Friday, May 30, 2008

Now Go Do That Voodoo that You Do So Well!

Two comedy elder statesmen passed away this week, Dick Martin and Harvey Korman. Dick Martin is best known for co-hosting the groundbreaking and quintessential 1960's comedy show Laugh-In. His partner in crime was Dan Rowan. Along with The Smothers Brothers, they were probably the last successful example of the classic straight man/dumb guy comedy team. Their show, also like The Smothers Brothers, was topical, but they avoided getting into the same controversial waters with a show that flung jokes at a breakneck speed, most of them just dumb and silly. If you were offended by something, you didn't realize it until ten jokes later.

Here he is being serenaded by Tiny Tim - an immensely popular novelty act from the era.

While the kooks were running the asylum at Laugh-In, more traditional comedy variety was being done on The Carol Burnett Show. A staple of the ensemble was Harvey Korman. Korman was a brilliant comic actor who knew how to add gravity to a scene. He also perfected the arrogant comic villain role when he was perfectly cast as Hedly Lamarr in Mel Brooks' Blazing Saddles. His Hedly was a combination of Mussolini and Donald Duck. If the Academy Awards were more sympathetic to the work it takes to do brilliant comedy, he would have walked away with an oscar.

Here he is in one of my favorite Blazing Saddles moments where his character has assembled a great army of bad guys to run the folks out of Rock Ridge and he makes them take a pledge to him.

Rest in peace Dick and Harvey. Thank you for the inspiration and the laughs.




My play Cheddar Moon will be part of Chicago Dramatists 10-Minute Play Workshop. There will be a staged reading tomorrow performed by professional actors. My play is one of six.

Saturday at 2:00
1105 W. Chicago Ave

Public Invited - $5 Donation


Yesterday, I asked...

"According to the journal Nature, scientists enabled two monkeys to do what?"

20% said "Perform brain surgery on humans"
- I think this an idea being driven by health insurance companies trying to reduce payouts.

No one said "Shave a quadriplegic" or "Speak English"

80% got it right with "Operate a robot arm with their thoughts"

According to The Los Angeles Times, two monkeys have been trained to control a prosthetic arm with nothing but their thoughts, transmitted through an electronic sensor in the brain. The video, below, from University of Pittsburgh scientists, shows a monkey, with its arms restrained, using, as some have rather sensationally called it, "mind control" to snack on marshmallows.

I have my own issues about the horrors of animal testing, but this is downright creepy and conjures up images of rampaging robot monkeys scouring the land in search of marshmallows. But if I'm going to die, I think I would rather die battling Chim-Chim the monkeyborg than battling any conventional terminal disease.

Thursday, May 29, 2008

A Little Bit More

Okay, Peter, a little bit more about that Breeders video.

It features Paul Thomas and me. The tall, gangly improviser/stand-up Paul Thomas is a bike messenger trying to deliver a package to a business man - me - who does not want said package. The video also features Justin Kaufman of Schadenfreude and a woman named Denae (I have no idea how she spells her name, but this is how I spell it) who is masterful in the ways of the bicycle. We have a showdown, man against hot, punky woman on bike.

The Breeders were not there. They come in to town Saturday for a show at the Metro and we are supposed to tape a little something-something with them after their soundcheck. I fully expect Kim and Kelly Deal to fall in love with me and hire me to be their manservant and open their bottles of non-alcoholic beer with my nipples.

The song the video is for is this one...


Yesterday, I asked...

"Visitors to the Hamilton County Jail in Ohio must now adhere to a new dress code that includes what?"

16% said "No piercings that can be used as weapons"
- You mess with me, you answer to the bolt in my eyebrow, sucker.

No one said "Tasteful tattoos" or "Ties for men, hats for women"

84% got it right on with "Must wear underwear"

According to The Cincinnati Enquirer, visitors to the Hamilton County jail should not dress in tattered, baggy or sexy clothes. They also definitely better put on underwear. A new dress code for visitors, finalized Thursday, starts next month at the jail.

"It has become a problem over the last several years, so we are finally addressing it," sheriff's spokesman Steve Barnett said. "It's not about telling people how to dress. It's about telling visitors to a facility you just can't come in here exposing yourself to inmates."

Killjoy. This dude has obviously never spent time in a Turkish prison.

Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Loopy, Exhausted and a Little Smelly

On Saturday, I spent the day shooting a music video for The Breeders with Steve Delahoyde of Irritable Colon Films (you read that right). It was mostly outdoors, wearing a suit and running. And I made the number one bald guy mistake for a sunny day - no sun screen! I essentially charred my skull. And in spite of endless slathering of aloe and moisturizing, today I will be peeling.

