detectives

What We're Loving: Long Descriptions, Short Descriptions, Pre-Teen Interests, Teen Interests, Our Lying Brains

Each Friday, DCH performers, teachers, and students offer their recommendations for what to watch, read, see, hear, or experience. This week David Allison shares his inspirations, Jonda Robinson rules middle school, Sarah Wyatt is mesmerized, Amanda Hahn reignites her passion, and Ryan Callahan plows ahead.  P1-AT967_RADIO_F_20100224175520Terry Catlett and myself have been hard at work for a while trying to figure out what sort of written show we wanted to bring to the DCH stage. This week, we’ll finally be putting up the fruit of that labor with the show David and Terry: Portrait of a Crime. It’s a radio play, complete with live sound effects provided by Colten Winburn and Daniel Matthews. In honor of that upcoming show, I wanted to share a couple of clips that inspired the production.

The first idea for the show came about when I randomly heard WC Fields’ “The Day I Drank a Glass of Water” and played it for Terry. It’s super dumb and terrible, but you can check out the ten minute piece here. Favorite part would be the long, drawn out description when he finally goes to take a drink. The sheer absurdity of how they over explain it really spoke to us. After listening to this, and similar radio plays, we realized the sort of show that we wanted to do.

Our primary inspiration for the style of humor would be everything The Smothers Brothers did. If you’re not familiar with them, The Smothers Brothers were a comic singing duo that hosted a variety show in the 1960s. They created these happy, upbeat, clean, folk songs that still hold up today (Especially if you liked my piece on A Mighty Wind.). I love the dynamic between the straight and absurd players, something that is especially evident in “Boil That Cabbage Down.” Check it out here.

So if either of those billion year old clips, or my normal shows with Terry, are to your liking, we’d love to have you join us on 8/31 at 8:30 as we debut the radio play! - David Allison

Middle SchoolIt’s been a big week for students, parents, and teachers around these parts, as school started back this past Monday. Because of this, the thing I’m loving this week is hanging out with middle school kids. No, it’s not a creepy thing--I’m a “highly qualified” teacher by Texas standards, so it’s not only something I enjoy, but it’s something I get paid to do.

The first week is filled with lots of emotion. Crying, complaining, wondering if you’ll make any friends--and it’s pretty rough on the students, too. I teach both 6th grade and 8th grade, so I get to see both sides of the spectrum, all the way from the eleven-year-old on the verge of tears because she can’t get her locker open to the smooth 8th grader who has gotten as good at this middle school game as he did at [insert title of popular video game all the kids are playing these days]  over the summer. I’m only three days in, and I’ve already had had one sixth grader ask me if she could read Milton’s Paradise Lost, another tell me that when he grows up he wants to be “a problem, so people throw money at me,” and a group of 8th graders who have declared an “anti-spork” movement in our classroom, proclaiming the superiority of the spoon and hoping to get #antispork2014 trending.

If you get ever get the chance to hang out, work with, or mentor some middle school students, go for it. It will open up the door for some memorable conversations, you’ll get to make a (hopefully) positive impact, and you’ll also be reminded that even on your worst day, you can be thankful for the fact that you never have to be that awkward thirteen-year-old version of yourself again. - Jonda Robinson

nicki-anaconda-previewOh. If I could sum up Nicki Minaj’s music video for her latest single, “Anaconda”, in one word, it would be “Oh”. It’s a non-stop barrage of ass, sex, glistening skin, and Sir Mix-a-lot doing more work than Miss Minaj. And I kind of love it.

I thought I’d check it out while I was writing, foolishly thinking that it would just be background chatter. I was mesmerized from the first image. Oh. “What is this?? No! Why can’t I turn away??” It’s so much writhing, so much skin, so much Nicki. I mean, there’s no way everyone on set didn’t see her sorganz (my new slang for sex organs, try it out) well enough for a police sketch artist to use in court.

There’s such a build up in this video to her actually dancing but she never really does. Her back up dancers kill some moves while she pats their asses and twerks a little on a chair. Oh. There’s a section of the video that consists of cuts between her suggestively eating a banana and spraying herself with whipped cream and lots and lots of butt.

