Tina Fey

Comedy Centerfold: Jessica Dorrell

Welcome to Comedy Centerfold, where we feature a Dallas Comedy House performer and get to know him or her a little better by using questions that Playboy centerfolds are usually asked. Jessica DorrellJessica Dorrell is a badass. I don't mince words. JD, as I've never called her, once wrote for this here blog as an intern. But that's only a microcosm of her story. Time is short, so I'll touch on a few highlights: She invented Pyrex glass. She dined with Morrissey in Monaco in the mid-80s after the Smiths broke up. She rescued a pod of dolphins from a sinister underwater warlord hellbent on turning said dolphins into land-walking dolphin-bots. I could go on, but what you should really do is go see her perform in the troupe Summer Girls (May 14, May 28, June 9, and June 23) and a yet-to-be-named lady troupe (June 2).

Hometown? Age 0-12: Arlington, Texas. Age 12-19: Humble, Texas.

Guilty Pleasures? I don’t really believe in guilty pleasures; I’ll own up to all the terrible TV and movies I watch. That said, I can devour any 1990s teen drama you put in front of me in one weekend, and I’ll watch any horror movie that someone says is “just alright.”

Ambitions? I really, really, really want to visit a volcano and a lighthouse. I also want to eventually be able to make a living by just creating weird art with people I love.

Best Concert? It’s a tie between every time I’ve seen The National live and last year when I drove to Houston to see Drake in concert.

Favorite Book? I’m a serial “buy too many books and not read them fast enough” person. I don’t know if I can pick a favorite book, but ones I’ve really enjoyed recently are We Should All Be Feminists by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie and I Know I Am, But What Are You? by Samantha Bee.

Favorite Movie? A three-way tie between Vertigo, the original Halloween, and Scream.

Favorite TV Show? 30 Rock!!! It’s the perfect show. I also really enjoy a nice Chopped marathon.

Pets? I have two! An aggressively, cuddly 9-year-old tuxedo cat named Penny and a very weird and adorable 6-month-old demon/mystery puppy named Pickles!

Foods I Crave? Queso. Always queso.

People I Admire? All the ladies in my life – I’m lucky to be friends with a bunch of strong, independent, smart, hilarious women and they inspire me daily. My mom! She is the original strong, independent woman in my life. My boyfriend, Jude, because he’s the smartest and funniest person I know and he makes the best steak. Comedy wise – Tina Fey, Amy Poehler, and Chris Gethard – I think they all embrace the weirdness inside them and channel it into really, really smart comedy.

Dream Role? Something where Jenny Slate and I are best friends and we just traipse around NYC eating ice cream at every place we see that has ice cream. Or a really scary murderer. Or if I could tie those two together, that works also.

Favorite Song to Sing? "Private Eyes" by Hall and Oates (clap clap) and anything Nicki Minaj.

Good First Date Idea?
 A queso crawl – you just go to a bunch of different spots with queso in one night.

Redeeming Features: "This Is Where I Leave You"

Welcome to Redeeming Features. The blog where I (poorly) review movies that are underappreciated, underrated or under the radar, in hopes of convincing you to give them a second chance. This Is Where I Leave YouYou guys know the band Slipknot? Who am I kidding; everyone is a HUGE fan of Slipknot! But if you aren’t, lemme fill you in some useless information to help set up an even more useless analogy. In Slipknot, there’s like, I don’t know, way too many “musicians.” Some of which, actually musically-inclined (like the lead singer has professional opera training?), play pivotal roles in the musical composition of the band. Others hit kegs with a baseball bat. This week’s actors are kind of like that. Some great, others are not as great, but each, surprisingly enough, is doing something to enhance the tune of the tale. Whether that’s pounding kegs, or pounding their old high school neighbor.

This week, we’re talking about This Is Where I Leave You (TIWILY), a dark, light, odd, funny, interesting, and at times, weirdly moving movie about a dysfunctional family who comes together after the death of their father/husband to honor his dying wish – sit in Shiva (even though he was an atheist) and mourn together. And let me just lead with, “I know.” I, too, thought this was yet another addition in a very, very long slew of underwhelming, poorly-balanced all-star cast super flicks. But when I eventually got around to accidentally clicking on it, I was pleasantly surprised. Mostly because it’s just nice to watch someone else writhe in rue for a change…believable or otherwise.

