Dreaming of the ’90s at the Portlandia Premiere

It is well and good that Julia was free to accompany me to Wednesday’s premiere screening of IFC’s “Portlandia,” as she is in my “peer group” and it would have been terrible to have to explain to someone younger why I was LOLing at a throwaway line about the  Jim Rose Circus during the musical segment,”Dream of the ’90s,” which opens the new sketch comedy series.

“Portlandia,” the brainchild of SNL’s Fred Armisen and musician Carrie Brownstein,  skewers the sort of crunchy, granola-y lifestyle choices and slacker ethos that have never quite disappeared, and proves their is still comedic mileage in spoofing feminist bookstores and organic, free-range farms, aging rockers and DIY enthusiasts. Especially when the vignettes hew toward the weirder and more character-based, rather than a more staid set-up/punchline formula. (Think “Kids in the Hall” or “The League of Gentlemen.”)

The event, held at the Edison Ballroom, was much like the show itself, a mix of the rock and comedy worlds. Oh, there is Jason Sudeikis (who has a cameo in the pilot as a Messianic organic farmer) and Jack McBrayer of “30 Rock,” and then look there is JD Samson of Le Tigre and Annie Clark of St. Vincent. Hey, Stephen Merchant is hanging around the back bar and Todd Barry is just sort of wandering around.

Servers dressed in flannel shirts passed around Oregon wines and craft beers, and a deliciously deadly vodka concoction made with ginger beer.

A Teaser for the upcoming season of the show featured cameos by Aimee Mann and Kyle Maclachlan.

The Portland-based band The Thermals played a tight, energetic set to cap the night.

After the band, there was definitely  that post-concert, green room vibe.  There was a bottleneck to reach the bathroom, and the famous comedians who lingered were chatting with seductive, doe-eyed, younger ladies; it was a scene that verged perilously close to one that might be comedic fodder for the very show they came to support.

[“Portlandia” debuts on IFC on Friday, January 21st at 10:30 pm.  You can also stream the first episode on Hulu for a limited time.]

After the jump, watch “Dream of the ’90s,”which includes the line “Portland is a city where young people go to retire”–I mean! (Also, don’t we all secretly want a do-over of the last eleven years, like, sometimes?) Continue reading

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Camelflage! For a Sleeker, Smoother, Uh…

Ladies, I would not presume to speak at you about your undergarment needs.  (I do not even like to utter the word panty.)  But there is a website and a product out there that needs mentioning, and it is selling “visual privacy undergarments.”  But is this, I mean overall in the grand scheme of things not just specific, easy to mitigate circumstances, an issue, this “visual privacy” (read:  fear of unintentional cameltoe overexposure)?  Like frequently enough that one should sit hunched over the drawing board to come up with Camelflage, which is a a portmanteau whose origins you’ve no doubt surmised.  But still, let’s hear from the creator: Continue reading

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Remedial Math: Lambert Edition

Oh, hello!  Welcome to Remedial Math, where we make a snap judgment on which of two vaguely related things is greater than the other, illustrated in the form of a hastily (and crudely) created image.

Today, it is American Idol runner-up Adam Lambert versus one-time child star and Incorporated Kid Ryan Lambert.  Ryan Lambert co-starred in The Monster Squad, so he’s decidedly the winner.   Join us next time for another pointless comparison.

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What If Gaga Was One Of Us? Just a Slob Like One Of Us?

Here is a short, amusing video by Australia’s Hungry Beast which answers the question, “What if Lady Gaga walked among us, but without…The Fame?” [Towleroad]

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‘Life’ and How to Live It Up

Last night the Discovery Channel’s “Life,” the sequel, of sorts, to “Planet Earth,” premiered in New York.

After introductory remarks by David M. Zaslav, CEO of Discovery Communications — “the #1 nonfiction media company!” A declaration made more than once! — and executive producer Mike Gunton, the screening of episode one, “Challenges of Life,” commenced, with the score played live onstage by the New York Pops.  The series, narrated by Oprah Winfrey, is breathtakingly shot, with eye-popping, nearly trippy close-ups of participants like the stalk-eyed fly, whose transformation after emergence from the pupa puts any Hollywood CGI shenanigans to shame.  There was a somewhat comical hippo fight, a segment featuring the adorable and wily Capuchin monkeys demonstrating their palm-nut-cracking technique, and a pair of Western Grebes, birds who express their monogamy through a graceful, kabuki-like dance of mirrored movements.

The Challenges of life, then?  Survival!  Eating, fighting, and mating.  All in service of the continuation of the species.  An aspect of struggle that was taking place in the foyer of Alice Tully Hall after the screening.  The line for food was unruly, and there was an immediate run on sliders,  almost souring the vibe of the  post-show reception.  The particular breed of celebrity know as the Reality Television Star (or is it Nonfiction Media Star?), they who comprise a fair portion of the entertainment programming on Discovery’s networks, mingled amongst the executives and series sponsors, gamely answering questions from reporters.  Kate Gosselin, with her DWTS partner in tow, was the center of much of the attention, her hair looking like a spun sugar confection.  The other species native to cable television and the red carpet  included a Real Housewife of New York, a Cake Boss, the Cash Cabbie, and Shorty Rossi, the Pit Boss, with his adorable, slightly bored-looking companion animal Hercules.

Author Josh Kilmer Purcell of “The Fabulous Beekman Boys”— the show about the upstate farm and “lifestyle brand” he runs with his partner Dr. Brent Ridge–was there looking dapper.

It was easy to miss Glenn Close, standing alone eating her burger, tiny and immaculate in a black pantsuit, but the cameras eventually found her, too.

After dessert the herd had thinned, and when the lights were brought up to full, the beasts of the party were gamely ushered out, the struggles for dominance, the mating rituals having been kept mostly in check. (Though it is possible those urges were gratified at whatever after-event media types and cable executives are wont to converge upon.)

“Life” premieres on the Discovery Channel on March 21. [Photo via Discovery Channel]

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‘Outré Island’ Is Not So Foreign a Destination

The word Outré is defined as “out of the common course or limits; extravagant; (2) bizarre; outlandish”; unfortunately the new solo show at Ars Nova, Outré Island, is not quite that far gone.  At least, not yet! The workshop production, written and performed by Christoper Rozzi,is presented as a sort of meeting of the cultures between our country and Outré Island, an heretofore unknown society located a thousand or so miles away.  The citizens of Outré only became aware of the “outside world” when an autographed headshot of Don Cheadle happened to wash ashore.  Now, the idea is to build a tunnel between the island and New York (shaped like an umbilical cord), and so the audience is presented with a select group of island dwellers, representatives  intended to bridge the gap betwixt our two cultures.  And so you have the overall framework of the show.

Rozzi is an adept performer, the six characters he plays, from the mayor to a precocious child named Delmonte, to Robin Merry, a children’s book author with a mountain man beard, are well-crafted.  Though Rozzi may best be known for his version of William Shakespeare, popular on YouTube and which he reprises here. (It is the most honed and precise.)

The central conceit of the show, however, feels grafted on, and aside from a few cultural quirks the audience gleans about Outré Island,mostly from interstitial video segments — there are  jail parks, and the annual hunt for the mayor, and a mysterious, naturally-produced  blue substance (It’s a fuel source!  It’s an ingestible stimulant!) — there didn’t seem to be a reason to create a locale out of whole cloth, when it could have just as easily been set in a fictional US town, albeit one where the inhabitants are just as quirky and deluded.  The sum of the characterizations does not equal the thematic whole in this case. (Also, isn’t it terribly convenient that the Outré Islanders happen to speak English, and dress in jeans and sweaters, and have access to video equipment?)

The talented Raja Azar (of the pirate musical Jollyship the Whiz-Bang) is underserved here in his role as musical director, left to fend for himself corner of the theater, his character all hopped up on blue substance.  It felt too much like he was merely stalling when waiting for Rozzi to effect a costume change, and Azar seemed vaguely relieved, as did the audience, when Rozzi returned to the stage.  Though the two did have an easy rapport.

There is also, be warned for those of you that hate to be called upon to interact during the show, a fair amount of crowd work, which on the plus side opens up the piece to spontaneity and improvisation, but also leaves the onus on the audience to drive certain segments.

Watching the show I was reminded of something:  Were you ever, in elementary or middle school, in either a social studies or history class, presented with the tale of the Nacirema and their “exotic” customs, which after a thorough examination the whole “whoa” at the end of the exercise was that you realized Nacirema is American spelled backwards, and you’ve been examining your own culture from the outside in?  This show has the potential to go in that direction.  Or, alternately, if instead of bringing Outré Island to the audience, the performance brought the audience to that locale, letting the mores and customs unfold in their own setting, like a living travelogue.  With his residency at Ars Nova, Rozzi has been continually developing this work, so this show may yet yield different results by the end of the collaboration. As it stands now it is a fine showcase for Rozzi as a writer/performer, but not  a cohesive product. If he indeed keeps tweaking the show, and a stronger narrative emerges, he may yet tie these broad characters into something larger, a piece that is both familiar and, as the title implies, outré.

