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Charlie Barnett: Legendary NYC street comedian, Dave Chappelle mentor
12:28 pm

Pop Culture



“What’s good about crack? Do you want to know? Do you want to know?” [You’ll have to watch the videos to find out].

Old school New Yorkers will remember Washington Square Park’s raunchy master of ceremonies, street comedian Charlie Barnett, who died 16-years ago from AIDS complications and drug addiction. From the late seventies onward, several times a day, Barnett would jump up onto a park bench and shout “It’s showtime!” and do a 20-minute stand-up set that had the whole park in stitches. Roaring. Crying with laughter. I must’ve seen Charlie Barnett do 30 such performances over the years. I was in the Washington Square Park area a lot back then and I’d always stop to watch his act. The guy was one of the best stand-ups I’ve ever seen in my life. Spontaneous. He said whatever came into his head. Breathtakingly fearless performer. Shocking, even. No topic was off limits, which is why Barnett was perhaps better suited for street performances than the comedy clubs.

When he was on the mic, the man simply owned Washington Square Park. Truly, he was a fixture of NYC life in the 1980s. At one point, it came down to Barnett or Eddie Murphy who would become a cast member of SNL, but Barnett’s inability to read—he was a functional illiterate who read very, very slowly—saw Murphy get the nod. Barnett did have some notable roles (“Tyrone Bywater” in D.C. Cab, “Noogie” on Miami Vice) but he never really made it and died in 1996.

I haven’t thought about Charlie Barnett in years, but there’s an interesting short essay about him over at the Splitsider comedy blog by College Humor’s Conor McKeon:

On any given day hundreds surrounded the fountain. Barnett circumnavigates the makeshift oblong stage — his cocksure strut somewhere between that of preacher and prizefighter — and bellows, “I love a New York audience” in a voice as gravelly as the rural Appalachian roads he once travelled just to get here, to this fountain. With most comics, “I love a New York audience!” suggests a trite attempt at audience appeasement, but crowd work is not necessary for Charlie Barnett — they’re chanting his name before he’s said a word — and in his voice there is a palpable sincerity which implies he really truly means it.

His act, an array of outsized characters and one-liners (“I took an AIDS test — I got a 65”), doesn’t contain the underlying sensitivity of Bruce or Pryor’s social consciousness, but instead serves as a modern re-imagining of the blue-tinted Vaudevillian raunch of Foxx and Rickles.

Of course, in Charlie Barnett’s case, the material is more or less immaterial, secondary to the mesmerizing physicality of his performance, with its perpetual motion and jutting limbs and rubber faces. He simply possesses a mindfulness on stage that you are either born with or you are not: One gets the impression that he could perform for an audience of the hearing impaired and his act would lose not an ounce of potency.

Another notable aspect of Charilie Barnett’s time on the planet was his nurturing of one of this generation’s greatest comedic talents, Dave Chappelle, who was due to play Barnett in a 2005 feature film about his life that sadly never got made. After a young Chappelle was booed off the stage of the Apollo Theater, Barnett took the bruised comic under his wing and showcased him to the crowd in the park. Roast-master general Jeffrey Ross was also heavily influenced by watching Barnett work the crowd.

Although I would imagine that there must be hundreds, even thousands, of videos of Charlie Barnett that were shot by tourists over the years, few of them have made it to YouTube. This clip from the cult film Mondo New York, captures Barnett working the fountain exactly as I recall him doing it, circa 1986. Comedy dates quickly, of course, but Barnett’s work from 25+ years ago retains an edge that is as sharp as ever. This clip still has something to offend everyone:

This particularly over-the-top performance from a 1993 Def Comedy Jam taping was never aired on TV, but did surface as a “2 Hot 4 TV” DVD extra. By this time Barnett’s health was starting to visibly deteriorate, but his comedy was still blistering, crude and rude.

