Tag Archives: comedy

Lame Adventure 321: Sunday in the Park with Lola

It’s been a brutally hot summer in the city thus far this year.  Since I live in digs that are not wired for air conditioning, my queen-sized pillow-topped mattress that usually feels like the comfiest of clouds feels more like a grill pan over high heat these days. Yet who am I to complain about not having had a restful night’s sleep since May?  At least I reside walking distance from the oasis that is Central Park.

On Sunday, when the heat and humidity were a millimeter below sweltering, I visited the park with my friend, Lola.  We entered, took a wrong turn, almost crossed a triathlon’s finish line, reversed course, grabbed lemonade for her and iced tea for me at the Le Pain Quotidian near Sheep’s Meadow, exchanged yak about how that LPQ must be a goldmine, and then made a beeline for a shady tree where we promptly suffered that familiar middle age malady, CRS (Can’t Remember Shit).

Sheep’s Meadow sun bathers dotting Great Lawn.

Both of us blanked on the name of the famous landscape architect who designed the park.  Lola tried in vain to find the answer that was on the tips of our frozen brains on her iPhone but the Gods of wifi were against us.  Later, while I was batting away a bug the size of a hornet, Frederick Law Olmstead’s name popped out from one of the holes in my head.  Actually, Olmstead co-designed the park with Calvert Vaux, whose name I did not know until now, but I’m confident that I’ll be brain freezing on him as soon as I finish writing this sentence.

Sheep’s Meadow has often been a sea of sun worshippers.  The sheep were relocated in 1934 because (according to Wikipedia):

“There was fear for the sheep’s safety by hungry folk during the great depression. Officials were concerned that starving men would turn the sheep into lunch.”

On this hot and humid afternoon the meadow was not only sheep-less but also relatively empty.  It seemed that the shade had more appeal than the pursuit of skin cancer.

Sheep’s Meadow shade worshippers clustered under trees.

While we were sheltered under our tree we discussed the recent death of writer-director-humorist, Nora Ephron.

Me:  All that’s left is Joan Rivers and Tina Fey.

Lola: What about Kristin Wiig?

Me: Yes, I do believe I’ve just insulted her and Amy Poehler and Sarah Silverman among others.

Lola: One of my favorite books is Joan’s I Hate Everyone … Starting With Me.  The title reminds me of you.

Me:  I love that title.  I love Joan.  I feel honored that you think that.

While we were heading over to watch the players playing in the bocce ball courts, we encountered signs that free comedy was happening very near.

“Let’s find the bocce courts so we can find the comedy!”

Bocce ball is a very slow game prompting me to suggest:

Me:  This is almost as riveting as curling.

Bocce: a game that doubles as a sleep aid.

We then headed over to catch some free comedy.

Shade loving comedy audience.

The searing heat occupied the best seats, but we did stick around long enough to hear Ophira Eisenberg, a comedian that I had read about in The New York Times in April.  Getting to hear her perform her witty brand of topical standup in Central Park was very entertaining.  I particularly enjoyed her take about people getting her name wrong and guests visiting her in her fifth floor walk-up in Brooklyn gasping when they reach her door, “Do you do this every day?”  Performers like Ophira give me hope that the ranks of funny women are growing.

I left the park with Lola feeling good.  When we reached 72nd and Broadway my friend traveled south and I north.  Just as I was considering that I’m being a wimp about the heat — summer in New York can be truly wonderful, I crash landed back to reality.

Going commando.

Hopefully, it will cool down soon for all of us out here.

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Lame Adventure 248: Who Are You?

Her name is Nina Arianda. She’s 27-years-old and the current “it” girl that has taken the New York stage by storm.  Currently, she is starring on Broadway as Vanda in the erotic comedy, Venus in Fur, opposite quite an “it” guy, Hugh Dancy.  Even his character, Thomas, during the acting audition that consumes almost the entirety of this 90 minute wild ride of a play-within-a-play adapted from Leopold von Sacher-Masoch’s novella about a 19th century masochist, that’s cleverly written by David Ives (an “it” playwright), asks Vanda in amazement, “Who are you?”

Announcement: you must see the play to find out.  Sorry, no spoilers here in Lame Adventureland.

