Monday, October 31, 2005

Once Bitten, Twice shy

Okay, let's first make the distinction between a passable hair band and an outright disgrace. At the risk of volunteering to be a lightening rod for abuse, I will admit to liking 80s music, disco, pop, and new wave, as well as Sinatra, Led Zepellin, the Sex Pistols, Ramones, Green Day and (gulp) Lorena McKennitt... because it's hard to meditate to the Ramones.

I like some bad bands, too. I stand by Bon Jovi's first two CDs. Intellectually challenging? Maybe not, but good fun, stupid pop/rock. J. Geils? Love Stinks rules, I am actually listening to it right now, and it's a lot of fun. Like Robby Roadsteamer often says, "what happened to rock n roll being fun?"

There is a line I am not willing to cross. I have no tolerance for the Warrants, the M0tley Crues, the Wingers of the world, and perhaps worst of all, "Great White". I think I loathe Great White more than most because they had the gall to take themselves so damn seriously.

I was assaulted by Great White's "Once Bitten, Twice Shy" the other day, courtesy of 93.7, "MIKE" FM, which frequently claims they " play everything."

As the inane lyrics penetrated my head like a railroad spike, I actually felt insulted.

Be warned, if you continue on with today's essay, the responsibility for any undue agony is your own.

You never knew how rock n roll looked
until you saw your sister with the guys from the group

Looked? Group?

Oh for cryin' out loud... even BAD metal is supposed to rhyme!

It only gets worse.

Half way home in the parking lot
by the look in her eye she was getting what she got

my my my
once bitten, twice shy

my my my
once bitten twice shy, BABE

Yeah...throw in "babe" for the illusion of cool at the end of such drivel.

Fuck, man.

First off... as a youth I heard my share of bullshit "I got laid" stories by idiots in their late teens that clearly had never been close enough to an actual girl to smell their perfume. These mythical tales usually started with something like "yeah, so we had sex, then I boffed her, then we did it."

As a rule, there would be one cat in the group that had actually been with a girl and smelled a rat. This dude would ask such probing questions such as, "Oh yeah? Where'd ya bang her?"

This would usually be more than enough to get the once-upon-a-timer frazzled to the point where he would blow his cover.

"Um... where did we do it? um... half way home? No, in the parking lot, yeah it was in the parking lot I think."

Great White... you gotta be shittin' me. Half way home in the parking lot?

Please... I've heard more credible accounts of fictitious events from the Bush Administration.

In addition to despising Great White for insulting my intelligence, and oh- killing a bunch of people in Providence during a concert by using dangerous pyro-technics and starting a fire in a failed attempt to distract patrons for the horrendous music, we can now hate them for apparently being the only hair band that never actually got laid.

As if this isn't enough, the song "Once Bitten" jumps off the cliff and actually worsens as it cruises into the chorus.

This is a prime example of lazy song-writing... lyircs that don't rhyme or make much sense, followed by a cliche-chorus that has absolutely NOTHING to do with anything said up to that point in the song.

my my my
once bitten twice shy

...and oh, I don't wanna forget the pivotal "babe" at the end of that line.

once bitten twice shy, BABE

This is cliche rock in its lowest form.

"Once bitten, twice shy" is a phrase that means you got burned once, so you're going to twice as careful next time. What the hell does that have to do with the string of nonsense blathered yup to this point in the song? Sheeesh- nothing, that's what.

They could just as easily be singing "hey hey hey, it's take an apple a day" ot "mine mine mine, a stitch in time saves nine...BABE"


The story gets more painful, if you can imagine it. I stopped in to Newbury comics to see if I could find a copy of Great White's CD "Once Bitten". I found one for $3, but in the process, I combed through 80s compilation CD racks and discovered Great White had covers of "Ramble On" and the Cult's "Love Removal Machine". As I continued my search, I uncovered the unthinkable: Great White put out a DOUBLE CD called "Double Dose". One entire cd was dedicated to annihilating 14 Led Zeppelin songs. Now I know they had raped Led Zep I for a version of "Babe, I'm gonna Leave You", but an entire CD of this blasphemy? What could they possibly have been thinking?

What ever you may think of Led Zepellin, nobody deserves that kind of treatment. John Bonham must be spinning in his grave like a top.

Saturday, October 29, 2005

I think I might Actually be a Comedian

I think I might actually be a comedian.

How do I know this? Is it because I got into the Aspen or Montreal Comedy Festivals, or got a gig on HBO? Maybe I got a great headlining gig at some conference or convention I've been trying to work?

No, no and no.

I've been told by people that I respect, people that are comedy, for years that it is never about those things and most comics will never get them, and getting them won't make you happy anyway.

Comedy is, for those who love it, an obsession, a burning desire, a need to be on stage, to tell your stories, "bits" jokes, a need to be the center of attention even when you are terrified of being the center of attention. Love of comedy supersedes a desire for a winning lottery ticket, a Mercedes, or the perfect hummer. If any that makes sense to, you might just be a comic.

It's that drive that compels you to write and perform on stage in spite of butterflies, limited opportunity and common sense.

