dancing

What We're Loving: Narrow Genres, Gothic Impressions, Busting, Moving

Each Friday, DCH performers, teachers, and students offer their recommendations for what to watch, read, see, hear, or experience. This week David Allison forgets to cite Chuck &  Buck, Jonda Robinson admits bias, and Molly Jakkamsetti has children dance for her enjoyment. MV5BMTQ5NDQ5Nzg2NF5BMl5BanBnXkFtZTgwMjI3MDc1MTE@._V1_SX214_AL_I think the most specific genre of film I enjoy is what I call “Movies about a crazy person that puts on an independant play.” Before you fly off the handle and talk about how that’s barely a genre, let me remind you of Waiting for Guffman and Hamlet 2. Both are great films and both belong in that ultra specific category. But because this subset is such a small slice of the movie pie, I don’t often get to enjoy new releases. That’s what made this week so cool! We’ve got a new one for the pantheon! Beep! Beep! Beep! I don’t know why I put those there. I checked out OJ: The Musical and since it’s part of my favorite genre, it’s what I’m loving this week!

OJ: The Musical, formerly known as Orenthal: The Musical, follows the struggle of Eugene (Jordan Kenneth Kamp) as he moves to California to put on a musical and reunite with friends from his past. The music is really fun and fits the wacky tone of a musical about OJ Simpson. What I really appreciated about this movie though, was the way it showcased the mental instability and insanity of many creative people. The movie has it’s flaws, but the performance by Kamp and the music make it well worth viewing. - David Allison

urlI’m afraid someone’s been stalking me. Maybe I’m just being paranoid, but it’s the only way I can explain the most recent installment of The Dead Author’s Podcast that dropped this week. It’s like they made this one just for me, as this episode features one of my favorite funny ladies, Lennon Parham, playing the part of one of my favorite authors, Flannery O’Connor, to create a delightful hour of literary discussion. It’s one of those things that I didn’t even know I needed, but now I’m so glad I don’t have to live without.

In case you aren’t familiar with The Dead Author’s Podcast, it involves time-traveling literary legend H.G. Wells (played by Paul F. Tompkins) welcoming some of our greatest authors (played by some of your favorite funny people) to the present for a chat on their work and their life. In this installment you get to hear about everything from the effects of lupus on Flannery’s life (“three-legged races, no sir”), to her disdain for spending time with people (she’d rather just write them a letter), to her infatuation with birds (minus swans, as she claims they are “bitches”). If you haven’t checked out this podcast before, this is a great episode to start with. Or maybe it isn’t. I don’t really know, since I’m biased, because they clearly made this episode specifically for me.

If you listen to the podcast and want more Flannery in your life, I suggest you give “Good Country People” or “A Good Man Is Hard to Find” a read. To see more of Lennon’s work, go watch season one of the sitcom she created and stars in with her BFF Jessica St. Clair, Playing House, then join me in urging the USA Network to renew it for season two. - Jonda Robinson

When-THe-DJ-Drops-Ur-JamI am not a big meme follower. My favorites are LOLcats and anything with Condescending Willy Wonka. In fact, I am not even 100 percent sure what "meme" means. It’s like the title of something, right? Someone help me understand Internet terminology!

Well a meme is what I am loving this week. A co-worker showed me this one – it’s of a child, and the meme is “when the DJ drops your jam.” The child is at what has got to be at a church. There are adults in front who appear to be looking down at hymnals and singing. They are blissfully unaware that behind them, a future club kid is raving it up. (Do people actually rave anymore? Forgive my dated references. I haven’t hit ‘da club’ in many a year.)

The music that is playing over is I believe is what the millennials call “dub step.” It fits pretty well with the child as she flails her arms about. And her little face is so serious, as anyone would be when her jam is being dropped. Like “YEAH IT IS ABOUT TO GO DOWN,” and indeed it does, for 45 seconds. And that is all it is, but it is beautiful in its simplicity. Just an innocent toddler, being taken over by the power of BASS. Whatever the actual music was must have been extremely moving, because this child is working it (I told you my references were dated).

