Tag Archives: Billy Crystal

Bruce Vilanch: Secret 24th Member of the USMNT?

As I mentioned yesterday, I fell hard for this year’s World Cup, watching more soccer than I ever imagined I could, transfixed by matches like Ivory Coast vs. Greece, arranging my schedule around France vs. Switzerland. But even though I watched the majority of knockout games and an entirely unnecessary amount of group games, regardless of the matchup, it was the U.S. Men’s National Team that really stole my heart and refused to let go (despite only winning one of four games, and losing their last two. But we won’t focus on that). I didn’t know much about the team before the tournament, other than that Landon Donovan was not on the team and Tim Howard is really, really good and Clint Dempsey is not Clint Mathis. But by the time the USMNT rolled into Salvador’s Arena Fonte Nova to take on Belgium we could roll off the names Michael Bradley and Jermaine Jones and Kyle Beckerman and DeAndre Yedlin like we had been following the club for years. In a truly abbreviated amount of time the USMNT became our team the way that the New York Rangers are our team, and as we lived and died with the Broadway Blueshirts into the Stanley Cup Final, we felt similarly about the USA squad. And even though the dream only lasted a couple of weeks, our bond was deep, if only so brief.

But a few days ago we stumbled upon Inside: U.S. Soccer’s March to Brazil, an ESPN Films series covering the journey of the USA team from the World Cup qualifiers to their departure for Brasil, and all the roster changes and training sessions and Jürgen Klinsmannisms in between. And since beginning the series I’ve been obsessed. It’s just like in 6th Grade when everyone fell in love with Green Day’s Dookie (or so they professed) and wrote the band’s name on their backpacks with Wite-Out and then discovered their early stuff like 39/Smooth and Kerplunk (except in my case it would have been Billy Joel and collecting all of his albums that predate his Greatest Hits Volume 1 & Volume 2). March to Brazil is the USMNT’s early stuff, and I’m really digging it. Sure, they’re raw and unrefined, and there will be some personnel changes before they settle on the definitive lineup, but the soul is there.

But as much as I’ve enjoyed this series, learning the background of these players that I cheered so hard for just two weeks ago, there was something else that I found absolutely stunning: Bruce Vilanch was a member of the USMNT.

Well, maybe not exactly, but he definitely makes an appearance in Part 2, evidently having traveled on the same flight as Defender Omar Gonzalez. Take a look:

 

Did you catch him? Look again:

Bruce Vilanch Omar Gonzalez USMNT

 

Let’s go in for a closer look:

Vilanch-CloseUp

 

Well, if the one size too small graphic t-shirt and red glasses don’t give it away, then the blond Fry Guy hair sure does. I mean, it can’t be, but it’s gotta be:

Bruce Vilanch

Now, as I said, I’ve watched a Bruce Vilanch-worth of USA soccer and haven’t seen the writer-comedian anywhere else, but is it possible that the Off-Center Square was Jürgen Klinsmann’s secret weapon? Did Klinsmann do what Whoopi and Billy have done before him and Get Bruce? Did Vilanch keep Michael Bradley at ease with his playful, suggestive puns? Did he help immerse Jermaine Jones and Julian Green in American culture? Did he trade hair secrets with Graham Zusi and Mix Diskerud? Or maybe, just maybe, he was making a surprise cameo in Kyle Beckerman’s engagement photos? Whatever the reason, Vilanch needs to be on the roster for 2018.

We’ll never be able to beat the Germans by playing their game. We need to create our own American style, embrace what makes our country unique. Maybe, just maybe, Bruce Vilanch is the key.

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Filed under Freak Out Control, Huh?, Intersection of the venn diagram of things that I love, Match Games, Matt Christopher Books, Monster Mash, What? Too fabulous?

In Defense of Seth MacFarlane: Comedy is in the Eye of the Beholder & Peeling Back The Onion

Seth MacFarlane OscarsFirst, some context: we are not especially devoted Seth MacFarlane fans. For a time we watched Family Guy semi-regularly and certainly were a part of that groundswell that helped resurrect the show from its premature grave. But do we consider ourselves MacFarlane evangelists or advocates? Not at all. We still haven’t seen Ted, and are not exceptionally eager to do so. We rarely watch American Dad and we can’t say for sure that we’ve ever caught an episode of The Cleveland Show. We were, however, impressed with his performance hosting the SNL premiere, and it demonstrated that not only could he do funny voices and write an off-color (and oft-humorous) joke, but he could also perform, and perform live, which is not always second nature for a writer-producer-voice actor. Did that mean we were thrilled to learn he was tapped to host this year’s Oscars? No, not really. We thought it was somewhat a knee-jerk, ill-advised decision (probably due, paradoxically, to his mess-up when presenting at the 2012 Emmys). But we knew, at least, that he could hold his own on stage, singing, dancing, cracking wise, and thinking on his feet. Was he going to offend some people? Probably. But that would come with the territory. Wouldn’t that be by design? If you wanted someone with only a love of musical theater and a flair for singing and dancing, then wouldn’t you just turn to Billy Crystal for a record 74th time? So, with Seth MacFarlane, that’s the package, that’s the deal (a faustian bargain, depending on your point of view): some dick and fart jokes and some mildly anti-Semitic and racist humor mixed with some sprinkles of old Broadway.

