The West Wing

What We're Loving: Good Things Ending, In Car Giggling, Mile High Shopping, Fictional Assistants

Each Friday, DCH performers, teachers, and students offer their recommendations for what to watch, read, see, hear, or experience. This week David Allison faces mortality, Ashley Bright laughs at absurdity, Amanda Hahn explores the free market, and Ryan Callahan shocks the world. hqdefaultI’m terrified of death and want everything to go on forever. There, I said it! If I had my druthers all things that I enjoy would continue and it would be the law that they exist forever, or at least until I’m tired of watching them (RIP my interest in Dexter after Season Four). I was confronted with this existential crisis this week when I realized that a web series I’ve recently come to enjoy, Chicago Rats, is coming to an end after only three installments. Looking back, I should’ve realized that the warning signs were there all along. I mean, incredibly talented people like Saturday Night Live’s Mike O’Brien and Tim Robinson don’t waste their time on YouTube clips forever. And there wasn’t much of an arc that needed to be completed. And the first and second installments were literally labeled 1 of 3 and 2 of 3, but still, staring down that 3 of 3, knowing that something I enjoy is coming to an end, was not a fun realization.

If for some stupid reason you’re not aware of the random thing that I love this week, let me introduce you. Chicago Rats comes to us from The Above Average Comedy Network on YouTube. You may remember the online conglomerate as the same page that brought you Mike O’Brien’s  Seven Minutes in Heaven celebrity interviews these past few years. The same no budget production style is employed in these videos, the best of which is "Condo Nights". Nights is batting in the Empire Strikes Back slot in the lineup as the second of three and pits O’Brien, Robinson and fellow SNL writer Shelly Gossman as three clueless porn actors forced to improvise dialogue. Their cluelessness is perfect. The other two clips are worth checking out too, but realize, THERE ARE ONLY THREE. So if you want a reminder of your impending demise and the finality of all things, check out the entire three part series. - David Allison

Charles-Bukowski-Uncensored-CD-Bukowski-Charles-9780694524228I have not refreshed the stock of CDs (compact discs with audio files for you youngins)  that I keep in my car in quite some time.  I either hook up my phone, listen to 90.1, or select from the same slim rotation of CDs.  I'm simple and I have a short commute these days.  Heavy in that slim rotation is a Charles Bukowski Uncensored CD that I found at a yard sale a couple of years ago.  And when I put this CD in, I usually listen to the same two tracks on repeat.  The tracks are of him reading his poem, "The Genius of the Crowd."  First, I'll explain why I love this poem and then I'll explain why I listen to it repeatedly.  Aside from when he tells us to beware of folks who constantly read books, he strikes a lot of truth chords with me.  "Beware of the knowers" may be my favorite line because I am always leery of people who are strictly black and white with their beliefs - people who know what's right and wrong.  "Beware of those who are quick to praise for they need praise in return."  Not an absolute truth, but something that's true most of the time.  "Beware of those who detest poverty or those who are proud of it."  Again, he strikes on the absolutes. But here's the real reason I listen to this on repeat.  On the first reading, he pronounces absurdity as 'absurbity.' They let him read through without interrupting him. The next track they ask him to re-read it, but this time pronouncing it correctly.  He tries and keeps saying 'absurbity.'  He can't hear the difference.  Finally, his wife or ladyfriend attempts to walk him through the phonics.  He can do it slowly, but mispronounces it again when he tries to read the whole poem.  They all break up laughing.  I giggle every single time I listen to it.  A hard, raucous, alone in my car. giggle every single time.  If you ever want to listen to it, skip your Uber and I'll drive you home, and we can giggle together. - Ashley Bright

skymall3This week, I traveled out of town for work. Mid-flight on the way out of Dallas, I noticed something in the seat pocket in front of me that I had forgotten existed. It was the most entertaining magazine in the whole world. It was the SkyMall shopping catalog. I love SkyMall so much and laugh out loud every time I flip through it. I’m convinced the creators of the items look through the decoy gift boxes from The Onion and base actual products on those. Compare the pictures below. Based on the products themselves, it’s hard to tell which item is from The Onion and which item is a real product that you can actually buy with real money from SkyMall.

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I’ll admit that some of the products are actually somewhat useful, just overpriced. However, most are ludicrous. Of the ludicrous, my two favorite categories are: 1) Tricking old people and 2) Is this for real?!

“Tricking old people” includes cleverly worded products (usually electronics) named to be appealing to old people that can be purchased far cheaper elsewhere. For example, you can buy a “VHS to DVD converter” (it’s a VHS/DVD player, and if you’re under the age of 75, you knew that already) for nearly $300 from SkyMall. The same thing can be purchased for about $200 less at…anywhere else. Don’t forget about the “Picture Keeper,” available for about $60. It’s nothing more than an 8 GB USB drive. As malicious as this trickery is, it has allowed for my favorite hobby of pointing at products with my mouth agape, looking around at my fellow passengers, mouthing “are you kidding me?”

