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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.

madonna track shorts.jpg

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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Scarface Movie Al Pacino

Wanna Play?

Say Hello to Our Scarface Quiz

Play along with movie trivia during "Scarface" tonight at 8P on IFC.

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Photo Credit: Everett Collection

Tony Montana is all about money, power and respect. And while we can’t promise you’ll get money or power by taking our Scarface quiz below, you will get respect if you get a perfect score. One out of three ain’t bad. Click below to take the quiz, and catch Scarface this month on IFC.

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Hank Azaria Commencement

Best Speech Ever

Hank Azaria’s Simpsons Advice For Grads, Questionable Shark Facts and More of This Week’s Funniest Videos

This week we're laughing at Hank's Tufts commencement speech, Jason Alexander's shark facts and more.

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Photo Credit: YouTube/Tufts University

We’ve made it! Memorial Day weekend! But before we can complain that it’s over too quickly, take a moment to bask in the pre-break lack of productivity and enjoy some lighthearted videos.

From Hank Azaria channeling Chief Wiggum and other Simpsons characters while talking to college grads to “Shark-spert” Jason Alexander sharing questionable shark facts, here are five funny things from this week you need to watch.

1. Kermit Informs Fozzie Bear That They’ve Been Canceled

It’s never easy to see someone receive bad news, much less a Muppet. But if anything, Kermit’s poise and acceptance during a time of crisis is impressive, admirable even. Fozzie Bear, on the other hand, reacts with greater similarity to how we would: with baseless anger and utter despair.


2. Jason Alexander Offers Shark “Fin Facts”

Memorial Day weekend means the start of beach season, aka Shark Feeding Season. As part of IFC’s Shark Half-A-Day Memorial Day marathon, “sharks-pert” Jason Alexander offers up some interesting “fin facts” about our sharp-toothed friends from the deep. You can also check out Jason’s beach tips, and catch the Jaws movies with more “fin facts” from Jason this Memorial Day on IFC.


3. Game of Thrones’ Emilia Clarke Confirms Dothraki Is a Real Language

With eyes still dewy from the climax of this past Sunday’s Game of Thrones (Hold the door!), the Mother of Dragons herself Emilia Clarke dropped by Late Night with Seth Meyers to throw the diehard fans a reason to smile: Yes, Dothraki is a real language. Watch Clarke discuss the phonetics and grammar involved with vying for Westeros rule.


4. Hank Azaria Gives Advice Through Simpsons Characters

Hank Azaria — star of The Simpsons, The Birdcage, and Brockmire, premiering in 2017 on IFC — gave the commencement speech at his alma mater Tufts University. In the hilarious speech, Azaria discusses how he got through college, recounts his early career struggles, and offers up life advice via fan favorite Simpsons characters like Chief Wiggum and Comic Book Guy.


5. X-Men: The Animated Series Gets Honest

Screen Junkies are back this week with another round of Honest Trailers. This entry focuses on the cartoon mutants that comprise X-Men: The Animated Series — an ultra-’90s Marvel property that predates the comic book adaptation boom of the 21st Century. But looking back at the decade of Rob Liefeld and Todd McFarlane, this video finds much to mock.

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Weird Al Comedy Bang Bang Season 5

Call Him Al

“Weird Al” Talks Comedy Bang! Bang!, His Upcoming Tour, Favorite Videos and More

Weird Al comes to Comedy Bang! Bang! starting June 3rd at 11P on IFC.

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With a career spanning five decades, “Weird Al” Yankovic has defined the song parody genre and become a beloved pop culture icon. Starting June 3rd, you’ll be able to catch him as the brand new Comedy Bang! Bang! bandleader Fridays at 11P on IFC.

We recently chatted with Al about joining Scott Aukerman on the new season, his upcoming tour, favorite CB!B! characters and his future dream projects. (Hint: it might involve actors spontaneously breaking into song.)

The Comedy Bang! Bang! bandleader gig seems like a natural fit for you. Did it take any time to get acclimated?

Weird Al: Yeah. It’s a slightly different skill set. The accordion is my main act, but I don’t use it on the show at all. It’s a keyboard setup. The actual setup is a little bit of a combination of what Reggie [Watts] had and [Kid] Cudi had. And a few extra things thrown in. So I’m trying to do my own version of what they brought to the show.

You’ve been on the Comedy Bang! Bang! podcast and the show many times. Do you have a favorite CB!B! character?

Weird Al: I’d probably have to say Doctor Time. Every time Scott wants me to do an evil character, he’s always got a bad English accent. [Laughs] Any time my character goes evil, he becomes sort of British.

Any favorite guests you’ve worked with?

