Friday, November 30, 2007

Search Yourself


A simple idea to get the ball rolling on a new scene. Pick your favorite search engine - Yahoo, Google, Whatever - Dogpile is a good one because it combines several different search engines - and look up your name. You've done it before, now you are getting permission to do it. Create a character based on the people who share your name, but aren't you. Then build a scene around that character. If you have an unusual name and a search engine doesn't bring up anything not you, then try using variations of your name, such as Bill or Billy instead of William. Still nada? Then use the name of a parent or sibling or use your mother's maiden name. When searching my name, I come up with a professor who's an Internet librarian and another guy who's a jazz musician. I might build a scene using one or the other or combine the two. Good luck.


My brother Don turned me onto this rap genre parody by Jon Lajoie that's pretty funny. I thought at first it was just going to be a pal(er) imitation of "Lazy Sunday," but it stands on its own. Check it out. Contains some harsh language, so crank it up if you are at work.

Every Day Normal Guy Rap Song - Watch more free videos


Yesterday, I asked...

"Due to too little sunshine and exercise, a surprising number of U.S. children are contracting what?"

Nobody thought it was "Gout," "Vapors," or "Gamer's Thumb"
100% nailed it with "Rickets"

According to the Chicago Sun-Times, too little milk, sunshine and exercise is an anti-bone trifecta. For some kids, shockingly, it's leading to rickets, the scourge of the 19th century. But cases of full-blown rickets are just the red flag: Bone specialists say possibly millions of seemingly healthy children aren't building as much strong bone as they should, a gap that may leave them more vulnerable to bone-cracking osteoporosis later. Already there's evidence that U.S. children break their arms more often today than four decades ago, according to a Mayo Clinic study. Of course, I have to stick my two cents in about milk. I edited that part out from the question. I think milk is meant for cows and should only be drank by cows. What kids aren't getting is enough calcium, which is available in ample supply through many leafy green vegetables as well as broccoli, sweet potatoes and oranges. There. I'm off the dairy horse (or cow) now. I only used this question because I like the word "rickets."

Thursday, November 29, 2007

Countdown with Keith Olbermann

As a policy, I avoid writing about celebrity gossip. Why? I don't find it interesting and, as a satirical target, it's just too damn easy. Is it really that surprising and jaw-dropping to find out that pop and rock stars have drug problems? That television and film stars have shaky marriages? When I was a kid all the way through my 20's, I dreamed of becoming rich and famous. Now, I just dream of becoming well off and well known. There's no way I would want to be under the scrutiny that today's celebrities have to endure. I, myself, would be easily baited by the paparazzi and you would constantly see short viral videos of me trying to shove a camera up someone's ass. America's obsession with celebrity is morbid. It's what fuels the phenomenon of untalented people becoming famous just for who they are, be they rich socialites or criminals who love the camera. And you can't blame the media on this one. Not entirely. That would be shooting the messenger. It's like the Iraq war. If we didn't fund it, it wouldn't be happening.

Why do I bring this up? Well, Don Hall has turned me into a huge fan of Countdown with Keith Olbermann. It's on MSNBC Monday through Friday at 7pm and at 11pm, Central Time. If you have been needing a Daily Show/Colbert Report fix since the writer's strike started, this is the show to watch. Olbermann is intelligent, cutting, insightful and informative. He is particularly at his best when aiming beautiful and poisonous editorials at the current administration's shredding of the constitution. People we have entrusted with running the country are worthy targets. Not celebrities and their personal lives. Unless they wander into the political arena.

And as much of a supporter and fan that I am of Olbermann, he will, without fail, disappoint me once or twice a week by devoting the number one story to Britney Spears. For the other stories, he often brings in a well-respected journalist or expert to (often) humorously explore the story. With Britney (or Paris, or Lindsay, or fill-in-the-blank), he usually pulls a VH-1 and brings in a sleepy-eyed unshaven comedian who desperately tries to fill the few minutes with their well-rehearsed "off-the-cuff" comments. Barf. It's beneath him. It completely undermines everything Olbermann has done in the hour leading up to it.

So, do watch his show. But if Britney has done something that day kid-related, car-related or underwear-related, skip out on the last five-to-ten minutes. It's painful.


Back from Thankengiving, the Robowriters return tonight at 6:30pm at the Uptown Writer's Space. Stop on by. Hear funny stuff, read funny stuff, say funny stuff, write funny stuff.


Yesterday, I asked...

"US Judge Robert Restaino has been suspended because he did what when a cellphone went off in his courtroom?"

54% said "Answered it"
- Which would have been beautiful, if it had happened. Sigh.

27% "Threw his gavel at the offender"
- No, but that must be very tempting for a judge. I could see one whipping those gavels like ninja stars and having multiple replacements strapped to their arms under those choir robe sleeves.

No one picked "Threw his own cellphone out the window"
- Guess judges don't litter.

18% picked the right answer "Threw everyone in jail"

And I do mean "everyone." According to the BBC, U.S. Judge Robert Restaino has been removed from the bench for jailing an entire courtroom audience after none of them admitted being responsible for a ringing phone. The judge has said he was under stress in his personal life at the time. It didn't help that the culprit's ringtone was "Achy Breaky Heart."