I’m not feeling it. But I could hear the sound of thousands of young boys closing their bedroom doors while I was watching it. And if that wasn’t enough, the bridge (???) is a scene of Nicki giving Drake a lap dance so good it seems to be a religious experience. I think we sometimes forget that he started as an actor because that lap dance looked weak as hell to me. This whole thing probably sounds like I hated the video. I did. I love that I hate it. I hate that I love it. I love it. Oh. - Sarah Wyatt

pomerantzThe new school year started up again this week. That doesn’t make much of a difference for grad students since our schooling is year round, but this marks the beginning of my third year in grad school, with about two or three more to go. This summer, for the first time since I started doing research almost 5 years ago, I started getting bored with what I do. I cared a little less about my ongoing studies and results. I spent less time playing with my data (usually a favorite hobby of mine). I stopped reading the RSS feeds of science journals I follow. I just wanted to lay in the sunshine all day and do comedy all night. I needed a kick in the pants. You guys. I got it. I got my kick in the form of this video by Dr. James Pomerantz.

Even if you’re not interested in neuroscience, I highly recommend watching it. Dr. Pomerantz was the PI of the lab I volunteered in after college, and he always demonstrated an amazing ability to explain such a vast array of different topics so simply, clearly, and interestingly. In this 8 minute long video taken at colloquia at Rice University, he does just that. He describes how we perceive, and essentially recreate, the world around us. As Dr. Pomerantz puts it, “when our neurons and the external world disagree with one another, the neurons win every time as for as our experience is concerned. We are all prisoners of our neural architecture.”

That applies to everything we experience. If you have vertigo and your neurons are firing in a way that says the world is spinning, then to you, the world is spinning. If you’re depressed, it doesn’t matter how many people tell you cheer up and that they love you. You’re going to be depressed until your body corrects itself or you seek help. Knowing why our brains don’t always mirror reality can help inform solutions. It can change lives. In the meantime, it’s just really, really cool to learn about. To all of you who are going back to school too: let’s learn the crap out of this weird little world we live in, shall we? Bring it on, year three. - Amanda Hahn

urlOver the past few weeks I have been working my way through the novels, stories, and other writings of Raymond Chandler. Okay, I haven’t read any of the stories yet, or the other writings, but I have finished the first two novels, The Big Sleep and Farewell, My Lovely.

Both of these novels, in fact all of Chandler’s novels, star world-weary, hard-boiled, heavy-drinking, quip-ready private detective Phillip Marlowe. Chandler writes in the first person, allowing the reader to see the people and places of pre-war Los Angeles through Marlowe’s point of view, alternately sardonic and empathetic.

It is this point of view that makes the books great. The plots are nothing special; they’re often needlessly complicated. The mysteries are either incredibly obvious or impossible to sort out. It is the words, the tone, those descriptions – "She was thinking. I could see, even on that short acquaintance, that thinking was always going to be a bother to her.” “Neither of the two people in the room paid any attention to the way I came in, although only one of them was dead.” – which will keep you turning the pages.

I enjoyed Farewell, My Lovely more than The Big Sleep, likely due with my familiarity with the plot of the latter thanks to the Humphrey Bogart film version. Farewell, My Lovely also benefits from a virtuoso chapter in which Marlowe wakes up in a locked room, having been drugged, and struggles to regain his senses. It’s a terrifying flirtation with madness, made all the more effective by how grounded the character is the rest of the time.

My adventure through the Chandler bibliography shall continue. There are only dozens of stories and four more novels to go. After that, I can rest easy. Until I move on to the complete works of Ross MacDonald. - Ryan Callahan

What We're Loving: Elton John Fans, Edith Wharton Allusions, Perfect Writing, Dynamic Performances

Each Friday, DCH performers, teachers, and students offer their recommendations for what to watch, read, see, hear, or experience. This week David Allison plugs without shame, Jonda Robinson catches up, Amanda Hahn looks back, and Ryan Callahan watches a master at his craft. elton_johnI’ve recently gone through and absorbed much of Elton John’s career in preparation for an upcoming show at the Dallas Comedy House on 8/23 at 10:30 pm (Shameless plug). Because he’s been around for like forty years, it’s easy to forget just how much stuff he’s done in his time. Yes, you know that he wrote “Tiny Dancer,” but I bet you didn’t know that he performed a show in Japan in a Godzilla mask? I’m sure that you remember his scores for movies like The Lion King, but I would imagine you completely forgot about his appearance in The Country Bears. And I bet you’ve heard his Marilyn Monroe tribute song “Candle in the Wind,” but were you aware that he re-recorded a version upon the passing of Princess Diana?