Weird Al: Gosh, I love them all. Paul F. Tompkins is always fun. His Andrew Lloyd Webber character, Cake Boss, everything he does. And Andy Daly as well. They’re so versatile and so amazing at improv. That’s the one thing I was a little nervous about because I’ve never been super confident with my improv skills. But Comedy Bang! Bang!, particularly the TV version, is good for that because it’s all heavily edited. So it kind of gives me permission to try out whatever comes to my mind, so if it really sucks, they’re not gonna use it. [Laughs]

Scott Aukerman Weird Al

Your upcoming tour is a continuation of your Mandatory Fun tour from last year. Any new elements to the show?

Weird Al: Well, it is the same tour, so it’s not that much different. I might freshen some video a little bit. I’m hoping to use a bit or two from the current season of Comedy Bang! Bang! and slip that into the show somewhere.

The tour starts June 3rd in St. Petersburg, Florida and ends September 24th at Radio City Music Hall. How do you keep up the pace? 

Weird Al: It’s just a mindset. I’m really only working for two hours a day, so I basically just save up my energy for the show. I relax, surf online, watch satellite TV, read a book, rest my voice, and then give it all I got when I’m onstage.

Looking back at your vast song catalog, was there ever a parody that came to you immediately upon hearing the song?

Weird Al: Yeah, that’s happened a few times. More often than not, I have to think about it and analytically work out all the variations on a theme that I can and pick out the one with the most potential. But there’s been a few times where the idea came to me spontaneously. I think the first time I saw Michael Jackson’s “Bad” video, before it was even over, I thought, “Oh! I gotta do ‘Fat’! Super-plus-sized actors trying to get through a turnstile on a subway! I gotta do that!”

Do you have a favorite of your many hilarious videos?

Weird Al: Oh boy, it’s hard to say. “White and Nerdy” has been my biggest hit and that was a really fun video to do. But in terms of making a video, “Tacky” was really fun to do because it was so easy and I got to work with amazing people like Jack Black, Margaret Cho, Kristen Schaal, Eric Stonestreet, and Aisha Tyler. And we knocked it out in a couple of hours. We were having so much fun while making it, I kinda wish we weren’t so efficient and professional. [Laughs] I could’ve done that all night.

Was it filmed all in one take or was it stitched together?

Weird Al: That was all one take. Some people say, “Oh, I see where the edit is,” but it was all one shot. We did a total of six takes, and I think four of those takes were usable, but the last one was the best.

And you were directing while performing?

Weird Al: I directed that one, yeah. We location scouted and found a building in downtown LA that I thought was good for the shoot. I’ve since seen that building in a lot of other movies and TV shows — I think it was used in The Big Lebowski and a few others. It was difficult because I start the video in one set of clothes and I also end the video in a completely different set of clothes. So while the cameras were off me, because there’s only one elevator in the building, I had to run down five flights of stairs, quickly change my clothes, and hit my mark for the end. And after the take, we’d all just watch what we did, and say, “OK, let’s do it again.”

Is there a director you’d love to work with in the future?

Weird Al: Oh gosh, yeah, but I mean, music videos are notoriously low-budget so that’s why I end up directing them myself. [Laughs] But I’d love to be in a movie codirected by Steven Spielberg and Quentin Tarantino.

Do you have a particular genre of music that you love parodying the most? Or is it more of the moment and different for each song?

Weird Al: It doesn’t necessarily revolve around personal taste so much. It really depends more on the song than the genre. But I found rap songs tend to lend themselves to parody, mostly because there’s a lot of words to play with. A lot of pop songs are repetitive, and that’s sometimes been an issue. With rap, there’s no shortage of syllables to mess around with.

Given that you’ve been so prolific and done so much, is there any type of art left that you’d like to dip your toe in? Dramatic acting, perhaps?

Weird Al: Well, if Spielberg and Tarantino want me for their film, I wouldn’t want to turn them down. But there’s no burning desire to do drama. I love doing comedy and feel comfortable doing that. Writing a musical might be something I do down the line. I don’t know when but I might take a shot at something in that area. Other than that, I’ve done pretty much all I wanted to do in my life so far. A lot of it not successfully. [Laughs] But I took a stab at it and feel gratified by that.

You’ve had such a eclectic career in music and comedy. What do you attribute your longevity to?

Weird Al: [Laughs] I don’t know what I’d attribute the longevity to. There’s a modicum of talent, but it’s mostly because I surround myself with very talented people. I’ve got a great support group, I’ve got the same band since the early ’80s, and I’ve worked with the same people for decades. And I got a very loyal fan base and I love what I do. And somehow I’ve been very lucky and it’s worked out so far.

Watch “Weird Al” in an episode from the new season of Comedy Bang! Bang! right now, before the season premiere on Friday June 3rd at 11P.

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