989.) I venture back to the world of British TV humor that has been unseen in the U.S. this week with scenes from Noel Fielding’s Luxury Comedy. A live-action cartoon to be sure, but with no linear plot, this sketch show is the creation of one of half of “the Mighty Boosh” team (with appearances by other regulars from that series, including Noel’s brother Michael). Fielding has a vibrantly visual imagination, and the show displays his unrepentantly weird brand of comedy to good effect. The talking animal characters and vivid color scheme may bring to mind the Krofft shows from the early Seventies, but the comedy here is more overtly surreal and Noel’s pop-culture riffs and refs would lose the kiddie market. The words “surreal” and “psychedelic” were most used by reviewers to describe the show, and so Luxury Comedy belongs on the Funhouse, where the legacy of the Sixties is always a welcome theme.
990.) Rerun of last week – access disrupted because of Hurricane Sandy!
991.)The new episode: I am very proud to show works by favorite filmmakers that have thus far gone completely unaired in the U.S. – and, in the case of tonight’s short film, rarely seen in rep theaters. Tonight I present a final (for this year!) tribute to the utterly brilliant Chris Marker by showing sequences from his 1966 short If I Had Four Camels. A photo-film that resembles his masterwork La Jetee, the film is actually a journey through Marker’s still photography (with a narration that borrows from Apollinaire, offering a trip through “the Castle” and “the Garden”). Images from China, Russia, Cuba, Scandinavia, Israel, France, and other locations are blended together to make a thoroughly original meditation on the similarities, and very trite differences, between different races and locales. Marker was like no other filmmaker and video artist – his work deserves a home on “arts cable,” but since there is no such thing any more, I’m glad to devote a mere 28 minutes to his memory.
992.) Bernadette Lafont is not as well known in the U.S. as she should be. She’s had a rich career as an actress on-screen and was “the thinking man’s sex symbol” in French cinema for more than a decade. I conducted an interview with her on the occasion of a festival of her films at the Alliance Francaise, and this week, in the first of two episodes, we discuss how the beginning of her career coincided with the beginning of the French New Wave. Ms. Lafont talks about her starring role in Truffaut’s 1957 short Les Mistons, and what it was like working with a fledgling filmmaker while making her acting debut opposite her real-life husband (the “French James Dean,” Gerard Blain). She then discusses her first feature, Chabrol’s highly personal directorial debut Le Beau Serge. Her connection with Chabrol continued for several more years, and thus we move from the splendid small-town character study Beau Serge to his first thriller, A Double Tour. We close out this first installment of the interview with a discussion of the film that Lafont considers her favorite of all her work, Chabrol’s masterful Les Bonnes Femmes (1960). In the process we learn that films that are enormous fun to watch were not as much fun to make, and that films that are extremely dark in tone sometimes have the happiest sets.
993.) Part two of my Deceased Artiste tribute to George Kuchar deals with George as onscreen performer. From his more overwrought acting roles — represented here by the timelessly weird Thundercrack! — to his “Weather Diaries,” George was an extremely memorable presence in the films he (and others) directed. I offer some samples of George at his best, punctuated by moments from his diary videos in which we meet his equally effusive friends. The shows closes off with a music video he directed that supplies an alternative song for the Yuletide season.
994.) Three recent DVD releases of note are spotlighted in the Consumer Guide department this week. The first is a documentary written by and starring British ventriloquist Nina Conti, whose act is a fascinating and funny combination of standard ventriloquist shtick, performance art, and creative schizophrenia. Her telefilm Nina Conti: Her Master’s Voice, follows her as she puts her mentor’s dummies and puppets to “rest” and visits a very active and some what odd ventriloquist convention in Kentucky. Next up is Robert Aldrich’s superb Twilight’s Last Gleaming. The film is both a top-notch nuclear-paranoia thriller and political polemic starring major names and produced by a Hollywood studio. From Aldrich’s ardently leftwing outlook I turn to Godard once again, as I review the Criterion release of his classic Weekend. His surpreme nightmare about the haute bourgeoisie, the film contains some memorable imagery and the extras on the disc provide an insight into just how cranky Uncle Jean was during the shoot (and this from a filmmaker who was about to turn into an idealistic political firebrand!).
995.) Tonight the Consumer Guide department focuses on works in which the concepts of “high art” and “low trash” feed off each other. The first review is of The Ernie Kovacs Collection, Volume 2. This collection focuses on two of Ernie’s longer-running TV series and offers another superb group of supplements, including an extremely rare interview with Ernie (in which his aspirations as a filmmaker are made clear — would the sublimely innovative comic have been another Tati, or Jerry Lewis?). Next up is the work of a filmmaker who transformed genres that were considered trash into art, Mario Bava. The release of a quartet of Bava’s films from Kino Lorber includes two bona fide masterpieces, Black Sunday and Lisa and the Devil. The “high” and the “low” also coincide in the last item I review, Pasolini’s Trilogy of Life (Decameron, Canterbury Tales, Arabian Nights). In those films, a cinema-poet devoted himself to extracting the erotic and vulgarly funny tales out of classical literature that pleased the masses in their given time periods. The films are definitely brilliant art, but were sold in the U.S. as “adult” features that were fit for horny couples on dates.
996.) I’ve been single-handedly trying to keep the notion of a Marco Ferreri cult alive, and with that in mind, I am very happy to present a new series of episodes featuring pristine copies of his weirdest, wildest films. Tonight’s episode is devoted entirely to a title that has never been available on these shores, I Love You (1986), starring that smirking Highlander, Christopher Lambert. Although it came quite late in his career, this could well be considered one of the most archetypal Ferreri pics, since it is ALL about a bizarre obsession and the havoc it wreaks on the protagonist’s life. In this case our hero becomes obsessed with a little key chain thingamajig that is designed in the shape of a woman’s head – when you whistle at it, it says (in English), “I love you.” This dollop of keychain love becomes the only thing that can sustain our hero’s life, and so his existence is destroyed when he breaks a tooth and can no longer whistle. The film’s allegory for male sexual obsession, fear of impotence, and general insanity, doesn’t require a Freudian degree to be understood. Ferreri devised and sustained these allegories with complete and utter sincerity, and that is what makes his body of work so unique, impressive, and often jaw-droppingly odd.
