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Featuring three of the best and brightest comedians and actors in Ireland, The Fellas Live! brought these minds together for a hilarious night of stand up. The trio’s individual themes were often similar, uniting the evening with a sense of cohesiveness as they explored ideas of religion, relationships, and the Irish in America. The delivery and personality of each comedian, however, differed greatly and made for a lively sense of variety.
Ardal O’Hanlon, who has starred in British sit-coms Father Ted and My Hero, opened up the evening. From his jokes about being a father and letting his children win at Connect 4 until they felt sorry for him and patronized him by letting him win to his remark about going to a restaurant to have an argument, one sensed the way he experiences daily life. He also talked more seriously as well, about the failing economy and religion, talking about a Sikh in Ireland who wanted to join the police force. Global warming, flu epidemics, and fear in general were other featured topics as O’Hanlon quipped wittily: “What’s next? We’re going to hear the Vikings have reformed!”
Of course, some of his jokes about Ireland were classics. He jested that the Irish were comprised of 90% rain and 10% resentment, for example, and how their chief contribution to the world was freckles. Perhaps his best line of the night, however, was an unrelated remark about cigarettes and the smoking ban, “I’m not a smoker myself,” he revealed, “but I’ve always loved coughing.”
Anyone even remotely familiar with the brilliant British television comedy, Black Books would undoubtedly appreciate Dylan Moran’s stand up routine. Similar to his sit-com character Bernard Black (complete with his full wine glass), Moran came across as a jaded intellectual misanthrope. Though Moran’s projects have also included films, most notably Shaun of the Dead and Run Fat Boy Run, his stand up personality comes closer to Bernard Black than any other character he has played.
While one can easily picture Ardal O’Hanlon and Tommy Tiernan preparing with practice and notes, Dylan Moran appears to do just the opposite. His routine seemed effortless and completely off the cuff, as if he had written down maybe four general topics and rambled the rest of his way through it. In other words, he’s a natural talent and his sense of unpredictability heightened the hilarity of his wit.
Rampaging against machines, particularly cameras, was his first target. As if adeptly commanding a derailing train, he ventured headlong into human dependence on these electronics then somehow segued into how we flock to religion and politics. Finally, he delved into the human need for relationships. While talking about people believing in each other, he suggested everyone comes to a decision in their lives when he/she must decide: “Sane or not lonely?”
Not surprisingly, Moran had some funny remarks about relationships in particular. He described a shopping incident where a man accompanies a woman who is looking for curtains and all the details she looks for in the many varieties while the man thinks, “I didn’t even know we had windows.” He also spoke about women being more aware of babies from an early age in a way men aren’t, adding color with an absurdist description of a woman who says how lovely a tree is and how you could put a baby up there. Perhaps his funniest and most bitter moment came when speaking about how men are afraid of women partly because of biology, but also because women have memories.
Finishing off the evening, Tommy Tiernan appeared with a more physical routine and an apt sense of gesture and movement. Without the confines of a center standard microphone setup, he was free to move around and imitate everything from dinosaurs to chickens in his critical wonder of evolution and the creator of such preposterous things. Though Tiernan has appeared on radio and television, his main achievements seem more connected to stand up comedy and it was easy to tell that this is definitely his forte.
Right away, Tiernan remarked about how he enjoyed Chicago as a “crooked city for crooked people” and how he found the American flag at Macy’s amusing as if people would forget what country they were in while shopping there. His most common topics, however, were aging and foreplay, and the differences in his perceptions of how to get it right as time has gone on. This made for a routine that may have been just as awkward as it was humorous for some audience members.
In 1981, five gay men in Los Angeles suffered from an unknown disease that the press labeled GRID (Gay-Related Immune Deficiency) and the Center for Disease Control and Prevention referred to as the “4H Disease” because it seemed to target Haitians, hemophiliacs, homosexuals and heroin users.
By May 3, 1986, the disease had long since become known as AIDS, but was still the subject of much controversy and even more misconceptions. It would be another year before Ronald Reagan would even publicly acknowledge the disease (even though by May 31, 1987, more than 20,000 Americans had died from AIDS).
