Party Guest Etiquette: Why Flowers Make You An Asshole

Some good friends hosted me for dinner recently. On the way, I picked up some flowers to give them as a gesture of thanks. Which, if you think about it, is a terribly inconsiderate gift.

This is the $9.99 bouquet because I am classy

I’m an asshole!

“Hi, thanks for having me over. I know you’ve been taking care of your kids all day while also trying to prepare a meal for me. So, I brought you a chore! Please interrupt your efforts to make my dinner so you can find a vase, cut the stems and put these flowers somewhere. I’ll just pour myself a glass of your wine while I watch you!”

So here are some additional scenes of party etiquette and discomfort.

MurryBelushiSuperheroParty1) An SNL classic from 1979: Superman and Lois Lane host a superhero dinner party. Highlight: John Belushi as the Hulk wrecks the host bathroom. (Sorry, no embedded clip available.)

2) From The Office. Conventional snark says that the U.S. version this show collapsed into uselessness after the first two seasons, which were almost identical reproductions of the Ricky Gervais U.K. production. But the Steve Carell U.S. edition had a longer shelf life and more magic than we give it credit for. Exhibit A: The Dinner Party episode from season four, in which Mike Scott and Jan host a torturously awkward dinner party that finally disintegrates into a loud breakup refereed by the cops. Might be my favorite episode of the series. Here is the delightful and underrated Melora Hardin as Jan, dancing to a song by her young former assistant commemorating a special night they shared.

Full episode here.

3) And finally, the only scene I ever remember from the movie Brain Candy, by Kids In the Hall. Dave Foley plays a grown son making a hilariously brief family appearance on Thanksgiving.

Time to Rebrand Wolf Blitzer’s “The Situation Room”

Relative to other recent examples of CNN’s implosion as a news organization, this is a bit of a nit. But “The Situation Room” is a downright silly name for CNN’s daily collection of speculation and misinformation about vanished planes hosted by a semi-literate, botox-smoothed Wolf Blitzer.

He's still pressing the answer buzzer on Celebrity Jeapordy

“The situation has moved to my pants.”

I know they borrowed it from the White House crisis command and control center in hopes of imparting an urgency of breaking news and perspectives of top thinkers and decision makers. But it’s laughably solemn given the embarrassing proceedings at hand. It’s also an oddly pedestrian characterization of a room that’s supposed to be the nerve center of decisive action. “Ooh, The Situation Room, sounds like the room where, you know, situations are discussed.” We provide CNN chief Jeff Zucker these alternatives for a rebrand of Blitzer’s afternoon newser snoozer:

  • The Predicament Shed
  • The Imbroglio Closet
  • The Incident Parlor
  • The Circumstance Foyer
  • The Episode Boudoir
  • The Scenario Cupboard
  • The Phenomenon Lobby
  • The Event Cubicle
  • The Consideration Dojo
  • The Development Loo
  • The Complication Tent
  • The Transaction Gazebo
  • The Occurrence Patio

Final thought. With Blitzer’s show having evolved into a daily installment of breathless chatter devoid of news or insight, I suggest my favorite alternative: The Hyperbolic Chamber.

 

 

“I went up and introduced myself, and we hit it off right away. We had a similar style.” – Jay Leno speaking of David Letterman in 1990

I meant to post this a few weeks back when David Letterman announced his pending 2015 retirement. I stumbled across this posting of a 1990 GQ article about and interview with David Letterman, and it is fascinating. It reads like a fictional short story imagining Letterman’s anxiety at the first crossroads of his cultural relevance, written by someone wise to the ensuing 20-plus years of late night skirmishes, betrayals and heartbreaks unfold.

The GQ article asks this question a mere eight years into Letterman’s original NBC Late Night run: Has Letterman grown stale and surrendered his throne as the most relevant, subversive and inventive comedy force in late night?

His primary threat for supremacy in June of 1990? Arsenio Hall.

