“So, where are you from?”… Todd Barry: The Crowd Work Tour comedy special released on louisck.com

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Interacting with the crowd is the one thing that really intimidates me about attempting stand up. I could stand in front of a room of strangers and work through a practiced routine, but I dread the thought of a voice in the crowd cutting me off and derailing my train of thought. Of course, without the crowd I’d just be a crazy man telling jokes to his cat.

That would be really embarrassing.

So while I let my anxiety about talking with strangers keep me from going to an open mic to try out material, career comedian Todd Barry’s latest special is all crowd work, and available at Louis CK’s website for only $5.

The special follows Barry though a series of stops on his 2013 Crowd Work Tour up the west coast, starting at San Diego and finishing off in Anchorage. He hit the road with no prepared material, finding humour in random conversations in the crowd.

The special is available DRM-free on louisck.com, and is the first special of another comedian to be hosted by Louis CK’s website.  Louis CK famously made $1 million in 12 days after selling his special Live at the Beacon Theatre in 2011. The only other time Louis has hosted another comedian’s material through his site was in 2012, hosting Tig Notaro’s legendary 30-minute stand up set at Largo in Los Angeles days after finding out she had breast cancer. The special “Tig Notaro: Live” went to the top of the Billboard comedy album charts.

 

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An evening with Bill Burr, and the loss of a comedy legend.

Last Thursday, I got to check out one of my favourite working comedians, Bill Burr. He came through Winnipeg as a part of a Canadian tour presented by Just For Laughs, along with his opening act Paul Virzi.

Virzi did a great job of warming up the crowd for Burr. I had not seen Virzi stand up before, but was pleased to find that his delivery style was very similar to Burr’s. He was a fantastic choice to join Burr on his tour, and I enjoyed his set.

Burr was amazing. With over 20 years of stand up experience under his belt, Burr was able to weave over an hour worth of material that covered such topics as ghosts, his new marriage and his musings on intolerance in society. Burr had me laughing so hard that tears rolled down my face, and that is no exaggeration. I get real sloppy and wet when I get caught up in a good laughing fit.

I bought tickets with Brett Madill and Tyler Penner, two of the funniest dudes I’ve met in CreComm. Both Brett and Tyler have experience on stage, unlike myself, so it was fun to hear an ‘insider’s opinion’ of the show on the walk back to the car. The three of us lucked out and were one of the first in line after the show to get a photo with Bill!

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FROM LEFT: Tyler Penner, Brett Madill, Bill Burr, and myself

 

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On Saturday, the comedy world lost David Brenner, who passed away after a lengthy battle with cancer at the age of 78.

Brenner first ventured into the world of professional stand up comedy in 1969. He made his television debut in 1971 on The Tonight Show with Johnny Carson. He quickly became one of Carson’s favourite comedians, appearing on the show over 100 times, and becoming a frequent Tonight Show guest host. He was an influence for countless comedians, as illustrated by the outpouring of support that was shown.

I remember watching Brenner perform on television at the Just For Laughs comedy festival in Montreal. Those performances must have been from the 90s or early 2000s, and even decades into his career, he was still killing it on stage.

Here’s a clip of Brenner from his debut appearance on the Tonight Show:

 

 

 

A story so funny, you’ll split your pants…

I’m going to take a break from my typical routine of posting about comedians and television shows to share with you a story that happened to me on January 30. This story is, sadly, 100% true.

Thursday mornings are a little bit hectic for me. I record the morning sports update for Red River Radio (shameless plug, tune in if you can!), so I’m typically in a bit of a zone as I mentally prepare myself and look over the stories and scores I plan to talk about.

On this particular day, I had slept in a bit. I got up, showered and got dressed before heading out to catch the 16 bus downtown to school. I walked up my street, and as I got close to Osbourne, I could see the 16 coming up the street. I began to run. As I got to Osbourne, I slipped on the icy sidewalk and fell, but immediately sprung back up to my feet, brushed snow off my pant legs and made my way across the street to the bus stop just in time to hop on to the crowded Winnipeg Transit bus.

I wasn’t able to see an open seat on the bus, so I stood near the front with my earphones in and ESPN on my iPhone screen. I began to block out the worldlooked over last nights sports scores and headlines like I would on any typical Thursday morning.

