This is going to be another one of those stories where we talk about something that many comedians have been discussing on social media. Maybe you’re a comedian and this interests you. Maybe you’re not a comedian but keep your finger on the pulse of comedy news. Maybe you’re an alpaca and your farmer is reading this to you.
Like the other stories I’ve written in this vein about people like Shane Gillis and Dave Chappelle, this is a story where I take a look at speech and consequences and the concept of a “cancel culture”, though the fact that I’ve put quotes around that term should tell you where I stand on it. There’s a lot of stuff you could also cover, from toxic fandom to how so many people are using a climate of fear for their own personal gain.
As we are weeks away from entering the third year of living with COVID, one cannot help but see what a toll has been taken on the world. People have gotten hyper-emotional. We’re all mad and sad and scared and confused. We all just want answers because we have so many questions.
Sadly, too many people have turned to the internet to find answers. In theory, this should be a wonderful thing. The internet can be, when used properly, an amazing wealth of information. However, like most good things, it can also be used to cause considerable harm.
I get that there are a lot of bad faith actors out there; people who just use the world wide web and all of its applications to confuse people. I just wish some of them weren’t just so fucking stupid.
I’ve always had a fascination and affinity for the name Veronica. As a an Elvis Costello fan, his 1989 single bearing the name is still a favorite of mine. In the Archie Comics universe, I choose her over Betty. In the film Heathers, Winona Ryder played its heroine with the moniker. I also have been heard to say that I love the name because of a cute nickname that can be given to it….Ronnie.
Sadly and too soon, we lost one this week. The one, only and unforgettable Ronnie Spector (born Veronica Bennet in case you weren’t aware).
Look, celebrities are just like us. They drive cars and eat and go to the store. They laugh and cry and have complicated relationships with their parents. And yes, just like us, celebrities have butts.
There were just so many factors this past year that made it impossible to absorb as much media as I usually do. When you have a baby and a demanding job and the world is burning because of a fucking pandemic, it’s a little hard to get to the movie theater my usual 35-50 times a year. This isn’t to say that I don’t have a favorite movie (The Green Knight) or a favorite television episode (the 8th episode of the third season of Succession) or a favorite album (Tyler The Creator’s Call Me If You Get Lost), but because I don’t feel like I’ve experienced enough pop culture, it’s hard to me to hold something up and say, “This is the best the year has to offer.”
Except when it comes to the best song of the year.
On 30, Adele’s first album in six years, she grapples with the fallout from her divorce, both in herself and through the lens of her son. There is an art to bring pragmatically selfish. Trying to stay together for the child or separating, the inevitability of trauma forces those involved to consider their own needs as well. The nuance of mental health for all parties involved creates a void that is only filled by the realization that the best thing to do is often the worst thing to do. The album is a loose concept based on the reconciliation and justification of her big decision, and it’s one that hits close to home for a generation speeding headlong into middle age, trying desperately to not make the mistakes of our parents.
Released twenty years ago this December, Ocean’s Eleven made $450 million dollars at the box office, and it is not hard, at all, to see why. Director Steven Soderbergh (who gave us this year’s very fantastic film No Sudden Move) made this Las Vegas heist movie fun and cool, and that was exactly what we, as a nation, needed. No one does fun and cool like Soderbergh, which is impressive considering that “cool and fun” is maybe his second- or even third- best gear. Soderbergh is aware of how successful the Ocean’s trilogy is and how well they’re known in popular culture; in his 2017 heist film Logan Lucky, he has a reporter refer to the caper as “Ocean’s 7/11”.
It is fair to say that Soderbergh stacked the deck with Ocean’s Eleven, as it seems impossible not to make a cool movie when you have Don Cheadle, Brad Pitt, and George Clooney in your cast. David Mamet (in his own heist movie, appropriately titled Heist) had a character describe a master thief this way: “My motherfucker’s so cool that when he goes to bed, sheep count him.” It’s impossible to not have these words apply to any of the three actors I listed above.
Ocean’s Eleven had a massive strength in that it had a ton of cool and fun and impressive actors all working in harmony. And while some of these actors have gone on to have more successful careers, it’s hard to imagine anyone in this movie being recast. In this film, they are all perfect. And it led me to ask myself: What are the best movies that were made from each of Danny Ocean’s (Clooney) crew that isn’t an Ocean’s Eleven movie?
On Tuesday, Dave Chappelle released his sixth Netflix special, The Closer, and that could only mean one thing: my social media feeds were intolerable for most of the week. You think it’ s bad hearing about your Aunt Janice’s nonstop bout with carpal tunnel? Just become a comedian and, I promise you, after twelve hours, you’ll be begging to hear more about wrist guards.
Let me start by first saying the obvious: Fuck Cancer. Let me continue by saying something else that is obvious: Norm Macdonald was one of the best, smartest, and most loved comedians that ever lived. The way he told jokes put him in a class all of his own. He never seemed to care about the trends of comedy. He never mattered much for kissing the ring of the latest sensation in stand up. For nearly five decades, he just went out and was quintessentially Norm Macdonald, a character nobody else could possibly play.