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A Profile of Acting Legend John C. Reilly, by Blythe Roberson

reillyI’m assigned to write a profile of acting legend John C. Reilly. It’s an assignment of a lifetime. Wait. In a lifetime. It’s an assignment in my lifetime. In preparation, I decide to watch his films to study his technique. There’s just one problem: I still can’t figure out Netflix.

The day of the interview, I ride my skateboard 7 miles from my apartment to meet him at a restaurant that turns out to be next door to my apartment. So that’s why I suggested that deli, I realize after 3.5 miles.

I walk through the door to see acting legend John C. Reilly already waiting. I look at him and think, He’s the kind of guy who played Mr. Collins in a high school production of Pride and Prejudice. I pull out my journal to write down the thought in case I want to use it in something I write someday.

The man sitting across from me, drinking a mug of some hot brown liquid that smells coffee-y, is different than I imagined. In person, he looks like a man out of a Will Ferrell movie. Like Will Ferrell. Or maybe John C. Reilly.

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Angels Trade the Cruel Passage of Time to the Cubs for a Reminder of Your Own Mortality, by Pablo Goldstein

Image.aspxESPN’s Tim Kurkjian reports that the Anaheim Angels have traded minor league infielder Matt Scioscia to the Chicago Cubs for outfielder Trevor Gretzky.

Gretzky, the son of hockey legend Wayne Gretzky and an abrupt reminder of how little time you have left in your short, insignificant life, was selected in the seventh round of the 2011 First-Year Player Draft. The left-hander is expected to start for the Inland Empire 66ers where he will bat 5th in the lineup and emphasize the coming winter of your existence.

Scioscia, the son of longtime Angels manager and former big-league catcher Mike Scioscia, will make his debut for the Boise Hawks later this year. While the infielder isn’t predicted to start, he will remind you of the crushing realization that you are turning into your father despite all the steps you took to ensure that would never happen.

“We just felt this was the best opportunity for Matt to get some playing time,” Angels general manager Jerry Depoto said of the trade that revived the existential understanding that you’re just one of billions of humans hurtling around the sun at 70,000 m.p.h. “And in return, we’re getting a really great kid as well,” Depoto added, not recognizing that the death rattle of the Grim Reaper comes for us all. READ MORE

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Letter to My Husband as He Tries to French Kiss Me, by Devorah Blachor

Dear Sweetheart,

Gosh, it’s been a long day, hasn’t it? I’m beat. If I closed my eyes right now, I’d fall into Stage 4 sleep and stay there until someone shook me so violently that I’d wake up and say something crazy in a panic-stricken voice like, “Where are the elbow pipettes?”

Let me say that it’s so great to know that you’re still attracted to me. It makes all the hours we spend guessing which of our couple friends still have good sex even more entertaining. Remember when we started dating and you used to spontaneously massage the arches of my feet because you claimed you enjoyed it? In those days I’d say things to myself like, “The guy’s a total romantic,” and this completely short-sighted and self-serving assessment really helped trick me into a monogamous relationship. And now here we are! And at no extra cost, here’s your tongue, too!

You sure do like to French kiss, don’t you? Swollen glands, work deadlines, nausea—nothing deters you from this fun activity. You’re single-minded like a microbiologist examining mouse mammary glands over and over and over because you’re sure that it will either cure cancer or help produce an acetate that will revolutionize the way we produce lipstick.

It reminds me of that time years ago when we were at a party and the woman with the boobs was so amused by your joke that she had to put her hand on your chest to hold herself up while she laughed. And then afterwards when I protested that you were flirting, you dismissed my concerns as paranoid and a second later you were French kissing me and all I could feel was bitterness about those early foot massages because when we moved in together, you abandoned them to become a cybernetically-enhanced supersoldier battling aliens while attempting to uncover the secrets of Halo. READ MORE

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Ditch Digger University, by Dan Rozier

Listen up! Are you tired of parents, relatives, and friends telling you to apply yourself? Do you want an education that works for you? How's your upper body strength? Are you typically awake at this hour?

Well, what are you waiting for? Get everyone off your back at Ditch Digger University. DDU was established on the belief that education shouldn't only take you further—it should take you wider and deeper, too. We're a premier institution for the modern world where students can learn, grow, and get their hands dirty with real world experience and, more often than not, actual dirt.

At any other university you'd just be a number, a face in the crowd. DDU gives you the personal attention and will rent you the tools you need to succeed. Our instructors aren't like the "professors" you'd find everywhere else. Our faculty members are your mentors, friends, drinking buddies, shift managers, and character witnesses.

