Sunday, January 25, 2009
"Strategery" is Funny
January 25th, 2009
Sunday Night, 6:20 PM
Yesterday I laughed. I laughed about 100 times. I laughed those hearty laughs that last in your soul for about 3 days. See, I am not really a laugh out loud type of guy. I am more a LQTM (laughing quietly to myself) fellow. Don't get me wrong, if the mood strikes, I will be hunched down, rolling on the floor like the next guy. But, that mood does not strike me very often.
I would say that there are about 6 people & things that take me from the LQTM guy to a LMAOer (Laughing my ass off). These people & things would consist of 1) Chris Rock, who I think is a genius; Chris Rock, HBO Special, me, equals an hour and a half of non-stop laughing. 2) The late, great George Carlin, who had that cringe factor (ala Larry David), as well as he was one of the smartest comedic minds of his or any generation. 3) My cousin Martin Ferry from Ireland who with that mumbled delivery, his quick wit & the lubricant of 10 beers (for both of us), always knocks me to the floor. I have literally been under the table while listening to some of his stories, searching for air down there.
The next is not a specific person, but a comedic form/genre. 4) I love prank phone calls. While I was in College, circa early 90s, the Jerky Boys revolutionized the art form and while I had Sirius, prior to them taking the guts of the thing, pre-merger with XM, Howard Stern, and his disciples, Richard & Sal truly helped that art form to evolve to the next level. There is nothing like driving down the road in your car, being driven to tears of laughter, and seeing the person in the car next to you doing the same thing. You connect, do the head nod of acknowledgment and go back into your car bubble, laughing your ass off.
Two comedy worlds collided for me last night in New York as I watched a low-brow virtuoso 5) Will Ferrell and his one-man play You're Welcome America. A Final Night with George W. Bush on Broadway. W.'s Bushisms would be the 6th and final side-splitters on my list. Don't get me wrong, there could always be more and the list could always expand. For a brief moment in time Chappelle had me in stitches. Whenever I watch Eddie Murphy's Best of SNL special I lose my lunch (okay I ran out of laughing cliches). Needless to say, this is a fairly consistent list and it always includes 6.
That is what made last night's pairing such a treat. Ever since Ferrell tried on the squint and southern draw of our 43rd President, he went from funny to being on my Mt. Rushmore of Funny mantel. His 7 year run on Saturday Night Live gave us, Cowbell, Goulet, James Lipton, "lover", Neil Diamond and my personal favorite, "Get off of the shed!". If you want to see true comedic lighting in a bottle, check out his audition tape on Ferrell's Best of SNL. The beauty of the audition is that Ferrell is tanking for the first five minutes of the performance. I mean it's the bloody Titanic on stage and he knows it. Then he pulls out this "Get off the shed!" skit, which basically has him playing a mild-mannered father at a cook-out who goes ballistic in about 20 seconds while trying to get control of his children. With that display, he saves the proverbial day. For him it was perfect timing, a grand slam and it paved the way for him to become part of the comedy lexicon. For us, we received the gift of laughter from him for over the past ten years. Check out the audition on the NBC sponsored hulu.com if you can.
From SNL Ferrell went on to create some of the decade's most memorable comedic characters on film. From "Frank the Tank" in Old School to Ron Burgundy in Anchorman to Ricky Bobby in Talladega Nights to Step Brothers to his biting Chazz Reinhold in Wedding Crashers ("Ma, the meatloaf"), Ferrell has been one of the most quoted actors of his generation. His performance of Buddy in Elf has become a holiday family staple. As the gullible, lovable, man-out-of-his-element Buddy, Ferrell is underrated, he is in fine Tom Hanks-esque form and he is a joy to watch in each and every scene.
So when I read in the New York Times last November that Ferrell would be coming to Broadway for the first time in January to reprise and say goodbye to one of his favorite characters, his George W., I just knew I had to pay my respects, to two of my 6 and our 43rd.
