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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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WTF Films

Artfully Off

Celebrity All-Star by Sisters Weekend is available now on IFC's Comedy Crib.

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Sisters Weekend isn’t like other comedy groups. It’s filmmaking collaboration between besties Angelo Balassone, Michael Fails and Kat Tadesco, self-described lace-front addicts with great legs who write, direct, design and produce video sketches and cinematic shorts that are so surreally hilarious that they defy categorization. One such short film, Celebrity All-Star, is the newest addition to IFC’s Comedy Crib. Here’s what they had to say about it in a very personal email interview…

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IFC: How would you describe Celebrity All-Star to a fancy network executive you just met in an elevator?

Celebrity All-Star is a short film about an overworked reality TV coordinator struggling to save her one night off after the cast of C-List celebrities she wrangles gets locked out of their hotel rooms.

IFC: How would you describe Celebrity All-Star to a drunk friend of a friend you met in a bar?

Sisters Weekend: It’s this short we made for IFC where a talent coordinator named Karen babysits a bunch of weird c-list celebs who are stuck in a hotel bar. It’s everyone you hate from reality TV under one roof – and that roof leaks because it’s a 2-star hotel. There’s a magician, sexy cowboys, and a guy wearing a belt that sucks up his farts.

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IFC: What was the genesis of Celebrity All-Star?

Celebrity All-Star was born from our love of embarrassing celebrities. We love a good c-lister in need of a paycheck! We were really interested in the canned politeness people give off when forced to mingle with strangers. The backstory we created is that the cast of this reality show called “Celebrity All-Star” is in the middle of a mandatory round of “get to know each other” drinks in the hotel bar when the room keys stop working. Shows like Celebrity Ghost Hunters and of course The Surreal Life were of inspo, but we thought it
was funny to keep it really vague what kind of show they’re on, and just focus on everyone’s diva antics after the cameras stop rolling.

IFC: Every celebrity in Celebrity All-Star seems familiar. What real-life pop personalities did you look to for inspiration?

Sisters Weekend: Anyone who is trying to plug their branded merch that no one asked for. We love low-rent celebrity. We did, however, directly reference Kylie Jenner’s turd-raison lip color for our fictional teen celebutante Gibby Kyle (played by Mary Houlihan).

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IFC: Celebrity seems disgusting yet desirable. What’s your POV? Do you crave it, hate it, or both?

Sisters Weekend: A lot of people chase fame. If you’re practical, you’ll likely switch to chasing success and if you’re smart, you’ll hopefully switch to chasing happiness. But also, “We need money. We need hits. Hits bring money, money bring power, power bring fame, fame change the game,” Young Thug.

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IFC: Who are your comedy idols?

Sisters Weekend: Mike grew up renting “Monty Python” tapes from the library and staying up late to watch 2000’s SNL, Kat was super into Andy Kaufman and “Kids In The Hall” in high school, and Angelo was heavily influenced by “Strangers With Candy” and Anna Faris in the Scary Movie franchise, so, our comedy heroes mesh from all over. But, also we idolize a lot of the people we work with in NY-  Lorelei Ramirez, Erin Markey, Mary Houlihan, who are all in the film, Amy Zimmer, Ana Fabrega, Patti Harrison, Sam Taggart. Geniuses! All of Em!

IFC: What’s your favorite moment from the film?

Sisters Weekend: I mean…seeing Mary Houlihan scream at an insane Pomeranian on an iPad is pretty great.

See Sisters Weekend right now on IFC’s Comedy Crib

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Reality? Check.

Baroness For Life

Baroness von Sketch Show is available for immediate consumption.

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Baroness von Sketch Show is snowballing as people have taken note of its subtle and not-so-subtle skewering of everyday life. The New York Times, W Magazine, and Vogue have heaped on the praise, but IFC had a few more probing questions…

IFC: To varying degrees, your sketches are simply scripted examples of things that actually happen. What makes real life so messed up?

Aurora: Hubris, Ego and Selfish Desires and lack of empathy.

Carolyn: That we’re trapped together in the 3rd Dimension.

Jenn: 1. Other people 2. Other people’s problems 3. Probably something I did.

IFC: A lot of people I know have watched this show and realized, “Dear god, that’s me.” or “Dear god, that’s true.” Why do people have their blinders on?

