Meet Dan Leno, ‘The Funniest Man on Earth’
01:34 pm


Dan Leno

I consider myself to be a world class comedy nerd, but the limits of my otakudom were exposed when I was recently made aware of the name of Dan Leno.

Dan Leno. Does that ring a bell at all for you? Probably not, but as a comic performer, Leno was considered without peer in the British music hall of the late 19th century. He was a huge, huge massive star, both for his appearances in the “dame” role of panto comedies like Mother Goose and for his one man shows where he muttered surreal musings and observations about the mundanities of life. He is, in a sense, the actual “inventor” of stand-up comedy.

He would do a little bit of a song and then carry on, speaking in character, like in “Mrs. Kelly” which he recorded in 1901:

“You know Mrs. Kelly?... You know Mrs. Kelly?... don’t you know Mrs. Kelly? Her husband’s that little stout man, always at the corner of the street in a greasy waistcoat… good life, don’t look so stupid, don’t - you must know Mrs. Kelly!... Don’t you know Mrs. Kelly?... Well of course, if you don’t, you don’t - but I thought you did, because I thought everybody knew Mrs. Kelly. Oh, and what a woman - perhaps it’s just as well you don’t know her… oh, she’s a mean woman. Greedy. I know for a fact - her little boy, who’s got the sore eyes, he came over and told me - she had half a dozen oysters, and she ate them in front of the looking-glass, to make them look a dozen. Now that’ll give you an idea what she is.”

Leno appeared every Christmas as the star the of the panto production of the Drury Lane Theatre (where both Monty Python’s Flying Circus and The League of Gentlemen would later perform) from 1888 to 1903 and he topped the bill when he toured the American Vaudeville circuit. He was touted as “The Funniest Man on Earth” and possessed one of those faces that just caused people to laugh uncontrollably the minute he walked onstage. Up to 4000 people a night would line up to see him perform.

Leno appeared onstage before Charles Dickens (who told him “you’ll make headway!”), King Edward VII (earning him the title of “the King’s jester”) and the great British caricaturist Max Beerbohm, who was an unabashed fan. He was the young Charlie Chaplin’s hero and Stan Laurel absolutely worshipped him (and allegedly appropriated his famous dopey grin from Dan Leno as well.) “Dan Leno Walk,” in London is named for him and Peter Sellers claimed he was possessed by Dan Leno, or at least Leno was his spirit guide. Sellers based his performance in The Optimist of Nine Elms on his knowledge of Leno.

Sadly, there is very, very little we have today—save mostly for news clippings, photographs, some memorabilia and a few primitive voice recordings—that would indicate what exactly it was that made Dan Leno so beloved to audiences of the late Victorian era. Everyone who ever saw the man perform—along with their memories—is long dead. However, in the years before his death (in 1904, probably of a brain tumor), Dan Leno made several “Mutoscopes,” which were coin-operated hand-cranked animation flipbooks where metal or glass frames were rotated like a Rolodex for one person to watch at a time. (The Mutoscope was colloquially known as “What the Butler Saw” machines and could be found in British seaside resort towns until the 1960s.) Two of Leno’s Mutoscope performances—out of thirteen—have been located and are undergoing restoration in greater than HD quality due to the efforts of The Dan Leno Project of Studio 1919.

They’re hoping that by getting the word out, that Mutoscope collectors would be able to tell if they’ve got a Dan Leno short in their possession and the complete set could be assembled and a documentary eventually made about “The Funniest Man on Earth.”

Below, Dan Leno, his wife, kids and their dog in “Dessert at Dan Leno’s House” as restored by Studio 1919’s The Dan Leno Project.

Posted by Richard Metzger | Leave a comment
Prepare to shit yourself (or take a Xanax before watching this!)
12:26 pm


Mountain biking

“Heigh-Ho, Heigh-Ho, it’s off the cliff I go!”

I literally clenched my ass cheeks the entire time I watched this batshit POV helmet cam filming a bonkers downhill mountain bike competition. From what I understand, this was part of a Red Bull Rampage tournament. Good lord, how much adrenaline does one need? One false move or wrong turn would put you in a wheelchair for life, right?!

This is one crazy motherfucker.

Via reddit

Posted by Tara McGinley | Leave a comment
TL;DR Wikipedia: Condensed for your reading pleasure
11:00 am



TL;DR Wikipedia is an excellent source of information for the “fuck it, I don’t have time to read this shit” generation. It cuts to the chase, getting rid of those annoying words Wikipedia entries are full of and summarizes everything you need to know about a topic / subject in just a sentence or two. Invaluable, I tell ya! You’ll learn something new—but not too much—every single day!








