My friend Jeremy Boreing of Truth Revolt pointed me to “Actual Cannibal Shia LeBeouf” several weeks ago. It’s a greatly improved remake of an earlier cartoon version. At first, I simply found the new piece hilarious and silly (no small things). But it stuck with me. A grad student with too much time on his hands could write a paper about it as a meditation on the cannibalization of high culture by low celebrity culture — complete with the post-modern zinger of Shia himself in Citizen Kane mode, as if his degraded image were his own protege. Thank heavens grad students are too busy writing papers about more important things like “Gender and the Zombie Apocalypse.” Or vice versa. Anyway, if you’re not one of the nearly seven million people who’ve seen this already, take a look:
Imagine this: You’re sitting in a booth in TGI Fridays, minding your own business, thinking about which appetizer to order, when a flying drone covered in mistletoe comes careening at your face.
This is literally what happened to photojournalist Georgine Benvenuto last Thursday evening at a TGI Fridays in Brooklyn.
The drone, NYMag reports, is “part of a TGI Fridays promotion meant ‘to help inspire more guests to come together underneath the mistletoe and experience #Togethermas this Christmas.’”
In the future, maybe all restaurants should be Taco Bell.
Republicans took back Congress by offering solid policy alternatives to the Obama administration’s catastrophic demagoguery. But to take back the culture, we conservatives ought to start telling more fart jokes. Ironically, I’m not kidding about that.
For a while now, I’ve been thinking and writing about dirty jokes from the ancient Greek stage and the modern movie theater. One thing I’ve noticed is that we haven’t come up with a lot of new material over the past 2500 years. Basically, awkward sex and uncontrollable bowel movements are what’s funny. Since literally the birth of Western civilization, audiences have lined up out the door to watch some poor goon crap his pants.
No surprises there.
For the past two weeks, I’ve been digging through the gutter of ancient Greek and Roman comedy to find the grodiest jokes and weirdest plots from the classical world. Turns out, the founders of Western culture had dirty, dirty little minds just like we do in the good old US of A. But we can definitely give the Greeks and Romans a run for their money — the past few decades have been a golden age of gross-out gags. One name in particular has become synonymous with outrageous laughs. Whether he’s writing, directing, producing, or just making fart noises in the corner, Judd Apatow has become the face of a certain brand of smut. The funny thing is, a lot of his movies would have been right at home on the ancient stage. So here, ranked from least to most hilarious, are five of my favorite Apatow films — and the ancient plays that look a lot like them.
1. Celebrities in Hell: This Is the End and Frogs
Apatow mentored Seth Rogen as he filmed this 2013 apocaflic, in which a bunch of showbiz blockheads get hurled into hell on earth. Rogen and his stoner buddies (Jonah Hill, Jay Baruchel, etc.) get passed over by the rapture because their lives have been empty and debauched. So they have to fight to survive while the earth is plagued by molten brimstone, ravenous demons with grotesquely large genitalia, and Emma Watson. Only by demonstrating some kind of meaningful altruism can they get tractor-beamed up to heaven, where everyone gets a Segway and the Backstreet Boys are back together.
Aristophanes’ Frogs is also about a bunch of self-obsessed artists messing around in the pits of the damned. Dionysus, the showbiz god, descends past “forever-flowing crap,” an undead fiend who wants to rip his junk off, and a she-devil “with a bronze leg . . . and the other made of cow-poop,” in search of a writer worth his salt. The one playwright whose material has more substance than a shopping list gets tractor-beamed back to earth. Finding someone in show business who’s not too vapid to justify his existence turns out to take a worryingly long time.
(Aristophanes, Frogs 145 ff.; 475 ff.; 294 ff.)
Sometimes it takes an outsider to notice the confusion laced within a holiday message. When it comes to Christmas, the confusion is on overload. Somewhere along the way a religious message got smacked with a load of pop culture overtones to create a holiday lush with semiotic excess, too much for the brain or heart to process. So, allow me from my seat on the sidelines to create the How To guide so you can enjoy the perfect pop culture Christmas.
12. Shop early and shop often for things you’ll never need that are on sale at bargain basement prices.
Christmas really begins on Black Friday, or 6 p.m. on Thanksgiving, whichever you prefer. The holiday is about buying to your heart’s content and making sure everything you and your children have ever dreamed of is stacked up under that decorated tree. The bruises and broken limbs you get in pursuit of those awesome sale prices will be well worth it. Who needs teeth when they can have stuff?
You may remember my experience last week where I received the strange basket of apples with a cryptic note from Valerie. I ate one of the apples and fell into a deep sleep, after which I received the strangest ideas for how to improve Walt Disney World. So I wrote them down, and my editor posted them here.