You can easily find it on Facebook or You Tube. I encourage you to use it as your inspiration for the next time you need to bust a move (still dated). - Molly Jakkamsetti

Doing Dallas: Howdy, Partner

Each week, this Virginian will try a new Dallasite activity and blog about the experience. If there is one thing you should know about me, it is this: I CANNOT DANCE. Seriously. In high school, I came dangerously close to failing my “Beginning Ballet” course because I could not for the life of me do some syncopated running waltz step thing. The teacher took pity on me, though, and attempted to comfort me by announcing to the class, “It’s alright, Chelsea. Rhythm simply eludes you.” Needless to say, anytime I am presented with the opportunity to showcase my lack of rhythmic talent in front of other humans, I sprint in the opposite direction. I have no idea what came over me, then, this past week when I decided to give Texas two-steppin a try.

We came. We danced. We conquered?

It’s a Good Idea to Know What Two-Stepping Is Before Going Two-Stepping

With my lack of dance skills, I really should’ve seen this one coming. I should’ve watched YouTube videos and practiced dancing with a Swiffer for months within the safe confines of my bedroom. Instead, I threw caution to the wind and prayed that by some miraculous act of God I would step out onto the dance floor and be possessed by the ghost of cowgirls past. I mean, how hard could it be to take two steps?

Well, it turns out that two-stepping actually involves taking three steps—two quick and one slow. WHAT?!? It was the syncopated waltz step thing all over again! Standing on the side of the dance floor in full SOS mode, my Californian friend and I did the only thing we could think of to do: Google “How to Two-Step.” Speed-reading through Wiki-How pages as skilled dancers whirled by, we quickly discovered that a written two-step instructional in no way prepares you to actually two-step.

Two-Stepping Is Like Skiing Backwards

The moment of truth came when I was asked to dance. Though I confessed to my boot-wearin, cowboy-hat-sportin partner that I had never two-stepped before, he assured me it would be fine.

“For girls, it’s just like…skiing backwards. Just glide.”

“Oh. Great,” I lied. See, my skiing skills might be the only thing worse than my dancing skills. The one time I went skiing, I couldn’t figure out how to stop and plowed full force into a security officer at the bottom of a hill. Graceful, I know. While visions of this accident flashed in my head, other thoughts plagued me as well. “Is my arm supposed to be over or under his? What did the Wiki-How say again? Why is he stepping on my feet? Will he be able to tell that I have two packs of gummies in my pocket?”**

Feeling self-conscious, I was acutely aware of the fact that watching me dance was like watching a baby giraffe learn how to walk: unbalanced, wobbly, unsure. After taking an awkward, slow-moving lap around the dance floor, the song that seemed to never end finally drew to a close.

“Thanks. That was fun,” I lied again. I mean, I couldn’t just tell the guy that I’d rather stick bamboo shoots under my fingernails than dance publicly.

“Want to go again?”

“I…I have to…pee,” I lied for a third time, before wiggling off into the welcomed shadows of the sidelines.

** Note: The gummies were a snack I’d forgotten to eat on the car ride over.

Jenna with one of the many Jack Daniels statues.

Thank God for Jack Daniels

Having publicly humiliated myself enough for one night, I decided to call it quits on the whole dancing thing. Observing from the sidelines, though, I noticed some interesting things:

—There were no less than five statues of Jack Daniels scattered throughout the establishment. For this, I now rename Cowboys Red River, “Whiskey Mecca.”

—I saw a man get arrested in the parking lot. The cops threw him against the car and handcuffed him behind his back. I can now sleep easy at night knowing Law & Order accurately portrays an arrest.

—Two separate, 50-plus-year-old men attempted to photobomb our Snapchat pictures. For this, I now re-rename Cowboys Red River, “Senior Men’s Mecca.”

—Mechanical bulls are not just things of movies. They actually exist, and people actually ride them.

The night was a real Texan experience, something I can cross off my bucket list. And, though I’m never gonna dance again, should I ever return—I’ve got my eyes set on that mechanical bull.