It’s interesting that a pop-rock group from England would decide to release a single pointedly attacking the anti-gay hatred fueled by the disease, but even more intriguing that the song became a major hit.
Beowulf on the Beach
by Jack Murnighan
May 2009, 374 pages, $15.00
That’s my hundred-character introduction to what I hope will be a regular installation on Re:Print looking at the way books are changing in form and content. If art reflects zeitgeist what do we do when the zeitgeist seems totally unartistic and computerized? This question as it pertains to books is particularly pressing because the going attitude seems to be that we’re incapable making it through a thousand-word magazine article.
If that’s really true, who is going to read Middlemarch? Well, possibly you, says Jack Murnighan in his recently released Beowulf on the Beach: What to Love and What to Skip in Literature’s 50 Greatest Hits. Murnighan offers a reading guide to what he, a writing professor and doctor of English literature, believes to be the 50 greatest pieces of literature in the Western canon. He starts with the ancient Greeks and works his way to Toni Morrison. The concept calls to mind the description of a shelf filled with books so ubiquitous in our culture that we can pretend we’ve read them in Italio Calvino’s If On A Winter’s Night A Traveler.
Of course, this book will help the reader keep pretending. Each section begins with the buzz, a few pages that describe and summarizes the book, its greatest assets and pitfalls. Then he provides his opinions on “best line”, “what’s sexy”, and “what to skip”. In short, these aren’t your average Cliff’s notes. From example, he introduces Henry James by calling him the most constipated writer in history. Emily Bronte, on the other hand, is a “bushfire waiting to blaze”. And by the way, don’t feel bad about skipping the first few acts of
, they’re kind of irrelevant. And the first ten chapters of Jane Eyre are skimmable.
One thing is clear from his writing style and content: his book is written for modern consumption. It’s funny, you don’t have to read it in order and you can walk away from it feeling and sounding smarter based on a minimal time investment. And it’s also a way for the writer to flex creative muscles. Murnighan is personable, crafty, and genuine. But I did wonder what his true intentions for the book were. In an email interview with the author, I was able to conclude that Murnighan genuinely believes there is an important task at hand. At the same time, in keeping with our intensely autonomous culture, it is the readers who ultimately determine the book’s value and meaning.
PM: Who is it written for?
JM: Mostly it’s written for anyone who still has a lingering interest in reading some highbrow lit—or feels guilty for not doing so. It’s actually a larger percentage of the population than you might think.
PM: Did you really intend for it to be reading guide, or does it (can it) stand alone?
JM: Both. I wanted to make sure you enjoyed reading each of my chapters, but I also really wanted it to be useful. What I didn’t want was to read like Harold Bloom: stuffy, and not particularly helpful for non-academics.
PM: You don’t seem to think the book is a substitute for reading the classics, but isn’t there a chance that your readers will?
JM: That’s okay, though of course Melville and Toni Morrison are much better writers than I am. But at least I’ll give you some of their great lines that you might otherwise never know.
PM: [In terms of the] section “what to skip?” There are people who argue that some of the experiences the brain has while reading are dependent on continuity. Your thoughts? Is this section just meant to be funny?
JM: No, I take it very seriously. It’s unrealistic to think that people will be able to read a lot of these works, so I tried extremely hard to isolate the parts that really are expendable. I don’t believe in condensing books, just in leaving out the weak and unnecessary stuff.
PM: How do you see this book fitting in with the zeitgeist—i.e. The whole world compressed in 140 characters. Why/when did you decide to write it?
JM: In 138 characters: Bloom wrote a book How to Read and Why that to me simply wasn’t good enough. This is my How to Read the Classics and Why. People need it.
Earlier in the week PopMatters’ David Smith raved about the Maccabees’ new album, calling Wall of Arms a “tremendous sophomore set that suggests a bright future for British indie. “Can You Give It” is the record’s new anthemic single and the video features a documentary style.