So were we surprised that MacFarlarne’s hosting turn this past Sunday night was met with a mix of disappointment and outright scorn? No, not at all. That was to be expected. But, after seeing the show, we were taken aback at the amount of criticism leveled at MacFarlane because, frankly, for someone who trades in abortion jokes and greased up deaf guys, we found his material relatively mild. It was almost as if we were watching a different show, different from the one that so much of the (tweeting) public found so repugnant, so misogynistic  and racist and base. And, to our surprise, we found ourselves in MacFarlane’s corner. Not because we found his turn especially remarkable. But because it wasn’t that bad. And, more importantly, it wasn’t that vile.

Read on: 9 things that we didn’t find so sexist, and a rotten Onion…

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Filed under Analysis, Fashion Show at Lunch, In defense of:, Lists, Other people's stuff, The Big Screen

‘Survivor: One World’ – Fowl Play

Before we start this off, we need to speak to Kat for a second.  Girl, get it together.  You bawl at Tribal Council like that one time Robbie Morris told his dad the dirty joke that we had told him at indoor recess earlier that day, and we were sent to bed without TV and ice cream (the joke, if you must know, is entitled “Seymour Upmore.”  We’ll let you fill in the blanks).  Kat, you need to toughen up.  That was just your second of – if you’re exceptionally lucky – many Tribal Councils.  But don’t take it from us, take it from Jimmy Dugan.

Got it? Good.

Unfortunately, once the ladies are able to dry their eyes, they’re doused with what was either ten minutes of drizzle or seven days of apocalyptic downpour.  Either way, those bitches be WET (of course, one has question Chelsea’s decision to try to wait out the storm in the ocean.  Then again, four feet of water probably offers more protection than their shelter.  You know, cause chicks can’t build shit (jk, jk!)).  But, defying their earlier histrionics, the women remain resolute, refusing to run to the big strong men and their big strong tarp (and the palms fronds the women themselves had woven.  It’s kinda like a Gift of the Magi where one person gets totally fucked).  Also, they somehow rejected Colton’s offer to cuddle.  Now that’s will power.  Girls, we had you all wrong.

Until about nine minutes later…

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Filed under Analysis, Century 21 Reality, God Laughs, The Worst, Tribal Council

Did the Oscars Set Rip-Off ‘Saturday Night Live’ Circa 1985?

Well, perhaps it’s reparations for SNL stealing Billy Crystal’s mildly racist black people at the movies joke, but it appears that Crystal and the last night’s Academy Award’s telecast stole their set from the one used in Studio 8H during Season 11 (the notorious Robert Downey Jr-Anthony Michael Hall-Randy Quaid interlude).  The similarity is too hard to ignore.

Last night, hosted by Crystal:

Season 11, Episode 2 (November 16, 1985), hosted by Chevy Chase:

YOU DECIDE.

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Filed under Flashback!, Rip-off, Saturday Night Live, You Decide, Yvonne Hudson

Muppet Monday: Oscars the Grouch

If you had a chance (or the misfortune) to read our tweets from last night’s Oscars telecast, you’ll know that we were very sore that Bret McKenzie was not given a chance to perform his Oscar-nominated “Man or Muppet” (and one would assume a theoretical performance would include Jason Segel & Walter, if not the Muppet cast), and we took every opportunity to point out an uninspiring three minutes that could have been better spent with a Muppet musical interlude (which, basically, was any three minutes in the show, save for Tom Hanks’ presentation and Will Ferrell and Zack Galifianakis’s own musical interlude).  And, despite the hope that we foolishly granted ourselves in our most private moments, the Muppet contribution to the show was limited to a short bit with Kermit & Miss Piggy introducing Cirque Du Soleil (so you had time for those freaks and not the Muppets? C’mon).  So with that you could consider the chance to do something fun and different and special officially thwarted, in favor of the same old pabulum (and the new old Billy Crystal).

BUT, despite all that, the Muppets did deliver two of the night’s best moments.  First, of course, was Bret McKenzie’s triumph (although, let’s be honest, if the song from Rio won, we should just pack it in.  That would have been worse that Meryl Streep’s victory (which, by the way, was a win for lazy white people everywhere)), winning the Oscar for a film that deserved much more acclaim and recognition than it received.  The second moment was McKenzie’s gracious, earnest acceptance speech, and, more to the point, Jason Segel’s reaction when McKenzie offered his gratitude to Jim Henson.  That moment of pure joy could warm the coldest heart.