997.) In the 21st century Christmas specials are dim specters of what they used to be. A collection of Yuletide songs sung by celebs, or a tongue-in-cheek evocation of the variety-show excesses of the past can’t compare with the real thing, so this year I’m reaching back to one of the past masters of “family” Xmas special-dom, Andy Williams. Williams, whose variety show lasted from 1962-69, was second only to Bing Crosby in terms of presenting a family Christmas show that served as both a perfect time capsule of its era (whenever that might’ve been) and also a complete refutation of it (in favor of the Norman Rockwell/Currier & Ives American Xmas that never, ever existed…). I’m presenting clips from Andy’s 1971 Christmas outing, from a “mail-order” copy that is quite possibly the worst visual quality of anything I’ve ever shown on the Funhouse. But content is what matters here, so never mind the loss of color (we watched most of these shows on b&w sets anyway), the occasional video “quiver,” and the spooky, spectral quality of the copy (being a foreign country, the past is always slightly spooky anyway). The special itself revolves Andy and his clan performing the holiday rituals – no wrapping of presents, but there is the unwrapping and the inevitable big family dinner. I excerpted a few of the show’s musical numbers, which oddly, given the family bent of the program, are performed by Andy solo in the empty house, pre-Xmas celebration (Williams’ variety show had a similar Andy-is-to-be-onstage-as-much-as-possible quality). Thus, we have Williams warbling some of the hits of the year to delightfully kitschy effect, plus – yes, I had to include it, even though it is perhaps the most haunting and lyin’-est Xmas song of all – performing his beyond-ubiquitous holiday hit, “It’s the Most Wonderful Time of the Year.” His delicate-voiced, then-wife Claudine Longet duets with him on a then relatively new John Lennon tune; I’ve learned since we shot the show that the two were already legally separated for a year when this special aired – making them the equivalent of the post-divorce Sonny and Cher. To offer some non-seasonal Sixties weirdness, we explore “the gift that keeps on giving” with clips from the episode of the sitcom The Mothers-in-Law that featured a very rockin’ appearance by the Seeds (fronted by 2009 D.A. Sky Saxon). The clash of the “old” and “new” in Sixties culture is in full effect in this show, and that’s what the holiday season on TV used to be all about.
998.) Vintage: The first of two Funhouse tributes to things found on the shelves of the now-defunct St. Mark’s rental emporium Mondo Kim’s. In this show, I pay tribute to the work of a small but very talented ripple in the French New Wave, Monsieur Luc Moullet. Moullet is a well-respected critic and film teacher who has made a sizeable number of shorts and relatively few features in his four-plus decades of filmmaking (six are available on these shores on DVD). His first feature is a perfect Nouvelle Vague paean to Paris called Brigitte et Brigitte which contains a scene in which you will learn who the three best (and worst) American directors are, according to Moullet’s mock-cinephiles. He moved from the b&w Sixties into the radical Seventies with a very strange Western comedy called A Girl is a Gun starring Funhouse favorite Jean-Pierre Leaud, and a terrific low-key mediation on feminism and the average schlemiel called Anatomy of a Relationship. The last Moullet film to get a DVD release is his 1993 telefilm Up and Down, based on an idea by Alfred Jarry, depicting a bike race that seemingly has an infinite number of contestants, but no clear beginning or ending.
999.) The second and final part of my interview with noted French actress Bernadette Lafont moves from her “sex kitten of the New Wave” period through to the fascinating early Seventies, when she starred in some seminal progressive and experimental features. We start out with a discussion of her devilishly seductive role in Chabrol’s eccentric tale of vengeance Les godelureaux (1961). From that fascinating, little-seen work, we turn to the masterful Jacques Rivette TV miniseries Out 1 (1971), which Lafont contends was largely improvised by its incredibly talented cast. And from that masterpiece of paranoia and experimentation we move to Eustache’s Mother and the Whore (1973), which is considered the film that best captured the spirit of Parisian bohemians post-May ’68. We end on a much lighter note, discussing her starring role in Truffaut’s raucous dark comedy Such a Gorgeous Kid Like Me (1972), with a final glimpse at the range of Lafont’s talent via a trio of short clips from very (very!) different French films.
1000.) I continue my series on the remarkably unique work of Signore Marco Ferreri with an ep centered around two films that have barely been seen in the U.S. (in NYC the first hasn’t played AT ALL since the NYFF in ’84, and the second has played with subs exactly once at MoMA; no DVD, no VHS). The films are linked by the presence of Hanna Schyulla, whom Ferreri used in intriguing and characteristically odd ways. The first film, The Story of Piera (1983), is a rather peculiar family saga with a terrific trio of leads – Marcello Mastroianni and Hanna are the parents, with their daughter growing up to be Isabelle Huppert. The film has an unusual overlay of incest, and the plot takes rather large and curious jumps, but its central appeal lies in watching the starring trio incarnate a sporadically libidinous family (Schygulla won the Best Actress Award at Cannes for her mother-going-mental performance). The second film, The Future Is Woman (1984), follows a couple (Hanna and Niels Arestrup) who take a pregnant girl (Ornella Muti) home from a disco and begin to have threesomes with her, as the trio form a sort of odd “family.” This feature benefits from the weirdness that could only emerge when Ferreri started to depict the Euro-disco culture, and from the odd moments of female bonding (Schygulla with Muti – and with two giant papier-mache heads of Garbo and Dietrich). The cinema of Ferreri was quite unlike anything else ever unleashed upon the unsuspecting moviegoer.
1001.) Vintage show: An interview with the French filmmaker Cedric Klapisch, on the occasion of the NYC opening of his film Paris. Klapisch has specialized in the last few years in Altman-esque ensemble pieces, but he has also made a wonderful “small” character piece (When the Cat’s Away), an equally Altman-esque filmed play (Un Air de Famille), and even a sci-fi feature (Peut-etre, unreleased in the U.S.). I speak to M. Klapisch about his screenwriting, his work with noted actors (Juliette Binoche in Paris, Audrey Tautou in L’Auberge Espagnole and Russian Dolls), and the excellent work he’s done in conveying the environments his characters live in. His films are closer to Truffaut than Godard, with their chief joys being lyrical moments in which the characters “indulge” (parties, dreams, drugs, booze) and we get a sense of the cities they inhabit, from Paris to St. Petersburg.
1002.) Vintage: A lot has changed in the last 28 years since Wim Wenders decided to have his filmmaking colleagues talk to his camera on their own, in a Cannes hotel room, about “the future of cinema.” I had been looking to see the resulting short feature, Room 666, for about 25 years and now that I’ve been given a copy, I had to share it with Funhouse viewers. The film is anchored by two absolute Masters, Uncle Jean (Godard) and Michelangelo Antonioni, and a few other very noted filmmakers filed through Wenders’ hotel room in the process of his very unconventional inquiry. Given that the film is unavailable in the U.S. at the current time, I am happy to present clips from it spotlighting very different takes on Wenders’ most interesting, and always timely, question.
1003.) Vintage: Part one of my interview with innovative and influential British comic visionary Chris Morris. In this part of our chat, we discuss his feature debut as a filmmaker, Four Lions, from a number of perspectives and also touch on his radically brilliant radio and TV comedy. Topics include the darkly comic tone of Four Lions (the questions is not whether the screw-up terrorist characters will die, it’s more who among them will die and when), the film’s documentary tone, Morris’s research into real-life terrorist screw-ups, and the characters’ use of different media to spread their confused message. We close out with two questions linking the film with his past work, the first concerning his extraordinary ability to craft characters who speak nonsense with certitude, and his wonderful “vox pop” (man in the street) interviews done for radio and TV, in which he involved average English citizens (and later famous politicians and pundits) in discussions about ridiculous fictitious scourges.
1004.) I’m very happy to share entertaining discoveries in the Consumer Guide department, and none are more worthy of discussion than the comedy DVDs being put out by the UK mail-order firm Go Faster Stripe. First up is a standup performance by the comedian-actor Norman Lovett, a kind, soft-spoken older gentleman who has a way with both a seemingly-innocuous-but-altogether-sarcastic comment and dollar-store trash and treasures. Next is the thoughtful and intelligent, yet also wonderfully irreverent, exploration of the Xtian faith and its messiah by the British “podfather,” Richard Herring, titled Christ on a Bike. The featured review of the evening is of a much earlier Herring project, the 1995 BBC series Fist of Fun starring the comedy team of Lee and Herring (Rich and his then-partner, a younger and more stylish – yet still cranky – Mr. Stewart Lee). The show lasted only two seasons and was never shown in the U.S, but is a trove of great sketches and terrific cross-talk routines from Stew and Rich. It also features a talented ensemble of performers who went on to greater fame on other programs, including the versatile Kevin Eldon playing the FoF ardent “king of hobbies,” Simon Quinlank.
1005.) A belated, but I feel very necessary, Deceased Artiste tribute this week to a comedy writer who is not known by the vast majority of folk, but who traveled in some very fine company. Nelson Lyon was a purportedly larger than life gent who was prone to dark (sometimes sick) humor and was the writing partner of Michael O’Donoghue (“Mr. Mike”) on a series of bizarro scripts that were never made into movies. Lyon’s only foray into film as a writer-director was The Telephone Book (1971), an extremely odd production that is at once an urban comedy, a softcore feature, and an experimental film. The fact that the picture doesn’t quite work on all three counts makes it all the more of a true, bliss-filled Sixties film. The plot involves the search by a young woman named “Alice” (right, you got it) for “the greatest obscene phone caller in the world.” On the way she encounters a raft of characters in the streets, apartments, and subways of NYC, played by two groups of people: NY theater/sitcom actors (Barry Morse, Roger C. Carmel, William Hickey, Dolph Sweet, and Jill Clayburgh), as well as Paul Morrissey performers (Ondine, Ultra Violet, Geri Miller). The film is black and white and explodes into color (with animation) at the end and, like all the Sixties artifacts I love to share on the show, is quite unlike anything else you’ve ever seen.
1006.) Yet another screw-up at Access Central, last week’s show repeated.
1007.) Marco Ferreri has been a Funhouse favorite for close to two decades now, and I am always happy to discuss his work and premiere scenes from it on American TV. Tonight the focus is on two of his grimmer works involving sexism and feminism. The first is Harem (1967), a work that anticipates the women’s lib movement by discussing issues of female empowerment, and how guys will just mess it up anyway. The film stars Funhouse interview subject Carroll Baker as a woman who carries on several relationships simultaneously; all the men worship her, until the point that they band together and decide she needs to be… well, watch the episode. The second feature this week is Ferreri’s most memorable statement on sexism, The Last Woman. Gerard Depardieu is pitch-perfect as a big lug who falls in love with his young son’s teacher (Ornella Muti); he does love her, but he’s also sexist to the core and is not about to surrender control of the relationship to her. The conclusion of the film is even grimmer than that of Harem, and is among the most memorable moments in Seventies arthouse cinema (and Depardieu’s career).
1008.) Vintage: Much attention has been paid in the U.S. to four of the five “Cahiers possse” members of the French New Wave, but Jacques Rivette remains the mystery man of the group to American audiences. Thus, I’m very pleased to start off a series of episodes paying tribute to Rivette’s work with a little “JR 101” show, centered around clips from his 1961 debut feature Paris Belongs to Us. The film contains the elements that became Rivette’s stock-in-trade over the next half-century: plotlines that start off slowly but then escalate tension and narrative incidents; a dreamlike atmosphere that hints that the characters could well be having a dream (or a nightmare); an interest in the creative process (not the result); and, my favorite aspect, plots in which characters discover they are being “directed,” or controlled by a secret conspiracy. Paris… is a cool b&w missive from the turn of the Sixties that oddly prefigures the zeitgeist of the decade — and has a cameo by our other favorite New Wave filmmaking icon. To close out the episode, we leap ahead to 1984 with short scenes from Rivette’s Love on the Ground starring Jane Birkin and Geraldine Chaplin. The films in this and future episodes about Rivette are all commercially unavailable in the U.S.
1009.) My journey through the singularly strange and imaginative world of filmmaker Marco Ferreri continues with his late-career exploration of the “war” between men and women, La Carne (1991). I’m allotting a whole episode to discuss and show excerpts from this one, as it is quite bizarre and yet of a piece with everything else ol’ Marco committed to celluloid. The film finds a nightclub lounge pianist (who for some reason has a poundin’-the-keys, Uncle Floyd-ish approach, as he accompanies himself on kazoo) meeting the woman of his dreams, a bountiful Italian sex goddess who is educated in the art of tantric sex and inspiring an endless erection in her male partner. Moving from odd farcical situations to a darker, grimmer message about the impossibility of romantic relationships, the film features Spanish flamenco numbers and upbeat pop-rock in its score, including tunes by Wilson Phillips and Milli Vanilli (not heard on this ep), as well as Kate Bush and Queen (used wonderfully). Whether you deem him insane or a genius (aren’t they two parts of the same whole?), you can’t deny that Ferreri was one of the most consistently unpredictable filmmakers to ever wield a camera.
