June 27th, 2007

Tom Lehrer is Smug

A moment of perspective.

From a CNN article on Orson Welles and his last role as the Transformer "Unicron":
Back in 1986, though, [the concept of celebrity cartoon voices] wasn't the payday it is now. "Transformers: The Movie" yielded less than $6 million at the box office. The new live-action "Transformers," which opens in theaters July 3, hopes to reap that in a matter of hours.
Wrap a few grey matter cells around that one, and then go get a beverage.
Tom Lehrer is Smug

bits and pieces

000. Congratulations, England, on your new prime minister! But I swear to god if metal balls start falling from the sky, we're going to have to Have A Talk.

001. There'd been an Oklahoma death row inmate who announced before his impending execution that he was going to tell a joke for his final words, but he hadn't found one yet. (The inability to find the right joke for your audience, by the way, is not grounds for commuting one's execution.) Personally I would have enjoyed knowing that he'd gone out after reciting the Pink Ping-Pong Ball joke or the guy who's insulted by a clown joke, or the "Moe and Joe the Racehorses" joke or even the joke where Johnny finally gets to name an animal that starts with R.

The man was executed yesterday. According to CNN, he died "without delivering promised joke". However, check out these knee-slappers:
After expressing love to some friends, he said, "I said I was going to tell a joke. Death has set me free. That's the biggest joke. I deserve this."

"And the other joke is that I am not Patrick Bryan Knight and y'all can't stop this execution now. Go ahead, I'm finished."
Oh! Now I get it! Bob Zmuda was playing him all along! But that doesn't stop the prison from earnestly saying "This was only a joke and not for reals":
Prison spokeswoman Michelle Lyons disputed Knight's mistaken identity claim.

"We fingerprint them when they come over," she said.
Thanks for clearing that up, Michelle! Next could you please let us all know that "The Green Mile" was only a story?

Frankly I think the idea of a condemned man deciding to tell a joke as his last words is a definitely unique idea, though if you're gonna do it, you might as well do it right. You get to quote your own epitaph. What would your last words joke be? And sorry, "Either these curtains go or I do" has already been taken and while W.C. Fields claimed on his deathbed to be checking the Bible "for loopholes", they weren't his last last words.

010. By the way, LIVE FREE OR DIE HARDER has officially garnered itself a PG-13 rating. That means the F-word can be said exactly once in the film, but the yippie-kai-yay MF word can't. However, I know they make an attempt in the film, and it's handled in nearly exactly the same way a certain punchline was handled in the film adaptation of the theatrical version of THE FRONT PAGE.

Well, hope you guys like entertaining your 13-17 demographic with this movie as well, because it's quite obvious that nobody in that demo has never heard either A. John McClane's catch phrase or B. the MF-bomb to begin with. Riiiiiiiiiight. Pull the other one; it's longer.

011. One things you may not expect your housemate to say is "By the way, I sprayed your cat." (yes, with the R.) However, as our own Orson Welles of cat land (minus the drunken rants about phrases such as "In July") gets quite hot in the summertime with his copious amounts of fur, he actually loves a cooldown every now and then. Sure, he looks bedraggled and wet and "look what the cat dragged in -- another cat!" and he's none too happy about the loss of dignity, but it's clear he's much more comfortable for a while.

He's always had an affinity for water; he was one of those Faucet Watchers as a kitten. I suspect if he hadn't grown up so big, he'd be the type who'd jump into the sink and demand you turn the faucet on for a little trickle so he could have a drink. Only problem is cats don't know how to turn the faucets back off, so you have to stand there and let 'em drink. Live to serve, master. Bow and scrape, bow and scrape, then reach under the sofa and get that super bouncy ball underneath which is now SO IMPORTANT TO THE SURVIVAL OF THE WORLD that it must be retrieved THIS VERY INSTANT.

You just don't get super bouncy balls, man.
Pronoun Bus

here, under protest, is beef burgers.

Remember a few laffs ago when I said the SCTV joke was one of the funniest television jokes about television or whatever?

Well, this Animaniacs short is probably one of the funniest outtake injokes ever. It is a nearly word-for-word re-creation of one of Orson Welles' famous commercial outtakes, where he is supposed to read ad copy for frozen peas, fish fingers, and (under protest) beef burgers, but ends up arguing semantics with the director, wailing and gnashing about how he'd NEVER direct actors that way, and is just plain cranky all the way through. (Someone's gone and made a YouTube "re-enactment of Welles' tantrum; few cusses in there and they mislabel it as the Paul Masson "mwahaaaaaa, the French" outtake, so just turn off your monitor or close your eyes and listen. Actually, the guy performing as Welles there does an amazing job, so watch him at least. He also plays one of the directors, too.)

I remember when the Animaniacs episode first aired, too, and me and my entire cadre of cartoon-watching friends (4:00 pm everyday, Dickinson Hall lounge) had a damn hard time understanding it. This was before we could get ahold of such outtakes, those bootleg bits of ephemera notorious among The Industry (if you say "Cradle them" in an Arnold Schwarzenegger voice and I'm in the right mood, that will crack my shit up.) These clips have since enjoyed broader exposure thanks to The Internet but at the time, we had no idea what the hell it was about. And if we Sophisticated College Cartoon-Watching Types couldn't get it, surely the actual children in the viewing audience wouldn't either. I believe "Yes, Always!" still ranks as the most cryptic Animaniacs short ever.

But once you've heard Orson's infamous commercial voiceover tantrum and then watch the cartoon, it's damn amazing. The dialogue, the timing, the inflections, everything except for a few pottymouth expressions. Maurice LaMarche, an incredibly talented voice actor and impressionist, used Welles' voice for The Brain, so it's only natural that they thought it'd be hilarious to take such a dig with what, at the time, was a rather well-kept injoke.

Of course, nowadays I'm glad they did it, but back in 1994, I was all bummed out cause we got that instead of a Goodfeathers short ("If you give me one more iota of aggravation, I'm gonna peck open your brainbox and let all the air out.") Or, if we were really good and ate all our vegetables, maybe we coulda instead seen the brilliant parody which fused Apocalypse Now with Jerry Lewis' infamous never-released The Day The Clown Cried (Wakko doing tai chi on the top of a WB studio golf cart while Frank Welker of all people sings "This is the middle... the middle of our story..." is one of the funniest things I've ever seen animated.) The Interbutt had already explained to me the Jerry Lewis bit, so it was all good.

Oh, and adding to the plethora of injokes in the Pinky & The Brain cartoon is the crew that the Brain throws out at the beginning of the piece. Yes, they're caricatures of the Animaniacs producer, writer, voice director, etc. Probably their own voices, too.

LaMarche was also responsible for Welles' voice in both Ed Wood and in the episode of The Critic where Welles shills for "Rosebud Peas ... full of good, green peaness..."