It’s commonly perceived that the people who live in Northeastern/Central Pennsylvania are rednecks or white trash. As a lifetime resident I can assure you that’s not completely true. We’re more like a weird missing link between the two extremes. Living in Northeastern/Central PA is like living in the scummier real world equivalent to Tom Scharpling’s Newbridge or the parts of Blue Velvet where people find severed ears lying in the streets and angry men violently belittle you for drinking the wrong beer. A little less than half of my graduating class in high school were either practicing or reformed arsonists, a nearby community center closed when somebody realized — after seven years — that the roof was never actually connected to the building, an unexplained manure fog mysteriously enveloped the area several weeks ago. This is the unvarnished reality of Northeastern/Central PA. It’s odd, it’s dreary, it’s unforgivably bleak and only the lucky few manage to escape.
But that doesn’t mean I can’t laugh about it.
Adam Resnick — the man who has given us such enduring cult favorites as Get a Life, Cabin Boy and Death to Smoochy — was one of the lucky few who managed to escape from Northeastern/Central PA and in his first book, an essay collection entitled Will Not Attend, Resnick candidly recounts his hellish upbringing in the area. Resnick’s acidic yet still oddly loving portrait of teenage burnouts, publicly defecating hillbillies and anyone who ever cut a birthday cake with a pocket knife will be hilarious for anyone fortunate enough not to live anywhere near Northeastern/Central PA. For everyone else, Will Not Attend will be like laughing at your reflection in a funhouse mirror until you realize that’s not a funhouse mirror and that ugly, distorted reflection is really you. But again, at least I can laugh about it. READ MORE
With the exception of Arli$$, 1996 was a banner year for comedy at HBO. The Larry Sanders Show was still going strong, Mr. Show had entered its second season and a comedian named Louis C.K. appeared on his first stand-up special. But forgotten amongst those milestones was an obscure gem called The High Life. Created by Adam Resnick, The High Life shared a lot in common with his previous efforts Get a Life and Cabin Boy. It was smart, subtly absurd and unpredictable. But unlike Get a Life or Cabin Boy, The High Life never managed to find its cult audience. As Resnick notes, “nobody watched [The High Life]…there weren’t enough people to make a cult.”
Produced by David Letterman’s Worldwide Pants, The High Life was set in Pittsburgh in the 1950s and revolved around the get rich quick schemes of loudmouthed Earl (Mark Wilson) and his passive sidekick Emmett (Robert Joy) who are partners in the world’s least impressive storage company (as one critic noted, it’s more like a storage room). Shot in black and white and inspired by Amos and Andy (and just a dash of The Honeymooners thanks to Wilson’s decidedly Jackie Gleason-esque turn as Earl) The High Life sounds blandly conventional but much like Resnick’s previous cult hit Get a Life, The High Life takes standard sitcom clichés and subverts them in a clever way. READ MORE