As the bus reached the Legislature, I looked up from my phone and made eye contact with this rather beautiful woman standing right next to me. I was surprised to find already looking right at me, as we made eye contact immediately. It was an interesting moment. It really seemed like she was trying to tell me something with her eyes.

“Clearly, I’m looking pretty good today,” I thought, as I took her prolonged stare as a silent, early morning flirting attempt. I smiled back at her, and she promptly left the bus at the next stop.

By this point, the crowded bus had started to thin out, so I walked down the aisle towards the back of the bus. A few people gave me a good look up and down, which only bolstered my confidence. Today was going to be a good day. As I slumped into my seat, I again pulled out my phone and hunched over to continue reading stuff for my radio spot.

As I looked down, I noticed something was really wrong. Apparently, when I had tripped running for the bus, I had unknowingly ripped my jeans WIDE OPEN, from the top of the zipper down to my inner thigh, effectively exposing my bits to the world.

I suddenly realized so many things:

I realized what the woman was trying to tell me with her eyes, and why me smiling back at her with a gaping hole in the crotch of my pants.

I realized that there was no time to turn back and get a new pair of pants. It was already 8:20, and I needed to both record my sports update AND get to class on time.

I realized that apparently it wasn’t cold enough outside for me to feel the winter wind’s gentle caress of my exposed upper thigh. Was this a dream? Wasn’t it -26 outside? Oh God, how long had I been standing at the front of the bus with my underwear peaking out the front of my pants?

I ultimately realized the gravity of my situation; I was officially downtown with a rip in my pants the size of the Grand Canyon and a full day of classes to go. What was I going to do? Think, Marc. Think.

I quickly called Chelsee, my roommate and fellow CreCommer (check out her blog HERE). Maybe if she was still at home, she could grab me a new pair of pants and I could sneak onto campus, get to my recording booth and have her drop off replacement pants for me.

“CHELSEE ARE YOU STILL HOME?” I said when she answered, trying not to sound too panicked.

“No, I’m already at school… why?” She replied.

I held the phone away from my ear for a moment and quietly swore to myself. That was my best and only idea. In this moment, I actually considered just rocking my ripped jeans and playing it off like It was some new fashion trend I was following.

“No guys, I totally saw Drake rocking the ripped crotch look on Kimmel last week. Don’t be rude just because you’re not as fashion-forward as me.”

That would never work.

“God…” I said putting the phone back up to my ear. “Okay, well I’m having a bit of a nightmare morning.”

Chelsee seemed genuinely concerned that something horrible had happened (something had).

“I had… a wardrobe malfunction… my jeans are… I need pants….”

Things you never imagine having to say over the phone.

Despite already being at school, calling Chelsee actually did end up saving me from a day of embarrassment wearing ripped pants. She reminded me that the book store on campus sold sweatpants that I could wear.

SWEATPANTS. That could work! I’d look like a total scrub, but its only one day. I will survive.

I thanked her profusely for her help and began to game plan how I was going to infiltrate the campus without people noticing my issue.

Its at this point I should mention the other fashion issue I was dealing with on this morning. A pocket on my peacoat had ripped, and so I had pulled out my back up winter jacket to wear that day. What I didn’t know was that the zipper was busted on it, so I could only keep it closed with the velcro bits.

So here’s my situation. I was going to run across Main Street holding my jacket together with two hands like a flasher on the prowl, in an effort to both hide my shame and to keep from getting frostbite. I would get to the bookstore, buy whatever they had, and just deal with the weird looks all day.

As I stepped off the bus, I mused that if God existed, he really must have had it out for me today. Thanks, bud.

So apparently, knowing that there’s a huge hole in your jeans is the only way you notice how freaking cold it is to walk around with a huge hole in your jeans. Coldest walk of my life.

I get to the bookstore, and start looking at the sweatpants. Price tag, $50.

FIFTY DOLLARS? FIFTY DOLLARS! FIFTY DOLLARS!?! How the hell is that justified. FIFTY DOLLARS for sweatpants.

I shuffled towards the register with my purchase in hand. The person at the counter commented on my odd timing to buy sweatpants. It was then that I just decided to own the absurdity of the situation and explained how I desperately needed to replace my jeans due to an ill-timed and ill-placed rip. We all had a brief laugh, I paid FIFTY DOLLARS for my new pants, and stealthily made my way to the men’s bathroom.