Aurora: Because most people when you’re in the middle of a situation, you don’t have the perspective to step back and see yourself because you’re caught up in the moment. That’s the job of comedians is to step back and have a self-awareness about these things, not only saying “You’re doing this,” but also, “You’re not the only one doing this.” It’s a delicate balance of making people feel uncomfortable and comforting them at the same time.

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IFC: Unlike a lot of popular sketch comedy, your sketches often focus more on group dynamics vs iconic individual characters. Why do you think that is and why is it important?

Meredith: We consider the show to be more based around human dynamics, not so much characters. If anything we’re more attracted to the energy created by people interacting.

Jenn: So much of life is spent trying to work it out with other people, whether it’s at work, at home, trying to commute to work, or even on Facebook it’s pretty hard to escape the group.

IFC: Are there any comedians out there that you feel are just nailing it?

Aurora: I love Key and Peele. I know that their show is done and I’m in denial about it, but they are amazing because there were many times that I would imagine that Keegan Michael Key was in the scene while writing. If I could picture him saying it, I knew it would work. I also kind of have a crush on Jordan Peele and his performance in Big Mouth. Maya Rudolph also just makes everything amazing. Her puberty demon on Big Mouth is flawless. She did an ad for 7th generation tampons that my son, my husband and myself were singing around the house for weeks. If I could even get anything close to her career, I would be happy. I’m also back in love with Rick and Morty. I don’t know if I have a crush on Justin Roiland, I just really love Rick (maybe even more than Morty). I don’t have a crush on Jerry, the dad, but I have a crush on Chris Parnell because he’s so good at being Jerry.

Jenn: I LOVE ISSA RAE!

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IFC: If you could go back in time and cast yourselves in any sitcom, which would it be and how would it change?

Carolyn: I’d go back in time and cast us in The Partridge Family.  We’d make an excellent family band. We’d have a laugh, break into song and wear ruffled blouses with velvet jackets.  And of course travel to all our gigs on a Mondrian bus. I feel really confident about this choice.

Meredith: Electric Mayhem from The Muppet Show. It wouldn’t change, they were simply perfect, except… maybe a few more vaginas in the band.

Binge the entire first and second seasons of Baroness von Sketch Show now on IFC.com and the IFC app.

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G.I. Jeez

Stomach Bugs and Prom Dates

E.Coli High is in your gut and on IFC's Comedy Crib.

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Brothers-in-law Kevin Barker and Ben Miller have just made the mother of all Comedy Crib series, in the sense that their Comedy Crib series is a big deal and features a hot mom. Animated, funny, and full of horrible bacteria, the series juxtaposes timeless teen dilemmas and gut-busting GI infections to create a bite-sized narrative that’s both sketchy and captivating. The two sat down, possibly in the same house, to answer some questions for us about the series. Let’s dig in….

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IFC: How would you describe E.Coli High to a fancy network executive you just met in an elevator?

BEN: Hi ummm uhh hi ok well its like umm (gets really nervous and blows it)…

KB: It’s like the Super Bowl meets the Oscars.

IFC: How would you describe E.Coli High to a drunk friend of a friend you met in a bar?

BEN: Oh wow, she’s really cute isn’t she? I’d definitely blow that too.

KB: It’s a cartoon that is happening inside your stomach RIGHT NOW, that’s why you feel like you need to throw up.

IFC: What was the genesis of E.Coli High?

KB: I had the idea for years, and when Ben (my brother-in-law, who is a special needs teacher in Philly) began drawing hilarious comics, I recruited him to design characters, animate the series, and do some writing. I’m glad I did, because Ben rules!

BEN: Kevin told me about it in a park and I was like yeah that’s a pretty good idea, but I was just being nice. I thought it was dumb at the time.

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IFC: What makes going to proms and dating moms such timeless and oddly-relatable subject matter?

BEN: Since the dawn of time everyone has had at least one friend with a hot mom. It is physically impossible to not at least make a comment about that hot mom.

KB: Who among us hasn’t dated their friend’s mom and levitated tables at a prom?

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

BEN: There’s a lot of content now. I don’t think anyone will even notice, but it’d be cool if they did.

KB: A show about talking food poisoning bacteria is basically the same as just watching the news these days TBH.

Watch E.Coli High below and discover more NYTVF selections from years past on IFC’s Comedy Crib.

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