Now, when I say this has an all-star cast, I mean it has every “star” from the last three-to-all years, including Jason Bateman, Tina Fey, Jane Fonda, Adam Driver, Rose Byrne, Corey Stoll, Kathryn Hahn, Connie Britton, Timothy Olyphant, Dax Shepard, Abigail Spencer, and little ole Benny Shwaaa (Ben Schwartz). And weirdly enough, they all work super well together – and while not being related even in the slightest, seem to still (dys)function as a family. Whoever cast this bad boy did a bang up job. And since we have so many actors from so many different recognizable (and unrecognizable) roles, I think it’s best if I do a quick breakdown of each.

*straps in*

Jason Bateman – well, hopefully you guys all know who he is, but if you need a refresher: Arrested Development, Horrible Bosses (redeemed last week), and literally anything in the last decade that asked for an under-the-breath snark machine. And this flick is no different. Bateman plays one of the siblings, dejected and recently f**ked over “nice guy” who always finishes fast.

Tina Fey – again, you guys know these things: Saturday Night Live, 30 Rock, Kimmy Schmidt, and a lot of other incredibly well-written movies/shows/sketches/speeches/words. However, she’s just acting in this! Fey plays another sibling and mother of two, although she doesn’t get much help from the over-worked, under-aware father.

Jane Fonda – come on, it’s Fonda! Nine to Five, Barbarella, Mickey Avalon’s first self-titled album; Fonda plays the recently widowed mother of the lot/celebrity shrink/writer of Cradle and All, the memoir disclosing every infinitesimal spec of her family’s life.

Adam Driver – most known for his role as Adam on Girls, Driver plays the youngest sibling who hops from girl to girl until he finally lands hip pocket of his beautiful therapist, Connie Britton.

Rose Byrne – known for Neighbors, Insidious; Byrne plays Bateman’s high-school girlfriend who’s still stuck at home, teaching ice skating lessons. Still just as cute as can be, she unfortunately gets caught in the fray of things.

Corey Stoll – known for his role as backstabbing Peter Russo from House of Cards, Stoll plays the oldest sibling, a no-nonsense kinda guy who, while raising the family business has difficulty raising his family business – a.k.a., penis.

Kathryn Hahn – known for Parks and Recreation and Step Brothers, Hahn plays Stoll’s wife and the one on the not-so-receiving end of his ED. She becomes increasingly more frustrated at their inability to reproduce/bang on a timely schedule.

Connie Britton –  known for Nashville, American Horror Story, and looking wayyyyy too good for her age, Britton plays the fiancé to be fiancé/psychologist to little brother, Adam. Shocker, she’s way too much woman for him, and he’s five years old.

Timothy Olyphant – best known for playing Josh Duhamel, Olyphant plays the brain-damaged ex to Tina Fey, who she had to leave behind in order to pursue her dream of becoming a middle-class fraud.

Dax Shepard – best known for Idiocracy and surprisingly bagging Kristen Bell, Shepard plays the boss of Bateman, who opens as a fun character, but immediately lets us down by banging Bateman’s wife. And wearing terrible clothes.

Abigail Spencer – while she may not be known for much, she does a pretty great job of playing Bateman’s soon-to-be ex wife/Shepard’s bang buddy. Somehow, she makes you feel bad for her at times, too.

Benny Shwaaa (Ben Schwartz) – best known for Parks and Recreation, House of Lies, and just generally being a singing nut job from College Humor, Shwaaa plays the rabbi destined to bring them together. Unfortunately, he grew up with them and therefore cannot be taken seriously. Thus, the reason they continue to call him by his childhood nickname, Boner.

*unstraps, and takes a nap*

PHEW! Now that all of that’s out of the way, I’m realizing this is way too long. So, let me do my best to wrap it up, while also leaving a little bit to mystery.

TIWILY, while technically a hybrid of rom and com, does a really nice job of setting up some pretty dramatic, powerful moments. Moments you absolutely do not expect. And I think that’s a nice way to encapsulate everything. Sure, there are some super expected parts, but they are far overshadowed by the moments of honest, earnest brevity that hit you like a sucker punch from your younger brother. And I recommend giving it a shot, too.

TL; DR – When their father passes away, four grown siblings are forced to return to their childhood home and live under the same roof together for a week, along with their over-sharing mother and an assortment of spouses, exes and might-have-beens.