1010.) The market in Krazy Kristian Kitsch has gotten meager, but there is no end to the “blasphemous” materials that I can uncover for the annual Funhouse Easter celebration. This week it’s part one of a planned two-part collection of clips, with the items this week falling squarely in “slightly less blasphemous” camp. I continue my excursion into modern British comedy with two shows that address religious issues, and the Catholic church in particular, through a skewed lens. The first is the very frantic and unusual primetime cartoon Popetown, which takes place in a small, strange city surrounding the place where the Pope lives. The show was voiced and written by a great roster of comic performers, but still isn’t very funny. It does have its blasphemous moments, though, most of which are centered around a trio of mercenary cardinals (not the childlike, oddball Pope character, voiced by Ruby Wax). The second series featured on this week’s show is a bona fide landmark in UK sitcoms, the BBC series Father Ted. The show is a thoroughly Irish creation featuring broadly drawn (and brilliantly acted) characters and outlandish situations. The writing duo who created it claimed that the fact that the lead characters were all priests was simply “a profession” to toy with comedically, but there are some wonderful digs at Catholicism in the show (most of them tossed off in a matter of a line or two). The writers pointed to Fawlty Towers as a seminal influence (and The Simpsons, oddly enough), and that is evident in the high energy and sudden outbursts of comic violence (and the occasional Nazi).
1011.) Each year on Easter I present material that is either “blasphemous” in nature or is some form of strange Xtian entertainment. This year I opt for the former, as I once again acknowledge the fine accomplishments of our friends “across the pond” in England. First up is a “consumer guide” review of a recent DVD release of the short films of Nigel Wingrove (the found of the Redemption video label). Wingrove’s work reminds me of two Kens – it is delirious like Anger, and soundly, artistically blasphemous like Russell. I shine the spotlight on his short “Visions of Ecstasy,” an erotic, dialogue-less retelling of the story of St. Theresa, including the moment when she mounted Our Lord. After that I return to British comedy with a bit more of Lee and Herring and their own twisted take on the Lamb of God. There is no better way to celebrate the resurrection, I guarantee you that.
1012.) The Consumer Guide returns this week, with three reviews of recent releases on disc. First up is the landmark French documentary Chronicle of a Summer by Jean Rouch and Edgar Morin. Although the term “cinema verite” is used in the film’s opening narration, it isn’t a “fly on the wall” study of its subjects. Instead it’s a fascinating, nearly schizophrenic picture that is both emotional (Morin’s influence) and stylish (Rouch), the kind of thing you’d get when a sociologist and an anthropologist make a film right at the flowering of the French New Wave. Next up is Cronenberg’s Cosmopolis. Uneven but frequently compelling, the film has a lot to say about corporate America and “the current climate” – and yes, it does star the “Twilight guy” (so if you were ever wondering if I would show “R-Patz” clips, you’ve got your wish). And I end with Hal Hartley’s Trust, a perfect indie movie that features great direction, terrific performances, and just marvellous dialogue.
1013.) Following my multi-episode tribute to Funhouse fave Marco Ferreri, I introduce a new series of episodes saluting perhaps the single most imaginative and thought-provoking documentarian currently working, Adam Curtis. Curtis is a master of the long-form essay who transforms found footage and talking-heads interviews into multi-part BBC docus that are both dreamlike odysseys through modern history and razor-sharp studies that connect the dots between what seem like disparate events. The first episode in this series consists of a discussion of, and scenes from, the first half of his 2002 miniseries The Century of the Self, which charts the connections between psychology, marketing, and politics. The series begins with a focus on Edward Bernays, the nephew of Sigmund Freud, who coined the term “public relations” and used his uncle’s theories to sell people things they didn’t need (touted by movie stars and featured in falsely “empowering” ad campaigns). The jump from convincing women to smoke to CIA brain-washing is a very clear one, at least the way that Curtis depicts it, and both his taste in found footage and playful use of music fits the Funhouse “aesthetic” perfectly.
1014.) The Consumer Guide is in session once more as I review three recent DVD releases. First up is Robert Altman’s That Cold Day in the Park, an underseen gem that proves his filmmaking style was fully formed before he made M*A*S*H. The moody, atmospheric thriller/character study, basically a reworking of The Collector with the genders switched, stars Sandy Dennis as a repressed “spinster” who imprisons a mute hippie boy. Next up is Powell and Pressburger’s The Life and Death of Col. Blimp. The new Criterion release features wonderfully enthusiastic supplements containing Scorsese and his editor Thelma Schoonmaker (also Powell’s widow) rhapsodizing over the film. It’s far from my favorites of Powell’s work, but the camerawork and scripting are unforgettable. Closing out the show is my review of the new Criterion of Terrence Malick’s Badlands, which is one of the most perfect artifacts to emerge from the early Seventies “maverick” period in Hollywood. The lead performances are indelible, the use of music and voiceover narration is exemplary, the cinematography gorgeous, and the film’s study of a charismatic, insane killer never, ever dates.
1015.) I return this week to the work of British documentarian Adam Curtis with the second of two episodes discussing his brilliant miniseries The Century of the Self. Curtis is a master at utilizing found footage and “connecting the dots” in recent history, most especially that of the U.S. In the second half of Self, he explores the point in the Sixties when Freud’s view of psychology fell out of favor, and Wilhelm Reich’s theories came into prominence. Thus the three-headed monster Curtis introduced in the first two episodes of the series – psychology, public relations, and politics – is solidified in the second half as we watch the New Left’s (ultimately failed) attempt to “remove the controls” holding us back, while the concepts of “self-actualization” (we are talkin’ Werner Erhard) and “lifestyle marketing” took hold. Curtis’ films are both enlightening and uniquely entertaining; thus I’m glad to “premiere” clips from his work on American TV.
1016.) Remember a time when PBS was filled with edgy, sometimes controversial arts programming and wasn’t just a home for deadly dry docus and pledge-drive shows with musical artists playing their hits for geriatic boppers? It hasn’t been that way for about two decades now, but in the Sixties and Seventies, PBS was the viewer’s only choice for arts shows, and they delivered some gems. Among them is the focus of this week’s episode, a 1966 production of Tennessee Williams’ Ten Blocks on the Camino Real. The play was written in 1946 and follows an American drifter, “Kilroy,” as he wanders into an unnamed Latin American town and encounters a series of characters, all of whom are characters from classic fiction or history (Esmerelda, Casanova, Camille, Casper Gutman). The cast, led by a young Martin Sheen, is sublime, with Lotte Lenya and the wonderful Janet Margolin outstanding as the predatory gypsy mother and daughter (the other three leads are Hurd Hatfield, Carrie Nye, and Albert Dekker). The play is an allegory that is open to interpretation, but since it was written in ’46 and much of it concerns the ways in which Kilroy *used* to be a “champion” but is now past his prime and lost in a landscape he can’t comprehend, I’m willing to content the entire dream-play is a bold statement by Williams about America’s place in the world post-WWII (when everyone in the U.S. believed the country was at the peak of its popularity and strength).
