As you may have noticed, I really enjoyed Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt. I tried to make that clear in my previous post, but I'm not entirely sure I was successful, after all, I did only use three exclamation points when I called it the best program of all-time, by which I meant all the times since TV has existed. If I failed at selling the show to you, dear reader, then I sincerely apologize. I will do my best in the future to more succinctly express my love for things when recommending them to you. I'm thinking of adding a fourth exclamation point to the roster. I'm currently in talks with my legal team about it, so I'll keep you posted.
Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt hasn't been the only high point of 2015 so far though, in fact, I've bumped up against plenty of other top-notch entertainments-n-such this year. And it's only March! Who knows how many more dizzying highs I will have personally experienced by May! July! Um, ever heard of a little month called October?!? I'll be flying so high you might mistake me for popular stand-up comedian and podcast host Doug Benson. We're talking high! Am I right?
Of course, with peaks there are always valleys, and, man, have I found myself in some bummer valleys this year. So, I thought it might be amusing to take a look at some of the highs and lows of the current year so far. In the spirit of honesty, I feel I should admit that this post was originally planned to be a comparison of two recently released stand-up specials, but I started to feel crummy about pitting comedians against each other, especially when one of them is a well-documented favorite of mine and the other is someone I don't think I've ever laughed at once. That didn't seem fair or cool, but I wasn't going to have watched one of the specials for nothing (the horror, the horror), so, you know, this thing. All right, let's have some fun or something.
Aziz Ansari: Live at Madison Square Garden (High): I'm a guy who makes lists; not to-do lists or grocery lists or any other helpful kind of list you can name, but pointless lists that do nothing more than help me keep track of the ultimately useless information floating around in my pop-culture-addled brain. Lists like Top 10 All-Time Favorite Movies (a list that is reviewed every couple years or so to see if any readjustments need to be made), Top 5 Favorite Chili's Entrees (I'm super into the Bacon Ranch Chicken Quesadilla right now) and Top 10 Animated Female Characters I'd Have Sex With (N/A). I also have a list of Top 10 Favorite Stand-Up Comedians, a list on which Aziz Ansari appears (along with Patton Oswalt, Sarah Silverman, Brian Regan, Dave Attel, the aforementioned Doug Benson, and at least 4 others), so naturally, I am inclined to like Live at Madison Square Garden. But I don't like it simply because it is my sworn duty as a fan of Ansari to enjoy everything he does, but I like it because it's fucking funny, and it is so fucking funny. It's also kind of moving--and I'm not just talking about the fact that he brings his parents up at the end or dedicates the special to the memory of Harris Wittels. He does a bit near the end in which he imagines married life as a graph that is so emotionally moving and funny it makes the first ten minutes of the Pixar film UP look like a hunk of flaming garbage (that's not accurate or true). And I'm not the first, second or third person to write this about Live at Madison Square Garden, but this show feels really intimate. It doesn't feel like a comedy show in a sports arena, and that's what makes it so special, I think. Sure, there's a confetti cannon, but what club show couldn't benefit from one of those? Exactly.
Ralphie May: Unruly (Low): I'm going to say something nice about Ralphie May: I think he was robbed on the first season of Last Comic Standing. I didn't find him particularly funny then either, but I thought he had a lot more going for him then that season's winner, um, you know, uh, that guy with the, er, jokes or something (I know it was Dat Phan! Geez, I'm just making a point.). Ralphie May has turned his television debut into a successful career--he mentions in Unruly that he has been doing comedy for 25 years!--and for that he should be very proud. The thing is, I don't find Ralphie May funny, and I think that's OK. Hacky jokes about Asian stereotypes, excessive marijuana use (Apparently, May once go to high he sat in a Chick-fil-A drive-thru line for 3 hours...on a Sunday! Can you believe it?!?!?) and pubic hair aren't my idea of a fun night out, but again, that's OK. Other people eat that stuff up, and that doesn't make them bad people, it just means they find different things funnier than I do, and luckily for Ralphie May's bank account, that's Ralphie May. My main issue with May--and it could very well just be this special, I haven't seen any of his other ones--is that his act kind of makes me physically ill. I like vaginas as much as the next guy--maybe more!--but listening to a man refer to them as "pussy meat" or, worse, "'giner meat" for an hour-and-twenty-three minutes, is nauseating. Why does he have to keep adding meat to the end of it? And why is this special over an hour?!? Live at Madison Square Garden is 58 minutes long, 58 tight minutes of insightful, expertly-crafted humor. Ralphie May spends the last 30-minutes-but-it-feels-like-4-hours berating a 21-year-old in the front row about how he's less-than-a-man because he's never "fingerblasted" a girl. Kudos to May for presenting a routine devoid of fat jokes, but, dude, we get it, you've touched a lot of different vaginas. You win, OK. Shut up already!
