John Belushi, more than twenty years after his death, has finally received the biography he deserves. ”Belushi” assembles anecdotes and stories from John’s family, friends and collaborators in the oral history style of “Live from New York”. The form befits “Belushi” more than “Live,” fitting the form of a scrapbook where the phrase “Eat a Bowl of Fuck” is the norm. I talked with Tanner Colby, co-author of the book with Judy Belushi Pisano, via e-mail about the book and the man. You can meet Tanner, Judy Belushi Pisano and the webbed wonder Dan Aykroyd at
the Lincoln Center Barnes & Noble (66th & Broadway) tonight at 7 PM for a signing/discussion.
As a comedy writer who didn’t have the chance to work with John Belushi, did collecting these interviews ever make you feel like the guy who arrived late to the party (i.e. “You shoulda seen this guy…”)?
Quite the contrary. I was six years old when John died, so the chances of my making it to that party were fairly slim. Collecting the interviews, and helping Judy set down the definitive portrait of John and his era, let me be a small part of what went on in those days, which was pretty damn great.
Obviously this book will be contrasted against “Wired,” which could have been about Len Bias or anyone else who died of an overdose. It’s not about Belushi the man or the artist. Yet, the book doesn’t shy away from John’s dark side. It’s a complicated portrait. Was there any temptation to remove the warts to balance out Wired’s portrayal?
We never wanted to remove the warts. We just made the editorial decision not to put them under a laser microscope. Everyone knows how John died. It’s old news. We chose to focus on the good things, and, given the inevitable ending, that made the story all the more tragic.
This past Saturday’s Aristocontest was another great show. Thanks again to comics Roger Hailes, Jack Kukoda, second timer Joe Lipari, Seth Herzog and winner Kurt Braunohler, whose rendition of the Aristocrats act as an autopsy report was completely inspired. Thanks again to PIT Aristic Director and Elephant Larry-ite Alex Zalben, who organizes the whole thing including me. Go see Elephant Larry’s sketch show BOOM!
This past Saturday, the People’s Improv Theater and this site held our first Aristocontent, an evening of the filthiest joke told over and over again. Even with the joke told in a variety of differing ways (in song, as political satire and a tagteam telling featuring one player censoring the other), I had to admit I was a little worried people would be sick of it after a while. But the show went for an hour and forty five minutes and I didn’t detect any audience fatigue at all.
Thanks to all the participants: Andres du Bouchet (read his version), Joe Lipari, Shayna Ferm and Katherine Bryant from Fearsome, the sketch group Meat, Bob Powers (whose telling made me a little sick), Nate Kushner and PIT founder’s Ali Farahnakian who naturally segued into his version, casting himself as the agent.
Many thanks especially to Alex Zalben from Elephant Larry (who you should see if you haven’t yet), who came to me with the idea. So much fun. We’re talking about doing another one mid October. Watch this space or the Aristocrats Joke Database for more details.
Filed Under Improv
My good friend Mike Sacks recently conducted a fascinating interview with authors of a new (and only) biography of Paul Lynde. Most know Paul as the “Center Square” on the original Hollywood Squares, where he became famous for winking hilariously at his sexuality. Though it’s obvious that the quip are scripted for the game show, what struck me most about this interview was how the tension of only implying his gayness repressed many of Lynde’s natual improvisational gifts. It must have a special kind of hell for someone who was so good at tossing out written material as his own. Which probably explains why such explosive (and, in retrospect, hilarious) anger might result. Anyone who’d yell at a mother of a screaming toddler, “You keep this little girl quiet or I’m gonna fuck her!” is definitely worth a second look.
Filed Under Improv
Every once in a while I forget I’m not in Georgia and that I live in a city that can support a huge improv festival and still have sellout shows for other comedy events. Ain’t New York grand?
I couldn’t commit to a weekend pass to Del, but I did check out Neutrino at the PIT, an improv-film hybrid that’s spectacularly innovative and impressive. The group creates scenes on the streets of New York on the fly using audience suggestions and items. The scenes are filmed and rushed back to the stage to be organized as a cinematic Harold.
I enjoyed it once before but was a little curious if my good memories of the show were simply due to the luck of having an audience member supply the object-requesting improvisers with lube and cock ring. The subsequent scenes of one player attempting to get the other to out himself by having local businesses give him the items were hysterical. But with such a great coincidence how could they not make a great scene. How good were they?
I needn’t have worried, although this time an audience member did supply a mink scrunchy but admonished Neutrino member Bob Wiltfong that it was not a cock ring. (Either we saw the same show or Mr. Wiltfong loves to turn every object he receives into a cock ring.) Naturally the mink scrunchy was a cock ring for the rest of the scenes.
The group uses the local enviornment well, enlisting clerks and waiters from local businesses as players with hysterical results. The mink now-sex-toy turned out to be an cursed item for sale at the neighboring porn shop and the shopkeeper a manically laughing demon. All of the editing is done on the fly with any cutting back and forth from different setups, meaning the improvisers have to stop one part of the scene, run to a new position and do the next segment and then return exactly in position from the first scene. It was amazingly seamless and used with great effect with a scene where a woman imagines the amorous places her date might go. The threads are even attempted to be brought together in a fulfilling way, with a side player in one series of scenes commenting on another.
It’s an amazing high-wire act, even more so that “regular” improv because of the technical aspects. It’s amazing and well worth seeing even if your performance doesn’t include a scene with a cock ring. Check it out.
Filed Under Improv
Though they aren't pranksters with a point, the creators of Improv Everywhere have some inventive shenanigans that keep their victims from being, um, victims. I'm a little sick of stunts pulled just to annoy people... unless you have good targets (like the fashionistas and homophobes selected by "Bruno" on Da Ali G Show) the person who comes off as a dick is the joker himself. The most recent Improv Everyone joke, featuring a restroom attendant at a Times Square McDonald's, is a great example of pure entertainment that doesn't make anyone undeserving look like an idiot. Check it out.
Comedy nerds will rejoice to hear about Trio’s first original comedy series Pilot Season (read the release here). Pilot Season will be about the people who struggle to try and get something of quality on TV every Spring. And fail. Though I’m over TV about TV, with talent the calibre of Sarah Silverman and David Cross involved, I’m interested. Plus I enjoyed the original movie the show’s based on, Who’s the Caboose. And they’re shooting it mockumentary-style, so hopefully we’ll get some Office-influenced uncomfortable moments in it. Trio’s pairing the show up with its next “Brilliant but Cancelled” month (something Pilot producer Sam Seder creator knows about with perennial Other Network fave Beat Cops). Mark your calendar or TiVo for September 6.