Georgie Dann has talent, so why is PALOMA BLANCA so amazingly awful?

A big part of it has to be the actual talent on screen.

I’m not kidding. There’s wasted potential all over the place: the singer is obviously a pro, and it’s not his first rodeo. He’s smooth and good and the song isn’t terrible in itself.

The dancers are also clearly professionals hired to do a job, and they’ve rehearsed this thing. We’re not talking about an amateur singer who bribed in his cousin to shoot the thing on his camcorder while some neighbors dressed up and pretended to be backup dancers. Check out the costumes–they put time and money into this.

Topping it off: there’s some serious 1978 version of green screen special effects happening in the background during most of this video, and I can’t think of one use of the green screen thing that didn’t make things intensely weird.

So if you heard this song on the radio, now or back in 1978, you wouldn’t think much about it. Good voice, decent song.

It’s the visuals of this video that make it cray-cray.

My favorite is how the dancers really get into pretending to be a bird before they hopped on their bird motorcycle, put on a Fonz leather jacket and truly jumped the shark by throwing one of the dancers in the air, time after time, as he flaps his wings.

Verdict: I’ve seen this thing three times and it still makes me (a) laugh, (b) cringe and (c) wonder if Georgie Dann ever got a competent director for his stuff, because I bet he’d nail it.

HALLELUJAH by Kate McKinnon, who is just killing it

I’m not alone in adoring Kate McKinnon’s impression of Hillary Clinton during the campaign, though Alec Baldwin’s job as Trump got more attention.

This song, though, hit me hard. Who knew she could play piano and sing? (If you don’t know the song, it’s by Leonard Cohen, who just died.)

Capping it off? Her lines after the song is over, when you can she’s choked up. Appropriate for our times.

Though she does a great Clinton (below), she also does spot-on impressions of Justin Bieber, Ellen DeGeneres and Ruth Bader Ginsburg.

So she can act and sing. If she could dance, McKinnon would be a triple threat.

Yeah, she can dance.

Kate the McKinnon, please keep on doing what you do and we won’t give up.

Why MELANIANADE is peak SNL and brilliant comedy

Music has never been more competitive. A good music video adds another layer of difficulty–and when you add comedy–the hardest thing of all–then it’s no wonder that truly funny music videos are rare.

Your typical parody video looks cheap and takes easy shots at the artist who made it. Weird Al Yancovic has been the king of parody videos for precisely the opposite reason: he knows poking fun of the singer or band will only go so far, so he takes a song and twists it to make fun of something entirely different, like when he used American Pie to rip on Star Wars.

Comedy is hard because it speaks to painful truths. Cheap, easy laughs aren’t deep. The deeper the pain, the more truth gets revealed.

This video works because the cast of SNL clearly put a lot of time and effort into it. They committed, absolutely, and didn’t hold back.

James Corden did something similar with his Lemonjames video. Take a look:

Corden is making fun of himself, and his industry, more than he’s taking shots at Beyoncé.

The quality of both these videos, in how well they’re shot and edited, may seem like an irrelevant point for comedians. Why waste so much time and effort making the lighting, costumes and settings so perfect.?

Except it’s not a waste of time. Chances are, most people have seen the original video. A cheap knock-off that’s badly shot and uses thrown-together sets and locations will keep dragging you out of it. Instead of noticing the jokes, you’ll get distracting with how amateurish things look compared to the real video–and these days, music videos are expensive affairs, often shot by moonlighting Hollywood professionals. So the bar is high.

These two videos leap over that bar of quality, letting you focus entirely on the comedy.

Well done, SNL and James the Corden–give us more, more, more.

The Saga of Sir Bushytail the Brave

armored-squirrel-with-shield

This picture was the writing prompt from an earlier post, something I saw on the Book of Face with a caption which went something like this:

You swerve to avoid a squirrel. Later, in your hour of greatest need, the same squirrel returns to repay its life debt.

It stuck with me. There are squirrels all around me, at home and at work. They do chirp at you, and some will come up and eat from your hand.

