Saturday, September 6, 2014

JOAN RIVERS

My thanks to the original artists for their unknowing contributions here.

Joan was one of the first celebrities I interviewed (for "Writer's Digest" 1978...her discussion on writing jokes and the screenplay for "Rabbit Test").

I'm not sure why any reasonable adults didn't know that "Joan Rivers" was a character...and that when she didn't have a microphone shoved at her and wasn't expected to say something outrageous...she was one of the kindest and most sensitive women on the planet...a true "lady." She worked for so many charities, but also, if you were opposite her, she cared about YOU.

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

MY CARD...Have Disposable Income? Will Swindle....

Once upon a time, saying "My card..." was a classy way of introducing yourself.

If your card said: "HAVE GUN WILL TRAVEL...WIRE PALADIN," even better. Pretty intimidating, huh?

Now every moron has a card because an outfit called Vistaprint has blitzed TV with ads, covered the Internet with come-ons, and somehow convinced the world that in this ephemeral age of the Internet and email and blips of mp3 files...carrying around cheap paper cards IMPRESSES people.

Instead of saying "you can find me on TWITTER or FACEBOOK" (which seems to be the catch-phrase of the cretin), you're supposed to say, "My CARD, sir..."

And this insanity has spread to include THIS garbage:

The idea is you're supposed to collect, revere and worship cards that peculiar-looking people have scribbled on.

I think they scribble their names, but you can't be sure. Some seem to be hieroglyphics, or copies of their neck tattoos, or maybe they squashed a bug that got onto the card.

Whatever, these things are supposed to be worth $7.99 or $39.95 or $150 or even more...depending on which outlandish sci-fi show is involved, what grotesque make-up is on display, or how much wardrobe is malfunctioning.

While musicians fume over no CD sales and the free downloading of music files, and while authors rage at the bootlegging of their books through Kindle and PDFs, and while TV shows and movies gush from torrents as MKV and AVI files or stream from Netflix like urine from an elephant...CARDS are COLLECTIBLE.

You can scan cards and stick 'em on an iPad. You can pull 10,000 jpgs of eBay ads and store 'em on a cellphone. You could print them out and tuck them into your Depends or sanitary napkin belt, where they'd at least serve a purpose for a while. Why the HELL spend MONEY to have these ACTUAL CARDS???

It can't be the autographs, because people don't even collect that crap anymore. Celebrities tell me it's no longer, "please sign this," it's "Hold on, let's take a SELFIE together" or "Wait a minute, while I toss my cellphone to my friend...ready? One two three SMILE!"

Like Beanie Babies and Burkas, nose rings and thong underwear, pumpkin lattes and fried Twinkies...you just never know what's going to break through the great Digital Divide between what can be copied and stored and what must be bought and worshipped.

I do learn from watching the mass hypnotism that leads to fad appeal...whether it's rubber spiders that you throw against a wall and watch "walk downward" or these "stars from forgettable TV shows and movies" staring out from a cardboard rectangle.

So...here is what I'm going to do when I order my business cards from Vistaprint: I will NOT give them away FREE. I will autograph them with a special squiggle, and have printed on the back: "You are the lucky owner of an actual original limited edition Ronald L. Smith business card..." and say, "That'll be TEN BUCKS, please." And I'll get it! Especially if I add, "Look, on EBAY they're doing for TWENTY!"

Sunday, August 10, 2014

"Hey MOE...the kid wants a PIE...Give it to him!"

What would you do if you were on line, suffering the misery of a brat screaming "I want fucking PIE, I want fucking PIE..."

You'd probably roll your eyes and keep suffering?

You'd walk out and give the skunk eye to the mama who was letting her brat be a nuisance?

MOE would've gotten a pie...and shoved it in the little monster's face!

BUT...since that's assault...HERE is a guy who had a good idea...and the money to execute his revenge:

The full story? The guy deleted it...no doubt worried about getting tracked down by the angry mama, who probably has the tracking skills of a wolverine...and the same amount of bushy black hair on her back.

Fortunately, it was saved, sans identification:

Tuesday, August 5, 2014

Illiterate Rats Desert The Sinking Print Ship

When high quality CD's were replaced by crappy mp3s, few were upset. And so it is, that nobody cares if full sized, detailed newspapers are replaced by a glance at the Google news page, or a quick blink at the four or five items on the NY Post or Daily News opening page. After all, what more can anyone who owns a Kindle or a tablet handle?

The hungry gannets at Gannett are eyeing full ownership of Cars.Com and will throw nearly 2 billion...while they toss their print division (USA Today...) to...who? Who in their right mind is going to buy into what everybody says is a dying business?

Rupert Murdoch tried to make people pay for the "free" news on his newspaper websites. That didn't work. He couldn't get enough banner ads to make money, either. What Steve Allen called "Dumbth" is the word of the day. The culture is speeding up and dumbing down. Nobody wants to read very much...only what fits on a tiny screen while riding the subway. Want to know about the latest in Gaza? Go to Facebook or Twitter. Somebody will be saying, "Israel is a genocidal state" and somebody will be saying "Israel must be free to exist," and you can leave your quick comment. Who needs more?

Want to check the obituaries? Google has a page that lists who died. You get the name, the claim to fame, and the age. Who needs more?

Right now there are people who only know "text speak." R U 1? They can't write a coherent paragraph. At best, they can plagiarize one off the Internet to hand to a teacher or a boss. Many don't know what cursive writing is (no, it's not rap lyrics). Many have trouble signing their name because they don't use a pen very often.

Bookstores have been closing as fast as record stores did, and the ones that survive do it by selling pricey coffee, and offering that are called "Graphic Novels," ie, over-inflated comic books for morons who need to see a picture for everything. Or better yet, just wait for that "Graphic Novel" to be converted into a movie, because it's essentially just a story board anyway.

Nobody's friend Mort Sahl (iconoclast that he is) once said that USA Today was "Egg McPaper." How much DUMBTH do we have, when even this ridiculous newspaper, which exists primarily on hotel food trays, can't sustain a built-in audience?

While one doesn't want to enter fogeyhood, and grumble that every newfangled invention is bad, the loss of the traditional newspaper is NOT a good thing. The disappearance of the traditional half hour it takes to peruse a newspaper to learn all that's going on in one's city, if not the world...is NOT a good thing. Especially if the alternative is wasting that time texting, sexting, Tweeting, leaving smug and stupid comments on Facebook, or posting selfies. What do you see on the bus or subway? People reading newspapers...or sitting and squinting, hunched over their little idiot screens?

There just ain't no "paradigm," that seems able to turn this around. Newspapers are getting more expensive. They put more and more of their energy on "look who didn't shave her armpit well enough" and "guess which hottie is in this thong" photo pages on their websites. The inevitable spiral will continue...since God only knows, the Christian Science Monitor was actually one of the FIRST to murder its print version and go "Internet only."

The future might be one newspaper...The Sunday New York Times...sunday only. But the traditional morning spent swapping different sections of the Times while feasting on bagels, lox, cream cheese, scrambled eggs, pancakes, orange juice...nah. Plug in the laptop at Starbucks, spend $7 on a cup of coffee...and after a quick scan of who had a wardrobe malfunction and what bad boy Bieber did last night...courtesy of the NY Post...you've got all the news you need.

Monday, August 4, 2014

Suicide jokes? Har har har! Uh, too soon?

Would-be comedian. Armchair yukster. You see this type everywhere. If he isn't stereotypical, and wearing a loud shirt and carrying a joy buzzer in his palm, he's much harder to avoid. He could be the co-worker who suddenly startles you with, "Watch out! Dog shit in front of you!" And when you stop, startled, he bawls with laughter and cries "Gotcha!" Or, he tells you in dead seriousness, "Obama was just shot in the head." And when you say "Oh no..." he glowers at you and says, "You fell for that? Don't you know what DAY it is?" Oh, April 1st. Fun-neeee?

Speaking of death, Len Belzer died a few days ago. He was known to a lot of people in the comedy world through his syndicated radio series. He interviewed comedians and broadcast the best comedy routines around. When his suicide death was announced in the papers, most of the headlines slanted it as: "Richard Belzer's brother dies." Either way, Len's suicide was quickly turned into a joke by every Internet Kenny Bania...all those guys who are convinced they could be making Dane Clark's money if...if they didn't have to be Dad's junior partner working at hedge funds or doing plumbing repair, or whatever they do.

The would-be comedian, whether annoying strangers on the street or posting to the Internet, is happy to adopt a murderously deadpan style. This was learned from such heroes as Jerry Lewis lecturing on what's funny, or Burt Reynolds doing Jonathan Winters while glaring at Carson. Or Russell Brand intimidating Letterman. The idea is to shake it up, and if nobody laughs, "shpritz" with a scornful, "You don't get it?" or, if it's the typically tasteless joke after a tragedy, a winking, "Too soon?"

I once asked Steve Allen if there were topics "of which no jest can be made." Poe seemed to think so. No "Red Death" jokes for Eddy! Steve replied, "No, there's nothing that you can't make a joke out of. It's just a case of whether you should."

Sick jokes can be therapeutic. The idea is to show the Grim Reaper that he's not intimidating whoever is still alive. But too often, sick jokes are spawned by obnoxious pretenders who think they're Howard Stern or Gilbert Gottfried or Trumph the Insult Comic Dog. The thrill of being the impudent class clown...is too hard to resist. Nevermind that Stern, Gilbert, Triumph (Rickles, Rivers, Maher, etc.) are professionals. The would-be comedian ignores the "don't try this at home" warning.

Instead he deadpans something nasty to an aghast co-worker...and seem to get the same satisfaction from his aggression as a rapist. It's not pleasure. It's dominating somebody else. As this social leper usually has people fleeing from the sight of him, he'll hurry to an Internet forum to be the first with a cringeworthy (not laugh-worthy) remark. He wants to hear: "I just threw up a little in my mouth!" or "ROFLAO," and if the clobbering quip only gets an insult, he's ready with the sarcastic reply of: "Too SOON?"

The death of a comedian, or somebody in the comedy business...seems to incite a slew of LAFF RIOT attempts at slaying the reader. Len Belzer...a suicide...throwing himself from his home on West 94th Street...why, that's a set-up too GOOD for some to resist: