Return of Sex Panther!

In 2004, I was very fortunate to have been Charna Halpern’s “+1” to the world premiere of “Anchorman: The Legend of Ron Burgundy.” It was in LA at Grauman’s Chinese Theater. I flew out early and spent the day walking about LA. I was excited about the movie; I had seen the trailers and thought they were very funny. I had met Adam McKay (director/co-writer) several times and Will Ferrel once (though I expected neither to remember me.)

Free mug!

Charna and I walked the red carpet. There’s a general entrance and then the path split into two; one leading into the theater and another into a loop that was for the press photos. We went directly in. Lots of free popcorn and soda for the invitation-only screening. Charna went to visit her celebrity friends and I just sat there drinking it all in. Pretty much everyone in comedy on the west coast was there. When the movie began, everyone cheered and clapped for each name in the credits; actors, we never outgrow some stuff.

In all honesty, it was the hardest I’ve ever laughed at a movie. Of course, the energy of room had a big part in that, but I still watch it all every time it’s rerun and I laugh my head off. I’ve only seen the special Best Buy DVD once though and I wish I owned it (it has a weird terrorist plot with Maya Rudolph and some others taking Veronica Corningstone captive.)

Now, I was very excited for the after-party. My head was filled with tales of hedonistic debauchery and culinary excess based on whatever happened in the movie. I was curious to see what they were going to do… Mexican food? Seafood? Nope. Based on a bit when Ron wins a hot dog eating contest (as Veronica busts a drug ring) there lots of hot dogs. Open bar though. Nice desserts. With failing memory, I recall seeing the Olsen Twins, Ben Stiller, Horatio Sanz, the cast of Anchorman (of course), no Christina Applegate at the party, however.

Saw Adam McKay and Will Ferrell and I stepped in just to say thanks and hello. Before I could finish my sentence, Adam said, “Hey, Jason, thanks for flying out. Good to see you.” and Will chimed in, “Good to see you again, man.” And that was cool.

So, all that to say that I’m excited for an Anchorman sequel and I hope to go to that premiere as well!!
(Brick’s origins can be traced to the Second City show, Pinata Full of Bees. The character in the scene “Gump”, played by Scott Adsit was written by Adam McKay.)

A Letter from Uncle Sam

Dear America,

I know these are tough times and it seems like “it’s the worst it’s ever been!” but it’s not. I mean, think back just 100 years ago; America had armed forces occupying Cuba and Nicaragua, the Titanic (on its way to New York) sank, Europe was at war and Asia was undergoing incredible changes. The entire planet was in turmoil.

And we survived.

Just 50 years ago, we saw plane crashes, the Supreme Court ruled that mandatory prayer in public school is unconstitutional, and the Cuban Missile Crisis brought the world to the brink of nuclear war.

When young, each generation believes they are inheriting the worst situation from the previous. When older, each generation believes the succeeding generation is a corruption of everything they’ve fought for.

God, whether you believe in Him or not, will be there. You cannot legislate His word. He is the Almighty and He actually doesn’t need your help; He needs your belief and for you to lead by example. You cannot show His love with a fist; only with an embrace.

This nation was born in fire and debt, but we must never forget that it Hope was our midwife. It was a leap of optimism that made us a nation and we must never give up hope.

I know it’s easy to become cynical and the voices of reason seem to be crowded out by the more bombastic and radical cries. America, however, is the land of the Optimistic. It was a grand leap of trust in the future that caused us to unite and it was the ultimate optimism that led us through a Revolutionary War. Have faith in the American Promise.

I leave you with a quote from that great American storyteller, Billy Joel, “The good old days weren’t always so good and tomorrow ain’t as bad it seems.”

 

Love,

Uncle Sam.

Six Seasons and a Movie!

Here are some of the titles and synopses of upcoming TV shows. Some I made up, most (oddly enough) are real. Which ones are which!? Set your DVRS! No Googling!

Counter Culture– three aging sisters run their Texas family diner together. Family hijinks ensue.

Dusty Goes To AwesomeTown– Two roommates are twentysomething and hijinks ensue.

Untitled Mandy Moore Project– Annie (Mandy Moore) and her husband run a hip, new restaurant in her hometown with her family. Hijinks ensue.

Gilded Lilys– a drama about a luxury hotel in 1895 New York.

