Category Archives: The Funny

f392e99c5d2c4e1fab0d3ab7cc28c97b

The Unbearable Heaviness of Slog

David H. Samson sits at a large oak desk in his cavernous office, stabbing fitfully at a freshly chopped salad with a plastic fork. The walls around him are lined with posters from the innumerable hit television shows he has created, shelves bowing under the weight of all the awards he has received, countless picture frames containing photos of him being embraced by celebrities, politicians, and royalty. But Samson is only here in spirit. His true vision is locked on the next great project that will occupy his fevered brain, even if, to the casual observer, it appears his gaze is on the small, viscous disk glistening on the end of his fork.

“What is this, a water chestnut?” he asks. His perception of food is as impeccable as his perception what TV audiences crave. It is, in fact, a water chestnut. “Never liked these things.”

Samson has just returned from a meeting with a team of foreign producers who hoped to adapt his latest masterpiece, the groundbreaking serial drama Slog, for French television. The producers were effusive with their praise, comparing Samson to Paddy Chayevsky and Gandhi while occasionally genuflecting. But when the time came to get down to brass tacks, Samson found his view of Slog and those of his would-be suitors to be incompatible.

“Ever since the show debuted, I’ve made it clear Slog was conceived as a 27-season arc, with 7 made-for-TV movie events, 3 theatrical releases, a Broadway adaptation, an animated series, and an imposter fragrance,” Samson sighs, showing the strain of explaining this yet again to uncomprehending minds. “The French producers could not guarantee the animated series and seemed iffy on the fragrance. It betrayed a complete misunderstanding of what Slog is all about.”

And what is Slog all about, according to its creator? “It is about…misunderstanding.”

Samson has TV writing in his blood, thanks to being the only child of the legendary producing team of Samson and Delilly. (Contrary to internet rumors, he does not have TV in his blood due to an experimental medical procedure he received in Geneva.) His parents, David H. Samson, Sr. and Marcy Delilly, were the husband-and-wife team behind such beloved sitcoms as You Make The Call!, Curtains!, and Mad About Madge! Samson-Delilly shows were noted for their gentle family-centered humor and earworm theme songs, while the couple themselves were known for their tireless political advocacy and generous charity work.

“Those two were a fucking nightmare,” Samson says.

Despite his comedy parentage, Samson’s own writing tended toward the shadows, even at an early age. He sold his first spec script for Hill Street Blues at age 5, then later used recess periods in grade school to do punch-up work for Law & Order. He grabbed Hollywood’s attention when, at the tender age of 16,  he dropped out of high school to showrun the short-lived pitch-black drama The Enforcer.

“It’s still one of best projects I’ve ever been involved with,” Samson says with a sigh, The Enforcer‘s failure fraught with all the regret of a lost love. “I know it seems ridiculous to us now, but back in 1994, America simply wasn’t ready for a tormented street vigilante prone to violent outbursts played by Jamie Farr.”

Undeterred, Samson sold three of his own shows to the networks for the 1998 season. NBC bought Street Cops, a police drama with a Nietzsche-quoting antihero; CBS opted for The Bar, a legal procedural whose main character quoted Camus; and ABC launched Deep Cover, a cloak and dagger thriller with a spy who quoted both Nitezsche and Camus. Samson promised to write every episode of each series, a commitment some observers described as “crazy” and others called “seriously fucking crazy.”

“I couldn’t trust another person to carry out my vision,” Samson explains. “Would you trust another person with your children? Yes, parents let teachers watch their children all day. And day care workers. And afterschool programs and nannies too, I guess. What I’m saying is that my shows are more important than your children.”

Samson not only shepherded each show, but turned all of them into huge hits, despite a grueling schedule and the crippling hallucinations brought on by sleep deprivation. At the 1999 Emmys, he became the first person to accept awards for three different series at the same ceremony while also staving off imaginary bat attacks.

