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Talking to John Lurie About the Cult Classic 'Fishing with John'

John Lurie is hard to define. From playing saxophone as the leader of the Lounge Lizards, to hanging out with Jean-Michel Basquiat, to starring in the Jim Jarmusch movies Down By Law and Stranger Than Paradise, Lurie has placed himself all over the cultural map. Including TV. In addition to being a cast member on HBO’s Oz and co-writing the theme to Late Night with Conan O’Brien, Lurie also created the short-lived and influential TV series Fishing With John.

My first introduction to John Lurie was through a guy named Chili Palmer. I’m not referring to an upright bass player, but rather the main character of Get Shorty – more specifically the amazing soundtrack (a mainstay in the sun visor CD holder in my old car) that helped give the movie its vibe. That’s how John Lurie got on my radar. But after a while, like with many things when you’re a teenager, he faded. And since I didn't know anything about Fishing With John at the time (ah, life before the Internet), I had no idea that Lurie was also really funny.

If you’re not familiar with the show at all, the basic premise is this: jazz musician and actor John Lurie goes fishing with his friends. Sounds simple enough. However, the six episodes that resulted from that simple premise turned out to be bizarre and wonderful, fitting right in with other surreal works from the early 1990s like Twin Peaks and Edward Scissorhands. READ MORE

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The 12 Days of Christmas Vacation

One of the best things about this time of year is getting to watch National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation. Of all the Christmas movies out there, it’s definitely my favorite. Watching this third installment of the Griswold family was something of a tradition for the Worcester family, and even after countless viewings, it still makes me laugh out loud every year.

Chevy Chase is at the top of his game and the supporting cast is note perfect. Everything comes together flawlessly in this movie, easily making it the best of the Vacation franchise. For more detail on that, please consult my fellow Splitsider contributor Alden Ford.

To properly show my love for this movie in Christmas carol form, here are 12 reasons why I think Christmas Vacation is a true holiday classic: READ MORE

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Beavis and Butt-Head's Triumphant Return to MTV

In the spirit of the heroes of this cartoon, I feel it’s only proper to start this off with a five word review: the show does not suck. But if you want to know more about the much-anticipated premiere of Mike Judge’s Beavis and Butt-Head, read on.

I went in to the first new episode of Beavis and Butt-Head with a nagging feeling that something would be off. I wasn’t sure what, exactly. Maybe a small detail in the animation, a change in the voice acting, or even re-recorded theme song (the first time I watched a Married With Children on Netflix, I almost didn’t make it past the revolting place-holder music for Sinatra). But surely there was going to be something that would ruin it. With Hollywood constantly finding new, grotesque ways to reboot franchises, maybe I am just conditioned now to be repulsed. But as soon as that fuzzy guitar lick hit, I knew we were in business. That said, it was weird to enjoy this on a nostalgic level, but also as something that feels part of today. READ MORE

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The Jokes Are Out There: Investigating the Dark Humor of The X-Files

Despite the letdown of the last two seasons and the unsatisfactory conclusion, I confidently say that The X-Files is one of the best shows of all time. To the casual TV fan, this might be a bit of a stretch. This was, after all, a show that had an entire episode centered around a human tapeworm and wasn’t exactly for everyone. To the show’s cult following, this is old news.

Wherever it lands on your cultural barometer, there’s no denying that The X-Files was a phenomenon. It was a show that took more risks than anything on TV at the time. It set the foundation for a whole new generation of cutting-edge programs that followed on cable, from The Sopranos, to Battlestar Galactica, to The Wire and Breaking Bad. It was a daring show that got away with so much crazy shit, anything seemed possible. However, I don’t want to wax on about all of that. I want to talk about how god-dammed funny it was. READ MORE

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Nichols and May: The Cool Parents of Modern Comedy

When it comes to comedy duos, it’s hard to find a cooler one than Nichols and May. In fact, what do other comedy teams have on these two? Abbott and Costello? Hacks. Cheech and Chong? Junkies. Flight of the Conchords? Foreigners. Laurel and Hardy? Clowns. The Smothers Brothers? Pinkos. Penn & Teller? Degenerates. None of them can hold a lighter to the smooth, refreshing, great tasting comedy that Mike Nichols and Elaine May brought to the stage. Mmmmm… satisfying! Of course I’m joking with the 1960s cigarette copy and the knocking on those other guys (except for those shifty Smothers Brothers). But what is it about Nichols and May? Why bother getting into them?