I started doing comedy since 1998. I performed about once a month for a year and quit for four years until I was asked to perform at a convention I had spoken at (but never done comedy at.)

It was a terrible idea, and I said "no". But, I was eased toward doing it by people that could see it something I could do and something that would be good for me to do. So I said "yes" and spent four months getting in shape, getting on stage three or four times a week. I was somehow able to pull it off, performing for over an hour, something that is absurd, should never be done and I wouldn't do again with the limited experience I had...but it worked, it came naturally. They invited me back the following year (last year.)

I spent that year in between performing, writing and getting better, and the conference went even better than the year before. None of that made me a comedian. That was cool, but I never really felt committed to comedy. To me, comedy was like a cute girl I knew I should like more, but for some reason just couldn't get excited about enough to marry. It didn't matter that everyone else thought we were a great couple, I didn't feel it in my heart.

I remember seeing an outright look of horror and bewilderment on EJ Murphy's face last year when I answered a question with, "yeah, I don't know if I'll be doing comedy next year."

He looked at me as if to say, "Good God man, snap out of it, you're talking nonsense!"

As was so often said about Drew Bledsoe during his days as a Patriot, I was missing the "fire in the belly", the compulsion, the utter need to perform that all great, and even good comedians require.

Yesterday, that all changed, or maybe it started changing along the way and I only became aware of it yesterday. A pretty amusing thought came to me surrounding one of my blackout episodes as a teenager, and I realized it would fit perfectly on the end of a bit I was already doing. The premise was clear enough and I knew there was a damn good joke in there somewhere, but it just wouldn't write itself. I know and respect someone (can't recall who) that gets quite irritated at the "jokes write themselves" philosophy, but they sort of do with me. Things just come to me, and they are funny.

I tried to write the joke and couldn't, so I called a comedy pal. Not home.

Called a civilian friend and told them the story, hoping the joke would pop out at me, show itself, which it did to a degree, but still- not really a joke as much as an amusing anecdote.

Called another comedy pal, and she answers, and pointed something out to me about my joke that I hadn't noticed.

I called another my roommate and said, "whadaya think of this?"

The first comedy pal calls back and I run it by her. The joke is still choppy and doesn't really work.

I stop thinking about it and it pops into my head in a different form... better. I think I might have a joke.

As I was driving down to Harvard Sq ( a terrible idea to begin with at 6:15 on a Friday night, take the train, ya lazy bastard) and a song popped on 93.7 FM, an entire bit unfolded during the song. I was playing with the idea in my head, steering the wheel with my knee and writing in my battered comedy mini-notebook which I always keep in my back pocket. as i searched fruitlessly for a parking space, cursing myself for the decision to drive instead of taking the train like a sensible person, I worked and re-worked the bit in my head, feeling I had discovered another nice addition to a piece of comedy that I know already works.

Forgetting I was on my way to meet a cute, sweet girl to catch a flick, I skipped ahead in my mind to the next time I could possibly get on stage to try this material out.

Sunday night.


Even though it was just two days away, it felt like a year.

I met the woman in front of the Harvard Sq Theater just in time for the movie, pushing jokes and stage time out of my head and trying to focus on things at hand. She looked cute as hell, I love her short choppy brunette hair and she has a great smile. We saw a great movie "Good Night, and Good Luck" (which I had already seen).

During the film, I noticed that practically every character in every scene was smoking like a chimney. A thought came, "these people are smoking so much, I feel like I have a spot on MY lung."

"That's a joke," I thought as I struggled to get my comedy notebook out of my corduroys.

Now if only a few more people will see this movie so I can use it.

At the end of the move, my friend mentioned that she was pretty beat, but would be game for a cup or coffee or something as long as it wasn't too late a night. There was no hesitation on my part.

"Why don't we call it a night if you're beat and we can pick up where we left off next time?"

"You don't mind?"

I didn't. I was already doing the math in my head.

If I can get to the Comedy Studio by 9:15, here's a slight chance I can get a 5-7 minute set and try this stuff out. I walked my friend to her car, trying out the material, casting aside caution and throwing material at her involving blackouts and teen angst at not getting laid. Sure, I wanted to impress her, but this was comedy after all, it was more important than someone's opinion of me.

I was aching to see if it was as good as I'd hoped it was, and Sunday was too long to wait to find out. I got to the Studio about 9:15, but I could see there was no extra time. I stayed and enjoyed the rest of the show, chomping at the bit for my shot. I wanted to weep openly that I had to work my "day job" when Rick (club manager) asked if I could help out tonight (Saturday) and work the door, knowing I could get stage time if I did.

There is an old religous (or spiritual) saying: Your life is God's gift to you. What ypou make of it is your gift to God.

Maybe the premise is God's gift, or my muse's gift, or whatever makes sense to you's gift to me, and the joke I write is my gift to my muse.

I swear, I don't come up with most of this stuff, it happens in my life, or in my head, and I just jot it down. But there is something magical about the process, the craft of comedy... of taking a funny premise and turning it into gold. There's just nothing quite like it.

