Tagged: Lenny Bruce

Dennis O’Neil: Comics. The Other Kind.

Now as I was young and fuzzy, mired in what we were assured was a university education, just beginning to pull my head out of my… Okay, look – no need for vulgarity here. Let’s leave it at this: I was pulling my head from the sand and becoming aware of kinds of culture other than what I was being fed to us by radio and movies (that Bob Hope! What a stitch!) and that alien entity in the living room we called “the teevee” or “the television” or simply “the set.”

(No need for further elaboration: we had only two sets, the one in the living room and the one Mom kept tucked away somewhere and that we saw only on the most festive of occasions, such as Christmas and the like, Oh, and full disclosure; I’m not sure we ever really had a holiday meal on the family set. Mostly we did our holidaying at relatives’ places.)

Did I mention that Bob Hope was also on the (living room) set where, I guess, he continued stitching? Or that I was once in a one-act play with his daughter Linda, but never spoke to her? (Could that be why I didn’t get a Christmas card from the Hopes?)

But this isn’t about Bob and his show-biz peers – Bing Crosby, Eddie Cantor, Edgar Bergen, Jimmy Durante, those guys, oldish performers many of whom began in vaudeville. No, this is about the newish laugh-makers: Woody Allen, Mike Nichols and Elaine May, the Smothers Brothers, Lenny Bruce, Mort Sahl… closer to Mark Twain than Bozo the Clown. And Dick Gregory. Especially Dick Gregory. (Mother-in-law jokes not welcome.) Their humor was well-observed, hip, topical, and sometimes about pain. You wouldn’t catch their acts on the broadcast networks, but you could enjoy them, sometimes, at live shows of various kinds.

Then the world’s change accelerated, humor along with everything else, and humor and news intermingled and, lo and behold, on Sunday nights we can now see the newest kind of new comedian, the comedian-activist. The program is called Last Week Tonight and it stars a Brit named John Oliver. Oliver delivers a brief news item – about 10 minutes long – and then a longer piece, loaded with irreverence and disrespect and gags and facts. You may not always get facts from the non-comedic news venues (though some seem to be cozy with “alternate facts.”) But Oliver always delivers the real deal.

This week, he upped his game. After presenting a detailed story concerning certain politicians’ ongoing efforts to revoke the legal protections laws that guarantee internet neutrality, he suggested that we pro-neutrality fight back by communicating with our senators. Then he told us how. Use that internet to contact your senator by visiting this address: www.gofccyoursef.com. The screen will tell you how to proceed from there.

Marifran did it. I did it. Your turn.

Mike Gold: Archie Gets Laid!

FIRST SPOILER ALERT: This week’s column is going to reveal all sorts of dark, nasty, sinister and provocative stuff about the new Riverdale series on The CW. If you haven’t seen the show and you intend to do so and you’re not going to be illegally downloading it, you might want to avoid the considerable amount of wit and wisdom that follows.

SECOND SPOILER ALERT: The aforementioned wit and wisdom will implant an image in your brain that you may never be able to get rid of. You have been warned!

Archie Andrews has sex with Miss Grundy in the back seat of a Volkswagen.

I guess I should applaud any 75-year old dude who gets to have sex with his high school teacher. And maybe I do, except that Geraldine Grundy did commit statutory rape. Then again, Archie’s probably tired of being harassed by Waldo Weatherbee and if he knew Waldo has the hots for Geraldine, he might have been indulging in an act of revenge.

Also then again… in the Riverdale television series Archie has been established as a sophomore. That puts him at the age of 15 or 16, and if Archie really is your “typical teen-ager” if given the opportunity he’d have sex with a plot of warm mud. And a tip of Waldo’s toupee to Lenny Bruce for providing me with that lovely illusion.

I’ll assume they’re setting up a storyline wherein Miss Grundy gets busted for statutory rape and Archie is left trying to explain the situation to his sundry objets d’ amour. And he’s got a lot of them: Veronica Lodge, Cheryl Blossom, Betty Cooper (in fact, she’s the one in love with Archie, a love that has been unrequited since before the attack on Pearl Harbor), and – I’m guessing here –Josie McCoy of Pussycats fame.

And, since I have your attention, shouldn’t the Pussycats trade-in their little kitty-ears for pink knit caps? C’mon, get on the bandwagon, ladies!

The Riverdale teevee series has been well received by critics and either loved or hated by Archie comics fans. It’s not your father’s Archie. It’s not your grandfather’s Archie. But it absolutely is Archie if said universe were to have been created today – and if it were not done as a comedy.