Well, I decided to try a second apple from the basket. One bite of this next apple, and I passed out again. I woke up with the inspiration to rank some of Disney’s best cartoons. Get ready, because I guarantee you that you’ve never seen Disney’s films in this light…
8. Wreck-It Ralph (2012)
Just picture it: a large, virile character roams the world, and though people see him as a bad guy, he’s really good inside, and in the end, he saves the day!
Am I talking about Wreck-It Ralph? Of course I am, but in reality I’m talking about the man whose life I’m convinced the movie is a metaphor for: our wonderful ally Vladimir Putin. Just think about it.
Anyone who’s ever watched a Seth Rogen movie knows that great comedy can be long on laughs, short on plot. Try to recite the story of Pineapple Express from beginning to end in coherent English and you’ll see what I mean. But paper-thin plotting wasn’t invented in 2008. Ancient Greek comedies made about as much narrative sense as a James Brown interview. Add in 2500 years worth of cultural change, and you get scripts that read like a Japanese knock-off of a Will Ferrell film written by someone on ‘shrooms. Ranked from weirdly confusing to utterly incomprehensible, here are ten ancient plots that made more jokes than sense.
The basket of apples appeared on my door step. At first I wasn’t sure where they came from until I saw the note card that read VJ’s Organic Co-Op, Washington, DC. The note inside the envelope read:
Try these apples. I guarantee you’ve never tasted anything like them.
Valerie? I wasn’t sure who this Valerie was, but I figured organic apples couldn’t be all that bad. I made sure to wash one of them thoroughly, and I took a bite.
Whoever Valerie was, she was right. It didn’t taste like any apple I’d ever eaten, and soon after the first bite, I fell asleep, right there on the kitchen floor!
When I woke, I had all these ideas in my head on how to improve my favorite place on the planet — Walt Disney World. So I wrote them down, and here they are:
7. An Updated CircleVision 360 Film For China At Epcot
Epcot’s China pavilion does a wonderful job celebrating the rich history of its home country, but there’s very little mention of the successes of the last sixty or so years. Wonderful triumphs like the Great Leap Forward, the Cultural Revolution, and defeating those pesky students in Tiananmen Square don’t get the mention they deserve at Epcot.
To remedy that problem, I propose that Disney replace the current Reflections of China film with an informative and interesting documentary I’ll call Forward: China from Mao to Now. The film will look back at the great history of the People’s Republic of China from the earliest days of the revolution to China’s bright future.
Of course, such a short film would not have time to delve too deeply into certain aspects of the nation, so concepts like human rights and economic freedom would probably have to go by the wayside. But I think a CircleVision 360 movie dispelling the myths about the People’s Republic would be worth seeing, don’t you?
Some jokes are always funny. Then again, after 2500 years, some jokes are just really, really gross and weird. The ancient Greeks and Romans may have laid the foundations of the Western world, but — and this is weirdly comforting — they loved fart gags. The comedies they put onstage were about as mature and sophisticated as a Judd Apatow movie, and just as filthy. So if you were sure sex was invented in 1963, hold onto your petticoats: this is a tour through the deepest gutters of the ancient world, ranked from naughty giggles to outright smut. Read on for a sampling of, quite literally, some of the oldest jokes in the book.
The Greek comedian Aristophanes loved big, dumb, gross-out gags, but he also loved political satire with more of a bite. In Wasps, he put them together. In the play, a father and son are arguing for and against Cleon, Athens’ political hotshot. The dad, Philocleon, basically has the hots for Cleon — Philocleon is Greek for “love Cleon.” The son, who thinks Cleon’s a dirtbag, is called Bdelycleon — which means either “disgusting Cleon,” or, more appealingly, “fart Cleon.” Essentially it’s as if Rush Limbaugh changed his name to “Obama-is-a-fart.” Which, come to think of it, would be hilarious.
— Marc Leibowitz (@Marc_Leibowitz) November 10, 2014
If you had to affix a precise date to the beginning of Mike Tyson’s professional decline, you could do worse than December 9, 1988. On that day, Tyson fired Kevin Rooney, the masterful boxing trainer who had guided him to the world heavyweight championship, and moved firmly into the camp of Don King, a man whose name is interchangeable with corruption and degradation. Once an invincible fighter with precise punches and defensive skills, Tyson got sloppy, trading his scientific pugilism for flat-footed brawling. Seduced by a world of women and money, he abandoned all discipline. His laziness caught up with him in February 1990, when a journeyman named Buster Douglas outclassed him in a championship fight and knocked him out.