My old friend Penny is coming for a visit tomorrow all the way from Vegasbabyvegas. The host of Sunday night's show was kind enough to squeeze me in for a short set.

Whether there's 12 people there or a hundred, I can't wait to hit the stage.

Friday, October 28, 2005

I Need to Learn about Marketing

Ok... so the show Weds night was really good, but man, I have to learn something about marketing. There were only about 22 or so people there (plus 10 or 12 comics), and of the 22 18 were people I had told about the show, or knew people that knew me, etc.

Granted, we're up against "Lost" on ABC and Weds has been a dead night, one show was recently cancelled and another had like 9 people, but argh... I really wanted to jam the joint.

All in all, it went well, I did a way better job of hosting than I thought I would do and actually took to it naturally. I normally do a block of time and get the hell out of Dodge, but it kind of fun to keep coming back with comments and riffing on what other people were doing.

I have got to figure out a way to get word out to people about a show and how to market the show to people who would like to see a great comedy show in Harvard Sq for next-to-nothing.

On a positive note, I visited a friend at the hospital today, one day after he had brain surgery, and he is supposedly going to be fine. The really positive note (chronic comic that I am) is that I got a new joke out of it. Another new boit popped into my head yesterday. It's more of a premise right now, but the joke is slowly writing itself. As long as I try not think about it, a new piece of the puzzle periodically comes to me.

Wednesday, October 26, 2005

Come to My Bleeping Show Tonight (Weds, Oct 26th)

I just got a call today from a buddy asking me if I didn't have a festival coming up or something. yeah...the Boston Comedy Festival, last month. This tells me that I either my friend is a boob or I am not that great at telling people interested about my gigs. The website is up and improved and has a schedule, but I somehow botched this, apparently.


Come to my show tonight, come one, come all. It will be a lotta fun.

I am hosting a show at the Comedy Studio Weds night this week. I got to pick the acts, and they are all great, varied and really funny. The best part of this whole thing was the club owner letting me book my own acts, so I naturally picked a bunch of my favorite acts. Many of my favorites aren't on the show, as you can only have so many in one show, but there will be a next time, and time I will tab different faves.

Kelly Macfarland was originally going to close the show but couldn't make it, so I definitely want to snag her in the future. The funny thing was that Peter Dutton was the guy I was going to ask in the first place, but I happened to run into Kelly beforehand and she is so terrifically talented (and busy) that I jumped at the chance to book her.

The Steamy Bohemians always crack me up. They mix in great singing voices with goofy (and a tad dirty) lyirics and great stage presence. Mike Whitman is a comic's comic, kills most audiences, but routinely cracks up the comics, which takes a special talent, and believe me, does not go unappreciated. This guy can make the most painful whow ever enjoyable. Orlando Baxter recently won the South Shore Comedy Riots. Mary Beth Cowan was featured on Last Comic Standing, season two and along with Peter Dutton is considered to be one the best writers around. She is one of those rare comics that cracks me up even when I've heard the joke ten times before. Beside that, she is an absolute sweetie, a really really nice girl.

Please come if you are around town and have the night free, it is going to be a special night, and there are other great comics on board as well, with a couple of surprises thrown in for good measure.

Tuesday, October 25, 2005

Kiss Kiss Bang Bang

Holy crap... this makes two movies in as many weeks that failed to fill me with dread and remorse and having bought a ticket.

"Kiss Kiss Bang Bang" was smart, irreverent and just plain funny. In spite of the clever plot twists, it never took itself too seriously, a common blunder in a plethora of crap-o-rific movies coming out of Hollywood now.

What puzzles me is that it is a limited release, appearing in only one theater in the area, in spite of the fact that I saw the trailer for it about five times at major theaters. Coincidentally, "Good Night, and Good Luck" (the Edward R. Murrow film) was also released in just a few local theaters. This makes me wonder if it was Hollywood's fear that too many people would be in danger of seeing a decent film and would expose how vapid the rest of the fare is.

I'm not going to give anything away. But this felt like a noir flick in the current day.

The best part of this whole thing is that I got to use vapid in its proper context.

Thursday, October 20, 2005

Listening to Howard Stern is worse than a root canal

What the hell has happened to this guy? Is it me?

To tell you the truth, I haven't listened to Howard in a few years, but I dimly recall him being, irreverent and outrageous, but mostly just plain funny. yeah, some of his notions were giftwrapped misogyny, but you could chuckle, shake your head and enjoy the guy's creativity in spite of his topical choices.

I tuned in a few weeks ago on my short (12 minute or so) ride to work. I came in midway through a conversation about how Howard can't really bare to work at his current station and can't wait to move on to satellite radio and how much better it will be. I listened for a couple of minutes, but this seemed to be the theme, so I moved along the dial to something else.

Last week, I recalled that Stern was still on WBCN and decided to check in. Amusingly, or not so amusingly, I caught him mid-rant on the unsatisfactory condition of his present work environment. I made it through about two sentences of indignation before I flipped to another channel.