Previous to agreeing to do the shoot, I committed to doing a guest spot with Don Hall at Schadenfreude's Rent Party on the same night. Our shoot ran later than we expected. I am wearing the clothes I wore for the shoot, plus a ball cap to cover up my boiled lobster forehead. I'm wiped out!

Don and I did our "I Believe's" from our Locked in a Room shows. Don mainly did new ones where I mainly did ones I like the best and wanted to do again. I wrote three new ones, two that made it. One that didn't. You can probably guess the one that didn't. The one that sounds like I channeled Peggy Hill.

- Do what you love and the money will follow. As will the debt collectors.

- I believe the words “black angus beef” are too close to the words “black anus beef.”

- What’s the point of having a safety word when you’re wearing a ball gag…Was that off topic?

Without any justification or set-up, we concluded by waxing parts of our bodies. You can thank Chris Othic for that idea.

Don posted a YouTube just showing the waxing HERE.


Yesterday, I asked...

"Mike Fournier plans on breaking a world record in skydiving by doing what?"

28% said "Jumping naked"
- I'm pretty sure that's not new. It's just a vertical version of the mile high club.

14% said "Jumping without a parachute"
- No ambulance at the bottom. Just a spatula.

14% said "Jumping while making a sandwich"
- This I would like to see. No cheating by using pita bread and just jelly. I want to see Jared making himself a foot long meatball sub.

44% got it right with "Jumping from 25 miles high"

According to the AFP, French skydiver Michel Fournier takes his life in his hands when, weather permitting, he leaps from a balloon 40 kilometres (25 miles) above Canada's western plains.

The 64-year-old parachutist said it was his life's dream to make the record jump, which will begin at the outer reaches of the stratosphere -- about four times higher than the cruising altitude of a commercial jet.

Fournier spent Sunday resting and making the final arrangements in the small city of North Battleford, Saskatchewan, from where he will head up into the heavens in a stratospheric balloon and then throw himself off.

If he succeeds, Fournier will actually break four world records: for fastest freefall, longest freefall, highest jump, and highest altitude reached by a man in a balloon. It could also someday lead to rescuing astronauts in-flight.

Really? It will help rescue astronauts in-flight? I'm not sure how falling really fast past an astronaut in danger is going to be helpful.

OOPS! The balloon left without him. This just in...

NORTH BATTLEFORD, Saskatchewan — A French skydiver's latest attempt to set a new free-fall record ended Tuesday when his ride to the sky left without him.

The helium balloon Michel Fournier was going to use to soar to the stratosphere detached from the capsule he was going to use to jump from 130,000 feet.

It happened after the balloon was inflated on the ground at the airport in North Battleford, Saskatchewan. The balloon drifted away into the sky without the capsule.

Read the rest of the story HERE.

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Wheelchair Werewolf!

Hombre Films, the geniuses who brought you Naked Boys, have cranked out another fun piece.

That's me as the narrator. And if you saw Robot vs Dinosaur at Gorilla Tango or Sketchfest, you'll recognize a few other folks.

Sydney Pollack Died

Bummer. I liked that guy.He was 73 and had cancer. Sydney Pollack was a great director and actor. His body of work as a director is incredible. Perhaps his biggest feet was keeping the movie Tootsie from going off the rails because of a temperamental mid-life Dustin Hoffman. He was somehow able to foster it along to be one of the best film comedies ever. Other films he directed that are worth checking out include; They Shoot Horses, Don't They?, Three Days of the Condor and Jeremiah Johnson. There's more, depending on your tastes. He also directed The Way We Were and Out of Africa. Not horrible films,, just not my cup of tea.


On Friday, I asked...

"A 16-year-old girl was arrested for spiking her mom's food because her mom did what?"

14% said "grounded her for a weekend"
- Yeah, man. That's like doing time in jail. Except you're at home. And jail's better.

15% said "made her do homework"
- It's not fair. You shouldn't have to do homework at home.

No one said "turned off the TV"
- Just too much beyond comprehension.

71% got it right with "took away her cell phone"

According to the St. Petersburg Times, a 16-year-old girl was arrested Tuesday and charged with aggravated domestic battery after Pasco deputies said she spiked her mom's food with an ingredient that she knew could cause a severe allergic reaction. The Times is not printing the name of the teen or her mother. Several family members told deputies they believed the teen, who attends Pasco High School, may have spiked her mom's food more than once. They said she was angry because her mom made her do chores and recently took away her cell phone, according to the arrest report.

So, it's not just that she took the phone away. It's also that she made her do chores. This is totally justifiable. How the hell is she supposed to call her friends and bitch about doing chores when she doesn't have a cell phone?

