Showing posts with label Norm MacDonald. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Norm MacDonald. Show all posts

Saturday, December 1, 2018

Cable loss, net gain

I cancelled cable about two months ago, and I have been watching more TV than ever. What the heck?

Apparently, I have been extremely slow to the party when it comes to streaming. I have been buffering, buffering, buffering ...

I've had Netflix for several years, but who knew I even had an Amazon Prime account? And, my God, if you string together trials of Hulu, Sling and whatever free apps are out there, there's hardly a reason to pay for cable.

The main reason I did this is that we put a new roof on our home, and we had DirecTV. We preferred to not have a hole on the roof where our dish was. So we took down the dish and then tried the "no cable" as an experiment. I believe it has worked, and we don't want the cable.

Here's the problem: I had hoped to recuperate and bring back brain cells. Instead, Dina and I have been binge watching a zillion shows and have bags under our eyes.

As a member of the Snooze Button Generation (tm), television has had a major effect on me. From time to time, I write about TV and did so five years ago when the SBG staff came up with its top 10 TV shows of all time.

Now, that type of list is arbitrary and open for debate. In the world of streaming and binge watching, it seems amazing that there were entertaining shows with the format of network TV. In fact, only three shows on the list from five years ago — The Sopranos, Curb Your Enthusiasm and Top Chef — were from non-major networks.

It may not be fair to compare Netflix offerings with the shows on the older list, but in many ways, the newer shows are better produced, have more artistry and depth. In a public service to our readers, here is a holiday streaming guide. This is a list of 10 shows, or movies, recommended for when we're cooped up for the holidays:

1. The Keepers (Netflix, 2017)

Who killed Sister Cathy? This is the documentary version of "Spotlight," the Academy Award winning film from 2015. Instead of taking place in Boston, this is in Baltimore. The horrific things that occur in "The Keepers" had me outraged, and I couldn't keep my eyes off it.

2. Red Oaks (Amazon Prime, 2015-17)

Character-driven, artistic, real and funny, Red Oaks did what Amazon Prime probably hoped. It got me to watch the service. The performance by Paul Reiser is incredible, and heavyweights Hal Hartley, Amy Heckerling and David Gordon Green direct it. By the way, I recommend Hal Hartley's films, too. I loved those in the '80s and '90s.
3. Martin McDonagh's films

When I saw "Three Billboards Outside of Ebbing, Missouri" (2017), I was blown away. Why aren't there more movies like this — character-driven, intelligent writing and unique? "Three Billboards" got my to see "Seven Psychopaths" (2012) and "In Bruges" (2008). Those two films bring out comparisons to Quentin Tarantino, and, heck, that's a good thing.

4. Barry (HBO, 2018-present) 

I'm hoping that the second season is as good as the first. I'm also hoping that the show resists the urge to worry about plot. They got some killer characters (pun slightly intended), and Henry Winkler is truly incredible in it.

5. Evil Genius: The True Story of America's Most Diabolical Bank Heist (Netflix, 2018)

I had never heard of this bank heist in Erie, Pa., from 2003 often called the "bomb collar" or "pizza bomber" case. It was pure madness and impossible for me not to watch.

6. Greta Gerwig's films

She's different than McDonagh in many ways, and with me, she is different because I knew her before "Lady Bird" came out around the same time as "Three Billboards." I knew her from "Frances Ha" (2012) and "Mistress America" (2015), and I loved those.

7.  Norm MacDonald Has a Show (Netflix, 2018)

I love Norm so much that this probably should be higher on this list. But I've always known Norm is hilarious and my favorite comedian. His own show on YouTube also is awesome.

8. Man in the High Castle (Amazon Prime, 2015-present)

The premise and characters are what I love most from this series based on the 1962 novel by Philip K. Dick. I especially love the first season and will watch all seasons, although I must admit that I'm normally not a fan of Dick.

9. Master of None (Netflix, 2015-17)

Apparently, a third season could happen, as long as Aziz Ansari wants to do it. As I mention this show, I realize that there needs to be more like it. It's official: "Funny, intelligent and character driven" is what I like most in the world of streaming.

10. Wild Wild Country (Netflix, 2018)

In the vein of "The Keepers" and "Evil Genius," it's another one of those "I can't believe it" documentaries. I hadn't known what happened with this cult in Oregon in the '80s, and the way the episodes are handled pull the viewer in various directions.

Monday, June 15, 2015

The top 10 comedians of all-time

The Snooze Button Generation (TM) released its list of the "10 Best Comedians of All-Time" today as the corporation's founder/CEO defended the list to much scrutiny.

"Look," Snooze Button Generation founder/CEO Joe Stevens said. "This is a subjective list by nature. But its picks are objective. These are the funniest people I've ever encountered."

Stevens has taken a lot of criticism for having eight white males on the list and one "token" black comedian and another "token" female. He denied that the list was flat-out racist or sexist.

"I respect that comedians and fans love Richard Pryor and Eddie Murphy and Chris Rock," Stevens said. "But those guys just don't do it for me as much as the others. I like them all on various levels, but they just didn't crack the top 10. They're no Monsignor Ciolek."

What about the females?

"Of course, there are plenty of incredible female comedians," he said. "But I just couldn't find a spot for Minnie Pearl or Dolly Parton."

