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LIVE: Madonna

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This week I attended my first ever Madonna concert. I’d be lying if I told you I had a Madonna poster hanging in my bedroom or her latest album cover as the screen saver on my computer. But because Madonna is an important figure in both music and pop-cultural history, not to mention one of the last mega-pop-stars performing at a mega-pop-star level, I felt it was my duty to witness a live Madonna show before my concert-reviewing skills diminish or Madonna’s legs give out.

(left: Madonna rockin’ out on her “Sweet and Sticky” Tour.)

What better place to witness my first Madonna show than Madison Square Garden? Not only does she love New York (double check her Confessions On A Dance Floor album), but this is the city where the Material Girl became the Material Girl. Only in New York City could a dance-lovin’, guitar totin’ nobody, become the world’s greatest pop-music somebody.

With three huge video screens on stage, two huge video screens hanging next to the stage, and a spherical video screen that descended from the ceiling onto the catwalk, I knew I wasn’t about to see a concert, I was going to see a SHOW!

For Madonna’s intro, the collection of video screens followed the journey of a candy ball down many shoots and slides. With industrial thumps and booms providing the build-up music, I thought to myself, “Wow, that’s the toughest pink jawbreaker I’ve ever seen.” As the candy rolled, and the tension built, the video screens opened up, and there she was–MADONNA–sprawled out on a throne looking like she didn’t give a shit, while knowing damn well that everyone in attendance knew otherwise.

Because the last handful of concerts I’ve attended have been low-key, indie affairs, I didn’t know where to direct my attention. Amidst dancers in elaborate wardrobe, video screens, high-definition graphics, and laser lights, I decided to focus solely on Madonna (taking a peek at one of the video screens when I needed a closer look).

From the get-go, Madonna went full-throttle. I’m sure many fans in attendance were impressed by her costume designs and dance choreography, but I was most amazed by her athleticism. How does a 50-year old mother of three have so much freakin’ energy! When Madonna wasn’t dancing, she was jump roping (double-dutch no less), and never slipped up once. After she jump-roped, she decided to jump-rope some more, even throwing in some Rocky Balboa crossovers. I was getting sore just watching.

I was certain there would be lengthy stop-downs for Madonna to catch her breath, but even when she did leave the stage to change wardrobe it didn’t seem like she was gone for long. Ladies and gentleman, the show did not stop!

Biggest Surprise of the Night:
Because I’m not part of the Madonna Fan Club (sorry Iconers), I expected myself to crave the big Madonna hits instead of new material from Hard Candy. I was pleasantly surprised to find myself enjoying the more recent stuff like “Beat Goes On,” “She’s Not Me,” and “Miles Away.” If MTV still ruled the world like it did back in Madonna’s heyday, I feel like all of these would be considerable mainstream hits.

One of the Perks of Being Madonna:
When you have a deep catalog of hits like Madonna does, you can use it at your disposal for various transitional elements. Though she didn’t perform the songs live, “Die Another Day” and “Rain” were used as interludes during the show, and at the end of the night, “Holiday” was played over the P.A. system as everyone left the building singing along to the song.

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Wardrobe Highlight:
What can I say, I’m a sucker for short track shorts and knee-high party socks.

Wardrobe Lowlight:
Madonna getting her Twisted Sister on with a pair of shoulder-pads and a frizzy wig with bangs. Why look like Dee Snider, when you already look like Madonna?

Best Line of Stage Banter:
Madonna didn’t banter that often, but at one point in the show she told the crowd that everyone was at her dance party, continuing with, “You know who’s not invited? Sarah fuckin’ Palin! I love her soul, but she’s got to stop winking. It’s freakin’ me out.”

Politics, Politics, Politics
There was a mini-controversy–at least on the internet–about one of Madonna’s video montages that featured both Hitler and John McCain. After seeing it live, I didn’t find it very offensive at all, considering the montage was broken up into three different sections: 1.) All-time, bad-guy hate mongers, 2.) Current political “bad boys,” and 3.) Visionaries of hope. Honestly, I was more offended that Bill Gates and Oprah Winfrey were in the same montage as Mother Theresa. No diss on Bill or Oprah, but Mother Theresa never had a billion-dollar budget to work with. I was also a little miffed that Barack Obama received a louder ovation than Martin Luther King, Jr. did.