Posted by Richard Metzger | Leave a comment
The Beatles’ classic 1968 animated feature film, ‘Yellow Submarine,’ has been restored
12:07 pm

Pop Culture


“Once upon a time…or maybe twice…there was an unearthly paradise called Pepperland…”

The Beatles’ classic 1968 animated feature film, Yellow Submarine, has been restored in 4K digital resolution for the first time by Paul Rutan Jr. and his team at Triage Motion Picture Services. No automated software was used in the clean-up of the film’s restored photochemical elements. This was a job painstakingly done by hand, a single frame at a time. The absolutely stunning Yellow Submarine restoration premiered last weekend at the SXSW festival and will be coming on Blu-Ray DVD at the end of May with a new 5.1 multi-channel audio soundtrack. Seeing the film unspool on the big screen of Austin’s historic Paramount Theatre was like watching a series of moving stained glass windows.

Directed by George Dunning, and written by Lee Minoff, Al Brodax, Jack Mendelsohn and future best-selling Love Story novelist Erich Segal, Yellow Submarine, based upon the song by John Lennon and Paul McCartney, is a basically incomprehensible series of musical vignettes, groan-worthy puns and lysergically-inspired kaleidoscopic eye-candy that sees John, Paul, George and Ringo saving the world from the evil Blue Meanies.

When Yellow Submarine originally premiered in 1968, the film was regarded as an artistic marvel. With its innovative animation techniques, it represented the most technologically advanced animation work since Disney’s masterpiece, Fantasia. Inspired by the Pop Art of Andy Warhol, Peter Max and Peter Blake, art director Heinz Edelmann’s work on Yellow Submarine is now considered among the classics of animated cinema. Yellow Submarine also showcases the creative work of animation directors Robert Balser and Jack Stokes along with a team of the best animators and technical artists that money could hire. The ground-breaking animation styles included 3-D sequences and the highly detailed “rotoscoping” (tracing film frame by frame) of the celebrated “Eleanor Rigby” sequence. The production process took nearly two years and employed 40 animators and 140 technical artists.

I must say, though, as happy as I was to be one of the first people to see the restored Yellow Submarine, I couldn’t help be to think that—with all of its merits—the film is just a little bit boring. If you responded negatively to the news of the (now shelved) Yellow Submarine 3-D remake, consider that not only did the Fab Four have precious little to do with the actual making of the original film (it’s not even their own voices) but that today’s kids—your kids—won’t have the patience to sit through it. Nor will they even understand what’s being said onscreen. Yellow Submarine, I hate to say it, was ripe for a remake. Sacrilege, I know, but it’s not like I’m suggesting that they remake A Hard Day’s Night or anything!

Below, a decidedly low res version of Yellow Submarine in its entirety. This isn’t really the way to watch it, of course…

Posted by Richard Metzger | Leave a comment
Roky Erickson and The Black Angels will melt your mind
02:09 am

Pop Culture


Art: John Howard
Roky Erickson performing “Bo Diddley” and “Two-Headed Dog” with The Black Angels at The El Rey Theater in 2008.

The man who helped launch psychedelic music is backed-up magnificently by a band whose members were born almost two decades after he released his first single. And they’re all from Austin, Texas, where the The Akashic record of rock and roll is on replay.

This is an excerpt from the undeniably fantastic Night Of The Vampire DVD.

If you dig John Howard’s poster featured above, check out his ultra-groovy website The dude’s a fucking genius. His 3-D posters will blow your frontal lobes out.

So fucking for real.

Posted by Marc Campbell | Leave a comment
Real Gangstas Don’t Rap, They Boogie: Snoop Dogg’s surprising ‘Tekno Euro’  mixtape
09:26 pm



Snoop portrait by Rodney Pike
Now here’s a turn up for the books: last weekend Snoop Dogg dropped a new mixtape via his Soundcloud page called “01 Tekno Euro Mixx”. That Snoop would put together a mix of European techno is in itself surprising—if he did actually mix it himself, and the lackadaisical style makes it seem plausible—but the real surprise here is, in fact, that the mix contains no European techno at all.

What we get instead is a mix of deep house, nu-disco and boogie/disco edits. Artists and remixers featured include Todd Terje, Prins Thomas, Guy Monk, Miguel Migs, 6th Borough Project, Tensake, Crazy P and Michael Jackson (there is no official tracklisting yet.) None of which have much in common with the likes of Benni Benassi or David Guetta, and even less with Dr Dre or Timbaland.

While I wouldn’t have pegged Snoop as a Body & Soul-head, there is a common theme. Back in the late 90s and early 00s, when I was playing a lot of this kind of stuff (hit me up for some mixes, Snoop!), me and my dj friends liked to refer to this type of music as “stoner house”. That did away with slightly tired prefixes “deep” and “disco” while encapsulating the music in simple, understandable terms. This is house music at its most horizontal, yet it remains functional and deeply funky. Snoop gets it, and actually this mix ain’t half bad. Light one up, lie back and boogie:

  01 TEKNO EURO MIXX by Snoop Dogg
Thanks to Soundcloud commenter Alex Constantin for the title.

Posted by Niall O'Conghaile | Leave a comment
Kenneth Williams on Acting: A revealing interview from 1980
09:06 pm



“All acting is a covering up of inferiority,” says Kenneth Williams in this interview from February 1980. Williams never believed in himself enough to be a great actor, his insecurities made him seek the easy route of comedy to win over the audience’s affection. Even in interviews he would rather undo any show of intellect with coarse innuendo than reveal his intimate, more serious side. People thought him flippant, but he wasn’t - he was like all of us, scared of rejection, scared of being emotionally hurt. Emotions were messy, uncontrollable, and not to be trusted. “That’s why I enjoyed acting,” continues Williams, for performing plays offered him a shield to hide behind. It’s a startling moment of truth, as he sits on the sofa, arms folded, and it almost upends the interview, which then tails off onto eccentricity, homeopathy and disease.


Posted by Paul Gallagher | Leave a comment
Beyond Stupid: The new Obama Conspiracy Theory
06:24 pm



Image: McNaughton Fine Art via Boing Boing

For the past week and a half, I’ve been at SXSW and I made a halfhearted attempt to kinda/sorta try to stay away from “news” for that time. I only wanted to get the news via “osmosis” and from scattered clues like newspaper headlines, what people were talking about, snatches seen in passing on TV monitors and so forth. If you ever want to do a full media detox, Austin, Texas during SXSW is a good place to do it, as the distractions are legion.

Nevertheless, avoiding email is a bit more difficult. Recently I signed up for the WorldNet Daily email newsletters because I wanted to read the “report” prepared by Sheriff Joe Arpaio about Obama’s supposedly “forged” birth certificate. Although I could cancel it at any time, I became fascinated by the utterly insane, raving lunatic, foaming-at-the-mouth paranoiac worldview on display at WND—it’s nuttier than anything you’d ever see in the Weekly World News—and 90% of the time when the WND email blasts would come through, I’d inevitably follow the link. Follow that link to a black hole of stunted intelligence, zero common sense and woefully inadequate media literacy…

In the past, I’ve not paid WND, its publisher Joseph Farah, and the other ring-a-dings there much mind. Their “reporting” is so factless and so utterly without value as “information” that it can only be viewed through the filters of entertainment, fiction, low IQ propaganda and gawking at a toxic conservative group-think that’s made America into a dumber, meaner, more aggressively ignorant country in the past decade.

There’s one particular story recently that WND and Farah seem intent on launching, but it’s so fucking stupid that only Matt Drudge has picked up on it. This is the story of one Allen Hulton, the retired Chicago-area postal worker who claims that he met a young Barack Obama at the home of Bill Ayers’ parents in the early 1990s when they were putting him through Harvard and grooming him to be an illegal alien closet socialist atheist usurper of the American Presidency at some point in the future!

Hulton remembers asking the young man what his plans were for the future.

“He looked right at me and told me he was going to be president of the United States,” Hulton says.

“There was a little bit of a grin on his face when he said it - he sounded sure of himself, but not arrogant. I know how people will say things because they have an ambition, but it did not come across that way,” Hulton says. “It came across as if this young black male was telling me he was going to be president, almost as if it were the statement of a scientific fact that had already been determined, as if his being president had been already pre-arranged.”

You see, you eediots! You fuels! The master plan! HAHAHAHAHA! It was so seemple!

Joseph Farah calls the failure of the media anyone to report on the matter, “the day the media died” and wonders aloud “Why they didn’t touch it?”

Very simple. This isn’t just your average Bill Ayers story. This one touches on a raw nerve for the media. It touches on the increasing possibility that Obama is not really constitutionally eligible for the presidency after all – a story pooh-poohed by virtually everyone in the media establishment for the last four years.

Nobody in the media wants to see that story turn out to be real after all. No one in the media wants to see that story turn into the biggest cover-up in American political history. No one in the media wants to be perceived as part of that cover-up.

So the cover-up continues – with more players every day.

But at the end of the day, Americans don’t believe the gatekeepers.

Every poll shows the same thing – half the country suspects Obama has been lying, deceiving and conducting this cover-up all along – with the media serving as his willing accomplices.

The fact that something is being ignored is not proof of its importance or suppression. That Farah clearly wants to believe this nonsense so badly that he can do infinite mental loop-de-loops to contort his worldview to a twisted place where everyone else is wrong except for him, Joe Arpaio and Orly Taitz is a display of a certain kind of widespread 21st century American psychosis brought about by the election of a black Democrat to the Presidency. To be able to view such a thing, in such a pure form is very… ridiculous.

Never say never, of course, when it comes to the Democrats, but it seems like the Republican party has set itself up for an epic drubbing this Fall. Will the extreme right-wingers skulk away—chastised at the ballot box and demographically doomed as of the 2016 election—or will they rage even harder and nuttier against the “totalitarian” (or is it Marxist?) Obama “regime”?

Posted by Richard Metzger | Leave a comment
‘God on a wheel!’: Campy viral video sensation Royce Reed, RIP
05:30 pm



I was saddened to hear that Royce Reed, co-star of the “Royce and Marilyn” viral videos has passed away. According to the Royce Obsessed Facebook page:

“She passed Tuesday evening. In her sleep they believe heart attack.”

In 2009, when I was guest-blogger at Boing Boing, I helped get the ball rolling on the Royce and Marilyn craze:

It’s hard to believe that this jaw-dropping series of videos of Royce Reed and Marilyn Hoggatt isn’t a massive YouTube sensation… but it will be. Take one (huge) part “Grey Gardens” and add a hefty dollop of Peter and Raymond from “Shut Up Little Man!” and you kind of get into the Royce and Marilyn territory. But not quite. It’s as unique as either and yes, it totally deserves to be spoken of in such esteemed context with these aforementioned FREAKS.

Royce and Marilyn are two elderly ladies from “another era” and these videos document their lives in a SRO hotel in Los Angeles’ downtown “skid row” area (where they share a bed). One of them is happy-go-lucky and content with her life, the other is totally haughty with delusions of grandeur and an ever present glass of bubbly. It’s one of the most tweaked things I’ve seen in some time.

Werner Herzog will plotz when he sees this! These videos are the best thing since medical marijuana.

And so they are!

Royce’s partner in crime—or straight-man in their comic duo—Marilyn Hoggart, died last year. Their YouTube videos will live on forever.

LA Weekly ran a lengthy profile of the pair back in 1999: “Forever Fabulous”

More Royce and Marilyn after the jump…

Posted by Richard Metzger | Leave a comment
The real moral of ‘Star Wars’
03:55 pm



I suppose that once you get past the good vs. evil stuff, this would be the issue that it all boils down to…
Via The Curious Brain

Posted by Tara McGinley | Leave a comment
Cruel to be kind: Republican Rep thinks helping the poor is ‘demeaning’ to them!

The Washington Post’s Dana Milbank made mincemeat out of Republican Congressman Paul Ryan’s revived austerity budget proposal in the paper’s editorial section yesterday, calling out Ryan’s plans to slash social services and job training while cutting taxes for the rich. It’s amazing to me, simply amazing, that the GOP thinks there is political gain in being seen as eager to hurt the poor, the unemployed and the elderly during a presidential election cycle—there are 45 million Americans receiving food stamps currently—but God bless these doofy dolts and their draconian debt-cutting doggedness, they’re dead set on dousing themselves in political gasoline and playing with matches.

If the Democrats are smart, they’ll just step back, allow the debate to come to a full boil and wait until this nail bomb goes off:

Ryan would cut $770 billion over 10 years from Medicaid and other health programs for the poor, compared with President Obama’s budget. He takes an additional $205 billion from Medicare, $1.6 trillion from the Obama health-care legislation and $1.9 trillion from a category simply labeled “other mandatory.” Pressed to explain this magic asterisk, Ryan allowed that the bulk of those “other mandatory” cuts come from food stamps, welfare, federal employee pensions and support for farmers.

Taken together, Ryan would cut spending on such programs by $5.3 trillion, much of which currently goes to the have-nots. He would then give that money to America’s haves: some $4.3 trillion in tax cuts, compared with current policies, according to Citizens for Tax Justice.

Ryan’s justification was straight out of Dickens. He wants to improve the moral fiber of the poor. There is, he told the audience at the conservative American Enterprise Institute later Tuesday, an “insidious moral tipping point, and I think the president is accelerating this.” Too many Americans, he said, are receiving more from the government than they pay in taxes.

After recalling his family’s immigration from Ireland generations ago, and his belief in the virtue of people who “pull themselves up by the bootstraps,” Ryan warned that a generous safety net “lulls able-bodied people into lives of complacency and dependency, which drains them of their very will and incentive to make the most of their lives. It’s demeaning.”

How very kind: To protect poor Americans from being demeaned, Ryan is cutting their anti-poverty programs and using the proceeds to give the wealthiest Americans a six-figure tax cut.

If some Americans have to fuckin’ starve to death, this is what it takes to preserve our—and their—freedom!

Ryan’s not joking about this stuff. Amazingly, there are actually people within the Republican who consider Paul Ryan something of an “intellectual”!

Keep thinkin’ that, goofballs. If this guy is the best you’ve got, you’ve got nothing at all.

Ryan’s budget outline omits specifics about how much he would take from programs. Instead, it provided a string of Orwellian euphemisms. The budget “repairs the safety net” by allowing the states to award public assistance to fewer people — “those who need it most.” Financial aid for college would be slashed — er, “put on a sustainable funding path.” And the Ryan plan would give workers “the tools to thrive in the 21st century” — by killing off various job-training programs.

Ryan would cut Medicaid by a third and ship the remnants to state governments to handle. Or, as the congressman described it: “We also propose to strengthen Medicaid by empowering our states.”

Because you have to hurt the poor and sick in order to help them?

The beauty of all of this coming now is that Paul Ryan himself is up for reelection this year and this paints a bright red target on his back. Nothing would be more satisfying than seeing him defeated (except something even more humiliating happening to him, of course) as a referendum on this kind of nonsense once and for all.

Look at this, it’s a trailer—a fucking trailer—for the Ryan plan. Astonishing.

Posted by Richard Metzger | Leave a comment
Scenes from the Dangerous Minds party + one VERY unexpected guest DJ!
01:12 pm

Current Events
Pop Culture


Chris Holmes
Some scenes from inside last week’s Dangerous Minds-hosted SXSW party in Los Angeles held at the Hollywood Forever Cemetery’s Masonic Lodge. On the big screen were live performances simulcast from the Sub Pop Records SXSW Showcase in Austin featuring Spoek Mathambo, THEESatiscation and Niki + The Dove. The event was produced by Natalie Montgomery and curated by Tara McGinley (ME!), and executive produced by Largetail.

Seen in the crowd were Radiohead, Elizabeth Olsen, members of OK Go, artist Tim Biskup,  Amber Tamblyn, Jeff Garland, Aziz Ansari and more. The event was catered by Cool Haus, Grill ‘Em All and Mandoline Grill.

Like us on Facebook or Twitter to hear about the next party.

Inside Masonic Lodge as event is beginning

America’s Funnyman, Neil Hamburger was the event’s MC. His act went over the heads of most attendees—say 80%—but for those more familiar with his unique comedic stylings, the obvious audience discomfort made his shtick even more hilarious that night.

A lot more photos after the jump!

Posted by Tara McGinley | Leave a comment
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