Saturday, February 04, 2023
Continuing an extended joyride on the classic comedy route, Way Too Damn Lazy To Write A Blog pays tribute to one of the very best comedians and comic actors from the last half of the 20th century, the hilarious John Candy.
Here, co-star and frequent collaborator in TV and movies Eugene Levy remembers John.
John's daughter Jen, host of Couch Candy, elaborates.
Kicking this tribute off will be a lesser known part of John Candy's illustrious career: his work as an animated cartoon voice artist. While John starred in the animated television series, Camp Candy, the prime example of his cartoon voice work is as Wilbur the albatross in The Rescuers Down Under.
In addition to many movies, John appeared on a slew of TV shows, including the short-lived but funny The New Show - which, along with The Dana Carvey Show a decade later, was an attempt to bring unfettered sketch comedy to prime-time - and Billy Crystal's comedy specials.
First became familiar with John Candy back in the 1970's via Second City Television, so today's post will consist primarily of lots and lots and lots (and we mean it, LOTS) of all-time favorite SCTV sketches. In particular, Monster Chiller Horror Theatre's House Of Cats is a favorite!
Without a doubt, SCTV's Johnny LaRue was quite the legend in his own mind.
John Candy & Eugene Levy co-starred as polka kings Yosh and Stan Shmenge, intrepid leaders of The Happy Wanderers.
The polka-crazed Shmenges subsequently worked their "cabbage rolls and coffee" magic at one of the Comic Relief benefit shows.
The appearances of SCTV cast members on Late Night With David Letterman are frequently memorable - and John's are no exception to this.
Inevitably, John transitioned from sketch comedy mastery to a prolific career starring and co-starring in feature films.
Particularly memorable is his "big lug" role in Planes, Trains & Automobiles.
Today, we tip our worse-for-wear Max Linder top hat to Johnny LaRue, Harry (The Guy With The Snake On His Face), William B. Williams, Dr Tongue, Gil Fisher (The Fishin' Musician), Mr. Mambo and many more.
The Candy Man can!
For more, a slew of John Candy sketches from Second City Television can be found on The Official SCTV YouTube channel.
Monday, January 30, 2023
Today, we decompress with classic comedy, starting with the Marx Brothers.
The following excerpt is from my favorite of the later films of the Marx Brothers (the post-Night At The Opera ones).
Binge-watching of The Brothers Marx frequently leads this comedy fan to the even darker wacky antics of Bobby Clark & Paul McCullough.
The unhinged comedy team's Odor In The Court remains an all-time favorite.
Bobby & Paul have a way of leading into another randy and very funny 1930's comedy team. . . the kings of pre-Code comedy, Wheeler & Woolsey.
Like all their films but especially those from 1932-1934.
And, speaking of comedy teams, we have a credo at Way Too Damn Lazy To Write A Blog!
Tough to top their 1933 short subject, Busy Bodies. Stan & Babe working in a lumber yard. . . what could possibly go wrong?
Hal Roach very much wanted to establish comedy teams to counter L&H on The Lot Of Fun. The 2-reelers that teamed Thelma Todd with either Zasu Pitts or Patsy Kelly are often great fun.
Our favorite "kid comedy team" remains Our Gang a.k.a. The Little Rascals.
The 1930-1931 season of Our Gang's stellar cast included Bobby "Wheezer" Hutchins, Dorothy "Echo" DeBorba, Norman "Chubby" Chaney and Mary Ann Jackson.
Can't revisit The Lot Of Fun without spending quality time with Charley Chase.
How do you equal or top the great comedies of the Hal Roach Studio? One way is with films starring the great Edward Everett Horton!
Friday, January 27, 2023
January 27 always means a music post, as all-time great composers, songwriters and musicians share a 1/27 birthday, starting with . . .
Here's some high grade Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart goodness, interpreted brilliantly by a pianist who has been among the best of the very best for decades, Martha Argerich.
For more, strongly suggest delving into the following playlist of Mozart masterpieces, performed with panache by The Guarneri String Quartet.
