Beyond that fantastic piece, you can look forward to hearing about Van Halen’s alternate band names, Prince’s set list from the bat mitzvah of Steven Spielberg's daughter, and lyrics from when David Bowie sold out and started parodying his own songs. You can actually find a recording of Glaser singing the Bowie song on an episode of the Fogelnest Files if you want to click this link and jump to the 19:53 mark.

So please check out this book so that I can have someone to talk to about the one book per year I read. - David Allison

MV5BMTcxMDkxNTMwNl5BMl5BanBnXkFtZTcwMzc5MjUzNA@@._V1_SX640_SY720_The recent announcement that writer/producer/director/star of The Room, Tommy Wiseau, is coming out with a new sitcom reminded me of all the “so bad, they’re good” movies I watched or planned on watching after seeing and becoming obsessed with The Room. One of those movies was the gorgeously titled Hobo with a Shotgun. It was inspired by the intentionally over the top, silly, fake trailer that appeared in Robert Rodriguez and Quentin Tarantino’s Grindhouse. The joke probably should have ended there. But I’m glad it didn’t. Keep in mind, it’s not a good movie (which is partly intentional), but it’s entertaining if you watch it knowing this. It starts out with a hobo moving to a new town where most people have completely lost their moral compass. To establish this, one of the first things we see in the movie is the wealthy womanizer that runs the city decapitating his brother, followed by an unknown female in a bikini gyrating over the blood squirting out of his neck. And in case you don’t understand yet that this is a town filled with scum, to really drive the point home, this town is called Scum Town. It’s unclear why any of the citizens that are horrified and run away screaming from these acts of scum still live in Scum Town, but I suppose all of us make strange choices in life.

For a while, the hobo just wanders around Scum Town, watching these acts happen. But then one of the kids in the town, played by Greg from Zenon Girl of the 21st Century, shoves another kid’s face into a literal PILE of cocaine and tries to kill a prostitute. Then Hobo begins his vigilante lifestyle, beating Greg from Zenon with a sock of coins. After becoming BFF with the prostitute, he buys a shotgun to stop a robbery/baby murder, and so begins Hobo’s killing/corny line rampage.

Overall, this movie is filled with graphic killings, people getting their dicks shot off, pedophile Santa Clauses, doctor-killing robot ninjas, groan-worthy lines, and dramatic speeches that include the title of the movie. If you’re in the mood for something cheesy, heavy handed, and downright cartoonish, ain’t nothing better than our dear friend: Hobo with a Shotgun, available on Netflix. - Amanda Hahn

playinghouse_btsinterviews_600x500Some days are just made for binge watching TV. I had one of those days this week, and at the recommendation of a friend I spent it immersing myself in the USA show Playing House. The show was created by and stars Jessica St. Clair and Lennon Parham (both from the Upright Citizens Brigade) playing two best friends at very different life stages--Emma (St. Clair) is a single, 30-something business woman who moved away as soon as she could, while Maggie (Parham) is a married, soon-to-be mom who never left their hometown. When it’s discovered that Maggie’s husband is cheating on her, Emma decides to support her friend by moving home to help her raise the baby.

I love these characters and this set-up because the dynamic reminds me of myself and my longtime BFF, and also because, if needed, I would totally raise a child with her. The other characters who populate the show are fantastic as well, with Jane Kaczmarek as Emma’s estranged mother, Zach Woods as Maggie’s brother, and Keegan-Michael Key as my favorite character, Mark, the local cop and former flame of Emma. (I could probably write this whole post about how much I like Mark, and all my favorite Mark moments, but I won’t, I’ll just say he’s cute and great and dependable and helpful and charming and I hope someday to find my own version of him, blah, blah, etc., etc., you get the picture.) A slew of great guests show up along the way, as well.