For the next several years, Samson cranked out one show after another, each more lovingly received than the last. Many credit him for ushering in television’s golden era of tormented, bestubbled antiheroes wrestling with their demons and the moral implications of their decisions. “Before Samson, dramas were drawn in broad, good-vs.-evil  strokes,” says Matt Zoller Seitz. “Now, thanks to Samson, every character on TV is a huge asshole.”

“It’s hard to say what it is about Samson’s dark vision that works,” critic Tom Shales wrote back in 2004 upon the debut of Samson’s landmark biker gang series, The Devil’s Disciples. “I do know that whatever it is you get when you watch a Samson show, you get a lot of it.”

Never was this more true than in Samson’s crowning achievement, Slog. In order to devote 100 percent of his energies to Slog, the former multitasker put all other work on hold, even abandoning his labor of love, the troubled domestic drama Doll Houses, which only managed to run 173 episodes without him.

The result was a show Dave Itzkoff called “the reason humans were put on this planet. Go to your ancestors’ graves and laugh at them for not being alive to see Slog.” At the conclusion of the Slog‘s triumphant third season, Entertainment Weekly proclaimed, “We declare David H. Samson our new god. Worship him, infidels.”

Slog follows the trials and tribulations of Brad Derwood, a morally conflicted mob boss/doctor/stay-at-home dad who may be hiding a terrible secret. Each episode contains a small slice of Derwood’s endlessly fascinating life, whether that slice includes crushing a stool pigeons head with a wrench or simply waiting for his laundry to be done.

“If I didn’t capture every single moment of this character’s life, I would do a disservice to both him and the audience,” Samson said upon revealing that a future 12-episode arc would just be footage of Derwood asleep in bed.

Slog inspires fierce devotion among its devotees, thanks to its gripping storyline, and Samson’s insistence that true understanding of the show can only be achieved by watching it constantly, “to the exclusion of everything else in your life. If you think you understand it, then you’ve understood nothing. Go back and watch it again and again and again until none of it makes a bit of sense.” When recappers give an episode a less than glowing review, fans have been known to attack with harsh comments on the offending blogs, and also with baseball bats on the writers’ heads.

I ask Samson if he’s heard of the roving gangs of Slog fans who pummel anyone they suspect of never having seen the show, he smiles. “Legally, I can’t say I condone such behavior,” he says with a knowing wink. “But I can say that savage beatings are the sincerest form of flattery.”

There are a few spoilsports who dare rain on Slog‘s parade. Some critics charge that Slog too often veers into self indulgence, as in a recent episode comprised entirely of the protagonist sitting in a Pep Boys while waiting to get his car’s oil changed. Others say Samson’s whip-cracking style is needlessly hard on his actors.

“I demand a lot of everyone who works for me and I will not apologize for that,” Samson says. “I need everyone to keep focus and perspective and remember than making television is the most important job in the universe.”

Despite this, Samson has no comment on the charges that he forced series regular Bill Thompson to eat a brick on set. Accounts of the incident differ, but Thompson himself has refused comment, as his mouth is still wired shut.

Still others contend that the hyper-macho world he created for Slog leaves no room for women, and that he has never written roles for actresses that weren’t long-suffering wives, strippers, or murder victims. To this charge, Samson responds with a resounding, irrefutable, “Sure I have.” As an example, he names Lucinda, a prostitute featured in a two-episode storyline during season seven. “She dropped a cinder block on a pimp’s head. Gotta be pretty strong to do that.”

Can he name any others? “Not offhand, but the fact that I can’t proves I’m not a misogynist. If I was, I’d have preloaded examples in my brain to plead my case. This shows I’m not so sensitive.”

Samson is less annoyed by charges of sexism than by those who take issue with Slog‘s dramatic pace.  “I’ve even heard people say that Slog drags a bit for the first 90 episodes,” Samson mutters with a roll of the eyes. “To them I say, Of course it does. It was always intended to drag for the first 90, then have a sharp uptick for the next 20, then plateau for the following 15, then dip a bit for another 15, then get really bad for 10. Only then is the stage set for the series’ real action.”

“If I have to explain this,” he adds, “I’ve probably failed as a writer. But it’s more likely you’ve failed as a viewer.”

