October 14, 2012

A Pre-Election Roast with The Onion

Who else is ready for campaign season to be over? I don't know about you, but I'm just about ready to graduate to the next thing that will irritate me. Luckily, The Paramount will be hosting guests that will make things a lot more tolerable for those of us with "election fatigue."

Don't get me wrong. I fully appreciate the political process, but the cycle of vitriol sure has sapped the joy out of a lot of us. This year, bringing up politics is a sure fire way to escalate a talk from civil discourse to a shouting match. And I can't begin to tell you how many people in my online social circles have been blocked or removed the past several months for being dogmatic blowhards. It's harder and harder to find middle ground these days, often because it seems anyone with a strong opinion has an agenda to make you agree with them. To those, it's a Michael Jackson kind of situation: either black or white.

Heck, you can't even watch the news anymore without a Costco-sized bottle of aspirin at the ready. CNN, Headline News, FOX News, Breitbart, Drudge Report... it's like journalism is secondary to sensationalism. It's a shouting contest where ultimately no one wins. What happened to journalistic objectivism? My inner Simon and Garfunkel croons, where have you gone, Walter Cronkite?

Now that intelligent and unbiased news has gone the way of the dodo, we might as well embrace the absurdity of the current situation. Since we can't depend on journalism to deliver intelligent analysis, a nation turns its lonely eyes to satire. Thank goodness we still have that degree of astute observation available to us, because at least they provide a degree of spice to our daily media consumption. Otherwise, our brain's media diet would only consist of the same old white bread and water usually reserved for prisoners.

So who sprinkles tasty morsels of mockery into our daily lives of mundane media bombardment? Why, it's The Onion, of course! For nearly 25 years, this satirical news organization serves all the parody that's fit to print, they have been presenting articles that lampoon not just news but often the structure of journalism itself. Their website is their most visible vessel, but they also publish a printed newspaper in select markets (including Austin, TX). I figure Austin was selected because anyone living close enough to the state capitol (not to mention some of our recent governors) must have a craving for some comic relief.

While The Onion excels at jabbing our own national news and the political processes, the staff takes aim at many aspects of our daily life. Regular features like those found in more conventional publications (Sports, Entertainment, Personal Interest Stories, etc) are present, all with the same candor and wit that makes all of their reading so devilishly entertaining. If you have the interwebs, feel free to follow them on Twitter to keep a finger on the sarcastic pulse of what's happening in the world. These are the guys whom you are happy to have blow up your twitter feed. Trust me, there's nothing they won't blast. Like the Eye of Sauron (or something less dorky, if that works for you), nothing avoids their sniper-like gaze.

And with the election in its final lap, The Onion brings their wit to The Paramount. On stage will be the members of the creative staff, offering insight into the writing and a behind-the-scenes peek at the production of the Onion News Network. Oh, and they're also going to provide coverage of the election like only they can. I'm sure they won't just jab at the Presidential candidates; they're more likely to hit them over the head with a lead pipe like Professor Plum in the Conservatory.

I look forward to it with eager anticipation. I've been dying to have someone deflate this political balloon of all its hot air. And as for their trademark acerbic touch, I must confess a deep gratitude. Their  version of the news often makes me want to keep up with the world instead of sticking my head in the sand like an ostrich. To The Onion, my own inner Simon and Garfunkel sing on:

So here's to you, Onion writing staff, 
People love you more than you will know. 
Whoa whoa whoa
Oh bless you, please, Onion writing staff. 
Laughter makes the doldrums go away, 

Hey hey hey 

Hey hey hey!

So koo koo kachoo, Mrs. Robinson Austin. The Onion is coming to bring tears of laughter to your eyes. Tears of laughter, that is. The crew will surely alleviate the stress of utter stupidity that all other networks heap upon us. After all, the process can be so ridiculous you have no choice but to giggle and guffaw. I mean, come on... take a look at this guy. Even he can't help but laugh.

Or maybe he's just been peeling away layer after layer of the political machine for so many years he has no choice but to laugh. After all, being enveloped in that environment has got to be so maddening that it's apt to make you cry. You know, just like peeling an onion.

