January 21, 2009: Katy Perry – Hot ‘N’ Cold (posted by Joe)
My car’s got a few quirks – specifically, the CD player only ejects when it’s above 40 degrees. So for the last 3 weeks, it’s either been the same Hold Steady album over and over again, or the radio. Well, after about 2 passes, I’ve had enough of “Boys in Girls in America” – so for the last 18 days it’s been the radio. And you know what I find myself doing now when I drive? Listening to NPR? Absolutely not – because I secretly suspect that Robert Siegel might be the lead singer of the Hold Steady. No, instead, I’ve been scanning radio stations trying to find Katy Perry’s Hot ‘N’ Cold – a song of no depth whatsoever that I just fucking love.
What’s weird is that, generally speaking, I’m a fan of more intellectual lyrics. I like the Decemberists – because their songs are like bizarre lost Homeric epics about Civil War generals and shipwrecks. I like The Roots – because their songs are like a cross between Eddie Murphy standup and a Black Panthers rally. And I like Aesop Rock – because his songs are like a goulash made of the evening news, Sportscenter, and Fraggle Rock. But this predilection gets thrown out the window entirely when I hear that Katy Perry song – because her lyrics are, for lack of more politically correct word – retarded.
Seriously, listen to the chorus. It’s like a bad poem written by a marginally literate remedial-track eighth-grade girl: “Cuz you’re hot, then you’re cold / you’re yes, then you’re no / you’re in, then you’re out / you’re up, then you’re down / It’s wrong when it’s right / it’s black and it’s white / we fight, we break up / we kiss, we make up.” How did someone produce a song with these lyrics? It’s worse than that Kid Rock rip-off of Warren Zevon that’s on the radio right now and rhymes “things” with “things.” If I was a middle-school teacher running a unit on poetry and this got handed in, I’d probably try to say something nice about the solid use of imagery, but really I’d be making a snide internal remark about the poem displaying a good understanding of the concept of opposites. Still, even as I re-read this schlock, I start singing the chorus in my head and getting all excited. And this is why music is funny, and why I really wish that Malcolm Gladwell would write a new chapter of The Tipping Point about this song – because it’s just plain awesome. Maybe it’s the yellow skirt, or maybe the Jack Nicholson cameo in the video, or maybe it’s because the song invents a whole new disease – the love bipolar. Who knows? – but Katy Perry, we salute you as being the first object on our “What We Find Funny,” but what we really mean to say is “What We Find Kind of Awesome” list.
February 13, 2009: Accidental Comedies – The Transporter (posted by Matt)
One Crazy Summer back in 2002, my younger brother was working for a local pizza joint in Mentor, Ohio; I was a junior at John Carroll University in Cleveland. When I was an undergraduate, there were about 4,000 students at JCU, and 3,929 of them lived on campus. The Sure Thing on any given weekend was that 3,921 of those 3,929 went home to one of the surrounding suburbs. So, not to be one of the Eight Men Out, on Fridays, I would pack up my 1989 Chevy Berretta and head thirty miles northeast to Mentor. Now, since Brad (my aforementioned brother) was still in high school, he only worked at Marco’s Pizza on Fridays and Saturdays, so I would swing by on my way to the ranch and pick up a medium pie with banana peppers and mushrooms. Next door to Marco’s was City Hall, but next to that was a Hollywood Video, which sold previously viewed movies for something like five bucks a piece; they called that promotion the Sure Thing.
One particular Friday, while waiting for my pizza, I went to Hollywood Video to rent a movie (yeah, this is seriously how I spent…and spend…my Friday nights). As I walked through the door I was met by 93 copies of Grosse Pointe Blank (which I already had) and 57 copies of The Transporter. Needless to say, when I left there were only 56 copies left on the shelf of that masterpiece.