Even after creating a work of art of such unflinching mastery, Samson stares beyond his salad, pupils thrusting toward the next idea. “I have this vision,” he says, expelling the words in a rush, as if glad to unburden his mind of such weighty thoughts. “It comes to me only in glimpses, sometimes in the middle of the night. I reach to grab it and it slips from my hand. I don’t know how I can make this happen, I don’t know when or where, but I know someday I will bring this to life.”

“I really want to make a show about America’s most racist magician.”

Cheers_intro_logo

A Scene from Cheers Where George Wendt is Replaced By Noam Chomsky

NOAM walks into the bar.

NOAM: Hello, everybody.

EVERYBODY: NOAM!

CLIFF: How’s it hangin’, Noamie?

NOAM: American Democracy is cheap facade whose only purpose is to conceal the corporate puppet masters pulling the strings of our so-called leaders.

WOODY: Hey Mr. Chomsky, how’s Vera doing these days?

NOAM: Interpersonal relationships, even romantic ones, have been rendered all but pointless by the commodification of human emotion. If something does not fit into a prefab Disney-approved mold, or can not be altered with Pfizer’s drugs…

CARLA: Yo, Einstein, I told you to knock it off with all that junk about all of us being ground slowly under the heel of Wall Street. People just wanna relax with a beer after work and you’re bumming them out. Even the weird chubby guy with glasses who has no name.

PAUL: My name is Paul.

CLIFF: Seriously? I thought it was Glenn.

PAUL: In an early episode, yeah, but then they expanded the role a bit to…

NOAM: Your role within the capitalist sphere will only be expanded to the extent that you can aid your corporate masters. Do their bidding and they will be happy to extend the walls of your prison cell by an inch or two.

CARLA: Sam, can we do something about this bozo?

SAM: Not now, Carla, I got my eye on a hot tomato at 3 o’clock.

NOAM: Agriculture has been perverted by the Franken-science purveyors of Monsanto and its ilk, who attempt to “patent” what took nature millions of years to…

CARLA: Sam’s talkin’ about a broad, Poindexter, not real tomatoes. You had something to do with this, didn’t you, Diane?

DIANE: I admit, I invited Professor Chomsky here because I attended one of his lectures at MIT and believed he might raise the level of discourse in this establishment a tad. But I must concur that his line of inquiry is not exactly appropriate for happy hour.

NOAM: Time itself is now granted you by your corporate taskmasters, who “allow” you to enjoy weekends off and expect you to be grateful for the gift of your own hours, happy or otherwise.

GLENN: Listen, pal, we just wanna come here and…hey, I just said my name is Paul. Why is my name Glenn again?

CLIFF: Whatta ya talkin’ about, Glenn? Your name was always Glenn. Ain’t that right, guys?

Entire bar nods in agreement.

GLENN: Something weird’s going on here…

NOAM: They have all fallen down the memory hole, Glenn. Your past has been rewritten in real time, and, knowingly or not, your so-called friends have all fallen in line. No doubt at the behest of the CIA, or NSA, or perhaps some other intelligence organization we’ve yet to discover, all of them mining our personal data to further quote-unquote American interests.

GLENN: I’m gettin’ kinda scared. Maybe this guy is right. Maybe we are all just cogs in a corporate machine of our own making.

CARLA: Enough! No more of this “through the looking glass” nonsense. Hit the bricks, buddy!

CARLA bum rushes NOAM out the front door.

CARLA: No more eggheads in my bar, you hear me?

DIANE: I will keep that in mind for the future. However, I did invite one other distinguished scholar to visit tonight.

Door flies open.

RICHARD DAWKINS: Good evening, all. Which of you would care to debate with me the childish fairy-tale belief in a higher power?

Bar clears out.

The Continued Adventures of Open Letters

tonybennettOpen Letter to Miley Cyrus:

What’s with all this twerking jazz, sweetheart? Trust me, you don’t have to work blue to make your mark in show biz. I’ve kept it clean for 60 some odd years and I’ve done okay, if I do say so myself. Just a little tip from Tony to you. And if you’re up for it, I think we could do a killer duet on “Bess You Is My Woman Now” for my next platter. Whaddya say?

