Eddie Murphy’s best story about his early success has been told in various forms, but this is my personal favorite.
Murphy, of course, became a sensation in the early ’80s as a cast member on Saturday Night Live and with his frenetically urban stand-up act. He then showed his power as a box-office draw with 48 Hours, Trading Places and Beverly Hills Cop. In 1984, Murphy combined his two greatest assets — his viscerally funny stand-up act and his undeniable film presence — into his first concert movie, the well-received Delirious.
After the film’s release, Murphy got a call from Bill Cosby, one of his comedy idols, who chastised Murphy for his incessant use of foul language and cautioned him that his career would be short-lived if he continued to work “blue.” “Blue” as a comedy term reportedly dates to vaudeville’s Keith circuit and club managers’ practice of censoring comedians by informing them via blue envelopes of objectionable material that had to be removed from their acts (all of which dates further back to the Puritans’ Blue Laws, a moral code that was printed on blue-tinted paper).
Murphy was devastated by Cosby’s scolding and called his friend and raunchy comedy mentor Richard Pryor to get his take on the situation. After hearing Murphy’s tale, Pryor, referencing one of Cosby’s ubiquitous commercial endorsements of the time, responded, “Tell that motherfucker to have a Coke and a smile.”
Murphy’s act, Cosby’s reaction and Pryor’s response to Cosby’s reaction is a passion play that has been re-enacted in the comedy world since Lenny Bruce paved the way for shockingly honest humor with his obscenity conviction in 1964. In the nearly half century since then, comedians have found massive success by finding their niche on either end of the spectrum (Brian Regan, Greg Hahn on the clean side; Louis CK, Lisa Lampanelli on the dirty) or deftly straddling the boundary between family friendly and fucking filthy (the late George Carlin and Patton Oswalt spring to mind).
Two current examples of the clean/dirty paradigm are the wildly funny and relatively chaste Jim Gaffigan and the equally hilarious and breathtakingly profane Doug Stanhope.
On Gaffigan’s August-released eighth album, Mr. Universe (the concert video of which is currently available to view on Gaffigan's website for $5),
the hue-challenged honcho of hilarity follows his standard operating
procedure of turning a slightly jaundiced and definitely twisted eye
toward life’s mundanities and finding the unlikeliest of laughs. He
mines a natural vein of humor from the fact that he has four children,
but in ways that Bill Cosby probably never imagined (“Four kids … if you
want to know what it’s like to have a fourth, just imagine you’re
drowning and then someone hands you a baby” or “I have more pictures of
my children than my father ever looked at me”).
And Gaffigan is a genius at finding the funny in food; his love of bacon is renowned, as evidenced by his lengthy discourse on 2009’s uproarious King Baby, but on Mr. Universe, Gaffigan gets both McDonald’s and Subway in his crosshairs, with the former actually earning a measure of praise and the latter obtaining a fairly thorough thrashing — “I think the toppings are free to distract us from the fact that we shouldn’t be paying for the meat. They’re so stingy with that nasty ass meat at Subway, they peel it off like it’s from a wad of ones or something. ‘Here’s three slices of ham, get yourself something nice’ ” and “What level of delusion are we in where we view a meatball sub as a healthy alternative to a hamburger? How do you make a meatball sub? You roll five hamburgers into balls, cover them in cheese and put them on a bun that holds five hamburgers. Eat fresh.”
Like the best observational comics, Gaffigan’s genius lies in amplifying standard issue eccentricity to an unbearably odd level — like wondering how long one should retain a sock after losing its mate, then admitting he has 80 single socks. Gaffigan further caricaturizes his comedic persona by using a variety of vocal inflections and accents that range from hilarious to slightly grating; he has long used a whispered falsetto as a device to anticipate audience criticism and now he even works imagined criticism of the voice itself into his set.
While Gaffigan will often will drop a mild obscenity or two into the proceedings (“Scarlett Johanssen got a haircut, why do I give a shit?”), Mr. Universe, like the bulk of Gaffigan’s catalog, easily translates to midday or late night television talk shows.
Doug Stanhope is a completely different kettle of filthy fish. His just-released new CD/DVD package, Before Turning the Gun on Himself, is predictably rife with the abusively frank language for which Stanhope is famous. Before Turning the Gun is so caustically themed that one might consider donning a hazmat suit before pressing “play.” It also happens to be one of the drop-dead funniest comedy sets of the year.