Say Anything you’d like, but I love Jason Statham movies. I watch them with the religious-like fervor that I used to exhibit when I studied J.C.’s career back in the early 90s – and no, I’m not talking about America’s Sweetheart, J.C. Chasez from N’SYNC. I mean THE J.C. (no, not Joan Cusack either). C’mon! I’m talking about her much more romantically confused younger brother, John – whose made so many movies in High Fidelity that you can’t even begin a Top-5 All Time Greatest List. Anyway, here’s why I love Jason Statham movies: every one of them (post-Snatch) has hit that Thin Red Line on the hilarious meter – the perfect 10! The reason for this is that none of these movies were supposed to be funny – kind of like Keanu Reeves’ films (ie. Constantine, The Matrix, Speed) – but they all are spectacularly so.
But, here’s the thing. I’ve watched The Transporter close to 1408 times!!! Stumbling upon those 57 used copies back in 2002 was like Serendipity. And everyone I’ve lent this gem to will Stand By Me in this judgment (except Bob Roberts, his favorite flick has always been Sixteen Candles – it’s like he’s a Martian Child or something). Statham’s cooler than The Ice Harvest, rule-following, stunt-driving character is just ridiculously funny; really, anyone who takes themselves as seriously as Frank Martin deserves to be laughed at. Take, for instance, this proverbial insight: “You don’t need your mouth to pee” (Frank Martin). Because the line is delivered with extreme seriousness, I find it so funny it actually made me pee in my pants a little bit – and he’s right, I didn’t need my mouth to do it!
March 10, 2009: The Virgin Mary Grilled Cheese Sandwich (posted by Matt)
Do you ever laugh at something, but you’re not sure what it is that you’re laughing at? I mean, you know why you’re laughing (something is cramp-inducingly funny), but you can’t quite identify the source that elicits your response. This has happened to me a few times in my 28 years on this planet. Once, when I was 11, my older cousin Adam cracked a sex joke, which sent all of his friends, and me, rolling (though I’m 100% positive that it only sent me rolling so violently that a rather large spot of urine formed on my navy blue sweatpants). I can’t recall what the joke was, and even if I could, I’m not entirely certain I would completely understand what it is I was laughing about. Perhaps, this is for the best, I wouldn’t want to type it out and suddenly find myself wallowing in a puddle of…well, that was the first time I laughed uncontrollably at something hilarious, but wasn’t sure what exactly prompted the laughter.
There is another, more recent (and decidedly dryer), laughing fit that left me similarly perplexed about the origin of my chuckle: The Virgin Mary grilled cheese. Now, I often find it pretty damn funny when people think they see a particular face in things like stucco, clouds, smoke, pancakes, and grilled cheese sandwiches (I say particular face because certainly the facial structure can be found in many objects). But add to this already silly sighting the large woman in teal and orange Miami Dolphins Zubaz pants and a stained white undershirt who is telling me about her vision and the laughs seem to come from a completely different source. Add to both of the previous pieces of the puzzle the fact that said grilled cheese sandwich sold on e-bay for $28,000 and I might be getting closer to uninhibited urine flow all over again.
So what is it that I find funny here? Well, I think I’ve come up with a vaguely blasphemous answer: religion. And more specifically Catholicism. So, in honor of the recent DVD release of Bill Maher’s Religulous, and because I was raised a Catholic, I think (I’m not certain, God may force me to piss myself during the next major, important public event I attend) I’m allowed to make this observation. Certainly I understand the merits of organized religion on a micro level (and to keep under my 500 word limit imposed by Dr. Wizard, I won’t go into these here because, well, they aren’t very funny. They’re serious and wholesome and hopeful), but on the macro level, antagonistic doctrines cause the proverbial shit to hit the proverbial fan more often than not (and that’s not very funny either).
But this is a rant about toast and the people who see holy faces in it. And it’s written for all of the people, like me, who have been raised in a community of sit down, kneel, stand up, repeat after me, eat this, drink that, do bad things, feel guilty, say you’re sorry, all is forgiven, want to buy an indulgence? Are you fucking serious? (that last question was mine, I mean, really!?!). Most days I wish I saw the face of the Virgin Mary in my grilled cheese and believed it was more than just coincidentally charred butter, but instead I just kind of find the whole thing to be laugh out loud, piss your pants while snorting cheese out your nose funny. So it goes.