Mike Birbiglia Takes on The Beek, David O. Russell and More in Hilarious Atlanta Show on 3/28

Three months ago I bought tickets to see Mike Birbiglia perform his Thank God for Jokes show at the Buckhead Theater in Atlanta. His show was this past Friday night, March 28. Three months is a long time for me to keep track of anything, so when I got a reminder email earlier this week, it was like finding a $20 in my pocket while doing laundry. So I was extra excited winding down Friday at the office and looking forward to the show.

And Birbiglia delivered. It’s the first time I’ve seen him live, and he was clearly in a good mood, going off-script several times to goof around with the crowd, the ushers and the erratic spotlight guy. He was crisp and energetic, keeping a lively pace for what ended up being an 80-minute set.

He also got bonus laughs recounting his cameo from the previous night on Late Night With Seth Meyers. A few weeks ago on Late Night, Birbiglia had shared a funny anecdote from years back about The Beek being unamused at the prospect of being Birbiglia’s doppelganger. On Thursday night’s show, Birbiglia made a surprise cameo to acknowledge an apology from The Beek, who had originally claimed the incident never happened. (Van Der Beek was a surprisingly likable guest for his full segment. Nice to see a celebrity who can both recognize and mock the nature of his charmed and fragile celebrity.)

In his live show Friday night, Birbiglia was clearly still amused by the previous night’s Meyers appearance. And when you watch the Late Night clip below, it completely mirrors Birbiglia’s recollection of it on stage Friday. He loved the idea of flying in to appear on Late Night and prepared jokes just for the bit, then was overwhelmed by the crowd reaction and his own realization that he looks nothing at all like James Van Der Beek.

Birbiglia’s entire set Friday night was terrific. He gained steady momentum, stacking up early chuckles and building to close with a series of routines that the had the crowd howling and leaving happy. He killed with a bit about running onstage and inadvertently bellowing “fuck” to an audience of Muppet fans, then immediately running back offstage because he forgot to bring out his trademark stool.

Late in the show, he shared a magnificent story about hosting the 2012 Gotham Independent Film Awards in New York. Director David O. Russell (The Fighter, I Heart Huckabees, American Hustle), was there to receive a career achievement award. Birbiglia hosted the awards and opened with a monologue that included a verbatim recitation of Russell’s brutal verbal assault on Lily Tomlin on the set of I Heart Huckabees. Enjoy it here (his tirade starts at 1:08):

(In an aside, Lily Tomlin starred in the 1978 movie Moment By Moment as a middle-aged divorcee exploring an exciting and dangerous romance with a young, Stetson-soaked drifter played by John Travolta. I imagine in real life their genitals would repel like two north magnets.)

Heh, she tastes like chicken! Barbarino out

Let me take this moment to say “NOOOOOOOOOOOO!”

Birbiglia’s point was to highlight the absurd reality of sometimes finding big laughs at the expense of people in the audience. He said the joke brought the room down, but almost took the award ceremony with it. Russell apparently got up from his seat and walked out, threatening backstage not to accept the award. In the end, Russell accepted the award and was gracious later responding to questions about Birbiglia’s joke. Birbiglia cited this line from a review in Variety the next day:

“Before any winners were announced at Monday’s 22nd edition of the Gotham Awards, one thing became clear: Host Mike Birbiglia will not be in David O. Russell’s next picture.”

My clinical breakdown of Bribiglia’s Russell routine takes all the funny right out of it, but I shared it because it highlights something I like best about Birbiglia. His introspection about comedy sets his work apart. For example, he didn’t share the Russell anecdote simply as a self-serving tale of how he knocked a big-time director down a notch. In fact, Birbiglia clearly reveres Russell’s work as a director. More importantly for his act, he also clearly reveres Russell’s searing, vulgar on-set assault on Tomlin. And he’s right, it’s painfully hilarious to hear a major director come unhinged in a shouting “I’m trying to help you cunt” rant. Birbiglia loves it so much he personally transcribed it from the video clip for his stand up, and when he reads it aloud it creates a riveting poetry to the words.

Birbiglia’s reflection about how audiences and individuals react differently to comedy adds depth to his material. I’m paraphrasing Birbiglia from recollection: “Russell is being honored by a roomful of his peers for his lifetime achievement as a director, and some guy he’s never heard of gets up on stage and recites verbatim Russell’s most regrettable moment of all time. And everyone in the room laughs.” He’s fascinated with how comedy works or fails, and he weaves that perspective into some of his most relentlessly funny material. It creates a personal connection with his audience, without ever drifting into sappiness. Because even as he makes you think about human fragility and insecurity, he still makes you laugh really fucking hard.

