This Day in Death

4.5.14: Comedian John Pinette – DEAD!

Filed under: Dead —James @ 5:14 pm April 21, 2014

JOHN_PINETTEWho still wears a wristwatch? What are you, a bank robber in an 80s heist movie?

 

Being able to make someone laugh is an admirable skill, and someday I hope to give it a try myself. The most immediate route to getting that sweet rush of artistic validation is to try stand-up comedy, but unfortunately that game can be really intimidating until you develop your own unique lowbrow gimmick. Luckily all you really need is one easily digestible physical characteristic that the flyover states can feel good about, and then you just wring the holy living hell out of it on your personal rocket ride to Yuktown (Yuktown is in outer space). You could be a cute woman who says outrageous and unexpectedly sexual things, like Sarah Silverman. Or you could be a cute woman who says outrageous and unexpectedly sexual things, like Whitney Cummings. Or what about being a cute woman who says outrageous and unexpectedly sexual things, like Natasha Leggero? Perhaps you could blaze a brave new trail by being a cute woman who says outrageous and unexpectedly sexual things, like Amy Schumer. Or you could just have severe brain trauma, like Russel Brand. Pioneers, one and all.

Of course, if you have a functioning frontal lobe and a penis, then congratulations! Just in general it’s pretty great, not to mention that it really raises your dating stock. But it also means that your comedic path is even clearer: Get wild-ass, no regrets fat. Gabriel Iglesias, Ralphie May, Artie Lange… these are guys who “got” it. Just treat your body like it’s storing up supplies for nuclear winter and before you know it the jokes will practically be running through your veins. And they’ll have plenty of room to move, since your heart will have already decided not to bother trying to pump blood anymore.

Such was the career arc of longtime fat-centric comic John Pinette, who’s died at the age of 50. Oh. Well then, maybe don’t listen to my advice after all. Sorry for not reading ahead, now all the hate mail seems pretty justified.

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2.12.14: Comedy Legend Sid Caesar – DEAD!

Filed under: Dead —James @ 9:48 am February 17, 2014

SID_CAESARI don’t care if you’re a comedy icon, I’m not taking you seriously until you fix that hat.

 

Sid Caesar, the legendary comedian behind the massively influential Your Show of Shows, has died at the age of 91. Your Show of Shows aired on Saturday nights during the 1950s, and featured 90 minutes of live comedy every week. It was a lot like Saturday Night Live, except that if a sketch went on for seven minutes they’d usually opt to throw a second joke in there at some point.

Despite his success, by the age of 30 Caesar was a self-hating, pill-popping, alcoholic mess, because apparently a lot of comedy types are actually just using humor to mask their deep, personal demons. Not me, though. I’m zen as a Chinese dentist over here. It’s all about facing your troubles before they get out of control. For instance, I used to get bullied every day in high school, probably for being so handsome and likeable that I intimidated the entire football team. Plus, some of the other kids didn’t realize that when girls would spit on me it wasn’t out of disgust, but rather because they’d start drooling in my presence and needed to eject the excess saliva immediately. It’s a perfectly healthy physiological reaction, but you try getting a bunch of teenagers to understand the nuts and bolts of how oral hygiene works. Anyway, that kind of trauma could really mess somebody up, but years later I learned to cope with it by following high school students home and beating them with a potato sack full of D batteries in their sleep. Sometimes I’d even try to mix in some comedy for them by saying things like, “Tell your parents it was assault and… BATTERY!” Although to be honest I bet they rarely ever do it. Kids just don’t respond to puns nowadays.

“If you want to find the ur-texts of ‘The Producers’ and ‘Blazing Saddles,’ of ‘Sleeper’ and ‘Annie Hall,’ of ‘All in the Family’ and ‘M*A*S*H’ and ‘Saturday Night Live,’ “ Frank Rich wrote in The New York Times when he was its chief theater critic, “check out the old kinescopes of Sid Caesar.”