If you don’t believe that Elton John is great, ask the internet. Because of his amazing talent and theatricality, Elton John has long been a favorite of humans. And due to the wonderful existence of the internet, we can all enjoy the absurd efforts of these super fans. This one started out strong enough with a singing Sun, but quickly ran out of steam when I remembered it was anime. Set to the same song, this next entry is much more watchable, but lost me about halfway through when I failed understand if the robots were holding hands or passing robot pills. The true gem is this Christmas video, created by a Russian fan. Simply entitled “Merry Christmas to all Elton John fans!” this little number was inspired when a to be fan attended her first Elton show in Moscow. Part Holiday footage, part shots of curtains being pulled up to reveal Elton John at a piano, this one is a start to finish treat.

My favorite part about these strange fan vids is the effort that went into them. Seriously, real time and potentially blood, sweat, and tears were poured into a project that didn’t turn out that great. And they still posted it online, because they knew that other super fans would enjoy the work. That’s so cool to me! Elton John and the internet have created a space where anyone can be creative and they know that even if the end product isn’t as good as “Crocodile Rock,” their comrades will appreciate it. Let’s hope the Elton John fan club is out in full force on Saturday, August 23rd at 10:30 pm for my weird, fan vid of a show (Shameless Plug Shameless Plug Shameless Plug). - David Allison

Gilmore-Girls-College-Advice-11I’m hesitant to write about this, only because I’m super late to this party, but I might as well be honest and let you in on the thing I’ve been loving the past few weeks: Gilmore Girls. I was only recently introduced to Lorelai and Rory by a friend, and ever since I’ve been spending quite a bit of time in Stars Hollow having coffee at Luke’s and getting to know all of its quirky residents.

There are many great things about this show that I could point out: the cozy setting that lends itself to a cast full of interesting characters, the relationship dynamics at play, or even the sheer amount of food that is consumed in the course of an episode (I only wish I could live on cheeseburgers and cookie dough and still look like Lauren Graham). One of the things I enjoy most about this show, however, is its abundant use of allusions. That’s right, folks, if you want me to get hooked on whatever you’re writing, throw in some quality literary/historical/pop culture references and I’ll jump right on board. The dialogue moves so quickly that if you blink you might miss one (ok, not blink, but whatever is the equivalent word for your ears), and I enjoy every fleeting reference covering topics from English monarchs to Edith Wharton and so many things in between. Even if there are many I don’t get right away, I appreciate the smart writing.

If you like Gilmore Girls, and love allusions like I do, I offer a book recommendation: Special Topics in Calamity Physics by Marisha Pessl.  And If you ever want to discuss all things Gilmore with me, I’m totally up for it now that I’m in on the jokes. I do, however, respectfully request one thing: no spoilers, please! - Jonda Robinson

024325This week I took a walk down memory lane. My friend/stand up/current DCH improv student Tyler Simpson and I were talking about terrible poetry. Which led to his very own poetry of his younger days.  I loved it. I love all of his poetry and writing because it’s perfect. It’s such a perfect example of a time in our lives that most of go though. It’s that time period usually after high school, or sometime in the early college years, where we all think we have life figured out. We can feel ourselves flubbing about, but we find romance in feeling like we’re lost or helpless, or that no one else gets the world quite like we do.

During that sweet little time period, we think we understand everything: philosophy, love, hardship, art, poetry, people. We get it all. We (or at least I did) joined clubs to try to change the world because our ideas really mattered. We (...or at least I did) teamed up with a couple of Marxists to try to combat racism all by ourselves. We joined a group to support the gay community at our college because we really thought we, as an individual, would make a dramatic difference at how people perceived homosexuals.

