STEVE MARTIN & THE CUSTOMER IS ALWAYS RIGHT

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               As I child I loved Steve Martin, the man in white with an arrow through his head.  As I grew older I felt he followed the path of Eddie Murphy (they would even work together in Bowfinger).  He was this energetic, hilarious guy on television, movies and records who, as he aged, became something else.  He began making watered-down family entertainment.  Maybe that’s what everyone does.  I felt like I was his audience though.  Shouldn’t he care what I want?  Writing this book I decided to give every comedian a real chance.  I listened to him read Born Standing Up with hope.

               The Customer is Always Right begins with an awkward scene of a chubby older man named Ahn Chang-jin and a schoolgirl.  The saying “The Customer is Always Right” gets a lot of visual ridicule throughout the film.  I have always had a problem with it.  I understand it.  There is no successful business without the customer, but a line may be crossed.  Sung Ju-ru plays Chang-jin, a barber.  The schoolgirl he’s with is prostituting herself, but he’s never going to get that far.  She runs away with Chang-jin’s money.  It’s a strange beginning as the barber believes his life is perfect.  He’s a perfectionist at his trade and has a wonderful wife, seemingly.  A gangster played by Myung Gye-nam is about to change his life forever and put the philosophy of the film’s title to the test.

               Steve Martin was a comedian before comedy clubs existed.  He focused his lack of commercial talents into an avant-garde act.  Rick Moranis called it anti-comedy.  Though I started out feeling a distance between us, I felt pulled in while Steve Martin read his own exquisite words recalling his epic life.  Steve studied comedy and broke down what he should and shouldn’t do.  And he often did both.  I started to realize that he was two people, the man and the man on stage.

               The Customer is Always Right feels like a stage play.  The shots aren’t boring, they are the creativity that comes from being in a box.  Kang Yang-gil (Gye-nam) has come in for a shave and some money.  He’s witnessed a hit and run.  It was the barber’s car.  He’s not happy with just one visit either, he’s going to make many.  Paying for his shave and then making the barber pay for his mistake.  He’s going to take whatever he wants.  Even the barber’s wife.

               There is a certain woman I’d love to talk about right at this moment.  Ellen DeGeneres probably has an idea of who I’m talking about as well.  I will not mention her name though.  She was such a crazy liar she had to write two books about it.  Sympathy for Mr. Martin and Sympathy for Mrs. DeGeneres.  Moving on.

               When Chang-jin tries to stand up for himself there is a frightening scene where he is slapped and slapped and slapped like he was an incompetent gangster.  He’s slapped until there is a red face and tears.  The anger melts to the whimpers of a child.  There is no way out of this hell.  One mistake that he’ll literally pay for forever.  The scene is not uncommon and a detective is hired to slowly unravel the real identity of Myung Gye-nam.  At this point in the film, you may also begin to put the clues together.

               Every comedian starts out with heroes and looking for identities.  Before his joyous happy feet and the surreal thoughts surrounding “getting small” Steven Martin was a magician.  He was an intellectual magician, an intellectual comedian, an intellectual writer and actor.  He was breaking the whole process down.  What works, what doesn’t.  Becoming what needed to be.  I fear writing this, I’ve written for so long and Steve’s words bury me.  Some author’s large vocabularies come from expensive editors and an explosion of thesaurus use.  With Steve, it’s real.  I’ve felt him becoming his old self as he quoted his own jokes and I see things differently.

               Myung Gye-nam is playing himself.  I will never forget him because of this film.  He often plays a small role and is in many gangster films.  His daughter has been hit by the barber’s car.  It has nothing to do with the prostitute at all, in fact, the barber’s wife was behind the hit and run. Gye-nam only wants insurance money that will come from his death.  He plays his final role in real life attempting to drive a man into homicidal madness.  He needs an accident for the insurance to pay off, maybe a slip of the razor.  That will pay for what his daughter needs.  In the end, Chang-jin rescues his sign and places back on the wall, The Customer is Always Right.

               Steve Martin is a wonderful writer.  Considering all he’s done in the entertainment industry there is nothing to not be proud of.  If he’s doing what he wants and he’s happy now, it matters little what you or I think.  I can always go back and watch or listen to what I enjoy.  I can watch The Jerk.  I can understand the past, present and future of Mr. Martin on a new level.  The only person that is right is the person who is harming no one and is happy inside.  I can do my own happy feet if I need to … and I think … I … will!

Emo Philips & My Scary Girl

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EMO PHILIPS & MY SCARY GIRL

 

               I’d like to talk more about I’m a Cyborg but that’s okay, I won’t.  It’s not that Emo is crazy, it’s just I’m a Cyborg, but That’s Okay is such a lovely film.  And Emo is crazy.  Voted most popular in his ward, though admittedly, the imaginary friends’ votes shouldn’t be counted.  Anyway, I decided to choose something unique with subtle violence, something that made me happy.  My Scary Girl (My Sweet, Yet Brutal, Sweetheart) also fits that description.