Stanhope wastes little time setting up the first portion of Gun, which is essentially a rolling rant about the industry of treating addiction, his primary targets being Dr. Drew Pinsky and AA. The album’s second piece is titled “Dr. Drew is to Medicine What David Blaine is to Science.”
Being agnostic, Stanhope finds the God-based 12-step programs associated with AA and many rehab programs to be less than satisfactory. On the album he rants, “Even your religious friends do not want to hear about God during a medical diagnosis. That’s the last word you ever want to hear from a doctor — ‘Doc, my fucking lymph nodes are swollen out of my neck, I look like a bullfrog, I’m shitting blood with clumps in it, I can’t keep food down.’ ‘Ooh, sounds like someone needs a higher power.’ ‘Can’t we do some blood work first? A series of antibiotics? A CAT scan?’ ‘Nope, get on your knees and pray, faggot.’ ‘You’re a doctor?’ ‘Yup, and I’m on TV, too.’ AA makes Scientology look credible.”
Stanhope even insists at one point that “there’s no such thing as addiction, on the most minor levels … there’s only things that you enjoy doing more than life.”
Stanhope really gets going on the subject of people bitching about the economy or their simple dissatisfaction with the place they live. On “Just Move,” he rightly notes that it only requires a bus ticket to change your surroundings and recounts hearing an autoworker in Flint, Mich., complaining about Obamanomics making it impossible to earn a living.
“You make cars and you still don’t leave,” Stanhope observes. “That’s like being a prisoner forced to make keys to your own cell for a living and you never put two and two together. Just move to where there’s work.”
He continues that line of thought on “Simple Man,” where he compares having children to a bad bet and hacks on the Flint autoworker by again rightly noting, “I don’t think the economy is a new problem here; I think Roger and Me came out in like 1986, yet you’re bitching about Obamanomics exporting jobs.”
Stanhope gets hellbound rough on “Keynesian Economic Theory as Applied to Private Sector Independent Contractors,” where he advances the idea that prostitutes fare the worst in tough times since they’re already doing degrading things for money, and that a hooker’s concession to recession would be to offer anal services to her clientele.
What follows is a nauseating and heart-stoppingly hilarious roller coaster ride of sexual references from Stanhope and his fictional streetwalker, featuring such phrases as “sour milk-smelling cock,” “gravelly good morning Starbucks shit” and “ass kegels.” In alluding to anal sex, Stanhope (through his whore character) uses the euphemism “shit pussy” or “ass pussy” no less than six times in two minutes before breaking into an erudite refutation of Keynesian economic theory. It’s breathtaking, really.
Elsewhere, Stanhope advocates registering as a sex offender to avoid having your friends bring their children to your parties, describes his favorite medicinal past-time (“Sometimes I’ll take two Xanax and two laxatives at bedtime and I’ll play chicken in my sleep. It’s like three highs at once, because it starts out as a downer, turns into gambling, wakes up as a huge amphetamine”) and gives a brilliant example of his perception of the laziness of songwriters, describing some self-righteous artistic types as “a bucket of cunts.”
If you’ve got a sturdy callous built up on your indignation bone, Stanhope is one of the funniest and most incisive stand-ups around. And if you are easily offended, Stanhope has a ready answer for your thin skin.
Well before admitting that “the most terrifying part, when you realize I’m not even a bright person, but I’m still probably in the top three percent of the smartest people on this planet, and I’m pretty fucking dumb,” he defends his use of any and all offensive language by describing it simply (and accurately) as “a sound you make with your mouth” and further posits “if you’re offended by any word in any language, it’s probably because your parents were unfit to raise a child.”
This explanation, which gets even better, by the way, is placed in the context of a bit Stanhope titled “Giant Black Cock.” This is one funny motherfucker.
So what conclusion can we draw from the above compare/contrast critique? Perhaps it’s that people who are easily offended would be advised to stick to the likes of Jim Gaffigan and avoid Doug Stanhope like an atomically mutated STD. But it might also be that funny is funny, regardless of how many prurient phrases and ideas are peppered throughout its presentation. People who like dirty as well as clean humor are laughing twice as much as you straight-backed chucklefucks with rancid pickles jammed sideways up your twats.
I think maybe that’s the point.