Yet, I can report with authority, holy crap does Nina Arianda have it!  Whatever “it” is, Milton and I sure know it when we see it.  We got quite an eyeful and earful.  Nina, coupled with Hugh on the boards, shares an ocean of “it” with him.  Milton and I, sitting in second row orchestra seats that we scored on the cheap last August, were in our bliss getting splashed.  Afterward, over a beverage, we discussed the perfect cast.

Milton (dreamy):  I never thought a man could look so good in a vee neck t-shirt.  You know, he and I made eye contact.

Me:  He looked in your direction.  He’s happily married to Claire Danes.

Milton sits, foiled.

Me (bragging):  But I did get Nina’s number when you were in the bathroom.

Yeah, right, in my dreams.  Three times a year over the course of 19 minutes total, I am mercy-pleasured by people of my own gender in orthopedic shoes with names like Dinah Ickberg.  Post-how-we-do-it, they usually announce to me that they’ve decided to undergo a dramatic religious conversion and will head straight to a nunnery from my love-nest with me shouting after them:

Me:  It’s okay to say, “Don’t call!”

Even if an endorsement from Lame Adventures only carries about as much weight as an ant’s testicle, Christopher Isherwood, the revered theater critic for The New York Times, backs me up with his review.  In the November 7th issue of The New Yorker, John Lahr profiled Nina.

He described the response of the play’s director, Walter Bobbie, to her audition for the part of Vanda.

Bobbie wanted to stop the audition immediately.  “She showed me how the play worked,” he said. “I was afraid someone would cast her by the end of the day.  It was that breathtaking an audition.  I don’t know how to explain it.  But when the real thing walks into the room you know it.” 

Venus in Fur, produced by the Manhattan Theatre Club, is playing at the Samuel J. Friedman Theatre through December 18th.

Lame Adventure 135: Watch Out For That Dove!

Milton, and many of my other friends as well as my boss, Elsbeth, revere filmmaker Ingmar Bergman, and so do I.  Whenever I feel the need to watch a film with emotional depth, I bypass my vast Ren and Stimpy collection and head straight for Sweden.

I am grateful that many of this legendary artist’s library of brilliant films are available on DVD, and I would appreciate it if one of Gotham City’s revival houses would feature another Bergman retrospective soon.  I much prefer watching films on a movie screen, especially when the prints are pristine.

My ideal Bergman double bill would be Wild Strawberries and The Seventh Seal chased with the Academy Award nominated short from 1968, De Düva: The Dove, featuring the screen debut of the late great Madeline Kahn.   Fellow Bergman aficionados might scratch their noggins and ask, “De Düva, what’s that one?  I’ve never heard of it and when the hell did Madeline Kahn ever work with Ingmar Bergman?  Didn’t she play Lily Von Shtupp in Blazing Saddles?”

Yes she did, and you’re in the right place to find out all about De Düva … I wish the quality was better, but I urge all Lame Adventures readers and Bergman fans to stick with it. 

Adorable leopard cub that would surely love to eat a düva.

Lame Adventure 57: British Comedy Invasion at Webster Hall

Next week, my colleague, Elaine, is moving back to the UK in high style via The Queen Mary across seas that are not yet saturated with BP oil, although Milton anticipates that if this epic spill climbs up the Eastern seaboard and spreads over the Atlantic we might be able to eventually walk, or possibly belly slide the entirety of what once was the ocean, all the way from Gotham City to Elaine’s house in Banbury.   Before setting sail, Elaine invited her scores of friends to join her at Webster Hall for an evening of comedy improv she promised we’d be sorry to miss.

In the Marlin Room!

Milton, Ling, Lowell (Ling’s significant other), Greg and I signed on immediately, as did Elsbeth, until she fell wickedly ill with a ferocious ass-kicking bug that is immune to the usual over-the-counter remedies so now my frustrated boss is on the verge of huffing Raid.

Bright and lovely Ling and Lowell.

Dark and gloomy Greg, Milton and Me.

