Friday, November 14, 2014

The 24 Hour Comedy Record Marathon

Congratulations to Al Roker, for ROKERTHON!

I don't know the specifics (bathroom breaks, nap time if any) but I know how TIRING such a thing is.

Well before I wrote "Comedy On Record" and "The Goldmine Comedy Record Price Guide," I set some kind of record via "The Comedy Record Marathon." I took over the turntables at WSCR and played nothing but comedy records from 10am to 10am.

I was both the DJ and the engineer, so the longest break I could take was about 20 minutes...one side of an album. But since I didn't bring an alarm clock or a timer with me, I couldn't risk taking a break and falling asleep! So it was indeed, 24 solid hours.

Just why I thought of doing this, I have no idea. I'd never stayed up all night in my life. I just figured that if Dick Van Dyke (that sitcom episode, "The 100 Terrible Hours") wasn't punchy until the second or third day, I could survive one day.

Things went pretty well until around 9pm, when I realized I still had a half a day to go. A slight panic attack set in, as I wondered about my back-up plan. Coffee? Tea? I was never a coffee drinker. I most certainly never took ups (or downs). I hadn't even thought of asking people to bring up a lot of Pepsi (there was no Red Bull back then). So all I could do was settle in for the long, solitary hours. I'd made my bed...an upright chair in a radio station...and I'd have to sit up in it.

I think around 6am, 7am, I knew the worst was over. I had only a few hours of reel-to-reel tape, so I was conserving it by only recording myself for about 10 minutes at a time. I haven't heard the recordings in years, but I remember that my voice was very weary (this was no longer funny!) and I was a bit spaced out. "This is Ronald L. Smith, and I've been Ronald L. Smith for 20 hours now..."

I also remember trudging back to my room, lying down, and NOT being able to fall asleep. Not for a little while, anyway.

Like Al Roker, the main comment I had after it was over, was two words: "Never again!"

Thursday, November 13, 2014

Spelling is not in their vocabulary

There was an inspirational piece in the London Daily Fail, er, Mail, today.

It was about Jennifer Bricker, 27, who was born without legs. She hopes to put together a dance act, in addition to her current work as a motivational speaker.

Speaking of the handicapped, it's nice of the paper to hire one-eyed proofreaders.

Sunday, November 9, 2014

"The Big Zuckerberg" - using Facebook to "Go Viral"

"Let's make it GO VIRAL."

It's the phrase that's replaced Mickey Rooney shouting to Judy Garland, "Let's put on a PLAY!"

The idea is that you create some lame comedy piece, sing some ridiculous novelty song, or hoist some "cute" video of your pet to YouTube...and then NETWORK, NETWORK, NETWORK on Twitter or Facebook and magically get infected. Uh, "go viral."

Let's see. You can have 5,000 Facebook "friends," most of whom never look at your page because they just collect "friends" to have, not to read. But those 5,000 are going to...watch your video and push it to the "viral" level of 100,000? 500,000? A MILLION HITS?

Sorry, "The Big Zuckerberg" (annoying your friends on Facebook) is not going to make it. Tweeting isn't going to do it, either. Most of the YouTube videos I see don't even get 50 hits. 2,000 (which I don't think even reaches "monetization" level) is probably the average. Steal somebody's song and post it, and maybe 20,000 people will check it out, if it isn't already on Spotify.

It seems pretty naive to think "networking" will make it so. Yet every day a brief glimpse at Facebook posts yields some giddy, pie-in-the-sky post that's the equivalent of crap on my shoe:

How awfully cynical, too, that big corporations are using this ploy: "Make a commercial for us. If yours GOES VIRAL, you WIN." Win what? Well, you win the contest, that's all. It's like the Jimmy Kimmel game: "Tell your kid you ate all his candy. A thousand kids will be crying and howling in agony, but we might pick five that pout and are funny. Those five...get bragging rights."

Not that I want to crush anyone's inane dream. It goes like this:

"Let's all get together and help somebody we don't even know BECOME A STAR! Let's watch somebody's TV commercial. Bad song. Awful comedy routine."

"Hey gang, Old Blind Pew wants to be a movie critic. If enough people watch his demo review, I just know we can persuade "Entertainment Tonight" to sign him up! Come on, gang! Make it GO VIRAL!"

This is the new paradigm: reach for the brass ring by throwing your time and effort into uploading something onto YouTube. The odds are 50 million to one, but "you got to be in it to win it."

What can you do? You hit the BLOCK button. If you want to be dishonest, you say "Thanks, I'm doing it RIGHT NOW." If you say you don't appreciate blatant "networking," or point out the long odds and the waste of time involved, you'll get a torrent of abuse for being a spoilsport, a killjoy, a bastard..." all the synonyms for A REALIST.