Outré Island plays a limited engagement at Ars Nova Thursdays at 8PM now through March 11th.  Tickets are $15 and can be purchased here.

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The Annotated Tour Diaries (Circa 2k2): Yeehaw

Woke up this morning a little worse for wear.  [Read: hung over!]

We got to visit the Grand Ole Opry which was a treat.  Lots of memorabilia in the museum, lots of Minnie Pearl and Patsy Cline.  [Both of whom I still adore.  Minnie Pearl because really she reminds me of being a youngster, sitting on my grandmother’s couch, probably with a snack–usually a bowl of chocolate ice cream–and watching “Hee Haw” on her big ole television console.  There was no cable at her house, only a temperamental TV antenna.]

The actual Opry House was closed, so we took a drive to the Galyord Opryland Hotel which rested on four acres.  There were four different wings, an atrium.  It was a bit out of control, like a Martian colony or something.

We left to hit the highway, where every billboard in Tennessee seemed to advertise some sort of Loretta Lynn-endorsed establishment.  Loretta Lynn’s RV Resort [Oxymoron?] and Plantation; Loretta Lynn’s Kitchen; Loretta Lynn’s Dude Ranch; the Loretta Lynn Museum.  [Diversify, Diversify!]

We joked about what establishments were missing:  Loretta Lynn’s Porn Emporium; Loretta Lynn’s Rub ‘n’ Tug Massage Parlour; Loretta Lynn’s Monster Truck Arena.

We hit traffic before finally arriving in Mississippi.

We were supposed to do a line-thru [imperative as we were killing brain cells left and right and needed to remember the script for our show] but the “Veggie Combo” was already asleep.  [The “Veggie Combo”* consisted of Guy, a hardcore raw foodist — more on him TK — and Missy, a drunkorexic who decided there was no better time to adopt the raw foods diet than while touring the country in a van.  Through many a rural space.  Where access to the staples of their dietetic demands were likely to be few and far between.  ANYWAY!]  They are definitely starting to splinter off.  Guy doesn’t possess the temperament to be road manager, I think.  [Oh, yes so!  Guy the raw foodist was also our “road manager” which meant he had some sort of nominal control over our tour van, and also the disbursement of our weekly salary.]

Oh!  I forgot to mention Lou and Missy coming into my hotel room the other night, LATE — I heard their noisy entrance even in my half-drunken dream state  — rolling me over and shaking me to semi-consciousness, only to then put a [weed] pipe to my lips and encouraging me to take a hit.  I did, then passed out again.  [We usually rotated who we were rooming with, and this night I was with our truck driver and erstwhile pot provider Lou.  Playing possum at that point was not an option.  Take the hit, roll over, try to resume sleep.]


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The Annotated Tour Diaries: Martha Stewart’s Favorite Wieners

Rawley’s hot dogs. The Rizl Dizl (real deal).  Buttered buns and the works–bacon, relish, mustard, sauerkraut. [Oh, and:  deep-fried.  heart-healthy?  Probably not so much.]  “The greatest hot dog in the world” according to Martha Stewart.  [ While rehearsing for the tour we were based in Connecticut–Milford to be exact–and had a vehicle at our disposal, sometimes.  Ana* had with her a copy of Eat Your Way Across the USA, figuring, rightly, that if we were going to be traversing these here United States, we might as well sample some of the best regional fare we could.  On a day off rehearsal we commandeered a van and make our pilgrimage to Rawley’s.]

Saw a lot of Martha Clones roll up into the place with their L.L. Bean hubbies and their SUVs.  The dogs were served by surly teenagers.  A sign above the take-out window read “This is not ‘fast’ food.”

Some hump in front of me was complaining that he’d been waiting for over twenty-five minutes to get his food, so the surly teen flipped the cardboard sign around to read “30 Min Wait.”

After eating, we went for a hike in the woods at Sleeping Giant State Park. Nature!   [How I did not gain any weight on this tour, what with our rigorous eating of barbecued and fried foods, is a miracle.  I miss when my metabolism was that jackrabbity.]

[About; Previously]

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The Annotated Tour Diaries: Get Out Of Atlanta!

We rode into Atlanta thinking we were going to rule the school–two days free and nothing to do.  Wrong!  First, it was cold as balls.  Thirty-degree weather.  We checked in on Thursday night and I struck out on my own, unbeknownst to the others, to see a band or two play at Smith’s Olde Bar.  I had wanted to catch Freeloader, a NYC alt-country outfit, but missed them.  Caught Pontoon and Black Goldstein–two local bands.  [I remember nothing about these bands!  Though I think Smith’s served a quite good burger?]