Friday, May 23, 2008

Witchcraft. Crazy, Crazy Witchcraft

Yesterday, I asked...

"A rampaging mob in western Kenya burned 15 women to death for what?"

20% said "Infidelity"
- Cheaters should steal this idea. I might watch it, then.

60% said "Arrogance"
- Sheesh. Torch me, now.

Nobody said "Puberty"
- Fortunately, their menstruation's doused the flames.

20% got it right with "Witchcraft"

According to AFP, a rampaging mob in western Kenya burnt 15 women accused of witchcraft to death, a local official and villagers told AFP Wednesday. The region, populated mainly by the Kisii tribe, has been dubbed Kenya's "sorcery belt" due to mob attacks on women suspected of witchcraft. Several cases were also reported in recent months in neighboring Tanzania, forcing President Jakaya Kikwete to order special protection for albino, who were being murdered and mutilated for good luck by with-doctors.

Murdering and mutilating albinos for good luck? A lot of rabbits are having a good laugh about that.


Thursday, May 22, 2008


Various tidbits of this and that....

This from the folks at Schadenfreude

Gallery Cabaret

Saturday May 24

We wind down our PBR tour by coming back where we started. The Gallery is our home away from home and we are glad to be back in our building. We are not approaching this as a wind-down though, if anything this is our grand finale. We will use the services of Mike and Duane once again, but we will bring our friends Don Hall and Joe Janes in to kick you in the teeth. Did we mention the return of Jill Benjamin? She’s in the house. What’s a rent party show without our favorite stand-up in the land Robert Buscemi? And Bertha Mason comes by to bake some pies for the crowd and Gall Cab owner Kenny is going to take his shirt off.

2020 North Oakley. 9pm. $10. Free food.

Don and I will be doing our patented litany of "I Believes..." Don has written a slew of new ones and I will be dusting off some golden oldies. At least one of us will end up either naked or bleeding or both.


It's Memorial Day weekend, so go drink some beer and remember. I will be celebrating by being featured in a music video by The Breeders. We're shooting all day. The song is the funky "Walk It Off" from Mountain Battles.


Michael Brownlee posted this on his blog the other day and it made me laugh out loud and spit some things out of my mouth that I wasn't even aware was in there.


Yesterday, I asked...

"To show the effects of the deforestation of rain forests in a public service announcement, Harrison Ford does what?"

25% said "Plays Indiana Jones in concrete jungle"
- That's the next sequel, Indiana Jones and the Last Parking Space.

13% said "Plays a blade runner trying to find real trees"
- And then we find out that he's really a tree himself!

No one bit "Plays Han Solo on a barren Ewok planet"

62% said "Has his chest waxed"

According to The Associated Press, Harrison Ford pulled a Steve Carell for a public service announcement: He gets his chest waxed. The 65-year-old star winces in apparent pain as a strip of hair is yanked from between his pecs for a PSA for Conservation International to raise awareness about the effect of deforestation on global warming.

Not sure if it really gets the point across, but I appreciate him lending the weight of his celebrity to the cause.

I would have liked it more if he had screamed "Kelly Clarkson!"

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

Obama/Clinton - the ticket, the scene

The other day, Richard Reinert bravely posted a sketch he wrote in the comments section. I say that's brave because it's a vulnerable thing to do. He's opened himself for feedback, even though he didn't ask for any. His desire is to see this piece he wrote performed. If you're interested in putting it up, shoot him an e-mail.

The idea is timely and fun. It's a "what if" scene about an Obama/Clinton ticket coming to fruition and being celebrated at the inaugural ball.

My comments are after the scene.

Obama and Clinton -What a Ticket! - A Political Parody
By Richard Reinert

The Scene: President Barack Obama and Vice President Hillary Clinton and their spouses are attending a formal dance in the White House. Presidents Obama and Clinton are dressed in tuxedos. Michelle Obama is wearing a backless evening gown with a slit that shows off her legs. VP Clinton is wearing a black pantsuit. Two guests are chatting with their backs to the camera. The camera zooms slowly in on Michelle and Bill as the guests whisper to each other.

Guest No. 1: I agree, this is a lovely event.
No. 2: Yes, I really like the music chosen by the First Lady. It’s so “American.”
No. 1: And who knew she could dance like that!
No. 2: Bill Clinton too!
No. 1: Who knew?
No. 2: Well, I think the President knew.
No. 1: Which president?
No. 2: It is confusing, I must admit.
No. 1: Not to Michelle and Bill.
No. 2: Yes, they seem to be getting along real well. By the way did you hear the title they gave Bill?
No 1: No. What is it?
No. 2: Second Gentleman. I hear he isn’t too happy with it.