Venue review: The Buckhead Theater sucks shit for seeing a comedy show. It’s especially bad if you’re lucky enough to score “view obstructed’ seats in the back of the orchestra level. I expect “view obstructed” to mean perhaps the balcony above enters the top of my line of vision, or a sound booth limits vision to the right or left of the stage. At Buckhead Theater, it means you’re sitting in one of 60 or so temporary seats with a giant fucking beam that holds up the balcony level directly dead center in your line of sight to the stage. Such that you will periodically see Birbiglia when he wanders stage left or right, but you’ll have to lean two feet one way or the other to see him when he retreats (as he does frequently) to the stool set at center stage. I’m astounded Buckhead Theater would sell those seats at all. And, at least from where we sat, the sound was awful, with a slight echo delay that rendered Birbiglia inaudible at times. Zero stars.

Super extra bonus: Mike Showalter and Paul Rudd parody the David O. Russell meltdown:

 

 

New Development: CNN Forced to Call Actual Breaking News About Flight 370 Something Else

After three weeks of calling every false report, baseless speculation and black hole theory “Breaking News,” CNN encountered a dilemma today: actual breaking news. Search crews have spotted some debris that appears more promising than previous finds, and more boats and planes are en route to a narrowing search area. Hence, “New Developments.” I love these clowns.

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Unable to Uncover News About Flight 370, CNN Opts for Preposterous Self Reflection

Last Thursday, after an hour of people exhaling words into the air without imparting any information, Erin Burnett got reflective on her nightly CNN comedy show. As the evening’s edition of OutFront wound down, she essentially conceded that they haven’t yet reported one fucking breath of news about the fate of Malaysian Air Flight 370.

She somberly noted that the news first broke two weeks ago “during this hour,” assuming some relevance by proxy and grim timing. Then she kicked off a 90-second retrospective of CNN’s shameful, news-free coverage of the tragedy.

That’s right, after two weeks of breathless, spectacularly pointless and incorrect speculation that raised and crushed false hopes, CNN heaved up a Hail Mary: A hoary montage.

It’s inadvertently the best retrospective of CNN’s embarrassing Missing Plane coverage and its ineptness as a news organization.

Stereogum’s Panegyric for Beck’s New Album “Morning Phase” Hauls Us in a Rickshaw to a Dewy Hovel of Melancholia

This bloated review of the new Beck album by Tom Breihan makes me hate the album, the reviewer, Stereogum, music criticism in general, and almost everyone on earth. Let’s start at the end:

“But as an exercise of pure craft and musical cohesion, Morning Phase is a deeply impressive album, a road-trip record for the ages. An album like this is a good reason to invest in better speakers. If you’ve got a decent system in your house, it’s an ideal soundtrack to mimosa consumption, or to watching the hills roll by like centuries.”

Thus concludes 999 words of turgid muck about Beck’s new album. To be fair, Breihan didn’t invent the “hills roll by like centuries” line. It’s a Beck lyric that he’d just made fun of. Yet he closes with the line to let us know that he really, really gets Beck, and the rest of us listening on our inferior home radio-cassette combos played through old Yuban coffee cans do not.

And given that my speakers aren’t so good, maybe my read-‘um-up skills are faulty too. But I’m pretty sure Breihan really likes Beck’s new album, based on initial interpretations of the following statements:

  • “Morning Phase works more like a thought experiment: How pretty can he make this thing?”
  • “It’s an album about sound-design and arrangement, about sparing no expense to musically evoke a certain happily-bored zone-out state of mind.”
  • And that lack of urgency — its patience, its willingness to slowly build its beautiful sonic sun-temples — is the album’s greatest strength.”

Still, these observations leave us with some questions. Does Beck perform “music songs” on this album? If so, are they good? Should we listen to them on our music devices? Can we drink a single beer and still enjoy them? Are there certain models of cars that we are not allowed to hear the music in?

And then there’s this:

“Stylistically, it’s like Beck imagined the exact midpoint between the depressive inward orchestral folk of Bryter Later-era Nick Drake and the stoned but ambitious studio-pro trickery of peak-era Harry Nilsson. There’s a lot of room for play between those two poles, and Beck makes plenty of use of it.”

Hmm, my stereo cans are confused. Did Beck master the exact midpoint between these two pretentiously contrived musical markers? Or did he frolic in the vast space between these two arbitrarily related artistic mileposts? There are stoned but ambitious people who will never make sense of it all.