Yesterday, on the way to work. I punched the radio on I had left it on WBCN the night before after channel surfing (I removed WBCN from my programmed channels after they screwed Robbie Roadsteamer out of the BCN Rock n Roll Rumble title after he totally dominated the final round) Anywho... who is it but Howard Stern. The topic? The "ridiculous" working conditions this man is being forced to suffer through. This time I decided to leave the show on for the whole ride. I was actually quite curious to see if they were going to move on to something else, unfortunately, it appears that this had actually become the show.

Stern made twelve minutes feel like an hour with a never-ending stream of whining, pissing and moaning about the sad state of affairs at his current place of employment. Today the theme was (surprise!) how he can't work there anymore.

"I just can't work here anymore..."

As Howard ranted with a dull moan reminiscent of the throb of a tooth awaiting extraction, his sycophant crew sang in behind him, echoing his sentiments in an annoying, pandering harmony. All I could think of was Mike Tyson, surrounded by jugheads telling him it was a pretty damned good idea to drag the beauty queen into his motel room.

You could almost hear Robin and Arty singin' it, "yeah Howard they done you wrong, everybody, everybody, they against you, they done you wrong and they against you, it's them it ain't you Howard, it's them, they against you man."

The other day's theme was about how silly the FCC was for restricting Howard's bits.

"I can't even say pussy on the air! Why can't I say pussy on the air?"

Um... you just did?

Is it me?

When does this get funny?

Howard roiled over how he was restricted from using this bit, how "ridiculous" it was, how ridiculous the situation was, how ridiculous the e,players were, how ridiculous the FCC was, and how ridiculous (shocker) it was that he had to go put the bit up on his satellite station to "get it to the fans" because it was a "great bit".

Now I'm wondering what the hell the bit is, maybe it's worth all this nonsense. I wonder if it is a skewering of Bush, of some new information about the scandal involving members of the White House staff. It might be a send up of something.

What does it turn out to be? Constraints on how much he can say about bowel movements.

bowel movements!!! Are you shitting me???

No pun intended.

Stern goes on to absolutely rail about the silliness of barring him from describing and talking about this issue. Stern's bowel movements are an issue now? Boy, does this make me wanna get right behind the old first amendment.

bowel movements? The bit on Howard's ass can't wait for satellite? What the hell is going to change in the next few months that will make that bit any less funny?

One of Howard's cronies chimes in (actually, that guy is funny as hell), "yeah, everyone has them, why can't we talk about them?"

This is driving this creative genius out to satellite radio, the inability to talk with more detail about moving his bowels.

Satellite nor any other medium can make this shit funny. Granted, it will be a relief to not hear about how much the station blows, but how long will that even last. Is Stern being able to say "pussy", the f-word and the c-word and detailing the activities of his ass going to make for better radio?

Actually, after listening for a total of twelve minutes the other day... yeah, yeah it probably will be an improvement.

Wednesday, October 19, 2005

Jello Biafra, remembering old school punk

I got a little misty-eyed this week as I saw Jello Biafra, former front-man for early American punk rockers "Dead Kennedys", was fronting for the Melvins, they have a CD out that is supposed to be pretty kick-ass, too.

I will never forget my first punk rock record. It was the Dead Kennedy's 1980 release "Fresh Fruit for Rotting Vegetables", which is still, in my opinion, one of the best punk records ever, and my favorite DK's album by far. Yes, "Frankenchrist" has some hilarious ditties in Jock-o-rama and MTV- Get Off the Air, but I will forever recognize Fresh Fruit as my introduction to rebellion.

It was first my taste of hearing someone really give an ear full to the establishment. Prior to that, I had heard my dad wailing about the idiocy of the democratic party and just about everyone else in central Massachusetts rambling about the evils of Richard Nixon and the Republicans.

Fresh Fruit maked the first time I had ever heard someone scream at the top of their lungs that it was all bullshit. It had never occurred to me that one side could be wrong, and the other side could be equally wrong. It had never occurred to me before that maybe adults were...lying. it just couldn't be.

Songs like ""This Could be Anywhere" and "Where Do Ya Draw the Line?" both horrified and delighted me. Things these guys were singing about were terrifying, but they were singing about them.

When Jello got a bug up his ass, he wrote a song. He did something.

I remember when he went into the wacko hall-of-fame for me. The DK's had pissed just about every possible authority figure off and the FBI had established a routine of finding reasons to toss his apartment looking for "illegal materials" on a regular basis. The fact that they never found, or planted, drugs, still astonishes me.

This marked the beginning of the PMRC (Parent's Music Resource Center) and its attempts to censor music. What I found most interesting was the recurring focus on Dead Kennedys records, which were basically political in nature. "Cop Killa" and the ilk got attention, but no one drew the repeated wrath of law enforcement and politicos like Tipper Gore like Jello Biafra (aka Eric Boucher).

Particularly galling to the PENROSE and the religious right was a song from the 1981 ep "In God We Trust Inc." called "Moral Majority" in which Jello suggests Jerry Falwell "cram it up his ass" and Anita Bryant "ram up her" um... hoo-ha?