Chelsea is a Level 4 improv student at the DCH Training Center. She is obsessed with music of the 60s & 70s and her vices include vanilla lattes and Swedish Fish. You can check out more of Chelsea’s thoughts and ponderings HERE!

 

What We're Loving: Factoid Scavenging, Angels With Dirty Mouths, Vague Wedding Memories, Old Books Made New

Each Friday, DCH performers, teachers, and students offer their recommendations for what to watch, read, see, hear, or experience. This week David Allison learns, Jonda Robinson professes, Amanda Hahn sways, and Ryan Callahan loves.  imgresThis week, I'm loving another Podcast.  I know that I probably recommend more of these than anyone, but that's because I really feel like the medium has grown so much over the last few years and is genuinely a legitimate source of entertainment now.  No longer are Podcasts just something that your friend does and no one listens to (Though that still happens sometimes).  Today,there are many examples of smaller podcasts that are really creating some amazing things.

My favorite of the week is called No Such Thing as a Fish and it's created by the QI Elves.  I've long been a fan of the BBC program QI (Which stands for Quite Interesting), a hilarious show that has been providing fascinating factoids for eleven seasons now.  And while No Such Thing as a Fish isn't hosted by the incomparable Stephen Fry, it's still a great listen.  Each episode tackles a different genre of knowledge and you learn a ton of random things, like Ghanaian coffins or how the Battle of Hastings was in Battle, not Hastings.  If you enjoy the tv program QI or you just enjoy broadening your horizons, I'd definitely give the Podcast a shot.  Bonus!  They just completed a run of episodes centered around the World Cup.  Each installment would pit two countries against each other, the hosts would scavenge for the most fascinating tidbits they could find, and at the end, a winning country was chosen. Double bonus, none of the facts were about soccer.  Or futbol.  - David Allison

imagesThis week, I’m professing my love for Amy Schumer. My mom refers to her as “that girl with the angelic face who says really dirty things,” and if you’re familiar with her stand-up or Comedy Central show Inside Amy Schumer, then you know that description is pretty accurate. I first stumbled upon her in 2007 when she was a contestant on NBC’s Last Comic Standing, and I felt a connection with her girl-next-door looks. While on the surface her humor can sometimes appear to be crass, at its core it’s always smart, and it demonstrates that Schumer has a good grasp on the big picture of what it’s like to navigate the world, especially as a woman.

From the beginning, I was in “like” with Amy. I appreciated her wit, admired her boldness, and wanted to be friends with her (I imagined us getting pedicures while sipping champagne and discussing the complexities of dating, with her saying something like “It’s 2014, you know! You’d think we’d have come up with a better system by now!”). Falling in love with her was something that happened for me during the second season of Inside Amy Schumer, as she, along with her brilliant writers, avoided the sophomore slump by taking things up a notch and leaving viewers asking “Whoa--did she really just go there?” One of my favorite examples of this is her sketch “A Very Realistic Military Game,” which does an excellent job of presenting a hot button issue in a lighthearted way, forcing you to think about the bigger idea.

I’m super excited that Amy is bringing her comedic stylings to Dallas this November, just in time for my birthday. Fingers crossed I can come up with a plan to make my champagne-and-pedicure dreams come true while she’s in town. - Jonda Robinson

Last weekend, I went to the Dominican Republic for my cousin’s wedding. Dominican weddings aren’t very different from Catholic, American ones. The wedding occurs in a church, then there’s a mass, followed by a reception. Typical. But receptions at Latin American weddings are not like the typical Catholic, American ones. Dancing starts immediately and continues all night. The bride and groom stick around for the whole reception. Colored lights are everywhere. Sometimes rappers show up. Sometimes the DJ hops onto the dance floor. Sometimes there’s a giant cake surrounded by spotlights. Sometimes Go Pros on helicopters fly past your head. And every single time, it’s a blast. The most energy filled part of the night is La Hora Loca, or The Crazy Hour. Music picks up, and people pass out hats, masks, glasses, disco ball necklaces, and shots. Lots of shots. I wish I could say more about La Hora Loca, but I can’t. Because I don’t remember much of that or the rest of the night. Because I made great use of the Brugal rum at the open bar and excellent use of the shots being passed out.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5n-O6qtt9c0&feature=youtu.be