Regarding the incredible Jerome Kern, composer and collaborator of lyricists George Grossmith Jr., Guy Bolton, P. G. Wodehouse, Otto Harbach, Oscar Hammerstein II, Dorothy Fields, Johnny Mercer, Ira Gershwin and Yip Harburg, born on January 27, 1885, the question is where does one start? With classic movie musicals, of course.
Bringing their original ideas to Kern's universe: crooners Chet Baker, Frank Sinatra and Nat "King" Cole.
Never to be outdone, EVER, Ella Fitzgerald recorded an entire album of Jerome Kern songs.
And, speaking of jazz, the gifted virtuoso pianist Bud Powell (1924-1966) waxed a memorable, heartfelt and Art Tatum-esque version of Kern's The Last Time I Saw Paris.
Five years ago, this blog spotlighted the incomparable Broadway and Hollywood songwriter (and screenwriter) Harry Ruby.
Notably, Harry Ruby wrote the lyrics to one of my absolute favorite songs!
Groucho Marx' pal and favorite songwriter, Harry was a cornerstone of many outstanding entertainments, not the least of were several classic comedy films of the 1930's.
Groucho continued performing these songs right up to the end of his lengthy showbiz career.
The dynamic duo of Bert Kalmar and Harry Ruby were responsible for writing countless great tunes.
Among the amazing covers of songs by Kalmar & Ruby is this one by Louis Armstrong. No doubt Sinatra and Nat took notes regarding Satchmo's uncanny ability to absolutely nail songs from both jazz and Broadway.
Millions of us would-be musicians attempted, with complete and utter lack of success, to emulate the playing of genius slide guitarist and vocalist Elmore James (1918-1963). Since blues remains both simple and very, very difficult to play - even more difficult to excel at - few guitaristas come close to James' original phrasing, timing, feeling, intensity, dynamics and nuance.
Have been listening to Elmore James play "Dust My Broom" for decades and still ask "HOW does he do it?" So did Howlin' Wolf, Earl Hooker, Johnny Winter, Eric Clapton, Duane Allman, Stevie Ray Vaughn, Peter Green and Jeremy Spencer.
Even more amazing: James' incendiary solo and vocal on Tampa Red's It Hurts Me, Too.
Chicago's own Luther Allison is a blues vocalist-guitarist who gets it regarding Elmore James.
In closing, we note that there is an astonishingly good guitarist who pulls this approach to the instrument off beautifully . . . and he happens to be Elmore's son.
Sunday, January 15, 2023
"A swanky, sexy, and sinister excursion back in time."
We plug classic movie events here, and one of the best, the outstanding Noir City film festival, opens Friday.
The 20th anniversary Noir City fest will trip the footlights fantastic at Oakland's art deco movie palace, the Grand Lake Theater on 3200 Grand Avenue.
Film Noir Foundation founder and Turner Classic Movies host Eddie Muller elaborates: “The Grand Lake may be smaller in capacity than the Castro," said Muller, "but it's a jewel of a movie palace, and it intends to remain a movie house—so it's a great fit for what we do—which is to offer a contemporary equivalent of the classic movie-going experience for a new generation of fans.”
The 20th anniversary extravaganza is a 24-film salute to the gritty netherworld of film noir.
A host of famous and infamous thrillers produced in 1948 will be part of the bullet-riddled, Tareyton-burned, Jack Daniels-stained, lipstick-smudged fun.
The cinematic lineup represents such directors as Orson Welles, John Huston, Anthony Mann, Nicholas Ray, Robert Siodmak and Frank Borzage - and shall be presented in proper big screen glory.
The official Noir City press release adds:
NOIR CITY, the most popular film noir festival in the world, celebrates its 20th anniversary in the Bay Area with a ten-day extravaganza featuring 24 films from the heart of Hollywood's noir movement.
Every film on the schedule is celebrating its 75th anniversary, with several of the movies having never before been screened at NOIR CITY. Included: a personal favorite of the gang at Way Too Damn Lazy To Write A Blog, the 1948 version of UNFAITHFULLY YOURS (a.k.a. The Symphony Story), a diabolical masterpiece written and directed by the great Preston Sturges.
