Friday, April 24, 2015

May Day 2015: Psychotronic Paul Presents The Pre-Code Follies!

On May Day, after a five year hiatus, Psychotronic Paul dons his Official Curator fedora and returns to the Edison Theatre at the Niles Essanay Silent Film Museum to present a comedy, cartoon and music-drenched program, Great Depression style.

First and foremost, let's answer the salient questions about the May Day extravaganza, featuring cool cartoons, musical clips, comedy shorts and genuine 1929 "naughty flapper" music by chanteuse Kitten On The Keys.

Can one buy advance tickets online? Yeah, baby - RIGHT HERE!

Do members of the Niles Essanay Silent Film Museum get a discount? In the immortal words of the Giants' beloved right fielder Hunter "The Preacher" Pence, YES YES YES! By all means, become a museum member - they have been and are doing fantastic work. If you adore classic film and especially silents, blow off the multiplexes and support the crew at Niles instead.

What will we show?

The Pre-Code Follies reflects Psychotronic Paul's love for Busby Berkeley, Fleischer Studio and Van Beuren cartoons, lecherous wisecracking comedians, vintage Tin Pan Alley tunes and 1929 musicals featuring scantily clad chorines (all of which is well documented). The "rilly big shoe" shall include all of the above on 16mm and 35mm a.k.a. FILM, GLORIOUS FILM.

How about that "live in person" performance?

Kitten On The Keys, who knows ALL the ditties from those "dawn of talkies" movie musicals, is a genuine throwback to the sprightly entertainers of yore.

And Kitten will tickle those ivories while singing these great classic tunes between the toons.

How do I get to Niles? Well, with the full understanding that this blog's readers are more tech-savvy than Mr. Blogmeister is, here's the museum's location, 37417 Niles Boulevard, from Google maps.

If we decide to just show up, when should we arrive to get a seat? No later than 7:30, in our estimation.

Is it necessary for me to know how to tap dance like Ruby Keeler in 42ND STREET? No, but it may be necessary to think about doing so.

Can I get in free for knowing who Alice White AND Marjorie White were?

No, but you will receive a copy of the home "Pre-Code Follies" game, provided you have a place to store nitrate film!

Tuesday, April 21, 2015

More Worthy Fundraisers

Our friends at Bay Area Film Events, who have given audiences in our neck of the woods great entertainment for many years now, are facing daunting medical issues.

As we consider BAFE stalwart colleagues in the field of Big Screen Fun, we enthusiastically support the Theresa's Alzheimer's Care drive on Go Fund - and encourage our readers to do the same. BAFE deserves our best Cary Grant top hat tip as true showmen; we look forward to their next extravaganza on June 20. They've given a lot to the local classic movie scene - let's give back.

On a much lighter note, we at Way Too Damn Lazy To Write A Blog also dig theatre and especially musical theatre. So we extend kudos, bravos and huzzahs to Nick Santa Maria of the comedy team Biffle & Shooster, who has penned a cool stage show, Real Men, with puppeteer-comedian-actor-scribe Paul Louis. It's a "musical for guys and the women who put up with them."

We hope this fundraiser successfully raises the dough-re-me to take this show on the road. Nick and Paul aspire to take, in the immortal words of Ed Sullivan, their "rilly big shoe" to New York City. The song-filled Real Men shall be Off-Broadway, if not yet hitting, to quote Mr. Magoo, "Broadway", or the fabulous Wilson Pickett, "Funky Broadway".

Check out the following video, in which "sex icon" Jason Alexander gives Nick and Paul's boffo show something resembling an endorsement. Described as a "brutally honest, intelligent, funny and poignant musical for men who hate musicals", this will no doubt arouse the mostly dormant funnybones of grownups in the best possible way.

We've donated to drives that supported a Bootsy Collins tour, the latest project by powerhouse jazz drummer Scott Amendola, the upcoming documentary about early animation by Andrew T. Smith and Tommy José Stathes, the splendid new album, Under Glass, by gifted vocalist and songwriter Karina Denike, as well as massively entertaining DVDs of super-rare silent comedy classics curated by DIY film historians Steve Massa and Ben Model (a.k.a. Undercrank Productions), so we're thrilled and delighted to support this fundraiser as well.

The usual gang of idiots at Way Too Damn Lazy To Write A Blog encourage all to, Support The Arts - we need 'em, now more than ever, and IT'S UP TO US!