So here’s my quick and silly story based on that photo. (Sidenote: I swear it’s a photoshop job, but whoever did it put some real time into making it perfect.)

 

THE SAGA OF SIR BUSHYTAIL THE BRAVE

Hathaway took pride in being a good guest, so he nodded at the massive elk antlers mounted on the wall and smiled at a fat raccoon pelt arranged like a tiny rug next to the fireplace. What he couldn’t help staring at was a squirrel, expertly preserved, wearing a suit of armor.

This wasn’t a novelty, a stuffed animal wearing shiny plastic bits that didn’t really fit right, the kind of thing you buy at a tourist trap. This was a real squirrel wearing metal armor someone had clearly taken the time to mold to the animal’s exact dimensions.

Touching it would be rude, of course. So he sat down at a once-grand dining room table, now scratched and hazy, as his host poured a pot of tea. Her gray hair was stuffed under a hat and gardening gloves poked out of her pockets. A sturdy, capable woman, with a scar on her cheek to go along with the wrinkles she’d earned.

Maybe getting her to talk about the squirrel would make it easier to get to the delicate issue he’d come here to uncover.

“I have to ask,” he said, glancing at the oddity. “Where did you buy it?”

“Oh, that’s a silly story nobody ever believes.”

“Test me.”

“You already suspect that I’m crazy.” She stirred her tea. “Telling you would only confirm that theory.”

He persisted. After they finished a second cup of tea, she gave in.

“My husband left to work at six in the morning for thirty years, so I’d make him coffee—Dale never cared for tea—and walked out to his truck to kiss him goodbye. When the sun comes up, day critters like that squirrel wake up and start talking to you, while night creatures, like that big one-eyed monster on the floor, head back home to the woods. I took to bringing my slingshot to chase them from staring through the wire of our chicken coop.

“After he’d leave, I’d stay out and watch the sun come up as this family of squirrels came out of a hole in that big alder by the garage. It got to where I’d wonder over to say good morning and they’d chirp and chatter right back. So I read up on what they ate and started leaving nuts, mushrooms and corn on the cob, though you gotta dry it first. Got to the point where the big male would come right up and eat from my hands.”

Hathaway raised an eyebrow. “The one up there?”

“Bushytail was always the friendliest. And boy did he chirp, like we were having a real conversation. I tell you, there’s something in the water here. So one day, One Eye the raccoon must have gotten tired of staring at the chicken wire and decided the squirrels would be an easier meal. It took five hits from my slingshot get him off Bushy, who was torn to hell. I brought him inside, cleaned off the blood and tried to make him comfortable in a shoebox filled with shredded newspaper. To let him die in peace, warm and dry by the fireplace there.

“Except he didn’t die that night, or the next day. I cut up apples for him and kept a few walnuts in the shoebox. On the fifth day, they were gone, and he was out of the box, limping around. We couldn’t keep him in here—squirrels aren’t potty trained—but I didn’t want to put him outside. Instead of fur, half his back was scar tissue, and he could barely crawl around.

“Putting him outside would be like killing him. So at first I cut holes in a baby sock, like a sweater, to keep him warm. Dale joked about putting chain mail on top of it, to help him when One Eye came back for seconds. So when he left for work, I flattened out a Campbell’s soup can with a hammer until it was the right shape. Took a few tries. Glued felt on the inside for insulation and painted the coat of arms on it. Dale came home and laughed like I’d never seen him in fifty-two years. Then he asked me how it fit.

“Making it fit took the next day. Bushytail—now we called him Sir Bushytail the Brave—got used to it. He curled up by the fireplace wearing it and seemed to feel safe again for the first time. Protected. So we let him out in the back yard and sure enough, he went back to his tree and his family, just like before, just he was a little slower and still limping.

“We started getting surprises on our porch. A fat pine corn, then a pile of acorns. I swear his little ones copied him, because a tiny squirrel followed him one time with a pine corn it could barely carry. And he tended to stay close to us, to climb up our legs and sit on our shoulders.”

She patted her left shoulder with a smile on her face.