Speaking of hitting the books, we provide our students with a rigorous balance of online coursework and on-the-job training. Our majors include: Irrigation System Creation, Flood Prevention Management, Basement Making, Roadside Slopes, Graves, and War Preparation. READ MORE

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The Songs of Bruce Springsteen, by Liz Arcury

The following are excerpts of reviews of some selected songs of Mr. Bruce Springsteen and The E Street Band.

“4th of July, Asbury Park (Sandy),” The Wild, the Innocent & the E Street Shuffle (1973)
With this album, Mr. Springsteen is exploring a newer, slower – yet explosive – sonic sexuality that America did not know was coming. After collaborating with various music historians who were active at the time of the album’s release, we have concluded that the second track, “4th of July, Asbury Park (Sandy),” might be based on the non-fictional, existent location on the northern shore of New Jersey known as Asbury Park.

“Badlands," Darkness on the Edge of Town (1978)
This one has very sincere undertones of the singer’s personal history. Perhaps, where he grew up? We are given very little, and it is not clearly stated (and, need we remind ourselves of the value of ambiguity in art?) but “Badlands” could very well be about New Jersey, the home state of Mr. Springsteen.

“Streets of Fire,” Darkness on the Edge of Town (1978)
The streets and the fire are both located inside of New Jersey. READ MORE

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How I Will Become a Better Boyfriend, by Ronald Dario

I wanted to show you that I’m serious about making more of an effort to be a better boyfriend, so I thought about it carefully and came up with some personal goals. I know we have been having problems lately, but I wholeheartedly believe that if I follow through with each one of these, I will become a better person. I want to be the kind of boyfriend that an amazing person like you deserves!

1. I will sign up for those cooking lessons we read about.

2. I will start running again.

3. I will get rid of at least 80% of the Tupac-related content on my computer. Even though I worked really hard to collect it all.

4. I will try to wear shirts with collars on them more often.

5. I will be more vigilant about eating food in the fridge before it spoils or expires.

6. I promise to stop writing “Thug Life” in calligraphic lettering on your stomach with a Sharpie marker while you’re sleeping, every single night, regardless of how sexy I think it makes you look. READ MORE

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These Disappointing Times, by Tim Sampson

Living in this modern age is pretty great. For crying out loud, just look at all the wondrous technology that exists all around us. You can chat with your sister in Vermont while jetting off to Hong Kong at 500 miles per hour. We've got these marvelous little smartphones in our pockets that let us access a pool of knowledge too vast for any one person to consume in a lifetime. Heck, even as I write this, we've got little man-made robots roaming around on the surface of Mars. Mars, for pete's sake!

So don't for an instant think I'm not grateful to be living in the year 2013. I am. It's just that, when I'm really honest with myself, I can't help feeling a little disappointed. I mean, here we are living in such an advanced age, yet we still don't have flying cars or a morally dubious Truman Show-type reality program. READ MORE

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Fun Thing to Buy of the Day: 'Fridays' Is Finally Out on DVD

Fridays, the first and strongest challenger to Saturday Night Live's weekend sketch comedy dominance, finally comes out on DVD this week. The show (which ran from 1980 to 1982) has taken on cult, if not legendary status, because it launched the careers of Michael Richards, Melanie Chartoff (Parker Lewis Can't Lose), and Larry David — who was allegedly the one cast holdout who prevented a proper DVD release much earlier. It's better than early-'80s SNL for sure, and certainly more experimental, what with appearances from Andy Kaufman and even semi-dramatic bits. A four-disc best-of set is definitely a good way to check out this long-lost piece of comedy history.

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Miniature Golf Infractions, by John Carroll & Nick Klinger

Dear Trevor,

I am writing today to file a petition regarding our miniature golf match last Saturday. Since this is a formal complaint, I’ll be sending a carbon copy to Marty, the clerk at the Pro Shop & Sno Cone Stand who checked us in before our game.

At the end of our match play, you signed a scorecard of 49 strokes, which handily beat my score of 62. But I contend that you committed several infractions that typically incur additional strokes which you did not assign yourself. You should be penalized for the following:

The Mouse Trap (Hole 2, Par 2)

As I entered my backswing, you held your putter perpendicular to your cargo shorts zipper and said, “Jason, look how big my dick is.” You should have penalized yourself two strokes for distracting a fellow golfer in the act of putting. READ MORE

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Unearthing John Swartzwelder's 1996 Unsold Western Pilot

Antenna Free TV has a piece today on a near-mythical pilot from 1996 called Pistol Pete, written by the also near-mythical Simpsons scribe John Swartzwelder. A kooky, comic western, and an unmade show on par with cult lost gems like Lookwell and Heat Vision and Jack, it starred Brian Doyle-Murray and Steve Kearney, whom Harris tinterviews. Swartzwelder even makes a brief statement about the show, and shows up in a photo, both of which are remarkable, because if you know anything about the incredibly reclusive comic genius, it's that he's an incredibly reclusive comic genius.

