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Dead Poet

Farewell, O Captain, my Captain (Fanpop)

Oh me! Oh life! of the questions of these recurring,

Of the endless trains of the faithless, of cities fill’d with the foolish,

Of myself forever reproaching myself, (for who more foolish than I, and who more faithless?)

Of eyes that vainly crave the light, of the objects mean, of the struggle ever renew’d,

Of the poor results of all, of the plodding and sordid crowds I see around me,

Of the empty and useless years of the rest, with the rest me intertwined,

The question, O me! so sad, recurring—What good amid these, O me, O life?

That you are here—that life exists and identity,

That the powerful play goes on, and you may contribute a verse.

-Walt Whitman

I can’t believe he’s gone.

Around noon yesterday, police found the lifeless body of beloved actor Robin Williams in his Tiburon, California home. According to the most recent reports, he died of asphyxiation, the victim of an apparent suicide.

Like millions of other fans around the world, I am in complete and utter shock.

I mean, I knew Williams struggled with depression after surviving addictions to both cocaine and alcohol. I just didn’t know things had gotten so bad that he would take his own life as a result. And now the world he once filled with joy and laughter seems a little darker and more depressing now that he’s gone.

Williams and Dawber in “Mork & Mindy” (Universal Press)

Robin Williams first endeared himself to me in the television show Mork & Mindy, a spin-off of one of my other favorite shows of the late 1970s and early 1980s, Happy Days. He was quirky, energetic and downright hilarious. And it certainly didn’t hurt to have the sexy, high-waisted Pam Dawber at his side, either. I give her credit for planting the seed that eventually turned me into an ass man, but that’s neither here nor there.

During his career, Williams starred in some of the greatest and most entertaining films ever made, including Good Morning, Vietnam, The Fisher King, Mrs. Doubtfire, Hook and one of my personal favorites, The World According to Garp—an adaptation of my favorite John Irving novel. After being nominated for three Academy Awards, he finally took Oscar home for his performance in 1997’s Good Will Hunting—a film that also won golden statuettes for screenwriters Ben Affleck and Matt Damon.

Of course, it was Williams’ role in 1989’s Dead Poets Society that inspired me the most. As English professor John Keating, Williams encouraged students at an elite all-boys school to “seize the day” and to “suck the marrow” out of life. At the time, I had just graduated from high school and planned to attend college as a criminal justice major. However, thanks to Professor Keating and some other influential instructors, I soon changed my major to English and have never looked back. Thanks for that, Robin.

Oh yeah… it didn’t hurt that Williams and I shared the same home town, either: Chicago, Illinois.

Losing such a great talent is never easy, even though none of us really knew the man behind some of our most beloved characters. Robin Williams brought laughter to everyone he encountered—both on- and off-screen—and for fans who grew up with him—like me—it seems as if a family member has passed. Life just won’t be the same without him—and for now, the joy and laughter he once provided have been replaced by tears and sorrow.

Rest easy, my old friend. I miss you already.

Big Banging

The men of Big Bang always keep me laughing! (MidnaVocaloid/CBS)

The men of Big Bang always keep me laughing! (MidnaVocaloid/CBS)

I know that I’m a little behind since this news broke last month, but I want to give a quick “shout out” to the cast, writers and crew of arguably the best sitcom on television: The Big Bang Theory.

In March, CBS announced that it had renewed the popular comedy for three more years, effectively extending its life until 2017. Doing so actually made television history since TBBT became the first modern scripted program to be renewed for this length of time.

Granted, Comedy Central did the same for Tosh.0—which I suppose qualifies as a cable show rather than one on a major network—but let’s face it: Tosh.0 is no Big Bang Theory. I enjoy it, mind you, but I never wait for new episodes with the same excitement and anticipation as I do for Sheldon, Leonard, Penny and the rest of the Big Bang crowd.

So kudos, Big Bang, for making television history and—more importantly—thanks for providing us all with hilarious and intelligent entertainment. I know that I’ll be watching for the next three years… and perhaps even longer.

 

In Honor of Harold

Ramis in his early years (Second City)

Yesterday morning, the world lost a truly amazing talent, a comic genius and an all-around great person—actor, writer and director Harold Ramis—who passed away from complications resulting from autoimmune inflammatory vasculitis, a condition he battled for years. He was 69 years old.

Many remember Ramis as the quirky and nerdy Dr. Egon Spengler from two of his best known films, Ghostbusters and Ghostbusters II. Others remember him as the foil to Bill Murray in Stripes, another Ramis classic. But the man who appeared on-screen was only a small part of who Ramis really was— it was his off-screen success that truly changed the face of comedy.