“So on a miserable, rainy day, the raccoons finally found a way to get into my chicken coop, and I grab Dale’s old baseball bat to chase them off. The little ones, they scatter. The big boar, One Eye, he stands his ground and claws me in the leg. I slip and fall, and that evil bandit comes right at me, scratching and biting his way up my legs and body to my face, and I’m thinking this is how I’ll meet my maker, sitting in chicken shit while a devil squirrel chews my face off, staring with my cheek.

“And right when I’m making my peace with the Lord, a glint of shiny metal flies over me and lands on the back of One Eye, who screams and yips like he’s been set on fire. Bushytail is clinging to his back and gnawing through the thick part of that raccoon’s ear. It gave me enough time to crawl out of the coop and go inside to get cleaned up. Next morning, Dale snuck out with the twenty-two and waited for that raccoon to rumble up our hill back toward the forest, and I was happy to pull the trigger and turn that monster into a rug. And I swear, even after Bushytail died, the squirrels he sired still remember our friendship.

“But maybe this is just a silly story, something Dale and I made up to entertain the grandkids. Your cup of tea is empty and I need to make another.” She stood up and poured water into a copper pot.

After two more cups of tea, Hathaway managed to learn what he needed without making it obvious. The story about the squirrel seemed more and more like what she’d said: a legend invented to entertain grandchildren and guests.

When they said their goodbyes at the door, he was convinced they’d bought the stuffed squirrel at a novelty shop, and he started to wonder if she was simply a great storyteller and liar.

That’s when Hathaway stepped on a pile of acorns, stacked neatly by the door.

Writing prompt: this epic armored squirrel

armored-squirrel-with-shield

So a friend on Facebook posted this with a caption along these lines:

You swerve to avoid a squirrel. Later, in your hour of greatest need, the same squirrel returns to repay its life debt.

Yes, I snorted coffee through my nose.

And yet, it stuck with me. The image, the idea, the insane seeds of a short story, maybe 500 words of fun.

The image, the idea, the insane seeds of a short story, maybe 500 words of fun.

I’ll post my short story about this next week. If you want, post a story, however short, in the comments–or use the secrets email, Twitter, whatever–and I’ll include your piece, too.

For more inspiration, the Series of Tubes has been overrun by armored squirrels–both Photoshop jobs, paintings and real-life armor. And yes, the guinea pig armor is real.

armored-squirrel-with-shield-riding-frog

armored-squirrel-2

armored-squirrel-3

guinea-pig-armor

SALSA TEQUILA is a classic parody turned accidental hit

Norwegian comic Anders Nilsen isn’t a world-class musician. He tells jokes.

And I bet you my house he didn’t set out to make this a hit song in Europe (or to have it blow up Reddit in 2016). This is a parody, a little joke he wanted to do. My favorite line: “Antonio Banderas.”

It reminds me of the Italian singer/comic who made an entire song of what English singing sounds like to non-English speakers. I did a post about this song a long time ago, in a galaxy far, far away, but here’s the video itself, because it’s epically entertaining. How did he get so many extras to play along?

Then there’s this video, made by two brothers by their brother who’s getting married, that’s a dead-on parody of ’80s pop.

Back to Norwegian comics: the brothers who did WHAT DID THE FOX SAY? are so good at parody music videos, they do them all the time now.

So what is it about these music videos that make them so fun?

I believe the secret sauce is authenticity.

When you’re a musician trying to pay the bills, you dream about a hit single. You push hard for it. You’re serious, focused and driven. This is your life, your dream.

A comedian or amateur just playing around is doing it for fun. The success or failure of your parody song won’t affect whether you make the mortgage payment next month. There’s far less pressure.

That lack of pressure lets people take bold risks like this–and perhaps more importantly, to be loose and relaxed. To have fun.

That’s the overwhelming sense I get from parody music videos that’s often lacking in Genuine Music Videos By Serious Musicians, who often forget the fun while aiming at high art. Or by rockers, rappers and pop stars trying too hard to show off how edgy and cool they are.

Trying too hard is never cool or fun.