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Clown Wanted

So, I've been looking to bring in extra income over the holidays. "Extra" is not quite the right word. Just plain "income" will suffice. I only get paid when I teach. No classes, no pay. I've been trying to look for prospects beyond the usual Craig's List haunts. Imagine my delight when I ran across this ad...

Charming handsome man with dazzling smile seeks amateur clowns for discreet encounters. No previous sense of humor necessary. Criminal record a plus. Interested? Write to in the full understanding that we have your e-mail address and might send you alarming, disturbing or annoying material at any moment.

Well, without hesitation, I shot them an e-mail from Joe "Skippy the Clown" Janes. Keep your fingers crossed. I found the ad at The Gotham Times.


Yesterday, I asked...

"An Indonesian fisherman named Dede has been suffering from a skin condition that has earned him what nickname?"

30% said "The Chicken Man"
- He's everywhere, he's everywhere!

20% "The Fish Man"
- A fisherman who grew scales. Oh, the sweet, delicious irony!

10% "Lumpy"
- Yes. And he's good friends with Wally and The Beave.

40% got it right with "The Tree Man"

According to the Telegraph, Tree man 'who grew roots' may be cured. Dede, now 35, baffled medical experts when warty "roots" began growing out of his arms and feet after he cut his knee in a teenage accident. Sacked from his job and deserted by his wife, to make ends meet Dede even joined a local "freak show." Fortunately, an American dermatology expert who flew out to Dede's home village south of the capital Jakarta claims to have identified his condition, and proposed a treatment that could transform his life. I've decided to throw all the tree puns aside for this story. It's quite horrifying and Dede has raised two children on his own in poverty while struggling with his condition. Click on the Telegraph link for the rest of the story, pictures and video.

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Killing Time

Sometimes after teaching at Columbia, I'll teach a class in the evening at Second City. My Columbia classes end at 4pm and the SC class starts at 7pm. A three hour break. Sounds great, right? It's really not. It's turned into an exercise in killing time without burning through money.

So, yesterday, I took my time getting my body from Point A to Point B. Waiting for the train at the Roosevelt subway platform, I overheard this from a deep, resonant voice about 20 feet away...

"King... Call me 'King'... 'King.' In a deeper tone...There you go..."

I couldn't see the guy and didn't really want to gawk at "King." Later, in the same soothing dulcet tones, he said, "I'm going to punch you in the mouth and knock out all your teeth."

I'm still not sure if this was foreplay or business.

Pre-Second City, I made it to a coffee shop and sat and slowly sipped a small black coffee while I took another chunk out of Howard Zinn's A People's History of the United States. I have been reading this book in fits and starts for about six months now. It's a great book. Everyone should read it. It should be required reading for politicians, although they might pull the wrong ideas from the material. I read it so inconsistently because it's so darned depressing. Every time I crack it open, there's something that makes my jaw drop to the ground and I end up scraping my chin along the sidewalk for about an hour. I now have a prickly beard made out of scabs and gravel.

Yesterday, I finished the chapter titled The Other Civil War about the class struggles going on in the North and in the South. I was particularly taken with a paragraph about how greedy millionaires were finding ways to profit from the war. One lesson I thought most politicians and businessmen sadly took from WWII is that war is good for business. It's a lesson our current administration knows too well. That's why they are jockeying to make Iraq a perennial cash cow for "American interests." Those "American interests" don't include you and me, by the way. We won't see a dime of it, but we will probably have to give up our social security, welfare and Medicaid to help pay for Bush's war. Turns out that lesson of turning blood into gold goes back much farther than I thought.

Here's the paragraph I read...

White workers of the North were not enthusiastic about a war which seemed to be fought for the black slave, or for the capitalist, for anyone but them. They worked in semislave conditions themselves. They thought the war was profiting the new millionaires. They saw defective guns sold to the army by contractors, sand sold as sugar, rye sold as coffee, shop sweepings made into clothing and blankets, papersoled shoes produced for soldiers at the front, navy ships made of rotting timbers, soldier's uniforms that fell apart in the rain.

No wonder Lincoln was depressed. I'm sure none of that sort of thing happens today. Unless you include things like Hummers lacking armor and soldiers having to rely on their parents to send them adequate bullet-proof vests. That's just the stuff we've heard about.


Yesterday, I asked...

"Tony Vernelli of England had herself sterilized at 27 because she believes babies do what?"

40% said "Suck the life out of you"
- It's true. They do. The little parasites start in the womb and continue through college. Sometimes longer. Right, Dad?

No one picked "Are too expensive" or "Take up too much space"
- Again, both of which are true. The little bastards eat money and just keep growing. If we can have pocket puppies, why can't we have pocket people? Sure would make the birthing process easier.

60% got it right on with "Pollute the environment"

According to the Daily Mail, Toni Vernelli - who works for an environmental charity - had one pregnancy terminated and then had herself sterilized, all to save the planet.

"Having children is selfish. It's all about maintaining your genetic line at the expense of the planet," says Toni. "Every person who is born uses more food, more water, more land, more fossil fuels, more trees and produces more rubbish, more pollution, more greenhouse gases, and adds to the problem of over-population."

Again, I think this calls for the "Pocket People" idea. If humans were smaller, we'd consume less. More for everybody!

Monday, November 26, 2007

Nobel Peace Surprise!