Most Beautiful-Looking Part of the Show:
I’m sure many may say that Madonna’s block of Latin American styled songs (with brightly colored Latin American-inspired wardrobe), which included Evita’s, “You Must Love Me,” was the prettiest part of the show, but I would argue that her performance on top of a grand piano during, “Devil Wouldn’t Recognize You,” was the best-looking moment of the night. Dressed in a black cloak, Madonna performed the tune while being engulfed by the spherical video screen featuring a sequence of splashing water.

Highlight of the Show:
Late in Madonna’s set she performed her most recent hit “4 Minutes,” followed by raved-up, bass-pounding versions of “Like A Prayer” and “Ray Of Light.” This 3-song dance party sent me into another dimension. I felt like I was at a rave, trading off power-moves with Troy “Smooth” Mouer (circa 1996)!

Not So Highlight of the Night:
A few times during the show, Madonna would take center stage with a guitar. Though she wasn’t doing any serious riffing, she did strum some power-chords while reworking a couple of her hits. The guitar-treatment worked best with the punked-out, big-rock interpretation of “Borderline” and didn’t seem to interfere with “Ray of Light.” However, it didn’t translate so well on the rock makeover of “Hung Up” (let’s face it, that little Abba sample drives the song).

Because “Hung Up” is one of my favorite dance tracks of the last few years, I’d much rather see Madonna shake her thang than play bar-chords. Fortunately, the party picked back up when Madonna closed with “Give It 2 Me.”

Sticky & Sweet Set-List:
Intro/Candy Shop

Beat Goes On

Human Nature

Vogue
Video Interlude – Die Another Day

Into The Groove

Heartbeat

Borderline

She’s Not Me

Music
Video Interlude – Rain/Here Comes The Rain Again

Devil Wouldn’t Recognize You

Spanish Lesson

Miles Away

La Isla Bonita/Lela Pala Tute
Doli Doli (Live interlude – Romanian folk song)

You Must Love Me
Video Interlude – Get Stupid 

4 Minutes

Like A Prayer

Ray Of Light

Hung Up

Give It 2 Me (Finale)

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SO EXCITED!!!

Reminders that the ’90s were a thing

"The Place We Live" is available for a Jessie Spano-level binge on Comedy Crib.

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Unless you stopped paying attention to the world at large in 1989, you are of course aware that the ’90s are having their pop cultural second coming. Nobody is more acutely aware of this than Dara Katz and Betsy Kenney, two comedians who met doing improv comedy and have just made their Comedy Crib debut with the hilarious ’90s TV throwback series, The Place We Live.

IFC: How would you describe “The Place We Live” to a fancy network executive you just met in an elevator?

Dara: It’s everything you loved–or loved to hate—from Melrose Place and 90210 but condensed to five minutes, funny (on purpose) and totally absurd.

IFC: How would you describe “The Place We Live” to a drunk friend of a friend you met in a bar?

Betsy: “Hey Todd, why don’t you have a sip of water. Also, I think you’ll love The Place We Live because everyone has issues…just like you, Todd.”

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IFC: When you were living through the ’90s, did you think it was television’s golden age or the pop culture apocalypse?


Betsy: I wasn’t sure I knew what it was, I just knew I loved it!


Dara: Same. Was just happy that my parents let me watch. But looking back, the ’90s honored The Teen. And for that, it’s the golden age of pop culture. 

IFC: Which ’90s shows did you mine for the series, and why?

Betsy: Melrose and 90210 for the most part. If you watch an episode of either of those shows you’ll see they’re a comedic gold mine. In one single episode, they cover serious crimes, drug problems, sex and working in a law firm and/or gallery, all while being young, hot and skinny.


Dara: And almost any series we were watching in the ’90s, Full House, Saved By the Bell, My So Called Life has very similar themes, archetypes and really stupid-intense drama. We took from a lot of places. 

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IFC: How would you describe each of the show’s characters in terms of their ’90s TV stereotype?

Dara: Autumn (Sunita Mani) is the femme fatale. Robin (Dara Katz) is the book worm (because she wears glasses). Candace (Betsy Kenney) is Corey’s twin and gives great advice and has really great hair. Corey (Casey Jost) is the boy next door/popular guy. Candace and Corey’s parents decided to live in a car so the gang can live in their house. 
Lee (Jonathan Braylock) is the jock.

IFC: Why do you think the world is ready for this series?

Dara: Because everyone’s feeling major ’90s nostalgia right now, and this is that, on steroids while also being a totally new, silly thing.

Delight in the whole season of The Place We Live right now on IFC’s Comedy Crib. It’ll take you back in all the right ways.