The show hasn’t been picked up for a second season yet, but my fingers are crossed, because there are things I need to know. If you’re reading this, anyone with any pull at the USA Network, hear my cry: PLEASE DON’T LEAVE ME HANGING! - Jonda Robinson

show_match_icon.phpIt's that time of year again. The G1 Climax is here! For those of you who are unfamiliar, which I assume is all of you, the G1 Climax is an annual professional wrestling  tournament held by New Japan Pro Wrestling. Yes, it is pro wrestling, but it's in JAPAN. Yes, it's still pre-determined, but you wouldn't know by watching the matches. Unlike the American style, which carries an air of "Trust us, this is all pretend," Japanese wrestling is all about believability. Fighting men, each with his own style, each with his own persona, go to war over the course of two weeks to determine who has the most "fighting spirit." The G1 Climax is the closest thing we'll ever get to the Kumite.

The G1 has produced so many memorable matches over there years. The Vader-Keiji Muto semifinal match from the inaugural tournament in 1991 had the crowd in Sumo Hall so excited that they showered the ring with pillows in celebration. The 1998 match between Genichiro Tenryu and Shinya Hashimoto is the gold standard for lumpy guys beating the piss out of each other. Last year's tournament featured my favorite match of the year, a slugfest between my personal favorite wrestler Katsuyori Shibata, whose gimmick is that he kicks people wicked hard, and Tomohiro Ishii, a bowling ball of a man who takes, and sells absurd punishment, and just keeps firing back.

This year's G1 is the biggest ever, with 22 wrestlers competing, including such people you may know, like A.J. Styles, Doc Gallows (formally Luke Gallows of CM Punk's Straight Society), Shelton Benjamin, and Davey Boy Smith, Jr., and people you should know, like Hiroshi Tanahasi (best wrestler in the world), Kazuchika Okada, AKA The Rainmaker (on his way to becoming the best wrestler in the world), the aforementioned Shibata and Ishii, and Minoru Suzuki, the surly former shooter who once wrestled a mechanical mummy.

I spent a week last August holed up in my brother's basement watching the G1. I plan to do the same this year from the comfort of my own couch, starting tonight. If you are a current or lapsed fan of pro wrestling, I highly recommend. The commentary is in Japanese, but the characters are so clear and the action so entertaining that you'll have no problem following. Every show is available on UStream. - Ryan Callahan

 

What We're Loving: Comedy Canons, Televison History, Self-Loathing Doctors, Classical Open Mics

image (3)Each Friday, DCH performers, teachers, and students offer their recommendations for what to watch, read, see, hear, or experience. This week David Allison laughs in his cubicle, Ashley Bright runs for her notepad, Ryan Callahan sees a reflection of himself, and Amanda Hahn finds hidden treasure. Time_Bobby

It’s the best week of the year!  If you’re asking why, then you’re most likely not familiar with Comedy Bang Bang’s yearly triumph known as “Time Bobby.” AND THAT MAKES YOU DUMB.  Comedy Bang Bang is a free weekly podcast on which host Scott Aukerman invites guests both real and fake to join him in conversation.  Each installment of the show is different,  save for some recurring characters and, occasionally, recurring episodes.  Monday, May 12th saw the release of the third “Time Bobby,” a fan favorite episode which pits a Bobby Moynihan voiced orphan child named Fourvel (One less than Fievel) against Paul F. Tompkins’ Lord Andrew Lloyd Webber.  PFT appears often on Comedy Bang Bang because of his quick wit, character range, and phenomenal rapport with Aukerman.  But even though we get to enjoy about fifteen appearances a year of Tompkins on the broadcast, he’s always at his best when he’s paired with Saturday Night Live’s Bobby Moynihan.  Most of the time that PFT joins in on an episode, he and Aukerman are against each other, so it’s a blast to listen to them band together against the Moynihan’s orphan boy.

I’d recommend taking a listen if you enjoy any of the following:

  • Mnemonic Devices
  • Knives
  • STARLIGHT EXPRESS (Note: I bought a sweet Starlight Express poster this week.  Jealous?)
  • Holding back laughter as you listen to podcasts in cubicles

