Pop Culture Odds and Ends – Did You Miss Me? Edition

Arnold-Schwarzenegger

 

What a difference a few days off can make! While I did miss blogging for all of you while I was on vacation, the time away did me good. I feel so refreshed and energized after my brief hiatus; my co-workers are probably wishing that I had done this a while ago. I even managed to not check work email until day 4 of being away. Considering that I am the same person who has answered work correspondence while on a ride at EPCOT and during a live show at the Dallas Zoo, this is a minor miracle.

I didn’t forget about you all while I was recharging; I may have blown off all work responsibilities, but I made sure to keep tabs on the world of pop culture even while laying out by the pool. I couldn’t leave you hanging; that’s not my style. So while I enjoy the residual effects of a little R&R, peruse your biweekly roundup and check out some of the stellar pop culture nuggets that I’ve compiled.

  • A&E has ordered a season of Carlton Cuse’s adaptation of the French series The Returned. The original is sitting on my DVR.
  • Some day, The Tonight Show editing clips together to make Brian Williams rap will no longer be funny. Today is not that day:

 

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  • Watch a live read of Space Jam with Blake Griffin:

 

  • Lucasfilms announced that the books and comics that make up the expanded universe are no longer part of the Star Wars canon.
  • The Fifth Element as an 8 bit video game:

 

  • Congrats to Olivia Wilde and Jason Sudeikis on the birth of their son:

 

  • Courtney Love is releasing new music:

 

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  • I’ve just discovered the webseries EconPop, which mixes pop culture and economics. Right up my alley!
  • The Peter Dinklage Game of Thrones theme shouldn’t be this amusing – but it is:

 

  • My new favorite Game of Thrones character is Ser Pounce:

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  • Seth Meyers sits down with a grown up Little Orphan Annie:

 

And now, a break for some trailers

  • An extended trailer for The Fault in Our Stars:

 

  • HBO has released a new trailer for The Leftovers:

 

  • Mike Myers (yup, that Mike Myers) makes his directoral review with the documentary Supermensch:

 

  • A new teaser for Louie, featuring my pal Jerry Seinfeld:

 

  • Richard Linklater’s new film Boyhood looks pretty good; it has a lot of buzz around it at Sundance:

 

  • A new trailer for Sin City A Dame to Kill For:

 

Madden 15 will hit stores August 26th:

 

Amy Poehler and Paul Rudd in They Came Together:

 

A teaser for the final season to True Blood:

 

The first look at Lifetime’s Petals on the Wind. You know I’ll be watching:

 

Clint Eastwood’s adaptation of Jersey Boys:

 

  • Head over to NPR to listen to Dolly Parton’s new album (her 42nd!).

As always, we wrap things up with the mashups and supercuts:

  • A$AP Ferg and “Let It Go”

 

  • If you speed up Bruce Springsteen’s “I’m on Fire,” it sounds a little like Dolly Parton:

 

  • A new mod allows you to play Grand Theft Auto as Princess Ana:

 

  • Local reporters can’t pronounce Lupita Nyong’o’s name:

 

  • There have been a lot of threats of prison rape in TVs and the movies:

 

  • A Frozen/ “Thriller” mashup:

 

  • A slow jams version of the DuckTales theme song:

 

  •  The Firefly gang as Scooby Doo:
  • Forrest Gump credits done in the style of Wes Anderson:

 

  • A supercut of Walter White’s transformation on Breaking Bad:

 

  • And finally…THIS is how How I Met Your Mother should have ended (spoilers if you didn’t see the finale):
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Lip Sync For Your Life

For some unknown reason, I am a fan of lip syncing. Since I’ve been a kid, I’ve been amused by people mouthing along to popular songs. Perhaps this is because at an early age I realized that I have absolutely no musical talent and lip syncing allowed me to pretend for a brief moment that I actually could sing. Whatever the reason, there is nothing that I find more hilarious than someone busting out a lip sync routine. It just hits my particular sweet spot.