This was still merely the beginning of the end. In 1992, Tyson was convicted of raping a young beauty queen named Desiree Washington, and spent the next several years in an Indiana prison. Emerging in 1995, he knocked out a few tomato cans before fighting the bigger names, biting ears and going on ridiculous rants about eating people’s children and stomping on their testicles. He nurtured an obsession with pigeons and exotic tigers, living as an eccentric in his own Xanadu. More arrests ensued, more assaults, more crude outbursts.
What’s the point of rehashing this ugly tabloid history? The point is that the name “Mike Tyson” comes with a lot of unwanted baggage, which I simply couldn’t set down while watching the premier of Tyson’s new “show,” a 15-minute animated sketch called Mike Tyson Mysteries. It airs on Adult Swim, which is a grown-up portion of the Cartoon Network featuring peculiar and often graphic shows that blend violence and dark humor. The show has Tyson voicing an animated version of himself. A retired boxer, he is inexplicably portrayed as a freelance mystery solver. His team, a cross between Animal House and the Scooby Doo gang, consists of Norm Macdonald as an alcoholic talking pigeon, the ghost of the Marquess of Queensberry, and Tyson’s brainy adopted daughter.
“You could tell straight away it wasn’t a real tiger,” says Andrew Holland, describing a video sent to him of a man in a tiger suit having sex with a woman. “Right from the word go, the tiger was talking.”
Unfortunately for Andrew, a 51-year-old bus driver from Wrexham, North Wales, police and prosecutors didn’t pick up on this subtle clue. Instead, they claimed the video was of a woman having sex with a real tiger (again, it was not a real tiger; it was a human man dressed as a tiger) and charged Andrew with possession of extreme pornography.
As he was the first person to fall foul of this offense under the recently amended Criminal Justice and Immigration Act, prosecutors were determined to make an example of him. That, coupled with the fact that “MAN FOUND WITH TIGER PORN” is a very clickable headline, effectively meant Andrew’s life was ruined from the second he was taken into custody.
He pleaded innocence, telling police, “It was a joke; my mate sent it to me. It’s not a real tiger—real tigers don’t say, ‘That was grrrreat.’”
Andrew has faced two sets of charges, “lost his job, suffered a heart attack, and, after being branded a pedophile, been physically assaulted several times.”
These are Heinlein’s Crazy Years; we just live in them.
Those with long memories will recall that Wes Craven’s Scream, which came out way back in 1996, was praised for its hip “self-awareness,” coming as it did in a particularly “meta” era of ’90s postmodernism, full of overrated cult fare like Pulp Fiction and Clerks. The film’s edginess consisted in banging on the fourth wall without quite breaking it. In one scene, for instance, a horror-movie fanatic and video-store clerk (remember: 1996) played by Jamie Kennedy tells his fellow teenagers about the “rules” of surviving a slasher film.
One of these “rules,” which is now common knowledge, is that in order to survive one mustn’t practice the carnal arts. Those who do it always get it. What the less eloquent might call “c*ckblocking” is an established horror-movie tradition. In the first Halloween film, Michael Myers ruins one couple’s tryst by stabbing the guy and then assaulting his teenage girlfriend—which might sound like a standard Friday evening at Roman Polanski’s house, but for an audience of 1970s suburban teens it was genuinely frightening. Come to think of it, every horror movie has a boyfriend character, football letter jacket and all, who gets his head caved in while fetching a few beers from the fridge. Each series has its own tropes. The Friday the 13th movies rely on the obligatory sex-in-the-woods scene: two camp counselors set up a tent, and before long Jason shows up with his machete for an especially kinky threesome.
Sometimes I like to ironically retweet Communist, anarchist, and other varieties of far left slogans. Often times the sentiments are anachronistic or conflict with the more prominent, popular progressive sentiments of the day. Occasionally some truth manages to get out. This one really provoked a smile in its honesty:
The capitalist system controls your life thus it is idiotic to blame yourself for your misery.
— Ann Landers (@Ann__Landers) October 25, 2014
No matter what’s going on in your life or what decisions you’ve made that have gotten you there, there’s always someone else to blame! How is any ideology with this at its core not appealing?
The rest is, as you might expect, a farce of unintended consequences.
In my preteen years I tried never to miss an episode of the game show Make Me Laugh. Simple premise: Three comedians had 60 seconds each to make a contestant laugh, who was awarded a dollar a second for not laughing. I think there might have been a $100 bonus for going the whole three minutes. Comedians got national exposure, contestants got prizes, the producers didn’t have to spend a whole lot of money.
The Teatreneu Club thought it might be an amusing experiment — a sort of world first — to give willing customers an iPad equipped with facial recognition technology that captures every laugh. The iPads are attached to the seat in front and keep score of the laugh total.