1017.) In my third episode about the incredibly informative (and highly imaginative) work of the British documentarian Adam Curtis, I discuss and show scenes from his miniseries The Power of Nightmares. In this series Curtis explores the concept of modern-day politicians ruling through fear – as a through line, he discusses how the philosophies of two educators, Leo Strauss and Sayyid Kotb, gave rise to, respectively, the Neoconservative movement and the Muslim Brotherhood. Curtis charts how both philosophies have changed the world (and not for the better), while curiously agreeing on a number of points. In the process, he shows how we wound up where we are, and once again offers another fascinating filmic essay on the concept of “control” and the hidden forces that have swayed political opinion – with the deft use of archival footage and a playful approach to the musical soundtrack.
1018.) Supplying a sort of missing link in the ever-evolving tapestry of top-notch humor featured on the Funhouse, this week I salute the brilliant work of columnist/scripter/humorist/cranky middle-aged man Charlie Brooker by discussing, and showing scenes from, his peerless “Newswipe” series. The guiding principle of these series (which alternate with year-end specials) is to offer a perceptive, thought-provoking, and acidly sarcastic critique of the news media, as well as the worst moments in popular culture (with the occasional high point singled out as well). The difference between Brooker’s work and other news parodies (from Not the Nine O’Clock News and the genius of The Day Today to our own Stewart and Colbert) is that Brooker hosts the program from his apartment (or a set made up to look like his apartment) and assumes the role of a viewer pointing out the trends and tropes in news reporting. He also has devoted segments to really fascinating, wholly serious presentations by journalists, social historians, and even a stray scientist or two, revealing the stories “behind” the ridiculous 24/7 news coverage. Among his many contributors are the very funny, take-no-prisoners standup Doug Stanhope (whom Brooker introduces as “American miserablist and drunk Doug Stanhope”) and the documentarian Adam Curtis (and yes, that’s how yours truly was first exposed to Curtis’s extraordinary work).
1019.) I like nothing better than sharing the objects of my obsession, and this week I’m able to delve into two of them, via the BBC miniseries All Watched Over By Machines of Loving Grace. The first is the work of brilliant documentarian Adam Curtis, who made All Watched Over…., and the second is poet-novelist Richard Brautigan, my favorite author, whom I have never yet mentioned on the show (more on him in a second). For those arriving late to the party, Curtis’s work is thought-provoking and entertaining; his use of archival footage is inventive and often slyly satiric, as is his sublime work in scoring his documentaries with pop music. Unlike the two previous works by Curtis I’ve previously discussed on the show, All Watched Over… consists of three separate, hour-long installments that have overlapping concerns, but stand on their own as separate films. On this episode I tackle only the first two films, starting with Curtis’ initial concentration on the writing, and deeply devoted cult, of “scary” novelist Ayn Rand. Curtis shows the ways in which Rand’s philosophy of Objectivism inspired the Silicon Valley entrepreneurs, as well as Federal Reserve chairman Alan Greenspan. He shows this as a major contributing factor in the impressive Nineties boom (where there appears to have been nothing behind the curtain of sheer prosperity) and the eventual economic bust. The second film focuses on the ways in which those founding the science of cybernetics depended on the “self-correcting” model of the ecosystem – a model that was eventually found to be completely faulty. In this installment Curtis explains the show’s title by discussing, and visualizing, Brautigan’s poem of the same title. It’s a short segment, but any opportunity for me to share work by both Curtis and Brautigan could not be passed up….
1020.) He’s still pretty much entirely unheard of in the U.S., but I believe the British standup Stewart Lee to be one of the best comics currently working. Thus, I’m glad to keep the Funhouse audience aware of his work as it appears on disc – tonight, I present a discussion of, and the U.S. TV debut of clips from, his recent two-hour standup show Carpet Remnant World. Lee’s longer sets are very hard to analyze (and even harder to excerpt), but I think I’ve done right by this latest, sprawling set that includes Stew’s takes on various topics, from Western audiences’ desire to see anti-Muslim comedy, to the new (clueless) audience he’s acquired thanks to his BBC series Stewart Lee’s Comedy Vehicle, to the fact that he’s run out of comic inspiration because he’s been spending all his time driving around doing comedy gigs and taking care of his two kids. Thus, he produces the best-ever routine about the political dimensions of a Scooby-Doo cliché and wanders off from this topic, only to solidly land back where he began.
1021.) In the Consumer Guide department this week, I review two items having to do with Funhouse favorites, and a recently released box set that unleashes the collected work of a gent who surely would’ve been a long-standing favorite, had his films been in distribution on these shores before last year. First up, it’s the first official release of a classic concert video featuring Frank Zappa and one of the finest iterations of the Mothers. A Token of His Extreme was a TV special that never aired here in the U.S., but became fodder for bootleggers (even Zappa himself excerpted it on one of his mail-order VHS compilations); it features a wonderful fusion, of rock, jazz, and the trademark humor and “strange-person behavior” that characterized Frank’s lyrics. Next up is In Another Country, Korean filmmaker Hong Sang-Soo’s meditation on storytelling starring the exquisitely talented Isabelle Huppert. In the film we see three stories, all of which feature Huppert as “the French visitor” to a seaside Korean town; the behavior is similar in the three tales, and Sang-soo plays with notions of identity and “foreign-ness” (the film is set in Korea, the star is French, everyone speaks English). Lastly, I review the Pierre Etaix box from the Criterion Collection. Etaix is a masterful comedian whose body of work comprises four feature and three shorts, all made in the Sixties. I discuss his amazing career and the hallmarks of his impressive directorial technique – and since the comic features all aired recently on TCM, I will be doting on the two documentaries in the box. One is the film that sadly killed his career, a documentary study of the French on vacation, released in 1971, and the other is a profile of Etaix made by his wife that includes his reflections on the great American movie comedians, as well as comments about his friend, Jerry Lewis.
1022.) Repeat of last week’s show due to screw-up in Access HQ.