Please remember that there have been previous episodes of “Time Bobby,” so if you’ve been unaware of the franchise until today, YOU HAVEN’T EARNED THE RIGHT TO LISTEN TO EPISODE THREE, SO DON’T ACT LIKE YOU CAN JUST WALTZ INTO YOUR PODCAST APP AND LISTEN TO THE LATEST ITERATION LIKE YOU OWN THE PLACE.  You need to be aware of canon.  The original was released on 3/26/12 (Episode 150), followed by the second on 4/22/13 (Episode 215).  Also, there was an appearance of both characters on season two of the Comedy Bang Bang television show, but Fourvel and Andrew Lloyd Webber were not on the same episode so THE TV SHOW IS NOT CANON.  Listen to them all and you’ll know what to do the next time you’re with a group of people and someone yells K.N.I.F.E. G.R.A.B.! - David Allison

urlThis week I watched America in Primetime on Netflix, a four-part documentary that originally aired on PBS.  The show is broken up into four episodes based on different character archetypes of television: "Man of the House," "Independent Woman," "The Misfit,"and "The Crusader."  Show creators, writers, and actors are interviewed, and most have the opinion that television is the greatest medium because the audience truly gets to connect with the character. (Except for David Chase, who created The Sopranos, who has a particularly sassy and refreshing opinion that 2 hours is plenty of time to get to know a character.)

In the first episode, "Man of the House," Norman Lear, the creator of All in the Family, said something that made me hit pause and run for my notepad: "I take life seriously.  I see the comedy in it.  I see the foolishness of the human condition.  I delight in it and I've used it."  Full disclosure: I ran for my notebook because the closed captioning said "abused" and I loved that, but after reviewing the tape, he definitely says "used."  I still love the quote enough to tell you about it, but I may not have ran so quickly for "used."  Each writer and creator has a similar sort of take on their creation.  They were writing human beings, fully dimensional human beings.  Carl Reiner talks about unintentionally pushing boundaries with The Dick Van Dyke Show because he wrote a character who actually respected his wife.

I'm going to presume that if you reading this on the DCH website that you have some interest in comedy as an art form.  If so, I recommend watching this series.  It's a real peak inside the minds of some of the greatest storytellers of the last 50 years.  It's a testimonial to the fact that character is more important than plot, which you may have heard from time to time in your comedy journey.  Note: DO NOT watch "The Crusader" episode, if you haven't yet watched The Wire.  David Simon lays down some beautiful truth bombs, but there are spoilers galore. - Ashley Bright

house-md-1024x768Recently I resumed an old, bad habit from my college days: falling asleep to TV shows. Instead of reading a book, or letting the stillness of the night watch over me, I've been drowning out my constant inner monologue with the scripted television's aggressive noise. After burning through the first season of Brooklyn 99 and catching up on Parks and Rec and Community, I needed something new to sooth my soul, something comfortable, something familiar, something like House, MD.  I've always been a huge fan of procedurals. They satisfy my inherent need for structure and closure. I loved the show when it first began, ten years ago, but stopped watching somewhere around season four, either because life got in the way or the show's formula (House gets it wrong three times before discovering a secret the patient has kept from him and nailing the diagnosis on the fourth try) grew stale.

Having never watched the final seasons, and wondering how it all ended, I decided to pick the show back up. Naturally, because I have a terrible fear of not knowing things, I started from season one. It's been ten years since I've watched these episodes, ten eventful years in my life. House is still a compelling show, (in fact, so compelling that's costing me sleep. I can always watch one more episode) but compelling for different reasons. When I first watched, I thought House was the coolest character on TV, a total bad ass, the smartest guy in the room playing by his own rules, destroying people with withering  sarcasm while getting high the whole time. Now I see the sadness. The way he pushes people away. The way his selfish actions harm the people who love him most. The way he takes out his self-loathing on everyone who comes into his orbit. Where once I saw so much comedy, now I see tragedy. And I see an accurate portrayal of an addict. The sarcasm is still funny, thanks to Hugh Laurie's delivery and timing. There are times when I see him cut someone down, or deflect a question with a joke and I think, "I should act more like that." Then I remember I did act like that. And it was really lonely. - Ryan Callahan