666 Park Avenue– a supernatural thriller about an apartment building in New York.

Do Not Pass Go– a sitcom about the residents of an apartment building in New York.

Friend Me– two twentysomethings get jobs at Groupon. In LA. Hijinks.

Elementary– a modern (re: AMERICAN) take on Sherlock Holmes. Watson is an Asian woman.

Honest Abe– a reimagined Abraham Lincoln (in 2012) runs a law firm and considers running for office. Stephen(ie) Douglas is a black woman.

Meet The Shockers– an infamous “shock jock” is fired and now must stay at home and raise his two teenage daughters.

The Frank Show Starring Frank– Frank is suddenly a sitcom star and moves his family to Hollywood. When his real-life family deals with sudden fame, fortune and his TV-family hijinks ensue.

1600 Penn– the president of the United States must deal with teenage kids.

Trooper– a woman uses her common sense to be a New York State Trooper.

Baby Big Shot– a woman uses her street smarts to be a New York lawyer.

Rebounding– a comedy about a man recovering from the death of his fiancé with the help of the idiots on his pickup basketball team.

Fly On Home– a drama about a man and his daughter recovering from the death of the wife/mother with the help of everyone in their small town.

The Former First – when the president dies in office, the First Lady and her children move back home and must deal with the attention and scrutiny of the entire world.

The Selection– set in the future, a young woman chosen by lottery must compete in a fierce competition.

The Academy– a young woman discovers she possesses magical powers and must attend an all-magic school to hone her abilities.

The Wizard of Menlo Park– young “Edison” uses his fantastic inventions and his friends to solve crimes.

Del Close Week

Del Close was born on March 9, 1934 and he passed from this plane of existence on March 4, 1999.

This week in March should be an annual event for any theater that purports to teach and perform long-form improvisation. There should be lectures, free classes and free shows. Why not have a free show with a Q & A with the cast afterwards?

The influence of Del Close is far and wide. Beyond the world of Hollywood comedy (Parks & Rec, 30 Rock, Modern Family, The Colbert Report, The Daily Show, Saturday Night Live, and we could go on and on…) his work in improvisational theater has spawned festivals and theaters across the globe and I think he’d be quite proud of that achievement.

I was lucky enough to have been his student and we had many lovely conversations on improv, science fiction and comic books. Someone (either Charna Halpern or Susan Messing) bought him a WebTV unit (which was a box you connected to your TV for internet access and e-mail. It was for people who didn’t want to commit to a computer.) Del and I would correspond once in a while, but my favorite e-mail from him was sent around 4am. The subject line was “I remember us discussing this…” and it was an article on blood diamonds. Even at the time I had no recollection of ever having a conversation regarding blood diamonds.

A talk with Del I do remember is kind of gross. We were doing a Harold in class and at one point everyone was on-stage as paparazzi hounding an ordinary woman. As the game drew to a close I said, “Yes, got that money shot.” It was a reference to an article I read on the porn industry the day before. Turns out that Del read the same article and after class we had a discussion on how mainstream entertainment was becoming more like the porn industry.

For Dr. Who fans and fans of comedy shows, Del planned to write a cross-over between the Good Doctor (who was Tom Baker at that time, I think) and the classic show, SCTV. Del was a consultant and writer for the show and (depending on whom you ask) came up with the concept of it being a network. The idea would be that the two realities would each think the other was a TV show and the characters would behave accordingly. Characters would travel to each other’s realities and see the flats and special effects even though the resident characters would not be able to see them. Sadly, this grand idea never happened.

 

In the past five years I have traveled to Hawaii, Florida, the Philippines, Australia and Great Britain to teach and perform long-form improvisation. Over the past sixteen years, I have met, loved, befriended, and laughed with people from all over the globe. Every week I get to see an incredible improvised political satire and I get to perform with one of the greatest casts one could wish for. I am very lucky to have the life I have right now. And I have to give thanks to Del Close.

If you’re a fan, a student of, a performer of long-form improvisation you owe a debt to Del Close and his works. Here are some links to previous pieces I have written about Mr. Close.

This is from last year.

This is about a greeting card Del created.

Meeting Del, speaking with him, taking classes from him absolutely, completely changed my life. So, thank you, Del. Happy Birth/Death Week!