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TALK: Material Girl Vs. Scientists of Sound

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Today my friend Peter is in town, and he will be taking me to my first ever Madonna concert.

(left: Peter and Jim go at it in a no holds barred, Madonna/B-Boy battle.)

Over the years Peter has amazed me with his vast knowledge of the Material Girl. His excitement and passion for all things Madonna reminds me of, well, my excitement and passion for the Beastie Boys. Because it would be nearly impossible to determine if I am a bigger Beastie Boys buff than Peter is a Madonna fan, we decided to school each other on our respective obsessions.

Do I know more about Madonna than Peter knows about the Beastie Boys? We find out right now:

Something Everyone Should Know About This Artist

Jim: The Beastie Boys are widely known for their creative music videos. They’re probably best known for one they made in the 80’s and one they made in the 90’s. Name at least one of these videos.

Peter: Well, I think I know the video in the 80’s that you are referring to, but I can’t think of the title. It escapes me at the moment. (Is it one that Spike Jonze directed?) The one from the 90’s that I saw the most was “Intergalactic,” which featured the colossal robots. Very creative! Being a video visionary is something that the Beastie Boys have in common with Madonna, so that’s a great common ground to begin this “exploration.” ūüôā

Jim: Their most mainstream video from the 80’s was “Fight For Your Right To Party,” which they performed live when they opened up for Madonna on her “Like A Virgin” Tour. In the 90’s they’re probably most well-known for “Sabotage,” which was directed by Spike Jonze. You managed to spit out Spike Jonze and “Intergalactic,” so I think that deserves at least one point.

Peter: Well, thanks! I think “Sabotage” was the one I was thinking of, for sure. I didn’t realize that was a 90s release. I’m glad you’ve already pointed out another connection between Madonna and the Beastie Boys — performing on her Virgin Tour! So, now that I’ve scored one point, it’s time for you to score your first point. It’s an easy one. TRUE or FALSE: “Madonna” is the “real” (e.g., given) name of the artist we all know by that one name.

Jim: I’ll say “true.” Any extra points for knowing her real last name, Ciccone?

Peter: Correct! And you definitely get extra points for knowing her last name. There is a little misconception out there that Madonna “adopted” a “stage name,” but that’s not true. Madonna is her real first name, as she was named after her mother (and then there is that whole taking on Esther as her spiritual name, but, we still all know her by one name.) Good job, Jim!


Something a Novice Music Fan Should Know About This Artist.

Jim: Speaking of names, and I totally didn’t steal this question from you, name at least two of the Beastie Boys. Stage names and/or real names count on this one.

Peter: I was totally afraid this question was coming. I’m tempted to just be completely wrong by saying Melchior, Caspar, and Balthazar. Is one of them named Daryl? I know that once I hear their stage names, I will be kicking myself, because I have heard/read their names, but I obviously haven’t been able to retain that as easily as “Beastie Boys.”

Jim: Hmm, a Three Kings reference? Nice try, but sorry Peter, you’re not going to milk any points out of me on this one. Here goes:

Adam Yauch, (MCA)
Michael Diamond (Mike D)
Adam Horovitz (Adrock)

Peter: Yeah, flattery will get me nowhere. All right, all right. I admit I needed a little education there. So here goes with my second question:

Madonna’s been churning out chart hits in three decades now — 80’s, 90’s, and 00’s. Name three hits, one from each decade (I’ll let you off the hook with ONLY two, IF, you can name the EXACT two which are the double platinum singles of her career).

Jim: Let’s do this! In the 80’s, I’ll go with “Holiday,” 90’s I’ll say “Human Nature” (the best Madonna ever looked in a music video), and for the 00’s let’s go with “Hung Up.” I wanted to say “Music” but I can’t remember if that was late 90’s or early 00’s.