You sure can't let 'em know: "I think it wouldn't interest anybody, outside of a small circle of friends..."

Wednesday, November 5, 2014

DAILY NEWS DOES IT AGAIN - The Great Proofreading Cliche

Oh, PLEASE, Daily News...this one again?

When will proofreaders put up a moratorium on this?

November 5th, 2014, a story about a triple amputee (prosthetic legs, handless arm, etc.) who somehow killed his parents.

Tuesday, November 4, 2014

A few words on ANDY ROONEY, who died November 4th, 2011

Ever notice that people tend to remember the day you were born, and not the day you died? Why is that?

Why is it people will say, "Hey, today would've been Andy Rooney's 103rd birthday." As if you could feed cake to a corpse. Isn't it more important to say "Hey, today, November 4th, Andy Rooney died?" After all, you were around when he died, not when he was born, right? And which was the more emotional and painful experience? Except for Andy Rooney's mother, it would be the death date.

Ever wonder what people would say about you, oh, three years after you died? Anything at all? Maybe "Remember the bushy eyebrows?" "There are no more curmudgeons." Nevermind, they said that when Bea Arthur died, too.

Sometimes, I think about Andy Rooney in the summer, when "60 Minutes" was in re-run. Did he have nice summers? Were they nice because he knew he didn't have to complain about something every seven days? When women think about "the curse," do they feel glad they weren't Andy Rooney, who was on this weird cycle of having to moan and groan EVERY seven days for most of the year? Did it get worse for him late in life when he perhaps had to whine and grimace AND remember to slip some protective pad into his underwear?

I wonder about these things.

They say the evil that men do lives after them, and the good is oft in turds with their bones. Something like that. Can anyone remember a good Andy Rooney line? If they can, does that mean it's evil, because it lived after him?

After November 4th, 2011, why didn't they just call the show "58 minutes," and leave the last two minute for a blank screen as a tribute? Sort of like a moment of silence? Would that be asking too much? I mean, aren't we sick of that tick-tick-tick noise throughout the show?

I wonder how many people still have a sense of wonder.

Andy Rooney made you wonder. First, he made you wonder how he got that job. Second, he made you more "aware" of things. You became aware of how easily most anything could get on your nerves. Especially him. Did you notice that? I did.

I share Andy Rooney's sense of wonder most every day. I question everything. Would it be in poor taste to raise money for Oscar Pistorious on Kickstarter? Does "election day" provoke a lot of Viagra jokes in Chinatown? Shouldn't they wipe the soundtrack to DVDs of "silent" movies? Why did I get a free flu shot yesterday via Obamacare when my name isn't Obama? Can you easily do this too, just come up with whimsical, annoying, deliberately querelous misconceptions on most anything and everything you see and hear?

I wonder about these things, on the day Andy Rooney died, November 4th. Do you?

Thursday, October 30, 2014

CHE WHO...SAID WHAT?? (Michael Che and the Catcalling YouTube Video)

What a surprise...the unfunny Michael Che (we now have TWO unfunny males on "Weekend Update") offered some jive about how HE has to put up with fans saying nice things to him on the street...

...and this equals jeering, passive-aggressive comments like "Smile," and "Hello Beautiful" coming from evil dudes who have to distract and even destroy the simple act of a woman walking along minding her own business.

Michael...YOU might enjoy "harassment." I don't. And yes, I've been a victim. Me. A male. More about that later on.

You probably know already that a rather sullen-looking woman was recorded (for an edited YouTube that's gotten 12 million hits) being "admired" by cretins, some of whom started following her just to keep up a steady stream of "compliments." Somehow the "pick up" isn't confined to bars or other places where it might be encouraged. Some people think a moving target is "asking for it."

Huffington naturally got into a huff about this. First off, let's repeat a word about Michael Che: UNFUNNY. The guy is not a particularly amusing writer, and he's even worse delivering jokes. He might slowly evolve a personality, but so far he's about as dull as any local newscaster with a "trying to be funny" bone. What he said was sarcasm, I don't think you are going to laugh...or be able to find a real "joke" in what he said. Meet me after the break...

First, read the not-Chris-Rock level "apology" he wrote to "all the women that Ive [sic] harrassed..."

When you've done something dumb...the impulse is...to do something dumber.

Che Queasy did just that. He followed up his unfunny yap with this Tweet:

You want to read that first thing back again? This guy is an SNL writer? He sounds more like a high schooler: "I'm simply just making fun of something that is important to a lot of people."