Via Daily Dot

Posted by Tara McGinley | Leave a comment
‘True Detective’ meets ‘The Family Circus’
08:43 am


True Detective
The Family Circus

Like The Nietzsche Family Circus, we now have the pitch-perfect pessimistic witticisms from True Detective‘s Rust Cohle nicely depicted Family Circus-style. It’s called “Time is a Flat Circus.”




Via AV Club

Posted by Tara McGinley | Leave a comment
‘The Beast With Five Fingers’: Vintage amateur ‘home movie’ version of the classic horror film, 1947
08:07 am


Horror Fiction
W. F. Harvey

The amiable, Irish comedian Dave Allen had the top of his left forefinger missing. As part of his act, he would tell various amusing and often macabre tales as to how he came to lose it: his brother bit it off; it was dissolved by whisky; he cut it off to avoid conscription to the army; his father chopped it off with an ax. Of course, these stories were all untrue—Allen had lost the top of his finger when he was child playing with an old machine cog.

However, my favorite story that Allen told about his missing digit was the one he told on his hit TV show, in a darkened studio, with only a single light illuminating his face. Allen had been traveling by car across desolate moor in the north of England. A storm (thunder, lightning) had waylaid him en route to his destination, and he had to overnight at an old, rundown hotel, miles from anywhere.

Lightning had downed the power, and the hotel was lit by flickering candles. As he was shown to his room, his host asked the comedian if he believed in ghosts. Allen told him no, he was an atheist, thank God. The manager smiled, and replied that was all well and good, as sadly, the hotel rarely received any guests as the house was said to be haunted by an evil spirit.

Allen thought little more of the conversation, and prepared for bed. But as he slowly drifted off to sleep, he began to dream about an evil, brooding presence that lurked down in the basement. In his dream he could see the pitch black of the basement room, and in that darkness he saw something move, something slowly writhing towards him, a thick, oily darkness. Allen moved away, back up the stairs to his room. It followed.

The corridor was swallowed by damp, creeping shadows. The evil was moving nearer. Allen woke and found he was lying in bed. The room was silent. He felt the pin prick of sweat on his neck. He knew there something with him in the room, waiting.

Allen felt the evil move slowly up the bed covers. Its legs dimpling his flesh, dragging its body behind. As it crawled nearer, Allen knew he was going to die, would die, if he didn’t do something. The creature, heavier now, moved ever closer. One hard limb at a time, dragging its fleshy body nearer, nearer, until it would have him by the throat. That was when Allen struck. He grabbed the beast, and bit hard into what he thought was its neck and head. He tasted blood, felt pain. And then he screamed, spitting the top of his finger out of his mouth.

The idea of hands having an evil will of their own was first put to paper by author Maurice Renard in his novel Les Mains d’Orlac (The Hands of Orlac). This was later made into the German Expressionist film Orlac’s Hände starring Conrad Veidt, in 1924. A Hollywood version Mad Love, with Colin Clive and Peter Lorre, came along in 1935, and was remade again, this time as The Hands of Orlac with Mel Ferrer and Christopher Lee in 1962.

Les Mains d’Orlac tells the story of a concert pianist, who loses his hands in an accident, and receives the transplanted hands of a murderer. These new hands possess him and he becomes a killer. It’s good story and the nearly forgotten Renard wrote some highly original and influential tales, which are well worth checking out.

Another author who wrote about disembodied hands was W. F. Harvey, who is one of my favorite horror writers and wrote “The Beast With Five Fingers.” This classic tale deals with the life and death of Adrian Borlsover who “was exceedingly clever with his hands.” When Borlsover goes blind, he adapts by using his supple fingers to read Braille, and explore the world by touch alone. His fingers are so delicate that he can identify flowers by just the feel of their petals.

Towards the close of his life Adrian Borlsover was credited with powers of touch that seemed almost uncanny. It had been said that he could tell at once the colour of ribbon placed between his fingers.

When he dies, Adrian apparently bequeaths his nephew Eustice a strange gift—his severed hand.

This story inspired Curt Siodmak to write a jumbled screenplay that mixed elements of Renard’s Orlac with Harvey’s Beast, for the movie version The Beast With Five Fingers, which starred Peter Lorre (again). Harvey was a much better writer than Siodmak, and his tale is far superior to the film, and more memorable.

However, the disembodied hand didn’t stop with The Beast With Five Fingers, it would reappear most successfully in Doctor Terror’s House of Horrors, where artist Michael Gough’s severed hand claims gory vengeance on Christopher Lee’s jealous critic; and then in Oliver Stone’s B-movie The Hand, starring Michael Caine, which is definitely one to miss.

