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10 dramas about comedy

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When you go to a stand-up comedy show, you’re there to have a good time and laugh at some jokes, and if you’re a nerd about it, maybe you go to appreciate the craft. If you’re the guy on stage, though, the perspective is pretty different sometimes. There’s often an obsession at play that borders on addiction, be it to the art, to the wordplay, to the cadence of each punchline, or maybe to the attention and the spotlight. Whatever it is, the motivations behind each person getting up in front of a roomful of oft-drunk strangers to try and kill them and avoid dying makes for some interesting drama, and every once in a while, people in Hollywood try to capture that. So here’s a list of ten dramas about the world of comedy.


1. “Lenny” (1974)

Dustin Hoffman stars in this Bob Fosse film as the titular comedian of world renown, notoriety and reverence. There can never be enough said about how much of a trailblazer Lenny Bruce was, and this film, released eight years after his death, did not shy away from any of the controversies that defined his life as a crusader for free speech by way of clever, straightforward honesty, expressing himself in ways that hadn’t been heard on stage before. That kind of brazen flouting of convention came with a heavy price, to the point where it’s been said that he was arrested so often that his untimely death was caused by “an overdose of police.” This film was nominated for six Academy Awards, by the by.


2. “The King of Comedy” (1983)

A genre wouldn’t be a genre if Martin Scorsese didn’t try his hand at it, and put Robert De Niro in it. Scorsese’s take is a lot creepier than most, however, as De Niro stars as Rupert Pupkin, a really lousy stand-up comic who lives in his own fantasy world and, when he meets legendary comedian Jerry Langford (Jerry Lewis) by chance, he thinks that alone is his big break. When that doesn’t turn out to be the case, Pupkin kidnaps the guy and holds him for ransom – the ransom of a TV spot. Pupkin is one of the more sympathetic psychopaths you’ll come across, and there’s some debate about how much of this film takes place in his own mind.


3. “Jo Jo Dancer, Your Life Is Calling” (1986)

The icon Richard Pryor insisted that the one and only movie he directed was not autobiographical, but considering how it was the life story of a comedian who burned himself while freebasing cocaine, you have to think this drew heavily on Pryor’s real life. That incident puts Dancer in a coma, during which he reflects on his childhood in a brothel, his self-destructive life and how he got to that very low point.


4. “Punchline” (1988)

Who wouldn’t want to see Tom Hanks as a stand-up comic? He’s a natural born funnyman. In this film, he’s a med student moonlighting in the stage world, and he forms a bond with Sally Field, a housewife who’s also trying to make a go of a new career in this sort of showbiz. However, the friendship is strained when the cutthroat competition of the business gets in the way – not to mention unrequited romantic feelings – and things don’t end wonderfully for everybody.


5. “Mr. Saturday Night” (1992)

Billy Crystal made his directorial debut, giving himself the starring role as Buddy Young Jr., a hugely popular comedian with his own show in the 1950s whose career didn’t go quite the way he’d hoped, and as he aged, he also alienated everybody close to him that helped him reach the top in the first place. While it’s an interesting portrait of a celebrity past his prime, it didn’t do all that well at the box office, but David Paymer was nominated for the Best Supporting Actor Oscar.

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Face Melting Cameos

The 10 Most Metal Pop Culture Cameos

Glenn Danzig drops by Portlandia tonight at 10P on IFC.

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Glenn Danzig rocks harder than granite. In his 60 years, he’s mastered punk with The Misfits, slayed metal with the eponymous Danzig, and generally melted faces with the force of his voice. And thanks to Fred and Carrie, he’s now stopping by tonight’s brand new Portlandia so we can finally get to see what “Evil Elvis” is like when he hits the beach. To celebrate his appearance, we put together our favorite metal moments from pop culture, from the sublime to the absurd.

10. Cannibal Corpse meets Ace Ventura

Back in the ’90s,  Cannibal Corpse was just a small time band from Upstate New York, plying their death metal wares wherever they could find a crowd, when a call from Jim Carry transformed their lives. Turns out the actor was a fan, and wanted them for a cameo in his new movie, Ace Ventura: Pet Detective. The band had a European tour coming up, and were wary of being made fun of, so they turned it down. Thankfully, the rubber-faced In Living Color vet wouldn’t take no for an answer, proving that you don’t need to have a lot of fans, just the right ones.


9. AC/DC in Private Parts

Howard Stern’s autobiographical film, based on his book of the same name, followed his rise in the world of radio and pop culture. For a man surrounded by naked ladies and adoring fans, it’s hard to track the exact moment he made it. But rocking out with AC/DC in the middle of Central Park, as throngs of fans clamor to get a piece of you, seems like it comes pretty close. You can actually see Stern go from hit host to radio god in this clip, as “You Shook Me All Night Long” blasts in the background.


8. Judas Priest meets The Simpsons

When you want to blast a bunch of peace-loving hippies out on their asses, you’re going to need some death metal. At least, that’s what the folks at The Simpsons thought when they set up this cameo from the metal gods. Unfortunately, thanks to a hearty online backlash, the writers of the classic series were soon informed that Judas Priest, while many things, are not in fact “death metal.” This led to the most Simpson-esque apology ever. Rock on, Bartman. Rock on.


