poetry

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: Good Things Ending, In Car Giggling, Mile High Shopping, Fictional Assistants

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

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

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

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

HahnWWL1

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

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

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

HahnWWL2

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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