An interesting addition to this collection is Ed Foley’s Super-8 home movie version, which he made in 1947 when he was an eighteen-year-old high school student. Foley’s film owes more to Siodmak’s screenplay, but it is a well-made, impressive and delightful short film for a kid to have made, especially at that time. Check out his amateur special effects!

Posted by Paul Gallagher | Leave a comment
North Korea ‘threaten’ London hairdresser over ‘disrespectful’ Kim Jong-un bad hair day poster?
08:01 am


Kim Jong-un

Last month it was reported supreme leader of the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, Kim Jong-un had (supposedly) suggested that all loyal citizens of North Korea should trim their hair in “accordance with the Socialist lifestyle.” In other words, get that very unflattering haircut the supreme leader (and fashion icon) has himself. Apparently, legions of indoctrinated followers queued to have their follicles trimmed in accordance with their leader’s wishes.

Now, the supreme leader, or at least a spokesperson on behalf of North Korea, has become involved in another fashion war this time over a London hairdresser using a picture of the supreme leader to advertise his services.

Mo Nabbach, who runs M&M Hair Academy in South Ealing, put a poster of Kim Jong-un in his shop window with the headline:

“Bad hair day? 15% off all gent cuts through the month of April.”

Since the poster went up, Mr. Nabbach claims to have been targeted by officials from the North Korean Embassy, based in nearby Gunnery. He claims men from the embassy took pictures of the salon, wrote notes in their books, and then asked for the poster to be taken down, as it was “disrespectful” to their leader.

Mr. Nabbach told the London Evening Standard:

“I told them this is England and not North Korea and told them to get their lawyers,” he added.

“We did take it down but then some of our clients told me to put it back up because we have a democracy here.

“The two guys were wearing suits and they were very serious. It was very threatening.”

Mr. Nabbach contacted the police, who then spoke to both parties over the incident. The police came to the conclusion that “no offence has been disclosed.”

A spokesperson for the North Korean embassy refused to confirm or deny the story, other than to say, “We are not in a position to comment.” Maybe they were too busy getting haircuts?
Now here’s ten things you might not know about his supreme leadership.

Via the ‘Evening Standard

Posted by Paul Gallagher | Leave a comment
‘Dr. Death’: The macabre and disturbing paintings of Jack Kevorkian
07:55 am


Dr. Death
Jack Kevorkian

Dr. Jack Kevorkian
The world’s most famous advocate for the right of terminal patients to elect physician-assisted suicide, Dr. Jack Kevorkian, was a fairly gifted painter as well. I’m no art expert; while his draftsmanship skills and imaginative brio appear to have been in fine shape, his sensibility was perhaps a touch blank, straightforwardly literal for my tastes. These pictures, in a way, are almost precisely what you’d imagine would fancy the much-maligned “Dr. Death,” who himself died in the summer of 2011 of thrombosis (once the disease had progressed past an advanced state, there were no artificial attempts to prolong his life).

There’s a resonance here…. if he was fond of Magritte, it wouldn’t stun me. Basically, you can divide the paintings into ones that seem entirely of a piece with his public persona, and the ones that don’t. The one of the 9th Amendment and the astonishing one with Adolf Hitler and the “New Seal of the Loyal Papal State of Michigan” certainly fall into the former category, as do the more metaphorical meditations on the terror of the human body. The musical clefs, and the two anonymous-feeling portraits are more unexpected. And then there’s Bach.

Gallerie Sparta in Los Angeles is “paying homage to a lesser known side of the famed activist” through the end of the month. All paintings are available for purchase, but apparently a few have sold already, so act fast!
Dr. Jack Kevorkian
Dr. Jack Kevorkian
Dr. Jack Kevorkian
Dr. Jack Kevorkian
Dr. Jack Kevorkian
Dr. Jack Kevorkian
Dr. Jack Kevorkian
Dr. Jack Kevorkian
Dr. Jack Kevorkian
Dr. Jack Kevorkian
In this video gallery featuring Kevorian’s paintings, the flute and organ music are likewise performed by “Dr. Death.” Yes, he was a jazz musician, too!

Posted by Martin Schneider | Leave a comment
The peerlessly weird Beefheartian post-punk of Stump
07:31 am



Stump were a uniquely aberrant Irish/British foursome active in the mid to late ‘80s. After some success in London with the Mud on a Colon EP, the Quirk Out mini-LP, a Peel Session, and a track on NME‘s famed C-86 compilation, they were picked up by Ensign Records to make 1988’s LP A Fierce Pancake, a supremely screwball statement-of-purpose, at turns and at once absurdist, whimsical, and dark. The performance that brought the band to Ensign was their appearance on The Tube, wherein they performed their song “Tupperware Stripper” as “Censorship Stripper,” probably in a dodge against trademark concerns.