So props to the comedians, amateurs and others out there making parody music videos simply because they can. You’re adding something real to the art of music videos, which will only get more and more important as text gets replaced on the Interwebs by video, video–and, for variety, more video. Text is so 1994.

Things I’m selling that you should buy and such

MAGIC BREADMAKER

You put water and wheat-powder stuff inside, push a button to use the Force, then POOF, out comes bread.

Sort of like this:

rey makes bread

This breadmaker is in a nice, white box with all kinds of buttons.

Not included: Destroyed AT-AT shelter.

Asking price: Five bucks or one-quarter portion.

DOG HOUSE

It’s cedar, medium-sized and fancy, while our Hound of the Baskervilles is black, large and not fancy at all.

If you don’t have a destroyed AT-AT handy as a shelter, this will do nicely, as long as you’re under 5’3″.

Once I finished building it, our dog sniffed at the treats inside, drank from the water bowl and ran off to chew on sticks and chase rabbits. He never entered it again.

Later, he explained to me that the whole point of being outside is to be outside, rain or sun, and that being rained on is good for you sometimes. It makes you appreciate the sunshine. He also said that kibbles are for cats and that when we’re gone, he sits on every chair in the house, not because he doesn’t know it’s wrong, but because rebellion is good for the soul.

Not included: Dog.

Asking price: An old Jiffy Peanut Butter jar of full of pennies, nickels and a couple of quarters.

FOUR REPORTER NOTEBOOKS STOLEN FROM THE NEWSROOM

I worked at a dying newspaper before working at dying newspapers was cool.

When the death spiral got fast and tight, they started rationing rolls of film, pens and reporter notebooks.

Yeah, they rationed notebooks. If you run out of paper while covering a story, hey, write on your forearm. It’s blank.

The second the supply cabinet got restocked, starving reporters rioted to grab all the film, pens and notebooks.

I still have enough reporter notebooks to roof a ranch-style house. They’re just the right size to put in your jacket pocket. Love ’em.

Not included: Stories for dying newspapers or rolls of film. Sorry. Threw the film out. Nobody even develops film anymore.

Asking price: A moleskin notebook that’s too nice for you to actually use, so you keep on writing on the back of envelopes to save the moleskin for the deepest of deep thoughts.

TWO SANSA MP3 PLAYERS

These are miniature technological wonders, tiny black boxes perfect for playing your favorite songs stolen from the interwebs, now that the only albums people buy are ones made of vintage vinyl and hoarded by bearded hipsters.

If you are not a bearded hipster, load these things up with your favorite songs for when you put on shorts and run around the neighborhood despite having two Hondas and a bicycle you never ride.

If you lose a player, who cares, because you have a spare with the SAME SONGS.

Actually included: Random music. Charge these up and yeah, there’s music on them. I have no idea whether this was during my Lenny Kravitz phase or not. Could be a bunch of Toad the Wet Sprocket.

Asking price: Two random CD’s you’ll never use again. I’m making a shiny roof for a bat house.

ONE RANDOM BOX FROM MY GARAGE

I’ve lived in NY, WA, Germany, the Netherlands, the Hinterlands, NY again, Spokaloo, Bellingham, Tacoma and now Monte—and every time I packed up to move, most things went into boxes that got transferred from one garage to another without anybody opening them. I paid attention during Greek Lit about that whole Pandora thing. You do NOT open boxes.

Whenever the garage door closes, these boxes put on Barry White songs and start multiplying.

Not included: A single clue as to what’s in the box.

Asking price: A random box from your garage, or enough C4 to atomize at least 45 boxes of stuff I’ll never look at again.

DIGITAL CAMERA

Five years ago, this was hot stuff. Small. Digital. Stick it in your pocket while you travel the world.

This is still the perfect camera for somebody learning to shoot or a starving college kid who realizes that even the smartest smart phone can’t zoom worth a damn.

Not included: Photos. You have to shoot them. Turn the dial to a setting you pretend to understand, frame the shot and push the button.

Asking price: Drive by with your windows down and I’ll happily Russel Wilson this thing into the soft cushions of your back seat.