Everyone loves a good surprise party. What’s better than an unexpected night of fun with friends? How about supporting an importance local arts organization in the process? Friday’s Secret ArtWorks event offers an exciting twist on fundraisers as each attendee will walk away with a piece of original artwork. The catch: guests will not know who created their work until it's been purchased. More than 800 small-scale pieces have been donated by more than 300 locally-, nationally- and internationally-renown artists. Guests were invited to preview the offerings online, but the secret artists will not be revealed until tonight. Ticket sales are now over, but tonight’s attendees will enjoy cocktails, hors d’oeuvres and a mysterious night of art at The Center downtown, all to benefit ArtWorks.
The Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra concludes its community concert series “One City, One Symphony” this weekend with the well-loved classic, Beethoven’s Symphony No. 9. Music Director Designate Louis Langrée conducts the performance; these will be his final shows with the CSO before starting his role as music director for the 2013-2014 season. Joining the CSO, Langrée and the May Festival Chorus for the concerts Saturday and Sunday at Music Hall. Go here for tickets.
If you thought this cold weather meant you had to retire your gold lamé hot pants, dry your tears and pull those bad boys out, because OTR Skate is back! Channel your inner roller disco king/queen and roll over to the OTR Rec Center Friday from 8-11 p.m. Five bucks gets you admission and skate rental, complimentary pizza from Cincy By The Slice, free gaming from Wii to air hockey, raffle prizes and music from DJ Positronic, The Yugos and Indigo Wild.
Saturday is all about the little guy as local businesses around the Tri-state take part in Cincinnati Unchained. Get a head start on your holiday shopping (or, if you’re like me, take advantage of sales for your own damn self) and visit independent businesses in an effort to keep your money in the local economy — where it goes much further than when you drop your cash at a big box chain store. Participating Cincinnati Unchained shops offer discounts and free goodies to thank shoppers for supporting local businesses — find a full list here.
Another way to get in on the conscientious gifting trend is giving handmade presents this holiday. Did the Holly Hobbie gene skip over you? No worries. The Crafty Supermarket Holiday Show takes over the Clifton Cultural Arts Center Saturday. This isn’t your grandma’s church basement craft show — expect handmade books, cool local artwork, quirky jewelry, textiles, posters, clothing and many more hand-crafted gifts everyone can appreciate. Plenty of vendors will be on-hand to fuel your shopping in addition to a DJ, craft demos and — as usual — awesome swag bags for the first 100 shoppers. The party runs 11 a.m.-6 p.m. Saturday.
Comedian Erik Griffin performs at Funny Bone on the Levee Friday-Sunday. Workaholics fans know him best as TelAmeriCorp's Montez Walker, a competitive salesman who has a very healthy sexual relationship with his wife. Here’s a sample of one of Griffin’s finest Montez moments:
Check out our calendar for more art openings, theater shows, concerts and other events happening this weekend and beyond.
At the risk of inducing widespread PTSD flashbacks, I invite everyone to recall 2011’s Internet Public Enemy No. 1, Rebecca Black. The teen, who is probably a decent human undeserving of worldwide hatred, assaulted eardrums on a massive scale with her music video gone viral, “Friday.” The worst realization to come out of Friday-gate wasn’t the sorry state of the music industry or even the online bullying Black faced, but the fact that, apparently, rich people will throw a few thousand dollars at a greedy producer to create a shitty song and music video for their marginally talented child.
Record producer and songwriter Patrice Wilson was one of the driving forces behind “Friday” and if you wanted to give his work another chance, you’re in luck. He worked with Nicole Westbrook to record a song not about one day of the week (that’s so 2011), but one day of the year. Ladies and gentlemen, it’s Thanksgiving.
Kraft Mac-n-Cheese – AY! Stove Top stuffing – AY! We one-percenters should have better food than this.
While we’re on the
topic of social phenomena ripe for mockery, it’s fitting to recognize Food
Network’s Guy Fieri (Real Name: Guy Ferry. Yeah, douchebag status: confirmed)
who recently opened a new restaurant in New York City. It seems most people
either love or hate Guy. He co-owns five California restaurants and hosts the
popular Diners, Drive-ins and Dives,
on which he travels the country highlighting off-the-beaten-path chow-down
spots — so, clearly he’s got some fans out there. Others are a bit turned off
by his labored “Rock-N-Roll” façade, his annoying catchphrases
and his penchant for bowling shirts.