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New Nasty

Whips, Chains and Hand Sanitizer

Turn On The Full Season Of Neurotica At IFC's Comedy Crib

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Jenny Jaffe has a lot going on: She’s writing for Disney’s upcoming Big Hero 6: The Series, developing comedy projects with pals at Devastator Press, and she’s straddling the line between S&M and OCD as the creator and star of the sexyish new series Neurotica, which has just made its debut on IFC’s Comedy Crib. Jenny gave us some extremely intimate insight into what makes Neurotica (safely) sizzle…

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IFC: How would you describe Neurotica to a fancy network executive you met in an elevator?

Jenny: Neurotica is about a plucky Dominatrix with OCD trying to save her small-town dungeon.

IFC: How would you describe Neurotica to a drunk friend of a friend you met in a bar?

Jenny: Neurotica is about a plucky Dominatrix with OCD trying to save her small-town dungeon. You’re great. We should get coffee sometime. I’m not just saying that. I know other people just say that sometimes but I really feel like we’re going to be friends, you know? Here, what’s your number, I’ll call you so you can have my number!

IFC: What’s your comedy origin story?

Jenny: Since I was a kid I’ve dealt with severe OCD and anxiety. Comedy has always been one of the ways I’ve dealt with that. I honestly just want to help make people feel happy for a few minutes at a time.

IFC: What was the genesis of Neurotica?

Jenny: I’m pretty sure it was a title-first situation. I was coming up with ideas to pitch to a production company a million years ago (this isn’t hyperbole; I am VERY old) and just wrote down “Neurotica”; then it just sort of appeared fully formed. “Neurotica? Oh it’s an over-the-top romantic comedy about a Dominatrix with OCD, of course.” And that just happened to hit the buttons of everything I’m fascinated by.

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IFC: How would you describe Ivy?

Jenny: Ivy is everything I love in a comedy character – she’s tenacious, she’s confident, she’s sweet, she’s a big wonderful weirdo.

IFC: How would Ivy’s clientele describe her?

Jenny:  Open-minded, caring, excellent aim.

IFC: Why don’t more small towns have local dungeons?

Jenny: How do you know they don’t?

IFC: What are the pros and cons of joining a chain mega dungeon?

Jenny: You can use any of their locations but you’ll always forget you have a membership and in a year you’ll be like “jeez why won’t they let me just cancel?”

IFC: Mouths are gross! Why is that?

Jenny: If you had never seen a mouth before and I was like “it’s a wet flesh cave with sharp parts that lives in your face”, it would sound like Cronenberg-ian body horror. All body parts are horrifying. I’m kind of rooting for the singularity, I’d feel way better if I was just a consciousness in a cloud.

See the whole season of Neurotica right now on IFC’s Comedy Crib.

The-Craft

The ’90s Are Back

The '90s live again during IFC's weekend marathon.

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Photo Credit: Everett Digital, Columbia Pictures

We know what you’re thinking: “Why on Earth would anyone want to reanimate the decade that gave us Haddaway, Los Del Rio, and Smash Mouth, not to mention Crystal Pepsi?”

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Thoughts like those are normal. After all, we tend to remember lasting psychological trauma more vividly than fleeting joy. But if you dig deep, you’ll rediscover that the ’90s gave us so much to fondly revisit. Consider the four pillars of true ’90s culture.

Boy Bands

We all pretended to hate them, but watch us come alive at a karaoke bar when “I Want It That Way” comes on. Arguably more influential than Brit Pop and Grunge put together, because hello – Justin Timberlake. He’s a legitimate cultural gem.

Man-Child Movies

Adam Sandler is just behind The Simpsons in terms of his influence on humor. Somehow his man-child schtick didn’t get old until the aughts, and his success in that arena ushered in a wave of other man-child movies from fellow ’90s comedians. RIP Chris Farley (and WTF Rob Schneider).

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Teen Angst

In horror, dramas, comedies, and everything in between: Troubled teens! Getting into trouble! Who couldn’t relate to their First World problems, plaid flannels, and lose grasp of the internet?

Mainstream Nihilism

From the Coen Bros to Fincher to Tarantino, filmmakers on the verge of explosive popularity seemed interested in one thing: mind f*cking their audiences by putting characters in situations (and plot lines) beyond anyone’s control.

Feeling better about that walk down memory lane? Good. Enjoy the revival.

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And revisit some important ’90s classics all this weekend during IFC’s ’90s Marathon. Check out the full schedule here.