—Tony Bennett

* * *

Open Letter to Tony Bennett:

Miley rulz you old mummy lol

—Justin Timberlake

* * *

2ChainzOpen Letter to JT:

How dare you speak to Tony Bennett like that? He is an American treasure. You’d be lucky to accomplish one scintilla of what this man has done. For shame. Also, you’re not funny and you never will be, no matter how many SNL writers put words in your mouth.

— 2 Chainz

* * *

tonybennettOpen Letter to Mr. 2 Chainz:

I have no idea who you are, but I appreciate your words of support. If you wanna duet on my next album, just name the tune. I will literally sing any song with anybody. I just need to get the new LP in the can before my internal organs turn into dust.

— Tony Bennett

* * *

genesimmonsOpen Letter to Mr. Bennett:

I find it deplorable that you would offer to duet with 2 Chainz when you have yet to answer my call to collaborate on a KISS duet album. With your current “great American songbook” schtick, you are severely limiting yourself to the over-70 market. Join Paul on a chorus of “Ladies in Waiting” and I guarantee you will tap into that over-60 market.

— Gene Simmons

* * *

grohlOpen Letter to Everybody:

I don’t know anything about this Miley Cyrus business, but if any of you are collaborating with one another on duets and such, you must use me as your drummer. I’ll refer you to HR 1207, signed into law on September 9, 2006, which states that I am the only drummer in rock. Failure to employ me on your next once-off venture will result in swift legal action.

— Dave Grohl

* * *

skrillexOpen Letter to Mr. Grohl:

BWAAAAH, BUP-BUP-BUP-BWAAAH

G-G-G-G-G-ZHHHHHHH, PEWWWWW, BWAAAAH.

— Skrillex

* * *

gore vidalOpen Letter to Skrillex:

Well done, sir. Your witty rejoinder to Mr. Grohl’s communiqué reminded me of some of the spirited exchanges I once had with a certain Mr. Buckley. I’m so glad to see the epistolary arts revived, and in such a lively fashion.

— Gore Vidal

* * *

William Buckley. Photo Grant Peterson 781025. Scanned from Fairfax Archive.Open Letter to Mr. Vidal:

With all due respect to your considerable powers of perception, this puerile feud is nothing like the ripostes we exchanged in days of yore. Also, you are deceased and cannot write letters, open or otherwise.

— William F. Buckley

* * *

gore vidalOpen Letter to William F. Buckley:

You’re dead too, you know.

— Gore

* * *

William Buckley. Photo Grant Peterson 781025. Scanned from Fairfax Archive.Open Letter to Gore Vidal:

* decomposes *

— William F. Buckley

Summer Blockbuster Previews Based On Their Fake Jay Leno Monologues

leno_movieDid you see the other day where a town in Ohio that was down on its luck reopened a huge factory that had been shuttered for years? They said you couldn’t manufacture in this country anymore, but these plucky workers proved the critics wrong! Seems they found a real growth industry: making Big Macs for Bill Clinton! Remember, he ate a lot of those? The 90s, guys!

Guys, did you see this thing where Dominic Terreto and his car-boosting crew have been offered immunity for their crimes if they help the feds capture a criminal mastermind? Oops, probably shouldn’t have mentioned the details of an undercover operation on the air like that. Really strange that I would know anything about that to begin with. Those guys are probably all dead now. Oh well.

Did you see in this thing in the papers, folks? Apparently this high school basketball team in San Diego has gone undefeated ever since they fired their old coach and replaced him with a dog! It’s true! Nothin’ in the rule book says a dog can’t coach basketball! He’s got the kids back to the fundamentals: passing, free throws, and fetch! Anyway, stick around, we got David Brenner coming up!