That feeling lasts until we mature, just a little more, and realize we don’t know a thing.

I don’t necessarily want to go back to that time in my life when I thought I could conquer the world. I do like knowing my limitations, but it was invigorating at the time, and so humorous now to look at now, what I created back then than I thought was not only decent but high quality. So this week, I’m putting out my third call to action (I’m starting to get straight up bossy up on this blog, y’all): Walk down some memories. See how far you’ve come. Or see how far you haven’t. Either way, you’ll learn a little something about yourself and hopefully have a few laughs at your terrible attempts at creating something cool or profound. - Amanda Hahn

112_0805_01z+adam_west_celebrity_drive+batman_and_robin.jpgOver the past week I've had a lot of time to myself. My girlfriend was away on a trip and I was home alone, much like Macaulay Culkin in that movie, My Girl. Unlike young Mr. Culkin I did not attempt to fill my down time by defending my home from an invasion of bees only to get stung by the bees and die tragically (Spoiler). I chose to spend my time home alone watching hours of the old Batman TV show.

For those unfamiliar, Batman ran for three seasons in the 1960's. It starred Adam West as the Caped Crusader and Burt Ward as Robin, The Boy Wonder. For the first two seasons, the show aired twice a week, with the first episode ending on a cliffhanger that was paid off in the next. The show was originally meant to be a serious action tale but once the producers read the comic they decided the only way the show could work was as a camp comedy.

When I first watched the show, as a child in the 80’s, I had no idea the show was a comedy. Now I watch it and I see it as the source for many of my ideas about comedy. It’s a comedy show about crime fighters. If you know me, you probably know that is something of an obsession of mine. It turns out many of my favorite comedy tropes – overly literal signs, super villains with themed henchmen, ridiculous gadgets that serve one narrow purpose – come from this show.

At the center of it all is Adam West, killing it as Bruce Wayne and Batman. Watch the way he struggles to keep his true identity secret. Marvel at the way he casually compliments Bruce Wayne as Batman and vice versa. Feel his pain as he tries to keep his hormones under control whenever Catwoman is around. We tend to stay away from hyperbole here in What We’re Loving, but I would like to say that Adam West's performance on this show was the greatest performance in the history of acting. Don’t believe me? See for yourself. IFC is running old Batman episodes every day. - Ryan Callahan

What We're Loving: Kid Detectives, Inspirational Humans, Dead Men Fighting, British Conversations

CommunityEvery Friday, DCH performers, teachers and students offer their recommendations for things to watch, read, see, hear or experience. This week David Allison suggests a tip to Hulu, Sarah Wyatt spreads the gospel, Ryan Callahan finds stories that keep him up at night, and Nick Scott has his  preconceptions shattered. Thursday night, NBC will air Donald Glover’s last episode of Community. Cue crying montageEven though he’s just thirty years old, Glover has an incredibly diverse career that many comedy fans may not fully be aware of. He’s showed off his ability to rap on Community and under the moniker Childish Gambino. He’s written for 30 Rock, (and provided the occasional cameo). And, along with the Derrick Comedy members DC Peirson and Dominic Dierkes, created a series of fantastic sketches that tackle issues like werewolves in radio stations and Bro Rape.

Mystery TeamI’m going to assume that everyone is watching Community, so my recommendation this week is a great movie called Mystery Team. After hitting it “Internet big” a number of years ago, Derrick Comedy took a step back, pooled their resources and decided to make a movie.  The film follows the story of  three kid detectives that have grown into high schoolers, but refuse to give up their investigative hobby. I love their ability to play the dumbest characters (Peirson plays a trivia braniac, Dierkes a strong man and Glover a master of disguise) in very real situations. Also, it has some great support lent by Jon Daly (Rafflecast and Kroll Show) and Bobby Moynihan (SNL). Moynihan steals every scene he's in. The entire film is fantastic and necessary viewing for comedy fans, especially because it’s free on Hulu. - David Allison