(Bill slides his hand a little down Michelle’s back. She smiles and moves his hand up.)

No. 1: Look at that!
No. 2: Well, I never! And they said this combination wouldn’t work. Huh! So much for political gurus!
No. 1: Things are quiet enough now but there’s going to be some mighty big fireworks later tonight.
No. 2: It’s not the Fourth of July. Where are these fireworks?
No. 1: How about upstairs and Number One Observatory Circle?
No. 2: Oh, dear. Do you think we should alert the Secret Service?
No. 1: What, you think they haven’t noticed?
No. 2: Maybe it’s time to call Al Gore. He’ll know what to do.
No. 1: Forget it. He’s in the Gansu Province of China.
No. 2: What’s he doing there?
No. 1: I understand he is saving the Giant Panda from extinction.

(During this, Barack and Hillary are discussing nuclear missiles and China but they have had a hard time concentrating since they take occasional peeks at their spouses. An aide runs over to them.)

AIDE: Mr, President and Mrs. Vice President, the Prime minister of Iran wants to meet with both of you ASAP.

THE PRESIDENT: Damn! Can’t it wait?

HILLARY: Yes, please do tell him I’m exhausted. Tell him to come to the White House tomorrow about noon, won’t you? Bill and I have to get back to Number One Observatory Circle right away. I have a few important issues to discuss with him.

THE PRESIDENT: I’m busy too.

AIDE: I don’t know if it can wait very long Mr. President and Mrs. Vice President. He says that the Israelis are bombing his country.

THE PRESIDENT: Oh, what of it? I’m a little tired of having to straighten things out between those two. He is starting to annoy me. McCain was right. I should never sat down with him. Listen, the Vice President and I have more important things to attend to tonight. Don’t you agree, Hillary? Just tell that Iranian he has to wait until tomorrow.

AIDE: Yes sir, I’ll tell him but it’s not exactly something we should put off very long.

HILLARY: Yes, We have some domestic issues to take care of tonight! Like right now!

(President Obama approaches Michelle and Bill from one direction. Hillary comes from the other side. President Obama and Vice President Clinton are each accompanied by several large Secret Service men who glare menacingly at their opposite set.)

THE PRESIDENT: It’s time to go, Michelle.

MICHELLE: All right Obama. Let’s say goodnight properly to Bill and the First Lady.

(Before they leave the ballroom, Bill Clinton and Michelle Obama give each other a slightly long and seemingly intimate hug. Hillary and Barack shake hands quite formally as they look on at Bill and Michelle with obvious displeasure. They all part company, Secret Service men in tow. As they leave, Bill Clinton turns and calls out to Michelle.)

BILL: Oh hey, Michelle, don’t forget tomorrow. Hillary and Obama each have some important State business so I guess it’s just you and me at that ball they are holding for us in Charleston tomorrow.

MICHELLE: Thanks for reminding me Bill. It should be lots of fun.

BILL: What dress will you wear?

MICHELLE: Oh, I don’t know. Do you have any suggestions, Bill?

BILL: Well, now, I like that smoky see-through number you wore to the reception in Hawaii last week.

THE PRESIDENT: Hawaii? What Reception?

MICHELLE: Okay Bill, but only because you like it.

THE PRESIDENT: Let’s go Michelle. It’s a school night and the kids have to get up early.

HILLARY: Come on Bill, get a move on.

(As the couple separate the Secret Service agents followed both. The President closes the door on them and when the President and Michelle are alone, the conversation resumes)

MICHELLE: Barack, you seem upset. Is it about Hawaii? I told you about the Hawaii reception but you were too busy to even notice that I was gone.

BARACK: Forget Hawaii. Did you think I wouldn’t notice what you and that old windbag were doing tonight?

MICHELLE: Why Barack, we were just dancing. Do I detect a green-eyed monster? Bill and I were just fulfilling our diplomatic duties as First Lady being polite to a former President. Really Barack, we were just dancing.

BARACK: Michelle, I would call that dance you were doing with him a lot more than diplomatic. You should have you were shaking your thing. And he had his hands all over you!

MICHELLE: Now Barack, you are being just plain silly.

BARACK: Silly? It’s not silly when one’s wife spends the evening cuddling up to an old white man like him.

(Michelle puts her hand around his neck and kisses him on the cheek.)

MICHELLE: You know you’re the number one President in my life and you always will be. Although I do admit I like his white hair and that cherry red nose of his is kind of cute too.

BARACK: White hair? Cherry red-nose? You’re giving me white hair and I’m sorry but I don’t think my nose will ever be cherry-red! While I’m trying to keep the world free of terrorists, you’re snuggling up to an old has-been. That’s what he is! A has-been!

