Sunday, September 24, 2017

Apocalyptic Food Stuffs

A scene from The Day After (1983)
During reruns of Rowan and Martin's Laugh-In on the Decades channel, there were incessant commercials for food supplies to be consumed in case of national emergency. You've seen them. It starts with blazing images of man-made or natural disaster. North Korea...Isis...Hurricanes...Earthquakes. Homes wrecked, cities destroyed. A shot of a father comforting his little boy in a landscapes of debris. Then the announcer intones "Protect your family for up to 25 years with this amazing survival food system." These scenes of tragedy and disaster are followed by a shot of a white, suburban family calmly sitting around the dining room table passing huge casseroles and spooning out its heaping contents while it's totally dark outside. So the message is that if the North Koreans nuke us, we'll be OK as long as we buy this rip-off company's freeze-dried macaroni and cheese. It's airing during Laugh-In reruns, for God's sake, who do they think is gonna buy this crap? I was tempted to call for a free sample and their "free survival guide" just so I could read what weird shit they would be peddling to scared people who are genuinely worried about avoiding the apocalypse.

Sunday, September 17, 2017

Thoughts on Joan Rivers

From my review of Last Girl Before Freeway: The Life, Love, Losses, and Liberation of Joan Rivers by Leslie Bennetts which I posted on

This book was a gift from friends who know I always enjoyed Rivers' comedy. Bennetts has a great beginning with Rivers contemplating suicide after her husband has done likewise in the aftermath of the cancellation of her Fox talk show which he produced. She's devastated but her little dog jumps on her lap and she reconsiders. After this horrible setback, she bounces back stronger than before becoming a cultural icon while most of her contemporaries fade away. The rest of the bio is fairly standard but not up to the intriguing opening scene, offering insights into Rivers' driven personality and the contradictions in her career. She shattered sexist glass ceilings in comedy, but reinforced the chauvinist attitudes towards beauty and female roles. She made fun of men's shallowness but also derided women who slept around or had let themselves go such as the late-career, heavy-set Elizabeth Taylor. Bennetts also delivers a mini-history of women in comedy, but not a very deep one. She neglects to go very far back (no talk of Mae West or Fanny Brice), skips over some pretty big names (like Elaine May), barely mentions Lily Tomlin and Carol Burnett. 

Saturday, September 9, 2017

Angels and Mockingbirds Descend on Broadway

Nathan Lane and Nathan Stewart-Jarrett in Angels in America
at London's National Theatre
Credit: Helen Maybanks
There's been a flock of new Broadway announcements lately. The smash hit National Theater revival of Tony Kushner's two-part epic Angels in America will be winging its way from London to New York and the long-gestating stage adaptation of the beloved classic To Kill a Mockingbird has confirmed an opening date. Angels will begin performances Feb. 23, 2018 at the Neil Simon Theatre prior to a March 21 opening night. Most of the London cast including Nathan Lane and Andrew Garfield will be repeating their performances which were seen in cinemas worldwide as part of the NT Live series. The only cast member not to make the trek will be Russell Tovey (whose bare chest caused an audience member to swoon during A View from the Bridge). Denise Gough will repeat her performance as the delusional Harper Pitt, but first she will repeat her Olivier Award-winning turn as an alcoholic, drug-addicted actress in People, Places and Things at St. Ann's Warehouse. Speaking of Harpers, the stage version of Harper Lee's classic novel To Kill a Mockingbird to be adapted by The West Wing's Aaron Sorkin was first announced months ago. Producer Scott Rudin took out a two-page ad in the New York Times announced the show will open on Dec. 18, 2018. I picked up a copy of the print edition of the Times recently (I hadn't looked at it in ages) and I was astonished at how few ads there were in the theater section. Tony winner Bartlett Sher (South Pacific, Golden Boy) will direct.