Bush to Welcome Gore to White House

Nov. 25, 2007

Forget the Mideast peace talks. A meeting that may require even greater diplomacy will take place Monday in the Oval Office, when President Bush receives America's Nobel Prize winners — including his one-time rival, Al Gore.

A lot has happened to both men in the seven years since the 2000 election.

The president has faced terrorist attacks, natural disasters, and war; the former vice president left politics to campaign against global warming.

But while Bush saw his popularity plummet, Gore's star has been rising of late — with his Oscar-winning movie "An Inconvenient Truth," and the Nobel Peace Prize for his work on climate change.

So, when they meet in the Oval Office on Monday, will they finally bury the hatchet? Don't bet on it.

You can read the rest of the story from ABC News HERE.

So, how is the exchange between the two men going to go? I think it will go something like this...

Hey, Al. Things didn't turn out so bad for us. I was elected president twice and you won a Noble Peace Prize.

Well, George, you really were only elected once, maybe. And it's Nobel.

That's what I said. Didn't know we were serving sour grapes at our little soiree today. You know, that little trophy of yours would look good on my mantle.

It's a medallion, George. See?

A medallion? Doesn't even have your picture on it. Looks like a big token. Do you redeem it for a prize, like at Chuck E. Cheese?

No, George, the medallion is the prize. And the thing about a Peace Prize is that you have to do something that promotes peace on the planet to get it.

I promote peace. I'm all about peace. My war on terror is so we can have peace.

War makes war, George, not peace.

Yeah, well, I betcha a few well placed phone calls will get me one of those. Who would I be up against for one of those next year? I'll bet Dick's got some dirt on 'em.

The Supreme Court and the entire state of Florida won't be able to get you one of these.

Then I'll make my own. I'm the president. I'm The Decider. I decided I was The Decider. I've decided to give myself the George W. Bush Nobler Peace Prize. And it'll be big. Like a bowling trophy. With a little statue of me on top in my flight suit giving the peace sign or holding a gun or something.

I have to go. Thanks for lunch.

You going to eat that potato?

Al Gore shares his prize with the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. I don't know who is going to be there representing them, but I can't imagine this being a lot of fun for them. Then, again, given that both parties are pro-environment and meeting the worst president in the history of the United States who puts blood and money before clean air and water, maybe they can gang up on him a bit.

Everyone thinks Gore will be prickly to Bush over the election, but there's a lot more to be prickly about. Al Gore was one of the most active vice-presidents in history (minus a bunker in an undisclosed location). Bill Clinton used him well in trimming a lot of fat in government spending and in beefing up the powers of the EPA. Together, they reduced the deficit to an all time low. Bush has squandered all that and pushed the deficit to a record-breaking high while getting us into a war that will cost America, as of now, three trillion dollars. He could very well bankrupt this country. If Al hasn't picked out a spot yet to display his Peace Prize, I think a lovely place would be up GW's arse.


On Friday, I asked...

"A man in Michigan shot his neighbor's pregnant cow because it looked like what?"

57% said "A polar bear."
- Ah, but that would be too logical.

28% said "His mother-in-law."
- Boo-yah! My first mother-in-law joke! I am on fire, folks!

No one thought is was "A bunny." Sniff.

15% got the correct answer, "A coyote."

According to the Associated Press, in Colfax, Michigan, a man says he shot and killed a neighbor's cow after mistaking it for a coyote. Authorities and the owner are skeptical. Undersheriff Rory Heckman said the man then tried to drag the cow home. Not sure if he still thought it was a coyote while he was trying to drag 1,400 pounds of dead meat. I'm thinking he had a year's supply of coyote burgers - and steak, and ribs - on his mind.

Saturday, November 24, 2007

Saturday Morning Cartoons!

Josie and the Pussycats in Outer Space (1972-1974)

Oh, hell, yes! What do you do with a cartoon that's only doing so-so one year? You put it in outer space the next! With only the thinnest of justifications - the gang is invited to play at a space launch and accidentally fall into a space hatch - the core cast of Josie and the Pussycats are transplanted to the outer realms of the galaxy. The lyrics to the catchy theme song are clunkily rehashed to insert the word "outer space" and other space references.

"Josie and the Pussycats" was produced by Hanna-Barbara in 1970 and looks like a smash-up of The Archies and Scooby-Doo. In fact, Josie is a character spun off of The Archies cartoon. The "gang" strongly resembles the Scoobies and Alexandra is just Veronica with a widow's peak. They thwarted bad guys and played original Josie and the Pussycats pop tunes over the credits. On a very strong plus side, one of the Pussycats was African-American and she was often the sharpest knife in the drawer. Hard to say if she was the first major African-American regular cartoon character on Saturday morning, but she is most likely the first black female.

Some trivia, a pre-Charlie's Angels Cheryl Ladd sang and provided voices for the show.

Here are the opening credits...

I'm not sure which episode this is from, but here's a scene where some of the gang have been turned into children and Valerie, the smart black chick, tries to turn them back to their right age. It features one of my pet peeves, a young person playing an older person and using the word "whipper-snapper."

As in Scooby-Doo, chase scenes were often accompanied by songs that were completely unrelated to the action. Unfortunately, I could not find any chase scenes from the outer space version of the show. So, here's one from the original...

Friday, November 23, 2007

Blech Friday

(No Robowriters assignment today as we did not meet last night. It will return next week.)