The Snooze Button Generation's 10 Best Comedians of All-Time:

10. Bill Cosby
It's definitely horrific that The Cos may be remembered as a rapist who repeatedly drugged women. That puts a slight damper on his comedy legacy. But as far as a comedian, he killed it. I recall watching "Fatherhood" in the mid-80s with my extended family going berserk to his humor.
9. Monsignor Casimir Ciolek
Not as popular as Cosby, Monsignor Ciolek was the pastor of my childhood church, SS. Peter and Paul in Garfield Heights, Ohio. When anyone accidentally called him "Father Ciolek," he would retort, "I'm a monsignor!!" He rarely cracked a smile and was a master of the deadpan.

8. Sarah Silverman
She's pretty crafty on the Twitter, and she talks hard — like a dude. Of course, there are other female comedians that others prefer, such as Tina Fey or Roseanne or Madeleine Albright, but Silverman wins it for being so bluntly funny.

7. Cato
I have known Cato since kindergarten, when I believe we had different classes but already had strangleholds as the funniest students in class. Seriously, Cato is one of the funniest people I know. He has the best Facebook updates I've seen, and I give him props.
6. Robin Williams
Of course, it's so sad what happened on Aug. 11. An awful ending to a bombastic comic career that boomed. I remember nearly crying from laughter, watching him on Letterman with the XMan and my mom. He could make this list for his arm hair alone.

5. Uncle Steve
I can't even begin to mention the catch phrases, stories and sensibility that came from my Uncle Steve. He was a major contributor to my sense of humor as well as my cousins and family. He worked in advertising in Cleveland, wrote books and will entertain anyone he encounters.

4. Norm MacDonald
Honestly, Norm is my favorite comedian of all-time, but he does not have the elite clout of Robin Williams, Bill Cosby and others on the list. I rarely see comedians in concert because they tend to have a lot of misses. I saw Norm recently. He rarely has a miss on stage, and I often find myself speaking in the same cadence as he does. What does that mean?
3. Jerry Seinfeld
I recommend Seinfeld's "Comedians in Cars Getting Coffee" to anybody. It makes me realize how incredibly insightful and witty the master is. Who knows more about Cocoa Puffs?

2. George Carlin
Carlin is on another plane when it comes to comedians. Not only was he influential, he was smart and hilarious and meaningful. His comedy will hold up forever. That can't be said for a lot of other influential comedians who's stuff becomes too dated or too overplayed.

1. Fred Stevens Jr.
My brother recently attended what I believe was his first country music concert ever. He embraced the vapid cultural experience by donning a cowboy hat and potentially wearing a confederate flag thong. If you give him a microphone, he makes Michael Scott look humorless. Here he is during a recent visit to California:

Saturday, January 10, 2015

My breakfast with Tom Green

I have never been starstruck in my life — until this morning. What scares me is that I didn't think it were possible for me to be starstruck, but it happened when Dina and I had breakfast next to Tom Green and his girlfriend at Du-Par's in Studio City.

"Psst, look who's next to us," I said to Dina, a moment after we sat down.

Dina nonchalantly looked over and obviously knew who it was. She acted normally, but I clammed up, not knowing what to do. I opted to do absolutely nothing because I thought that would be the coolest move.

I must state that during my life as a journalist, I have met a boatload of celebrities, and some big names, including George Lucas, William Shatner, LeBron James, Kobe Bryant, Shaquille O'Neal, actually pretty much any basketball-related celebrity and the list goes on. I have never acted differently around any of them ad never had my heartbeat change in any of their presences. So why in the world did my heart skip a beat around Tom Green?

One factor is that it was a surprise to be going about my normal life and, bam, be right next to the guy. Another factor is that I am not into celebrity culture, but I do legitimately like how Tom Green has grown, going from goofy-ass comedian to thoughtful talk-show host.

What must be understood is that during the past year I have only watched three shows regularly: 1) "Top Chef", 2) "Tom Green Live" on AXS TV and 3) "Norm MacDonald Live" on YouTube.

Because Top Chef is a pop culture staple, I don't think I'd have any trouble running into Tom Colicchio, Padma Lakshmi or any of the Top Chef crew. For reasons I can't totally explain, I wouldn't be starstruck by them.

In my world, based on time spent watching them, my top two celebrities are Tom Green and Norm MacDonald.
Typically, Dina and I are the most attractive couple in any room. At Du-Par's, we still held that post. Tom Green's girlfriend was attractive, but Dina edged her out. I beat Tom Green, although he surprised me by his height. Usually, celebrities are extremely short. But Tom is listed as 6-foot-3. I'm 6-foot-1, and in real life, he might be taller than me, although it's close.

This past year, I watched every episode of "Tom Green Live," which may be an oddball thing because many people don't even know this show exists. Perhaps my devotion to Tom's AXS TV show explains why I was tongue-tied being right next to him. Had it been Brad Pitt, Johnny Depp, Robert De Niro or any other huge celebrity, I wouldn't have thought much about it because they're all regarded as huge celebrities.

Living in Studio City, Dina apparently runs into celebrities often. I suspect that I have with her as well, but, again, really the only two I know are Tom and Norm.

At Du-Par's, it wouldn't have been a stretch to look at me, Dina, Tom and has girlfriend and think we were together. Tom and I each wore hoodies, although mine had a little more style to it. We both were unshaven and were sitting so close that we heard each other's conversations.

Tom wasn't feeling well, and he and his gal were going to pick up cold stuff at Ralph's. Dina and I talked about getting a new bed frame and created a plan for the day because it was too rainy to hike. How interesting for all of us!