Janeane Garofalo & The Road Taken

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JANEANE GAROFALO & THE ROAD TAKEN

 

               Janeane speaks with a huge vocabulary.  She’s one of the most serious comedians you’ll experience.  She’ll jump from speaking about important social issues to apologizing for how people may perceive her.  I first saw her on Comedy Central.  She was young.  She was taking about being on the phone with a parent and the parent wanting the noise in the background to be turned down.  It was R.E.M.  She finds this strange and ironic, not thinking of R.E.M. as a loud band.  Later in her life she speaks of leaving another alternative band’s show, Weezer, because it was too loud.  She repeats, too loud, for comic effect.  Her life is a circular joke.

               Kim Sun-myung’s (Kim Joong-ki) life was more serious.  He was a North Korean soldier, imprisoned for 44 years.  The original title of the film is The Choice.  Sun-myung could have left the prison and avoided over four decades of mistreatment.  His communist beliefs were the only things the South Koreans (and the U.S.) wanted him to denounce.  They’re still calling people socialists today.  I even call myself a socialist.  It’s good to be in my country at this time.  Not everyone is this lucky.

               Janeane calls herself a peace activist, an atheist and she’s very vocal in the liberal movement.  Rarely are comedians non-vocal.  Poor mimes.  Well anyway, she is one of my first favorites.  Her insecurities seem to not get in the way of her getting on stage and being in many successful television shows & films even though her father’s skull is trapped in a bowling ball.

               We stay in the cell with Kim Sun-myung and his friends.  I enjoy the film because of its rarity.  North Korean are usually not portrayed correctly, or just found in spy and war films.  They were and are people with lives and dreams, not faceless enemies being shot or sliced with swords.  They each get pulled out one by one, once in a while for a chance to change their thoughts and be free.  How can you be free if you’ve been forced to change your thoughts?

               Opinions aside I want to take a second to talk about Bathroom Monkey.  Wait, no, though that was hilarious, my favorite non-stand-up performance came from Janeane in Sweethearts.  A film for people who don’t need happy endings, it starred fellow stand-ups Bobcat Goldthwait and Margaret Cho.  It’s about a romantic night for a suicidal woman.  My lungs kind of give out as I watch the end, as the sun rises.  Of course no one pays attention to a piece of art like this.  Much better than any dog-pulled roller skates role.  Janeane doesn’t take acclaim as well as others though, so I’ll cut this essay short. 

               Kim Sun-myung watched many North Koreans come and go in his 44 years, as one would expect.  He never threw his ideals away though.  People were beaten over and over.  People died in prison, but it didn’t deter him.  He listened as unification seemed a possibility and then faded away. 

               He was finally released back to North Korea in the late 90’s after amnesty international put some light on him as the longest-serving political prisoner in the entire world.  In the late 90’s films like this probably would not have been made in South Korea.  A few years later it was made, nothing censored.  Times change when voices unite.  So if you really want a world full of hate and war, please keep voting for it, or not at all.  Until then peace activists like Janeane will speak loudly, without the big stick.  Maybe you’ll need us one day when all the guns and bombs don’t work.

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Kevin Nealon & A Brand New Life

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KEVIN NEALON & A BRAND NEW LIFE

 

     A guy writes a book from his own perspective during his wife’s pregnancy, while a young girl is given away to an orphanage.

     I used to think adopting was the way to go.  I love kids, but I don’t think the world needs more of them.  There are lots of children.  I never understood paying though.  I mean, I’m taking the kid.  You should pay me!  I could have one for free.  I guess I can grow tomatoes for free or buy them.   I’m talking myself out of my own point, while A Brand New Life is making me think that adoption is horrible.

     Dana Carvey said, hey man, I can’t do this Pump You Up stuff alone.  You need this guy Kevin Nealon.  He’s tall and super calm.  He’s been on Carson.  These aren’t exact quotes, but a nine year career was born.

     Ounie Lecomte’s personal project really captured me.  It’s about her real experiences being given away to an orphanage and adopted abroad like many Korean children.  The camera is always on the level of the heartbreakingly fragile Jin-hee (Kim Sae-ron).  This isn’t a film about anything except her confusion and pain over being given away by her thoughtless father (a cameo by Sol Kyung-gu).   

     Yes, you’re pregnant, but what about me?  This is the question asked by Kevin Nealon.  He decided to write a book, rarely written.  The thoughts of a man as his wife is pregnant.  As women read and obsess about their upcoming pregnancy, most men do not.  Nothing is happening to them.  They are busy getting a second job or running away and then impregnating someone else like a human dog.  Kevin is a pretty different guy, a very unique comic.  He’s serene like a Hawaiian breeze.  He’s done his stand up laying down.  That’s relaxed!  It’s probably all the subliminal messages that make me like KOREAN FILMS his act so much.