7. Anthrax on Married…With Children

What do you get when Married…with Children spoofs My Dinner With Andre, substituting the erudite playwrights for a band so metal they piss rust? Well, for starters, a lot of headbanging, property destruction and blown eardrums. And much like everything else in life, Al seems to have missed the fun.


6. Motorhead rocks out on The Young Ones

The Young Ones didn’t just premiere on BBC2 in 1982 — it kicked the doors down to a new way of doing comedy. A full-on assault on the staid state of sitcoms, the show brought a punk rock vibe to the tired format, and in the process helped jumpstart a comedy revolution. For instance, where an old sitcom would just cut from one scene to the next, The Young Ones choose to have Lemmy and his crew deliver a raw version of “Ace of Spades.” The general attitude seemed to be, you don’t like this? Well, then F— you!


5. Red and Kitty Meet Kiss on That ’70s Show

Carsey-Werner Productions

Carsey-Werner Productions

Long before they were banished to playing arena football games, Kiss was the hottest ticket in rock. The gang from That ’70s Show got to live out every ’70s teen’s dream when they were set loose backstage at a Kiss concert, taking full advantage of groupies, ganja and hard rock.


4. Ronnie James Dio in Tenacious D in The Pick of Destiny (NSFW, people!)

What does a young boy do when he was born to rock, and the world won’t let him? What tight compadre does he pray to for guidance and some sweet licks? If you’re a young Jables, half of “the world’s most awesome band,” you bow your head to Ronnie James Dio, aka the guy who freaking taught the world how to do the “Metal Horns.” Never before has a rock god been so literal than in this clip that turns it up to eleven.


3. Ozzy Osbourne in Trick or Treat

It’s hard to tell if Ozzy was trying his hardest here, or just didn’t give a flying f–k. What is clear is that, either way, it doesn’t really matter. Ozzy’s approach to acting seems to lean more heavily on Jack Daniels than sense memory, and yet seeing the slurry English rocker play a sex-obsessed televangelist is so ridiculous, he gets a free pass. Taking part in the cult horror Trick or Treat, Ozzy proves that he makes things better just by showing up. Because that’s exactly what he did here. Showed up. And it rocks.


2. Glenn Danzig on Portlandia

Danzig seems to be coming out of a self imposed exile these days. He just signed with a record company, and his appearance on Portlandia is reminding everyone how kick ass he truly is. Who else but “The Other Man in Black” could help Portland’s resident goths figure out what to wear to the beach? Carrie Brownstein called Danzig “amazing,” and he called Fred “a genius,” so this was a rare love fest for the progenitor of horror punk.


1. Alice Cooper in Wayne’s World

It’s surprising, sure, but for a scene that contains no music whatsoever, it’s probably the most famous metal moment in the history of film. When Alice Cooper informed Wayne and Garth that Milwaukee is actually pronounced “Milly-way-kay” back in 1992, he created one of the most famous scenes in comedy history. What’s more metal than that? Much like Wayne and Garth, we truly are not worthy.

10 ironic comedy remakes

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This is the era of revamping other eras. That is, the ideas of yore are being mined constantly for the potential to become blockbuster movie franchises to fuel sequel after sequel, and it usually works. In some cases, the best way to make it work is to take something old, strip away the cheesier elements and turn it into something cool and badass. However, in some cases – a prime example being Tim Burton’s satirical take on the goth-soap drama “Dark Shadows” – the cheese is too irresistible, and the remakers instead opt to celebrate those elements with sarcasm, loving mockery and ironic flair. Let’s take a look at ten of these particular efforts.


1. “21 Jump Street” (2012)

One of the more recent efforts in this style seems to be the most well received, as the dramatic teen-heartthrob vehicle from the late ‘80s about young-looking rookie cops being assigned to undercover duty in a local high school gets a raucous send-up that does nothing but mock itself as well as the entire concept of remaking old stuff. Even some of its original cast shows up to do the same thing, but it’s really the Channing Tatum/Jonah Hill show, as their clueless characters stumble into ridiculous situations which play out to a surprisingly hilarious effect, proving that a man named Channing has to develop a sense of humor somewhere along the way.


2. “The Green Hornet” (2011)

After this property bounced around Hollywood for years and went through the obligatory rejected Kevin Smith pitch, Michel Gondry and Seth Rogen finally took a crack at relaunching the movie serial superhero that was turned into a TV series featuring Bruce Lee back in the 1960s. Although he brought Jay Chou in as the competent sidekick Kato, Rogen himself played crusading reporter Britt Reid as more of a bumbling party guy who suddenly had to grow up, but not fast enough to keep himself from looking like an idiot in this new endeavor. Poking fun at superhero movie conventions, Kato agrees to become a masked vigilante, but refuses tights. It didn’t go over quite as well.