1023.) Each year I turn “another year older and deeper in debt” and so I offer up things I dearly love (I obviously love *everything* I’m showing on the program, but some items are longstanding objects of obsession). This year I’m discussing and airing clips from a show that was oddly formative in terms of my youth – as a kid I loved the classic movie comedians (Chaplin, Laurel and Hardy, Fields, Marx) and had encountered the mind-warping darkness of the National Lampoon Radio Hour, but there was nothing like the latter on TV (primetime appearances by Carlin, Pryor, and Klein not being as raw as their records). In 1975 I saw an episode of the PBS series Soundstage called “60 Minutes to Kill” that completely turned my head around. It starred Martin Mull with special guests Flo and Eddie, and was a very different kind of comedy than I’d encountered before – smart, deadpan, and wonderfully, lethally sarcastic. I memorized an audio recording I had of the show, but could NOT find a video copy of the show for the past 35 years (it aired last on WNET in the late Seventies). In the past few months I obtained not one but two copies of it (one with great audio, one with great picture – now combined), and thus this week you’ll be seeing clips on NYC TV from a program that has not aired since Carter was president. Mull has his “Fabulous Furniture” and a full band onstage with him, as he runs through a number of his strangest and best songs, while Flo and Eddie openly mock the hell out of their fellow rockers. The show is not just a concert recording – there are sketches, a fake talk show, and even spoof commercials. I consider it a kind of landmark in comedy music on Seventies TV, but obviously most folks haven’t seen it. Viewers of the Funhouse will get a glimpse this week.
1024.) I’ve had incredibly favorable feedback about the series of programs I’ve done discussing, and featuring scenes from, the work of British documentarian Adam Curtis. This has been gratifying, but also has justified the order in which I’ve discussed his films, because I wanted to carefully lead up to his one-of-a-kind 2009 self-contained meditation on America, the essay/dream/clipophile’s delight It Felt Like a Kiss. Here Curtis dispenses with his customary narration and leaves us to view the clips with Godardian intertitles guiding us through the American landscape in the late Fifties and early Sixties. Curtis is a master of “connecting the dots” between disparate events, and here he creates a vision of our country that “stars” Rock Hudson, Saddam Hussein, Lee Harvey Oswald, Doris Day, Enos the Chimp, and “everyone above level 7 in the CIA.” Thus, for this one work, Curtis lets his archivist instincts go wild and stitches together an overwhelming journey into American life, politics, and pop culture that shows how America’s activity in the Fifties and Sixties led to the political turmoil of the Seventies through to the present. I’m especially happy to be discussing and giving this docu its American TV debut because it dovetails so many themes I’ve tackled on the Funhouse in the past two decades: the influence of Jean-Luc Godard (Curtis uses the music from Contempt and Uncle Jean’s Histoire(s) du Cinema intertitling); the socially conscious yet playful works of Chris Marker; the pop-culture rabbit-hole that is the Sixties; the underground filmmakers who used pop music as soundtracks for their work (the Kuchar Brothers and most especially Kenneth Anger); the Tennessee Williams play Camino Real that offers a metaphorical view of a rootless, post-war America buried in myths; and not forgetting my interview with Mark Rappaport about sexual and political subtexts in Hollywood features of the Fifties and Sixties.
1025.) The last (for now) episode in my series of shows about the work of British documentarian Adam Curtis is this week’s discussion of the second half of Curtis’ 2009 essay/dream/clipophile’s delight It Felt Like a Kiss. Here Curtis dispenses with his trademark narration to present a meditation on the ways in which America set out to “remake” the world, with the focus on the decade from 1959-’69. Curtis’ usual inclination to dig deep in the BBC archives and come up with the most eye-catching footage is on display here, as he creates a sequence of blissful “music videos” encapsulating points about American life, politics, and pop culture. The film ties together a number of themes I’ve been discussing on the Funhouse for years, from the influence of Godard and Anger on modern filmmakers to the subtexts in Golden Age Hollywood films (and the erosion of the American “empire”). In this segment of the film (which aired on the BBC in prime time, as all of Curtis’ works have), we not only hear from an author who I’ve paid tribute to a *lot* on the Funhouse, but Curtis also lets loose and crafts a brilliant sequence of fast images to go with one of the greatest pop recordings of all time. The result is an “explosion” that can be put in the company of some of the most mind-warping television ever – followed by yet another absorbing montage set to one of the most wonderfully depressing pop songs of all time. There are very few really brilliant “essayists” working in film these days, and Curtis is one of the best.
1026.) I take pride in presenting a wide range of material on the Funhouse, and nowhere is that range more apparent than in the “Consumer Guide” department. This week I’ll be reviewing three recent DVD releases that are widely disparate, but are linked by the fact that I have discussed their creators (or their casts) before on the show. First up is Joseph Losey’s film of Don Giovanni (1979), a feature that shows the master director tackling the many difficulties that opera presents to filmmakers and producing a fascinating, eye-(and ear-)filling work. Next up is Mike Leigh’s delightful Life Is Sweet (1990), a feature from Leigh’s “abrasive” period (read: pre–Secrets and Lies), in which he blended cartoonlike characters and starkly realistic situations and locations – the result is both deeply moving and very funny. I close out with the new mega-box of The Many Loves of Dobie Gillis (1959-63). The show was the antidote to the sickly sweet family shows of the Fifties, offering a new view of teenage life in which both passion (read: lust, all cleaned up for TV) and money were the central factors. Dobie boasted TV’s first beatnik hero (Bob Denver’s Maynard G. Krebs), sharply satiric writing from the show’s creator (the late, great humorous novelist Max Shulman), and the most desirable greedy princess in TV history, Thalia Menninger, embodied by the luscious and talented Tuesday Weld.
1027.) In my various surveys of recent vintage British comedy I have yet to salute the many funny women in the UK (I am not Jerry Lewis!). This week I pay tribute to the work of Julia Davis, a versatile comic actress (she starred in Chris Morris’ Jam and worked with Coogan, Iannucci, Brooker, and Graham Linehan), who as a scripter crafts dark, often sick humor. Her 2012 series Hunderby is a subtly nasty creation that spoofs classic novels of the Jane Eyre/Rebecca school while introducing a host of “innocent” and predatory characters. Perhaps the most outrageous is Kevin Eldon’s hunchback rapist, but Davis took the plum role for herself – she is the always-present, ever-creepy servant who knows all of the “secrets” of the house she tends to. The humor in the show ranges from extremely quiet and underplayed to the occasional gross-out joke, but it all works towards the final goal of parodying this very familiar type of novel (and movie).
