Tagged: comedy



Yes, the title is Shenanigans,” with quotation marks already in place. No, I don’t know why. It’s not a direct quote, there’s no place named Shenanigans in the story, and it doesn’t seem to be an ironic “air-quote,” either. (There’s more than one bar in this book that could easily have been named Shenanigans, but none of them actually are.) It’s just an annoying, unnecessary tic.

“Shenanigans” is pleasant but unexceptional, a frothy romantic comedy that I suspect started off as a screenplay and probably would have worked better in filmed form. It takes place in St. Louis, where our creepy main character, Holden, gets kicked out of his girlfriend’s apartment at Christmas-time for obsessively playing videogames instead of going out to dinner with her. I’m not sure how old he is; he seems to be a student, but we really don’t get a sense of his normal day-to-day life or a solid idea of what he does for a living. The one thing we see him doing seems like a college work-study program: teaching kids to play hockey. Although…he does seem to sponge off the women in his life, which may be a clue as to his lifestyle.

Holden meets a young woman named Casey, and moves in with her that night. (Help me out here: is that as weird and unrealistic as I think it is, or are twenty-somethings really that friendly these days?) They also sleep in the same bed the night they meet, but don’t have sex, which is just a bizarre combination, especially since the story takes pains to point out that they didn’t have sex. Between the scenes that we see, they drift into something like a normal boyfriend-girlfriend relationship (except for the fact that he’s sponging off her as he did with his last girlfriend), and presumably they start having sex at some point…though the story doesn’t feel the need to explain that point.

Then the story finally starts: Casey has been working as a waitress, but decides to start tutoring college students in math instead. Her qualifications: she’s really really good at mental arithmetic, and she’s totally hot. (No, seriously. There’s no sign that she has a math degree, or anything of that nature. So she seems to be coaching college students in, at best, high-school algebra. My opinion of the fine colleges of St. Louis is still diving as I type this.) Since she’s totally hot, all of her clients are horndog young men who think they’re going to score with her, so her tutoring sessions consist mostly of her edging away from them. She doesn’t seem to realize this, which I suppose makes her some sort of idiot savant…or maybe not a savant. Speaking of not realizing things, her advertisements are clearly based on those for prostitutes, which Holden instantly realized (well, he would, wouldn’t he?), but Casey just doesn’t see.


GRAPHIC NOVEL REVIEW: The Professor’s Daughter

GRAPHIC NOVEL REVIEW: The Professor’s Daughter

According to their publisher, First Second, Sfar and Guibert have had very complicated careers. Both of them write and draw, separately and together, so they each have individual works, and they each have illustrated the other’s scripts. The Professor’s Daughter – originally published in France in 1997 – was their first collaboration and their first notable success. It’s just now made it to the USA, trailing some later works by Sfar (such as The Rabbi’s Cat, which attracted a lot of favorable attention two years ago) and by both of them (the children’s series Sardine in Outer Space).

The Professor’s Daughter
is album-length – 64 pages, plus some sketches and background materials as an appendix – but has a small trim size, about 5” x 8”. It’s a generally handsome book, with French flaps, cleanly white pages, and sizable margins.

The story begins without any exposition: a young woman is going out for a walk with a walking, talking mummy. We quickly learn that she is Lillian, the professor’s daughter of the title, that he is the Pharaoh Imhotep IV (and the property of her father), and that it is sometime late in the reign of Queen Victoria. We never do learn why Imhotep is mobile and active now – or why he wasn’t in the past – that’s the premise, and we have to take it for granted.


DVD Review: Fleisher’s Popeye

DVD Review: Fleisher’s Popeye


Note:  All you need to know is that Popeye is back, on DVD, this Tuesday, July 31.  If you’re not getting up to go place your order I guess you can continue reading if you want, but that’s all you really need to know.  Otherwise, know that —

The modest and self-effacing Jerry Beck has once again returned from animation’s mountaintop with the real deal in the form of [[[Popeye The Sailor, 1933-1938]]]. Sixty cartoons on four discs, plus plenty bonus features, commentary, the works.  To the purist, and why be in pop culture if not to root out the impure, these are the only Popeye cartoons worth the name.

Not since their theatrical release, all those decades ago, have people been able to see these works as they were intended to be seen.  This of course assumes you are going to show them in a jammed movie palace on Saturday night filled with everyone in your town from eight to eighty who’ve just seen a newsreel starring Mussolini.

I don’t have to tell you that every studio but Disney thought their cartoons were an embarrassing necessity of the business, like Port-o-Sans at Woodstock. Once the studios didn’t need to program short subjects along with their features they dropped them thisquick.

They lived on in fragile prints, before the age of videotape, picking up scratches and noise each time they were put through your local television station’s film chain.  When Hanna-Barbera’s half hour shows became widely available in their second run the broadcasters decided to save themselves a few minutes trouble and ditch the short cartoons for the new, half-hour, self contained shows.

It is some testimony to their naïve sense of duty to their customers that most TV stations had one of their employees put on a yachting hat or an engineer’s cap and pretend to be Sailor Sam or Casey Jones for an hour or so to keep the cartoons from bumping into the commercials.  The half hour TV era cartoon shows let the stations save the money on the host segments (the host was the least of it; they had to light a set and staff the studio: a couple of cameramen, a floor director, a director and an engineer).

But what we tuned in for were the cartoons.  And we could tell the old Hollywood cartoons were the gold standard.  First of all, they were obscure.  We didn’t get all the jokes, didn’t understand all the references, just like when we observed the grown-ups.  There were jokes we got the first time, and we came back because we could instinctively tell from the timing that there were more laughs to be had, and even more precious, insights into the adult world not to be had in any other way.