Did you see this, read this, hear about this? Apparently a guy made himself a millionaire by bootlegging and gambling and bought himself the fanciest house in West Egg, all to impress some girl he used to like named Daisy. Boy, did he ever just think of sitting on a flagpole or something? Thanks for tuning in to the Old Gold Joke Minute, folks. Not a cough in a carload!

Did you see this thing where a mechanic from New Jersey won the New Hampshire primary with his straight-shooting, no-nonsense approach? This guy came outta nowhere to shock all the pundits and make people believe in democracy again! They think he can land the nomination, but it’ll depend on if this part comes in from Detroit! Cars!

Did you see this thing where earth has been overrun by zombies and humanity may be doomed? Did you hear about this? Is anyone hearing this? Is anyone out there at all? I’m holed up in my underground garage, hiding behind a Stutz Bearcat. If anyone can hear me, a little tip for you guys: windshield wiper fluid is potable.

Did you see this thing where an elephant wants to sing instead of dance? Crazy! This is happening in a universe where we’re all CGI elephants who dance constantly, by the way. Thanks for tuning in, this is Jay El-Leno-phant.

Did you see this thing where aliens?

Folks, did you see this thing where the Iron Man is back? That’s all I can say. The producers only gave me my page of the script. And now, please welcome back the Dancing Itos!

The Onion, Skinned

The Onion/Daniel Day LewisI can’t say anything about the Onion Twitter/Quvenzhané Wallis kerfuffle that hasn’t already been thrashed over a million times by a million other people already. (Less than 24 hours after it started, I might add. Oh brave new world!) My own feelings on the matter itself are summed up thusly:

The Onion could have made substantially the same joke in substance by using a million other words–asshole, douche, even bitch is so overused it barely resonates anymore. Instead, they opted to push the envelope. Pushing the envelope is a test pilot’s term, by the way. It refers to the flight envelope, which is another phrase for the estimates of what a plane is capable of doing. Sometimes when you push the envelope, you discover the mechanics can perform even better than calculated. Sometimes you wind up crashing into the side of a mountain. What happened was clearly an instance of the latter.

The Onion’s tweet using that word in reference to a nine-year-old was about as high-risk/low reward as it gets. The best case scenario: they get a bunch of RTs from people who already read The Onion. The worst case scenario: What actually happened, basically. I don’t think it’s censorship to consider that something like this could blow up in your face, and that you might also hurt the feelings of someone who really doesn’t deserve it.

I’m not all that interested in defenses or condemnations of The Onion per se. I’ve enjoyed Onion Product (c) since college and have read material that was way more “offensive” than that on their pages, so this certainly won’t sway me from their side. I also find it somewhat crazy that The Onion, of all people(s), found itself forced to apologize while there are thousands of way more offensive “comedy” accounts on Twitter. (There are multiple accounts called The Funny Racist, guys.) What I find far more interesting is the means by which The Onion wound up in such hot water, and what that says about the ways in which we consume different online media.

I saw a few folks on Twitter (kinda) defend The Onion by pointing out that we’re talking about the same web site that made copious 9-11 jokes within days of 9-11. The argument behind this is, C’mon, it’s The Onion. Only morons wouldn’t understand this was a joke. For years, people who “get” The Onion have mocked people who don’t.

There’s an unsavory undercurrent of Comedy Snob Insider to this attitude; The Onion isn’t so ubiquitous that everyone in the world knows who they are or what they do. However, I do think that any average person who clicks on a link from The Onion and reads even a little of their content will understand it is satire.

The problem in this case is that The Onion didn’t write a post or even one of their quick headline thingies. They wrote a tweet, which is more troublesome, at least in terms of potential interpretation.

An article has context. As I said above, if you visit The Onion’s site, even if you’ve never been there before, you will receive clues about their perspective and intentions. Tweets, on the other hand, have zero context at all, except for what you bring to those 140 characters. In the case of The Onion, to understand the intent behind the tweet, you have to “get” them. If you don’t, you won’t.

