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IT’S LIKE THAT: Extreme Karaoke!

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Every year for my wife’s birthday we throw her a huge karaoke tournament. Each year it gets bigger, badder, and more competitive. Think of it as the illegal cock-fighting circuit of karaoke–no fancy lighting system, no prompter to read lyrics off of, and no gratuitous applause from the audience. If you stink, the three judges will let you know it. Sound a little like American Idol? Too bad our karaoke tournament predates the teen-pop franchise by two years.

(left: This is what it’s all about, the coveted Karaoke Cup.)

Here’s how the tournament is set up:

There are three rounds for every game (after three games, the winners and one wildcard advance to the Championship Finale). In the first round a contestant can sing any song they want (props and costumes are highly encouraged). The second round features a Grab Bag, filled with popular songs from various genres of music, and the final round is called “Roulette,” where the final competitors choose a song for each other.

This is where the competition gets cutthroat. Each competitor runs their Roulette pick past the judges, and if the panel agrees that the song is popular enough, then they allow it. In years past contestants have either grilled pop fanatics with hard rock songs (ever see a Britney fan try to belt out an old Guns N’ Roses tune?), or have been good sports about it and gave their competition a song right down their wheelhouse (hoping their competitors would do the same for them).

This year I came into the competition as the defending champion, although I kind of lucked out last year, considering two of our most talented singing friends (Greg and Jess) couldn’t make it to the karaoke bash. I was afraid that I wouldn’t be able to repeat, since 3-time champion, Greg Delduca (a man who had never lost a round of karaoke in the history of our tournament), was on hand to recapture his crown.

As always, our extreme brand of karaoke brought out some memorable performances. Prof D came dressed in a black-and-white suit to deliver a soulful Blues Brothers performance. However, the judges gave him low scores, just for the fact that they were confused why he only performed John Belushi’s lyrcs, and left Dan Akroyd’s parts silent.

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Brian Mendelssohn, in full Karate Kid attire, delivered an impassioned version of Joe Esposito’s “You’re The Best,” but because he only knew lyrics from the refrain, he didn’t make it past the first round.

Former champ, Dan Schweitzer breezed into the finals with a jaw-dropping performance of Electric Six’s “Danger! High Voltage,” which included a red cape (with a foil lightning bolt taped on the back), skinny moustache, and a tap-light jock strap.

I managed to squeak into the finals by taking a step out of my comfort zone (Beastie Boys), and doing my best Bruce Springsteen to “Dancing In The Dark.” I also lucked out in the Grab Bag round by picking No Doubt’s “Don’t Speak,” which I knew most of the lyrics to.

Greg plowed through the first round en route to the championship with his arsenal of 90’s-inspired dance moves as well as his spot-on, pitch-perfect performance of “It Feels Good,” by Tony! Toni! Tone!.

Jen Dugger squeezed into the finals as the wildcard with impressive performances of Beyonce’s “Single Ladies” and Beastie Boys’ “Sure Shot.”

In the finals I was able to hang with both Greg and Dan by attempting to wow the judges with Run DMC’s tongue-twisting, “Tougher Than Leather.” My downfall in the Finale though was the Grab Bag round. Sean Kingston’s “Beautiful Girls” did me. By the time the Roulette round came, I had enough points to eliminate Jen from the competition (only the top three advance to the third round), but it didn’t look like I’d be able to compete with Dan or Greg.

In the first Roulette pick, Dan gave Greg “Eye Of The Tiger” by Survivor. He wasn’t able to sing the song word-for-word, but he did recite enough lyrics from the song (and jump-roped with the mic cord) to draw pretty big numbers from the judges. Greg then gave me Andre 3000’s “Hey Ya,” which I flubbed terribly. (I never realized how little lyrics I knew from that song until I was put on the spot.)

Drawing low scores from my “Hey Ya,” I knew my chances of repeating were done. In order to give Greg a run for his money, I decided to give Dan a homerun pitch by serving him up Styx’s “Mr. Roboto.” Years earlier, Dan became karaoke legend after performing this tune theatrically–and quite amazingly–perfect.

I thought, “If Greg truly is the greatest karaoker of all-time, no challenge should be too big for him.” (Although later, I did feel guilty about doing it–Tiger Woods is the best golfer around, but who’s going to give him a two-foot putt to win the Master’s?).

Dan nailed his performance and scored high with the judges. As the final tallies were read aloud, I finished as second runner up, and Greg, who had never lost a round of karaoke in his career, finished as runner-up to Dan, who took home his second Karaoke Championship Cup in four years.

Greg and I have since made peace, but next year when the karaoke mic turns on, you can bet your britches that the karaoke equivalent of illegal cock-fighting will return to its nasty (but always fun, of course) ways!


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’s no shame in that, per se. But here’s 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–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.”


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. 


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.