The charge per laugh is 0.30 euros. The Teatreneu Web site says that there is a maximum charge of 8 euros for its latest performance, though the BBC reports that the maximum was, in the past, 24 euros.
The idea was a reaction to increased government taxes on theatrical performances, which severely hit revenue. Pay-per-laugh was a big success, with other venues copying the idea.
EU taxes are for once a laughing matter.
“What Makes Jon Stewart More Insufferable Than Bill Maher,” from October 3:
Recently four members of that least-recognized Indian tribe “Redskins Nation” agreed to participate in a Daily Show segment discussing the controversy surrounding their team name. Their conversation with comedian Jason Jones was stretching into its third hour when eight Native American activists were suddenly brought out. The newcomers became vitriolic and one fan left the set crying, saying later that she’d felt threatened.
The Washingtonians told the Washington Post that they would have gladly agreed to debate a group of the Indians, but the show had said no such confrontation would occur. The producers lied, sprang an ambush, and laughed at the acrimony that followed.
If this doesn’t feel like déjà vu, then it should. The Daily Show lies all the time. Once a clever romp through the evening news, the show has become a tedious exercise in ideological anthem playing. Its purpose is the same as that of Neil deGrasse Tyson: to present neatly edited vignettes that assure elites of their mammoth intellectual superiority over the Fox News crowd. Satirists are supposed to poke fun at the cultural consensus; the Daily Showruthlessly enforces it, seeking out and destroying anyone who ventures outside its bounds. Its host Jon Stewart is a pathetic devotee of hegemonic center-left opinion who uses dishonest techniques to portray himself as the last honest man. Its in-studio audience is the world’s most annoying echo chamber.
Related this weekend, Mediaite reports on a heated exchange on Real Time with Bill Maher on Friday. Maher and Sam Harris Vs. Ben Affleck and Nicholas Kristof on Islam:
Ben Affleck, Bill Maher,Nicholas Kristol,Michael Steele, and author Sam Harris got into what could only be described as a tumultuous continuation of Maher’s comments on Islam from last week, with Maher and Affleck tearing into each other over the influence of fundamentalists in the Muslim community.
“We have been sold this meme of Islamophobia, where criticism of the religion gets conflated with bigotry towards muslims as people,” Harris began. “It’s intellectually ridiculous.”
“Hold on — are you the person who officially understands the codified doctrine of Islam?” Affleck, on the show to promote his movie Gone Girl, interrupted, and argued that criticizing Islam, as Maher and Harris were doing it, was “gross and racist. It’s like saying, ‘Oh, you shifty Jew!’”
Explicit language warning for video clip on next page:
According to the Gainesville Times, police arrested Ashley Huff, 23, when they found a “suspicious residue” they believed to be meth on a spoon inside the car she was riding in.
Huff was subsequently charged with possession of methamphetamine.
Huff repeatedly told police that there was “no way in hell” that the substance was drug residue, according to Hall County assistant public defender Chris van Rossem.
Huff was unable to afford her bail and spent more than a month in jail while her attorney attempted to arrange a plea bargain.
She was released only after the crime lab finally came back with the results of its substance analysis.
It was spaghetti sauce.
Sure, you know how to write an assertive cover letter and you have a wardrobe of freshly pressed black and navy blue suits. But, just because you’re doing everything the manual tells you doesn’t mean you aren’t going to make a mistake in your job search. From my other life working in human resources, I give you the ten best mistakes applicants have made in pursuit of a job.
10. Want to include the fact that you taught an adult education course on photography on your resume? Don’t dub yourself “Adult Photography Instructor.”
Language matters. In the age of social media and Google, applicants should understand that lying on their resume isn’t an option. Just be sure you aren’t getting so creative with your wording that you make yourself sound more qualified for porn than a professional environment.
I pushed off the idea of writing this article when I first heard that Joan Rivers, one of my comic icons, was rushed to the hospital after a botched outpatient procedure last week. I didn’t want to think about having to say goodbye to Joan, to bid farewell to yet another icon of an age gone by, a powerhouse who managed to be a cultural force until her last breath. The only solace we can muster is in knowing that, for these ten reasons at least, Joan’s memory will be a blessing.
10. Joan never grew old or gave up.
At 81, she was as attuned to pop culture, politics, and current events as a 20 year old. A self-made fashionista, the comedian never retired, sat in a chair, or gave in to technology. Joan will forever be a role model to women who refuse to trade style for a shapeless moo-moo and an office chair for a rocking chair. In her later years she paired up with Melissa, illustrating that mothers and daughters really can work together and get along. She was a modern Bubbe, surrounded by her children and grandchildren as she took the world by storm.