If you’ve never heard of The Onion, chances are you don’t follow them on Twitter. And then, someone suddenly RTs this tweet into your timeline. How do you respond to it? If it was me, I would think the tweet was so over the top, I’d look into it before getting outraged. I do this a lot, since I follow a lot of accounts who shame-retweet the racist/ignorant tweets of others. Sometimes I contemplate responding. Then I look at the RT’ed dude’s page and discover it’s some 15 year old dumbass, and move on.

The thing is, Twitter doesn’t really operate like that. Twitter’s biggest selling point is that it gives people the ability to respond immediately to Big Events in real time, whether that’s an award show or a game or a relative’s wedding. Ideally, everyone should figure out what they’re reading before they fly off the handle. Ideally, they should also eat better, floss, and donate more money to charity, but people don’t do a lot of things they should do. Twitter functions the way it functions, and getting mad about that seems as pointless as getting mad at a river for not being a mountain.

Every joke has a stage on which it makes sense, with its own sets and costumes and lighting guys up in the rafters. Had The Onion written the same words, verbatim, on their web site, they would have provided the joke with that stage. By presenting these words via tweet, they not only removed that stage, but broadcast it to a much wider, far less clued-in audience where outrage could be spread and feed on itself in milliseconds. Saying “duh, everyone knows what The Onion is” betrays a POV far more nearsighted than a non-Onion reader; it means everyone you know knows what The Onion is. You are not the universe.

I learned a lesson similar to this one last year, when I wrote one tweet on a parody account of mine that inexplicably blew up, exposing it to an audience that had zero idea what what I was trying to satirize. (Also similar to The Onion: the tweet in question wasn’t all that funny, either.) In my case, the trouble stemmed less from people who didn’t “get it” and more from a few lazy newspapers. However, the principle is largely the same: If you present something in a medium like Twitter, where people have to provide their own context, they’re liable to get that context wrong.

Stew Leonard’s Red Legged Mountain Turkeys

Last summer, I attempted to relaunch my on-again, off-again podcast, Holy Goddamn! I only managed to get through two full episodes before time, tide, and the affairs of man intervened to make it impossible to do the show with any regularity. However, I did construct a bunch of dumb audio bitlets for it that made me laugh, and I didn’t want much more out of the whole thing than that.

Thanksgiving’s imminent arrival brought to mind a thread that ran through one of these episodes. If you live in the tri-state area, this is the time of year when you hear radio ads for Stew Leonard’s. These commercials feature the store’s namesake on site at the farm where he’s acquired some wonderful items for his stores just in time for this holiday season. More often than not, these items are some kind of poultry that cluck and gobble loudly, seemingly unaware of their fate.

In my version, Stew has imported tons of rare poultry (“red legged mountain turkeys”) from high atop the Colorado Rockies, just in time for the holidays! Unfortunately, Stew gets much more than he bargained for, as each subsequent commercial demonstrates.

Now you can hear all the ads strung together as one brief saga, so that they might live anew. Enjoy!

Audio clip: Adobe Flash Player (version 9 or above) is required to play this audio clip. Download the latest version here. You also need to have JavaScript enabled in your browser.

Download here.

Talks Given at the 2012 Symbrosium

The 17 Steps to Proper Cargo Shorts Care and Maintenance

Bro, I Am DEAD Serious, Bro
How to convince your bros that this shit you just saw ACTUALLY happened.

Dude, You Hit That?
PowerPoint presentation on exactly who we hit in the last calendar year

That Time We Got Fuckin’ HAMMERED
Tony reports on that time that was, oh man, you had to be there

Whattaya Bench?
Come on up to the stage, do some reps, show me what you got

The Fuck You Lookin’ At?!
The best techniques for dealing with assholes who got some kinda problem

3-Hour Lunch Break at T.J.’s
2-for-1 jello shots and bro-jitos ’til 5pm

Bill’s Girlfriend: Boner Killer or Plow Town?
Panel discussion. Bill’s girlfriend’s ballbusting will be weighed against the merits of her rack

The Affects of Keynesian Economic Theory on the Acquisition of Sweet Rides

Marketing and Sales: The Only Jobs?
Yes

Special Appearance by That Guy from the Dealership Who Hooked Joey Up