Up until recently, I was loosely aware of Nichols and May as a comedy team, though I never felt a real urgency to listen to their material. I knew they were supposed to be good, but sometimes it’s hard to get motivated to appreciate the old stuff. Seriously, it’s time to watch and return that Citizen Kane Netflix DVD.

I did, however, know of and appreciate Mike Nichols, director of many excellent films. One of those films happens to be The Birdcage, the 1996 remake of the French play/movie La Cage aux Folles. For my money, I’ve always considered The Birdcage to be not only one of the best comedies of the 1990s, but one of the best comedies of all time (but that’s a whole other topic). When I found out it was Elaine May who adapted the screenplay, essentially teaming up again with Mike Nichols, that was the trigger for me to dive headlong into the Nichols and May catalogue. READ MORE

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Remembering the Lesser-Known Characters From Late Night with Conan O'Brien

Since it debuted in November, Conan O’Brien’s TBS show has been gradually loosening up and it’s starting to feel like the old Late Night show. Personally, I couldn’t be happier. But as I’ve noticed this transformation happening, I've found myself pining for some of the classic, random characters that helped define Late Night.

When Conan made the switch to the Tonight Show, everyone wondered if he'd use any of his old characters or bits from Late Night. Similarly, after the separation from NBC, everyone asked the same question, secretly hoping that somehow old friends like the Masturbating Bear would make the transition with him to TBS. I don't know where things are legally in terms of Conan's contract, but he's gone on record saying that he's not going to use any of the old material. On the one hand, this has been a good way to move forward and there’s been great stuff to come out of it — Will Forte’s Ted Turner, for example. But sometimes you just want to see the Pimpbot 5000.

If you search around the Internet for lists of Conan’s best characters from his old Late Night show, you’ll find a few. But most of them are full of old, reliable stalwarts like Triumph, Preperation H Raymond, and the FedEx Pope. I figured I might as well curate a list of some of the lesser-know characters. Late Night with Conan O’Brien was on for 16 years (which is crazy) and there have been tons of characters that, while equally hilarious, never stuck around like your Masturbating Bears or your Coked-Up Werewolfs. And here are a few of them: READ MORE

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On Norm Macdonald, the Greatest Talk Show Guest Ever

Tomorrow at 11:30pm, Comedy Central will air a one-hour stand-up special (surprisingly, a first for the comedian), titled Norm Macdonald: Me Doing Stand-Up. And in a few weeks, Sports Show With Norm Macdonald will premiere on Tuesday, April 12. Norm is also on Twitter these days, sending out a truly odd mix of jokes, observations, and stream-of-conscious updates. His live-tweeting during the Oscars made it actually worth watching. Here’s what he had to say during one of the acceptance speeches for The Social Network. All I have to say is… good golly, am I glad that Norm Macdonald is back. READ MORE

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The Cable Guy's Unfair Stigma

The Cable Guy was one of the funniest movies of the 1990s and few people know it. If you’ve only seen it once, chances are you probably still think it’s a stinker. If you happened to revisit the movie at some point in the last 15 years, you know the real deal — it’s hands-down hilarious.

When it was released in 1996, the movie was supposed to be a hit. Looking back at the people involved, it’s hard to fathom how it wasn’t. The Cable Guy roster reads like a comedy dream team: Jim Carrey, Matthew Broderick, Ben Stiller, Judd Apatow, Jack Black, Andy Dick, Janeane Garofalo, Owen Wilson, David Cross, Bob Odenkirk… they’re all in there. But The Cable Guy was not a hit at all. Even though the movie technically made money, it was largely regarded as one of the biggest bombs of the 1990s, an undeserved branding that’s only now starting to wear off. So why did both critics and audiences leave it for dead? READ MORE