The return of the Best Show (High): Tom Scharpling and Jon Wurster brought back the Best Show this year, and while Tom's life was completely upended only two episodes in (his father died suddenly), he has soldiered onward, proving that even in the difficult times he is still capable of steamrolling any chump that gets in his way.
It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia, Season 10 (High): Still the most consistently funny show on TV right now. I recently re-watched every single episode on Neflix--a worthy endeavor that I encourage you to undertake if you have not already--and there simply isn't a low-point, a lull, a broken toilet (to borrow a phrase from Mr. Scharpling) of a season. It's as close to perfect as you can get. And this season has been no exception.
Chappie (Low): The trailer for Chappie made me cry...all three times I watched it. I'm not embarrassed to admit that. I'm a sensitive male in touch with his emotions, comfortable with the feel and taste of tears on my cheeks (I have an absurdly long tongue, ant-eater-esque even). I was up for Chappie, ready to get in there and cheer and cry and let whatever else wanted to spray out of my body, um, spray out of my body. But then the lukewarm reviews started rolling in (It's currently sporting a 28% on Rotten Tomatoes!) and my tear valves dried right up. "This is Elysium all over again," I tearlessly wept. I don't usually let reviews dictate what movies I see or music I download (I am quick to trust television critics however), but there is just too much negativity surrounding poor lil Chappie, so I think I'm going to wait until this one comes to DVD or Netflix and then I forget about it and never see it, i.e. Elysium all over again.
Marvel Contest of Champions (High): I don't let my 3-year-old daughter watch violent TV shows or watch scary movies or read Highlights for children (I feel like she might confuse Goofus for Gallant--maybe in another year she'll be ready), but I do let her watch me play Contest of Champions, much to the chagrin of my wife. It's not the colorful characters or the emphasis on teamwork the game promotes that she is opposed to, but more the violence, some of which involves giant space-swords and guns, both laser and bullet-filled. I mean, the game consists of two Marvel superheroes engaging in hand-to-hand combat, until one is knocked unconscious, so I kind of see her point. Also, my daughter likes to play Contest of Champions with me even when my iPhone is not around. "I'll be Gamora and you be Spider-Man," she says, gleefully, before making sounds with her mouth that sound a bit like punching. Then, at some point, she'll raise her arm and bring it down in a mighty karate chop saying, "Whoopsie, sword!" a phrase my wife and I repeat constantly because it is so cute to hear a 3-year-old say. Also, it refers to Gamora's special movie, in which she removes a previously unnoticed sword from out of thin air and slices her opponent with it mercilessly. Fun! Anyway, this game is the reason you should get an iPhone. 'Nuff said.
Disney cruise (HIGH): I went on a Disney cruise with my wife, my daughter and my parents the last week in February, and I haven't been the same since my return. I'm my best self on a Disney cruise, my happiest self. Also, my fattest self, but we don't need to talk about that right now. Anyway, it was more fun than I can describe in a short blurb. Above, please see myself and my daughter dressed up for Friday night's pirate party. Yeah, that's a parrot on my shoulder, and at least one little kid at the pirate party thought it was real and asked to touch it. I told him it was dead. He gave me a horrified look, and disappeared back into the crowd of pirates.The death of Harris Wittels (LOW): I didn't know Harris Wittels personally, but I am a huge fan. I fell in love with his comedy through his many appearances on the Comedy Bang Bang podcast, as well as other podcasts to which I listen regularly. If Harris was in an episode of something, I was excited. I am still devastated by his loss, so I can only imagine how his friends and family feel. I can't remember who said it, but someone funny postulated, and I'm paraphrasing here, that the loss of Harris will be felt more and more as time goes by, as he was a singular voice in the world of modern comedy, and his death is not only tragic because of how young he was, but because of how amazingly talented he was. There will never be another Harris Wittels. I'd just be happy to have the old Harris Wittels back at this point.