MICHELLE: Come on honey; let’s get some rest. Please relax while I check on the kids.

(She leaves and the President picks up the telephone.)

(Scene switches to Hillary and Bill)

BILL: Hillary, Michelle looked pretty fine tonight, don’t you think? That dress was snazzy on her.

(Hillary is steamed up.)

HILLARY: Yeah, she wears sexy gowns and I have to wear these stupid pants suits! I’m fed up with high necklines and pants suits while she looks ”snazzy!”

BILL: Now, now, Hillary, honey, you looked great tonight too. You look just fine in pants suits. Okay, Michelle has a nice figure and she looked pretty good in that dress but you look better, at least to me. Honest honey, I really mean it. I really do.

HILLARY: Bill, don’t give me that political line in that Southern drawl you use when you try to sound sincere. You’re a moron if you don’t know that I see what’s going on between you two! Did you have to give her a big kiss in front of everyone while Barack and I have to deal with more important matters. We are trying to keep the world safe for democracy while you flirt with his wife. I saw you your hand on her back.

BILL: Now, now, Hillary, I didn’t do anything inappropriate. I was being polite.

HILLARY: You call that polite? I suppose you were being polite with Monica too!

BILL: Now honey, that happened a long time ago and you promised not to bring it up again when I agreed to let you run for President.

HILLARY: What did you say? You let me run for president? Listen to me Bill! If you had behaved yourself, I would be the President! And you wouldn’t be the Second Gentleman!

(Back to Barack and Michelle.)

BARACK: (Speaking on the telephone.) Yes, get me the Secretary of State. He waits ... Don’t you know who this is? … No, I don’t care if he has gone to bed. Get him out of bed and on the line right away.

(As he waits, Michelle returns to the room)

MICHELLE: Barack, what are you doing on the telephone. Who are you calling?

BARACK: The Secretary of State.

MICHELLE: Barack, it’s past midnight. Can’t it wait until the morning?

BARACK: No. I just made a big decision..

BARACK: Hello, John, this is the President – President Obama. Yes I now it’s late. … No, it can’t wait. Tomorrow, you will announce that Bill Clinton will be the next U.S. ambassador to Tadzhikistan.. …

Have I asked him? No, but He won’t turn it down. He will like the scenery there. Call a press conference for tomorrow at 7 AM. …I don’t give a damn about procedure. Just do it!

MICHELLE: Barack, I think this is affecting your judgement. Let’s go to bed.

BARACK: Right now I need a smoke. (He goes to the door, opens it and calls.) Do any of you guys out there have a cigarette? No, not menthol! Geez, it was never like this on “The West Wing!”


Richard Reinert

- My suggestion Richard is that you just focus on the split scene between the two couples. It's a great idea. Skip the guests, skip the ball, cut to the heart of the scene. And I like that Bill flirted with Michelle, but the trip to Hawaii without the others knowing about it is a bit of a stretch in logic. I think focusing on Bill's advances, misinterpreted or not, is the way to go. I would also like to see more distinction between the couples. How do they differ in how they get ready for bed, for example. How do they really feel about Hillary being vice-president and Bill being second gentleman? I think there's more to explore there. I love that Hillary has a formal pant suit that she wears.

Another scene to explore that your scene hints at is a scene between Bill and Michelle. A scene where Hillary and Barack have to leave the other two alone in the Oval Office and Bill starts trying to seduce Michelle. Hell, the Oval Office is his old stomping grounds. That could be a lot of fun, too.

- Picky stuff - It's not a parody. This is a matter of semantics (damn Arabs!). A parody imitates something else very specifically, like a West Wing parody. This falls more into satire territory. You're showing the human consequences of an Obama/Clinton ticket.

Also, there's a section where you say that Barack and Hillary are discussing nuclear missiles and China and are interrupted. Well, script that. Otherwise, you are pimping the actors into having to make stuff up, which means you might get something that doesn't fit and changes the focus of the whole scene. "So, Hillary, did you hear about China bombing Delaware? That was something. Happened around 3am. I should have called you."

Thanks for posting your scene, Richard, If anyone else has feedback for Richard, or is interested in using the scene, please post it in the comments section or e-mail him. For feedback, be constructive. Don't be a dick. It's not helpful.


Yesterday, I asked...

"The person recently named the ambassador of Japan tourism is who?"

18% said "George Takei"
- Probably wouldn't work. I heard he doesn't like sushi.

9% said "Hulk Hogan"
- Visit Japan. And an old bald man in a doo rag whose fifteen minutes were up fifteen years ago.