Peter: Correct on all counts! “Music” was millennial Madonna, released in 2000, and was the first time since “Like a Prayer” (1989) that she had a number one album and number one single simultaneously. (By the way, the two double platinum singles of her career are 1990’s “Vogue” and 2008’s “4 Minutes.” You get extra credit for even knowing “Human Nature,” whose chart performance was less than her usual greatness, but you are absolutely right, the video (directed by Jean-Baptiste Mondino) is a standout amongst her many video masterpieces.

Maybe You’ll Get This, Maybe You Won’t

Jim: For a span of three albums, the Beastie Boys collaborated with this semi-popular, very odd, old-school hip-hop performer. We used to joke that if it were not for the Beastie Boys this MC would be out of work. I’ll give you a couple hints: He pops up frequently as a talking-head on VH1, he was involved in a historic sampling lawsuit, and “nobody beats him.”

Peter: Hmm… I’m going to guess Grandmaster Flash. ? What’s the historic sampling suit? The only major suit that comes to mind for me is the Queen “Under Pressure” / Vanilla Ice “Ice Ice Baby” suit.

Jim: The correct answer is Biz Markie. His song “Alone Again (Naturally)” featured uncleared samples, and in the case of Grand Upright Music, Ltd. v. Warner Bros. Records, Inc., a new precedent in hip-hop was set: all samples must be cleared through their owners before anyone else can use them. By the way, “Nobody Beats the Biz!”

Peter: Clearly, and nobody beats Jim, either! But this is good, I’m learning a lot, and hopefully your readers are, too. By the way, speaking of samples, did you know that ABBA are notoriously protective of their music and very rarely grant permission for samples? Madonna’s “Hung Up” samples their “Gimme Gimme Gimme (A Man After Midnight).”

Speaking of collaborations, Madonna’s “4 Minutes” features Justin Timberlake and Timbaland. Name one other high profile Madonna duet collaboration. I’m thinking vocalists here, not producers.

Jim: It’s good you said “vocalists,” cause I was about to shout out Dennis Rodman and Jose Canseco (laughs). Kanye West does something on her new album, right? If you consider him a vocalist, then I’ll have my point please.

Peter: Congrats! That was one I wasn’t even thinking of, although Mr. West clearly counts (and I should mention Pharrell as well, because he contributes backing vox on the same track, “Beat Goes On.”) Other correct responses include: Prince (“Love Song”), Babyface (“Take a Bow”), Ricky Martin (“Be Careful”), Britney Spears (“Me Against the Music”), and Missy Elliot (“Into the Groove” 2003 remix).

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Something Only a Truly Devoted Fan Would Know

Jim: Do you want to guess MCA’s basketball name? Or the band that played at his wedding?

Peter: Well, I’d like to say that the Beastie Boys and Madonna reunited for the wedding gig, but I know that’s not true. (Let’s be fair, “Like A Virgin” is just not an appropriate selection for the wedding reception playlist.) I’m going to guess something like The Flaming Lips or the Violent Femmes?
Why? No idea. They are just the names that pop to mind.

Jim: Alright, so you went for the band question. Rancid actually played MCA’s wedding reception. His basketball handle, by the way, is “Praying Mantis.”

Peter: Excellent! I hope no one ever steps on him on the court!

My next question is this: Which Madonna video is in the permanent collection in MoMA? If you need a hint, it is shown alongside another video by the same director, Mark Romanek.

Jim: I’m envisioning Madonna wearing a Lone Ranger mask. Am I getting warm? It would have to be something epic, right? Crap. Because I think I’m probably cold, I’ll take a stab at “Frozen?”

Peter: “Frozen” is a nice choice, but ultimately incorrect. The video on display is “Bedtime Story,” reportedly her most expensive video shoot. It’s filled with imagery borrowed from the paintings of female surrealist painters, but no Lone Ranger mask. The other video at MoMA is “Closer” by Nine Inch Nails.

Bordering On Obsession

Jim: As a child Michael Diamond used to trick-or-treat at what Star Wars’ character’s house?

Peter: Toughie! And obscure, but that’s good! So I’ll go with Obi Wan Kenobi. (Yoda would be cool, though! Would be a long trip to another planet.)