The band initially caught my ear in 1988, with the preposterous single “Charlton Heston,” which featured croaking frogs for a rhythm track and the facepalm-worthy refrain “Charlton Heston/Put his vest on.” But when I heard the whole album, the mere zaniness I expected turned out to be a veneer for some truly mind-bending and aggressively awkward Beefheartian experimentation. The guitar and bass playing here are a few leagues beyond merely idiosyncratic–indeed, there are many passages where one can’t quite tell which instrument is which, and if U.S. Maple didn’t have some Stump in their diet before they set upon their own deconstructions of rock tropes, I’ll eat my foot. The madcap persona and lyrics of singer Mick Lynch must have made it all seem like a joke to some listeners, and sure, it IS mighty fucking daffy to have the chorus of a single consist of a bug-eyed man with Tintin’s hair shouting “LIGHTS! CAMEL! ACTION!” But then you hear songs like “Living It Down” and “Heartache” and you say “whoa, damn.”


Living it Down by Stump on Grooveshark


Heartache by Stump on Grooveshark

Stump split by the end of 1988. A Fierce Pancake was deleted in 1990 and has never been reissued in physical media, except as part of a complete anthology CD set from 2008, which is itself also out of print. In spring 2014, Cherry Red UK will be releasing Does the Fish Have Chips—Early and Late Works 1986-1989, which encompasses all of their recorded output except the LP. So just listen to the LP and enjoy some of their videos here.

Stump, A Fierce Pancake, full album


This last one sounds too poor to really represent the song properly, it’s a live fan-cam thing shot from behind the P.A. But in one respect, that’s a boon here, inasmuch as all you can really hear is the astonishing bass player Kevin Hopper. Who plays like this? The man is brilliantly mental.


Posted by Ron Kretsch | Leave a comment
The noodle fetish inflation in Brooklyn is highway robbery!
06:57 am



You’d think with his newly expanded budget he’d move up to a more expensive noodle, like the egg noodles above?
With Brooklyn rents quickly catching up to Manhattan’s, it’s only natural that every other good and service associated with a rich cosmopolitan lifestyle skyrockets in price. For example, a recent Brooklyn Craigslist ad is offering an enterprising young woman the chance to make a quick $175!

Woman to sit in my bath tub full of ramen noodles (brooklyn)

compensation: $175 PT

I will pay you $175 to sit in my bath tub full of ramen noodles wearing a bathing suit

I will not be home, nor will anyone else while you do this.

I will give you the keys while we meet, and you will go to my apartment thereafter.

It will require a 30 minute soak.

The noodles will be cooked and therefore slippery.

Do not bring any sauce. I will season the sauce after I get home prior to dinner.

Now to my ears, that sounds like a reasonable fee for services rendered. You don’t even have to get nude in his noodles. However, the intrepid folks at Brokelyn pointed out the the exact same ad ran in Pittsburgh and paid on one dollar! To be fair, the Pittsburgh ad was for five minutes (still if you work it out that’s only $12 an hour to demean yourself for some dude’s noodle fetish) and the Brooklyn ad was for a half hour—perhaps he’s cooking a reduction? That’s 2816% increase in ramen fetish overhead! You could complain about Brooklyn prices all you want, but how bad is Pittsburgh that a dollar is that valuable?

If this guy is for real, at least he’s decided to pay a decent wage these days.
Via Brokelyn

Posted by Amber Frost | Leave a comment
Who was that masked man? ORION: The Man Who Would Be King

This is a guest post by Jeanie Finlay, director of ORION: The Man Who Would Be King

Ten years ago I was at a garage sale with my husband Steven in our hometown of Nottingham, England. On a stall filled with cheap ornaments and dog-eared paperbacks, standing proudly at the front of a box of faded vinyl records, we found the above album.

Orion: Reborn. Sun Records. Collector’s gold vinyl. Release date on the back said 1979. No songs we’d ever heard of, but that coverWho was this mysterious masked man, standing hand on hips, with his perfect raven hair and sta-press trousers? What the hell was his story?

We took the record home, put it on and within seconds the mystery deepened. Whoever this guy was, he sounded exactly–and I mean exactly—like Elvis. Except these weren’t songs that Elvis ever recorded, and there was no mention of the King on the record. But there was the fact of Sun Records and this odd story on the back sleeve about this guy called Orion Eckley Darnell and something about a coffin, and a book… Most of all, though, there was this guy in the blue rhinestone-studded mask with the voice of Elvis. I had to know more.