Cody Tidmore is a Level Three sketch student at DCH. He’s been watching movies for as long as he can remember. Seeing it all – the good, the bad, even the ugly. And when it comes to annoyingly working movie quotes into regular conversation, he’s the reel deal.

What We're Loving: The Sports-Comedy Connection, Funeral Planning, Old Virgins, Hard Boils

Each Friday, DCH performers, teachers, and students offer their recommendations for what to watch, read, see, hear, or experience. This week David Allison returns with his famous SNL preview, Jonda Robinson knows why there are only one set of footprints, Brittany Smith has some recommendations for your trip back to 2006, and Ryan Callahan is easily upsold. saturdaynightlive-logoSaturday Night Live is back this week, which means it’s time for my semi annual (annual as in yearly, semi as in never before) take on the upcoming season. I really do view each year of SNL like the handful of sporting teams I follow. All offseason long I watch as they release and acquire talent, hoping for the big move that puts them over the top and back to relevance. Also, like a sports fan, go into each year with the blind optimism that this year will be better, before watching my expectations crash back to Earth by Thanksgiving.

Here’s why I’m excited (Bullet pointed lists lead to maximum excitement!):

  • Cast reduction.
    • Fewer players means more stage time for those that remain, which means that we’ll actually get to see their talents this year.
  • Michael Che to Weekend Update.
    • Fantastic writer and proved on The Daily Show that he’ll be fantastic behind the desk
    • His move also removed Cecily Strong from Update. I didn’t mind her, but I like what I’ve seen out of Che better and think that she was better in her first season when simply concentrated on sketches.
  • Streeter Seidel added to the writing staff
  • Fortieth Anniversary
    • It has to be good if it’s an anniversary season, right?

- David Allison

secondcity_grandmasrecordsI have to admit that I don’t use Twitter as effectively as I could. I often forget to look at it, then I become overwhelmed at all the tweets I have missed, then I scroll to the most current ones, causing myself to pass over a lot of 140-character gems. Fortunately this week, even though I probably missed out on a lot of important world news, I didn’t miss out on Aidy Bryant (@aidybryant) sharing one of her favorite scenes from the Second City archives.

The sketch is called “Grandma’s Records,” and while I had read it before, I’d never seen it performed. The set-up is that Mother Superior, beloved nun and music lover, has passed away. Her friends are preparing for her funeral and hope to find a suitable record from her collection to play at the service. As with most things in sketch comedy and life in general, there are some hiccups along the path to completing this task. Seeing it performed brought new life to it for me, and there are some specific things to watch out for:

  1. Rachel Dratch’s retelling of the “Footprints” story is fantastic, and it’s the only way I ever want to hear that story again. Also, it reminded me that my own grandma had this story hanging up in her house for most of my life.
  2. Scott Adsit’s physicality in the scene is great, and watching him react to the songs on the records makes them that much funnier.
  3. The songs themselves will make you laugh, and one will even change your perspective on Herbert Hoover’s “chicken in every pot” promise.

In case you’re still on the fence about whether you should watch it or not, I’ll tell you that Tina Fey plays guitar in it. If you can say no to laughter and Tina Fey, you’re a stronger person than I am. - Jonda Robinson

ElizabethOn a weird whim Saturday night I found myself watching the HBO Miniseries from 2006, Elizabeth I. The drama puts Helen Mirren at the height of her Helen Mirren-est, playing the Virgin Queen, being sassy, and hooking up with dudes 30 years her junior. Basically fulfilling all of my fantasies for post-menopausal life.

The show follows the queen in the later years of her life still trying to find an advantageous suitor in order to keep England as a European superpower. What makes this difficult though, is the love she has for her long-time staffer, the Earl of Leicester. Since she cannot marry him as he is but a commoner, she does what so many of us have foolishly done and asks that they remain friends. Now, I don’t care who you are, beloved sovereign of the most powerful country in the world or not, you can’t be just friends with the person you wanna bone. Then, the Earl dies and his adorably shaggy haired son, (Hugh Dancy), takes his place as the queen’s confidante. Eventually he too falls for the queen, but once again, because he is not royal, the queen will not marry him. He then proceeds to knock up one of her hand maidens and the queen pulls the pimp move of blessing their marriage, only on the condition that Hugh Dancy is still allowed to hook up with the queen. Baller. Status.