No one thought it might be "Godzilla"
- He's always destroying Tokyo, so it would be a good way to get tourists to see the rest of the country.

72% got it right with "Hello Kitty"

According to The Associated Press, the tourism ministry of Japan on Monday named Hello Kitty as its choice to represent the country in China and Hong Kong, two places where she is wildly popular among kids and young women. Hello Kitty is very popular and this should really boost the number of visitors to Japan. Until she hacks up a furball or paparazzi catch her licking herself or pooping in the sand on the beach.

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Mono Logs


Blackouts are often used to pepper a sketch revue and give it some unexpected bursts of energy. Another short form is the comic monologue. It tends to create intimate moments with the audience that help build a special rapport with them. It also gives individual members of an ensemble a moment to shine.

If you don't already have a comic character rolling around in your noggin, it's easy and fun to create one. My favorite method is to just springboard off the suggestion of a word. The word can come from anywhere. At Robowriters, a few of us had "to go" coffee cups from an evil national chain restaurant who doesn't need me to give them a plug. These cups are loaded with pithy slogans as well as the usual "by law" coffee cup messages. The writers were told to look the cup over and pick a word. Simple as that.

Once you have the word, the wheels in your head will start turning. You can use the word literally. If the word is "caution," the character can be a crossing guard. You can also use the word to influence the character, like, they have an extremely cautious outlook on life.

Now that you have the word, write from the character's perspective as if they simply walked out on stage and introduced themselves to the crowd. Explore who they are; what their name is, what they do for a living, who their friends and relatives are, what they love, what they hate, etc. And, yes, pack as much of that as you can into ten minutes. You don't need much more than that.

Once you stop, read it over. Read it out loud, if you can. Listen for what and who is really important to your character. Our cautious crossing guard has an overbearing mother and deeply wants to move to Portland, Oregon to sell art on the sidewalk.

Now, write another monologue, again, only giving yourself about ten minutes, where the character is pouring their heart out to another character that is silent. So, it's as if our crossing guard has sat her mother down and said "I have to tell you something." The person they are talking to should be someone they have an emotional charge with. It'[s not very dramatically interesting for them to talk to their buddy about their boss when the boss is the bigger risk to confront.

Now you have something you can shape and rewrite into a performable piece.

In developing the final version,there are three forms to keep in mind.

The monologue can still be just the character talking to the audience. These can be a bit confessional, but it is like they are taking the audience into their confidence. The character still needs to want something and can use the audience to help them process their thinking or demonstrate the depths of their want. The character should also be engaged in an activity. In this case, our crossing guard could be suiting up and getting ready. Or at work, talking to us as she holds out her stop sign to cars. The activity should give us some insight into their lives.

The character can be speaking to another actor who is silent, but present. One of the Robowriters wrote a scene about a character trying to make a friend on the bus. In that case, I think it's important that we see the intended friend trying to read their paper and squirming a bit as this person drops big hints about stuff they could do together.

The third way is the classic monologue style of the character addressing another character as if they were out floating over the audience. The imagined character is the fourth wall, in this case, and we see the real character in all their vulnerability trying to get what they want that only that person can provide.

It's important to make the wants clear and deeply felt. Get to the basic human wants of to be seen, heard, touched and loved to find out what your character wants from someone else.


Last Friday, I asked...

"The Barclay Prime restaurant in Philadelphia serves a $100 entre made up of what?"

22% said "Mac and Cheese"
- Mac and Cheese for a hundred bucks. It would have to served on Madonna's backside and spoon fed to me by Paris Hilton.

11% said "SpaghettiO's"
- The can costs more than the little O's of goodness.

No one thought it was "Cat Food"

67% got it right with "Cheesesteak"

According to CBS 3 in Philadelphia, Chef James Locascio, of Rittenhouse Square's Barclay Prime, has created Philadelphia's "haute" cheesesteak, an upscale version of the sandwich that includes butter poached lobster and shaved truffles.

To get top of the line ingredients, Locascio says it costs $17 per pound for cheese, $21 per pound for Kobe beef and $900 per pound for summer truffles.

So who buys the costly sandwich?

On average, five or six customers order it per night and many share it as an appetizer.

Locascio says, "It all adds up, a quarter of a million dollars a year in cheesesteaks is pretty good."

Okay, and this is from the vegetarian, if you add lobster and truffles to it, IT AIN'T A CHEESESTEAK!

Monday, May 19, 2008

Come back tomorrow...

Hey, folks,

Sorry, but I have been out in Deerfield, Illinois shooting some corporate videos and that had me up at the crack of dawn. update today. But tomorrow I'll have some goodies, including a new Robowriters assignment.

