LIKE

LIKE

Things I like lately:

TV: QUEER EYE FOR THE STRAIGHT GUY

Yeah, who doesn’t? Suddenly, this show is everywhere! Soon, everyone’s going to want a hip gay friend. I just hope the rest of us can live up to the Fab 5. (Personally, I think I could use their services as much as some of the straight guys on the show.) I’m worried that Queer Eye won’t be able to sustain over the long run. This week’s show was pretty much the same as last week’s show, and I don’t know how they’re going to keep it fresh. But Carson’s sure to be a breakout star, and I predict these guys will be on the cover of Entertainment Weekly (a Gay Hollywood issue, maybe?) by the end of the summer.

(Also: Last Comic Standing, Project Greenlight, Da Ali G Show and, of course, Amazing Race 4.)

MUSIC: TERENCE TRENT D’ARBY/WILD CARD

Yeah, I made fun of his name change (see WACKO) a few months ago, but he’s still talented. It took me a few listens to get into this, but it’s easily the best thing he’s done in years. He’s still got a great voice, and he makes soulful rock without all the schmaltz and bare-chested skuzziness (I’m lookin’ at you, R. Kelly!) that’s ruining R&B.

(Also: Ted Leo and the Pharmacists, The Streets, The Libertines, The Caesars, The Long Winters)

FOOD: FAST FOOD SALADS

I know these are probably no more nutritious than a Big Mac, but they’re cheap and they’re salads, and the ones I’ve had have been pretty good. It seems like every other year, the fast food places try salads again – all at the same time, and they quickly learn that people don’t go to McDonald’s for health food. But I hope this time “a limited time only” lasts at least until I tire of this trend, which should be in about two months. For now, my fave is Jack in the Box‘s Asian Chicken Salad.

(Also: Toast on 3rd and Harper)

WEBSITE: COOL READS

It was started by two British kids (ages 14 and 15) who posted their own book reviews for other kids to see. Now a whole army of kids submits their own reviews. They’re brief, informative, surprisingly tough (take that, George Orwell!) and very British. Categories include “Time Travel”, “Living Without Grownups” and “Lots of Animal Content”. If you’re a kid, they’ll tell you what to read. If you’re an adult, it’s fun to read the reviews aloud in the British accented falsetto of a young boy. This one gets full marks!

(Also: Gawker, Fark photoshop contests)

Man, I only came up with four lousy categories. Lame.

PLANS

PLANS

Drew and I have decided to make this an official “No Plans Weekend”.

See, we have too much to do. During the week, we’re both working full-time. Drew tends to work late, and he’ll often have to meet someone for dinner or drinks at night. I have a lot of plans during the week, too, and when I don’t, I try to get some writing done. So weekends should be when we both relax a little… right?

Well, lately that hasn’t been the case. Parties, dinners, summer movies — there’s always all kinds of junk to do. Hey, I know it beats having NO social life — I’ve been there, too — but it’d be nice if once in a while our days off were actually, you know, days off. By Wednesday or so, our weekends tend to be all booked up and seem just as overscheduled as any typical work day.

So no more! When we saw last weekend that our calendars for this Saturday and Sunday were still wide open, we decided to keep it that way.

It’s not easy. We keep thinking of how we’re going to spend the free time, from finally playing those Game Cube games I’ve barely touched to watching some DVD’s — all the things we always want to do but never have time for. But every time we start to get keen on something, it feels like we’re making plans again, so we have to back off. Suddenly, everything’s a plan.

Then, Drew’s friend Jessica invited him to a barbecue on Sunday. We knew these kinds of things would come up, but we were still unprepared. Most people just wouldn’t understand No Plans Weekend. It’s not like you can say, “Sorry, I can’t come to your event. I have NO PLANS.”

I don’t know what we’re going to do about the BBQ. I have to admit, we might end up going. It would be a real blow to the integrity of No Plans Weekend, but I still think it’s a good idea.

And we’re definitely planning to try this again sometime.

STANDUP (2)

STANDUP (2)

I performed standup again last night.

Michael and I went to a new club, which made me happy for two reasons. One, it meant I could do the same material again, which was good since I hadn’t worked up any new material. And two, there was apparently an on-stage depantsing at the old club this weekend (a rambunctious and drunk member of the audience administered a full-frontal humiliation to one of the comics in the middle of his set), and I was scared to go back. I don’t like to show my wiener in public, even if that is my best shot at getting a laugh. (Rimshot, please.)