Americans love to be distracted. We really are just killing time until time kills us. So, of course we want to do that with as much comfort and entertainment as possible. This is why the news is chock full of celebrity meltdowns and missing white suburban wives. We only hear about presidential candidates when they say something catty about an opponent or some dirt is unearthed about them. Natural disasters, when the footage is awesome. Horrible, horrible things for those immediately involved, but most of us aren't involved and devour the latest tidbits with glee.

Today is Black Friday. The newspapers and news shows will be choking us with shopping tips and updates on how the holiday season is shaping for up for the merchants. Look for reporters on the scene at shopping malls that opened at 4am interviewing the boneheads who camped out all night so they can be the first to stampede into the store and grab up the latest Prozackean Elmo toy. Look for the news shows to repeat ad nauseam shots of shoppers running into the stores like its the running of the bulls, especially if someone gets trampled or a fist fight breaks out. This will all be the lead news and the front page headlines.

While the media conglomerates dangle this shiny bauble of "news" in front of us, other news might go unnoticed. Here are a few headlines I plucked out unrelated to shopping that you might find interesting...

From the Chicago Sun-Times, whose main front page headline is about ex-cop Drew Peterson and his missing wife, there's this news article about how the Jose de Diego Community Academy in Chicago has had to ration its drinking water since the middle of September when a main waterline broke there. The break has been fixed, but the city Water Management Department has yet to give them a clean bill of health of health. Students are only allowed four ounces of drinking water a day! It's a bureaucratic mess. You can read the whole article HERE.

From the Chicago Tribune, 23 civilians were killed in Iraq in two separate bombings. One of the bombs was at a pet market, so tally up an untold number of adorable critters with that number, too. And among the fatalities were over 60 wounded. It's easy to file these numbers in the "Blah-Blah-Blah Crazy People Blowing Each Other Up" folder and forget about it. But these are human beings. Our foreign policy ineptitude has a lot to do with why they are now dead. If you have a hard time putting a face to the numbers, I recommend reading the article. The reporter interviewed some people at the market and paints a good picture of their lives. You can read the whole article HERE.

It's not all bad news that gets buried, but it mostly is. I had to dig around on the Internet for about 20 minutes to find this on CNN... The Queen (you know, THE Queen) is giving some lovin' to Uganda for their peace-keeping efforts. You can read about it HERE.

But, hey, it's a holiday weekend. Enjoy yourself. You deserve it. I just ask that we not turn a blind eye to what's really going on out there. Banking on us not wanting to really know what's going on and not caring is how the assholes got in charge in the first place.


On Wednesday, I asked...

"British scientists have found the fossil of an insect with what unusual feature?"

30% said "It has male pattern baldness."
- And next to it, a fossilized comb and tube of hair gel. Sadly, it's the first evidence of a comb over.

15% said "It's already been in a Jurassic Park sequel."
- Not yet. But it will be.

No one fell for "It ate a human."

55% nailed it with "It's as big as a Buick."

According to the Associated Press, British scientists have stumbled across a fossilized claw, part of an ancient sea scorpion, that is of such large proportion it would make the entire creature the biggest bug ever. How big? Bigger than you, and at 8 feet long as big as some cars. These scientist are too easily impressed. They obviously haven't seen some of the cockroaches I've encountered here in Chicago.

Thursday, November 22, 2007

The First Thanksgiving

Happy Thanksgiving, everyone. Julie and I are off to Michigan to spend it with her grandmother, parents and, apparently, someone named Maurice who thinks Julie is an alcoholic because he saw her drink a glass of wine, once. My turkey alternative will be acorn squash stuffed with brown rice, fake ground beef, onions, celery and other savory goodies.

Here's a scene from Addams Family Values depicting the first Thanksgiving. Satirical, sharp, and hee-larious.

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

The Waiting

Two weeks ago, I posted about doing writing auditions. I did so because I had one. Yay, me! I won't give the particulars, because it doesn't seem cool to do so while in the process of it all. I will say that it is a fun project that would allow me to use my satirical skills and could lead to a weekly gig. The part that bugs me is that I submitted my audition material a week and a half ago and haven't heard anything. Not even a response to let me know my materials were received. Argh! Don't these people realize how brilliant I am!

My fiancee tells me to be patient and that this is pretty common in the business world. My inclination is to chalk it up to small companies with an artistic bent where people are wearing multiple hats and no one has time to deal with the simple "Hey, thanks, got it, we'll be in touch" stuff. But according to Julie, she ran into that all the time while she was job hunting. She would submit a resume and cover letter and months would go by before being asked to come in for an interview. Then maybe a few more months before a second interview. All the while not hearing anything from them in between. And this is from companies that are worldwide and have been around a hundred years or so.

The lesson for me to re-apply here is the lesson I learned as an actor auditioning for commercials. Once the audition is over, pat yourself on the back for doing the best you could do and then move one. Focus on the next audition. Even though you know you nailed it and they would be crazy NOT to call you and you really, really need the money, it's over and it's out of your hands. The more I find and generate other opportunities, the less stressed I'll be about "that one" and why haven't they called or e-mailed? It's that unattractive air of desperation one gets after a first date that they hope quickly leads to marriage. Chill. Relax. They'll call you if they want you and, if they do, wouldn't it be nice if you had a few different offers to choose from any way?