Olive, for example, at one point sang that she would only consider a “clean shaven man,” a new idea to second grade boys.  Bluto’s beard and Popeye’s stubble were random phenomena to us, like rabbits having long ears.  We weren’t aware of the idle pleasures of beard husbandry or the agony of a daily shave.  But the knowledge of Olive’s preference (and the goddam song) stay with you a lifetime.

Warners and Columbia were glad to get a few bucks for the rights to their now useless films from television distributors in the late 1940s.  The ubiquitous a.a.p. company marketed hundreds of cartoons to greedy television stations.  These cartoons, made by adults for a general audience, were now thought to be perfect children’s programming.  Of course they weren’t.  Children loved them, but so did everyone else.  Adults didn’t watch them because they were working or grabbing breakfast when the cartoons were on.  And the children of the ‘50s dined on a rich diet of adult cartoons, adult comedy shorts and re-runs of even earlier television programs, such as the history of vaudeville and burlesque sketch comedy contained in the Abbot and Costello.

The SDCC panel on the subject featured a couple of guys in the Popeye business today, a darling young couple, in the animation biz, who were, in a stretch of the term, brought together by the one-eyed sailor.  There was Jerry Beck to assure us the restoration was every bit as surreal and scarily sharp as the job done on the Looney Tunes sets.  And there was Tom Hatten.

If you haven’t gotten the idea yet, I love the now almost entirely gone, once ubiquitous children’s television hosts.  Sometimes incredibly gifted, gravitating to the major markets, sometimes Krusty on a Krutch, stuck inside of Springfield.

Tom Hatten was Popeye’s man in Los Angeles and so, even though I’d never before laid eyes on the man, I can vouch for his talent and love for his craft.  Part of the job was doing personal appearances around town.  If it was anything like the one’s I went to in Cleveland, Ohio (Jungle Larry) and on Long Island (Soupy Sales) they were probably mob scenes.  Though not an animator, he had to draw sketches of the Popeye characters by the countless dozens.

I had to ask Hatten if he was aware of [[[The Simpson’s]]] Krusty the Clown, and whether he found him funny.  To my surprise, and sort of admiration, he said he found the limited, stylized animation so off-putting he can’t watch it.  He also singled out [[[Bullwinkle]]] for inclusion in that category.  So he didn’t know or wouldn’t say if he found insight or insult in their rendering of his professional fellows.

They played one of the documentary features, on the several people who’ve been the voice of Popeye, including, what I would call a surprise, even for San Diego, that Mae Questel, the voice of Olive Oyl, did a stint as Popeye, too, and was maybe second to the great Jack Mercer.  Mercer brought the character to life with his inspired ad lib comments, rising to brilliance when he would contribute scat fills between the phrases when Popeye would sing a song.

The set is peerless entertainment, higher education and made by my good friend Jerry Beck, whose web site, Cartoonbrew.com is a must visit for all cartoon freaks everywhere.  But don’t worry about some buddy-buddy thing going on here.  If you like Popeye, if you miss those great black and white cartoons (and the couple of color shorts they did) this is for you.  I’ll be the guy ahead of you in line Tuesday morning.  Just don’t blow me down.

Popeye the Sailor: 1933-1938, Vol. 1; Warner Home Video.

Did you know Dave Sim has a blog?

Did you know Dave Sim has a blog?

Neither did I. The creator of Cerebus the Aardvark has his own little space on the web called the Blog and Mail (presumably a take of on Canada’s leading newspaper, the Globe and Mail) with the same sort of commentary that he employed in the letter columns to Cerebus. We link to the site here on the off chance that people thought we were knee-jerk feminists.

In fact, if you look closely around the site, you can see all the pins from the verbal grenades.

And yet, there are always gems in his stuff:

I had had an idea for some visual comedy that could be accomplished in ten minutes or less (the Challenge of YouTube!) that involved me dressing up in a Green Lantern costume and announcing that I was running for President of the United States. That was the first 10-minute clip.

Ridiculous, of course. Dave wasn’t born in the US, and so he couldn’t be president.

MATT RAUB loves being a Turtle

MATT RAUB loves being a Turtle

Cowabunga, Dudes! Matt Raub here, back once again for my review of my pick for “Best Flick of 2007” – TMNT!

Now, before I do my business, a little history. I’m a 100% freak when it comes to anything and everything 80’s. From the music to the wacky neon fashion to the movies, and most important, the TV shows. From The Real Ghostbusters to M.A.S.K., I knew just about everything that needed to be known about cartoons in the 80’s. With that said, I was going into TMNT with roughly 50% excitement and 50% skepticism that we would get a repeat of the first three Turtles movies, which included (in no particular order): Vanilla Ice, time travel, and freckles.

With that said, I was nothing short of blown away by this flick. I caught myself jumping with excitement during the actions scenes and cackling obnoxiously at Michelangelo’s quips. Now, there aren’t a whole lot of CGI films that take my breath away, the exception being The Incredibles of course, mostly due to the need to dumb down the script to appeal to the legion of drooling nine-year-olds. But that wasn’t the case with TMNT. Instead of being a comedy with some action, this flick was all action with some comedy, and I loved it. While it did have some slapstick comedy to keep the toddlers at bay, there were so many more serious elements that I know had to have gone over the heads of the younger audience.

For those of you who aren’t sure where this film stands in comparison to the previous three, I’ll spell it out. This movie pulls a Superman Returns formula, but does it right. The story takes place about a year after the second film, erasing the Turtles in Time escapade completely from continuity (thanks!). With this continuity, we still get Casey Jones, April O’Neil, and a dead Shredder, but the characters all get a revamp, some for better and some not so much: April O’Neil is no longer a reporter, but a glorified Indiana Jones-archeologist type. What?? But like I said, this took the Superman formula and made it work. And no, April doesn’t end up having a half-turtle baby with Leonardo.