Those of us that did attend were in for an evening of non-stop hilarity by four wildly wacky seemingly spontaneous comedy pros – Stephen Frost, Neil Mullarkey, Andy Smart and Steve Steen.  These ordinary looking middle aged guys could easily be the Fab Four of comedy.  It makes no sense that they are not better known on our side of the ocean.  Hopefully, this blog that is steadily read by a devoted audience of seven, will be the post that goes viral and gets the word out about them and some ad revenue for me from a highly coveted sponsor like Nike or Miracle Ear since my hearing is rapidly going the way of my fertility.

The place to have been on June 2nd.

How this quick-witted improv troup works is they prompt the audience for suggestions, the zanier the better, and would then begin to riff.  They were like jazz inspired jesters.  Their opening bit was to tell a fast-paced coherent story featuring Donald Duck, but the rules were that each guy would only say a few words and the next guy had to carry on.  If anyone stumbled, the audience members were instructed to scream, “Die!”

Frost (center) egging on audience with Mullarkey (left) pondering and Smart (right) waiting to pounce or grow redder in the face, whatever comes first.

Another bit involved sending Frost out of the room so he could be out of earshot as his partners prompted the audience for suggestions for something Frost would have to define based on clues from his mates.  That something turned out to be, to the best of my recollection, a salmon used to make the dots in golf balls for a yoga teacher on an iceberg.  Pretty easy … if you’re Frost and you have an ear and eye for the most esoteric clues imaginable.  In barely 15 minutes with Mullarkey mouthing a fish, Smart carrying on about yogurt, penguin-shaped Steen running around like a lunatic, among countless other inane posturings and hints, Frost got it!

Other bits included Steen playing a resident of Lichtenstein speaking fluent Licht, a riotous Steenian-style gibberish, as red-faced Smart stood nearby and translated the story.  Somehow they even managed to improvise a song on the spot, and Steen, who seemed to be a Pixar cartoon come to life or at least a distant relative of The Incredibles, performed a wildly funny dance.

Steen going Bollywood with Frost.

During intermission audience members were urged to write suggestions for more bits on scraps of paper placed in a bowl.

Frost commenting on the audience members' terrible penmanship.

After the break, they were joined by Eddie Izzard, who’s in town to replace James Spader in the David Mamet play, Race.  We thought that considering how busy Eddie must be, that was a pretty generous visit from him, since we doubted that a free beer was enough of a lure.

Eddie!

He quickly followed the guys into a make-believe convent based on the suggestion of playing a nun drunk on Jell-O shots.  Steen assumed the role of the tipsy sister.

Steen on his knees praying and playing drunk.

The New Nun's Story.

Another comedy great that joined the lads was Mike Myers.

Mike!

He and Mullarkey were writing partners back in the eighties, and they did a brilliant improv where Mullarkey played a gravedigger and Myers played everything from a d.j. to a talking corpse.  In introducing Myers before they began the bit, Mullarkey humbly declared that Myers taught him everything he knows about improv, and Myers did not disappoint.

Myers & Mullarkey together again!

Great duet!

The last bit, the finale, Greg referred to as “shenanigans” and that’s a pretty apt description.  With Eddie and Mike still on stage, they played Sherlock Holmes trying to crack a case involving Queen Victoria, Prince Albert, Moriarty, etc., that rapidly descended into side-splitting chaos since each guy would voice another’s character, but they had to mouth the words although they had no idea what the other guy was going to say.  Definitely don’t try to do that at home – or at work the next day even if your boss is out sick.  Your head is guaranteed to explode.

Madcap chaos!

Clearly, these guys have a lot of chemistry.  Milton was certain that they must have some way of reading each others signals to know where the routine is heading, just like when Milton gives me the “we’re outta here” look, but with them it’s more subtle and far more funnier.

Crummy poster, great show.

Elaine is hopeful that Webster Hall will book them again, and we are, too for we’ll be back.  This post does them little justice.  You have to see and hear these comic pros riff in person, preferably with your posse, if only to gas about it incessantly the next day with the Quiet Man sitting in the back of the office, who opted not to go, probably fantasizing about harpooning those that did.  It’s fast-paced fun, so the next time the British Comedy Invasion crosses the pond to New York City shores, or whatever shores you call home, don’t miss them.  Elaine’s promise is spot on — if you don’t go, you will be sorry.  Meanwhile, for a hint of Mullarkey’s literary wit, his self-improvement book has just been released in paperback, Don’t Be Needy, Be Succeedy.