When we got to the new place, we learned that signup occurs by a lottery, which meant that even though we’d arrived over an hour early, we might be the last ones to go on, if we got a slot at all. Michael did pretty well in the lottery, so he got to go up sixth, which meant a fairly short wait. By the time my name got called, every signup slot was filled up to #14, which I could be waiting almost two hours to go on.

But amazingly, the first slot was still open. People were avoiding it like SARS (have we updated that cliche in light of recent world events? Well, we should.) Brave or stupid (but mostly just not wanting to hang out there all night), I went for it. At a new club I had never been to, I was going to be the first comic of the night.

I was extremely nervous when I got called to kick off the show, but I got up and tried to make the best of it. “This is my first time here,” I said. “This is a karaoke bar, right?” Then I sang, “At first I was afraid, I was petrified!” If you’re not laughing right now, you know how the audience felt last night.

The crowd was very cliquey. Most of them appeared to be regulars, familiar with the club’s procedures and with the other comics waiting to go on. There were a couple of nice, supportive people who laughed a lot at my jokes, and I made sure to laugh when they went up later on. (It’s so petty. I also try to remember who DOESN’T laugh at me, so I can cross my arms and stare blankly at them when it’s their turn. Ha, ha!)

Overall, it went okay. Definitely better than the first time. I mean, people actually laughed — that’s an improvement, right? But they didn’t laugh a lot, which is the way I always picture it when I’m rehearsing in front of the mirror at home.

I waited around after my set for Michael to go on, and the crowd warmed up considerably as the night went on. There was a lot more laughter for the later comics than I got. To be honest, the people at this club were actually pretty talented. MUCH better than the comics at the depantsing place. I may have been out of my league.

But next time, just to make sure, I’m going to avoid that first slot.

I’ll let some newbie take it.

COOKIES

COOKIES

My boss brought some cookies back from Hawaii with him, and he wants the whole office to bow down and kiss his feet for the bounty he’s provided us. He’s been going around telling everyone the completely uninteresting story of how he found the cookie shop, just a mile away from some waterfall. (His real point: “I bought you cookies. Please love me.”)

He made me run over to Gelson’s to get three gallons of milk — one whole, one skim, one 2% — so we’d have something to wash them down with.

And it’s not just people in the office. He’s been bragging about what a generous dude he is all day long on the phone — to clients, friends, his wife. “Yeah, they were such good cookies, I bought some for the whole office. (Please love me.) It was such a little out-of-the-way shop that they didn’t even take credit cards. I didn’t have cash on me, so they sold them to me on the honor system.” (Nevermind that this small, out-of-the-way cookie shop is hip enough to ship their cookies in preprinted packages with different labels for each kind of cookie and a store logo on the box.)

What he’s not telling anyone is that he’s expensing the whole thing — cookies, milk, every penny. He’s not paying a dime for his gift to the office. Yeah, real generous.

On another office-related note, it turns out the men in my company have been playing basketball every Wednesday night for as long as I’ve been working here, and no one has ever asked me if I’d be interested in joining them.

Okay, I wouldn’t be interested. Any one of a million things might’ve given them that impression and led them to assume I wouldn’t be interested. But Jerry has feelings, people.

Maybe I need to order some cookies. Then they’ll love me.

LUNCH

LUNCH

The building where I work offered lunch to all the tenants today. This year’s theme was Jamaica, and they went all out. They hired a Jamaican band, put up some fake palm trees and hung signs that said “Hey, mon!” and stuff like that.

The food was In-n-Out Burger.

Seriously.

GRUMPY

GRUMPY

WARNING: I’m about to rant like a big baby.

I did a lot of stuff this weekend, and most of it made me grumpy.

On Saturday, Drew and I went to the Museum of TV & Radio. They’ve been running an extended series called “What Gen X Watched”, featuring a lot of TV from the late 70’s and early 80’s. Drew and I are both from Gen X and we both watched a lot of TV (still do!), so off we went.

This week’s program was Saturday Morning Favorites — could I have been more excited?