“Is this for real?!” includes things like: boxes that are programmed to say “Lookin’ good, Bob” when opened. Or this giant gorilla statue surrounded by cheerleaders (it’s unclear whether cheerleaders are included with your purchase).

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There is also this creepy bag that winks while you walk (it’s unclear why, why, why, why, why on Earth anyone would want this.HahnWWL3

Ladies and gentlemen, do not despair thinking you can only experience the joy of SkyMall on an airplane. I am happy to say that you can browse the SkyMall catalog online or have delivered right to your door, free of charge. If I haven’t convinced you to order it, then let the sole online review from six years ago do the talking: 4-stars from a guy with the username “justdoit.” And he recommends the catalog. - Amanda Hahn

clash18We've grown close enough over the past few months, dear reader, me sharing my thoughts on pop culture, you reading and occasionally acknowledging what you have read, that I'd like to think I can talk about professional wrestling again without fear of mockery or recrimination. Cool? Great, because the WWE Network now has every Clash of the Champions available for streaming.  Cancel my two o'clock, Miss Fletcher, I have some old wrestling to watch! (Miss Fletcher is the fictional assistant I pretend to call with the fake phone on my desk when I want my imaginary car brought around or I need to place a call to President Bartlet. Miss Fletcher is the best assistant a guy could have: smart, loyal, dedicated, and good with her fists. She's saved my life on more than one adventure. It's such a shame to see her slowly turning into a weremole.)

What was I talking about? Right, pro wrestling. For those who don't know, Clash of the Champions was an occasional live tv event put on by WCW from the late 80's through the mid-90's. They were  like Pay-Per-Views, but instead of having to spend twenty or thirty bucks to see them, you could watch for free. Simply amazing that this company went out of business. For my money (which is again, no money) the Clash shows are the most enjoyable wrestling broadcasts in history. They offer the full spectrum of the rainbow that is professional wrestling. There are all-time great matches (the Ric Flair vs Terry Funk 'I Quit' match from Clash 9), all-time terrible matches (Ric Flair vs Junk Yard Dog from Clash 11), hidden gems with wrestlers who never really got their due (Brad Armstrong, Butch Reed, Silver King), and, most important, some of the dumbest gimmicks and worst ideas in the history of storytelling.

I'm talking about the Ding Dongs, a pair of masked wrestlers, their costumes covered in tiny bells, who would ring a giant bell in the corner for motivation. (You're probably wondering, Did those tiny bells sewn to their costumes fall off all over the ring during the match? You bet the did!) I'm talking about the Master Blasters, a Road Warriors-knock off featuring Kevin Nash in a red mohawk and suspenders. And I'm talking about the Shockmaster.

If you've never heard about the Shockmaster, do yourself a favor and watch this clip. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=p7Q4EVpIFIk

That, dear reader, is the most famous flub in the history of wrestling. But it's not just the falling through the wall that makes the scene so wonderful. Every terrible part, from everyone standing with their back to the camera, to Sting's "shock the world" introduction, which someone thought was a good idea, to the mistimed explosion, to the fall through the wall, to the Shockmaster meekly grabbing his glittered  storm trooper helmet and putting it back on, to Booker T's "oh God", to the way time stands still while everyone wonders what to do, to the way the Shockmaster's movements do not match the piped in promo in any way, works together to create a magically awful whole. And now I can watch it over and over again.

Miss Fletcher, cancel my three o'clock with Leo McGary. And for the love of God, please stop tunneling through the office.  - Ryan Callahan

What We're Loving: Nazi Hunters, 90's Rap, Awkward Conversations, New Passions

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Each Friday, DCH performers, teachers, and students offer their recommendations for what to watch, read, see, hear, or experience. This week David Allison will improve your life, Ashley Bright shares an inside joke, Ryan Callahan watches a proud man stumble, and Julia Cotton realizes hitting isn't her thing.