This somehow seemed to justify subsequent investigations and intrusions into Biafra's personal life and business practices. At one point, it dawned on Biafra that they knew there was nothing to find, but in persisting in meaningless lawsuits, they would eventually defeat him by exhausting his financial ability to defend himself from the relentless assault.


That's all I could think... "wow" followed shortly thereafter by "can they really do that?"

"Yes they can, man," is what Jello said to me in New Haven, CT, 1988.

If this had happened to me, I think I would have quit whatever it was I was doing and gone to hide in some far corner of the world, living off the punk $$$ I still had left.

Jello Biafra documented it. Every last thing. He lived, almost got used to it by the sound of things, sitting in his bathrobe, drinking his morning coffee while FBI agents searched his home. I went to see Biafra when he toured in support of his spoken word 1987 album "No More Cocoons".

I hadn't heard the album yet, but drove down expecting fireworks. It was a two hour drive, but I knew it would be worth it to hear the words of a lunatic, a ranter and raver, maybe even a psychotic, if you listened to the right people. But instead I found an incredibly intelligent intellectual type. I found a guy two decades ahead of just about anyone else. I can still remember today thinking he was nuts when he said that since he was bored with drugs and didn't really drink much, someday his pee would be worth a fortune, and discussed the merits of selling it to stock brokers and professional athletes.

I did mention that this was 1987, right?

One thing I trusted about him was his lack of trust for all politicians. Now don't get me wrong, a lot of Jello's ideas are frankly extremely leftist (obviously) and I would;t want him running the country either. He does push the envelope at every turn and is a living, breathing challenge to the first amendment, but that's what I liked about him so much then, and still admire today.

This guy was the first person who encouraged me to ask questions people don't want to answer, and keep asking until you get one or they admit there isn't a good answer. This punker was the first one that told me to think for myself, to not buy into what the government, society, what mom & dad are selling, or even what he was saying.

I can't tell you what any of those bits on "Cocoons" were (although I do recall the title "Why I'm glad the space shuttle bew up"), but I do believe they were what I needed to hear at the time. It seemed like every bit on Cocoons challenged me to think things through and ask myself whether or not they made sense. Surprisingly, I found a lot of B.S. in Jello's ideas, a number of unsubstantiated claims, also a lot of theories that seemed pretty far-fetched, but were definitely somehow linked to truth. Above all... it made me think.

I don't mind telling you that I disagree with many of Biafra's personal theories and beliefs. I am a Christian, and I am grateful for guys like Jello for calling religious hypocrisy out for what it is. I have never grasped the notion of protecting people from ideas. I know who I am and what I believe... do you really think a punk rocker is more powerful than yout savior? Puhleez.

Jesus was a punker in his own right, a total rebel and seemingly a wack-job, thousands of years before punk rock existed. If he had formed a band and sang about his ideas, He would have been investigated by the Pharisees bureau of investigation, I'm sure.

Friday, October 14, 2005

Crappy Remakes

It seems like there have been a zillion and one remakes this year in the movie industry. Admittedly, Hollywood hasn't exactly been blazing trails with exciting new ideas, so recycling may not be the worst thing. At least they don't usually show the movie side by side with its predecessor, which is generally a better-acted and directed version of the same movie, sans 100 million dollar's worth or so of eye candy.

What continues to baffle me is when a band does a lame remake of a song that is still played on the radio.

The most obvious example of this would have to be Bronson (Or "Brandon" as douchebag sports announcer Tim McCarver likes to call him) Arroyo's senseless butchering of Boston's classic rock signature song, "Dirty Water" by the Standells. What did the city of Boston ever do to you, Brandon Arroyo that you would do such a thing?

How could you live and work in Boston, be embroiled in the fanatical culture (and by culture, I am not referring to the MFA or the Opera House,) and hear the garagey-pulse of "Dirty Water" played hundreds of time at Fenway Park and not realized that it is sacred in this town?

This is roughly the equivalent of being invited over to your buddy's house for dinner and not only commenting that his wife is "f***ing hot" and that you wouldn't mind "tappin' that ass" sometime.

You just don't do it, that's the bottom line.

I appreciate the World Series victory, really I do. If there was someone more excited than me (barring the doltish NU clowns alternately flipping over and igniting Dodge Neons...though I credit those incidents more to excitement about beer and co-eds than the Red Sox championship) about the title, I don't know him or her, but does this mean you can fondle my niece?

No, it doesn't. Some things are sacred.

Does this mean it won't bug me if I get home from work to find that you have broken into my house, eaten all my food and are smoking cigars and watching pornos? some things are sacred and those cigars cost me a fortune.

Frankly, Brandon's 2005 season wasn't all that, truth be told, so he was skating on a bit of thin ice to begin with. To compound matters, we had local stations playing the hell out of this horrid thing, and to be honest with ya, I'm about Kevin Millar'ed out.

Brandon was doing a solid enough job destroying this classic on his own without gooning it up by enlisting the aid of several members of the Red Sox to sing, er... yell backup. That wasn't enough, they persisted in making "Dirty Water" their own, adding chatter in the back about the individual players.

