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Posts tagged as the cult vault

Watching Patrice O'Neal Surprise His Audience – and Himself – in 'Elephant in the Room'

Towards the end of his last television appearance before his death, the Comedy Central Roast of Charlie Sheen, Patrice O’Neal does something out of character. After scrapping prepared material in favor of slicing and shredding his way through the dais with a spontaneous and devastating verbal assault of a riff, the comedian finally arrives at the grand prize, Mr. Sheen himself. Even a comic with half the talent and experience of O’Neal would have perceived the tiger blood-fueled actor as a sitting duck, a veritable piñata of embarrassments just waiting to be bashed open. But when it comes time to deliver the final deathblow, the comedian suddenly changes tack. [...]

The Before-Its-Time Raunchiness of 'Slap Shot'

We can do anything we want. We’re college students!

–Tagline for Animal House, 1978

So went the battle cry of the Deltas, the “worst” fraternity at Faber College and the anarchic scourge of its campus administration. When it was released in 1978, Animal House was a low-budget college movie with a cast of mostly unknowns that went on to bust box-office records, launch a few careers, and rocket the genre of gross-out comedies into the mainstream. By today’s standards Animal House now seems incredibly tame, almost endearingly so. But when it first hit theaters it was heralded as a subversive punch from the counterculture. This was less a reflection [...]

The Perfect Misanthropy of The Foot Fist Way

It’s a rare phenomenon that a film so completely decimates an audience’s understanding of civility that it forces them to recalibrate their entire moral compass. Before Danny McBride swindled us into liking Kenny Powers, the bullying, ultra-arrogant former major league pitcher in Eastbound & Down, he forced on us a protagonist far more brutal and amoral. Fred Simmons, strip mall Taekwondo instructor and small town psychopath, intruded upon the public consciousness in 2006 with Jody Hill’s The Foot Fist Way, leaving audiences stunned and struggling to regain their internal equilibrium, as if they had been suddenly dropped into higher altitudes.

Fred Simmons’s savage presence loomed so large over the [...]

Revisiting Marc Maron's Darkest Days on Final Engagement

“Surely all art is the result of one’s having been in danger, of having gone through an experience all the way to the end, where no one can go any further.” —Rainier Maria Rilke

Of all the titles and descriptors Marc Maron has acquired through the perilous swings of his long career, “Feral Cat Wrangler” might be, curiously enough, the most appropriate. It’s one he gave to himself, an acknowledgment of his inclination for taking in wild strays. But it also serves as a profound metaphor for his duties as host of the enormously popular WTF podcast, on which he welcomes in from the trenches of entertainment a long [...]

Revisiting 'Shameless,' Louis CK's First Stand-up Special

For a stand-up comedian there is, it turns out, a fate worse than bombing. Though enduring the heckles and hostile silences of a belligerent audience while a sickening flop sweat shivers over your entire body is never a pleasant prospect, it must seem like somewhat mild torture when compared to the crushing futility of performing to no audience at all. And yet on many a hopeless night during the lean years of the early ‘90s, after the stand-up boom finally crashed, that’s exactly what Louis C.K. did. “There would literally be nobody in the audience and they’d make you do the show,” remembered the comedian about his time at [...]

Gods of Rock (In Their Own Minds): The Early Days of Tenacious D

One night in 1996, Jack Black and Kyle Gass — the rambunctious, rotund frontmen for the mock rock outfit Tenacious D — stood on stage in a small cafe making demands. They were performing a bit in which they mapped out to a couple of Hollywood agents, played by Mr. Show’s David Cross and Bob Odenkirk, the route that would take them to stardom. “Number one we want a fucking record deal,” began Black, before ticking off further requests for a TV show and a movie. “That would be the pinnacle — if we had a movie.” At this point in their career Tenacious D were little known outside [...]

Zach Galifianakis Shows the Rawness of Standup at the Purple Onion

About a third of the way through The Comedians of Comedy, the 2005 documentary chronicling the indie band-style stand-up tour Patton Oswalt threw together to bring alternative comedy to the masses, Zach Galifianakis makes a peculiar, unexpected entrance. The other three comics on the tour — Oswalt, Maria Bamford, and Brian Posehn — have arrived in Portland in advance of Galifianakis and are planning to connect with him later on that night. In the interim, the filmmakers accompany Oswalt and Posehn to a comic book shop and, after being informed that their camera isn’t allowed inside, go wait in an alley around the corner. With the camera still recording, they [...]

The Prescient Celebrity Obsession of 'Being John Malkovich'

I have been to the dark side and back! I have seen a world that no man should see! —John Malkovich, Being John Malkovich

It’s been over a decade since Being John Malkovich wriggled through the existential wormhole that connects Charlie Kaufman’s brain with American cineplexes and still its electrifying inventiveness remains largely unrivaled. So original and bizarre was almost every facet of the Spike Jonze-helmed horror comedy that the existence of an office building with an appropriately proportioned 7th ½ floor registered as barely more than a footnote in its narrative. Hailed upon its release in 1999 as one of Hollywood’s most wickedly innovative triumphs, Being John Malkovich [...]

Kingpin: The Farrelly Brothers' Biggest Flop and Greatest Triumph

There are few locations in the landscape of American sports that evoke as distinct a sense of mediocrity as bowling alleys. As arenas of athletic contest they seem forever doomed to conjure up images of beer-bellied men competing in obscurity inside dingy, decrepit rooms. Bowling alleys have long been the natural environment of lowlifes, misfits, and losers. As such they serve as a perfect setting for the Farrelly brothers — who are always at their best when championing the crude underdogs of life — and in Kingpin the underlying joke running throughout is that anybody with some sense and a few prospects should in no way be investing a [...]

Revisiting Funny People

“You cannot make friends with the rock stars.” — Lester Bangs to William Miller, Almost Famous

It’s difficult for me to think about the career of Judd Apatow without being startled by its eerie similarity to Cameron Crowe’s.  While they came of age in distinctly different cultural milieus — Crowe in the hard-rock haze of early ‘70s Southern California and Apatow in the boozy New York comedy clubs of the ‘80s stand-up boom — they both transformed their earnest, ambitious fandom into established Hollywood brands. As teens they took it upon themselves to document the worlds that held their fascination: Crowe went on the road with Led Zeppelin to [...]