Tuesday, July 20, 2010

[687] @craigyferg

Yesterday was our one-year anniversary. I know. We're big time. Hold your applause.

We spent our day in Hollywood, seeing a taping of the Late, Late Show w/ Craig Ferguson. I'm pretty sure God smiled upon our anniversary, because it was one of the best episodes I've seen, let alone been in attendance for. On the way into the studio, we crossed paths with Grant Imahara from, well, I shouldn't even have to tell you who that is. But I will. He's from Mythbusters. In my eloquence, upon spotting one of my TV heroes, I managed to say - okay, mumble - "Graaant Imahrrrrra." He responded with a much more intelligible greeting, for which I was grateful. It later turned out that Grant was a surprise guest on the show for the tweets & emails segment. It was awesome (which was the word of the evening), but stuff happened before this, too.

Pretty much immediately upon entering the studio, the warm-up comedian, Chunky B, caught sight of me and decided that I would be his target for the rest of the evening. I suppose, when you have a fro like mine, you really can't be surprised when people pick you out of a crowd. I've had drunken strangers ask to touch it, I've had random men comment on it on the street, and, as I mentioned a couple entries back, even Jeremy Davies from Lost told me he loved it. In short, a solid afro is a people magnet. If you're one of the three other black people I know and you're reading this, take note. What you do with that information is entirely dependent on whether or not you're a fan of people getting all up in your business without invitation.

Anyway, it all started as I was trying not to get hit by any of the candy he was tossing from his pockets rapid-fire into the audience. He spotted me, squirming to keep my face out of the danger zone, and mouthed that he liked my hair. I responded with a polite thanks. Two minutes later, he's got one end of a Twix in his mouth, and is leaning toward my face. Feeling like I would be a disappointment to the crowd if I turned away, and figuring, hey, when in Rome, I reluctantly grabbed the other end of the Twix in my teeth. This earned me the unfortunate nickname of "The Horny Girl" for the rest of the evening. I guess that might be better than the homely guy sitting with his considerably more attractive girlfriend, who was dubbed "Tony the Gay Guy." It's a toss up, really.

Taking my acquiescence in participating with his gag as a sign of my being down for anything, over the course of the pre-show and commercial breaks, I was given an awkward lap dance, offered an air joint, referenced repeatedly using the aforementioned unfortunate nickname, and told that the candy everyone received was melted because I was so hot.

As a side note, my husband did nothing but laugh as I was sexually harassed by the warm-up comedian on our anniversary. Didn't even feign jealousy or anger. This is somewhat troubling.

After the show, Chunky gave me a sweet Late, Late Show mug - which has been added to our shelf of TV/movie memorabilia - and a hug for being a good sport. I am nothing if not a willing participant in my own humiliation. I'd do it again (who wants go see Sara Watkins with me on the show next week? Eh? Eh? After this nice anecdote, who could say no?).

Aside from this hoopla, there actually was a show being taped, and it was awesome. It started out with a performance by She & Him. I think I'm mostly past my Zooey Deschanel obsession, but it was still pretty cool to see her up close. And I mean close, 'cause Craig's set is the smallest set I have ever seen. I mean, the set of the PBS show I interned for was bigger than this set. You really can't tell on TV that it's so small, and you would think that there are two or three hundred people in the audience, but it is, and there aren't. There are about one hundred people watching the show, and Craig's desk, the guest chairs, and Geoff Peterson are all situated within about ten or fifteen feet of each other. That's the magic of television, ladies & gents.

Jeffery Dean Morgan was HILARIOUS, and convinced Craig to let him stay for Mary Lynn Rajskub's segment. The three person interview thing was fantastic, and there is nothing like a three-way awkward pause to really make an episode of Craig Ferguson. If you can find it online, watch it, 'cause it was phenomenal.

One thing that really struck me about this show is how incredibly off-the-cuff it is. Y'know how it looks like he's making stuff up off the top of his head? He really is. There are no cue cards or outlines. His opening monologue came to him about five seconds before the camera started rolling, when Chunky B asked him what he did over the weekend. That's insane! I mean, when I have to think of something to say off the top of my head, we get, "Grant Imahrrrrra." We don't get Peabody Award winning monologues. If ever I were convinced that someone completely deserves his spot on late night, that person is Craig Ferguson.

I won't bore you with the details of our awesome dinner at some place in The Grove whose name I can't remember, or with commentary about the sweet vintage store in the Farmer's Market. I shall simply say that it was a fulfilling anniversary, and it'll be hard to beat next year. I'm a firm believer, though, that I can somehow find a way to top all of my great experiences. I aim high, and I rarely disappoint.

[Update] Read about the prank Craig pulled on the TV Critics of America. He recorded this while we were in the audience, too.