Film Noir Foundation president Eddie Muller shall host and provide the informative, entertaining intros and outros we have been seeing on TCM's Noir Alley.
The 20th Anniversary Noir City Film Festival
When: January 20 to January 29, 2023
Where: Grand Lake Theater, Oakland, CA
Why: It's BIG SCREEN FUN!
Who Benefits: The Film Noir Foundation, the cause of film preservation and most of all. . . the moviegoing audience!
Sincerely hope that the intense storms the Bay Area has been undergoing over the past ten days to two weeks will abate long enough for movie fans to get out to the Grand Lake and enjoy this great festival.
For more info, check out the Noir City website.
Thursday, January 12, 2023
As our most recent post spotlighted favorite musicians, we're taken aback by the news that another all-time favorite, the great guitarist Jeff Beck, has passed at 78.
Mr. Beck, who literally played at the hall in our neighborhood last year and toured well past his 75th birthday, passed on January 10 of meningitis.
Began following Jeff Beck's musical career when he succeeded Eric Clapton in The Yardbirds and at one point was part of a two-guitar rave up lineup with Jimmy Page.
Jimmy inducted Jeff into the Rock & Roll HOF.
Enthusiasm for the guitarist's work extends to his numerous Jeff Beck Group solo albums and appearances with other bandleaders (Stevie Wonder, Jan Hammer, Stevie Ray Vaughn).
While Jeff has passed and left a six decade legacy of recorded music and videos, we sincerely hope that there will be many more albums and concerts forthcoming from his equally brilliant bandmate Tai Wilkenfeld, who won't turn 40 for three years.
Not surprisingly, guitarists have a thing or two to say about Jeff!
Ace guitaristas Rick Beato and Tim Pierce offer this excellent remembrance of Jeff and discussion of what he meant to the world of music.
Very much enjoy Rick Beato's scholarly analysis of Jeff Beck's unique approach to the guitar.
While mourning is definitely not my preferred way to kick off 2023, losses are a part of life.
Will honor the most original guitarist and music in general by binge-watching a bunch of Jeff Beck concerts.
Saturday, January 07, 2023
While enjoying the above Franz Kline painting and attempting, with difficulty, to digest the news that numerous Northern California places where I, my family and friends have lived and enjoyed visiting over many decades have been absolutely clobbered (and continue to be clobbered) by violent winter storms as the new year begins, shall direct focus to the world of 20th century music. Jazz fans in our readership: come on down!
From January 2023, we time travel back to 1973 and a rather amazing TV appearance by jazz trumpet genius Freddie Hubbard (1938-2008).
Although at that point, Mr. Hubbard had left Blue Note Records and began waxing more overtly commercial and pop-influenced albums for Creed Taylor's CTI label, this set reflects that in concert, the ace of trumpet exemplified the fire-breathing sensibility of hard bop. Junior Cook (tenor saxophone), George Cables (piano), Kent Brinkley (upright bass) and Michael Carvin (drums) assist skillfully.
Way back in those halcyon days, attended a concert featuring Klaus Doldinger's Passport and Herbie Hancock's Headhunters, two groups that blended rock, funk and jazz creatively and seamlessly. Fortunately, both Herbie and Klaus have enjoyed lengthy careers. Here they are, Klaus Doldinger's Passport, live at the 1974 Frankfurt jazz festival.
In the Klaus Doldinger ensemble as special guest: the great tenor saxophonist Johnny Griffin.
Saw Mr. Griffin tear it up with his quartet on several occasions at San Francisco's mecca of music, Keystone Korner in North Beach, way back when.
Key to several Miles Davis ensembles was drummer Tony Williams, the cornerstone of 1960's Miles quintets who subsequently led incendiary rock-jazz fusion bands. One of the best Tony Williams Lifetime groups is seen here at the 1971 Montreux Jazz Festival.
Nobody exemplified the merging of musical genres and questioning of sonic conventions more than pianist/composer/bandleader Herbie Hancock.