Peace Out,


Friday, May 16, 2008


Thank God! The City of Chicago has finally repealed its ban on foie gras. For two years, now, according to Mayor Daley, the ban has damaged our city's reputation in international dining circles. That's right. For two years, people have been sitting in circles over in France and snootily deriding the city's ban on what many bleeding hearts consider an exceptionally cruel process. Actually consuming bleeding hearts, perhaps on toast, is what the Illinois Restaurant Association has wanted to do because of the ban.

Foie gras, French for "fatty liver," is produced by force-feeding geese and ducks -- by jamming a steel pipe down a bird’s esophagus three times a day for a month -- to create livers 10 times their normal size. By the time the process is over, the birds can barely walk, let alone breathe. It's believed that the staggering and wheezing are what give foie gras its delightfully savory tinge.

No restaurant has suffered a blow to their income because of the ban. I take that back. One restaurant, T.G.I.Foie Gras's, had to stop selling their signature line of goose liver nuggets. The repeal was forced through the city council without debate. Chicago can now, once again, hold its head high in international circles and belch a fatty, force-fed belch.

Enjoy your foie gras, Mayor Daley.

It goes well with veal.


My friends Pete and Paul over at The Graffiti Table posted this a few days ago and I have been shouting its praises from the rooftops. A practice which may lead to my eviction from my apartment. But, damn, it's funny.


Yesterday, I asked...

"A 9-year-old girl in Athens, Greece recently discovered her twin where?"

15% said "In a painting"
- No, Rod Serling. It wasn't in a painting. The Night Gallery is closed.

No one said "On a missing poster" or "In school"

85% got it right with "In her stomach"

According to The Associated Press, a 9-year-old girl who went to hospital in central Greece suffering from stomach pains was found to be carrying her embryonic twin, doctors said Thursday.

The girl has made a full recovery, he said.

Andreas Markou, head of the hospital's pediatric department, said the embryo was a formed fetus with a head, hair and eyes, but no brain or umbilical cord.

Regardless, the parents have already bought the twins matching pink jumpers.

Thursday, May 15, 2008

The Legend of Pecos Bill

Robot vs Dinosaur did a flurry of writing for The Greatest Stories Never Told. I was lucky to get one of my pieces in retelling the tall tale of Pecos Bill. I actually wrote two or three years ago for a Teatro Bastardo project. It's quite an undertaking and not an easy fit for a typical sketch revue. It worked just fine in TGSNT, though. I had fun researching it. I knew the Disney version of Pecos Bill, but didn't know about his tendency towards drinking whiskey and nails or that he shot his gal pal - for her own good, of course. Enjoy.

The Legend of Pecos Bill
Written by Joe Janes
third draft


Young Whizzle
Dirk /Widowmaker
Jaspar /Catfish
Pecos Bill
Slue-foot Sue

(Lights up on cowboys around a campfire. Young Whizzle tools around with a harmonica.)

Good riding today, boys. But we’re going to have to get up early if we’re going to get the cattle to Denver on time.

We still have to go through tornado alley, Dirk.

Too bad Pecos Bill ain’t here, Jasper. He’d grab a twister by the tail and whip it over to Tulsa.

Who in tarnation is Pecos Bill, Durango?

He’s the dirtiest rat ever rode the range. He stole my gal and then he shot her.

Come on, Young Whizzle. Pecos Bill would never do that.

Be careful of falling in love, boys. Trying to tame a woman’s heart is like trying to break a wild horse.

It just ends up breaking another part of your anatomy.

Have another cup of cowboy juice and let me tell you about it. You all remember about five years back, I was dating a little philly from up north. I was woo-ing her from afar. Her name was Sue. Slue-foot Sue.

Sure. I heard of her. She and Pecos Bill -

Why’d they call her Slue Foot?

Cuz her feet were slue-like. Idiot.

You girlies want to talk pee-dahl deformities, or hear my story of pain and woe?

Pain and woe.

Well, I finally talked Sue into coming to marrying me. Only, she didn’t have no horse, so, she found herself a catfish as big as a whale and rode it down the Mississipp. That’s where those feet of slue come in handy.

That don’t seem very practical. Trains and stagecoaches are fairly reliable.

She never made it. She stopped to water her catfish, and who do you think she runs into…?

(Lights up on Pecos Bill and his horse, Widowmaker eyeing Slue-foot Sue.)

Well, well, well. Lookie here, Widowmaker. We got us a little girlie what likes to ride catfish.

Who the hell might you be?

Maam, I be Pecos Bill. This here’s my ride, Widowmaker.

Why do they call him Widowmaker?

Oh, you know, some names just stick. (He and Widowmaker have a good laugh over this.)

I bet I could ride him.