It was there that I realized how awful these sweatpants truly were. No pockets. NO POCKETS? FIFTY DOLLARS for a pair of pant with NO POCKETS. Luckily, there was nothing screen printed on the back. Not that I don’t like or support college athletics, but the idea of wearing sweatpants with “REBEL” emblazoned on my ass. (EDITORS NOTE: If the College decides to use this idea, I would appreciate creative credit).

So the difficult part was over. I went up to my radio editing suite and put together a pretty stellar (in my mind) sports update and got to class on time. Immediately, I started getting comments from my classmates on my… interesting fashion choices that day. I had assumed that Chelsee had understood and told people what had happened.

I WOULD LATER FIND OUT, Chelsee actually had no idea what had happened.  I set the record straight by posting the following photo on Facebook:

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The moral of this story:

Always bring a spare pair of pants wherever you go, because you never know what might happen.

Also, know that the Red River College book store has a fantastic return policy on sweatpants.

Why did you have to make me cry?

On Friday, a big group of CreCommers went down to the King’s Head Pub. On my end of the table, somehow the topic of conversation shifted to movies or shows that have made us cry unexpectedly.

Now, this is a topic that I am all too familiar with. Apparently, I’m an emotional dude who can be easily affected by good writing and amazing song selections. But it’s typically not drama’s or highly emotional shows or movies that get me. Instead, it has been comedies that have suckered me in with light-hearted entertainment and laughs, only to jab me right in the feels when I’m least expecting it…

FUNNY THINGS SHOULDN’T ALSO MAKE YOU CRY. It’s not fair.

So here we go… Here are four ways you can make me cry by simply pointing me towards a computer screen:

There are TWO TV episodes and TWO movies that will have tears streaming down the sides of my face guarenteed, 100% of the time. Hell, on Friday when I was explaining why they made me cry I could feel the tears welling up in my eyes.

I’ll start with the movies, since they’re the most popularly known tearjerker endings that I know of…

1. Monsters Inc.

So most of you reading this should have seen this Pixar classic. If you haven’t, go to your local Blockbust….errrrr or check on Netflix to see if its there. Just watch it. Without spoiling it too much, basically the whole movie is cute and funny children’s stuff with this cute little girl running around with these big (not so) scary monsters names Scully and Mike. The monsters slowly start to bond with her until yadda yadda yadda, plot points and things happen. In the final scene, Scully gets an opportunity to reunite with the little girl one last time and cue the wave of emotions.

I remember I was watching this movie in a U of Manitoba Film Studies course on animation, and tried my damnedest to keep it together amongst my class of 30 or so people. Luckily, my choice to sit at the back of the class afforded me a quick escape so that people couldn’t see my emotions seeping from my eyes.

2. Toy Story 3

So I tried to avoid spoilers with the last post (which now realize is impossible given that I described the last scene in the movie which… would spoil a lot if you’ve never seen Monsters Inc. before…), but if you’re not caught up with the Toy Story trilogy, clearly you have no interest in doing so.

OK. SO WHAT’S UP, PIXAR?

Let’s get this straight. First, you set up the whole narrative with Andy not being interested in his toys, which results in the toys thinking they’re about to be thrown out or whatever. So the plot progresses, and I’m laughing and enjoying the movie. Woody and the gang escape from the prison-like day care centre, only to be nearly BURNT ALIVE at the dump in what was the first emotional punch in the gut in store for your audience. Thanks to the plucky alien squeak toy pals using a claw to save everyone (brilliant call back to the original Toy Story), everyone gets saved and manage to make it back to Andy’s house.

Then, as Andy is leaving for college, he goes to donate the toys to a little girl around the block, and WHAM. You hit us with the most heart-wrenching music as Andy gives each toy a passionate description of how he played with them back in the first film. He gets through what he thinks is all of them, but Woody had crawled into the box with the other toys. Andy had not intended to give away his most favourite toy of all time, but… Okay I’m doing an awful job of describing this, so here:

And with that video, someone replaced Pixar’s music with EVEN MORE EMOTIONALLY-CHARGED MUSIC. Thanks, Roger Arreola, I’d only cried three times today thinking about writing this blog post. Now I know that apparently my body has an unlimited supply of tears to draw from.