I have a vague memory of dancing while someone rapped and suddenly realizing that I had never seen a live rapper at a wedding, and this was a something new I should be paying attention to. I found out later that the Dominican rapper, Mozart La Para was the performer. Just right there. Rapping away. I also found out later that we left the reception at around 4:30 or 5 am, and my 80-something year old grandma with a recently broken knee had partied all night along with everyone else. I’m so proud of her. I’m so proud to be Dominican. I’m not proud of this video of the wedding/me doing whatever the heck I’m doing, but feel free to watch and enter the wedding along with me. Bienvenidos a la Republica Dominicana. And farewell to my sound state of mind. - Amanda Hahn

NYRB CLASSICSBy now it should be no secret that I love books. Old books, new books, used books, fresh books - I love them all. I love the way they feel in my hands. I love the way they look on my shelves. I love they way they rest on my chest when I take a nap. But my favorite books of all come from the New York Review Books Classic series. NYRB Classics offers an eclectic selection of books from around the world, most of which have been long out of print. The books are re-released with new art, and some kind of cover stock  that seems to have been lowered from Asgard. I cannot describe the way the books feel in my hands other than to say perfectly.

I was first made aware of NYRB Classics in an essay by Roger Ebert. In praise of the works of Georges Simenon, the French master of the roman dur, Ebert mentioned reading a recent NYRB Classics reissue. Now that I was aware of Simenon's existence, I had to go out and buy his books. That is how my brain works. After reading Red Lights, a nasty little tale of a road trip gone wrong, I discovered, in the back of the book, a list of all the available NYRB Classics. Now I had to get all of them. At the time I lived in New York. My local used book store, Mast Books on Avenue A, carried an impressive selection of NYRB Classics. I picked up everyone I could.

This wonderful series has introduced me to so many new books that I never would have discovered ob my own: Max Beerbohm's Seven Men, a wistful and witty series of fictional biographies, Kingsley Amis' bitter and funny Lucky Jim, which became one of my favorites novels the moment I finished, Felix Feneon's Novels in Three Lines, true stories of crime and corruption told in three lines with prose carved out of stone, Dwight Macdonald's Masscult and Midcult, a collection of essays from the 50's and 60's so prescient and incisive they could have been written last week, Robert Sheckley's Store of the Worlds, sharp little science fiction tales so smart and weird and human.

These days, I have my NYRB Classics delivered. Each Christmas my aunt enrolls me in the NYRB Classics book club. Each month, a new book arrives in the mail. This week's selection is The Mad and the Bad by Jean-Patrick Manchette, another master of French crime. Last week it was a collection of Montaigne's essays. Next month the selection is a World War I memoir. If you are a book lover, or you know a book lover, I cannot recommend NYRB Classics enough. Your favorite book is out there waiting for you, and you don't even know it yet. - Ryan Callahan

What We're Loving: Airplane Safety, Independent Women, Pratfalls in Prose, Pratfalls Repeated

Each Friday, DCH performers, teachers, and students offer their recommendations for what to watch, read, see, hear, or experience. This week David Allison fears for the sanity of flight attendants, Julia Cotton goes to the movies, and Ashley Bright & Ryan Callahan share a love for pratfalls. Earworm alert! This week, I just can’t get the latest hit single from Virgin America Airlines out of my head. You know Virgin from their past successes such as: flying airplanes, landing airplanes, and failed music stores. Now they’re back and better than ever with their hit “Safety Video.”