Even the subtitle of the article seems impossible today: “David Letterman — Is he still the king of hip?”

But from 1982 through 1990, Letterman was indeed a late-night revolutionary, upending and expanding our expectations about what entertain could be after 11:30 p.m. He hounded and humiliated his corporate G.E. bosses and bewildered celebrities with his brash lack of reverence to their status.

The entire article fascinates, with Letterman’s trademark insecurity and cranky dissatisfaction prominent:

“I just don’t want to look like a ninny,” he says, savagely shoving on what must be one of his hundreds of pairs of almost-new Adidases and sounding every bit the grouch off-camera as on. “You’re going to make me look like a complete ninny, aren’t you?”

But two things stand out as pop culture museum artifacts from 1990. First is the perceived threat posed by Arsenio. It’s easy to forget what a pop culture phenomenon Arsenio’s show became. Hall commanded attention and relevance that drew A-list celebrities to a late-night forum and audience that had never existed before. The woof-woofing, everyone’s-invited-to-the-party vibe Hall created resembles the happy celebrity goof-fest that Jimmy Fallon has crafted on the Tonight Show.

All of that said, this paragraph from the article seems as peculiar as asking whether the crafty BetaMax and its cult technology followers would unseat the supremacy of the VHS:

Letterman is off his feed because of all the attention being lavished — he thinks squandered — on the new host on the block, Arsenio Hall. Letterman’s probably sick of hearing about Hall (whose ads for Late Night Cool are about as aggressively competitive as you can get) and reading about Hall (who scored 100 on the publicity charts by landing the cover of Time; Letterman has rated only Newsweek). It doesn’t help that Hall is perpetually hyped for being black and young (two things Dave can do little about) and is inevitably praised for his attitude — “the hip and irreverent Arsenio Hall.”

Four Kickass Songs About Blackwater, and a What’s Happening! Doobie Brothers Smackdown

Slacker Radio recently introduced me to Mofro and their exceptional album and song “Blackwater.” Which reminded me of one of my all-time favorite bands, Clutch, and the refrain from the chorus of “The Swollen Goat”: “Bury your treasure, burn your crops, blackwater rising and it ain’t gonna stop.” Which in turn made me think of what is perhaps my favorite Blitzen Trapper song, the sublime “Black River Killer.” And then of course I thought of the godfather of blackwater songs by the Doobie Brothers, which 40 years later is still a spectacular piece of music.

So here are all four for your enjoyment, followed by the best scene from any sitcom ever, when the Doobie Brothers showed up and Shirley’s diner to bust some nefarious music pirates on “What’s Happening.” You’re welcome.

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Today’s Lazy Comedy Retread: “Chopped” Basket Tweets

I am traveling and don’t have time to craft fresh original comedy for you today. I did, however, download my Twitter archive and have something special to share: Tweets of made up baskets for the Food Network cooking competition show “Chopped.”

It really is a great show. In three rounds, chefs prepare an appetizer, main course and dessert using four unknown and often incongruous ingredients under ridiculous time constraints. Four chefs start, with one voted off by guest chef judges in each round until a winner is crowned. It’s frantic fun, with some impressive culinary craftiness under pressure. (And a few years ago, Atlanta’s iconic, beloved (and tragically prematurely departed) chef and friend Ria Pell won the show in a particularly inspired performance.)

A few years ago, I would join a weekly Twitter party to mock the preposterous ingredient combinations in the Chopped baskets. I actually made a few close friends bonding over Chopped. So here are some favorites:

