Why I Love the Olympics

I’m not really into sports. Oh, I get the whole idea of “triumph of the human spirit” and inspirational stories, but I don’t get invested in sporting events for some reason. So, based on that, I was never really into the Olympics. That changed in 1984.

During the Opening Ceremonies in Los Angeles, I watched the parade of nations and I noticed something great.

As all the countries marched by you could see the uniformity of the races; Germany is pretty much all Caucasian, China is all Chinese, India is all Indian and so forth…

And here come the Americans!! What a wonderful, melange of ethnicity we are. Our Olympic teams are composed of athletes from all of our nation and represent the so-called “melting pot.” To see them all march past, bearing the American flag, made me feel proud to see such diversity.

So, my favorite event? The Opening Ceremonies. Go America!

Aurora Detritus

There’s so much to process online in reference to the Aurora, Colorado tragedy. Below, I’ve collected some of the weird reactions to the event.

From Facebook (and I know you’re a nice person– just thought it was a weird post):

John Smith

This week has been terrible.

(LINK to a restaurant being closed)

 

John Johnson

While there was tragic news of violence today, I was pleased to be able to teach an improv class…

 

Jake Jarmel

Why does a theater even let kids in that late at night? Some things don’t make any sense.

 

From Twitter:

A fashion website called Celebboutique sells a dress called the “Aurora.” Without checking to see why #Aurora was trending on Twitter, they posted this :

 

After several hours of Twitterdom assembled bombing them with insults someone must have realized something horribly wrong was happening and the tweet was taken down.

 

After these kind of incidents (which is, sadly, becoming all too common) the National Rifle Association quietly stands behind the 2nd amendment with the knowledge that after a great hue and cry, absolutely nothing will change. Even still, this tweet on Friday morning seemed especially ill-timed and callous.
The NRA says it was an accident and has deleted it. Looking at the rest of the NRA Twitter account, however shows us that yesterday they had a link to the GOP story that “Obama says successful business people didn’t do it themselves”… you know, that quote that is only half of what the President said… and a few days ago the tweet was “So many gun mistakes at the movies!” (it was a link to an article on how weapons are incorrectly handled and loaded in movies.

Here are two editorial cartoons that I find particular poignant.

How did those cartoonists create those panels so fast? And on a Friday? Actually, those are from last year and they’re specifically addressing the Tucson shooting. You remember the Tuscon shooting, right? That was the horrific event when Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords was shot and six people were killed while thirteen other people were wounded. That was the pivotal event that threatened to forever change the gun laws and tighten up access to lethal weapons. People proclaimed that this sort of thing should never happen again.

Except, of course, it just did. And it will again.

Guns are not, in and of themselves, evil. I’ve been to the gun range a few times and I really enjoyed it. I’m a firm believer in our 2nd Amendment, but things evolve and change. In 1776 it would take an expert shooter approximately 1 minute to load/fire three… maybe four shots. I had many other clever allusions and metaphors to make, but the bottom line is this… a dangerous madman is a precarious situation. A dangerous madman with a gun, any gun, is a mass murderer.

Unexpected Lines from The Dark Knight Rises

“Quit it, that stings!”

“Why don’t you go cry to your mommy, Bruce? Oh, BURN!”

“And me too, BatMite!”

“Thank god, it’s Speech Therapy Man!”

“Damnit, my utility belt is out of Advil again.”

“Avada Kedavra!”

“When it is exactly noon you have permission to fry. ” (Bane runs a strict kitchen)

“Alfred, get the balm. I have cowl rash again.”

Commissioner, wake up. We’ve been incepted.

“Looks like you could use a little help!” (Michael Keaton & Adam West enter)

“Thanks for your help, 5 Hour Energy Man.”

“Our plan to destroy America is going well, My Lord Ritt Momney.”

“Why should I join some sort of Legion… of Justice?”

“Tell ME! Tell ME why the man threw the clock out the window?! TELL ME!”

“This sushi is delicious. We must order more.”

“Thanos?! This is getting five kinds of crazy!”

“This is worse then when I was in that Full Metal Jacket!”

“Hahah. You scamp! You’re no Flash! You’re just some Kid Flash! In fact, that’s what we’ll call you!”

“Here I go! I’m rising! Can you see? I’m rising over here.”

Ire Land

Parallel development happens. Sometimes improv forms get mirrored in other cities. But if your theater wholesale rips off, not one, but six shows you saw in Chicago why did you open up your own theater? Did you not have any creative ideas of your own?