I don’t know if my fascination with lip syncing predates the 80s TV show Puttin on the Hits, but that talent competition definitely solidified my interest. It’s hard to believe that there used to be a weekly competition where people would lip sync on national television, but it did indeed happen. The eighties were a different time. Part of the fun of the show wasn’t just that people were lip syncing, but seeing the costumes and theater that they brought to something as simple as pretending to sing a song. People really went all out and really committed to this foolishness; it was immensely entertaining for an eight year old little girl and played right into my creative side. I do love me some pageantry and commitment to a theme. You don’t even want to know how far down the YouTube rabbit hole that I fell looking for clips from the show.

 

 

 

 

I assure you, I had a “Material Girl” concept all planned out in my young brain that would have brought the house down. That sh*t would have KILLED. In the spirit of full disclosure, though I obviously never competed on Puttin on the Hits, I did put on numerous lip syncing shows for my family and my parents’ friends. Thank God my family didn’t have a camcorder when I was growing up.

You’d think I would have outgrown this weird fascination, but that absolutely did not happen. Though lip syncing was harder to come by after Puttin on the Hits went off the air on 1988, I still occasionally stumbled upon it – mostly in talent shows or at concerts where the artist was not supposed to be lip syncing, but obviously was. YouTube helped fill the void a bit; any given night you can discover all sorts of people lip syncing. I must have watched the Harvard baseball team lip sync “Call Me Maybe” a hundred times (I wish I was exaggerating). One of the reasons that I dug RuPaul’s Drag Race, other than its obvious awesomeness, was because contestants facing elimination had to “lip sync for their life” to stay on the show. Lip syncing with consequences? Sign me up!

 

This is how we should settle all conflicts.

Jimmy Fallon proved that he can read my mind in 2013 when he and John Krasinski introduced a new bit on Late Night with Jimmy Fallon – the lip sync battle. Just when I thought that I couldn’t love Fallon any more, he pulls this out of the hat. That dude just gets me. And how freaking adorable is Krasinski in this?

 

Fallon brought the bit back with Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Stephen Merchant and Paul Rudd and it continued to be awesome. Frankly, if I had my way, they would be doing this every week.

Up until last night, the lip sync battles have been a boys club; no female guest has participated. But in striking a win for feminists everywhere, Emma Stone changed all that last night by stepping into the lip sync octagon. She was great – and bonus points for using a song from Blues Traveler. I don’t care if everyone else hates them; that band reminds me of college.

 

I’m glad that lip syncing is enjoying a bit of a renaissance thanks to RuPaul and Jimmy Fallon; I really don’t foresee a time when the sight of people – especially celebrities – lip syncing won’t make me happy. If Fallon ever does an audience lip sync battle, I’m ready. I’d hate to see my epic “Material Girl” routine go to waste.

Bill Burr – Palace Theater (Albany, NY), 4/27/14

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Back when I saw Anthony Jeselnik perform live, he ended his show with a Q&A from the audience – always a dicey proposition in my book. One of the questions that he received asked about what comedians that he liked and Jeselnik turned it around and asked us who we thought he would say. There were lots of interesting guesses – and some ridiculous ones – and while I didn’t shout out because one does not draw attention to oneself at an Anthony Jeselnik show, I had a pretty good idea of who he was going to say.

Bill Burr.

It turns out that my instincts were right; I may not know Anthony Jeselnik, but I have read enough about the stand-up comedy world to know that Burr is a comedian’s comedian. He tours a ton and is well respected by his peers, which is enough for me. Surprisingly, I wasn’t all that familiar with Bill Burr the comedian; I knew Bill Burr, the actor, from his minor supporting role on Breaking Bad, but couldn’t remember catching any of his specials on Comedy Central. Despite my general unfamiliarity with his stand-up work, when I heard that he was coming to town I immediately snatched up tickets. I purposely didn’t do any research before the show, preferring to be surprised by his set and his on stage persona. For some reason, I assumed that he would be very similar to Louis C.K. – an assumption that presumably was rooted solely in the fact that both comedians are redheads. I guess I profile comedians based on their hair color.