1028.) You may not know his name, but you know Howard Kaylan’s voice. He was the lead singer of the Turtles (where he sang the indelible, unforgettable “Happy Together”), had a short but productive stay in the Mothers of Invention, and then formed the genre-busting comedy-rock act “Flo and Eddie” with his friend and partner in parody Mark Volman. In the first of a few episodes I’m preparing from our interview, I speak to Howard this week about his recent memoir Shell Shocked and the reasons why he chose to write an autobiography at this moment in his life. We go on to discuss the immense popularity of the Turtles (including an extremely crazy “command” performance for Tricia Nixon at the White House – *every* detail would be different these days) and the search to find a follow-up to “Happy Together.” This culminated in the Turtles’ wittiest, catchiest slam at pop music (the wonderful “Elenore”). Also: Howard talks about memorable moments spent with the late, great Warren Zevon, whose songs were never giant hits for the Turtles, but who benefited quite a lot by one of their helpful decisions….
1029.) One of the joys of doing “consumer guide” review shows is connecting the dots between individuals whose work I’ve discussed before on the show. This time out, I turn once more to releases from the UK mail-order company called Go Faster Stripe. First up is Richard Herring’s What Is Love, Anyway? a themed show about the mental illness called love that is both cynical and sentimental by turns (Herring’s disparaging term for children is delightful). Next up is Jokes I Have Known by Scottish standup Arnold Brown. The ultra-deadpan and very funny Brown was a contemporary and colleague of the Young Ones/French and Saunders crew at the Comic Strip in London and has been cited as an important influence by various Funhouse favorites including Herring and Stewart Lee. Speaking of those two, I close out with a review of, and clips from, Fist of Fun Series 2, the four-disc set that presents a pristine (and legal) look at the second and final season of Lee and Herring’s prime time BBC series. Included: some great comedy-team verbal shtick, odd characters, and a ridiculously memorable mock-tagline.
1030.) The incredible output of the DVD label Olive Films is saluted this week in the Consumer Guide department. Olive has been releasing a lot of really great films from a number of different genres, different eras, and different countries. To illustrate the range of the material they put out this week I review four items they put out in a three-week span (three of the four were actually released on one day). First up is the Korean war drama Retreat, Hell! (1952); I’m not a war-movie fan by any means, but when Joseph H. Lewis was the director, the resulting film naturally was a cut above that normally very tired genre. On to Reuben, Reuben (1983), a charming comedy-drama about a drunken, lascivious Scottish poet who has been reduced to living off his diminishing reputation; the lead character is superbly incarnated by Tom Conti. I move backward in time to the uncategorizable cult film Shanks (1974), directed by William Castle. Part horror film, part comedy, and part children’s picture, the film is a “grim fairy tale” that boasts Marcel Marceau in two starring roles and some very grim plot developments concealed in a lighthearted shell. I close off with one of my all-time faves, The Magic Christian (1969). The brainchild of American humorist extraordinaire Terry Southern, the film offers us the sight of millionaire Peter Sellers (and his chummy sidekick, adopted son Ringo Starr) trying to discover what people’s “price” is. Constructed as a series of episodes, the film is very much of its time, but also has something to say to our own (even greedier) era. It also is quite strange at moments, has a grand roster of guest stars, and is very funny to boot.
1031.) On the occasion of the death of Seventies big screen icon Karen Black, I present a slightly retooled airing of part one of my 2000 interview with her. It was one of the most lively discussions I’ve ever had, in that it started out on the wrong foot – mentioning a film that she was trying to disown, in order to reduce her age – and Ms. Black’s responses veered sharply between refreshingly unstinting honesty and a not-very-hidden contempt for the question. In the process, though, I did get her to comment on: one of my all-time fave cute NYC pics, Coppola’s You’re a Big Boy Now; the place of improvisation in the BBS films (Easy Rider, Five Easy Pieces, Drive, He Said); the American Film Theater version of Ionesco’s Rhinoceros; the immortal 1975 TV-movie Trilogy of Terror; and two bigger-budgeted literary adaptations she starred in, The Great Gatsby and The Day of the Locust. I have edited out (now, as I did then) her subsequent discussion of what makes for good literature – she was decidedly anti-Nathaniel West, despite my protestations to the contrary. (His genius-level dark vision was likely at odds with her avowed devotion to Scientology, but yrs truly somehow lacked that key piece of info.)
1032.) In the second and final part of my interview with Karen Black from the year 2000, she warmed up a bit and thus came some really good answers to my specific questions about her acting. We start out in this episode talking about Nashville and the way in which Altman let actors spontaneously create their roles. We move on to a film she made only a few months later, Hitchcock’s last film Family Plot. From there we move back to Altman and her memories of how he directed his casts in both the Broadway and screen versions of Come Back to the Five and Dime, Jimmy Dean, Jimmy Dean. We then talk about her ad-libbing a character for Henry Jaglom and then it’s on to the “present,” in which she negates an entire decade of her work, mentions two indie titles she is proud of, and speaks about her forays into scripting and her intended move to directing (which never occurred). My chat with Ms. Black was indeed difficult in several ways, but when she was forthcoming she gave me some refreshingly candid insights about acting in both major features and indie/horror micro-budgeted movies.
1033.) It’s Labor Day weekend, and so I return to the endless fount of fascination that is Mr. Jerry Lewis. This year I focus on the “Day the Clown Cried” cult, talking about the latest “developments” involving this unseen film, which this year at Cannes was declared an embarrassment by Jerry, but which he expressed true pride in back in 2009. I’ll discuss this odd disparity, while also talking about where Jerry’s head was as a filmmaker around “Clown”-time. That means a discussion of Which Way to the Front? (1970), Jer’s WWII comedy. The film has a number of odd anachronisms and has the pacing and visual tropes of a Seventies “TV Movie of the Week” (and the drive-in pics of Ted V. Mikels). It contains two scenes that I like a lot and others involving Nazis that sort of pale in the light of this movie made two years earlier (Mel Brooks’ The Producers). I move from low-tech film clips (yes, the copy of Front is on a VHS tape from the Eighties) to a high-tech one that can be found on the Internet, for which I’ve been searching for years (and which has curiously had no light shone upon it by Jer-addicts on the Net). My shows on Jerry divide my audience, which is fine when it comes to the life and work of the once and future Mr. Labor Day.