Oh, I’m sure they’re great, but you’d have to have suffered some kind of potato sack-induced brain trauma if you think I’m gonna go track down kinescope recordings in 2014. I give up on trying to YouTube something if the autocomplete doesn’t know what I’m looking for by the time I’ve entered the first five characters, there’s no way I’m gonna try to figure out how to load giant reels of hyper-fragile film into the kind of medieval machinery they made the first Iron Man suit out of. Hell, I’m not even sure where I’d find that stuff. If I had to guess I’d say Detroit public school classrooms, but I believe all the roads into Michigan are pretty firmly under the control of merciless warlords by now.


Source: The NY Times

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8.31.13: Sir David Frost – DEAD!

Filed under: Dead —James @ 8:42 am September 4, 2013

DAVID_FROSTHey, guess who I never knew had been knighted: Bill Gates. Of course, it was rescinded following the release of Windows Vista, but for three glorious months that man got free luxury shampooing at any car wash in the greater Yorkshire area.

 

Journalist, comedian and author Sir David Frost is dead this week after suffering a heart attack while on a cruise ship, proving what I’ve always said: Shuffleboard is entirely too stimulating. All those disks sliding every which way, who wouldn’t get a bit of a contact high?

Frost is perhaps best known for his 1977 series of interviews with former President Richard Nixon, which became increasingly contentious and, on the final day of taping, actually devolved into a hand-tied knife fight, a la the “Beat It” music video. Unfortunately television stations in the UK chose not to air that part and instead opted for a marathon of British comedy series A Right Cracking Dobber. It was no What’s All This, Then?, but it had its moments.

There are plenty of talk show hosts today who are quick witted and convivial, and there are still a few who do long, serious interviews about world affairs with statesmen, not just starlets.

Mr. Frost did it all, on both sides of the ocean, and made it seem effortless.

A true talent and a sad loss. But this does, however, bump me up the list of most esteemed living journalists who also tell jokes (or at least manufacture a joke-like paste in blog form). You’re next in my sights, Stewart, Colbert, and whoever’s currently hosting Weekend Update! Wait, it’s not Bobby Moynihan, is it? I really don’t know what to do about that guy’s face anymore. Stop making me think I saw John Belushi out of my periphery, kid!

 

Source: The NY Times

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6.16.13: Second City Co-Founder Bernie Sahlins – DEAD!

Filed under: Dead —James @ 8:26 pm July 1, 2013

BERNARD_SAHLINSSahlins poses with lighthearted 70s comedy troupe Zanytown, whose playful skewering of societal norms inadvertently resulted in the wrongful imprisonment of more than 400 legal immigrants. It’s a pretty funny story, I’ll tell you guys about it another time.

 

Over its 54-year history Chicago’s Second City theater has given birth to countless brilliant and talented comedic legends, as well as Rachel Dratch. It’s become a comedy lynchpin, like pushing a diabetic down a staircase. It’s just something all us comedy folk go through at some point. Sadly, Bernie Sahlins, co-founder of the theater, died last month of pancreatic cancer. You know, they say the best humor comes from real life, so if cancer gets your sides all asplittin’, congratulations: You’re not actually a cruel human being with no sense of empathy, you’re a cruel comedy visionary with no sense of empathy.

“This was still the Beat generation, and we started out to found a coffee house where we idlers, including the actors whom we had with for years, could loll around and put the world in its proper place.”

But The Second City caught on within months of opening, despite some early money problems and other issues, and it became instrumental in the growth and development of improvisational and sketch comedy.

“Improv.” We in the industry just call it “improv,” as we don’t have time for a bunch of extra syllables nobody’s gonna read anyway. Improv combines the visual thrill of watching people knock on doors that aren’t there with the narrative cohesion of just flat-out making shit up on the spot. It’s like watching a five-year old trying to get out of trouble for knocking over a houseplant. I mean, sure, I don’t preplan anything around here either, but that’s because of good old sturdy, tried and true American laziness, not some kind of postmodern experimental fartsniffing. Way too heady, if you ask me. What was the problem with slurs against the Irish and a simple spinning bowtie? That was comedy everyone could get behind. Except the Irish, I guess.


Source: Variety

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4.11.13: Comedian Jonathan Winters – DEAD!