 

dariusOn Tuesday night, I needed to find a place to work. With my eyelids getting heavier by the minute and my bed seeming closer and closer by the second, I knew staying home was hazardous to my productivity. Around 10:00 pm, I decided to head to BuzzBrews Kitchen on Lemmon Avenue. I was hoping to find friendly waiters, endless coffee, and plenty of room to spread out my work. What I found was even better. I found live classical music – totally free. Initially, when I entered BuzzBrews, the first thing I noticed was that it was surprisingly crowded. The second thing I noticed was that it wasn’t filled with college students studying for finals. This was an older crowd of people in their late thirties and early forties. Almost everyone was drinking wine. Many men were wearing sport coats and fedoras. There wasn’t a textbook or computer in sight. The third thing I noticed was that the music playing in the restaurant was very pleasant. Quickly after this realization, I noticed the fourth and most important thing: the beautiful piano piece I was listening to wasn’t a recording. It was live. I didn’t know this before, but every Tuesday night from 8:00 pm until 12:00 am, BuzzBrews hosts an open mic for classical musicians. I’m so happy that I found this that I’m downright angry that I didn’t know about this sooner. The casual atmosphere with a touch of class was exactly what I needed to focus on work but still be relaxed. The music throughout the night ranged from a cappella singers to fiddlers to pianists. Some acts were mediocre, but others were fantastic. These hidden talents of Dallas kept my head bobbing, toes tapping, and heart tranquil as I pounded out all the work I needed to finish. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MncemQbYPpQ I know where I’ll start going every Tuesday night. But from now on, I hope to be accompanied by a glass of wine and a few friends, not my computer. - Amanda Hahn

Throwback Thursday: Hustle Man

imgresThursday night has always been the best night for television for me.  As an adult, I think my favorite Thursday night line-up has been whatever combination of Community, Parks and Rec, The Office, 30 Rock (they all swapped times a bunch), and then watching Grey’s Anatomy on DVR.  In honor of Black History Month (yes, it’s May, but every month is black history month!!!… or you can chalk it up to me operating on CPT ) I would like to take you into the living room of my household in the early 90s where my family’s Thursday night lineup was Martin, Living Single, New York Undercover, and the taped recording of Def Comedy Jam from the night before. We had a 42” wood grained Magnavox TV that my pops just kinda showed up with one day.  It was the biggest television we’d ever had and we didn’t care that we could not quite make out the channel numbers from the digital dial on the right panel.  It didn’t matter anyway.  Our cable was “hood rigged” through the RCA VCR on top of it.  We would have to walk up and change the channel from there until one day I saw my dad wiping down a very dusty Panasonic remote that had scotch tape securing the batteries in the back of it.  This remote was somehow compatible with our RCA VCR and the Magnavox TV. It was in that living room, on that television via that VCR, both operated by that remote, that I would be introduced to a man who, in the future, Tina Fey would help make relevant to Emmy nomination committees.  That man… is Hustle Man from FOX’s Martin - better known as Tracy Morgan.

Yes, before Tracy Jordan 30-rocked Liz Lemon’s world in 2006 as a millionaire movie star in New York City, Morgan hustled his way through the streets of Detroit popping in and out of the life of “Mar-iiiiinnnn” in the 1990s.  Hustle Man could not only get you anything you needed, he could also do ANYTHING: deliver pizza, sell flowers, plan weddings, teach a dog to rap -- as he would tell you, “You want it, I got it.  I ain’t got it, I’m gone get it.  So get it while the gettin’ is good.”

In a show that mostly relied on character work from Martin Lawrence himself, appearing on the show as nine different supporting characters (sing with me: “Forever Shenehneh…”), Tracy Morgan’s appearances as Hustle Man were a well deserved endorsement from Mr Lawrence.   Morgan owned every scene he was in with a commitment level that I aspire to.  I was always excited when Hustle Man came through the door.  My favorite time, though, was when he entered not as Hustle Man, but as saxophonist, Hustle Marsalis.  To this day, I cannot hear Average White Band’s “Pick Up the Pieces” without doing his choreography.

I loved Hustle Man.  I never got into it, but I remember feeling really good that there was a Tracy Morgan Show, and I was also very excited that Morgan got a spot on SNL even though I seldom watched him on it.  I was happy for Tracy Morgan because Hustle Man had made me so happy.   Also, I think maybe I believed that Hustle Man was a real person.  Someone had to be helping my dad hook up our living room television viewing experience.