And, besides, we are nuts about musicals here; it's a fact that Madame Blogmeister successfully wooed this music-obsessed correspondent with sterling renditions of Irving Berlin songs popularized by Ethel Merman in Call Me Madam.

Sunday, April 12, 2015

And This Blog Loves The Firesign Theatre

It's inevitable that this blog, currently on quite the radio comedy kick (Stan Freberg, Bob & Ray, Henry Morgan), would take a trip to the unique universe of the Firesign Theatre.

It is a short distance from The Goon Show and the intrepid and literate writing staff of Jay Ward Productions (Bill Scott, Lloyd Turner, George Atkins, Allan Burns, Chris Hayward and Chris Jenkyns) to the indescribable combo of Firesign Theatre: literature + pop culture parody + current events + satire + stunning wordplay + amazing voice work + character acting + one-liners + Psychedelic era references.

While Second City were the kings of the improv troupes in Chicago and Toronto, and Jonathan Winters was a troupe in himself, Firesign Theatre - Philip Proctor, Peter Bergman, David Ossman and Phil Austin - took Southern California (yes, seriously bent even then) by storm, beginning as live radio performers on L.A. radio stations KPPC-FM and KPFK. Their delirious, extemporaneous, repartee-packed satire would spawn a series of concerts and recordings.

Their ranks in Los Angeles would soon be followed by The Credibility Gap (featuring Harry Shearer, Michael McKean, David L. Lander and Richard Beebe - notable for their classic A Date With Danger sketch) and, a few years later in the 1970's, such troupes as Duck's Breath Mystery Theatre.

As big fans of both film noir and the fiction of Raymond Chandler that inspired it, Way Too Damn Lazy To Write A Blog finds Firesign's gumshoe character Nick Danger irresistible.

There were also very memorable offshoot albums from Firesign Theatre members. Here are Philip Proctor and Peter Bergman at UCLA's Royce Hall on January 23, 1974. This gives a good of the pair's dynamism and linguistic prowess in person. The breathless performance includes bits from their album "TV or Not TV".

As the stalwart comedians and comediennes from SCTV often appeared on each other's subsequent projects, so did members of Firesign Theatre.

Firesign Theatre did make an appearance on Evening At The Improv in 1981 and we do enjoy the fact that the troupe is introduced by Avery Schreiber of Burns & Schreiber.

While Peter Bergman passed away in 2012, the other troupe members continue.

Check them out - still brilliant, still funny and still riffing - at Firesign Theatre Radio.

Just in case one does not have a 1975 issue vinyl copy of the Firesign Theatre albums handy, there is a YouTube channel under the appropriate title Firesign Theatre Complete Works which features all their records.

One can also buy a wide range of cool audio rarities, transcriptions and books directly from the Firesign Theatre website.

In closing, Way Too Damn Lazy To Write A Blog notes, Dear Readers, don't forget, under penalty of satire, we are all Bozos On This Bus.

Wednesday, April 08, 2015

And Now For A Word From Our Sponsor, Written By Stan Freberg!

"His splendid 1957 13-week CBS radio show was distilled into a double LP set which was my first inspiration to not only do comedy/voices/satire for a living, but also to be an historian of this great stuff." Keith Scott, voice over artist and author of The Moose That Roared: The Story of Jay Ward, Bill Scott, a Flying Squirrel, and a Talking Moose.

"He was gifted with an amazing imagination and the performing gifts necessary to transfer that imagination into something that others could see and hear." Mark Evanier

"His humor has worn well and his voice work speaks for itself—pun intended." Leonard Maltin

"Stan Freberg's satire still speaks volumes today." Don M. Yowp

The late, great Stan Freberg wrote the funniest TV ads in the history of Western Civilization, with the possible exception of those Piels Beer commercials starring Bob & Ray. Well, small wonder - they were written by a guy who turned down a drama scholarship to work with Mel Blanc as a voice-over artist on Warner Brothers cartoons!

Stan Freberg was also responsible for the only TV commercial featuring science fiction/fantasy writer (and chum of Looney Tunes director Chuck Jones) author Ray Bradbury.

Stan Freberg started his long career of writing hilarious commercials for radio. Historian and writer Don M. Yowp wrote at some length about Stan Freberg's career as cartoon voice artist and radio/television advertising wunderkind, in an August 7, 2013 post.