1034.) In an overstuffed Consumer Guide episode, I tackle three terrific items that directly correspond to things I’ve shown before on the Funhouse. The first is an event, the “Complete Howard Hawks” festival happening out at the Museum of the Moving Image in Astoria. Over three dozen of Hawks’ superb films are being shown over two months, all on film, from the absolute classics (screwball comedies, Westerns, thrillers, war pics, prison pics, Fifties paranoid horror, and a musical!) to intriguing titles that have gotten “lost” over the years (when it came to DVD releases and cable showings). Next up is the DVD release called “Early Fassbinder” from the Eclipse arm of Criterion. Included are five of RWF’s films from his early “boom years” of 1969-70; it’s not a “beginner’s set” of his works, but those who’ve seen his more popular titles will love the sparseness, movie-loving citations, and (natch) emotional cruelty on display. I close out with the new DVD release of the complete run of Armando Iannucci’s The Thick of It. Harkening back to the classic screwball comedies in terms of pacing (conceptual continuity!), the show is without peer in terms of its satire of governmental “spin” and the extremely petty side of politics. The character of Malcolm Tucker, played by Peter Capaldi (soon to be the new Doctor Who), is one of the great TV characters of the 21st century, an unabashed verbal bully with a Scottish burr and a definite way with an obscene insult. Watch me juggle these three elements, each of which could have been an entire show – but it’s more lively this way.
1035.) The second part of my interview with the “rock raconteur,” Mr. Howard Kaylan, covers his years with Frank Zappa as co-lead vocalist (with his once and future partner Mark Volman) of the Mothers of Invention. Howard discusses the fine art of making Frank laugh before talking about the disciplined-yet-totally-random shooting of the film 200 Motels. He also speaks about the fine art of performing for “oldies” audiences these days and the reason why he and Mark became Flo and Eddie. Will Howard reveal the secret “groupie game” that Eric Burdon told him about? Tune in and see!
1036.) I return to the work of the brilliant British humorist Charlie Brooker with another discussion of, and clips from, his razor-sharp “Newswipe” shows. Most admirable about Brooker’s dissection of the news: his ongoing discussions of the actual process of news-gathering on television, jokes made at the expense of all leaders (including the popular ones, perceived to be on the Left), and his willingness to let the jokes disappear for several minutes at a time (with no studio audience – because we at home know when to laugh…). In this episode I spotlight those aspects, as well as contributions from the impeccably no-nonsense American standup Doug Stanhope (described as by Brooker “miserabilist and drunk”), documentarian Adam Curtis, and two wonderful (fictional) media-commentators who exist solely in the “Wipe” universe.
1037.) The third installment of my interview with Howard Kaylan is a very special one, in that we only briefly discuss the music business and instead talk about his favorite comedians. This is the kind of conversation I always *want* to have with my interview subjects (i.e., what they’re fans of), but usually jettison because of time constraints. We start out with closing remarks about Howard’s period in the Mothers, and then swiftly move on to a seminal childhood experience for him – his mother bringing him to a live taping of The Phil Silvers Show (“Bilko” to devotees everywhere). We next talk about his meetings with one of his biggest heroes, the great Stan Freberg, and move on to his good friend and bringer of truths, George Carlin. We close out with my favorite segment from our interview, Howard discussing getting high with the one and only Soupy Sales. The best part of this chat for me (besides the actual talk itself)? I got to sift through great footage of the abovementioned comedians to find appropriate clips with which to punctuate the interview. We return to discussions of pop and rock in the next part of my interview with Howard, but for now, it’s “Comedy Tonight!”
1038.) In the Consumer Guide this week I return to releases from the UK mail-order DVD label Go Faster Stripe. First up is a musical comedian, Boothby Graffoe (impeccable name – that of a small English town, not the gent’s birth moniker). Graffoe does do jokes and observations, but he excels at musical humor, conjuring up catchy melodies for his skewed view of life. Next up is Robin Ince, a standup who has staked out a new territory doing science-related humor in his act. The resulting show, “Happiness Through Science,” is a potpourri of rationalist comedy and fun, down-to-earth explanations of concepts that may or may not boggle the mind. I close out with Simon Munnery, he of the odd and brilliant TV series, Attention Scum. Munnery’s latest DVD is Fylm-Makker, his concept show featuring jokes, notions, low-low-budget animation, songs, and (his specialty) curious and brilliant aphorisms. The label “alternative comedy” has been affixed to all three of the comics in tonight’s line-up (they’ve all appeared in a Stewart Lee-hosted UK show with that phrase in the title), but that simply means they’re smart folk who don’t talk down to their audience. Have no fear: sporadic bursts of anatomy-based material are not lost in the process.
1039.) There was only one intersection of Tennessee Williams, Douglas Sirk, and Rainer Werner Fassbinder, and that was Bourbon Street Blues, a short which is the sole subject of this week’s episode. The film was shot in 1977 while Sirk was teaching filmmaking in Munich. He chose to adapt Williams’ “The Lady of Larkspur Lotion” with RWF in the lead male role. Thus you have Fassbinder present in a Sirkian landscape (in this case the confines of a rooming house in New Orleans) – the student following the teacher’s direction. To my knowledge, the short has never been shown on these shores (most certainly not in NYC) with English subs; since I shot the host segments for this episode a digitally pixilated version of the subtitled copy I am showing has appeared on YT – it looks pretty bad. It’ll be much clearer on the show.
1040.) This vintage ep is a re-assembled version of the original airing, with clearer copies of the material: This week it’s a series that is as innovative as hell and about as darkly humored as you can get, but which aired on “Auntie” BBC back in 2000. The show is Jam, its creator was Chris Morris, and it was an outgrowth of one of the strangest radio series ever committed to tape. Blue Jam, its 1997-1999 radio predecessor, was an uncategorizable comedy series that Morris referred to as “ambient stupidity.” The show brilliantly blended a number of elements in a thoroughly original style: sketches that were the height of black humor, all delivered in a dreamy, deadpan style; monologues by Morris in which he played a character trapped in a different surreal dilemma each week; jarring interludes that included his trademark prank interviews and indelibly whimsical eviscerations of music radio; and songs that fit the dream-like (or is that nightmare?) mood. For the 2000 TV adaptation of the series, Morris had to evoke the “trance”-like mode of the radio series in a visual fashion, and so he shot the sketches, which feature a small ensemble of actors playing all the roles, in a highly stylized manner that immediately affects the viewer on a sensory level, long before the funny bone has even been touched. In this episode, I offer segments from a show that could only be described as “Terry Southern meets Ken Nordine [or the Firesign Theater, depending on your taste] meets David Lynch in a dark garage, while a very spaced-out and resourceful DJ spins in the background.” As Morris intones at the outset of every episode, “Welcome in… Jam.”