Tuesday, May 4, 2010

"Aw hell, Chewbacca": 10 genuinely funny stand-up routines about movies

Patton Oswalt at his second home, the comic shop
Patton Oswalt, one of the few stand-ups who have publicly sworn off Twitter ("I like having radio silence. I think radio silence is an important part of any public figure's day."), did the unthinkable this past weekend when he succumbed to the Twittersphere and started an account. As one can see from his act and his stint as a guest programmer at L.A.'s New Bev Cinema, movies are a topic the Big Fan star and Hollywood script doctor is passionate about, and they've led to some of my favorite Oswalt routines. Maybe we'll get a taste of some more Oswalt material about movies on his new Twitter page. To mark Oswalt's arrival on Twitter, where he's already on a roll and is demonstrating why stand-ups and comedy writers are the best kind of celebrity to follow on Twitter (unlike most other celebs, their tweets are rarely boring or shallow), here are 10 standout routines from the stand-up world about cinema. Four of these routines are Oswalt's.

10. Richard Pryor rewrites The Exorcist
The horror genre has always fascinated the late Pryor's former writing partner Paul Mooney, who's done brilliant jokes about the Frankenstein monster, white filmgoers' fears of the shark from Jaws and movies that skeevily put women in romantic situations with sci-fi monsters. He must have had a hand in writing Pryor's material about The Exorcist, which he and Pryor actually saw together at its Hollywood premiere. When Pryor guest-hosted SNL and brought along Mooney as a sketch writer, they did an amusing Exorcist sketch in which a pair of black priests (Pryor and Thalmus Rasulala) lose their patience with the possessed kid (Laraine Newman), who taunts Rasulala's priest with the cleaned-up-for-TV "Your mama sews socks that smell."

9. Scott Thompson sinks Titanic during an interview on Late Night with Conan O'Brien
"I don't think that to be a leading man, you have to be Harrison Ford, but I do think that you should be able to do at least one push-up. When little Leo finally kisses big Kate, I thought it was a lesbian scene."

8. Robert Klein reenacts every single Our Gang short you've seen
I actually like this routine from the 1973 album Child of the 50's more than "I Can't Stop My Leg." Klein's recreation of the Our Gang score music ("Hal Roach had four tunes that he played over and over again") is priceless.

7. Oswalt wonders what Star Wars would have been like if Nick Nolte won the role he actually auditioned for: Han Solo
"Fuckin' droids, beep, beep..."

6. Oswalt recalls one of the reasons why he left his hometown of Sterling, Virginia
The Blast of Silence-loving film geek gets worked up over the aggravating opinions of an NBC affiliate's out-of-touch film critic ("Yeah, so there's this new movie from Australia... called The Road Warrior. Now let me get this straight. It's the future, there's no gasoline, but everyone's driving around in cars. I don't get it. No stars!"). It's an oddly affecting routine that anyone who's aching to leave the hometown they despise--including right now, yours truly--can identify with.

5. Steve Byrne imagines how Bruce Lee had sex
This is a hilarious little routine that must be watched, not listened to. Why Byrne included it as a track on his 2005 CD Little by Little boggles the mind because 90 percent of it relies on visual gags. Without the visuals, it's like listening to a Marcel Marceau record album.

4. Mario Cantone does an impression of that annoying classroom song from The Birds
I'm disappointed that no one has posted Cantone's Birds routine on YouTube. If you watched a lot of Comedy Central during the late '90s like I did, you might have fond memories of the routine. The channel frequently reran it, yet it never got old. I always dug how instead of the Psycho shower scene or the North by Northwest crop-duster attack, Cantone chose a lesser-known Hitchcock movie moment to mock (and add some profane new lyrics to). And yes, when you watch The Birds, that song really does work your last nerve and make you want to go peck a defenseless hobo's eyes out like he's Suzanne Pleshette.

3. Oswalt wishes he could go back in time and kill George Lucas with a shovel
A lapsed Star Wars fan, Oswalt delivers a terrific argument against prequels. Yet that didn't stop Oswalt from joining the cast of one of them--Caprica.

2. Paul Mooney rips apart white Hollywood
During the long-out-of-print 1993 album Race, Mooney makes you never look at Disney's Beauty and the Beast the same way again ("Don't take your kids to see that shit. Four or five years from now, your kid'll be in the kitchen fucking the dog, singing 'Beauty and the Beast!'") and disses sci-fi and horror filmmakers for both their misogyny and weird fetishes for "exotic" interspecies romances (I wonder what Mooney has to say about Twilight and True Blood). But the best part of Mooney's amazing rant is when he explains why he detests Driving Miss Daisy ("I don't like that coonin' happy slave bullshit"). The movies that Mooney jokes about on the 1993 CD may be old now, but unfortunately, the stereotypes they reinforced still remain. Now if only there were an Asian American stand-up who isn't so subservient to the Man and will go onstage and rant about the Asian American version of all this.

1. Oswalt channels movie producer Robert Evans
I love how Oswalt often picks the most obscure pop culture-related topics for his act (Death Bed: The Bed That Eats is a recent example). An audience favorite at past Oswalt performances was his parody of the little-remembered ESPN radio ads that the Godfather and Rosemary's Baby producer recorded to promote the channel's programming. We see why Oswalt is frequently employed as a punch-up scriptwriter when he lets his imagination run wild with colorful, almost poetic-sounding descriptions of wild escapades with '70s celebrities ("Tom Wopat loved the three F's: food, fun and fisting. We took Gil Gerard out on my cigarette boat Memorial Day Weekend 1978, and I swear to you, over those sweet, savage 72 hours, he turned that poor man into his personal finger puppet.").

1 comment:

  1. I like Pablo Francisco's take on Don Lafontaine.