In my own particular case you’ve ripped off, not only the format, but actual press release text summarizing the show. And this: “…based on the long-running iO Chicago show” just adds salt to the wound. I saw your show title when you promoted it on Facebook (we’re “friends”) and I liked it so I wondered, “Great title, I wonder what they do?” Imagine my surprise to discover you do what we’ve done for the past decade. Imagine my greater surprise to see that people I trained here in Chicago, people who have seen the Chicago show, in your cast. All you did was change the name… c’mon, do something creative. CREATE something else. And it’s not just Whirled News Tonight, it’s the SIX other shows. It’s enough to make me turn your city’s name into a verb.

Now, see, I started angry and now I’m just sad.

Students come to Chicago to learn and then return home. It is the hope that the ideas and philosophies of longform improvisation spread and grow with each person adding (or subtracting) what they seem fit. And I’ve seen it happen dozens of times before. This out and out plagiarizing just really hit a nerve with me today and each thing I discovered made it worse.

So, good luck with “your” shows and your mimeographed theater.

I’m going to have a Popsicle and calm down now.

Smyra, an ex-student of mine, did an interview with me and did a great job! Take a look.

Plan 9 Burlesque

That one Time I Interviewed Jason Chin

I took a writing class from Jason when I first moved to the city.  He is pretty big in Chicago sketch and improv, but he won’t tell you that.  He’s also super nerdy.  We were able to talk about Star Trek, American history, comic books, improv and even burlesque.  I learned a number of things from our talk and listening back to the recording:

  1. At one time, Tina Fey wore overalls constantly.
  2. Del Close wrote a series of comic books called Wasteland.
  3. There was a time when Seinfeld wasn’t a thing.
  4. My voice sounds much more relaxed and appealing at 75% speed and like, half an octave lower.
  5. Jason Chin has been quietly standing on the cutting edge of nerd culture for quite a while.

As we walked up the stairs to find a quiet room to record the interview, we passed…

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How to Fix DC Comic Movies

Even though DC is doing great in the comic book world, in the movie theaters, MARVEL is treating them like the Hulk treated Loki. (“Puny division of Time-Warner.”)

Here are some ways I believe DC can once again compete in the movie arena.

  • No more build-up, get right into it. MARVEL won the origins race by churning out four separate origin movies and then the Avengers. It’s a lost battle for DC, so just cut to the chase and go right for the Justice League movie. Integrate the upcoming Superman, but go right for the JLA. With small origins (hell, Hawkeye got his raison d’être in two sentences) a better plot can be built and spill out to larger movies.
  • Or, if you really want to take a gamble and prep audiences for a JLA movie, do a “trinity” movie starring Superman, Batman, and Wonder Woman. These are the three most recognizable superheroes ever so you can spend less time on origin and more on building their personalities and friendship.
  • Two words: Wonder Woman. Get your stuff together and fix her. The comics are popular now, but are not very welcoming to a new reader. Get her a movie as soon as possible. Her iconic image is being wasted by lack of direction. Hire someone known for their unique takes on strong female characters to write a screenplay for her… Someone like Joss Whedon. Wait, you already did that and then rejected the script. Good move. Get treatments from every person who wrote Wonder Woman’s comic in the past 20 years.  Wonder Woman is a major resource that MARVEL cannot compete with.
  • The New Batman should be different than Chris Nolan’s. Seriously, you’re not going to out noir/drama that trilogy, but you still don’t have to rebound with a campy, silly movie. Paul Dini and Bruce Timm have overseen the successful animated Batman for over 20 years. Ask them if they have any live-action ideas. The seventies Batman was loosely based on the James Bond series with far off locales, big time villains with plans for global domination and a thrilling sense of adventure. A return to that style would be new and different at the movies.
  • People don’t like comic book movies; they love good movies. Comic book fans don’t want you to revere or reinvent the source material; they want you to respect it. And that doesn’t mean a tossed off reference or two; it means you understand the heart of a character and why s/he does what they do. I think the Captain America movie did this perfectly with two moves: a 90 lb. Steve Rogers says, “I don’t want to kill anyone. I just don’t like bullies.” and then later, he jumps on a grenade to save the lives of his fellow candidates. And this is before his “superhero” transformation.

Movies are not comic books. They are their own medium and attempting to cram 50-plus years of comic book history into a 2-hour movie does both a disservice. Clear, concise storytelling is the key.

So, Warner Bros., Time-Warner, let’s have a meeting.