If none of this is enticing enough, you also see a young Eddie Redmayne sporting Jersey Shore-level terrible extensions and the queen constantly referring to herself as “we”. So run, don’t walk, to your stolen HBOGo account to watch an 8 year old show about a woman who died 400 years ago. - Brittany Smith

StrandBooks800My sojourn in New York continues. Last week, I covered two of my favorite things to do in the city: Walk and Eat. This week, I'm still loving both activities (in fact, I had a pizza called a "Fraggle Rock" from Roberta's the other night at Madison Square Eats. Mozzarella, ricotta, squash, cranberries. Have you ever wanted to marry a pizza? Because I wanted to marry this pizza), and I have added a third favorite New York activity: Book Shopping.

My nights have been largely free over this past week, leaving me much time to walk around the city and enjoy the many book stores. Over the past few nights I have been able to visit two of my favorite book stores: Strand Bookstore and Mast Books. Strand reminds me of the Half Price Books super store off Northwest Highway, except that the stickers they place on the books come off easily and the staff has no interest in helping you at all. Seriously, every time I have asked someone for help in that bookstore, they respond with a combination of anger and panic, like I'm interrupting them right as they were about to hide a corpse. But The Stand is worth it for the treasures. They have more books about presidents than you can even imagine. And I'm sure you can imagine a lot of books about presidents. (The previous sentence was directed to Ryan Goldsberry.) I could spend several hours in the basement looking through the racks of essays, letters, and biographies. That's not an exaggeration. That's what I did on Tuesday.

From the outside, Mast Books looks like a little museum. On the inside, they have a lot of art books and photography books and used books that cater to the East Village crowd (Bukowski, Fante, Vonnegut). They also have the coolest little collection of crime novels. The other night I found some Black Lizard paperbacks from the 80's that were re-issues of books from the 50's, forgotten hard-boiled works with titles like Bury My Grave Deep and Kill The Boss Good-By. At the register, the cashier pointed out a stack of similar books she had yet to shelve. The stack contained several books by Charles Willeford.  I bought those books. She must have seen me coming a mile away. - Ryan Callahan

What We're Loving: The Mundane, The Dysfunctional, The Delicious, The Discovered

Each Friday, DCH performers, teachers, and students offer their recommendations for what to watch, read, see, hear, or experience. This week David Allison catches up on some comedy, Jonda Robinson tries the book before the movie, Brittany Smith listens to people chewing, and Ryan Callahan, in something of a surprise, writes about a crime novel.  etc_critic15__01__970-630x420I’m not always the most timely person (Have you heard of this Bobby Darin fellow?) and that forces me to miss out on meaningful conversation about things I watch way after everyone else. For example, I just watched Road House for the first time like last week, but I can’t talk to anyone about it because then they’d know that I hadn’t seen it before. Thankfully, I wasn’t thirty years behind on my entry this week, because I recently watched Silicon Valley and loved it and must discuss it. This is a tv show that was nominated for an Emmy for best comedic series, so I don’t think that I’m unearthing a cult hit, but it’s so good that everyone needs to take the time to check it out.

Silicon Valley is an HBO sitcom from Mike Judge about a tech startup in modern day California. It was created by Mike Judge (Idiocracy, Office Space, and the still great but not as applicable to this recommendation, Beavis and Butthead), and his ability to extrapolate and heighten humor from the mundane is really fun to watch. Also, the show stars a stable of up and coming comic actors, almost all of which have strong improvisational backgrounds. Thomas Middleditch, TJ Miller, and Kumail Nanjiani all studied improv in Chicago, while Zach Woods has been performing at UCBNY and UCBLA since he was 16, which should give hope to all of us schmucks that love to do make ‘em ups.. And I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention Christopher Evan Welch, a disconnected, cold, hilarious, investor that provided some of the best moments of the series.

It’s only eight thirty minute episodes, so catch up now and we can all watch Season Two together when it arrives next Spring. Like, watch it on time. - David Allison

imgresYou know how “they” say that you should always read the book before you see the movie? That you’re depriving yourself by skipping forward to the film? While I don’t subscribe to this idea on every book-to-movie adaptation, I fell to the pressure recently and decided that I must read Jonathan Tropper’s This is Where I Leave You before the movie comes out September 19. The casting director for the film had me at Tina Fey, and I sure don’t mind sticking around for Adam Driver (not to mention all the other fantastic people I like who populate the film...Jason Bateman, Connie Britton, and more).