We entered this auditorium, which looks like it normally seats about 300 people. At that moment, it was seating exactly zero. We were a few minutes early, and we had to sit through an old “Will & Grace”. I’ve been telling myself lately that Will & Grace used to be so much better than it is now. Turns out I was wrong. Drew and I fought over who got to nap until the show started and who had to stand guard to wake the other one up.

First up on the program was “Hey Hey Hey, It’s Fat Albert”, not to be confused with “Fat Albert” (unfortunately, we confused it). Hey x 3 was a primetime special (uh, isn’t that a bit off-topic for “Saturday Morning Favorites”, MTV&R?) that preceded and led to the creation of the Saturday morning “Fat Albert” we all know and love. The animation was the worst I’d ever seen in anything anywhere. Go to any house with small children and you will find better artwork taped to their fridge. Really. It was that bad. Most of the characters were there (though sadly, no Mushmouth), but their catchphrases were missing. (Russell and Rudy’s verbal sparring “You’re like school on Thanksgiving!” “School on Thanksgiving?” “No class, turkey!” made no appearances.) Drew and I both fell asleep.

Next came the “Land of the Lost” pilot. Man, was that show lousy! The special effects were laughable, which was good because unlike with Fat Albert, at least we

were laughing. The acting was also awful. There are thousands of out-of-work actors in LA, you’d think they could find three good enough to star in this show. Maybe they all turned it down. Some jobs are worse than unemployment. I know we only watched it when it was originally on because we were kids and we didn’t know better, but we should be ashamed!

After that was Schoolhouse Rock. And unfortunately, it was only Science Rock, the least noteworthy, in my opinion. Sure, it has “Telegraph Line” and “Electricity”, two catchy, educational classics, but what the hell is “Interplanet Janet” about? Is it trying to teach kids that there is life in outer space, and it’s comprised of a single frizzy-haired woman with rocket jets for legs and an enormous metal space bra? Is that educational or was it a shameless bid to capitalize on the popularity of “Star Wars”? I could’ve dealt with that one being left in the archives. If you only have half an hour, MTV&R, why not compile a best-of of all the Schoolhouse Rock songs? Oh, because that might actually entail you doing a little WORK to prep it? Thanks for popping in the DVD, which Drew already owns, and which I could watch at any time.

That’s probably what bothers me the most about the whole thing. The museum should do a little more to raise the presentation quality in their exhibits. Each show was preceded by nothing more than a plain text message on screen saying the year it originally aired. No interesting facts or trivia, no clever internally-produced interstitials. At least they could’ve had a staff member stand up and introduce them. It’s not called the Warehouse of TV & Radio. Members like me expect you to do a little more than pull something off a shelf and pop it into a VCR. Go to another museum and see how much work they put into their exhibits, MTV&R. You can do better. Your website stinks, too.

A couple people walked in and out of the screening room during the 100-minute program. At the most crowded, there were 8 people there. Usually, it was just Drew and me. If that’s as many people as they can rope in at 3PM on a Saturday afternoon, I sure hope Steven Bochco is donating A LOT.

After Schoolhouse Rock came “The Smurfs”. I have no complaints about “The Smurfs”.

It was the episode where Gargamel makes a magic mirror that traps the smurfs when they look in it. Of course, the one to get sucked into the mirror was Vanity Smurf, who couldn’t resist his own reflection — oh, Vanity, what were you smurfing? Then, Brainy, Smurfette and Clumsy got sucked into the mirror when they went looking for Vanity. (Why send Clumsy to do anything? He’s a total smurfhead.) At the end, all the smurfs got out of the mirror and went back to the village. Man, I fucking love the Smurfs.

Then, on Sunday, I went with Drew and Other Drew (look, Other Drew! You made the blog!) to an Outfest screening. The movie was called “Gay Hollywood”, and it was a documentary that followed five young gay men trying to make it in the entertainment industry. They handed out scorecards so the audience could vote for the festival awards, and on a scale of 1 to 5, I gave it a 1. I might’ve been more charitable, but I wanted to influence the voting. Who doles out 3’s? Wimps! (Sorry, Drew and Other Drew. I still respect you both.) For me, it’s a 1 or a 5!