  • Chefs, your basket contains: Linseed oil, pre-chewed ostrich, shirt buttons and a tarantula. Time starts now!
  • Chefs, your basket contains: Persimmons, angry bees, chlorine tablets and pure cocaine. Time starts now! 
  • Chefs, your basket contains: Pony filets, Anbesol, a prosthetic hand and a rock tumbler. Time starts now!
  • Chefs, your basket contains: Pop rocks, a rabbit’s foot, eye drops and a Shake Weight. Time starts now! 
  • Chefs, your basket contains: Pumpkin seeds, most of a cow’s head, mint flavored dental floss and a toupee. Time starts now! 
  • Chefs, your basket contains: Rice, conjoined twin pelicans, a rotary phone and deodorant spray. Time starts now! 
  • Chefs, your basket contains: Tang, transmission fluid, drywall and a transgendered armadillo. Time starts now!
  • Chefs, your basket contains: A cremated bison, bong water, marigold petals and an abacus. Time starts now!
  • Chefs, your basket contains: A goat’s hoof, Silly Putty, Vicodin and a glow stick. Time starts now!
  • Chefs, your basket contains: A jar of trout eyes, whey, mascara & a pleading Princess Leia hologram. Time starts now!
  • Chefs, your basket contains: A raccoon, Pixy Stix, eye drops and a tire pressure gauge. Time starts now!
  • Chefs, your basket contains: A rusty saw, pecans, Play-Doh and a Polaroid of Steven Tyler’s junk. Time starts now!
  • Chefs, your basket contains: A syringe of botulism, Aqua Velva, a ping-pong paddle and an owl. Time starts now!
  • Chefs, your basket contains: A tin of Skoal tobacco, pepper spray, artificial sweetener, and Yahtzee dice. Time starts now!
  • Chefs, your basket contains: A veal cutlet, Epsom salt, single-ply toilet paper and a Tae Bo video. Time starts now!
  • Chefs, your basket contains: A vial of my tears, a turtle, Vick’s Vap-O-Rub and a deadly black widow spider. Time starts now!
  • Chefs, your basket contains: A white-winged dove, a wind machine, a cape and modest Wiccan powers. Time starts now!
  • Chefs, your basket contains: An Atari 5200, pickled bison testicles, a balloon of heroin, and MSG. Time starts now!
  • Chefs, your basket contains: A gerbil with glaucoma, eyebrow wax, leeks and a macrame owl. Time starts now!
  • Chefs, your basket contains: A goat’s stomach, Rogaine, pine needles and “cheese.” Time starts now! 
  • Chefs, your basket contains: An obese canary, four Cialis tablets, a toilet brush, and plutonium. Time starts now!
  • Chefs, your basket contains: An origami swan, potted meat, cauliflower and a parking ticket. Time starts now!
  • Chefs, your basket contains a blackbird, savoy truffles, a glass onion and hot sergeant peppers. #beatles
  • Chefs, your basket contains: Poison ivy, Elmer’s glue, a mitten and one of my teeth. Time starts now!
  • Chefs, your basket contains squirrel bladders, a Speedo, lint from my dryer filter and clam juice. Time starts now! 
  • Chefs, your basket contains: A bald eagle, talcum powder, plasma and a soldering iron. Time starts now!
  • Chefs, your basket contains: A raccoon’s paw, bok choy, shampoo and fleas. Time starts now!
  • Chefs, your basket contains: A rattlesnake, Oil of Olay, Flintstones vitamins and a tank of nitrous oxide. Time starts now! 
  • Chefs, your basket contains: A boa constrictor, Liquid Paper, an adult diaper and peyote. Time starts now!
  • Chefs, your basket contains: Apple butter, wet moss, a bruised rabbit and cyanide. Time starts now!
  • Chefs, your basket contains: Armadillo bacon, chocolate sprinkles, antifreeze, a Cabbage Patch Kid. Time starts now!
  • Chefs, your basket contains: Bone-in coyote loin, nasal spray, paint chips & a contraceptive sponge Time starts now!
  • Chefs, your basket contains: Boysenberries, seaweed paper, hand sanitizer and a live blue jay. Time starts now!
  • Chefs, your basket contains: Carrots, goat cheese, quick grits, pomelo and Oxycontin. Time starts now!
  • Chefs, your basket contains: Cheetos, toothpaste, Kalamata olives and Ryan Seacrest. Time starts now!
  • Chefs, your basket contains: Egg yolks, sheep gums, a kaleidoscope & a season 2 DVD of Designing Women. Time starts now!
  • Chefs, your basket contains: Ginger snaps, banana peppers, a photo of ginger snaps & Ben Gay. Time starts now!
  • Chefs, your basket contains: Ground pork, camembert, sweet vermouth, haricot verts, Axe Body Spray. Time starts now!
  • Chefs, your basket contains: Heavy cream, a Magic 8-Ball, cigarettes and a quail with Avian flu. Time starts now!
  • Chefs, your basket contains: Licorice whips, malt liquor, gun powder and Insulin. Time starts now!
  • Chefs, your basket contains: Two pelican feet, paint thinner, udon noodles and a ThighMaster. Time starts now!
  • Chefs, your basket contains: War Horse, marigolds, silicone implants and Tang. Time starts now!
  • Chefs, your basket contains: Yak jerky, Canadian pennies, turtle broth and a Thighmaster. Time starts now!
  • Chefs, your basket contains: Yarn, a book of haiku about pudding, a chipmunk and model glue. Time starts now!
  • Chefs, your basket contains:Tylenol Liquid Gels, a jelly fish, dentures and a Sudoku puzzle book. Time starts now!