How self-absorbed are you guys... you're singing "Dirty Water" for fuck's sake you really think we wanna hear about how much product Damon has in his hair, Schilling's Ford truck or or whether or not Kevin Millar shaves his ass???

Here's the message: If you're going to cover something, don't cover something that was made perfectly the first time. In other words, don't expect any remakes of The Matrix or Star Wars in the near future. Granted, musicians seem to have less sense about these things at times, or non-musicians, but you get my drift.

Funny, this blog was supposed to be about how Gwen Stefani became a caricature of herself and stunk up the joint on No Doubt's cover of Talk Talk's 80s anthem "It's My Life".

The most confusing piece to the puzzle is trying to figure out why they did it.'s a classic, a great song. But they used (literally) the EXACT same arrangement, and Gwen throws in no new wrinkles on the vocals, which in no way stand up to Mark Hollis' vocals. This is similar to the annoying beat-for0beat cover that Gloria Estefan did of Vicki Sue Robinson's disco classic "Turn the Beat Around". The difference is that Estefan had the talent and the octane to pull it off, irritating as it was, I couldn't deny that she had the chops. Don't get me wrong, I hate her cover.

I guess redoing great songs is dodgy at best. I am not against all remakes, but it is certainly risky. Take Tori Amos version of Nirvana's "Smells Like Teen Spirit"... talk about a recipe for disaster, yet it works. She makes it her own without disrespecting the song.

Another great example of this is jazz/blues kiddie vocalist Joss Stone reinventing The White Stripe's recent hit "Fell in Love with a Girl". Who in their right mind would rubber stamp this? Yet it works. It is different enough and she is talented enough that I was blown away. As much as I love the Boss, I can't deny that Patti smith's version of "Because the Night" is the only rendition I need to hear.

Back to Gwen... I know we all like Gwen, but her voice is tinny, a shell compared to just a few years ago, and and I frankly felt embarrassed for her. There's no shame in not comparing favorably to Mark Hollis, but didn't anyone have the decency to play her the original so she at least had an idea of what she was up against?

Maybe it's time for Gwen to focus on looking glamorous, providing masturbatory fodder for Howard Stern, gracing the covers of magazines and tabloids and having perpetual surgery.

Ironic when you consider that the song that really broke it for her was "I'm Just a Girl", which pretty much skewered that kind of thinking.

Monday, October 10, 2005

Good Night, and Good Luck

This account of the struggle between groundbreaking journalist and host of "See It Now" on CBS for almost twenty years Edward R. Murrow is as pertinent today ass the topic it covers was in its day.

George Clooney does a masterful job of weaving David Straitharn's Murrow with actual footage of Wisconsin Senator Joseph McCarthy. At certain times, this movie seems a little too real, not to mention a little too current. I had entered the packed theater expecting to see a historical triumph of truth over control and manipulation. I was sadly mistaken.

I left the certain that I had seen a terrific film, but horrifically aware that our country may be losing the very battle I thought Murrow won almost fifty years ago. His words seem truer today than they were then, in fact.

The movie begins at a 1958 dinner in honor of his tremendous career and contributions, and to his credit, Murrow used the platform not to trumpet himself, but to call out the very media that had only just begun to melt into corporate lackeydom and had only started to cater to and apologize for government and the powers that be, instead of questioning and challenging as has once been its roll.

Murrow began his speech, "I doubt this is going to do anyone any good..." and went on a roll where he constantly challenged national media to stay true to seeking truth and holding accountable, of challenging, always challenging not only the officials that represent Americans, but to challenge themselves to remain journalists, forever seeking truth and not celebrity.

A particularly chilling observation, more current than any others in this film, was the accusation that television had become a mere distraction, a means to delude us and take out eyes off the ball, and "filler" in lieu of any real message. Murrow took a shot at America in general, noting that we were becoming complacent, even lazy.

And this was before Fear Factor and the slew of "reality" based television programs that are anything but realistic, and couldn't possibly have any value except to take us out further from reality.

I am as a-political as anyone I have ever met, but I have always been addicted to the truth. I could care less what party a person represents, or even really what his or her views may be on a given topic, but when you hear the truth, it cuts through fog like a hot knife through butter. When you hear truth, you don't have to think so much, or "figure things out", because the truth seems to speak for itself.

Perhaps the most powerful evidence of Murrow's belief in truth was the courage it took to give Senator McCarthy the opportunity to speak his piece without rebuttal after Murrow's scathing and courageous indictment of McCarthy's beliefs, and more importantly, his practices. Murrow believed so firmly and so completely in the ultimate victory of truth that he fearlessly pushed for McCarthy to make his statements unencumbered on Murrow's own program.

Ultimately, it was more McCarthy's defense itself of his insane witch hunt that brought him down than than the expose' shown on "See It Now".

Murrow's brief reply to the plethora of baseless charges launched by McCarthy spoke volumes and spelled the end of McCarthyism.

Oh, do we ever need an Edward R. Murrow today. What would we do, if a Murrow appeared, amid the teleprompter-reading prettyboys and misguided infomercial escapees that populate newscasts today?

My guess is that we would run him out of town.

Wednesday, October 05, 2005

A Baffling Bumper Sticker combo

I saw a lone bumper sticker on a beat up Ford truck a while back. You don't often see a single bumper sticker on a vehicle. People are generally bumper sticker people or non-bumper sticker people. Many stickers, ah- the person is bumper sticker happy, but ONE sticker, one sticker is a statement.

I am a non-bumper sticker person. right away I wondered what had moved this guy, (who was most likely a non-sticker guy at one point) to label his truck.

The placard shouted "Fluoride KILLS!"

Somewhat disappointed, I did note that I had never heard, nor read that before, so that was something.

Come to think of it, it does seem to explain an odd posted I spotted while getting my teeth cleaned last week:

"Four out of five dentists recommend...DEATH!

Okay, so there was no such poster, but it would have explained the whole fluoride deal

Last week, I saw the most bizarre one-two combo of bumper stickers. It was almost like seeing a "no more blood for oil" sticker on the back of a Hummer, very weird.

Okay... the first one said, "Genetically engineered corn KILLS Monarch butterflies...what next???"

Another bumper sticker sat directly next to it stressing the need to: "Keep abortion legal".

Now no matter what your opinion on abortion, you have to admit this is a baffling duo.

Hmmm... if they could just engineer corn that killed the Monarch in its larval stage, it wouldn't be an issue. Let's face it, while the debate on when human life begins is still heated, everybody knows that a pupa is NOT a butterfly.

Moreover, I wondered how a person came to feel this way about these two particular topics.

"Is it a fetus, is it a person, is it an egg, is it a baby?"

"Oh for fuck's sake, WHO CARES??? Can't you see these crazy farmers are slaughtering moths?!?

Monday, October 03, 2005

Second Worst Gig Eva

And I mean EVER.

Let me ease you into it by describing the SECOND worst gig ever. A gig I honestly had hoped would retain the title for the rest of my life, but sadly couldn;t hold up against last week's outing at a jazz joint called "Slade's" near the town line of the South End and Roxbury.

I played a place called "Galaxy" on Old Orchard Beach. I know what you're thinking if you are a comic, "a show off the beach??? Hmmm...sounds like a bad idea already."

I got to the show early with the promise of a massive crowd after days of advertising on the beach by the booker, who really is a sweet lady. As the host took the stage, about 12 people looked pon, 3 of whom I brought. It was shaping up to be a pretty stale crowd from the get go, when a high energy comic took the stage. he poured enough octane to light up Cambridge and was rewarded sparingly with an odd clap here and there.

I knew this was not a good sign. I am NOT a high energy guy, and if a guy like that is met with silence, it certainly doesn't bode well for my routine.

I was "middling", that is doing about twenty-five minutes before giving way to the headliner, who would close the show with a forty-five minute set. Five minutes before I am to go on, the host/booker informs me that the headliner hasn't show up. She looks concerned, especially since he had tried to switch the show for another night after getting Sox-Yankees tickets for that evening.

It took all of about three seconds for me to figure out that he wasn't coming. I took a second to envy him for being at the game instead of in this comedy morgue before the envy turned to anger that this guy stiffed this nice lady, and in the process, ME. I knew what was coming next.

"Can you stretch it out?"

Ten minutes in front of a crowd like this feels like an hour, I could only imagine what 40 would be like, but I reckoned it would fall somewhere between having a root canal and passing a kidney stone.

I flashed a sympathetic smile and tried to hide my utter dread as I said, "I planned for twenty-five, but I have a couple bits that I know well enough that will take me to around forty."

I opened with a sure-fire winner; a great Red Sox bit that had never failed me. Beside the point, it was in the middle of the baseball season and Sox Fever was taking hold of New England as it did every summer.

I was completely confident in this bit, in spite of the lackluster crowd reaction to this point. What had somehow eluded me was the possibility that the Red Sox bit had never failed me before because I had never broken it out in Old Orchard Beach. I snapped out some off-the-cuff self-deprecation, which seemed to kill withthe comics and my friends, but I couldn't budge the catatonic crowd. I went right to my closer, my best joke at the time and a staple for me which had yet to fail.

Again, there is the slight possibility it hadn;t failed yet because I had yet to subject the joke to Old Orchard.

Flat as a pancake.

I began to foster genuine concern that one or more audience members may have actually died earlier in the show, so I asked a few questions to see if they were okay. I literally had to walk toward a table and inform a couple that I was indeed speaking directly to them. They blinked, thank God, putting my mind at ease.

At about the twenty minute mark of my Bataan-like set, I heard a ruckus by the bar near the door. There was a struggle and some yelling. Prior to that I had been fairly certain that not much could get worse, but I hadn't considered the possibility of having a terrible set and getting beaten up.

A few minutes later, the booker/host is giving me the "cut" sign from side stage.

"Have they seen enough?" I said half-joking.

"Yeah," she said, totally serious.