Jim: Same side of the force, so I’ll give you half a point. The correct answer is Carrie Fisher, aka, Pricess Leia.

Peter: Ha, that’s great! Okay, last question. On Madonna’s Erotica album, she covers the Peggy Lee classic, “Fever.” This wasn’t the song Madonna originally intended to cover, but another artist (a country music singer) stole Madonna’s thunder and released his own cover first, forcing Madonna to re-consider her track list. What was her first choice?

Jim: No clue.

Peter: “These Boots Are Made for Walkin’,”originally recorded by Nancy Sinatra, was covered by Billy Ray Cyrus in 1992, forcing Madonna to change her plans. Given the astronomical number of covers by other artists (Jessica Simpson, Geri Halliwell, Jewel, Boy George and even LaToya Jackson!), it’s unlikely Madonna will ever follow through on this old idea. Too bad, ’cause Madonna wears a lot of great boots!

Jim: Yes she does! Do I get any extra credit for shouting out the “Don’t Tell Me” video? Gotta love her cowboy attire in that clip. Thanks for playing, and I owe you a Beastie Boys concert when they start touring again.

Peter: Thanks for letting me play! You get extra credit for “Don’t Tell Me” (another great Mondino-directed video). I wish I could say I’m in “Triple Trouble,” but I got four questions wrong, not three. You definitely have demonstrated that you’re prepared for tonight’s Madonna gig, though. Thanks again!


Hacked In

Funny or Die Is Taking Over

FOD TV comes to IFC every Saturday night.

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We’ve been fans of Funny or Die since we first met The Landlord. That enduring love makes it more than logical, then, that IFC is totally cool with FOD hijacking the airwaves every Saturday night. Yes, that’s happening.

The appropriately titled FOD TV looks like something pulled from public access television in the nineties. Like lo-fi broken-antenna reception and warped VHS tapes. Equal parts WTF and UHF.

Get ready for characters including The Shirtless Painter, Long-Haired Businessmen, and Pigeon Man. They’re aptly named, but for a better sense of what’s in store, here’s a taste of ASMR with Kelly Whispers:

Watch FOD TV every Saturday night during IFC’s regularly scheduled movies.


Wicked Good

See More Evil

Stan Against Evil Season 1 is on Hulu.

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Okay, so you missed the entire first season of Stan Against Evil. There‚Äôs no shame in that, per se. But here‚Äôs the thing: Season 2 is just around the corner and you don’t want to lag behind. After all, Season 1 had some critical character development, not to mention countless plot twists, and a breathless finale cliffhanger that’s been begging for resolution since last fall. It also had this:


The good news is that you can catch up right now on Hulu. Phew. But if you aren’t streaming yet, here’s a basic primer…

Willards Mill Is Evil

Stan spent his whole career as sheriff oblivious to the fact that his town has a nasty curse. Mostly because his recently-deceased wife was secretly killing demons and keeping Stan alive.

Demons Really Want To Kill Stan

The curse on Willards Mill stipulates that damned souls must hunt and kill each and every town sheriff, or “constable.” Oh, and these demons are shockingly creative.


They Also Want To Kill Evie

Why? Because Evie’s a sheriff too, and the curse on Willard’s Mill doesn’t have a “one at a time” clause. Bummer, Evie.

Stan and Evie Must Work Together

Beating the curse will take two, baby, but that’s easier said than done because Stan doesn’t always seem to give a damn. Damn!


Beware of Goats

It goes without saying for anyone who’s seen the show: If you know that ancient evil wants to kill you, be wary of anything that has cloven feet.


Season 2 Is Lurking

Scary new things are slouching towards Willards Mill. An impending darkness descending on Stan, Evie and their cohort – eviler evil, more demony demons, and whatnot. And if Stan wants to survive, he’ll have to get even Stanlier.

Stan Against Evil Season 1 is now streaming right now on Hulu.



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‚Äďor loved to hate‚ÄĒfrom¬†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.”


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

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

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.‚Ä®

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.¬†


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.¬†‚Ä®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.