The story I uncovered was one of the strangest I’ve ever encountered. As a documentary-maker, I’ve long been fascinated with stories that peek under the surface of popular culture and the machinations of the music industry, or explore just how important music is in our lives. Stories like The Great Hip Hop Hoax–about two Scottish chancers who faked their way to a record deal by pretending to be American rappers; SOUND IT OUT about the very last record shop in my home town in Teesside or Goth Cruise a documentary about 150 goths (along with 2500 “norms”) taking a cruise in the sunshine to Bermuda.

But this story had it all. A roller coaster tale of the Nashville music scene in the wake of Elvis Presley’s death, taking in deception, a quest for success, a search for identity and ending in brutal and tragic murder.

Even if you’ve never heard of Orion, you probably know about the “Elvis is Alive” myth. What I uncovered was that the story of Orion is the story of how that myth got started. 
In the marketing offices of Sun Records, maverick producer Shelby Singleton came up with the plan to utilize the incredible pipes of Alabama singer Jimmy Ellis – a voice which was both a blessing and a curse to the singer. Ellis had found it hard to get a solid foothold in the industry because of the similarity of his voice to Elvis’ –a similarity which was wholly unpracticed. Jimmy didn’t try to sound like Elvis, he just did. That made it hard for any record company to use him.

Shelby had already tried one tack, dubbing Jimmy Ellis’ vocals uncredited onto the Jerry Lee Lewis tracks in the Sun catalog, releasing the recording under the name of Jerry Lee Lewis “and friends.” He’d leave it up to the audience to come to the conclusion –if they saw fit—that it might just be a previously unheard recording from the depths of the Sun vaults. After all, it sounded just like Elvis…


“I was born in Sun Records, in the studio.”

But it wasn’t until Shelby came across an unpublished manuscript by Georgia writer Gail Brewer Giorgio that the stars aligned for Jimmy Ellis.  Orion was the story of the world’s greatest rock star and how he fakes his own death. As a character, her “Orion” was not a million miles away from a certain Memphis-dwelling King. It was a fantasy that so easily could be true. A fantasy that could be made true… In a move that Shelby himself later described as “part madman, part genius,” Sun Records put a mask on Jimmy Ellis, rechristened him “Orion” and unleashed him on an unsuspecting world. In Jimmy Ellis, Shelby had “The Voice.” And the book gave him a name, and a backstory.

A copy of the letter announcing the name “ORION” for the first time. The mask was the beginning of the Orion mystery.

In May of 1979, one month after his announcement of the imminent arrival of “ORION,” Shelby Singleton sent the first single to the radio stations. The cuts were “Ebony Eyes” and “Honey,” but there was no label on either side. Shelby wanted to build the mystery. The voice was the thing. He knew that the moment they heard that voice, they would have a million questions. And they’d want to see the mouth it came from…

Orion’s first album was readied – but hit controversy when there were complaints about the depiction of the masked singer appearing to rise from the dead from an open casket. (It was replaced by the blue cover above, which was later to catch my eye.)

Orion was now out in the world. Performing across America, always in the mask, always in character (legend was that Shelby would fine Jimmy if he were caught not wearing the mask at any time). And the crowds came. Hundreds and thousands of them, many coming for that voice–and many simply coming for the fantasy, the fantasy that the thin mask kept precariously in place. But for Jimmy, it was a frustrating ride.

Orion traveled the world while on Sun–including, bizarrely, performing with Kiss in Germany—putting out seven albums on Sun in just five years, but Jimmy hated the mask; the gimmick that provided the all-important mystery was ultimately a trap.  He could never be himself.

“Look Me Up”

When the gimmick wore thin, Ellis discarded the mask. The fragile spell was broken – but Jimmy was free. However, he struggled to step out of the shadow of Presley and the voice he was “blessed and cursed” with. He tried out many different identities – Ellis James, Mister E – he put the mask back on, then took it off again - but he never really found the same bright spotlight again. In December 1998, back in Orrville Alabama, the town he had left many years before to find success in music, Ellis was brutally murdered in his pawnshop during an armed robbery. A tragic ending for the man with the voice of a legend.

For the past four years, I have tracked down the people that were close to Orion to discover his story and I am raising finishing funds for ORION: The Man Who Would Be King on Indiegogo so that I can finish the documentary. You can support getting this story to the screen by pre-ordering the film, getting some original Orion memorabilia or even a bejeweled Orion mask.

Orion and author Gail Brewer Giorgio interviewed in 1979 TV news report.
More Orion, the man who would be King, after the jump…

Posted by Richard Metzger | Leave a comment
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