The Onion lands on stage on Friday, October 26 at 7:00 p.m. Leave your own political convictions at the door, because nothing is sacred.

October 4, 2012

Jeff Garlin

"It used to be that people thought I was Norm from 'Cheers.' Ten years ago everyone would say that to me. Then, in the last year, I was at a newsstand in Studio City, and I saw George Wendt. He said he had just gone on an audition, and they said they were looking for a Jeff Garlin type."
 -Jeff Garlin 

Replacement refs! Presidential debates! Seasonal allergies! Christmas creep in retail stores! I don't know about you, but I could use a drink, a good laugh or both. Luckily for us, we can soon do both. Just in time to help stave off those pre-holiday crazies is a comedian we all know and love. Heck, even if you don't know him, you've heard of him. And no, it's not Norm from "Cheers."In October, The Stateside at The Paramount and Moontower Comedy present Jeff Garlin in his one-man show, "Built for Comfort."

Now don't you dare tell me you don't know who Garlin is. For the uninitiated: yes, he used to be a big guy (re made great strides in reducing his waistline a couple of years ago), but he's still kind of a big deal. Beginning his comedic career with Second City in Chicago, Jeff has been quietly popping up in television and movies everywhere over the past decade. Well, quiet except for the uproarious laughter he brings out of you.

In addition to being a comedian/writer/actor/producer/author/director/jack-of-all-trades-entertainer, Jeff also is a voice actor. If you have been in the company of little ones watching recent animated work, you may know him from the recent PARANORMAN. If not, chances are you recognize his voice from his work in recent Pixar movies such as CARS 2 or TOY STORY 3. Also, he had a very memorable turn as the captain who embodies both the weakness of the flesh yet the strength of the human heart in WALL-E.

Or perhaps you've seen him on television flexing his comedic muscle in "Mad About You," "Everybody Loves Raymond," and "Arrested Development" among many others.

I imagine most of you, however, know Jeff from his work in one of the best TV comedies of the past decade: HBO's "Curb Your Enthusiasm." The series chronicles the pedantic culture of "Seinfeld" co-creator Larry David and the pratfalls of his day to day life. Over the course of eight brilliant seasons, Garlin has produced the show and also starred as Larry's ever loyal but childish manager Jeff Greene. Together, Larry and Jeff are like the Tom Sawyer and Huck Finn of adult idiocy.

As Greene, Jeff constantly finds himself in tough situations (always of his own creation), and inevitably pays for it at the hands of his wife Susie (played by Susie Essman). She pulls no punches when admonishing both Jeff and Larry with a double-barrelled blast of obscenities. Heck, she lets F-Bombs fly aloft like an old-school arcade game of Missile Command.

Jeff has had too many golden moments here over the years to mention, and also has a variety of catch phrases that I must confess I have adopted myself over the years. My favorite? A euphemism Greene often speaks on the show deploring a particular action as "a big bowl of wrong."

I've been an avid watcher of "Curb Your Enthusiasm" since day one, and the antics of Larry and Jeff never cease to amuse me. For me, nothing has been better than the one time when Jeff is usurped as head of the household by the family dog because of pet allergens. It's hilarious and... well... take a look for yourself.

There's a certain devilish charm to watching Jeff clumsily carouse through his life as a overgrown child, and these men behaving badly only work because of the genius of their performance and the charm of their bone-headed scheming. After several seasons, the characters feel like old friends, and we always wait with baited breath to see exactly what kind of trouble these morons will get into next.

See? I told you you knew who Jeff Garlin was. We all know him, even if previously didn't know what his name was. In a world of ever-changing comedic talents, Garlin is no longer someone who flies under the radar. With the wide variety of projects he has tackled, Jeff is more than just an unknown supporting player. He is, if you pardon the pun, the new norm.

But not that one.

Who knows what kind of funny he'll bring to the Stateside stage? Well, actually you will. Isn't that right? Because missing this would be a big bowl of wrong.

Jeff Garlin takes the stage at The Stateside on Saturday, October 13, at 7:00 p.m. And thanks to people like you, he's gonna be where everybody knows his name...