Also, I just want to add a recommendation for Late, Late Show attendees. When they give you the $20 per person meal coupons for the Grove, take that coupon to the Wood Ranch Grill. They give you a ton of food, and charge you $20 for two people, instead of $20 per person... unless, of course, it was a mistake when they did it for us. I don't think so, though, since they had a special Craig Ferguson menu there. Don't do cheesecake factory. Their deal blows.

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

[674] when dark comedy isn't comedy

Yesterday I watched a movie called Serious Moonlight. It stars Meg Ryan and Timothy Hutton, with Justin Long and Kristen Bell in supporting roles, and it's marketed as a comedy. Admittedly, the fact that this was airing on Lifetime probably should have been my first hint that the movie might not fit into my definition of "funny." I'll cop to that. Still, I was expecting something along the lines of You've Got Mail or When Harry Met Sally. Not. So. Much.

The synopsis of the movie given on my DVR said something about a woman duct taping her adulterous husband to a toilet just as home invaders break in. Sounds like some sorts of zany antics should ensue, like an updated and more grown-up version of House Arrest. In some ways, these films actually are kind of similar. Once the house is being robbed, the husband and wife are left to try to work out their problems in captivity. Okay, did I say some ways? 'Cause that's really the only way.

What seems like a pretty entertaining plot for a comedy quickly spirals into being just plain disturbing. I know this may be blasphemy, but I'm gonna go ahead and say that Meg Ryan is not all that funny to begin with. I will grant her, though, that she does a good job of playing the exact same character in everything. Since she's departed from that character, I think we can all agree that her success has been pretty limited - and by limited, I mean, pretty much nonexistent. She does not play our old friends Sally Albright or Kathleen Kelly in this film. She plays an over-the-top, unhinged woman who thinks that she can convince her husband to fall back in love with her by taping him to the John, baking him cookies, and talking about the good ol' days. It isn't long before her husband, who's planning on proposing to his mistress, invokes the infertility card. 'Cause nothing's funnier than a woman's inability to make a baby. Heh heh. Heh. Heh?

The home invader, Justin Long, is cold and aggressive. He gropes an unconscious Meg Ryan and talks about the ways he wants to violate her, while Tim Hutton looks on helplessly and pleads for him to stop. To quote Adam Scott's character on Party Down, are we having fun yet? Later, we throw Kristen Bell into the mix, who alternately screams about how they're going to die and then nags Timothy Hutton about which one of the women he's going to pick. Somehow, we're supposed to believe that it's imperative he chooses before they all die a horrible death at the hands of Justin Long and his stoner friends, who are, inexplicably, downstairs partying for two days. Either that, or we're supposed to think it's funny that she's insisting he choose, in light of the circumstances. Whatever the scene is trying to do or be, it's failing. The whole movie is failing.

This might have made an interesting drama with a few plot tweaks. Or maybe with someone believable like Kathy Bates playing the snapped wife. There are even ways they could have made this a good comedy. The thing is, though, that there is a fine line between dark comedy and just plain dark. There needs to be a level of absurdity, not just insanity. Women being molested, cheated on, and looked down upon for an inability to reproduce really aren't funny things. Neither is the idea of a man tormenting a couple for fun while robbing their house particularly amusing. The woman who wrote the screenplay, Adrienne Shelley, was later murdered by a home invader, and it wasn't funny at all. I don't necessarily blame her for this mess of a movie, as she wasn't there to direct it or approve any of the final details. I'm gonna give her the benefit of the doubt and hope that this wasn't what she had in mind. The film is brutal and unfeeling, and the only thing that keeps it from being tragic is the fact that there isn't a single character you root for. They're all terrible people.

There is actually a pretty clever twist at the end of the film, but it doesn't redeem the hour and a half or so it took to get to that point. I won't ruin it, even though I also would not recommend that you watch it. If you're curious, there are plenty of spoilers on the IMDb discussion board for the film.

I guess this just highlights something that has always bothered me about a lot of movies. I think that a lot of times filmmakers just leap over that line that divides a comedy from tragedy. I can think of a lot of films that people told me were hilarious, but that ended up leaving me with a weird feeling in the pit of my stomach. I rarely find entertaining murder, rape, suicide, or abuse. In the interest of full disclosure, I'll admit that I laughed in Burn After Reading when a certain character got shot in the face quite suddenly and unexpectedly. One of my favorite shows is America's Funniest Home Videos, so I'm certainly not above a little schadenfreude. I'm sure there are plenty of times when I've laughed at horrible things. For me, though, there are so few times when heinous, violent acts are warranted in a comedy. Serious Moonlight is a perfect example of how dark comedy can go very, very wrong.

But you don't have to take my word for it...