On the topic of Herbie Hancock and his mighty funk-jazz-rock band, here they are on a 1976 Danish TV special. It is one of the few and far between video appearances by mighty studio ace guitarist Wah Wah Watson a.k.a. Melvin M. Radin who, as expected, is brilliant and original. As The Wrecking Crew and The Nashville A-Team (led by guitarists Hank "Sugarfoot" Garland, Grady Martin and Chet Atkins) did in the 1950's and 1960's, the ever-inventive Wah Wah Watson played on everyone's records in the 1970's and 1980's.
For another spin on fusion + modern jazz, here's Ornette Coleman and his epic Prime Time Band, rocking the house hard at Palalido in 1980. Ornette created his own unique musical universe starting in the 1950's, then added multiple electric guitars and Fender basses to his ensembles in the 1970's, resulting in an enjoyably surreal supersonic mix.
And, while on the topic of genre-bending, genre-redefining, genre-exploding and genre-extending recording artists, there's the prolific visual artist and unconventional bandleader Don Van Vliet a.k.a. Captain Beefheart.
The Cap'n, a.k.a. Don Van Vliet, in between frequent drawing and painting, led an ensemble way out on the far frontiers of what was considered rock music from 1965 to 1982.
Now, in all honesty, Captain Beefheart & The Magic Band, was closer to Ornette and Albert Ayler than to Connie Francis or ABBA.
What could outdo or at least equal Captain Beefheart & The Magic Band live from Paris? Captain Beefheart on Late Night With David Letterman!
Author and music expert Frank John Hadley described Don Van Vliet best: Unconventional to the nth power, Captain Beefheart (Don Van Vliet) constructed a gnostic blues world where Howlin' Wolf curls Salvador Dali's moustache and Little Walter espouses dadaism.
Of the two early-1970s albums juxtaposed here, The Spotlight Kid most interestingly turns twelve-bar music on its head with Beefheart's multi-octave son-of-Wolf voice, his pixilated lyrics, his marvelous Chicago-style harp, and his specially instructed Magic Band's asymmetrical rhythms.
Not to say the second heartfelt blues travesty, Clear Spot, scrimps on the quirky 'low yo yo' either.-- © Frank John Hadley 1993.
ⓒ Don Van Vliet
Sunday, January 01, 2023
Having finished the old year by listening to the smokin' 1965 Blue Note Records album The Night Of The Cookers, Live At Club La Marchal (a.k.a. Le Jazz Hot), frankly, we're happy to see that 2022 is now officially in the rear view mirror.
In this past twelve months, the world lost a lengthy and alarming list of movie, music, sports and comedy greats, as well as pals and colleagues from the film historian community (the ever-resourceful and enthusiastic Dave Wyatt and Dennis Nyback). In between catching up on reading, we at Way Too Damn Lazy To Write A Blog salute all of these greats while ringing in 2023 with several of our all-time favorites, starting with the great Ernie Kovacs!
Every year, love celebrating New Year's with Spike Jones & His City Slickers!
All of us at Way Too Damn Lazy To Write A Blog dig Spike Jones and his City Slickers.
Strongly recommend the available DVDS of the novelty band's amazing work.
The City Slickers version of "Chloe" cracks us up!
Another fellow who digs Spike the most is Weird Al Yankovic.
The band featured numerous very talented comics who played multiple musical instruments with panache and skill.
One of the funniest of all comedians, Doodles Weaver, had memorable features in the Spike Jones & The City Slickers sets.
Disappointed (but unsurprised) that practically nobody mentioned the brilliant and frequently subversive comedy legends Gilbert Gottfried and Judy "The Love Goddess" Tenuta among the 2022 losses.
All of us at Way Too Damn Lazy To Write A Blog thank this dynamic duo for numerous loud belly laughs - and wish them a peaceful journey (as we did for fellow comedians Louie Anderson and Bob Saget).
These losses to humanity mean 2022 hardly qualifies as a good year, let alone Frank Sinatra’s very good year. Our response? First and foremost, quality time spent revisiting Gilbert's numerous hilarious podcasts.
Then, quality time spent watching Judy's incredibly funny episode of An Evening At The Improv and her set in the 1987 HBO standup comedy special Women Of The Night.