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DtyfiPIHsIg&feature=kp

“Safety Video” is a five minute long song created to get you outta your seat and dance! Strike that, they made it to tell you how to buckle your safety belt. That’s right, every flight you take on Virgin America Airlines now begins with a big budget music video directed by Step Up 2: The Streets’ Jon Chu. I could spend the rest of my life talking about how ridiculous the entire production is, but instead I’ve simply boiled it down to the three most fascinating things:

  • The oxygen mask rap
    • This segment is delivered by a little girl who had never been on camera or rapped (Please see bullet point three if you don’t believe me). Also, if the cabin loses pressure, that’s a pretty dark scenario wherein you have two minutes, max, to figure out the oxygen masks or you will pass out. That’s a bleak reality for a rapping kid to spit at you.
  • They missed stuff
    • You can use your seat as a flotation device. An important fact that is inexplicably skipped over. Then again, they didn’t have time for it because they had to spend a full minute showcasing another singing child who reminds you that smoking on planes is still illegal. I know that no one under the age of forty remembers a world where smoking on a plane was allowed, but we better make sure everyone is aware by dedicating 20% of the run time to it.
  • The making of video
    • It’s 6:12 and fascinating. The work that went into this boggles the mind.

I appreciate what Virgin America is trying to do, it’s a nice idea. Instead of forcing the crew to begrudgingly deliver a safety presentation, again, they’re creating something more consistent and memorable. That’s cool. But, I genuinely worry about the mental stability of Virgin's employees. Yeah, something like this is really cute and refreshing the first time, but a year from now? They’re going to go searching for the air marshal to put them out of their misery before the plane leaves the gates. - David Allison

MV5BMjAwMzAzMzExOF5BMl5BanBnXkFtZTgwOTcwMDA5MTE@._V1_SX214_AL_My little girl is the girliest of girls. She loves to dress up. Loves her nails painted. She says “so cu-ute” much more than I’m comfortable with. And all of the pink! SO MUCH PINK!!! She loves the fellas, too, and understands that a batted eye and a bowed head or look of confusion will yield her whatever she wants (which so far has merely been more pink things). Lazy feminism would have me believe that my daughter was going down a horrible path that would result in a life submissive weakness. Then we went to go see Maleficent, and I realized that my daughter had never seen Sleeping Beauty.

In fact, my daughter knows very little about the plots to most princess themed movies made before she was born. Therefore, she is not so familiar with ideas that more recent movies have seemed to set out to dispel: a lady is utterly hopeless and helpless and Prince Charming is the only one who can save her as he is the bearer of true love. Oh, and true love is INSTANT. Cinderella literally just danced with dude, left a shoe, he sends out a massive search and then... marriage. That carriage ride at the end of the movie was really more like the last scene of The Graduate. Lately, movies have begun with that ‘true love’ scenario in the first few minutes and then almost immediately call out the absurdity of falling in love with the first handsome man that comes around (see Frozen and Enchanted). The movies also offer that romantic love is not always the truest. In Maleficent, young handsome Prince Phillip does not bare the kiss to wake Sleeping Beauty and actually, he is barely even a part of the story. There are more solid journey stories with female heroines learning lessons that have less to do with finding happiness with a boy and more to do with finding strength and purpose within yourself (also see Brave and Tangled).

My daughter may wear a lot of pink dresses, but her legs underneath are full of scrapes and scars from climbing trees and hanging from monkey bars that she was once afraid of. She is indeed the girliest of girls. - Julia Cotton

9780241951590I haven't read the book in at least three years, but for the past week or so, I have repeatedly thought of a scene from A Confederacy of Dunces. Overall, the book is pretty darn funny, but there is one scene in particular that I remember making me heartily laugh out loud. If you're unfamiliar with the novel, it centers around a portly ass of a man named Ignatius J. Reilly. He works with a senile, old woman who always calls him Gloria. Because she thinks he is a woman named Gloria. In the scene that I've been thinking about, Ignatius falls down. Being the ass that he is, he makes a big production about being hurt. He doesn't want anyone to touch him in case his back is broken. Finally, the senile gal sees him and runs to help "Gloria." She insists on helping, but ends up falling down on top of Ignatius/Gloria.