3. “Starsky & Hutch” (2004)

A beloved 1970s cop show became a winking buddy cop movie in 2004 for Ben Stiller and Owen Wilson, and you know those guys couldn’t take something like this all that seriously. If their mockery of old school car-chase-heavy action-dramas doesn’t get you, perhaps Snoop Dogg co-starring as their slick pal Huggy Bear, Will Ferrell’s perverted prison informant and Vince Vaughn as the ridiculously-moustachioed bad guy will. There’s even some Jason Bateman action to enjoy.


4. “The Brady Bunch Movie” (1995)

In 1995, this riff on the cheery ‘70s sitcom about a guy with three boys marrying a woman with three girls took the self-referential parody to heights it hadn’t reached before, taking the family directly out of the 1970s and throwing them into the too-hip-for-the-room 1990s world. Complete with outdated musical numbers while gallivanting through a Sears. Gary Cole and Shelley Long are the Brady elders, and Ben Stiller’s wife Christine Taylor looks so eerily like the original Marcia Brady Maureen McCormick that it’s been difficult to see her in any other role at all.


5. “Dragnet” (1987)

The long-running no-nonsense police drama starring Jack Webb was brought to comic life in 1987 by Dan Aykroyd doing a pitch-perfect monotone riff on Webb’s stuffy persona, playing his character’s nephew Joe Friday. Tom Hanks, back when he was still known entirely for comedy, was his modern partner Pep Streebek. While the film remains funny and charming, complete with the incomparable Dabney Coleman as a smut king and Christopher Plummeras the villain, one has to wonder about the level of self-awareness. Sure, they were obviously having fun with the concept, but somehow, they thought it was a good idea to rope Aykroyd and Hanks into rapping. Yes, in case you forgot, here is their Dragnet rap “City of Crime.” Watch it and wonder just how aware of themselves they actually were.

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The 10 best Three Stooges films

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So, by now, we’ve seen the unsettling but strangely intriguing Farrelly Brothers attempt to revive The Three Stooges as franchised characters instead of being what they’ve been all these years – three (or four… well, six, technically, but we try not to think about Joe and Curly Joe) comedians with an ingenious talent for dimwittery, tomfoolery, knucklehead slapstick and zany antics. We can argue back and forth as to whether or not this was a good idea on the Farrellys’ part, but if anything, it sparked a revival in the classic films from the original comic artists, Moe Howard, Larry Fine, Curly Howard and Shemp Howard. Which films, you ask? Well, how’z about we take a trip down Hilarious Lane with the 10 Best Three Stooges Shorts of All Time. Sure, let’s bust out the superlatives. They made 220 of them, so it’s all opinion anyhow, see?


10. “Hoi Polloi” (1935)

The classic trope of rich people wagering over whether or not they can transform ruffians into high society dandies works well for the Stooges, who are picked up off the street while they’re shoveling rubbish. They proceed to learn next to nothing while their benefactor pulls his hair out in frustration. Their fancy coming out party involves shaving in mixed company, spring-loaded posteriors and a new slapstick trend among the highfalutin set.


9. “Grips, Grunts and Groans” (1937)

What’s not to love about mixing the Three Stooges with professional wrestling? This one takes the same schtick as their earlier film Punch Drunks (1934) – that Curly becomes a super-buttkicker under peculiar and specific circumstances – and trades pugilism for grappling. After getting big-time wrassler Bustoff too hammered to compete, they slap a fake beard on Curly to throw him in the ring, in the effort to keep themselves from getting moidelized by the ruthless gamblers betting on the match. Curly uses the term ‘duck soup’ at one point, and one has to wonder if that isn’t a reference to their contemporaries, the Marx Brothers and their 1933 film.


8. “Three Little Pigskins” (1934)

Back when pro football was in its shady infancy and amateur athletics were the way to go, crime bosses tried to set up pro games to bet on them – and when the vagabond Stooges get mistaken for star athletes by one of the goons’ gals (another one of whom is played by a blonde Lucille Ball, no less), we get a load of running around in frilly nightgowns, and then even more running around on the gridiron with absolutely no clue how the game is played. You’ll get some similar clueless shenanigans in golf with The Three Little Beers (1935).


7. “How High is Up?” (1940)

We open with the Three Stooges sleeping underneath their car, because apparently they live there. After getting washed down the street and nearly run over by a truck, they proceed to have a protracted fight with Curly’s sweater. When they go on the run from pulling shenanigans to drum up business for their mending operation, they wind up being drafted as riveters on the 97th floor of a new skyscraper. So what do they do to solve Curly’s fear of heights? Blindfold him and set him loose on the girders. Instant comic tension!


6. “Brideless Groom” (1947)

Here’s a good one with ol’ Shemp, and it finds him with a deadline to get married or else he’ll lose half a million bucks in inheritance from his old skinflint uncle. Trouble is, he ain’t got a dame to his name, save for his most annoying singing student, who’s all too happy to tie the knot. Of course, trouble arises when the news catches wind of the story, and every woman Shemp proposed to comes barging in to beat him up until he agrees to marry them – going so far as to put Shemp’s coconut in the letter press. Chaos ensues with a lot of women beating up the Stooges and Moe’s tuchus in a bear trap.

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