I’m glad I read it, because I thoroughly enjoyed it. The story centers around the Foxman family, and more specifically on Judd Foxman, the novel’s narrator. When we meet him, things are bleak: his wife is having an affair with his boss, his father has just died, and he’s spending the next seven days sitting shiva with his dysfunctional family. That set up begins the inevitable domino effect of family drama, and it’s an enjoyable roller coaster ride. There’s just something I love about dysfunctional families being forced under one roof together by death; this reminded me of a much more lighthearted version of one of my favorite plays, August: Osage County. [Sidenote: Don’t judge August: Osage County by the movie...go see the play.]

Near the end of the novel I was so hyped up on the drama and adrenaline running through the Foxman clan that I felt like I could punch someone if they crossed me the wrong way. If you’re in the market for an enjoyable read, give it a go. Or just go see the movie. No judgment here. - Jonda Robinson

Mike and MikeYou guys, the past two days have been an aural feast in my podcast dashboard. First, Mike Birbiglia has a segment on This American Life. Then U2 finally drops their new album, which ordinarily I wouldn’t care about, but now it ensures more episodes of the strange and sublime U Talkin’ U2 To Me will come out soon. And most importantly of all, my favorite podcast of all time returned from a year-long hiatus, Mike and Tom Eat Snacks is back, baby!

Hosted by Michael Ian Black and Tom Cavanagh, it is the only podcast employing the PER system. They Pick a snack, Eat a snack, and Rate a snack. But that’s not what they’re about, to quote the guys, what they’re about is respect for women, (though it’s not who they are). This week’s snack is hard boiled eggs, and let me tell you, they do not go over easy (you’re welcome). The episode is a solid return for the guys, and if you enjoy this one I’d recommend checking out their Haggen Daas or  Ho Hos episode as a second course.

Broken down to its simplest element, the show is two old friends eating food they may or may not like and joking around, basically your ideal high school lunch table. And much like a high school lunch it clocks in at just over half an hour and it’s suspiciously cheap ($0). - Brittany Smith

41iKVAyB4ML._SY344_BO1,204,203,200_I’ve been working my way through the collected works of Raymond Chandler over the past month or so but I had to drop all that this week. James Ellroy’s latest book, Perfidia, was released. Ellroy’s books always shoot to the top of the to-read pile, like some kind of rocket ship burning up the sky.

I first discovered Ellroy in college. Having loved L.A. Confidential, the movies I decided to check out L.A. Confidential the book. It was a good news/bad news kind of discovery. Good in that I became so enraptured with the book I read it in a couple of days. Bad in that there were passages of such power and suspense that I knew I would never create anything this great. I've been an Ellroy devotee ever since.

Perfidia is the first book of a planned quartet. In his two previous series, the much-lauded L.A. Quartet (The Black Dahlia, The Big Nowhere, L.A. Confidential, and White Jazz) and the less-lauded-but-much-richer Underworld U.S.A. Trilogy (American Tabloid, The Cold Six Thousand, and Blood’s A Rover) Ellroy examined the intersection of crime and politics in Los Angeles and then the nation from the late 40’s until the early 70’s. Perfidia is set prior to these previous works (the book begins right before Pearl Harbor) but contains many of the same characters.  I’m about 200 pages into Perfidia and I’ll be doing little else but reading it over the weekend.

Ellroy’s novels are famous for their rough, staccato style, and the way he intertwines dozens of fictional and historical characters in massive, complex stories. But it is the simple moments that make his work memorable. Ellroy is at his best when he writes a man or a woman, alone, making a discovery, often a violent, horrific discovery.  In these scenes of silence and suspense, the inner monologue churning while the eyes peep clues, Ellroy shines. These scenes reveal much more than the truth about a mystery, they reveal the truth about people, the painful, regrettable truths that everyone wants to hide. – Ryan Callahan

What We're Loving: Unpopular Opinions, Hidden Upsides, Deleted Context, Specialized Pitching