As every critic has pointed out, Riverdale is very much in the vein of The CW’s stereotypical programming. It’s a romantic thriller with all sorts of dark nooks and crannies. Archie Comics have done these types of stories before, particularly in the recent Life With Archie and Afterlife With Archie series. In fact, the latter was (or is, depending on if they’ll ever continue the series) written by Roberto Aguirre-Sacasa, the creative director for Archie Comics and the writer/executive producer of Riverdale. There’s nothing wrong with that, and the sundry Archie characters have been so well established that they make the transition from comedy to melodrama with ease.

I enjoyed the Riverdale pilot, which is noteworthy in that I am far, far removed from The CW’s target audience. Of course there is a lot of set-up in that first episode, and Jughead was barely in it outside of his role as narrator. Much of the comic relief falls to Kevin Keller, which works nicely. As for Hiram Lodge being the show’s Gordon Gekko, leaving his wife Hermione to try to renew her relationship with a now-divorced Fred Andrews and thereby complicating the Veronica/Archie side of the romantic polygon, then Riverdale might not be your cup of tea.

Actually, reread that last sentence and remember my opening bit about the Volkswagen. If you can’t handle those truths, then Riverdale certainly is not for you. But I’ll be watching it, at least until I walk away muttering about what’s wrong with these kids today.

Mike Gold: The Hateful Fate

Hatefull 8Watch out. I’m about to go political again.

Quentin Tarantino, one of our most popular heroic fantasy movie writer/directors, has pissed off the nation’s police community with police unions in Chicago, Houston, Los Angeles, New Jersey, New York and Philadelphia as well as the National Association of Police Organizations (NAPO) calling for a boycott of his work.

These sundry organizations were joined by Quentin’s own father, Tony Tarantino. “I love my son and have great respect for him as an artist but he is dead wrong in calling police officers, particularly in New York City where I grew up, murderers.” Wow, I guess Thanksgiving at the Tarantino house is going to be one fun-filled laugh epic.

According to the statement on NAPO’s website, “We ask officers to stop working special assignments or off-duty jobs, such as providing security, traffic control or technical advice for any of Tarantino’s projects … We need to send a loud and clear message that such hateful rhetoric against police officers is unacceptable.

“As a high profile figure, Tarantino’s language is utterly irresponsible, particularly at a time when the nation is seeing increasing and persistent calls for the killing of officers,” NAPO uttered. “Anti-police rhetoric like Tarantino’s threatens the safety of police and citizens alike. The police he is calling murderers are the same officers who were present along the protest route to ensure the safety of protesters, who provide security when he is filming, and who put their lives on the line to protect our communities day in and day out.”

Holy crap. What did Tarantino actually say? Maybe it was more the venue than the language. At the New York City Black Lives Matter rally on October 24, Tarantino discussed the recent horrific wave of killings of primarily unarmed young black people at the hands of our boys and girls in blue, many of which have been videotaped. What he said was “This is not being dealt with in any way at all. That’s why we are out here. If it was being dealt with, then these murdering cops would be in jail or at least be facing charges. When I see murders, I do not stand by. I have to call a murder a murder, and I have to call the murderers the murderers.”

Like most of us, Tarantino has seen the videos and he has expressed an informed opinion. He did not call for the blanket conviction of these officers; he asked that we treat police under such suspicion the same way we treat everybody else. Well, maybe not all white people, but that’s different topic. Note that the director did not say all police, or even any police committed these killings. But that’s not the only outright lie being told by the NAPO.

They also repeat the overworked meme that there’s a national conspiracy of individuals who are wantonly killing police officers. This is not true and, in fact, on-the-job slayings of cops is bordering on a 40-year low.

Sometimes people with shallow imaginations protesting these types of police actions compare the cops to Nazis (to which even Lenny Bruce responded “Nazis? I’m the mailman, motherfucker!”) But this reaction to those who stand up against police violence is right out of the Joseph Goebbels’ playbook. And just watch that sentence get taken out of context.

On the other hand, ever since the incidents in Ferguson Missouri early last August, many cops have been forced to wear television cameras to record their behavior. Because of this, many have cut back on their activities in protest. Because of that, crime has gone up in recent months. It’s as if the petulant police are saying “If you don’t let us do whatever we want, we’ll do nothing at all.” While staying on the public payroll, I might add.

Of course, these cameras cut both ways and can be – and have been – used to exonerate cops from bullshit complaints of police brutality. Nonetheless, police are sworn to uphold the law and the constitution, and that includes those troublesome provisions for freedom of expression and assembly. Historically, they’ve had a great many incidents of difficulty with this concept.

I’ll be at the opening of Tarantino’s next movie, The Hateful 8, in Manhattan on Christmas, the movie’s opening day. I don’t think I will be alone, but I do suspect I’ll be crossing a police picket line before I get my popcorn. The movie goes national the following week.

Quentin Tarantino did not call all cops murderers, nor did he call for the killing of cops. But there is sufficient evidence that a few are murderers and should be investigated.

By the way. As it turns out, Quentin Tarantino has not killed any unarmed black kids.