I got back to the hotel fairly early, which was good as at 8:38 the next morning we got a call saying that we had a show and had to be ready in the lobby in twenty minutes.  What?!  Apparently [the theater company] fucked up and we did not, as they’d led us to believe, have a canceled show.   The company lied and said we’d had a breakdown but would be at the venue ASAP.  [The scheduling snafus?  The lying? Standard operating procedure for the company we were working with.  Which might explain why they went bankrupt shortly after our tour ended.]

We did the show with the bare minimum of set pieces and lights.  [Oh, so! This tour, this show, was the most expensive they’d ever sent out.  We were the first group to go on the road with it.   Most shows carried their set pieces in a trailer hitched to the back of the van.  We needed a diesel-guzzling Penske truck to haul all of our stuff. It was driven by Lou, our technical director, who was never not stoned.  If one was sick of the van one would opt to “ride in the Penske” with big Lou.  “Ride in the Penske” became a convenient shorthand for “I really need to get stoned.”] Continue reading

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The Annotated Tour Diaries: End of the Road

In keeping with “the challenge” I was poring over some old notebooks and found the diary I’d kept  from when I was traversing the Eastern and Southern United States on tour with a children’s theatre operation. So I will reprint some entries here.  This blog experiment owes a conceptual debt to Matthew Gallaway’s Saturnine Tour Diaries Project.  (Though my travels in a van with a company of actors is in no way comparable to being in a rock band.  It could quite possibly be the EXACT OPPOSITE.  Still!)  So we’ll begin at the end. Why not?

Last show of the tour at a high school in Silver Springs, Maryland.  Hungover as a motherfucker.  Hurled in a trashcan off-stage during “Magi”…”good gifts” *barf” “sacrificed…” *barf*.  [This so did happen, and the big industrial-sized trash bin was unfortunately located near our unflappable stage manager, K.  I delivered my few lines in the adaptation of “The Gift of the Magi” then exited the stage to perfunctorily vomit in the available receptacle.  I believe this is known in certain acting circles as the Peter O’Toole method.]

I didn’t feel as sad ending this show, I just wanted to depart.  Hate that I was ill but c’est la vie.  We had gone the night before to Ruby Tuesday and they had a special–buy one drink get the next one for a penny. I had four glasses of the house Burgundy.  Big mistake!  I was so trashed.  Apparently I fell on the floor, though I remember none of this.  Hope I didn’t embarrass myself too much.  [Though I remembered the hangover and the performance distinctly, it was not until re-reading this entry that I was reminded it was due to terrible house wine at a terrible chain restaurant.  Serves me right?  Who quaffs the house Burgundy at Ruby Tuesday?  Oh, poor actors, that’s who.]

It’s so weird that the van just drops us off back in NYC, like  we’re returning alien abductees or kidnap victims.  It’s hard to integrate back into “real life” after an experience like this.  After establishing a social hierarchy, a common language (i.e. poop jokes), it becomes necessary to dismantle all that and go back to the previously established customs and norms.  [The return to “civilian life” is jarring.  Poop talk is universal and a great bonding subject among disparate personalities.  Everybody poops!  Right?]

I hope I learned something on this tour.  Now it’s uncertainty, confusion, jealousy, frustration.  Well, until the next gig.  Do I want a next gig?  I certainly want things…union benefits, an agent.  These are goals for the new year.  [These goals were never manifest.  In fact, my next gig was as a performer with the children’s theatre program at the Central Park Zoo.]

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College Diaries: On Mushrooms and Memory

I have been issued a challenge of sorts in the comments, to write more about drinking, drugs and parties.  The problem with writing on those topics is that, well, the partaking in the aforementioned tends to erode the memory.  Also, you might find, the humor associated with those situations tends to evaporate with the high.  Still!  I’m game, I guess. Continue reading

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The Vacation Diaries: Klowning Around

I was in my friend Sally’s car, speeding towards our designated meeting place, a house in North Hollywood, when she turned to me:  “You should have a clown name ready, just in case they ask you. They’ll probably ask you.” I exchanged a look with Drew, Sally’s boyfriend, who was sitting in the backseat. It was bad enough I was dressed in a hastily assembled approximation of clown garb, but now I had to have a clown name, too? An identity to accompany my foray into the evening’s intended revels? I felt vaguely uneasy.

It was the final night of my week-long visit to Los Angeles and I was to spend it dressed in thrown-together motley, cavorting onstage at a rave being held at the Henry Fonda Theater. It was not how I had envisioned my Saturday evening in the city, but when you arrive in town without an agenda, at the mercy of your friends and their cars, things can often take an unexpected turn. Continue reading

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