Each Friday, DCH performers, teachers, and students offer their recommendations for what to watch, read, see, hear, or experience. This week David Allison makes a bold statement, Jonda Robinson fails greatly, Amanda Hahn needs a mind break, and Ryan Callahan goes to the bullpen. imgresSometimes I really hate popular opinion. There’s a collective hive mind that we all participate in and often times cinema is significantly affected by it’s whims. You’ll hear about this amazing movie that “everyone” loves, set plans to see it opening night, and then realize within five minutes that Benjamin Button is terrible. But you can’t say anything about how much you hated it because it gets nominated for Oscars and stuff. The opposite happens too and it’s even more disappointing. There are so many movies that our pop culture group mind simply rejects and we’re not supposed to give them a chance. Then, like an idiot, I see one of these flicks, love it, and can’t talk about my adoration for it in fear of receiving palpable judgement in return. The current film I feel self conscious about really enjoying is something that was released on DVD this past week: Muppets Most Wanted. AND IT’S WHAT I’M LOVING THIS WEEK. There, I said it.

Where are you going?

Don’t run away yet!

Hear me out on this. Yes this commercial failure that you didn’t hear anything good about is not a great film. With that said, there are numerous factors that make it highly enjoyable to watch. First, you’ve got solid performances from Tina Fey, Ricky Gervais and Ty Burrell. See, that’s not so bad! You liked them in that other thing you liked, so that’s gotta count for something. Also, it’s basically a musical and contains about ten full length songs, most of which were written by Bret McKenzie (Flight of the Conchords). Flight of the Conchords was your favorite show! Plus, McKenzie won an Oscar for the tunes he wrote for the previous Muppets film, so that helps. Oh and it’s the Muppets! You remember how much you loved them as a kid? You would’ve killed another child, straight up murdered a newborn, to go to Muppet Treasure Island with the gang.

So give this movie a shot. Even if it means sneaking it home in a pizza box and watching it under the cover of darkness so that your friends don’t judge you. - David Allison 9780345472328_p0_v2_s260x420

Lately I’ve been trying to look at the positive side of failing. For example, last week I was visiting a friend and we decided to go eat at a certain restaurant. We got a cab and made the trek across town during rush hour, only to find out that they were closed. Sigh. Trying to look on the bright side, I told her that it wasn’t a total waste because it was a mistake we’d learn from. She appropriately rolled her eyes at me.

In an effort to prepare for another year of teaching middle school, I’ve been learning more about the concept of learning through failure from the book Mindset: The New Psychology of Success by Dr. Carol Dweck. Dweck’s theory is that there are two kinds of mindsets that you can have: the fixed mindset, in which you believe that your intelligence and talents are fixed and do not change, and the growth mindset, in which you believe that your abilities can be developed through dedication and hard work. For the fixed mindset, failure is a terrifying thing that says, “You’re not enough.” But for the growth mindset, failure is a perfect opportunity to learn and become better than you were before. According to Dweck, you get to choose which mindset you approach life with. If you’d like to see which mindset you currently lean toward, there’s a quiz for that! And if you’d like to attempt to change your mindset, there are steps for that!

Some of the most fun things I have done in the past year, from taking a sketch writing class to wakesurfing, were scary things that I at first said no to because I was afraid of failing. If there’s something you’ve been wanting to try, I highly suggest that you go for it, even if you’re afraid you’ll fail at it. It’ll help you become a cooler, better version of yourself. And if you need something to help you get motivated, check out Dweck’s book to give you that little push that you need. - Jonda Robinson

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The end of each semester is typically unusually busy. This summer’s semester has been no exception. Sometimes you just need a mind break from everything. I found the perfect one: Ads Without Context . The name is misleading because it’s more like “ads re-contextualized” than ads with no context. And thank goodness it is. This entire feed is just .gifs from infomercials with captions giving new context to the melodramatic ads. The mix of the silent overacting overlaid with the captions is endlessly silly and delightful.

Some are simple.

Some are gross.

Some make me laugh out loud.

Some are weirdly sad.

And many more are endlessly re-watchable.

So turn off the TV and tune into No Context Ads. The infomercials are way better on there. - Amanda Hahn

51fbRsn29aL._SY344_BO1,204,203,200_You ever find a book and feel like it was written just for you? That's how I feel about The Setup Man: A Novel, the debut thriller by T.T. Monday. The book introduces Johnny Adcock, a 35-year-old lefty relief specialist for the fictional San Jose Bay Dogs. Johnny only pitches when the Bay Dogs have a lead, and only against left-handed hitters. He works about ten minutes a night. Most guys in his position would be content to chew on sunflower seeds and let the money roll in. Not Johnny Adcock. He's the restless sort. He needs something to fill the rest of the day. That's why he works as a private detective. Worried your wife is cheating on you with the pool boy? Someone from your time in the minors trying to blackmail you? Johnny Adcock is your man.

The Setup Man combines my two favorite things: Private detectives, and private detectives who are also other things. Private detectives are my favorite fictional characters. As a child I loved them all: Encyclopedia Brown, Thomas Magnum, Rick and A.J. Simon. The A-Team was essentially a private eye super team. In high schoool I discovered Humphrey Bogart's Phillip Marlowe, still the greatest onscreen P.I. ever. After college I devoured the Continental Op stories of Dashiell Hammett, such as Red Harvest, for my money the best P.I. novel ever. I've spent many an afternoon or evening binge watching reruns of Psych or Monk. Private detectives are the best.

But the private detective who is also something else is even better. How can something be better that the best? Here's how: What would be better than a private detective who investigates the paranormal? Oh, I don't know, maybe a  private detective who investigates the paranormal and has a day job as a lifeguard. What could be better than a private detective played by Andy Richter? A private detective / accountant played by Andy Richter! And what could be better than a private eye who investigates the seedy underbelly of Major League Baseball? A private eye who investigates that seedy underbelly while having to pitch to lefties every couple of days.

I started reading The Setup Man late Tuesday night and finished on Wednesday. Once I started, I had to keep reading. That's about the highest praise you can give a P.I. novel. I needed to know what happened next, and I wanted to see how Johnny Adcock would solve the case. The book isn't perfect. There are a couple thudding moments of authorial intrudsion that feel like an after-school special, and the book jacket inexplicably features a right-handed pitcher, but the plot moves, the tone is charming, there is a vivid cast of characters, and the details about day to day life in the majors seem authentic. I can't wait for Johnny Adcock's next adventure. - Ryan Callahan

What We're Loving: Hacks!

Each Friday, DCH performers, teachers, and students offer their recommendations for what to watch, read, see, hear, or experience. This week David Allison turns hack, Amanda Hahn gets her hair hacked, Jonda Robinson might hack up a hairball, and Ryan Callahan learns some lesson from a LA hack. tina-fey3At this point, it's hack for a person who loves comedy to discuss the greatness of Tina Fey and Rachel Dratch. Ugh, we get it nerds, they're funny gals, under appreciated, could have been rocket scientists and once saved Earth by winking at an asteroid. It's quite common for each of them to be lauded with affection, especially from schlubs that like to do make 'em ups on stage for strangers. But this week has been especially kind for fanboys/fangirls of Dratch and Fey as their old Second City/UCB show has found it's way online. The quality of the footage is TERRIBLE. It honestly looks as if the uploader took a Beta copy of their baby steps, converted the footage to VHS, recorded the Dratch & Fey show over it, washed the tape in the dishwasher, hung it out to dry in the Death Valley sun and then decided to upload it to YouTube. Seriously, that's what happened. Even though it's not quite in HD, the quality of the comedy shines through.

Here's a link to the whole thing.

The show begins with dueling one woman shows, one with the intention of educating an audience to women's history and the other with the intention of educating an audience to women's anatomy. From there, Dratch and Fey delve into a really well put together combination of sketch, audience interaction, and monologues. Though the show only ran from 1999-2000, the complete package feels incredibly refined and tight. There's never much downtime and the whole set ebbs and flows so naturally that it's obvious why this sketch show is thought of in the pantheon of all time greats. Hell, the whole thing helped to inspire 30 Rock, so that alone makes it worth watching. The other part that really stands out to me is just how good Rachel Dratch is. That's not to say Tina Fey isn't great, but she's a movie star gosh darn it, we get to see her in stuff all the time. The aggressive innocence with with Dratch plays makes every one of her characters likable and will leave you convinced as to how underrated she is. And then you can finally join us in the chorus of people clamoring for more Dratch & Fey. -David Allison

tumblr_n9jvg93aIB1thkqcyo1_1280I don’t want to seem divisive or political with what I’m about to say, but I need to get it out there: I am a fan of cats. Many times I have said that if reincarnation is a thing, please, make me a cat so I can take naps for days. I recognize that not everyone is a fan of felines, though, such as my friend who believes that they are evil and the only thing keeping them from taking over the world is their lack of opposable thumbs. If she’s right, and they someday do rise up, I like to think I’ve given enough belly rubs that they’ll show some mercy on me.