The main problem was that this movie taught me NOTHING about Gay Hollywood. It could’ve been about any five struggling people in the entertainment industry. None of them were very established, and the filmmakers had to set up meetings for them to go on just to manufacture some kind of drama. One guy, an aspiring TV writer met with Bruce Vilanch (yeah, like he just scored that meeting on his own). Bruce said he hadn’t read the guy’s Will & Grace spec because he just couldn’t read another Will & Grace. He’d read too many bad ones already. Well, gee, Bruce, don’t act, you know, nice for the cameras or anything.

Then the writer met with an NBC guy who HAD read his script. Unfortunately, he didn’t like it and informed the writer that the notion of “struggling” artists is a myth. He claimed everyone he knew who was talented had been successful within a year or two. Implication to struggling writer: since YOU haven’t made it yet, you’re obviously not talented. Go home. (Ouch.) The producers then set up a third meeting for him, with similar results.

Another guy decided to try standup comedy. His first gig was at the Improv. (Uh, yeah, that’s a common experience.) It was possibly the worst standup I’ve ever seen. It was the standup equivalent of the animation from “Hey Hey Hey, It’s Fat Albert”. But then Judy Tenuta magically shows up to take the guy under her wing (wow! Who set that up?), and soon he’s opening for her at the Comedy Store. In his defense, his Comedy Store set was a million times better and proved he’s actually kind of talented.

I wish the people the filmmakers had cast were a little more established in their careers. For the most part, the five stars of the movie were barely IN Hollywood, and the only doors that were opened for them were kicked open by the filmmakers. There was no reason to believe most of these guys had any talent, and that was just as likely a reason for their struggles as their sexuality may have been. It could almost have been called “Untalented Hollywood” — in fact, that’s a great idea for a documentary. Plus, having more successful people in the cast would’ve saved these guys the sight of having their humiliations captured on film for all eternity. For the most part, they seemed like very nice people.

Furthermore, I wish they’d cast a legitimate actor or two. I don’t think being gay really hinders anyone behind the camera, but couldn’t coming out of the closet harm an actor’s career, preventing him from getting “straight” roles? I don’t know, and “Gay Hollywood” sure didn’t tell me. The one thing “Gay Hollywood” DID tell me is this: if you want to make it in Gay Hollywood, get cast in a documentary called “Gay Hollywood” and let the producers boost your career in order to help their story arc.

Just so I don’t come off as a total grump, let me say that I also saw a Groundlings show this weekend, and I thought it was really funny.

Plus, let me repeat: the Smurfs was awesome.

That’s not a name!

THAT’S NOT A NAME!

Interesting article in this week’s NYT magazine about baby names. For a good time waster, check out this site on the subject from the Social Security Administration. There, you can track the popularity of different names over the last 100 years.

And I think I’ve finally put one of my nagging questions to rest. How did the name Madison suddenly become the #2 most popular name among girls? Had anyone heard of this name a few years back? Didn’t Tom Hanks, in fact, point out in “Splash” when Darryl Hannah wanted to name herself after Madison Avenue that Madison was in fact NOT a legitimate woman’s name?

Well, back then it wasn’t. Madison doesn’t show up in the top 1,000 most popular girls’ names until the 1980s, when it was #539. It shot up in the rankings every year after that. (#216 in 1990, to 133 the following year, then 112, then 78, then 53, 29, 15, 10, 9, 7, 3, 2 and, in 2002, 2 again. #1, for the record, is Emily.)

I don’t know if the name’s popularity can be traced back entirely to the cultural impact of “Splash”, but the next generation of kids is definitely gonna miss the joke when that movie gets rerun on cable.

Jerry, for the record, is currently #286, the lowest it’s been in the 100 years on record on the site. It peaked in the 1940’s at #19.

FIRST TIME

FIRST TIME

This weekend, I did two things for the first time:

I performed standup comedy in public, and I saw a boob.

The boob belonged to Drew’s friend Karen, and it was partially obscured by her newborn baby. I’ve been in the room when my sister has breastfed her babies, but she always keeps her shirt on. That’s good, because while I am totally down with the ladies and the miraculous, beautiful, natural Mother Earth joy that is breastfeeding, I don’t need to see my sister’s ta-ta’s.