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I’m very easily addicted to things, especially entertainment.  I know that if I like something, I’ll jump in with both feet and binge watch it until it’s done (My record is fifteen episodes of LOST in a day) so I tend to be cautious when it comes to wading into the waters of a show I haven’t seen.  So I understand that you may not immediately make time to watch all the things I’ve recommended.  That’s cool. But you need to block off this afternoon and watch Danger 5 immediately and start the rest of your now better life. Danger 5 is an Australian television show that aired in 2012.  The Aussies follow a tv model similar to the BBC, so only six episodes of the program exist.  It’s really difficult to describe the show, but it a 1960s aesthetic and follows a group of Thunderbirds sort of characters as they traverse the Nazi Globe, trying to kill Hitler.  Oh, and in the first scene a team of Nazis, led by a talking dog, pilot a blimp and steal the Eiffel Tower.  It’s absolutely insane, but I love every minute of it. Watch it for free on Hulu. - David Allison

Fear_of_a_black_hatWe all have a movie, book, album, TV show, snack food, what have you, that feels like only you and your friends know about it. It's like a secret clubhouse where you keep all of your inside jokes and in-depth conversations. I was introduced to the movie, Fear of a Black Hat, many years ago by a friend. Last month, I was finally able to obtain my own copy of the DVD. So, I bribed a friend and my roommate with beer to watch it with me. And I remembered just how much I love this movie. First, let's just get it out of the way: yes, it is a mockumentary and yes, it is remarkably similar to This Is Spinal Tap, right down to the group having a history of managers dying instead of drummers. Replace glam rock with early 90s rap and you have Fear of a Black Hat. Nestled in a time after the LA riots and Rodney King's beating, but before hip hop culture was so pervasive in suburbia, 1994 was a year ripe for a rap satire. It pokes fun at Tipper Gore's age of censorship with songs like, "My Peanuts." It tackles topics like racial tension and artistic integrity with songs like "Guerillas in the Midst" and "P.U.S.S. Why?" respectively. The writer/director/star, Rusty Cundieff, went on to direct some of Chappelle's Show and Human Giant, which makes perfect sense with the humor of this movie. So, I've just taught you the secret handshake by telling you about this movie. If you can't find your own copy of this DVD, you just come over to my place; we'll eat popcorn and laugh together because "I am just like you, I'm just a human being." That inside quote will make sense to you after you watch the movie or after you watch the music videos on YouTube. - Ashley Bright

WestWing-Cast_thumb[2]Recently, I introduced my girlfriend to the wonders and joys of The West Wing, (the series, not the actual complex, which is far from Dallas and heavily guarded.) She was hooked immediately, and we've been burning through the series,  two or three episodes a night. This week, we watched my favorite stretch of shows in the entire series: "Gone Quiet," "The Indians in the Lobby," The Women of Qumar," "Barlet for America." When I think of The West Wing, or talk about why I love it, it’s these four episodes from season three that play in my mind. This was the show at its best. “Barlet for America,” the episode where White House Chief of Staff Leo McGarry (John Spencer) testifies before congress is, for my money, the greatest hour of television ever written. And right in the middle of this great run of episodes in this great series there stands a comedy scene of sheer brilliance. From “The Indians in the Lobby,” President Jed Bartlet’s (Martin Sheen) call to the Butterball Hotline. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zQsvcs9IB8A I love this scene for the essential irony at play: President Bartlet is a brilliant politician who cannot tell a convincing lie, a master orator who stumbles for words when put on the spot. Barlet, as written by Aaron Sorkin, is the smartest guy in the room full of smart guys. In this scene, Sorkin turns the tables, and shows how, when we’re not prepared, even the best and brightest have moments of mental paralysis, how we can say too much and talk ourselves into a corner, or how we can say too little and seem a simple fool. Watching this scene is like listening to Bob Newhart, or reading Jack Handey;  settling in with an old friend who has taught me so much over the years. - Ryan Callahan

Whip ItI don’t care that Ellen Page is gay any more than I care that Greg Proops is straight. I like that dudes play football and I will never burn any of my expensive Lane Bryant bras. My adoration of Whip It does not come from any type of feminist or ‘need for gender equality’ mind set. I like this movie because it is about me falling in love with the Dallas Comedy House . Bliss (Ellen Page) is a begrudged pageant girl who longs for something to be passionate about. She finds fulfillment through the world of roller derby. There is racing. There is punching and kicking. There is blood. There are bruises. She is intrigued and terrified. This will be her new thing .

I watched this movie during a very alone era of my life. I wasn’t sad. I wasn’t lonely. It was just that for too long I had been doing everything that other people expected me to do. I didn’t want to anymore. I longed for something to be passionate about.

I did a Google search for ‘dallas roller derby’s’ deciding that I, too, would join a league. I went to a live match and quickly realized, no… I would not be doing that. I am not athletic. I do not like bleeding or being hit, kicked, shoved, hit, tripped, hit, scratched, hit or hit. Also, I cannot roller skate. Still, I was impressed by these women. The thing I was most impressed by, though, was the line outside of the skating rink that wrapped around the building to watch them. I then realized that my heart’s truest desire… is to be seen and adored by droves and droves of people. That night, a Google search for ‘open stage’ led to ‘open mic’. In that search, I found videos of performances at the Dallas Comedy House. There were jokes. There was laughter. There were cheers. There was applause. Sometimes, there was silence. I was intrigued and terrified. This would be my new thing. - Julia Cotton