SNL
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The Weirdest Episode of the Weirdest Season of 'Saturday Night Live'

Every few years or so, between its now clearly delineated epochs or eras, Saturday Night Live has a “growth year” or “building period” or “godawful season.” For example, the 1980-81 season was the first without the original cast, and the bloated, 1994-95 “Saturday Night Dead” year.

The 1985-86 season is one of those off years. Creator and masterlord Lorne Michaels had left the show, as had his poor replacement Jean Doumanian, leaving NBC Sports executive Dick Ebersol in charge. Ebersol had very little understanding of comedy, nor did he care to understand. (Case in point: He publicly sided with Jay Leno during the 2010 Lenon/Conan/Tonight Show fiasco). Anyway, his tenure came to an end when NBC refused his request to shut down the show entirely for six months and build it up from scratch, and he quit.

And so Michaels returned in 1985, and he dismissed many of Ebersol’s writers and players. Michaels, who has something of an eye for talent, brought in new people (Jon Lovitz, Anthony Michael Hall, Dennis Miller, Joan Cusack) and new old people (former SNL writers Tom Davis, Jim Downey, and Don Novello). Despite having seen his somewhat experimental Friday night sketch show The New Show fail on NBC primetime, Michaels didn’t shy from experimentation. Part of that meant hiring the show’s first black female cast member, Danitra Vance, and its first openly gay cast member, Terry Sweeney.

Trying new things is never a bad thing, but it’s also a very, very hard thing, especially when you try a bunch of new things all at the same time. And Michaels decided to go ahead and try a bunch of new things all throughout his first year back at SNL. But almost everything about the March 22, 1986 episode seemed to be a new, half-baked, bewildering idea. It makes for a very strange departure from a comfortable, familiar, iconic broadcast. READ MORE

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Happy 66th Birthday, David Bowie! Here are 6 Fake, Funny Bowies

This is a comedy site, but rock God and androgynous British spaceman David Bowie is enough of a pop cultural icon with legitimate comedy chops — Extras, Zoolander, that video for “Dancing in the Streets” with Mick Jagger — for us to give him some recognition on his 66th birthday. (May we all be that cool when we are pensioners — because British.) Here then are 6 of the funniest Fake Bowies of all time, encompassing a number of Bowie’s many eras and alter egos. READ MORE

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The Year in Comedy 2012: Young But Broken People Trying to Heal

Comedy has thankfully evolved from its universally beloved origins as Milton Berle one-liners and saucy harlequins. Broadly put, comedy at its best is a patient, pointed examination and calling out of the absurdity of human existence. Narrative comedy, from Shakespeare to M*A*S*H, takes that conceit and adds “making the best of it” to the mix.

As our social mores and collective existential despair change, so does the style of comedy we produce and consume. In the ‘80s, the Reagan-fronted superficiality and “America is perfect” attitude meant the dominant comedy of the day was gentle, listless sitcoms about upper class families. The Nietzschean depair of post-9/11 gave way to a “who gives a fuck, nothing makes sense” nihilistic comedy, in things like Jackass and Bam Margera torturing his stepfather on the toilet. In the afterglow of the first election of Barack Obama, a “nice comedy” movement development, as exampled by shows like Parks and Recreation.

In 2012 (ish), a lot of the comedy people got together and decided that the broad cultural idea they were going to reflect in their work was going to be (because that’s how it works) People Who Are Young, But Already Broken Trying to Heal. READ MORE

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Reading List: The Best Comedy Books of 2012

The Guy Under the Sheets, by Chris Elliott

Not Elliott's first autobiography, and not Elliot's first fake nonfiction book written in his unctuous, smarmy, faux-snobbish persona. But there’s lots of self-analyzation from the point of view of the laudatory, starstruck biographer (Elliott himself, of course, but timely shades of Petraeus) about the slow acceptance of Elliott’s brand of challenging, meta, and highly influential anti-comedy. While the reader gets some sense of Elliott’s rise (the situations and life events are real, if not quite the execution), this book is more another fine Elliott product than it is an Elliott inventory.

Girl Walks Into a Bar, Rachel Dratch

After Dratch was unceremoniously demoted from Jenna to recurring player to nothing on 30 Rock, a show run by her close friend and old scene partner, I’ve wanted to read a Rachel Dratch biography. Girl Walks Into a Bar deals a lot with something that arts and entertainment books don’t touch on much — disappointment and the abrupt end of the fame train. Life doesn’t go where you think it’s going to go, which is another theme of this book, which ultimately becomes a sweet, cinematic story about second chances and unexpected joy (Dratch meets a guy and has an unplanned baby late in her child-bearing years). READ MORE