Anyways, Pixar apparently has my number when it comes to creating these emotional moments in their animated movies. Hell, I haven’t even seen Up yet because I’ve watched the opening 6 minutes on YouTube and don’t think I could finish the whole movie.

Moving on, the television episodes both come from the same series…

Futurama.

Now, if you’re a fan of Futurama, you already know which episodes I must be talking about here. If you aren’t a huge fan of Futurama, and are wondering to yourself “isn’t that the show made by the Simpsons guy about a robot and a talking lobster?” — you’re correct. But it’s also the show responsible for arguably the two best episodes of television I’ve seen, in terms of being both hilarious, entertaining and utterly heartbreaking at the same time.

3. The Luck of the Fryrish (Season 3, Episode 4)

I’ll touch on this episode first because I want to save the absolute best for last. In this episode, we follow Fry and the gang as they try to track down the lucky seven-leaf clover that Fry had before he came to the future. Through a series of flashbacks inspired by the group’s journey through Old New York, we get to see Fry’s testy relationship with his older brother Yancy. As the episode goes on, Fry realizes that apparently his brother not only stole his lucky clover, but also his identity and dream to become an astronaut. Filled with rage, Fry, Bender and Leela go up to the orbiting graveyard where Earth’s greatest heroes are buried, to dig up his brothers grave and get his clover back.

But when they get to the gravesite, we get another flashback as Fry makes an important realization…

(Sorry that this just includes the audio, but thats all you need really)

Damn you, Futurama. It amazes me how a show can take you from one extreme to another. Go from making you tear up, to having Bender jump in with a funny line a moment later. Ugh, I shouldn’t have watched that clip again. Moving on.

4. Jurassic Bark (Season 4, Episode 7)

This. I don’t understand how human beings created this without depleting the world’s supply of tissues, because if I just think about this episode for too long, I turn into a crying mess.

This episode is all the more powerful if you had a dog growing up as a kid. The episode revolves around Fry finding his old dog, Seymour, as a fossilized specimen at a museum. Again, like in the Luck of the Fryrish, we get a bunch of flashbacks that show Seymour and Fry hanging out back in the 1990s. Bender is jealous that Fry will be getting his old friend back, and tries to sabotage the attempt to bring Seymour back to live by cloning his DNA.

Again, its the ending of this episode that gets me. Luckily, there’s no clip of this particular show on YouTube, but there is many versions of the song that they play. The song. Just haunting. Have a listen.

And check out the comments. So many people referencing Seymour and Futurama.

For the longest time, I thought I was weird for being so emotionally effected by a cartoon, but finding things like those comments on the internet have proven to me that I’m not strange. Futurama just hit it out of the park with these episodes. I seriously have to stop and consider whether not I’m ready to cry whenever Jurassic Bark or the Luck of the Fryrish comes on TV. Is it worth feeling like garbage for a half hour after the episode is over? Most of the time it is. They’re just too good.

Another Futurama episode that I had heard completes the trifecta of tearjerkers is Game of Tones from Season 10, where Fry has to revisit his last night in the 90s through his memories, and desperately wants a chance to talk to his mother just one more time. I actually watched it just before writing this blog and yup, it definitely deserves an honourable mention on this list.

So here’s a challenge for you, if you think you can handle it: watch The Luck of the Fryrish, Jurassic Bark and Game of Tones back-to-back-to-back without shedding a single tear.

If you make it through, then you’re some sort of monster. Oh wait no, we know from Monsters Inc. that monsters have feelings too.

So I guess that makes you something worse than a monster.

I guess that would make you a Republican   PR major   robot or something….

Oh, and I guess in closing I should mention that I decided to become a Journalism major next year, if you couldn’t tell already.

Five years of Five Second Films

Do you have five seconds to spare? In our crazy-paced modern world, fragmented conversations and media occursall day long via Twitter, Facebook and whatever other social media outlets people are into (Instagram, Vine, Snap Chat ect.).

Following the same guiding principle is the YouTube channel “5secondfilms”, which recently concluded a staggering five-year run of releasing a new five-second video every day monday through friday. By my very rough calculations, that means that the talented folks behind the channel have collectively churned out well over 1000 videos.