All of that is to say that when cats are involved in something, it usually catches my attention. And this week that was the case when I stumbled upon the Tumblr “Confused Cats Against Feminism.” Now, when I first heard that women were against feminism and had their own Tumblr dedicated to the cause, I wasn’t really interested. Frankly it sounded boring to me, and I like getting to vote and stuff, so I was like “nah.” But then when cats got in on the party, I was like “yes, please!” There’s one with sage advice about who and what to trust. One who is against both vacuums and the women who wield them. One who believes in equal oppression of all humans. And one who just wants his belly rubbed, dangit.

You should check them out so you can enjoy their cuteness, be more informed about this cat cause, and also so, in the event that they do overpower humans and take over the world, you’ll be in their good graces. Also, if you have an anti-feminist cat in your life, get him or her in on this movement! - Jonda Robinson

1382258215Exciting news, everyone: I got a haircut this week. No, I’m not so vain as to write about how much I love my haircut. I’m here to write about the woman who cut it because I fell in platonic love with her. What I thought would be a normal conversation as she cut my hair turned into a fascinating talk with a fascinating woman named Alexis Lu, AKA Queen Lex Lu. It’s possible that you’ve heard of her already because she has her feet dipped into a million things around Dallas and Texas. She’s a hair stylist, make up artist, photographer, stylist, wig maker, rapper, actor, and a warm, funny person in general.

I warned her that I would stalk her all over the internet, but I did not tell her that I would be writing about her on a public blog. It’s okay though because it’s illegal to get mad at someone for writing about you if it’s nice things, right? …Right?? Right! Good, because I only have rave reviews for Lex Lu. I liked her so much that my new goal is to find reasons to hire her for various things. Do I need my makeup done before the next time go to a coffee shop to write in a corner by myself? No. Do I need to hire entertainment to rap for me while I get dressed for work in the morning? No. But I want to anyway, because not only does she do great work, she’s so pleasant to be around. Plus she has a song called ‘CAN’T FEEL MY FACE’ which makes me giggle because that’s a little too relatable.

I’ll end my post with week with another call to action: Hire this woman. She’s excellent. And just more proof that talking to strangers is the best possible way to spend your day. -Amanda Hahn

03Last weekend, my girlfriend and I watched Collateral, the 2004 crime thriller starring Tom Cruise and Jamie Foxx, directed by Michael Mann (Heat, Thief). I lived in LA when Collateral came out and I always thought that the film did the best job of capturing the way LA looks at night. It turns out, that was director Michael Mann's intention. He shot the film in DV, and even had the taxi cab that Foxx's character drives painted a particular shade, to capture the golden hues of Los Angeles streetlights.

I did not remember how much the film was about the nature of improvisation, not just on a thematic or performance level, but in the nature of its structure. The film has the structure of a great long form improv show; diverse elements and characters eventually come together, scenes mirror each other, there are call backs, and everything from the beginning is brought back at the end and tied together.

There are so many parallel scenes in the movie that play off each other - the twin cab rides of Jada Pinkett-Smith and Tom Cruise, the visit to the jazz club vs the visit to the night club, the two run ins with the patrol cops, the two visits to the first informant's apartment. Throughout the film, the same locations and characters are visited and revisited, but each time the suspense is heightened, new information is added. Old scenes take on new meanings. Like a great improv show, the movie does not endlessly invent new things; it takes what it has and escalates and escalates until the everything reaches a fever pitch.

The movie even has a scene of actual improvisation. Foxx's meek cap driver must impersonate Cruise's cold-blooded hit man, and acquire a hit list from a cartel heavy (Javier Bardem) at a night club. Foxx does not know what he's walking into or what to say. His only choice is to "Yes, And" the hell out of everything and hope that he's committed enough to his character to pull it off. That scene is one of the best in a movie full of great scenes, and rewards an engaged audience with its call backs and in-jokes.

I always thought Collateral was a brilliant crime movie, another example of Michael Mann's mastery of the genre. I had no idea it was also a brilliant improv show. - Ryan Callahan