I can’t trust a man who purposefully styles his hair like a goofy visor hat from Cappel’s, and apparently New York Times’ Pete Wells isn’t a fan either. In his Nov. 13 take-down piece on the new Guy’s American Kitchen & Bar in Times Square, Wells completely ripped the joint apart limb from tribal tattooed limb. While any attempt to seriously review what sounds like a black hole for overweight tourists would probably prove futile, I feel Wells could have been a bit more creative in his blasting of Fieri. Guy’s an easy target, so why go with the cliched “Dear Guy,” letter format, punctuated by a series of overly sarcastic questions? At this point I’m waiting for a cynical review of Wells’ review (please tweet any findings to @jackern), but I have to hand it to the reviewer for this service assessment that made me choke on my morning coffee: “The well-meaning staff seems to realize that this is not a real restaurant.” Find the full story here.
Fans got a first look at Brad Pitt zombie action flick World War Z last week. The film, based on Max Brooks’ 2006 novel of the same name, may stray farther from the text than fans have hoped, judging by the trailer. (Though it’s important to note how deceiving these first looks can be). The book reflects on a worldwide war on zombies after the fact, using interviews with survivors to paint the terrifying picture, whereas the film appears to be a straight-up zombie movie. However it turns out, zombie purists beware: These may be the quickest and most agile undead yet.
After last week’s election, gay marriage is now legal nine states. It’s a great feat for equality, but we’ve got a long way to go. In fact, gays across America have given straight, conservative men an ultimatum: Vote to legalize same-sex marriage, or they will marry the crap out of your girlfriends.
Portlandia, the hilarious sketch comedy spoofing counter-culture trends, returns to IFC Jan. 4. The show stars SNL’s Fred Armisen and Sleater-Kinney/Wild Flag guitarist-singer Carrie Brownstein — quite possibly my favorite non-romantic duo — in a series of timely skits about the hipster sect of popular culture. All the good little boys and girls of Oregon and beyond can get an early sampling of the two with the “Winter in Portlandia” holiday special on Dec. 14. Fans will see Peter and Nance go low-carb to stave off winter blubber and meet Candace’s son as he swings by Women and Women First during his holiday visit.
Here’s the first skit from the upcoming third season:
This past summer’s World Choir Games brought a whirlwind of music and visitors from across the globe to our back yard. Cincinnati’s own MUSE women’s choir was awarded a gold medal at the Games and tonight the group makes its first public appearance since that award-winning performance. “Keep Yo’ Lamps Burnin” features African-American traditional songs and spirituals to be performed at various venues Friday-Sunday. Go here for the full schedule and ticket information.
This weekend, Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra welcomes Louis Langrée for his first concert as Music Director Designate. The French conductor is also Chief Conductor of the Camerata Salzburg and the music director of the Mostly Mozart Festival in New York. The concert (11 a.m. Friday and 8 p.m. Saturday) is, fittingly, an all-French program featuring César Franck’s Symphony in D minor, Olivier Messiaen’s Les Offrandes Oubliées and Camille Saint-Saëns’s Piano Concerto No. 2. For tickets and more information, go here.
The Heights Music Festival brings more than 40 area acts to the UC area Friday and Saturday. The Frankl Project, The Guitars, Oui Si Yes and lots more local talent will fill Rohs Street Café (all ages), Baba Budan’s, Mac’s Pizza Pub and Christy’s Biergarten. Single-night tickets are $5 in advance/$8 at the door; full weekend passes are $10/$12.
If you’ve been looking for an excuse to break out your Goodwill’ed tweed suit, you’re in luck! Sounding like something straight out of Portlandia, The City of Cincinnati Bike Program is organizing an old-school Tweed Ride Saturday. Grab your wool skirts, wax your handlebar mustache and dust off your newsboy cap for a dapper ride about town. Riders should meet at O’Bryonville’s Owls Next Park at 2 p.m. for the 8-mile, slow-paced flat ride.
The Moerlein Lager House is ready to kick off the holiday season Saturday with a Beer and Breweriana Extravaganza noon-4 p.m. In what they’re calling “one part holiday beer tasting and one part Antiques Roadshow,” guests can sip seasonal brews while getting free appraisals on beer memorabilia and steins. Authors Mike Morgan and Don Tolzmann will be on hand to sign their Cincinnati brewing books and Jim Effler will sell his beer label artwork and posters. Stick around for lunch and dinner to enjoy a full Cincy-centric day.
Check out our calendar for a full list of theater shows, art exhibits, events, concerts and more to do this weekend and beyond.
But, since we’re talking politics, this week we witnessed what can only be described as the best Rom-com of 2012. Here’s a sampling of the finest presidential gifs: