This is from the Dangerous Minds’ archives. Originally posted last Christmas Eve.
I’m probably among a handful of people who prefer the universally reviled Star Wars Holiday Special to any of the actual Star Wars movies. Broadcast once in 1978 on CBS and then quickly banished to TV purgatory, this holiday fiasco is one of the strangest things ever to be piped into the living rooms of an unsuspecting America. At 8 p.m. on November 17, 1978, Star War fans were plunged into stunned disbelief as their sacred mythology was reduced to something more akin to an earthbound shitfest than a spectacle in a galaxy far far away. The only thing missing from the special that would have transmutated its alchemy into the realm of the genuinely mindaltering would have been an appearance by Divine, Edie the Egg Lady and the ghost of Alfred Jarry.
In a highly amusing article that appeared in the December 2008 issue of Vanity Fair, writer Frank DiGiacomo describes George Lucas’s cathode ray bomb as…
[...] a campy 70s variety show that makes suspension of disbelief impossible. In between minutes-long stretches of guttural, untranslated Wookie dialog that could almost pass for avant-garde cinema, Maude’s Bea Arthur sings and dances with the aliens from the movie’s cantina scene; The Honeymooners’ Art Carney consoles Chewbacca’s family with such comedy chestnuts as “Why all the long, hairy faces?”; Harvey Korman mugs shamelessly as a multi-limbed intergalactic Julia Child cooking “Bantha Surprise”; the Jefferson Starship pops up to play a number about U.F.O.’s; and original Star Wars cast members Harrison Ford, Carrie Fisher, and Mark Hamill walk around looking cosmically miserable.”
I highly recommend you read the entire article by clicking here. It’s a lot of fun.
With a happy holiday heart, I present for your viewing pleasure the gloriously bizarre Star Wars Holiday Special, which has never been re-aired on TV or officially released on video. And as a bonus, this video includes all the original commercials for Star Wars merchandise.
The 50 second text crawl at the beginning is silent.
Close the door against the chill and draw yourself a little closer to the fire. There. Comfortable? Then we’ll begin…
Marley was dead: to begin with. There is no doubt whatever about that. The register of his burial was signed by the clergyman, the clerk, the undertaker, and the chief mourner. Scrooge signed it. And Scrooge’s name was good upon ‘Change, for anything he chose to put his hand to. Old Marley was as dead as a door-nail.
Vincent Price hosts this short TV adaptation of Charles Dickens’ A Christmas Carol, starring Taylor Holmes as Ebeneezer Scrooge, Pat White as Bob Cratchit, and Earl Lee as the Ghost of Jacob Marley, directed by Arthur Pierson, from 1949.
Australian comedian, piano whizz and enthusiastic exponent of guyliner Tim Minchin has had a satirical song of his called “Woody Allen Jesus” cut from the broadcast of one of the UK biggest chat shows, The Jonathan Ross Show. Minchin had been asked specifically by Ross and his producers to write and perform a Christmas ditty for the show, but when an advanced tape was passed to the station’s director of television, Peter Fincham, it was decided that the song needed to be dropped.
Minchin is miffed, and rightly so. Are well living in the 21st century or not? Does freedom of speech and thought (and music) exist in this country or is the Christian religion in such a dire state that it needs to ban anything that questions its relevance? Actually, that might be the case. Despite David Cameron’s particularly idiotic and toadying claims that the UK is a “Christian country”, the figures simply do not back this up, as this report in the ultra-conservative Daily Mail shows: “Number of Christians is down 10% in just five years.”
Being Christmas, I thought it would be fun to do a song about Jesus, but being TV, I knew it would have to be gentle. The idea was to compare him to Woody Allen (short, Jewish, philosophical, a bit hesitant), and expand into redefining his other alleged attributes using modern, popular-culture terminology.
It’s not a particularly original idea, I admit, but it’s quite cute. It’s certainly not very contentious, but even so, compliance people and producers and lawyers all checked my lyrics long before the cameras rolled. As always with these bespoke writing jobs, I was really stressed for about 3 days, and almost chucked it in the bin 5 times, and freaked out that it wasn’t funny and all that boring shit that people like me go through when we’re lucky enough to have with a big audience with high expectations. And if I’m honest, it ain’t a world-changing bit of comedy. Regardless…
And then someone got nervous and sent the tape to ITV’s director of television, Peter Fincham.
And Peter Fincham demanded that I be cut from the show.
He did this because he’s scared of the ranty, shit-stirring, right-wing press, and of the small minority of Brits who believe they have a right to go through life protected from anything that challenges them in any way.
Yesterday I wrote a big rant about comedy and risk and conservatism; about the fact that my joke has no victim; about sacredness (oh God, not again!) and about the importance of laughing at dumb but pervasive ideas. But I trashed it because it’s boring and takes it all too seriously. It’s hardly the end of the world.
But I have to admit I’m really fucking disappointed.
It’s 2011. The appropriate reaction to people who think Jesus is a supernatural being is mild embarrassment, sighing tolerance and patient education.
And anger when they’re being bigots.
Oh, and satire. There’s always satire.
Jonathan Ross is no stranger to controversy within the British media - in 2008 he and Russell Brand found themselves in deep shit after a phone call to Andrew Sachs was deemed to have gone “too far” by the tabloid press. Those ever-original and forward thinking people at the tabloids christened the incident “Sachsgate” and the outrage that was drummed up was enough to have both comedians ousted by their employer at the time, the BBC (one was suspended and the other quit.) This background hum of potential “outrage” may have been enough for Fincham to pull Minchin’s segment on the Ross show, but now it looks like a whole new controversy based on freedom of speech and expression is blowing up in ITV’s face. Oh dear.
Here is Tim Minchin performing “Woody Allen Jesus” on The Jonathan Ross Show:
By god, it’s true. From Tom Jones’ TV variety show circa 1969. Tom seems to be inspiring a certain level of vocal enthusiasm from the other fellas here. Even the untouchably cool Neil Young seems inspired by the odd pairing. I never knew…
This compelling 1985 interview with Frank Zappa conducted by legendary Washington D.C. deejay Cerphe (Don Collwell) for Baltimore TV was never aired. Either it was too edgy for local TV or, as rumor has it, Zappa refused to sign the release required to broadcast the interview. Which begs the question: why would Zappa, who was always fearless in voicing his opinions, stand in the way of this particualr interview being shown?
Two weeks after the interview, Zappa testified on Capitol Hill at the infamous Senate Porn Rock Hearings on record labeling. Cerphe joined Zappa at the hearing and strongly spoke against censorship.
In light of the controversy surrounding the hearings, the station scheduled to broadcast the interview may have felt Zappa was just too radical for their viewership. For whatever reason, it remained unseen until it was smuggled out of the studio by someone who realized its value as rock history.
As usual, Zappa takes no prisoners as he candidly critiques the state of modern rock and roll, censorship, conformity, sex, consumerism, MTV and more.
Looks like TPM cribbed a title from the Firesign Theatre (not that I’ve ever done such a thing!) with this ridiculous clip from the mixed-up, muddled-up, zany Bizarro World of Fox and Friends, where up is down, black is white, the sky is whatever color Roger Ailes tells them it is and where Republicans want to help the little guys…
Watch in stunned bemusement as these three tax experts shockingly ignorant people (plus wicked radio witch Laura Ingraham) tie themselves into Klein bottles as they crawl up their own assholes trying to explain why it’s really the Democrats’ fault that the Republicans want to raise taxes on the middle class—but not on billionaires, no way—to an audience comprised of people even dumber than they are!
And they still can’t do it.
Gretchen Carlson really outdoes herself here. And Laura Ingraham falsely claims that we live “in a country where 50% of Americans pay no tax at all.” This is a bold-faced lie and she knows it. Ingraham is slimy and she’s mean, but she’s not dumb (Politifact, where are you???).
There are classic Fox News moments and then there are classic Fox News moments... This pathetic example of amusingly amateur Orwellian doublespeak is a new low even for the three stooges on that couch. People who get their news from Fox fill their heads with shit and this is a good illustration of that in action, as plain as day.
For shits and giggles, share this one in advance with that Tea party-supporting uncle of yours who you’ll be seeing later this week. If the Democrats were smart—and they aren’t—they’d let this one play itself out over the holidays so Tea baggers can twist in the wind bragging about what the Republican congressmen and women they got into office in the last election cycle have achieved for the country. Nice fuckin’ work, gramps!
The longtime friendship between Woody Allen and Dick Cavett is well-known and Allen’s appearances on the various incarnations of Cavett’s talkshows in the 70s and early 80s have been highlights of both men’s small screen oeuvres. Woody Allen used to be on TV a LOT, but he was never better than when he had the always witty Cavett as his comic foil.
In the clip below, Cavett and Allen discuss women, not as the title would have you believe, particle physics, although I’m sure they could make that topic funny also…
There are 14 hours of Cavett interviewing comedic legends like Woody Allen, Groucho Marx and Bob Hope (especially interesting because he does the interview straight, not mugging for laughs) in the fascinating DVD box set The Dick Cavett Show - Comic Legends, which is where this clip comes from.
These clips are hard to find on the Internet and who knows how long they’ll last out there before the dark corporate forces wipe them from view. The teachings of the SubGenius are under relentless assault!
Devo’s appearance on Saturday Night Live on October 14, 1978 was a visitation from a rock and roll galaxy far far away and yet so near. It was as if aliens from another planet had created a concept of Earthlings based on old television transmissions they’d hijacked of industrial training films, Triumph Of The Will, episodes of Hullabaloo and Saturday morning cartoons and then spewed it all back at us in a digitized replication missing a few ones and zeros. It was an attempt at communication, not unlike Klaatu’s failed efforts in 1951.
Noel Fielding and Julian Barratt of The Mighty Boosh bookend some weirdo who wandered into a Boing Boing photo shoot.
As a hardcore Mighty Boosh fan, I am ashamed to say that I only just discovered this wonderful Pogo mashup of bits and pieces from the late great BBC comedy show, which may have been the funniest and most surreal thing to ever appear on the airwaves.
The title of the piece is “Zoo Zoo” and features Pogo’s trademark tight edits/cuts in which shards of dialog and soundtrack are transformed into seamless musical collages filled with quirky charm.
I am patiently awaiting a Mighty Boosh feature length film. Pleeeeeease.