     Adopting a baby must be much different than a nine-year old girl, but that was my plan when I was younger.  I considered how great it would be to know the human I was buying.  I want the one with the glasses and the book!  There are some girls at the orphanage that are well versed in English and are totally selling themselves, but people want Jin-hee.  She’s adorable.  She’s the one you can’t have.  Of course not, her father is coming back.  This is just a vacation.  The original title of the film is Traveler.  I don’t know how a child deals with abandonment issues.  Even when new parents are wonderful, you still must wonder who gave you away and why.  To start again would be too much.

     In the mid-80’s Kevin Nealon made is way to the Tonight Show with Johnny Carson.  He still calls this one of the (if not the) proudest moments of his career that goes on to this day.  On the show he’s a bit speedier, the energy of youth and probably the stress of being on the famous talk show.  There is a point where he’s telling a story and has a map.  The map isn’t the correct map though.  The act becomes some of the most intellectual prop comedy I’ve ever seen as he folds the map a bit and it instantly becomes the shape of Nevada.  The comedy of Kevin Nealon is a bit off, but that is always a positive factor for me.  Off is my on.

     The success of Brand New Life abroad will be helped considering the short length of the film.  It’s rare to even find a less than two hour comedy, let alone a drama.  Ounie is a woman of two worlds and they collide well.  Her decisions, though personally driven, are thoughtful and pull you in well.  Though as Jin-hee makes a friend and starts to adapt you know by the end, with her foreign adoption, that there will always be a small hole in her heart.

     I enjoyed Kevin Nealon’s book.  It’s good to hear a male’s voice, a male who not only wanted to have a child, but planned it out.  Everything in his life seems rather thoughtful.  When he sucker punches you in comedy you smile.  He’s hitting you in the head and not the kidney.

 

David Cross & Save the Green Planet!

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DAVID CROSS & SAVE THE GREEN PLANET!

 

     Can any one person save us?  How active and aggressive does one have to get when no one is listening?  How soon before everyone thinks you’re just a lunatic and stops listening?  How soon before you agree and give up forever?

     A bee-keeper and possible mannequin maker named Lee Byung-gu  (character actor Shin Ha-kyun) kidnaps a wealthy businessman.  Lee knows the man is an alien.  His research is extensive.  He’s assisted by his chubby circus performing girlfriend Su-ni (Hwang Jung-min).  She’s like a child with dolls and an affinity for the song Over the Rainbow.   There are ways to get an alien to talk and they’re both about to go to work.

     David Cross’s early openings can be equally interesting.  Sometimes he acts like a redneck who hates acts like his own, especially “potty mouth”.  Sometimes he sings a Vegas show tune about his act that tangents into commentary about cosmonauts.  Every act I’ve ever heard has been different, but something remains the same.  David is a satirical agent for progressive change and has been for many years.

     It isn’t long before the drugs he’s (not David Cross, but I can see how you might be confused) taking and the torture starts to get to Byung-gu’s girlfriend.  She leaves sadly.  The love loss is no distraction.  The alien has plans to destroy our planet.  Before anything, the alien’s head is shaved.  That’s how he can communicate with the others.

     David Cross pops up in movies like Sarah Silverman,  usually a role where he’s playing a horrible person of some kind.  He’s well known for Mr. Show, a sketch program that was like no other.  Each sketch connected to the next and often the whole show was a circle.  Co-hosted by Bob Odenkirk (Abe Lincoln) and co-written by Bill Odenkirk, Jay Johnston, Brian Posehn and others with long names, it was a cult hit.  That means it was cancelled too quickly after being put on HBO very late at night.  There was even a really funny film that had so many problems even David and Bob gave up on it before it made it to DVD.  It gave me an old fashioned kick in the cunt.

     Lee Byung-gu’s life is violent and tragic.  His mother is in a coma and the alien Kang Man-shik (played by zen master with a similar name Baek Yun-shik) is partly responsible.  His first girlfriend was beaten to death in workers’ strike.  His mother killed his father.  Lee Byung-gu’s dog eats his past test subjects.  Each one he finds is not an alien.  When a suspicious detective arrives and finds nothing, on the way out he sees a human bone with the dog.  Honey, gravity and bees dispatch yet another in the way of saving the green planet.

     David will be my hero for long stretches of his act, but then as the audience laughs less and less, he switches gears into something low-brow or silly.  I think this happens with a lot of intelligent comics.  Some comedians know their audience and fully pander.  Some know their audience and semi-pander.  But I feel like David doesn’t what to.  He almost yells at them and himself at the same time.  What the fuck is this political stuff?  I came here to laugh!  His book seemed the perfect time to throw it all out there.  It’s a different audience.  I was actually a bit disappointed.  Some parts were really funny, I love the Mafia game.  I just think he’s more intelligent than some of the material.  I’ve been listening a long time.