Will Gardner Comforts a Fan From the Grave: Why Twitter is Worth More Than You Think

I'm serious about being dead.

I’m serious about being dead.

“The Good Wife” on CBS is a terrific show. I watched the first couple of seasons, then drifted away to only watch sporadically since. I have caught a few sensational episodes this season, including the bombshell a few weeks ago that killed off main character Will Gardner, played by Josh Charles.

Today I stumbled across this gem from a N.Y. Times piece covering a promotional “postmortem” panel of the show’s stars and creators. It refers to the overwhelming emotional response of the viewers:

“Mr. Charles, a Twitter devotee, said he noticed when a follower wrote that her mother was upset by Will’s death. Asking for the mother’s number, he called her, saying, ‘I just wanted to check in with you.’

‘She was devastated,’ he said,’ ‘But I talked her through it.’”

First of all, this makes me an even bigger fan of the talented Charles. He’s deftly emotive onscreen, convincing in swift turns as powerful, passionate and playful. And although I haven’t followed him on Twitter before today, I’ve heard he’s genuine and enthusiastic in connecting with fans there.

This all also reminds me why, through all of the clutter and self-indulgent blather of social media, Twitter and other sites can connect us in such remarkably personal ways we couldn’t have conceived of even a few years ago.

And this stuff matters. I posted about this among a small group earlier, and a good friend replied with this:

“I was afraid to bring this up because I thought I would sound ridiculous, but I was devastated about his departure. I look at his twitter occasionally because I have been a huge fan since his role on In Treatment and of course I loved his work going back to Sports Night. I am seriously questioning my sanity over how upset I got during the past two episodes. R.I.P. Will Gardner!”

I appreciate how Charles recognizes exactly that very real emotional connection the audience forms with characters, especially ones drawn with such depth and passion and spirit as Gardner on “The Good Wife.” From him the phone call seems like a completely earnest, heartfelt gesture, not a self-serving gimmick. To be a little more corny, it seems like something that could be part of Charles’ own process of mourning a character he has invested so much in over five seasons.

This blurred line of our reality and our dramatic entertainment fantasy is astonishingly cool–Will Gardner reached out from beyond the grave to directly console an emotionally despondent fan. That’s just cool.

CNN Headline: “Could Flight 370 Wash Ashore in South American Tsunami?”

OK, former news network CNN hasn’t linked the Mystery of Flight 370 with the tsunami off the coasts of Chile and Peru. Yet. But let’s not put anything past the editorial judgement of the folks who keep us informed with expert analysis no other news outlet can offer:

20140401-221436.jpg(Photo originally posted at Shit Pilots Say on Facebook.)