Except it lacked any kind of wit, and what's important to a lot of people is their privacy. Guys don't get it? Walking down the street shouldn't be walking a gauntlet. Yes, some girls seem to be "asking for it," with a provocative outfit. They like the "look but not touch" agony they cause guys. Maybe. What should a guy do? Look. And shut the fuck up.

Sam Kinison once joked, "I don't condone wife-beating. I understand it!"

Coming from Kinison, a professional comedian who knows how to deliver a punchline, it was funny. At least, as funny as Gleason's "One of these days, Alice...BANG, ZOOM! RIGHT TO THE MOON!"

It's no longer exactly PC, which may or may not be a bad thing. But it was obviously a joke, told by a guy with charisma. Michael Che offered nothing but very limp sarcasm, and then he got pissy about it. Maybe one day Michael Che could actually get away with some "observational" sarcasm...but right now he's just an amateur.

Does this guy NOT have a mother? A sister? A girlfriend? Somebody female that he would not want subjected to gutter abuse?

Sure, guys are annoyed that eye-candy is out there and they can't eat it. They're even jealous that most any chick can put on make-up and a short skirt and get all the attention she wants. But, she also gets more attention than she wants. Besides, real men don't want to be pursued, they believe in the "art of seduction." It doesn't involve shouting "SMILE" to annoy some stranger determined to ignore them.

I'm not the celebrity Michael is, but I did have an experience with...what do you call him...a fan? A stalker? A passive-aggressive lunatic? I'm the neighborhood celebrity, at least in his eyes. Yes, I've written 19 books, edited several national magazines, and (this is what clinches it) I've actually been on television.

Several times, actually, people have stopped me with a, "Say, didn't I see you last night...talking about Johnny Carson...talking about Bill Cosby...talking about Julie Newmar...talking about comedy..." Yeah.

As Carson used to say, "it comes with the territory." But the people who came up to me did so because I was at a bus stop, getting the mail...pausing and being accessible. Nobody was following me down the street, or getting in my face out of jealousy and hostility. If you're a "public figure" because you've been on TV, that's your choice. A woman walking down the street is just walking down the damn street.

My pest? Well, I was a member of a health club. A rather aggressive extrovert introduced himself as we took a break at poolside. He asked what I did. I told him. I had no idea that this would lead to him constantly calling out my name whenever he'd see me...in the club or even across the street. This was being friendly? Pointing me out to people standing near him? "That's...Ron Smith...he's a famous writer! Hey Ron!" Did I ask for this? Did I want my name broadcast to everyone? Did I want to be distracted, having to wave a hello, or even stop and politely listen to this guy's drivel as he introduced me to his pals?

I began to look ahead...and then cross the street if I saw him heading my way. Then, a few years ago, I had an ear infection; I was so ill and dizzy I could barely make it to the post office or the supermarket. The last thing I wanted was to talk to HIM. But I got, "Hey, don't go away," and "Hey, SMILE," and "I got a joke for you," and he'd literally chase my wounded carcass down the block till he caught up to me and bellowed the punchline. was it any of his damn business if I was sick? Did I have to explain this to him while barely able to stand?

I began ignoring...glaring...and when I was well enough to take him on if I had to, outright insults. He got a lot of this, since his reply was, "If somebody calls me an asshole it's obvious they know one when they look in the mirror." Something like that.

Eventually he stopped...I was at the point of putting out a restraining order. He thought all this was him being friendly? Maybe. I'd had enough.

Frankly, I've always sympathized with celebrities, because I've had so many social encounters with them and some are friends. It can be very annoying to be stopped in mid-conversation by a total stranger who wants an autograph, a photo, or has to ask a few questions. Phyllis Diller once told me "fans are the bane of my existence." Soupy Sales once shrugged: "It takes just as much time to be nice as to be nasty." However they tolerate it, the point is they're in the public eye and it's public relations. They asked for it? In a way. The woman who made the video didn't "ask for it." She wasn't walking around like Kardashian or Viley Virus.

The catcaller guys wouldn't be very comfortable if GAY men did the same thing to them. They'd find it difficult to walk down the street without a combatively angry expression. They'd become phobic and might even get aggressive about fighting back with a glare or an insult.

Back to Michael Che. On thing about writing comedy, or seeing the world through the prism of a comedian, is your itchy sensitivity can produce a pearl of wit. In this case, not. Not everything can be dismissed with some funky "improv." What's amusing here, is Che's sulky line about how from now on he'll keep his hilarious observations to himself. Do that. Then you'll learn the difference between being class clown and being a truly successful comedian with class.

A few huffers at the Huffington Post left comments that deserve the last word, and so they get it. I could've put these at the top of the article with a sneeringly polite line about "ladies first," but how about we try, just a little, to treat women as equals sometimes? To turn off the unctuous flattery that is really a form of hostility?