So, the key to waiting after submitting your material for a writing audition is not to wait. Get working on a new project, find a new opportunity to submit material to, polish that material you know needs a rewrite, keep getting your work out there.


Yesterday, I asked...

"Rapper Jay-Z's new video 'Blue Magic' features him carrying a briefcase full of what?"

55% said "iPhones"
- Nothing says street cred like an iPhone, homie.

10% said "Shell Gas Cards"
- Now that oil is $100 a barrel, this could be the new bling.

No one, much to my dismay, thought it was "Starbucks Coffee"

35% got it right with "Euro Notes"

According to the BBC, wads of dollar bills are usually as much a part of rap videos as fast cars, diamond-encrusted jewellery and scantily-clad models. But in an apparent nod to the low value of the dollar, rapper Jay-Z's new video "Blue Magic" features another currency. He is seen cruising the streets of New York in Bentleys and Rolls Royces (now owned by Germany's Volkswagen and BMW) with a briefcase of 500 euro notes. Well, that's finally the last nail in the coffin of America, isn't it folks? What's next? Are gangsta rappers going to stop buying their bullets at Wal-Mart and start buying them at Ikea? American Gangster, my butt.

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Effingham, Baby

Here, briefly, is the story of asking Julie to marry me.

Wanting to keep it a small, intimate affair, I hired a dancing elephant. The elephant, named Salted, was trained to do a little tap dance to the tune of "Tea for Two" while dressed like a pirate and at the very end, present Julie with the ring on the end of his trunk. I picked up the elephant on Friday afternoon and put it in the backseat of the car under a blanket. Then I picked up Julie from her workplace and we headed to Clarksville.

My dad lives in Clarksville, Tennessee. Saturday night was a celebration for his 75th year of plodding around the planet in his underwear on Saturday mornings making grunting sounds. Not wishing to steal the thunder away from his 3/4 century marker, my plan was to propose to Julie on Friday evening in Effingham, Illinois. Effingham (say it out loud, it sounds like you are swearing at pork) is the halfway point between Chicago and Clarksville. I didn't know when I was going to ask her, but the elephant and I were ready to go when the perfect moment presented itself.

We arrived in Effingham at 7:30pm and got a room at the Paradise-On-A-Budget Motel. Not to skimp on such a special evening, I booked us The Luv Room. The Luv Room featured a round bed with a vibrating feature known as "magic fingers." Basically, this is a man named Chet who slept under the bed and would shake it for fifteen minutes at a time for a quarter. Yes, it's a little creepy to have a man named Chet under your bed, but you cannot argue the value we got per quarter. That was really the only feature that qualified it as a Luv Room. That and the broken lava lamp on the nightstand that had one long, snaking purple turd-like lava thing floating in it.

While one could not deny the electricity that was The Luv Room, it seemed more like a destination after proposing than the place to propose. So, we went to dinner.

If you are ever in Effingham, you must go to the Firefly Grill. It is a culinary sanctuary just off a strip choked with chain restaurants and gas stations. The space was warm, open and inviting. The staff friendly. The food excellent. They sat us at an intimate table for two near the bar and a magazine rack. Amanda, our server, had a great smile and demeanor. We felt welcomed and she was honest in her recommendations. She told us to make sure we saved room for the Firefly Grill's special dessert, caramel apple pecan cake! We ordered wine and a few appetizers. The spicy hummus is to die for!

As we took in the atmosphere, I decided that this was the perfect moment. I signaled to Salted, who entered after us and sat at the bar reading Us magazine, that it was "go" time. That was when all hell broke loose. Salted had a weakness for frozen strawberry margaritas and had been throwing them back like a middle-aged divorcee on ladies night. Salted broke out his boom box and, instead of playing "Tea for Two," cranked up the wobbly speakers and filled the room with "Here I Go Again." His dainty pirate tap dance became a cross between the Curly Shuffle and Godzilla stomping on Tokyo. Salted threw his weight around the room, knocking over tables, banging into servers with trays of food, and, most tragically, crushing a busboy. One could forgive the one crunchy accidental step that crushed his chest cavity, but it was when Salted did a breakdance spin on Pedro's limp body that the restaurant filled with a horrified silence.

Fortunately, no one saw me signal to Salted and assumed he was just another drunk pirate elephant on a bender in Effingham. Feigning inconsolability over Pedro's pulpy remains, I threw myself at Salted, who just laid there on his back, lamely trumpeting along to the Whitesnake tune that had already ended. There I palmed the engagement ring from Salted's nose and put it in my pocket. Julie and I grabbed our jackets and rushed towards the door making sure that we also grabbed the amazing caramel apple pecan cake to go.

If there's one thing I have learned in life and love and theater, it's always have a back-up plan. In the parking lot of the restaurant, I shot off the flare gun I keep strapped to my ankle. Within seconds, the U.S. Air Force sent the Thunderbirds air demonstration squadron flying overhead in formation. After a twisting-turning loopdeloo executed with split-second timing, the jets all released incendiary devices that lit up the sky. And when you stood right underneath them and looked up, the falling balls of fire spelled out "Marry Me." And Julie said yes. I slipped the ring on her finger and we held each other and the dessert tight as fire rained down around us.

The "-y Me" part of the proposal landed on the roof of the Firefly Grill and quickly reduced it to a pile of ashes and burnt elephant. They seemed like a pretty together outfit, so I'm sure they are insured and should be rebuilt by the time we're ready to celebrate our first anniversary.


Last Friday, I asked...

"Disneyland workers recently shut down the 'Pirates of the Caribbean" ride when cameras caught a woman doing what?"

31% said "Flashing Jack Sparrow"
- Nope. She kept her booty to herself.

18% said "Robbing the other people in her boat"
- Nope. Nor did she make anyone walk the plank.

12% said "Drinking rum and screaming "Yo-ho-HO!""
- Hey, now. That's really degrading to women. Even the pirates on the ride have been reprogrammed to say "Yee-hee-hee" and titter like little girls.

39% got it right with "Dumping human remains"

According to Orlando's Local 6 News, Disneyland workers were recently forced to close the "Pirates of the Caribbean" attraction after a ride security camera caught a woman apparently dumping human remains, in what may be a growing trend. Some Disney watchers said park-goers tell them that people smuggling in the cremated remains of their loved ones and then sprinkling ashes on rides has been going on for a while. They said it started at the "Haunted Mansion," but now the "Pirates of the Caribbean" ride is growing in popularity. That's awesome! Who wouldn't want to spend eternity at the happiest place on earth? Just don't sprinkle my ashes on the tea cup ride. I don't want to spend the afterlife spinning and hurling ectoplasm.

Monday, November 19, 2007

A Decent Proposal


Will you marry me?

(please post your response in the comment section)

Friday, November 16, 2007

We Need to Talk


Most scenes start with a very recognizable situation; a couple having dinner, a father and son playing catch, two co-workers sitting next to one another clacking away at keyboards, etc. This is good, because the audience needs to be able to connect with what is happening. But if continued to just be about a couple eating soup or a father and son tossing a softball or co-workers inputting data, our interest would wain, to say the least. Even "reality" shows know that something's got to happen.

This week's assignment is to have one of the characters in a familiar situation reveal significant information about themselves.

To prepare, whip up a list of ten things you might normally do during the course of a week or two that involves at least one other person. Here's mine...

1) Buy coffee at Dunkin Donuts
2) Cook dinner with my girlfriend
3) Tutor a student
4) See a play
5) Have a beer with friends
6) Shop for groceries
7) Chat with teachers in the teachers lounge
8) Shop for a gift
9) Go to the bank
10) Ride the El to work

Now, try to forget about this list as you create a second list. This is a list of the worst or most surprising things one person could reveal about themselves to another person. Use your imagination. This is NOT based on your own life. Unless it is.

1) I'm an assassin (That's for Jen)
2) I'm secretly Jewish.
3) I have a second job as a pimp.
4) I'm a serial killer.
5) I've been having an affair.
6) Your father has been hitting on me. And I like it.
7) I'm broke.
8) I got a new job and have to relocate to Ohio.
9) I'm Santa. And I suck at the job.
10) I've been studying ballet.

Now, see if you can pair up items from the first list with items from the second list. Be on the lookout for the match-up that will give you the most bang for your comedy buck. For example, telling the counter person at Dunkin Donuts that I am secretly Jewish probably doesn't have a lot at stake. But telling my girlfriend, or wife, while we cook dinner together might be interesting. Then the scene becomes about justifying the secret, revealing the depth of the secret, and finding a solution for moving forward with that person. I also like a tutor telling his student that he's an assassin. Could be because he's from the future trying to prevent a tragedy or that the student is an heir to the throne of an obscure country. And for some reason I imagine the tutoring lesson being with a piano. Makes it more active and adds a little class.

So, that's the assignment. Write a scene where someone drops an informational bomb on another person. Entertain different ways to reveal the info rather than just "I have to tell you something." In the dinner scene, the wife can find kosher salt in the pantry. In the piano lesson scene, the student can find an unassembled sniper rifle in the piano bench. Have fun.


Adam Felber writes for Real Time with Bill Maher and is a regular panelist on Wait Wait... Don't Tell Me! While currently on strike, he has been spending more time at Fantacial Apathy, his website where he often has brilliant satirical takes on current events. I am envious of this guy. His take on the Blackwater investigation is priceless. Check it out by clicking HERE.


Saturday Morning Cartoons might be taking the weekend off. I leave for Clarksville, Tennessee today for my dad's 75th birthday. My girlfriend and I will be spending the night mid-state in Effingham, Illinois. We here at the Bite and Smile regional corporate office are understaffed and I don't trust any of the interns to do this job properly. A posting tomorrow is unlikely.


Yesterday, I asked...

"A poll of NYU students revealed that 50% of them would give up the right to vote forever for what?"

30% said "An iPod"
- Nope. Sorry. An iPod will only buy you giving up one vote. You'll have to pony up more to get someone to give up the right to vote forever. At least an iPhone.

No one said "Unlimited party supplies"
- Which is my fault. I meant stuff like free kegs of beer and pizza puffs, but I think people thought I meant cocktail napkins.

No one went for "A job working for Donald Trump"
- The only thing people will give up for that is their dignity.

70% got it right with "$1 million"

According to Washington Square News, a recent survey by an NYU journalism class found that NYU students would exchange for their right to vote in the next presidential election for cash and prizes. 20 percent said they'd exchange their vote for an iPod touch. 66 percent said they'd forfeit their vote for a free ride to NYU. And half said they'd give up the right to vote forever for $1 million. Clearly, these were not math majors. After Uncle Sam takes out taxes, that leaves approximately $600,000. If they are frugal, that spreads out to about $10k a year if they live to be 75. But they are students. They live in New York. In all likelihood, that will buy them candy for five years and then they have to live out the rest of their life bitching about who's in office. Wait a minute. I voted and I'm bitching about whose in office. I'm older. That one million will be more for me annually. Okay, suckers! My vote is for sale. Let the bidding begin! I'd love a million dollars, but I'll settle for a new sofa.

Thursday, November 15, 2007

A Colossal Dick Move

Television and film writers are the quirky weirdos that the producers tolerate. Producers, generally speaking, don't get them and don't understand why they just can't re-type the script they way they want it to be. As opposed to theater, where the playwright tends to be revered as a mad genius architect, in film and television they are regarded as immigrant laborers doing creative bricklaying. They should just be happy they have a job. If not, the producer can easily drive his pick-up over to the Home Depot parking lot and find a dozen more for cheap.

When a film or TV series is bad, people seldom blame the writers. If a film fails to be a huge blockbuster in its opening week, it's not because of a bad script, it's because the star's shine is fading. And if it is a hit, it, again, is because of the star power, not the great writing.

That's not to say there aren't bad scripts out there. Oh, there are. But film and television has such a system of hurdles, that when a project gets the go ahead, it's usually in pretty good shape. It becomes a bad script with the interference of producers and directors imposing an artistic vision. For more on this, read the classic Adventures in the Screen Trade by William Goldman or check out this article, Building the Bomb by Terry Rossio (Thanks Avella!), about the writers who adapted the great Heinlein sci-fi novel The Puppet Masters into one of the biggest turkeys of all time.

You might think I am overstating things. Surely there are producers out there who appreciate and even cherish the originators and caretakers of their many hit television shows and franchise films. And I have faith that there are a few out there, too. However, the writer's strike has been going on for a week and a half. We quickly saw the effect on the late night shows. The producers know what's coming and haven't, at least publicly, shown any signs of compromise.

Even though it's clearly about to get worse...

Fox's Family Sans Guy

The overlords at Fox have announced plans to air an original episode Family Guy this Sunday and move forward on three more without the participation of mastermind Seth MacFarlane, who not only serves as the showrunner but supplies many of the key voices.

The move has angered MacFarlane, who stopped work on the series last week to join the picket lines with other WGA members.

"It would just be a colossal dick move if they did that," Family Guy's creator told Variety, noting that the next three episodes of the animated comedy are "relatively close to completion, but they have not had a final pass."

MacFarlane acknowledged that both the network and producer 20th Century Fox TV are "legally within their rights" to finish new episodes without his input, but doing so, he said, could not only affect the show's creative direction and thus alienate viewers, but also harm the successful partnership MacFarlane and Fox have built up over the years.

Read the full story HERE.

This is such a colossal dick move by the company to keep their ratings and advertiser money at the expense of the quality of a show. They are killing the goose to get to the golden eggs. Expect more dickery from the producers as they move to film scripts that are just first drafts.

For more on the writer's strike, go to the United Hollywood website and sign their petition.


6:30pm. The Uptown Writer's Space. 4802 North Broadway. $5. Plus snacks! Word on the street is that Chris Othic and I will both be there to spew gutteral noises that pass for genius feedback on your work. Stop on by!


Yesterday, I wrote...

"Chilo, a small town of 97 in southwest Ohio, can't get anyone to run for mayor, but did have seven people sign up for what?"

50% said "An anti-immigration group"
- They are going to build a fence around Chilo to keep their population from breaking 100.

28% said "A mayor search committee"
- That would leave 90 people to "search" for mayor material. You don't need a committee for that. You just need one person able to turn his or her neck to the left and right and have vision in at least one eye.

7% said "A terrorism watchdog patrol"
- Yes, because if they infiltrate Chilo, we lose all of Clermont County!

14% got it right, sadly, with "A pie wrestling contest"

According to The Cincinnati Enquirer, last week's election in Chilo didn't attract any candidates for mayor. There were no names on the ballot for clerk/treasurer, either, or two open spots on village council. However, seven women have signed up for a Nov. 21 wrestling match in pie filling at Everybody's Sports Lounge, one of three businesses in the village about 25 miles southeast of Cincinnati. Village council members get paid $5 per meeting, while the winner of a wrestling match staged in a wading pool filled with pie filling gets $100. Now, if they would just combine the two...

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Ye Olde People

In improvisation and in writing, it's usually wisest to craft characters close to your age so that they operate from a field of experience similar to yours. This tends to lend itself to more believable characters and situations. Unfortunately, the world just ain't made up that way. We weren't all born at the same time and we're all on a different path with a different time schedule.

When it comes to portraying senior citizens, I often see people quickly embrace stereotypes. The character is hunched over, has a cane, is hard of hearing, can't remember names or much of anything else, and is likely senile. Worst of all, they use words like "whipper-snapper." I have never, EVER, heard anyone of any age, let alone someone over 70, use the term "whipper-snapper." When it comes to older people, we tend to imitate what we have seen imitated rather than flesh out the character. Even if that flesh is a little loose and dry.

I have what may be sobering news for some. The elderly are human beings, too. They have the basic human wants and desires to be seen, heard, touched and loved. Sure, they might be a bit crotchety. Their body's like a car that keeps breaking down and simply walking down a short set of stairs can be a life or death situation. They are in their autumn years and perhaps struggling with being relevant in today's world. They may be very disappointed in how things have turned out for themselves. They may also be very happy and very appreciative or where they are and who they are with.

My father is celebrating his 75th birthday this weekend. He sounds okay upstairs, but his health is failing. He has poor circulation in his legs and has had problems with his heart. My mother is almost 70 and has Alzheimer's. Her life is a near constant state of walking into a room and forgetting what you went in there for. She knows who she is, she knows who her family is, and she knows she has Alzheimer's. But once those bolts are gone, she's gone. Still, for now, they are both very capable of having a normal conversation.

So, when dealing with creating a senior citizen character, put yourself in their skid-free slippers. There are some who have canes and walkers and some that don't. There are some that are hard of hearing and some that aren't. They deal with their pain and, for the most part, are just trying to reach the exit of their life with as much dignity as possible. How will you behave at that age? What will you want from your family and your friends?


Yesterday, I asked...

"13-year-old Megan Coulter was recently given two detentions at her school for doing what?"

13% "Writing a poem about beheadings"
- Only if those heads came off because she squeezed to hard.

No one went for "Bringing a kitchen knife to Home Ec" or "Stalking her teacher," probably with said knife.

87% got the right answer with "Hugging her friends"

According to The Associated Press, Melissa and Dean Coulter met with officials of the Mascoutah School District 19 to discuss the two detentions given their daughter, Megan, for hugging friends goodbye for the weekend. School officials said the eighth grader violated a policy banning public displays of affection. C'mon, America! The school is dead on right. The last thing this country needs are little pervy punks learning about affection in school!

Support the troops.

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

It's Really Okay With Me If You Don't Write

Walking up Broadway last night towards The Uptown Writer's Space, I caught a glimpse of a flyer in a window from a woman who promises to make you write. Sorry I didn't catch her name or the name of her business, but in very bold font on a bright green flyer, she did make the claim, "I will make you write!"

This is either a stern teacher in leather hotpants looking for "naughty boys" who need to be punished, or it is someone willing to whip you into shape in another way and pry that great American novel out of your guts. I suspect the latter, but will spend a lot of time today entertaining the former in my imagination. But I digress.

You should be able to write. It's your duty as an earthling to be able to communicate clearly and effectively via the written word in at least one language. However, when it comes to novels, plays, movies, poems and comedy sketches, I do not care that you write. Even in my writing classes, I do not care that you write. I care that you have written and we have something to work with to develop. If you didn't write anything, that's too bad. More time for me to spend with the people who did. Thanks for your money.

During my stand-up days, I was often approached by people who said, "Man, all my friends tell me I'm funny. I want to get up there and give it a try, but I don't think I have what it takes." You're probably right. Don't do it. There's enough of us carrying the workload. We've got the whole supply and demand thing covered. Keep being the funny guy at the office party. That's where we need you. Enjoy the show.

I want to be a rock star. I want to be up on a stage in front of thousands of people in an overcrowded sports arena and have everyone up on their feet rocking out to one of my tunes as I sing and play lead guitar. I want all the ladies to get all melty and cry when I switch to the acoustic guitar and play that ballad about how tender I am and how much I want to hold all of them in my sweaty rock star arms. I want my long, curly bangs to be plastered to my forehead as I work the crowd in my tight faux leather pants and vest (no shirt, got to show off these abs!) while my drummer, Jaws, does her obligatory drum solo. The only problem is, I know absolutely nothing about music, can't sing or play guitar, and my washboard stomach wouldn't clean a coffee cup. I also don't know any female drummers named Jaws. Man, if only I had someone to make me learn, write and perform music!

I love listening to music and will continue to seek out new music from old favorites while seeking out new, exciting stuff. If you enjoy reading, awesome. The world needs more people who enjoy reading. Read like the wind! Writers need people who appreciate and support them.

If you still feel you must write, take a class. That's the best place to find out if you have what it takes to be a writer. Believe me, there's a class out there for whatever you want to write - poetry, short stories, blogs, comedy sketches, etc. But if you sign up for a class and still find yourself not writing. It's okay. The world will not mourn the loss of never reading your words. Just like it won't weep over me not putting on tight pants and trying to sing.


Yesterday, I wrote...

"A 67-year-old Hong Kong politican answered accusations of not being patriotic by doing what?"

30% said "Tattooing the national flag on her behind"
- Well, at least at 67, the wrinkles in her butt will make it look like it's waving.

30% said "Eating Chinese food with Jackie Chan"
- It's only patriotic if the food is laced with lead and date rape drugs.

10% said "Riding through town on a horse nude"
- Sure, embarrass a horse to prove your point.

30% got it right with "Recording a rap music video"

According to The Associated Press, a 67-year-old Hong Kong politician responded to accusations of being unpatriotic by lip-synching to Cantopop star Scott Hui's "Proud to be Chinese" in a rap music video on Youtube. Anson Chan, a prominent pro-Democracy reformer, was criticized for suggesting that she and other contenders for a legislative seat hold a debate in English. She's actually barely in the video and I don't think it helps her case much. It's in English. But if it helps her, maybe Barrack can lay down some tracks the next time his patriotism comes into question.

Fun video, though. Check it out.