The show last night was held at the modest Cort Theater on 48th Street. The bitter sub freezing temperatures would not keep the rowdy crowd of 1,200 people in check or at bay. 30 minutes prior to the doors opening, there was a line out the door. The crowd was upbeat, energetic and by all accounts, ready to be entertained. The energy in the waiting room was filled with nervous laughter and D level actors. I think every extra or snarky neighbor from this or that sitcom was there. I was standing in line next to like the 8th guy in the credits from the show Spin City. His name is Alexander Chaplin. I just looked it up and he really was the 8th guy in the credits, according to IMDB, good guess. (By the way I am really good at that game; the "where do I know that guy from?" game. I get that stuff in about 3.2 seconds. I think it stems from being a visual learner or something.)
As we were let into the Cort, the sound system was playing a Country Music Greatest Hits of the 70s, 80s and 90s. Glen Campbell leads to Eddie Rabbit, which leads to Charlie Daniels, which leads to someone I don't know, it must have been Alabama, when in Nashville doubt always go with Alabama. Bottom line, it was a damn good mix and now I have been humming "Rhinestone Cowboys" for the past 20 plus hours. This leads me to believe that I need to find a good Country Music Essentials mix on iTunes which I can download tonight. Couple this urge with the fact that I was blown away by Garth Brooks on the HBO Inauguration Special this past weekend and I am completely stress out that I am starting to like country music. Is nothing sacred? Can I fight the impulse and keep my musical dignity? As George W. would say, "I regress".
The mix went silent, the lights went dark and George W., I mean Ferrell, came out to a standing ovation. This guy had the room in the palm of his hand and he knew it. It was like the State of the Union address Bush gave in 2002; he could say anything he wanted and the room would be his for the taking. Axis of Evil, sure, you got it, pick anyone you want. Yellowcake, let them eat it, you know they will. "Stategery", now we are talking, now we are laughing. The crowd laughed at every line for the first ten minutes. By the time that George W. was praying to the "Swiss blond-haired, white, pale skinned Jesus" much like Ricky Bobby did in Talladega Nights, we all knew this would be something special. The crowd settled in for the next hour and a half and Ferrell was in top comedic form.
I am not going to give anything away to my loyal readers. Was the show solid? Yes it was. I would say about 70% of the material was new or semi-fresh. Sure there were some relatively used lines about "The Tiger Woods Guys" who is the new President, or about Cheney or Jeb or about how he was going to let it all out now that the 20th has come and gone, but there were also some new skits about the Bush family stuck in a mining shaft in Crawford, Texas or about an afternoon George W. spent with Bigfoot, or about how one can have a heart attack in ones butt hole that had everyone LOLing. If you are open to laughing about the past 8 years, instead of crying, either way depending on your politics, and like butt hole jokes, then this is the show for you.
You're Welcome America. A Final Night with George W. Bush will be playing for the next 8 weeks at the Cort. If you miss it or live outside of the NYC area, it has just been announced that the show will play on HBO some time in March for all to see. One thing to make sure is that in the beginning of the final act, raise your hand early. Ferrell gives out nicknames as George W. does to his nearest and dearest friends (i.e. Brownie). My favorite nicknames from last nights show were "Flapjacks" & "Euthanizer". Neither of those were mine. Damn you again W. Below I have posted the shows trailer from Ferrell's influential "Funny or Die" site for all of you to get a little taste of what's in store. Enjoy.
In a strange but true New York fashion, 2008 Republican candidate Mike Huckabee walked by my wife and I outside of the Cort while we were leaving the show. Huckabee was in route to the taping of his Fox News show which in turn is right up the road. He was cordial, friendly to strangers, kissing babies, shaking hands and shaking his head as he walked by. How ironic, as we leave this faux show about a real President, one of George W.'s potential successors walked under the marque and into the night headed for the place where fair and balanced news is made into bible. Only in New York I said to myself.