Though their styles vary quite a bit, Louis C.K. and Bill Burr are similar in that both of them are very smart and talented comedians. I thoroughly enjoyed Burr’s set and while he didn’t crack the upper echelon of my stand-up comedy experiences – to the best of my knowledge no one was arrested after this show – it was a pretty spectacular way to end my Sunday night. I’ll absolutely be seeking out Burr’s previous stand-up work online so that I can enjoy his previous sets.

The biggest surprise for me was how much Bill Burr yelled; he isn’t really an angry comedian, per se, but a lot about life clearly exasperates Burr. He does not suffer fools lightly and early on in his set he took an audience member to task for recording the show with his cell phone. I think that Burr was more annoyed that the guy wasn’t experiencing the show than he was about the bootlegging of his material. Burr frequently went off on tangents within his prepared material, but they were welcome diversions and only enhanced the overall experience. There is a long line of comedians that are annoyed by the daily experiences of life, but Burr didn’t seem like a rehash of previous comedians. He was animated and shouted from time to time, but he also laughed at himself and the absurdity of it all. He really seemed to be having a good time up on stage.

His material covered a range of well-worn topics – religion, guns, feminism, and marriage – but he was able to mine these areas for new and interesting innovations. I particularly enjoyed his discussion of how he could defend his home with a BB gun – “you might not kill the guy, but at the very least you force him to go outside and regroup.” He touched on some recent events, such as the controversy over Duck Dynasty and gay marriage – Burr wasn’t at all shocked that a man in his seventies with a ZZ Top beard who sits in the swamp all day with ducks might not be a person from whom you expect progressive thought. My favorite segment by far was his retelling of the time that he decided to blow passed a police office at the airport that was trying to flag him down, just for the fun of it. He painted a vivid picture of his exhilaration at defying authority followed by his panic over what he did and his attempt to stay out of trouble when he realized what he did. Burr was animated throughout his set, but he was particularly alive during this segment. The sold-out crowd ate it all up, enthusiastically howling with laughter throughout his entire show. Burr was on stage close to 90 minutes by my calculation, which is a fairly long set for a headliner. Usually these sets seem to clock in at a little over an hour, so we more than got our money’s worth from Burr.

Burr liberally uses the F-word, so it’s definitely not a show for the easily offended or for children. Content wise, I’d put him in the middle of the edgy spectrum; it was certainly adult material, but it was not nearly as explicit or racy as some other comedians that I’ve seen. He does cover some sensitive topics, but they are all in good fun; if you can pull of material about guns in upstate NY, you’re doing something right. The only thing that really threw me off was Burr’s appearance; he’s shaved his head and lost his goatee, so for the first few moments that he was on stage I had trouble adjusting to this new visual.

Burr’s opening act, Paul Virzi, was also very funny. He did a brief 20 minute set to warm up the crowd that focused primarily on parenting and drinking. I was laughing particularly at his portion of the set that focused on the morning after a night of drinking, when you have to call your friends for them to fill in the details of what exactly you did the night before and assess the damage. I think most people have been there and his re-enactment of the conversation was spot on. There was an additional warm-up guy (Thomas Attilla Lewis) who did about ten minutes and seemed like a likable enough guy, but wasn’t quite in the same league as Virzi and Burr. Almost all the comedians made some joke at the expense of the neighboring city Troy, though I would argue that they should have substituted Schenectady for the punch line instead. Troy has come a long way.

A great night of comedy overall and I now know what all the hullabaloo is about. I would definitely consider going to see Burr again if he comes through town in the future. He doesn’t crack my top five stand-up experiences, but he’s solidly in the top ten. I am looking forward to digging into his achieves to see what else he has done. Burr also routinely does mini-videos from his time on the road and we were promised that Albany would be featured in an upcoming one; I can’t wait to hear his thoughts after driving around my fair city.

For more information about Bill Burr or to find his upcoming tour dates, check out his website.