Ramis’ journey to comic greatness began in the late 1960s and early 1970s. After working a variety of jobs—as a substitute school teacher, freelance writer for the Chicago Daily News and joke editor for Playboy magazine—he began studying and performing with Chicago’s Second City improvisational comedy troupe. Ramis left the troupe briefly and was replaced by another famous comedy performer—the great John Belushi—but returned in 1972 with friend and collaborator Bill Murray.

Together with Belushi, Murray and others—among them Christopher Guest and Gilda Radner—Ramis starred in The National Lampoon Show and eventually became a performer and head writer for SCTV, a direct competitor of another well-known comedy show, Saturday Night Live. And though acting would always have a place in his life, it was writing and directing that truly showcased Ramis’ talents.

Ramis with Bill Murray and Dan Aykroyd in Ghostbusters (Columbia Pictures)

Among the films Ramis is best known for—aside from those already mentioned—are some of my favorite comedies of all time: National Lampoon’s Animal House, Groundhog Day, Meatballs, Back to School, Caddyshack, National Lampoon’s Vacation and Club Paradise, to name a few. And with a resume like that, how could he not be great?

Ramis’ long-time friend and colleague—Dan Aykroyd—reacted to the news of his death on Facebook: “Deeply saddened to hear of the passing of my brilliant, gifted, funny friend, co-writer/performer and teacher Harold Ramis. May he now get the answers he was always seeking.” Steve Carell worked with Ramis on The Office and described him as “funny, gracious [and] kind-hearted,” all words that only scratch the surface of this great man and the joy he brought to so many.

Yes, Monday was a sad day for entertainment, but I feel an even deeper sense of loss since I grew up with Harold Ramis and his films. And I’m sure there are plenty of others who feel the same. It’s always sad to lose a great talent—especially one who brought laughter into the lives of so many—but it’s worse to lose a great human being… and that’s precisely what Harold Ramis was.

Rest in peace, my friend. I miss you already.

Pop-Up Post: What Up with Chappelle?

Could Dave be unraveling again? (Mavsfan99)

It was June 2004 in Sacramento, California when popular comedian Dave Chappelle walked off the stage during a stand-up show and only returned to berate his audience of Chappelle’s Show fans.

You know why my show is good? Because the network officials say you’re not smart enough to get what I’m doing, and every day I fight for you. I tell them how smart you are. Turns out, I was wrong. You people are stupid.

Less than a year later, Chappelle stunned everyone by suddenly walking off the set of his show’s third season production and taking an impromptu trip to South Africa. He claimed to be unhappy with the direction his show was taking and needed to clear his head.

Coming here I don’t have the distractions of fame. It quiets the ego down. I’m interested in the kind of person I’ve got to become. I want to be well-rounded and the industry is a place of extremes. I want to be well-balanced. I’ve got to check my intentions, man.

Fortunately, Chappelle recovered and eventually returned to the stand-up scene. This year he is even part of the Funny or Die Oddball Comedy Tour, which also features Flight of the Conchords, John Mulaney and Kristen Schaal.

Chappelle doing stand-up, his passion (SMG)

Things had been going well for Chappelle, but then came Thursday night and a show in Hartford, Connecticut. And in many ways, it was as if history suddenly repeated itself.

During his set, Chappelle started to get heckled by several audience members, most of them drunk white males. Shouts of “You suck!” and “What the f–k is going on here?” echoed through the stadium. And judging from some of the cell phone videos of the incident, a number of audience members started to leave, as well.

Chappelle was clearly affected and basically sat down to smoke a cigarette while his contractually obligated 25 minutes passed.

I only have three minutes left. And when my three minutes is up, my ass is gone. I’m going straight to the bank and doing night deposit.

And with that—and the booming sound of Kanye West’s “New Slaves” accompanying him—Chappelle was gone.

I don’t know about you, but I’m starting to get a little worried about Dave… again.

What up, DC?

Louis Ck Clears Name In Daniel Tosh Rape Joke Controversy| E! Online

English: Daniel Tosh at Boston University

Daniel Tosh at Boston University (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Louis Ck Clears Name In Daniel Tosh Rape Joke Controversy| E! Online.

I like Daniel Tosh.

He’s edgy, fearless and funny as hell.

Of course, I don’t condone rape jokes and certainly wouldn’t support the heckling of an audience member with something as offensive as “Wouldn’t it be funny if she was raped by 5 guys right now?”

However, I completely understand why this happened and, in my view, we have only ourselves to blame.

With so much technology dominating our lives and so many distractions, it’s becoming increasingly difficult for entertainers like Tosh to set themselves apart. And we all know that shock sells.

It also gets you tons of publicity. And what’s that old adage? Even bad publicity is good. Sure, there are likely people who stopped listening to Tosh and watching his show Tosh.0 because of this rape joke, but I’m sure others were drawn to him instead. It’s the way of the world.

So before you start hating someone like Daniel Tosh, take a moment to think about why his comedy is so extreme. Would we really notice him if it wasn’t?

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