I didn’t need to see Karen’s ta-ta’s either, but she apparently didn’t know that. She was breastfeeding when we walked in, and unlike my sister, at least one ta was hanging right out of her shirt. Given that she had a big happy smile on her face and that there were half a dozen other visitors there in full view of the baby’s first snack, I got the impression that we weren’t going to be expected to leave.

Dammit.

Drew broke right into the small talk. “Now that you’ve had the baby, can you eat sushi again?” I congratulated Karen and her husband while I looked politely to the side.

I know breastfeeding is nothing sexual or shameful and doesn’t need to be hidden, but it’s funny how having a baby in front of your nipple turns it from a PG-13 to a G. Of course, the only way I’m likely to see boobs is in a G-rated setting.

A few hours later, I was on stage in a bar in Santa Monica, telling jokes to strangers. If you had asked me last week which would be the more awkward experience, I would’ve guessed standup by a mile. But it turned out to be the other way around. Now that I’d seen Karen’s boob, the worst was over.

My biggest nightmare going in to standup was that no one would laugh at my material. And no one did laugh. But surprisingly, it ended up not being my biggest nightmare. There were only about 12 people in the entire place, and except for maybe one or two, all of them were comics waiting to go on stage. Nobody was too supportive of anyone else. It was more of a competitive environment, although just what we were competing for, I couldn’t tell. It felt like an audition room without a casting director.

I went with my friend Michael. He had been there before, so he briefed me on the regulars. There was an enormous African-American man named “Smalls” (get it?) whose routine centered on going to “big girl” clubs, which apparently are clubs that cater to overweight women lookin’ for love. Then there was the bitter guy who told common jokes that everyone knew (i.e., “I’m not a string, I’m a frayed knot!”) and griped when people started yelling out the punchlines before he got there. And the ventriloquist. I was dying to see the ventriloquist.

Michael and I put our names on the signup sheet. We were fifth and sixth. We went somewhere else for dinner and came back just as the second comic was going on. I was surprised that the comics weren’t terrible. They weren’t polished, but that’s what a place like this was for, I figured. It was a place for these guys to try out their material before taking it somewhere they’d actually be, you know, seen. On the other hand, I’m not sure how helpful it is to test your material on a roomful of people who refuse to laugh.

When I got on stage, I looked out and saw all the other comics staring at me. Blankly. I foolishly wrote a routine that was going to require a lot of commitment to pull off; it required me to get very emotional and even to do a little physical comedy, neither of which are my strong points. Sure, I can pull that stuff off when I’m rehearsing in front of the mirror at home, where my only audience consists of my Simpsons action figures. But in front of real people, I always chicken out.

Only this time, I didn’t chicken out. Well, at least not as much as I was afraid I would. As I started my schtick and looked out at everyone, it was just like being at home and looking at the Simpsons action figures. I don’t care what plastic Bart and plastic Apu think of me, and Smalls wasn’t of much consequence either. The only one I knew there was Michael, and he had to laugh, if only to be polite.

I feel good about how I did, and gosh darn it, pat on the back, give yourself a handshake, golly gee whiz, that’s all that matters, right?

Still, it’s nice to know I didn’t look like a boob.

FRIENDSTER

Fine, fine. I joined Friendster.

Hey, I like to keep up with the trends. Friendster’s all the rage, right?

I’m not looking to date, I don’t really need any new friends, and I doubt it’ll lead to any new business contacts (which I really could use), but it’ll be a fun, harmless way to waste time on the internet, right?

Except…

Already, I have friend envy. So far, just seven little pictures stare back from my “My Friends” box. Everybody else has so many more! Who else can I invite? I invited half my contact list. Why aren’t they responding? Will people really think I have only seven friends in the world? I swear there are others! They just don’t have the time or computer skills for something like this.

I kinda know some of my friends’ friends. Should I invite them just to beef up my profile? Or would that seem desperate?

I wait impatiently all day for the testimonials to pour in. Some people have dozens of those things. It’s hard to get someone to write some unsolicited piece of ass-kissing fluff about you. If these titans of testimonials really got dozens of people to do it, those people must be REALLY good friends.

And then there’s my profile. I still haven’t found enough clever things to say. I scour other people’s profiles looking for things to poach. Hey, there’s someone who put Blue’s Clues as a favorite TV show! They sound so cool. Can I steal that, or will they know I stole it and and think I’m superlame?

CURSE YOU, FRIENDSTER!