I'm not doing the scene justice, but the first time I read it, I know that I laughed out loud. I may have clapped. Not a roaring applause, but one solid, happy clap of my hands. I do that when I really enjoy something. Sometimes I say "weee!" in my head when I'm really enjoying something. But I rarely say it out loud. Anyways, this book is quite funny. Particularly, this pratfall-ridden scene. - Ashley Bright

The deadline for DCH internships came and went this week. As part of the application, potential interns must name their favorite television show of all time, and explain why. The application states that this section might be a deal breaker, should the an applicant chose poorly. Each term, I name the same show: Mr. Show with Bob and David. Each term, I give the same two reasons: 1) Mr. Show is the sharpest, craziest, most absurd, best structured, and most influential comedy show of my lifetime. 2) Mr. Show created the single greatest sketch in tv history, "The Story of the Story of the Story of Everest" AKA "The Thimble Sketch." I can remember watching this sketch for the first time in college, literally doubled over with laughter, tears streaming down my face. I remember watching this sketch when I bought the Mr. Show dvds, and laughing so hard that my roommate lost control laughing at me. This kind of infectious comedy, that can reduce two grown men to rocking, snorting, crying, quivering mounds is the apex of comedy. It is what we all hope to accomplish. If you haven't seen the sketch, I suggest you take a gander. You do like things that are the best, right?

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TyrM7GxyzGg&feature=kp

Someday I'm going to live blog this sketch and annotate it second by second. I could write 500 words alone on Bobe Odenkirk's line reading of "Three times!" But for now I'll leave you with this fun fact: The live crowd HATED that sketch. The crew needed about twenty minutes to reset the thimbles between takes and the crowd had to sit there and wait, only to see them knocked down again. And again. And again. And again. And again. - Ryan Callahan

What We're Loving: Exclusive Meals, Old TV Formats, Illusions

Each Friday, DCH performers, teachers, and students offer their recommendations for what to watch, read, see, hear, or experience. This week Ashley Bright eats well, David Allison puts up with dancing, and Amanda Hahn visits the world of illusion. 1357889532_franklogotranspFood really resonated with me this week. I had one of the best meals of my life and now I'm going to tell you about it, mostly so that I can re-live it as I type.  In fact, I was so detailed in my re-living of the meal that my first draft of this piece was almost 400 words and I had only made it through the amuse-bouche and the first course.  How can I only hit the highlights if the whole meal was so bright? I'll try.  FRANK Underground is a private dining experience where you sign up to be on the invite list, get invited, sign up again, get on a lottery for that week's meal, and hope to be chosen.  We've been signing up for the past few months and finally got picked.  (By we, I mean good pals and fellow DCHers, Rob and Mariam.)   Days before our dinnertime, they emailed us the secret(ish) location and revealed the menu: "con gusto."  So, I had about four days to periodically look at the menu and drool over it.  Cut to  evening.  That night's location was in a loft at Adam Hat's.  Walking into the loft, there was a giant window giving a perfect view of Dallas Comedy House.  I'd never seen its roof before.  The chefs were plugging away at the meal in the homey kitchen.  All fourteen or so of the diners were asked to sit at the long table built by one of the chef's from salvaged barn wood. The chefs told us the story of the table and FRANK's conception; and they also explained that this Mexican inspired menu is one they've been wanting to do since they started two years ago.  Our first course included huitlacoche or as Americans call it 'corn smut.'  Don't google it, it is very unappetizing.  But it is so very delicious when stuffed inside of a squash blossom.  In our third course, there was an egg cooked at 63.5 degrees for an hour.  It was like no egg I've ever had before.  The yolk was the same texture as the white.  Absolutely incredible.  Okay, I could easily write a novella on this meal.  Please come ask me about it, so I can describe every bite and sip to you with insane detail.  Please.  I haven't even told you about the dessert yet. - Ashley Bright

The Maya Rudolph ShowThe variety show is back! This past week, The Maya Rudolph Show debuted on NBC, finally ushering in the return of one of my favorite television show formats. I love variety shows, their combination of comedy, music, dance, and overall show polish makes for a really enjoyable viewing experience. Now I understand that some of you aren’t dorks and may not be as familiar with what the general structure of such a special is, but fret not, I’m gonna help introduce you to what a variety show looks like. Also, I’ll let you know how The Maya Rudolph Show did in regards to each of these tropes, just in case you weren’t part of the 2.2 they pulled.