Thankfully, though, it reminded me of this hilarious skewering of Pitchfork’s feverish, indulgent music reviews by a wounded David Cross several years ago. Published on Pitchfork, no less. It is a bitter, brilliant satirical gem. 

And our friend Davin shared this terrific Portlandia clip that winds us all down to the logical end of Pitchfork, Stereogum and their mutations:

I Was Mistaken. Uri Geller is More Hateable Than Deepak Chopra.

So spoon-bending asshole and discredited psychic punchline Uri Geller tried to stir up some attention for himself by claiming that “substantial” Malaysians solicited his magic bullshit powers to help find the missing Flight 370.

He asked his Twitter followers (and who are the 7,000 losers who follow Uri Geller?) “Can you please try to ‘see’ where YOU believe the plane went down? How and why, what are you own feelings, what does your intuitive sense tell you. THANKYOU.”

I am a proven fraud!

I predict that history will view me as laughably insignificant

And on Facebook, he posted this, along with this selfie that confirms he is a gonad fold: “Malaysia Plane Crash: what do you all think? If the plane did not crash is it possible for it to have landed in either North Korea or Iran?? How many of you think it crashed how many of you think it landed somewhere.”

And he said this out loud on purpose about his “remote viewing” capabilities in response to a reporter: “It works by people sending their mind through space and time. I have been asked by quite a substantial figure in Malaysia what my feelings are about this situation.”

Geller is a parasite. There are 239 lives in the balance as this bizarre tragedy unfolds. Their families desperately seek hope and answers. It’s beyond reprehensible for Geller to trade on that fear and uncertainty to draw attention to himself and his parlor tricks. And it’s disrespectful to ask his mini-legion of dipshit wannabe clairvoyants to post and tweet their visions of Flight 370’s fate. If he had shame, he’d be overcome by it.

Let’s close this out with a classic clip of Johnny Carson humiliating a young Geller on The Tonight Show many years ago. So wonderful.

Someone should explain to CNN that “Breaking News” and “Relentless Speculation” are not the same thing

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CNN has not broken one single morsel of news about the mystery Malaysian Airlines plane. It has breathlessly chased every red herring this dramatic saga has introduced. CNN parades a continuous stream of experts and observers with varying degrees of knowledge to speculate on where in the world the wayward aircraft might be.

It’s a ferociously fascinating story. I’ll watch a panel yap about what they think might have happened. But let’s call that what it is: People guessing. “Breaking News” implies that news has broken, that something new has been revealed. CNN will run the “Breaking News” title graphic while relentlessly repeating the same updates being reported by every network. Often the “latest” news is hours old.

His quest for credibility is failing

His quest for credibility is failing

And CNN’s resident aviation expert and meth-addled genitalia wrangler Richard Quest is an imbecile and a twit. He has been spectacularly wrong on almost every observation and speculation. He was almost unequivocal that the Chinese satellite photos from a few days ago were indeed showing the wreckage of the plane. Other more knowledgeable experts urged caution based on the size and placement of the satellite photo mystery debris. But Quest continued to insist with bluster that the photos showed the remnants of the downed plane. He’s a buffoon.

And Wolf Blitzer embarrasses himself in live reporting and interviews during unfolding stories such as this. Here is a typical exchange:

Thoughtful, Cautious Aviation Expert: “We just don’t have enough information to speculate on what might have happened to that aircraft.”

Blizter: “So do you think it’s possible that terrorists overtook the flight crew and diverted the plane to Yemen?”

Thoughtful, Cautious Airline Expert: “What you are asking is absolutely impossible to know.”

Blitzer: “So it is possible then. Also, did Malaysian Airlines ignore FAA guidance regarding possible vulnerabilities related to corrosion in the fuselage of the Boeing 777 aircraft? Did that create a breach in the external structure of the plane that compromised the air compression in the cabin?”

Thoughtful, Cautious Aviation Expert: “We won’t know for several days or even weeks what the maintenance record of the plane will show. And in any case, the scenario you describe is highly unlikely. There is no value in such random conjecture.”

Blitzer: “So you’re saying that the wanton negligence of Malaysian Airlines cost the lives of more than 200 passengers on that airplane?”

Thoughtful, Cautious Aviation Expert: “You’re an idiot.”

Blitzer: “Are you suggesting then that aliens cast down a beam from a hovering space pod and pulled the aircraft in with a gravitational force that earthly science cannot even comprehend?”