Here is a 3-minute video put together by Cracked.com that showcases their picks for the top-25 5secondfilms:

Whats even more impressive about each video is that each film establishes the scene, characters and relationships all within the parameters of being only five seconds long. The humour is often dark and shocking (no point in being subtle when you’ve only got five seconds to get a reaction), but what I always enjoyed the most about each five second film was both the entirely random nature of clicking on the latest video not knowing what you were going to get, and the waffling production quality.

Now, it could be said that, in the same way that video killed the radio star, perhaps Vine killed 5secondfilms. Suddenly, what was once an entirely novel idea (telling a story or joke in 5 seconds) is accessible to anyone with a smartphone. I don’t know if I believe that as much as I believe that it’s hard to come up with five unique stories or jokes to write, film and edit every week… Even if they’re all going to last only five seconds long.

Breaking from their format for their finale farewell, the team produced a two-part epic (for a production team known for 5-second-films, at least…) which you can watch below:

(might be worth a quick binge-watch of EVERY FIVE SECOND FILM so you get all the references…)

 

BONUS: If you’re really digging the style of their videos and are now bummed that you only found out about them now that they’ve stopped making new ones, I should inform you that the crew has moved over to Uproxx, where they are producing weekly content that is longer than five seconds.

Like this sweet music video:

And we’re BACK! And so is Bo Burnham with a new comedy special!

Happy New Years, people who follow this blog. First, some housekeeping… Sorry for the lack of updates at the end of 2013. The worst part was that there was a WHOLE BUNCH of really hilarious stuff I should have been blogging about, but my emphasis on quality over quantity evidentally led to neither… I will do my very best to keep it updated weekly with whatever had me LOLing or ROFLing or whatever the kids these days are using in texts.

I will also be attempting to hit one (or more) open mic stages around the city to flex my comedic muscle, so I’ll definitely keep you in the loop on that so everyone can come on down and watch me squirm for 3-5 minutes.

Anyways, for this post, I wanted to talk about Bo Burnham. Bo is a very young comedian who was one of the early YouTube contributors. He created the ‘boburnham’ channel in 2006 at the tender age of 16-years-old, and has made a name for himself by playing piano and singing cleverly written (but generally politically incorrect) songs via a webcam in his room.

Here’s the video that started it all:

That was from 2006, which is basically 50 internet years ago!  Since that initial video (Which has almost 8 million views!), he’s released four comedy albums, a book, and two comedy specials.

His latest special, “what.”, was released on YouTube and Netflix on December 17, and is perhaps the best comedy special of 2013.  He pushes boundaries by occasionally wading into crude or politically incorrect territory. His comedy stylings are certainly not for everyone, but to see the growth over the past 7 years as a writer, comedian and performer is quite remarkable. “what.” is like nothing you’ve ever seen before, and Burnham will surprise you at every turn.

I’ve imbedded the YouTube video below. As might be expected, Burnham doesn’t shy away from offensive language or subject matter, but it never comes across as malicious or vulgar simply for the sake of being vulgar. The special, nearly from start to finish, maintains frantic pacing that sets it apart from anything you’ve ever seen on a comedy stage.

(BONUS EDIT: Bo wins at the internet. Probably my favourite Vine.)

The best Star Wars reviews you’ll ever watch…

Firstly, Happy Halloween everybody. I know it’s technically two days after Halloween, but since it fell in the middle of the week, I think we get to celebrate it both the weekend before and the weekend after… SWEET.

This year, I put together a Han Solo costume.

Following along with the Star Wars theme, I feel compelled to share perhaps my favourite YouTube series produced by RedLetterMedia. Created by independent filmmaker Mike Stoklasa, RedLetterMedia’s most famous videos are its sci-fi reviews, which are channelled through a character of Stoklasa’s creation: Harry S. Plinkett.

I could describe Plinkett, but that would ruin most of the fun. Plinkett reviews the prequel Star Wars films in epic, almost feature-length videos; the review for Phantom Menace clocks in at nearly 70 minutes. That might seem a tad excessive, but trust me when I say that Stoklasa blends absurdly dark humour with a very intelligent argument as to why the prequels are an abomination to not only the Star Wars franchise, but to filmmaking in general.

You can checkout the Phantom Menace, Clone Wars and Revenge of the Sith reviews on their website, or through their YouTube channel. I’ve also embedded part one of the Phantom Menace review below. Check it out!