Trope 1- Tone I’m sure there was some bullshit Greecian theatre example of a dramatic variety show, but any successful one nowadays is going to be light, upbeat, and fun. Also, the humor is very specific, many times arising from quick banter back and forth between the players or audience interaction. Check out this clip of The Smothers Brothers on The Judy Garland Show to see what I’m talking about. The Maya Rudolph Show did pretty well with this in general, but she could really use a full time sidekick to bounce dialogue off of.

Trope 2- Dancing Ugh. So much dancing. Honestly, this is the part that I care the least about because dancing is boring. Generally speaking, it’s part of a variety show because old people find it graceful. In fact, I can only think of two examples of funny dancing, one is the classic bit “Fat guy is fat but watch out, he can get down!” and the other being the would be the way Rudolph danced on her program this past week. With that said, it’s become so ingrained in what a variety show is that it can’t be eliminated. The Maya Rudolph Show featured some dancing, but that was mostly because of the talents of Sean Hayes who, by the way, should be on every episode.

Trope 3- Celebrity Special Guests The only thing better than watching a famous person host an hour of television is watching a famous person host an hour of television with their famous friends! Mostly, these other celebrities come in the form of featured players that guest star in the sketches. It’s much like Saturday Night Live except it’s almost always self deprecating or physical (Example: “Ha ha, look at this oversized hat I’m wearing!”). Occasionally you’ll see a musical guest like The Maya Rudolph Show did in Janelle Monae’s performance, but most of the time the special guest either acts in the sketches or does stand up. You gotta keep the funny train moving. Fred Armisen, Andy Samberg, Sean Hayes, Chris Parnell, Kristen Bell, and Craig Robinson dropped by the set on the Maya Rudolph show, so they more than filled the celebrity quotient.

Trope 4- Music Any variety show worth it’s salt must have a few musical numbers. There has to be an upbeat opener featuring lots of singing, which The Maya Rudolph Show definitely included with the opening number and a closing number that is more somber and heart felt. My favorite play on the closer comes from Paul F. Tompkins’ variety show, with his stirring rendition of “Skyfall.” On The Maya Rudolph Show this week, they ended with this great lullabye featuring her and Chris Parnell.

At the end of the day, not only did The Maya Rudolph Show nail pretty much every trope, it did so in a refreshing way. I really hope this gets ordered to series, but I’d take any variety show at this point. Except this one. - David Allison

HahnI spent the beginning of this week at a Vision Sciences Society conference. It’s an annual meeting where a bunch of graduate students, professors, and researchers get to together by a beach in Florida. We mainly go to get tan, but we also present and discuss research relating to all things vision. As part of the conference, there is a Best Illusion of the Year Contest. It’s a one-night event where contestants present their illusions, and the audience votes for the best one. It was personally special to me this year because my lovely friend and former lab-mate at Rice University, Kimberley Orsten, was presenting an illusion of her own (and won 3rd place!). Kim’s is a simple one, but it’s also one of the more fun ones to watch. I’ve watched the little roads move back and forth for what feels like hours now. Plus, hers and the rest of the illusions in the contest come with short explanations of why they are able to fool you (fair warning: some descriptions are better than others). The explanations are my favorite part because illusions can teach you so much about how the visual system works. That’s what I love about seeing these illusions presented live, right in my face, by vision scientists at the contest. They present the illusions, induce “oohs” and “ahhs” from the crowd, and then tell you why you saw what you saw. It makes learning about your visual system even more interesting (take notes, Miss Frizzle). Even if you aren’t a vision nerd, they’re just fun to look at. So if you want to see research’s latest mind tricks and learn a little something about why you see what you see in everyday life, pop on over to the Best Illusion of the Year website and view the top ten illusions. (Kim’s is the road one). Have fun, and find me later to let me know if any of them made you say “whoaaa.”- Amanda Hahn