Enjoy these Hustle Man clips.  Catch Hustle Marsalis at the end and dance with me.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DDhdZ36jZ5E

Julia Cotton is a DCH graduate and TA. She currently performs with Dairy Based.

What We're Loving: Unconventional Law Enforcement, Music With a Heart, Dining on Classics, Modern American Mythology

photoEach Friday, DCH performers, teachers, and students offer their recommendations for what to watch, read, see, hear, or experience. This week Julia Cotton finds character best taught with an axe, David Allison teases desert island possibilities, Ashley Bright binges on Italian, and Ryan Callahan finds inspiration from an unlikely source.  

axecopThey say not to let television babysit your kids. Well, whoever “they” is has never volunteered to babysit my 1st and 4th grader for free. Television gets the job done while I do important things (like search for cheap tickets to sold out Beyonce concerts online). My kids have stumbled upon two shows that I am proud to have as my Mrs. Doubtfire, as they both highlight creativity, imagination, and exploring life’s capabilities. They are Disney’s Phineas and Ferb ...and Fox’s Axe Cop. I won’t go on much about Phineas and Ferb. It is hilarious, very well written, and those two little boys get more accomplished in one day than most adults get done in a lifetime. I am sure you’re more concerned that I allow my kids watch TV-14 rated Axe Cop. “Mom. He is a cop, but instead of a gun, he uses an axe!” They are genuinely drawn to the unconventional nature of Axe Cop. And, sure an axe yields just as much (and perhaps more gruesome) damage as a gun, but, beyond the violence, there are prominent themes of loyalty, accountability, service, tolerance, and innovation. Axe Cop is voiced by the epitome of manliness himself, Nick Offerman. Full of the Ron Swanson “no nonsense” gravitas, this hero has only one passion: killing bad guys. My kids’ favorite episode is when Axe Cop simply draws a picture of a magical land and is able to transport there. It is a land full of formidable bad guys that need slaughtering. It is his dream land. If you still have reservations about my 7 and 9-year-old watching this ‘Animation Domination’ program, consider this: the show was created by a 5-year-old. Axe Cop is the brainchild of actual child-child Malachi Nicolle. My daughter’s reaction to this news was much like my reaction when I remember that Beyonce and I are the same age. “Mom. I’m already 7! What have I been doing?” After watching either of these shows, my kids are motivated to stop watching television for a while to try to create something of their own. This inevitably tears me away from searching for Beyonce tickets and my babysitter’s job is done. - Julia Cotton

A+Mighty+Wind+Motion+Picture+Soundtrack+A+Mighty+Wind++All+on+StageI love alliteration!  In celebration of that fact, I’m creating “Movie Soundtrack March” to showcase great comedy soundtracks that go underappreciated.  The only rule for my weekly pick is that the soundtrack has to mostly be comprised of original music.

With Spinal Tap, Waiting For GuffmanBest in Show, and A Mighty Wind, Christopher Guest and his core group of creators experienced an amazing run by producing four amazing comedies.  I could wax poetic about each of these films, but you could easily find breakdowns of them by writers far more talented than I am.  Instead of that, I’m going to focus on the soundtrack of A Mighty Wind because of it’s combination of catchy, fun songs with genuine heart and emotions.  I know this is a collection of tracks created to score a mockumentary, but this is one of the three albums I would take with me on a desert island.  Heck, it might be my number one (Please don’t send me to a desert island and make me choose).

The tracks of A Mighty Wind are provided by the three fictitious bands profiled in the film.  You’ve got The New Main Street Singers (Jane Lynch, Parker Posey, and John Michael Higgins, among others) a group that sounds and looks like what would happen if the Polyphonic Spree created 60s folk.  Their interpretation of The Bible in “The good book song” is fantastic.  The Folksmen (Christopher Guest, Harry Shearer, Michael McKean) are a trio, much like the Kingston Trio of real life folk music fame, who create great harmonies in their patient, laid back tunes.  They provide the only cover on the album, a stripped down version of The Rolling Stones’ “Start Me Up” that showcases the absurdity of the original lyrics.  The true superstar group of the album is Mitch and Mickey (Eugene Levy and Catherine O’Hara).  Their music isn’t funny. Sorry.  But it’s beautiful and earned the film an Oscar nomination for “A kiss at the end of the rainbow.”  Here’s a great clip of Levy and O’Hara performing it live at the Academy Awards.  The whole album is streaming on most music services. - David Allison