Filed under: Dead —James @ 7:52 am April 15, 2013

JONATHAN_WINTERSAbove, forward, even diagonal… that motherfucker could point at *anything.*

 

So comic legend Jonathan Winters died last week, but I’m not taking it too hard. See, once you become a famous and handsome comedy blogger you realize that all comedians fall neatly into one of two categories: ‘Dave Coulier’ and ‘Other.’ Don’t argue, just accept.

But apparently a lot of people out there feel differently. Specifically, 140 characters worth of differently. Because, despite the story not going live til two days after his death, all of the quotes CNN pulled about his death were tweets. Because phone calls are for assholes and old people, not the hip, tech-savvy newshounds at CNN, with their Mountain Dew IV drips and their backwards “Keep Cool with Coolidge” baseball caps. That also explains why Wolf Blitzer got that Skrillex haircut.

“First he was my idol, then he was my mentor and amazing friend,” tweeted Williams. “I’ll miss him huge. He was my Comedy Buddha. Long live the Buddha.”

“R.I.P Jonathan Winters,” tweeted comedian and filmmaker Albert Brooks. “Beyond funny, he invented a new category of comedic genius.”

“Had a great run. Actual genius,” tweeted Kevin Pollak.

“A genius and the greatest improvisational comedian of all time,” tweeted Richard Lewis.

“The first time I saw Jonathan Winters perform, I thought I might as well quit the business,” tweeted Dick Van Dyke after hearing of Winters’ death. “Because, I could never be as brilliant.”

Oh my! It’s a veritable “Who’s Who” of “There’s No Way That Guy is Still Alive.” Nonetheless, I’m gonna roll with it; Richard Lewis isn’t gonna come up often on this blog, and so this may be my only chance to post this:







If there was any justice in this stupid country, “Bemulleted Richard Lewis wearing a utility belt full of adult juice boxes” would be the number one Halloween costume every single year.



Source: CNN

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8.20.12: Comedian Phyllis Diller – DEAD!

Filed under: Dead —James @ 5:20 pm August 23, 2012

That’s funny and all, but seriously, you risk potentially contracting hantavirus that way. I know comedy can be fun, but safety should really be our first concern.

 

Phyllis Diller died this week at the age of 95, and I know you’re gonna make some sassy comment about, “oh, her act died years ago hahaha” or something because everyone in the office tells you you’re the funniest person there and that you should totally think about going into stand-up comedy. But your coworkers still watch Family Guy and don’t seem to see any issue with that at all, so maybe you shouldn’t rush the transition. See, now you made me go off topic, which I almost never do here.

In her many television appearances she would typically sashay onstage wearing stiff, outsize, hideous metallic dresses (she did this, she said, so she could lie to her audiences about the state of her body, which was really trim and shapely)

Think of that as a more earnest precursor to the current trend of super attractive women putting on a pair of glasses to pass themselves off as nerds, because that’s the hot group to exploit right now. My heavens, a Star Wars reference? That’s not at all what the cool kids enjoy! Oh, Zooey Deschanel and her $400 haircut will never find a man now!

Ms. Diller was never really the grotesque-looking woman she made herself out to be; her body, in fact, was attractive enough that when she posed nude for a Playboy photo spread the pictures ended up not being published — the magazine was going for laughs, and decided that they looked too good to be funny.

That’s right, premier comedy magazine Playboy opted not to publish photos of a popular celebrity because they were sexually appealing. It was all part of the brief reign of Dr. Reverso, a fiendish supervillain who wormed his way into the magazine’s editorial seat in the 1960s. Surprisingly, that kind of thing happens all the time. Penthouse has been run by a stray doberman for decades now.



Source: The New York Times

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7.19.12: “SNL” Writer Jim Davis – DEAD!

Filed under: Dead —James @ 9:35 am July 23, 2012

Well, next to that livewire Franken who *wouldn’t* look bland?

 

Comedic writer Jim Davis is dead today, and, nope, it’s still not the “Garfield” guy. I guess you’ll be leaving now, huh? Alright, we’ll try again tomorrow, I suppose. I’m going to continue anyway, mostly because this blog has become the source of a bizarre strain of self-esteem for me.