               Emo Philips, I probably first saw him in UHF.  He cut off his own finger with a table saw and sprayed blood all over “Weird” Al.  He was just talking about how careful you have to be and then Town Talk’s George Newman screams.  Emo is not so emotional.  “I think it’s on the floor somewhere.  Is my face red.”  That’s Emo.  Violence and puns.  If you have a problem with that, I’ll stuff you in a giant kimchi fridge.

               My Scary Girl begins with a teacher named Dae-woo (Park Yong-woo).  He’s fine with his lonely life.  No, really.  Everything changes, though, when he’s morally forced to help an old delivery man with a large appliance.  He finds himself resting because of his bad back and looks around.  His new neighbor Lee Mi-na (Choi Kang-hee) seems cultured with intellectual interests.  She has no idea why Dae-woo is inside her new place, and he attempts to explain his intrusion with the delivery man magically out of sight.  He likes Mi-na.  Maybe our protagonist isn’t fine with his lonely life.

               I’d love to see Emo Phillips’ love matches.  He had a short marriage to Judy Tenuta, but he’s kind of the opposite of her type, straight with no muscles.  His hair used to look like Amelie (from Amelie) and his voice probably won’t be on anyone’s one’s Top Ten list concerning charisma.  It’s slow with each word pulled like taffy.  He takes little notice of how dark his material can get or how surreal as he plays with social norms.  It’s a web of educated weird and you’re stuck in it quickly.

               Having not done it, almost ever, Dae-woo loves to kiss.  We’re quickly moved by his infinite appreciation of Mi-na, but Dae-woo has no idea what he’s getting into when attempting to date her.  There is a nice symbolic back problem that he has when things aren’t going so well.  Like a headache or cracking your neck.  Mi-na has a secret that will stay bold.  Though she gets a bit sidetracked by the sweet English teacher, Mi-na is only in Dae-woo’s building to commit a murder.

               Though the amount of baby and child abuse, light-hearted racism and just plain darkness has gone up in the intellectual stand-up world, Emo was easily a pioneer of it.  Even that stated, it’s hard to look at any comedian and say, wow you’re like a young Emo Philips.  As he sings his jingle for a place called Downers Grove that had a contest, I consider it is impossible for smart people to perfectly contour themselves into society.  The rules must be bent to give life any interest at all.  The jingle ends with the loss of an eye, dragged away by way of a truckload of puns.

               Son Jae-gon’s My Scary Girl takes on romantic comedy with surgical precision, but in a slightly different way than a Jang Jin-style parody.  In the classic, My Boyfriend Is Type B, I was introduced to something I’d never heard about.  Blood type, like the month you were born, giving information about personality.  During a double date Dae-woo realizes that Mi-na knows nothing about art (one of her modern art prints is upside-down) and worse yet starts talking about blood typing.  Dae-woo is furious, knowing that besides it being a pseudo-science, eugenics is racist and has been abandoned by most of the world.  Everything about her starts to unravel.  In the end Dae-woo catches up with Mi-na after she has done a lot of body disposal in the mountains.  He meets her in Mina’s other more expensive apartment with a bullet-proof vest on.  Finding out who she is he finally leaves, but cries in the elevator.  “Why did it have to be so many?”  I love the idea that one death could be something he could work out.  He obviously loves Mi-na, just not the situation.

               Emo’s appearance is very different now, much like “Weird” Al.  In 2005 a joke he wrote was voted the best religious joke ever.  Sadly they didn’t credit him, so I won’t credit the people that had the contest.  Maybe they couldn’t find him, because he looks so different with his short grey hair and glasses.  You can him find at a website with a http://www.com as the bread and EmoPhilips as the crunchy peanut butter.  If you’re ever down you can push his random logic generator.  It’s better for you than an energy drink and hurts less than a slap in the face.

On lay over from a business trip in Singapore, Dae-woo runs into Mi-na two years later.  He thinks about her every time they find a body in the mountains.  Mi-na is on her way to Australia, she can’t risk returning to Korea.  Though fate brings them back to together, they probably won’t ever be a couple.  There is something personal that just happened that kills me when I think about it.  Life isn’t about the pieces that fit together.  It’s all the pieces from another puzzle that you just can’t throw away and you just can’t use.  You just put them back in the box with a sigh.

There is a glimmer of dark hope though.  Dae-woo says maybe they’ll meet again much later, though he’ll probably be with someone else.  Mi-na replies, “I’ll just kill her.”  She kisses Dae-woo and walks off.