I signed off and promised the crowd I would drive into a Moose on the way home so none of us would ever have to go through this again, and the host ended the show early.

Apparently, a bouncer decided to take a business decision into his own hands and decided that since the host didn't bring enough people (like that's her responsibility) they were goingto play dance music, as it would bring in more people.

When the host informed the bouncer that she was contracted to rub a show until 9:30 in order to get paid, the bouncer informed her that the owner wasn't going to pay her anyway with this small a crowd. For some reason, she tool offense to this and called the police.

They had done 3 or 4 shows at Galaxy without incident, so I guess it was just luck to be involved in an historic show like this one.

All was not lost, the booker offered to pay me anyway and I took half pay so she didn't take the full brunt of the wanna-be gangsta which happened to own the club that week. More importantly, we both learned the importance of signed contracts.

Perhaps the real gem was that I proved to myself I was a professional comedian that night. Shit, it's easy doing shows in front of adoring crowds that laugh when you scratch your ass, but toughing it out and doing your time no matter what is what makes a professional comic. I had heard it said by better than me, but never really grasped it before experiencing it. I hafta say, while it was the worst gig I ever had to that point, it was my best performance.

I hadn't been aware of it at first, and had always considered this show I did in front of hundreds of supportive convention goers my shining moment, but this was really a good outing. I mean, I mixed it up, improvised, and only later realized that I had only used about fifteen minutes of material to cover the twenty-five minute set I did because I was riffing, ad-libbing and enjoying myself as much as I could.

It's pretty much taboo to blame an audience. Accepting responsibility for a blowish set falls to the guy telling the jokes, but the reality is that sometimes the deck is stacked or the crowd would rather be at a wake.

Saturday, October 01, 2005

Roadsteamer Rocks TT's

Just got back from TT the Bear's after watching Robbie Roadsteamer blow the roof off the joint for the umpteenth time. The predominate thought I have every time I see this guy and his unbelievably talented band is "why are they playing here? Why isn't this guy on Conan O'Brien yet?

I'm sure this has been written somewhere before, but... Robbie Roadsteamer is a cross between a WWF villain and a stereotypical heavy metal rocker. He is a deliberate lampoon of the music he so loves and especially its lyrics. Roadsteam often dons snake skin leather pants bound together with duct tape (women's size 18), but tonight he wore a bright reed pantsuit of some kind, and tied it off at the waist.

Much of the hilarity in Roadsteamer's act is in the anecdotal and silly lyrics, but Robbie himself is nothing short of a constant spectacle. He is forever playing up every metal lead singer cliche move imaginable, and the mystery is how he does this schlock with a straight face.

You either love or hate him, but the bottom line is that this kid is a friggin' genius.

Rifling through a repertoire loaded with inane songs like "I'm Sorry Yopur Cat has Ass Cancer" and "The Hand I Beat Dog's with" ("Don't worry, it's not about hitting dogs, it's about picking up ugly chicks at lame sports bars like Scorz with a "z" in New Hampshire", the Steamer explains on stage. The list goes on and on, and the show ends with "Pee with your Father" and his latest hit, (which the video for is absolutely hysterical) "I Put a Baby in You."

The kick in the pants is the excellent band playing behind Robbie. His new lead guitarist fills Dave Pino's massive shoes with competence and incredible flair, the kid is 21 years old, and a natural. I wish I knew everyone's name, but I don't, but these guys can flat out smoke. Everpresent whipping boy and oh-by-the-way Berkley trained keyboardist Nick D' Amico serves as the lightening rod for much of Roadsteamer antics. There couldn;t be two guys that look less likely able to work together, yet these guys are masterful.

And oh, did I mention that these guys can play the hell of a joint. They just seem to get better every time I see them. Robie Roadsteamer made it all the way to the finals of the WBCN Rock & Roll Rumble, (which is really odd for a rock band to do nowadays) before getting jacked up by the judges in the final. I'm not sure, but there might have been one too many blunt shots at BCN and the contest itelf, as well as the Boston music scene.

No one is spared when Steamer open his yap. This guy is brutal, yet he says everything you want to say if you are a real fan of genuine old school rock and roll. What most amazes me is his willingness to take shots at the people writing him checks. After skewering the BCN rumble and the playlist at WBCN itself, Steamer was eliminated from the finals, in spite of clearly having the greatest audience response of the night and the best band musically.

This doesn't seem to affect his willingness to punch the next guy in the nose. When playing The Paradise last month, Roadsteamer pointed out that he "had to beg them to let him play there" and that they "really want to hire another Queensryche (sp?) cover band."

Robbie also never fails to take at least one shot at local breakout band The Dresden Dolls, a caberet act that of course won...The WBCN Rock and Roll Rumble last year or the year before. I found them extremely talented and entertaining for about 40 minutes, but I did not find them to be a rock band... he may have had a point.

When a rambunctious fan yelled at him on stage, Steamer replied, "I'm not wearing face paint buddy, I'll come down there and kick your ass.

If you get a chance, please see this guy and his terrific band before you see them on Letterman.

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