Here are a few more hilarious commercials by Stan Freberg - enjoy!

Tuesday, April 07, 2015

Remembering Stan Freberg (1926-2015)

In one of those eerie coincidences, the scribe who pens Way Too Damn Lazy To Write A Blog had been thinking a great deal about comedian, satirist, writer, puppeteer and cartoon voice artist supreme Stan Freberg in the past 24 hours and planning to write a tribute.

Had no clue Mr. Freberg was ailing, but was pondering which extraordinary wit could complete a Way Too Damn Lazy To Write A Blog trifeca that started with the blazing radio comedy team of Bob & Ray and the ever-cantankerous "Sultan Of Sarcasm" Henry Morgan.

So, with, the news that Stan passed this morning at 88, here's today's (admittedly, hastily thrown together - and to be edited and expanded soon enough) posting.

Could anyone in the world of comedy be considered the predecessor of such far-flung yet currently active comedians and entertainers as Stephen Colbert, Jon Stewart, Jon Oliver AND "Weird Al" Jankovic?

Yes - and that would be the great Stan Freberg. Before Allan Sherman, before Tom Lehrer, before the Dr. Demento show and 25 years before Weird Al, it was Stan The Man who wrote and performed a plethora of dead-on and frequently satiric song parodies.

Stan Freberg was also the last comedian to have a radio show that was actually on one of those "Big Three" networks (we know Bob & Ray continued on PBS for years, but they were the Last Comics Standing on radio).

Mr. Freberg could be regarded as part of a trend towards a sophisticated approach to comedy that began with Fred Allen, Henry Morgan and Bob & Ray in the 1940's.

As the 1950's progressed this list would expand to include Ernie Kovacs, Tom Lehrer, Bob Newhart and the intrepid writing staff of Jay Ward Productions. The Jay Ward connection is no accident, as hilarious supporting performances by Rocky & Bullwinkle Show voice artists June Foray and Daws Butler, are all over Freberg's recordings and radio shows.

One of the last Freberg pieces I remembered seeing was his 1982 PBS special. IIRC, it only aired once, so we are pleased to see that it's up on YouTube.

Farewell and thanks for a gazillion laughs, Stan!

Tuesday, March 31, 2015

Born 100 Years Ago Today: Satirist and "Bad Boy Of Broadcasting" Henry Morgan

"If Fred Allen bit the hand that fed him, Henry Morgan tried to bite off the whole arm." Gerald Nachman, from Raised On Radio

"Henry's 1/2 hour radio shows with sketches, an orchestra, supporting cast and studio audience were good, but they were nowhere near as funny as the early Here's Morgan shows where Henry sat by himself in front of a microphone and just basically bitched for 15 minutes." Gerry Orlando

"He was ahead of his time, but he was also hurt by his own disposition. He was very difficult. He was so brilliant that he'd get exasperated and he'd sulk. He was a great mind who never achieved the success he should have." Ed Herlihy

"Whenever it is quiet in Washington, you can count on the Un-American committee to issue a report. Maybe sometime later, when it has a chance, it will start gathering the facts." Henry Morgan (1915-1994)

Today is the centenary of the birth of humorist Henry Morgan. A supreme irony remains that, although his primary claim to fame was as panelist for the popular TV game show I've Got a Secret, Morgan's enduring legacy is as a biting social critic. His sensibility followed the gentle but prescient comedian-actor-commentator Will Rogers by two decades and preceded the take-no-prisoners (and even more prescient) political satirist and "standup philosopher" Bill Hicks by four decades.

There were amazing, innovative, brilliant and creative artists working in radio, from dramatist Norman Corwin to (the topic of yesterday's post) Bob & Ray to, a bit later, Stan Freberg and even, on WABC-New York, the great Ernie Kovacs.

First and foremost, let's hear a little of Henry's work as a radio writer-performer. In an era of disposable, transitory entertainment, Morgan's essential edge, intelligence and love of language still hold.

Author and pop culture historian Kliph Nesteroff wrote a dead-on article (including the following graphic), Henry Morgan: Fuck The Sponsor, posted in July 2007 on WFMU's Beware Of The Blog. In something akin to the W.C. Fields tradition, Morgan was bilious, curmudgeonly, cranky, had no use for American culture in general, really did not respect authority and teed off on women even more than Sam Kinison when given the opportunity. . . and, not surprisingly, regarded the brass ring of media stardom with contempt.