We can’t find that clip online (thanks a lot, the man!), but this almost approximates that joy and innocence:

On a related note, for the better part of the last year we’ve been slogging our way through Michael Davis’ Street Gang, the wonderfully detailed and thoroughly researched history of Sesame Street.  Not surprisingly, we found the most engaging excerpts to be those that touched on Jim Henson’s contribution to the show, and, in a macabre way, the description of his passing and his now legendary memorial service.  We finally came to this event towards the end of the book as we were riding along the E train yesterday; at one point the doors open, we look up and what should we see?  Jim Henson, surrounded by his greatest creations, a poster for their exhibit at the Museum of the Moving Image.  It was a bit eerie, but even more it felt special, serendipitous.  And, then, mere hours later, McKenzie invokes Henson’s name, providing another fitting tribute to a man who remains an inspiration to so many of us.

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Filed under Bert-n-Ernie, Muppet Mondays, Muppets, Tyranasaurus Sex

Did ‘SNL’ Rip-Off Billy Crystal’s Mildly Racist ‘SNL’ Monolgoue?

Thanks to the wonder of Netflix Instant Watch we’re now able to go back and relive all those years of SNL that we had only read about in Live From New York.  As we had previously mentioned, one of the seasons we were most curious about was the 84-85 season, the year that featured a bunch of ringers named Billy Crystal, Martin Short, Harry Shearer and Christopher Guest.  So as soon as we could we went right to season premiere, which began with a monologue from de facto lead cast member Crystal.  We were struck by a number of aspects of the act: how young Crystal looks; the perfectly 80s sweater; the dark, depressing subway platform set.  But what stayed with us most was this mildly racist bit about going to scary movies with African-Americans:

We’ve been meaning to upload this clip for a few weeks, but we were hoping to wait until we could procure better quality video.  But we bring it to you now, without further hesitation, because last week’s SNL basically used the same exact joke in its “Globe Theatre” sketch:

Curiously, the sketch is not available on Hulu.  Is a rights issue because they reworked a Black Eyed Peas song?  Or maybe “Let’s all go the lobby” is not public domain.  Or, perhaps. Mr. Crystal filed a plagiarism complaint.

Sadly, we’ll likely never know.

Either way, we’re a little concerned about how enthusiastic that one woman in the audience was when Crystal asked if anyone had “ever been to a scary film with a black audience” (it’s also kind of a weird question.  The 80s weren’t the 60s, right?).  Crazy times, man, crazy times.

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Filed under Rip-off, Saturday Night Live, Sha la la la, Woody Allen, Bar Mitzvahs & Bagels, You Decide

Danza Moment of the Week: Boxer-Actor or Actor-Boxer? Toe-to-Face with Anthony Michael Hall

Our old pal Eliot Glazer recently alerted us to the virtual treasure trove of classic Saturday Night Live episodes that can now be found on Netflix Instant Watch.  In fact, they’ve made available nearly every episode of the show from its tumultuous 35 year history (although, it should be noted that episodes only feature “selected” sketches, and the musical performances have been excised for obvious licensing reasons).  Upon learning of this bounty, what was of most interest to us were two seasons in particular.  The first was the 10th Season, which boasted Billy Crystal, Martin Short, Christopher Guest and Harry Shearer (and an opening credit sequence that inexplicably contained giant flying hot dogs); basically a group of ringers brought into the save the show after the departure of budding superstar Eddie Murphy (and, to a lesser extent, the exit of soon-to-be-punchline Joe Piscopo).  The second season we were most curious about was the subsequent year, in which Lorne Michaels returned to the show after a five year absence and replaced the seasoned veterans with a group comprised mostly of young novices, including Anthony Michael Hall, Robert Downey, Jr. and Joan Cusack.  The show suffered dismal ratings and a critical beating, but since it staved off cancellation and experienced a renaissance the following season with the arrival of Phil Hartman, Dana Carvey, Jan Hooks and Kevin Nealon, the 11th Season has become something of a footnote in SNL history.  However, after years of darkness, we can finally shed a light on this forgotten season.

And what did we find upon closer inspection?  You bet, an episode from April of 1986 hosted Mr. Tony Danza, who was just beginning to earn the greatest praise of his career for his early work in Who’s the Boss?*  Clearly though, Danza was not meant for sketch comedy, as his Russian accent in one sketch is just barely perceptible for much of the scene, and absent for the rest of it.  Much like in his roles on Taxi and Who’s the Boss?, Tony just can’t help being Tony, and his genuine upbeat, gregarious, often laughable, personality shines through no matter what character he attempts to portray.  Which is why inserting Dazna in this boxing sketch was a smart move.  Just like the producers of Taxi recognized, it’s best not to let “Tony” stray too far from Tony.  And then on top of Danza doing what he does best, and what comes naturally, you have Anthony Michael Hall probably turning in his finest work since The Breakfast Club (until 1988’s Johnny Be Good,** of course).

Hard to believe that scrawny little guy turned out like this.

*We’re making this up and assume it to not be true.

**See above.

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