Ariana Grande blows up Saturday Night Live

There are stretches of time where Saturday Night Live forgets the funny.

And there are guest stars who fail to shine, or twinkle before they explode like a supernova the moment they attempt to act.

This is not one of those times.

Ariana Grande nails this skit. Just kills it. I can’t think of another singer who can imitate others so well. Later on, she does a killer Jennifer Lawrence impression.

Well played, Ariana the Grande–come back to SNL and give us more.

Bonus content, if you haven’t seen it: Adam Driver on SNL as Kylo Ren, Undercover Boss.

CARL POPPA by Bad Lip Reading is a brilliant parody–and you can DANCE to it

How much do I love this?

Here’s how much: I could not adore it more, or find a single serious way to improve the lyrics or the music.

Seriously. Four out of four stars. Perfection.

For a parody of pop culture, it’s edited with style. And for a song, it’s better than 90 percent of what’s out there on the radios. But it’s main job is to be funny, and though I’ve seen it five times, it still makes me laugh.

Verdict: Give us moar moar MOAR.

Here are the lyrics:

Beat

I hurt the Gingerbread Boy,
Cuz he’s pretend-bread boy.
Little cookie man never waved to me,
So he got knocked out.

Man, cuz I flow.
La Jiggy Jar Jar Doo,
Dur Dur Dur Dee Dur.
Man, I just flow.

Shoe Shine,
No one wanted your stinking tiara,
Cuz no one wanted your sticky chair.
And why you always talk about the cool kids who take archery,
Yeah, you’re a shrinky dink.
You’ll get a funeral if you don’t wise up and call me Carl Poppa,
(oh,oh-oh,oh)
La Jiggy Jar Jar Do,
Dur Dur Dur Dee Dur.

I threw a brick in the air,
(what kind of brick?)
That shouldn’t matter cuz a brick is just a brick,
(Word.)

Dark days, darker nights,
Found my way down a hall without a light,
Because I flow,
La Jiggy Jar Jar Doo,
Dur Dur Dur Dee Dur.

This whole thing where random dead people try to kill me’s gotta go.

They keep walking, walking my way. If they’re talking, can’t tell what they say.
They keep falling, over stuff in their way. Dead dudes walking can ruin your day.

(oh,oh-oh,oh)

La Jiggy Jar Jar Doo,
Dur Dur Dur Dee Dur,

Now all the walkers sing!

(oh,oh-oh,oh [x3])

Yeah, I just like to dance.

Carl Poppa

Cellblock wisdom, french braid tabletop,
If you mess with Carl Poppa,
I’m coming at you like, one, two, walkers in the back of the club,
I’m guessing it’s a club where everyone dies,
If they try to dance to the music that doesn’t play,
Cuz we don’t got no electricity.

What we got is bones, bones, bones.
Piles of bones, bones, bones, bones, bones.
If you try to step to me, hit you in the femur,
With another femur that is laying on the ground.

Yeah,
Wordsmith,
Rhymes.

Hama Lama Sima Lama Hama Lama,
Someone had to cut my baby sister out my mama.

They keep walking, walking my way.
If they’re talking, can’t tell what they say.
They keep falling, over stuff in their way.
Dead dudes walking can ruin your day.

They keep walking, (no one wanted your stinking tiara) walking my way.
If they’re talking, (cuz no one wanted your sticky chair) can’t tell what they say.
They keep falling, (why you always talking about the cool kids, who take archery. You’re a shrinky dink) over stuff in their way. Dead dudes walking (If you don’t wise up and call me Carl Poppa) can ruin your day.

La Jiggy Jar Jar Doo,
Dur Dur Dur Dee Dur,
Man, I just flow.

(Carl Poppa [x2])

Man I just flow.

(Carl Poppa [x3])

I can barely remember pre-apocalypse. (Carl Poppa)
I guess nothing rhymes with that, except maybe “taco lips”.

Man, I just flow.
(Carl Poppa [x2])
Man I just flow.

(Carl Poppa)

You cannot handle the flow, son.