He’d throw you so high we’d have to scrape that pretty little face of yours off the moon.

I’ve been straddling a 300 pound slippery catfish between my legs for three days, I think I can handle your Widowmaker.

Your prowess with a bottom feeder is impressive. Would you like to sip from my canteen? (He hands it to her. She sips.)

My favorite. (She shakes it – it sounds like there’s pieces of metal inside.)

Whiskey and nails.

(They sigh and look at one another.)

Needless to say, they fell in love. Slue done forgot all about me. The catfish married them in a civil ceremony.

(Lights up on Catfish marrying Slue and Pecos with Widowmaker standing in as the best man.)

I now pronounce you cowboy and cowgirl. You may now commence to whoopin’ it up.

(Slue and Pecos and Widowmaker all start shooting their guns and commence to “whoopping.”)

They whooped it up for weeks. Then one morning…

(Lights up on Slue, Pecos, Widowmaker and the Catfish all in bed.)

Pecos, darlin’, it’s a pretty morning out.


Nice morning to go for a ride.


On a horse.


I don’t know, Sue…

You love that horse more than me.

I’ve known him longer, but if it means that much to you…

Yeah! Thank you, Bill! C’mon Widowmaker, we’re going for a ride!

(Sue leads Widowmaker behind a "hill" on stage.)

Needless to say, it wasn’t a very good idear. Widowmaker was named Widowmaker for a reason. If anyone but Bill hopped on his back, he’d clench up. He’d become like a tightly wound spring ready to snap.

Be careful up there, Sue. Ride him easy. Don’t use your spurs.

Yee-haw!!! (Her elongated “yee-haw” fades off)

Oh, no! Sue! Sue!

(Widow-maker runs back on stage and joins Pecos. They watch Slue - a small doll version - pop up behind the mountain and hit the moon and return to earth and bounce.)

PECOS (cont’d)
She’s bouncing too high, she hit her head on the moon.

MOON (whenever hit by Slue)

SLUE (off)
Help me, Pecos Bill!

She’s just going to keep bouncing. If I don’t do something, she’ll be up there forever. She’ll starve to death.

So, to prevent Sue from starving to death, Pecos Bill thought it best to just shoot her.

That don’t seem very practical.

PECOS (taking aim)
Don’t worry, Slue. I’ll take care of you.

Thank, God, Bill. I think there’s some rope- (he shoots) Ow!

Now, Pecos Bill may be the greatest cowboy ever when it comes to ropin’ and herdin’ and tangling with twisters, but he was a lousy shot.

(Bill takes more shots at Slue and we hear her, and the moon, saying “Ow!” Widowmaker and Catfish join in trying to shoot her.)

Eventually, one of them got lucky and Sue drew her last breath.

…Ow…I love you, Pecos Bill.

The last thing she says is “I love you” to a guy who shot her for bouncing?


Go figure.

So, that’s why I think Pecos Bill is a lousy rat. He stole my gal from me and then he killed her. If I ever cross paths with him, well, it ain’t gonna end up purty.

(We hear a fierce wind. A twister hits the camp and the cowboys all start spinning around. It suddenly stops.)

What in tarnation was that?

We got hit by a twister, but then it just, left.

Pecos Bill! He must have grabbed it by it’s tail and throwed it across the state. He saved our lives.

SLUE (enters)
It weren’t no Pecos Bill.

Sue! I thought you were dead. I thought Pecos Bill shot you.

He did, but he’s a lousy shot. It didn’t kill me. A twister came through a few days later and knocked me back to the ground. Since then, I learnt to tame them.

You saved our lives.

I reckon I did.

How can we repay you?

I sure wouldn’t mind picking up where we left off, Sue.

You can repay me by telling me where I can find Pecos Bill.

Ah, revenge!

No, I still love him. I miss him horribly. I hope he’ll forgive me for making him shoot me.

(Dirk shoots her.)


Lights out.


Yesterday, I asked...

"According to Rev. Jose Funes, the Vatican says it's okay to believe in what?"

Nobody went for the answers "The Devil," "Mormans" or "Santa Claus"
100% got it right with "Extra-Terrestials"

According to The Associated Press, the Vatican's chief astronomer says that believing in aliens does not contradict faith in God.

The Rev. Jose Gabriel Funes, the Jesuit director of the Vatican Observatory, says that the vastness of the universe means it is possible there could be other forms of life outside Earth, even intelligent ones.

Funes says that such a notion "doesn't contradict our faith" because aliens would still be God's creatures.

And being God's creatures that also means we get to eat them.

(Entitled Salad, this painting by Till Nowak was in the art exhibit side of Emerging Technologies.)