This Jim Davis was actually the comedy partner of Al Franken. Together the duo helped define the tone of “Saturday Night Live” during its nascent years. To add some context, without Davis we may never have seen the likes of “Stuart Saves His Family” or the “Coneheads” movie, and that’s a bleak world none of us want to live in. Hmm. You know, sometimes even *I* can’t tell if I’m being sarcastic or not.

Longtime SNL writer Jim Downey praised Davis’ unique sense of humor.

“His ideas, unlike most ideas you hear, seemed to come out of nowhere, impossible either to predict, or to reverse-engineer,” Downey said in a statement. “He was a loyal friend, a generous and supportive collaborator and utterly unthreatened by the success or talent of those around him. His old pals have known for some time that this day was coming, but still it’s hard to accept that he’s now no longer out there, somewhere, thinking those crazy thoughts that no one else would think.”

All in all, things worked out respectably for the Davis and Franken team. Davis never received widespread acclaim, but he lived a life of quiet dignity and played a pivotal role in the formation of one of America’s premier comedy institutions while Al Franken is currently a Minnesota senator. In a related story, I’m pretty sure Melanie Hutsell made my sausage and egg breakfast sandwich at Dunkin’ Donuts this morning. Ha! That course in spiteful juxtapositions at the adult education center just paid for itself.

 

Source: Hollywood Reporter

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3.18.12: Gallagher – HANGING ON!

Filed under: Hanging On —James @ 3:47 am March 22, 2012

Prop comedy *and* a trash ‘stache? He must use that sledgehammer to beat back the constant waves of pussy.


American’s favorite dated, food-themed prop comic (step it up, Carrot Top!) Gallagher is recovering from a heart attack and medically induced coma. In solidarity, please fly your finest transparent plastic tarp at half-mast tomorrow.

Hey Block Quote! Why do you hot dogs come in packages of 8 while hot dog buns come in packages of 10? That’s just wacky!

The funnyman, 65, was taken out of a medically induced coma Sunday morning, and began moving and breathing on his own shortly afterward, according to E! News.

The comedian was put under after suffering a heart attack before taking the stage at a bar last Wednesday, marking his second heart attack in the span of a year.

According to early reports, the comedian complained of chest pains before his show at the Hat Tricks club in Leweisville, and was rushed to a nearby Texas hospital.

The medically induced coma was considered a precautionary step.

It’s hard to have a lot of sympathy for Gallagher’s career, what with the dated and arguably bigoted material, the insane boasts about creating the mosh pit and being a touring college lecturer, and the half-assed attempt to frame being stronger than fruit as social commentary. But Gallagher pulling through serves a very important purpose; Every redneck county fair that he plays draws a crowd away from Jeff Dunham and his cavalcade of racist puppet mouthpieces. A dead terrorist skeleton? Oh Dunham! Are there any toes you won’t step on?


Source: NY Daily News

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3.3.12: Celebrity Impersonator Steve Bridges – DEAD!

Filed under: Dead —James @ 5:16 am March 13, 2012

Bridges, seen here trying to keep you from noticing the open trunk of cartoon pirate treasure he is apparently standing in front of.

 

Celebrity impersonator Steve Bridges, known for his impressions of George W. Bush, Arnold Schwarzenegger, and Tom Brokaw among others, died last week of those always conclusive ‘natural causes.’ You might know him better from his appearance in the popular phrase, “Hey, it’s that guy who does the impressions. Let’s not watch this.” There’s a special sphere in Comedy Hell for celebrity impersonators, right next to prop comics, ventriloquists, and Gabriel Iglesias. Celebrity impersonators are to comedy what ‘coolers’ are to casinos; They show up when people are enjoying themselves and make sure that nobody leaves the room without feeling angry and a little ashamed about what just happened.  When you’re getting invited to pick up Frank Caliendo’s table scrapes you officially can only refer to yourself as an ‘entertainer’ ironically.

While we’re here, can somebody answer something for me:

 

 

So, like… are we cool with this stuff now, America? It really seems like something we’re gonna need a conclusive answer on, toot suite. My set at the Apollo kinda hinges on it.

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