Andy DalyAndy Daly is the funniest guy I know. We’ve never met but I feel like he would be cool with me saying that. You probably know him best from his stint on MADtv back in the day, but he is so much more than that. Andy Daly is killing it in the comedy game. He is everything I aspire to be as an improviser, comedian and human being. He is a great listener, he always follows the fun of a scene, his characters are off the hook and he just seems like a genuinely great person. He has a new show, Review, set to debut on Comedy Central this spring, one day after my birthday. He also has a new podcast, The Andy Daly Podcast Pilot Project, debuting in February that promises to be truly amazing. This podcast came about because of his amazing characters on the Comedy Bang Bang podcast. Cactus Tony, Chip Gardner and Don Dimello are just a few of his creations that I urge you to do yourself a favor and listen to immediately. I have never laughed so hard by myself than I did while listening to the Cactus Tony episode of Comedy Bang Bang. Daly is also wonderful and underrated as Principal Cutler on Eastbound & Down. I hope this post reaches every corner of the globe because people need to know the comedic gold that is Andy Daly, and I am happy to spread that gospel. Daly is about to blow up, and he would totally be OK with me saying that. - Sarah Wyatt 

McSweeney's 45McSweeney's Quarterly Concern Volume 45: Hitchcock and Bradbury Fight in Heaven is catnip for short-story lovers like me. Inspired by two anthologies—one edited by Alfred Hitchcock, one by Ray Bradbury—which McSweeney's Editor Dave Eggers found at used-book sales, this collection features a fine mix of old sci-fi and mystery/suspense stories, from the obscure but brilliant (Julian May's Dune Roller) to the often-anthologized and brilliant (John Cheever's The Enormous Radio) to the simply brilliant (Franz Kafka's In The Penal Colony). With the exception of new stories from Brian Evenson, China Melville, Benjamin Percy and E. Lily Lu, everything  in this issue was pulled from anthologies edited by Bradbury or Hitchcock in the 1930's, 40's or 50's. Also included, and of particular delight, are the original introductions. Hitchcock's introduction is predictably brief and droll and familiar in tone to his TV intros, while Bradbury's is a hidden little gem, a paean to the revitalizing powers of stories, which offer the reader "that sense of living on the margin of impossibility." Once I opened this compendium of classic tales, I found it nigh impossible to put down, and I continued reading and reading late into the night, repeatedly convincing myself that I could read one more story before bed, just one more. - Ryan Callahan

the_trip_poster01Watching two moderately known British actor/comedians eat a series of meals throughout the English countryside doesn't seem like that great of a concept for a TV show or movie. At least that's what I thought until I saw The Trip. Originally a television mini-series on the BBC, in 2010 it was re-edited into a single feature-length movie for American audiences. The movie stars Steve Coogan and Rob Brydon as exagerrated versions of themselves, hired to travel to multiple fancy restaurants throughout northern England. The two spend most of the meals doing their excellent celebrity impressions and riffing on pop culture, but the movie also explores Coogan's character's inflated sense of self and struggle to be a good father, as well as Brydon's desire to be at home with his family rather than out doing celebrity things. But it's the chemistry between the two that makes the movie/show work.

Outside of perhaps remembering his part as the Director in Tropic Thunder or as the lead role in Hamlet 2, some of you may be hearing of Steve Coogan for the first time recently, as he was nominated for Best Adapted Screenplay for Philomena in this year's Academy Awards. In my list of comedic heroes, Coogan is pretty high up there. I've watched just about everything he's done, including some unfortunate movie choices. Anything featuring his Alan Partridge character is a must watch. All of his talents are on display in The Trip, and it's interesting to see him, even fictionally, comment on his career. Brydon I was only familiar with thanks to Tristram Shandy: A Cock and Bull Story (also starring Coogan and directed by Michael Winterbottom, who also directed The Trip), but all it took was watching him share one meal with Coogan and I was on board. I would say more about the movie, but it would it would be as entertaining as having someone describe someone's impression or joke later. Better to just watch. And if you can, I highly recommend finding the original BBC show, as much was cut out before releasing it as a film for American audiences. RUNNER UP PICK: The 9/11 Commission Report - Nick Scott