The piece by Nesteroff of the Classic Television Showbiz blog succinctly zeroes in on Morgan's career as a wit, intellect, iconoclast and shit disturber from a time - The McCarthy Era - generally not known for such things (at least outside The Four M's of Modern Jazz at the time - Miles, Mingus, Monk and Max Roach).

Morgan explored the terrain broken by the previous generation of radio comics - Burns & Allen, Jack Benny and ESPECIALLY Fred Allen - and could also be considered a dyspeptic, rather Oscar Levant-like take on such "guy, a studio and a microphone" broadcasting staples as Arthur Godfrey. Radio and animation expert Don M. Wowp wrote about Morgan on his Tralfaz blog in an August 2012 post, Good Evening Anybody.

One trait we at Way Too Damn Lazy To Write A Blog love the most about Henry Morgan was his willingness to razz and humiliate the sponsor - always with rapier-like wit - at all times.

His swan song, after several showbiz comebacks, each ending with him walking off a program in disgust and usually insulting someone in the process, would be the 1994 memoir Here's Morgan! The Original Bad Boy of Broadcasting, which presents Henry's numerous stories and escapades, of course, with delightful trademark vitriol.

One imagines Morgan and Corwin collaborating on just such a radio series: The Life And Times Of Henry Morgan, Bad Boy Of Broadcasting, a careening travelog filled with one-liners worthy of S.J. Perelman.

Several sarcasm-packed Henry Morgan radio shows are available for download on These would include three episodes of Here's Morgan, as well as The Henry Morgan Show. More examples of The Henry Morgan Show from the 1947 season can be found on the Old Time Radio Downloads website. The CD seen at the top of this post can be ordered through Radio Spirits or from the Hamilton Book website.

Indeed, it is a fitting epitaph that - and, yes, this is a stretch - one could also draw parallels between Morgan, in his wonderfully caustic 1940's and early 1950's heydey, and the defiantly cantankerous Mark Twain.

Monday, March 30, 2015

And This Blog Loves Bob & Ray

Yes, comedy is our beat at Way Too Damn Lazy To Write A Blog and we consider these two guys easily among the funniest human beings to ever have walked the earth - the great Bob & Ray!

And if the dyed-in-the-wool comedy geek who writes this blog ever forgets that salient truth for a moment, he immediately watches "the cranberry bit". . .

Then, it's time to listen to all of the audio clips posted on the Bob & Ray website.

And then consider, just as another example, their "Komodo Dragon" routine:

RAY: Tonight we’re talking to Darrel Dexter, the Komodo-dragon expert, from Upper Montclair, New Jersey. Say, doctor, would you tell us a little bit about the Komodo dragon?

BOB: Happy to! The Komodo dragon is the world’s largest living lizard. It’s a ferocious carnivore found on the steep-sloped island of Komodo, in the lesser Sunda chain of the Indonesian archipelago, and the nearby islands of Rintja, Padar, and Flores.

RAY: Where do they come from?

BOB: [Mystified pause.] The Komodo dragon, world’s largest living lizard, is found on the island of Komodo, in the lesser Sunda chain of the Indonesian Archipelago, and the nearby islands of Rinja, Padar, and Flores. We have two in this country that were given to us some years ago by the late former Premier of Indonesia, Sukarno, and they reside in the National Zoo, in Washington.

RAY: I, ah, believe I read somewhere, where a foreign potentate gave America some Komodo dragons. Is that true?

BOB: [Pause.] Yes. The former Premier of Indonesia, Sukarno, gifted our country with two Komodo dragons—the world’s largest living lizards—and they reside at the National Zoo, in Washington.

RAY: Well, now, if we wanted to take the youngsters to see a Komodo dragon—where would we take them?

The team had a TV show in 1951-1953 which is quite funny and consistent with their work through a four decade career.

Note, among the supporting talent, the presence of ace comedienne Audrew Meadows!

Bob & Ray, as did Stan Freberg, contributed their voices and creativity to some of the funniest TV commercials.

For more. . . check out this New Yorker article, Looking Back At Bob And Ray by Joshua Rothman and Don M. Yowp's piece Were Bob & Ray A Success? earlier this month from Tralfaz.

And of course, last but not least, all the good stuff from Bob And

Always liked their radio show signoff: "I'm Ray, saying write if you get work - and I'm Bob reminding you to hang by your thumbs!"