     The alien tells of a cure for Lee Byung-gu’s mother.  He uses the time to break free and finds himself going through the journals of his disturbed host.  It saddens him.  As he’s about to be freed Lee Byung-gu returns.  His mother is dead and he has nothing left.  The businessman tells the story of our creation as if he were an alien.  It’s unknown if he does this from the journals or because it’s true.

     Sub Pop is a well-known Seattle music label.  It released Nirvana’s first album as well as Soundgarden, being an important label for the grunge genre.  Then suddenly, David Cross and a few other comedians were released on it.  I thought it was really cool.  There is a saying: Comedians all want to be rock stars and rock stars want to destroy Napster.  Sorry still bitter.  Often comedians find themselves self-releasing their comedy or on very tiny labels.  Sub Pop, even if it has changed its principles, was a well-deserved step for a talented artist.  I just hope for less Chipmunks and more satire.

     It’s all a satire, the aliens, the torture, the blowing up of Earth to the saddest ending theme ever (Lee Dong-jun is phenomenally talented).  It’s about working conditions, gangsters beating striking workers to death.  It’s about our never-ending violence that will ultimately destroy us.  A television, the opiate of the masses, flies out into space when the Earth blown up.  It suddenly shows scenes of Lee Byung-gu’s youth.  There is good here.  We later learn to kill.  We learn that money is everything; it’s the society we vote for every few years.

     David is at a David crossroads.  I just feel it.  It’s easy for him to stop.  Eddie Murphy just has to clock in.  The paycheck is guaranteed no matter the script.  If you’re at a show, and David Cross starts screaming at himself again, stand up and say this please:  “No, wait, please go on.  We’re listening this time.  Hell, some of us might even do something.” 

     If you simply get thrown out, I apologize. 

Charles Fleschier & Someone Special

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CHARLES FLESCHIER & SOMEONE SPECIAL

 

     Seemingly a comedian has just walked on stage.  Seemingly another Korean rom- com has started.  The difference is in the writing, the thoughts, the strangeness.

     Most of you will know Charles Fleschier from his voice, rather than his face.  Even then his voice is pretty odd and different from what you know.  He voiced Roger Rabbit, a groundbreaking hybrid of real life meets animation and Warner Brothers meets Disney.  This has never been done before and hasn’t been done since (though there may be a sequel).

     Someone Special (A Girl I Know) is written and directed by Jang Jin.  Never one to cuddle with clichés (except the film being a remake of a Bob Hope film from the 30’s), the movie is a hybrid of a traditional romantic comedy and a satire of it.  He brings along Jung Jae-Yung, who is in most of his projects, and the model Lee Na-Yung, who loves to make herself appear average or worse.  They are two perfect character actors that really should have done more work together.  Lee Na-Yung seems to make one film per leading man.

     What is Charles Fleschier?  Is he a scientist?  Maybe a mad scientist, throwing out moleeds at you.  Is this what you paid for?  Charles makes you think in all sorts of ways, possibly trying to connect, hoping your brain will do a third of the work his is doing all the time.  He’s in his sixties and still as hyper as an animated rabbit.

     After some fantastic screaming, the catalyst being his girlfriend leaving him, Dong Chi-Sung (Jae-Yung)’s nose starts bleeding.  The doctor tells him he’s going to die pretty soon.  He’s a baseball player, but not the professional he used to be.  He has nothing to do, but drink in Han Yi-yun’s (Na-yung) bar.  He wakes in her home after she carries him there in a bag.

     Charles Fleschier is that post office employee that is about to go postal in Demon Knight.  He’s a possible (and creeeeeepy) suspect in Zodiac.  He’s over eighty more characters, but his most interesting is himself.  He’s one of the few comedians I’ve ever seen play a harmonica and keep me hypnotized.  He’s making connections and scaring people away at the same time.  I think he’s just fun.

     When a man thinks he’s going to die he does some pretty crazy things.  There are many tear-jerking romantic comedies in Korea where one (or both) members of a couple are going to die.  They grow to love each other, we grow to love them and then they’re taken away from all of us.  Jang Jin seems to look at this concept like a Zucker brother.  There’s room to poke fun and room to improve.  The secret is this film is so good, I’m surprised to no else thought of it (except the in the 30’s).  In this way the film is something special.

     By the way, if you find yourself really connecting to what I’m saying please call me, my number is oot oot oot – oot oot oot oot.  Area code oot oot oot.