Right now I’m enjoying a cable comma. And one of my favorite parts of cable is looking at how they are programming channels. To me HBO is shot right now, nothing interesting whatsoever, given I hate Curb Your Enthusiasm, and find Larry David about as unfunny as they come.. The channel I constantly find myself coming back to is Retroplex. The constantly have classics from the 50s, 60s, 70s, and 80s. Check out tonight’s line-up:
Sunday, November 29th
Fast Times At Ridgemont High 8:00 pm
National Lampoon’s Animal House 9:35 pm
Richard Pryor Live On The Sunset Strip 11:30 pm
And looking ahead they have Kiss Me Deadly (1958), On the Beach (1955), and Beat Street (1984). What more could you want out of a channel? Last night I stumbled across High Anxiety (1977) on Retroplex, and it is definitely one of the most underrated Mel Brooks film. His spoofs on Hitchcock are fun, and what I like about Brooks is he is willing to throw out as much schlock as he can think up, knowing at least some of it will stick—and it does. But my favorite scene from High Anxiety (a film I haven’t seen since we first got cable back in the late 70s) is Mel Brooks cum lounge singer. “ZZZiety!”
Brilliant, cable saved my life.
A post about this has been gestating, but in the mean time I’ll say that I can’t believe that in a single post you dismiss Larry David while embracing Mel Brooks. Curb is perhaps the last bastion of a kind of zany and slightly mean Jewish humor of which Mel Brooks was the high master. High Anxiety may be outside of the trajectory I’m discussing, but only barely. Check out this interview with Brooks and Carl Reiner from a couple weeks ago.. Then check out this clip from this season on Curb. There’s a continuity there, and though I find talking about why something’s funny akin to dancing about architecture, David’s humor is bursting at the seams with a tradition that I fear my kids as they age will only be able to access through archives.
Yeah, that scene with Larry David gets a everything I dislike about Curb Your Enthusiasm. Like Brooks he’s always acting and it’s always apparent, but unlike Brooks he’s not really funny which just makes it painful.
His gags fall flat because he seems to be too consciously relying on the Jewish tradition of comedy of the 70s and 80s (thinking Brooks and Allen here) rather than doing anything new with it. He is in many ways an unfortunate end to that shtick, and highlights for me just how much better Brooks was.
Sorry, but a tradition always has the good and bad within it, and liking Brooks by no means necessitates me pandering for Larry David. He’s a hack.
Nothing new with it? His show locates that tradition of humor within a contemporary context and a bizarre world of fame, money, power, and politics, which provides ample ammunition for the absurdism necessary for the funny. David also plays more directly and dangerously with race in ways that Brooks only tried in Blazing Saddles and Allen has never touched. I’ll admit he doesn’t always pull it off– some of the race stuff is cringe inducing with no payoff– but there simply aren’t any other worthwhile voices like his out there (save Jon Stewart), and I’m glad this show exists compared to the monumental crap that passes for comedy elsewhere on tv.
Having SAID that, I would never put him at the Brooks/Allen level as an innovator– who is, outside of Pryor? That’s a red herring. But, like Billy Crystal & Seinfeld, he echoes and plays within their tradition in the sitcom format. Didn’t you ever watch The Five Wood, or The Contest? And how can’t the phrase “Bar Misfitted” uttered by J Smoove in that context be funny??
You want bad in that tradition? Try Jackie Mason.
ah, Groom… sometimes I want to drop to my knees and shake my fist at the heavens for how unlucky in aesthetics you are 🙂
On that topic, _A Serious Man_ wholly and completely guts your Coen Bros thesis. You and Leslie will have to come up with something better!
I was going to recommend you catch up on the last 3 seasons of “Big Love” before it starts up again in January on HBO, but that was before I saw @fncll throwing down over the Coens. Funnily enough, I have “No Country” cued up for a 3rd viewing tonight (masochist that I am) and will undoubtedly fork over my hard earned cash for “A Serious Man,” despite the fact that I have absolutely NO doubt it will simply confirm the Coen’s as the bankrupt-of-empathy masterful po-mo manipulators of plot they really are.
@sleslie what kind of hat do you have? Wear something tasty ’cause you’re going to be eating it!
@fncll If it is more of the same “Burn after Reading” drivel, spare me. The Coen Brothers are quickly becoming self-cannibalizing hacks, constantly regurgitating the same work (devaluing their good stuff) and boring the bava. But I will see their next film, and I will wear a hat to the theater as well. In fact, I’ll wear this hat:
It could be more different from Burn After Reading (which I didn’t like), but I’m not sure how. You and @sleslie are so going to be buying me beer…