James GandolfiniSometimes you find yourself in an unintentional onslaught of some theme or person in the things you're watching or reading. During the Ice-mageddon a few months ago, my roommate and I accidentally binged on John Candy. This past week, I've consumed a lot James Gandolfini. I've been watching the Sopranos for my first time and I'm now on the 5th season. I see now why they say the Sopranos kicked off this new era of TV drama: Tony Soprano certainly opened the door for Don Draper and Walter White to lead shows as men very much in the gray area of good or bad. But the heart attack jokes about Tony are plentiful, sad, and uncomfortably on the nose. A couple of days ago, I fed my hankering to re-watch one of my favorite movies, True Romance; Gandolfini is in one of my favorite scenes. Oh, sweet Bama. And last and possibly least, I watched Enough Said, the somewhat underwhelming rom-com staring Julia Louis-Dreyfuss and Mr. Gandolfini. Avert your eyes now, if you are troubled by spoilers, but I'll try my best not to ruin any future viewing experience. I have no problem being left with questions after a movie except when I feel like the answers to those questions would have made for a stronger story. In Enough Said, we find out that Gandolfini's character archives old television shows and has watched them all repeatedly along the way. I felt like this was never really explored. In fact, the whole movie felt a little lopsided because I don't think his character was ever fully explored. I'm not good at Internet research so I cannot confirm that his untimely death impacted the movie, but it kind of felt like it did. Despite all of that, Julia L-D's performance and their chemistry make it worth watching. Although, if you've never seen True Romance, watch that first. - Ashley Bright

TV After OprahSo Ellen Degeneres hosted the Oscars. I figured I’d write about her and the way she influenced my personality when I was a nothing but a teenager making sarcastic jokes in class: her cadence, her optimistic deadpan demeanor, and the way she could deliver the most horrible news in the most casual, and cheerful manner.

After that I’d I’d dip into the Oscars, and write about watching for 25 years and not caring as much anymore, but watching out of habit, and still kind of caring because it’s still the Oscars.

That’s when the truth hit me. I had been living a lie.

Ellen is great and the Academy Awards are a fertile ground for pop culture discussion, but I’m loving one thing and one thing only this week. And that one thing is Rick Ross.

rick_ross_bet_hip-hop_awards_-_h_2012

I feel so much better having said that.

For those who don’t know, the Rick Ross story goes like this: William Leonard Roberts II was a former college football player and corrections officer who appropriated the persona of noted cocaine kingpin “Freeway” Ricky Ross and parlayed his new image into a rap empire. He’s the real life version of Gusto from the oddly-forgotten Chris Rock gangster rap satire CB4. I’ve been listening to Rick Ross in my car all the time all week. Even when I have no place to drive.  The music is pure capitalism: Make money, spend money, make money, spend money. It’s basically propaganda. And nothing inspires me more. Each time I hear “Hustlin'" I get excited and sometimes begin to dance or hop around (my form of dance,) and sing the first three verses. That music revs me up. I know it’s fake and I know it’s deeply wrong on a moral level, but dang it if it doesn’t lift my spirits without fail.

I grew up in a small New England village. We lived near the woods and sometimes saw bears.  We're run and play outside, with sticks and Jarts, all summer and fall. It was a safe, beautiful, and undramatic place. I grew up without religion. I didn’t read Tolkien. My tales of morality and adventure, my escape, came from professional wrestling, from comic books, and from gangster rap. NWA’s Straight Outta Compton was the first tape I memorized front to back. From there it was Ice Cube, and The Geto Boys, CPO, and 50 Cent and G-Unit. And Rick Ross.

The stories and images of gangster rap shaped my understanding of what material success means in this country. Also, they fostered my interest in conversational dynamics. Every rap song is a monologue. Every argument has a winner.

In conclusion, here’s Ellen Degeneres talking about bees. (jump to 15:55) - Ryan Callahan http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EWOdNSh3W3U