Monday, February 26, 2007

Top Ten Unconditionally Funny Characters from TV and Film

I was sitting on Amy’s couch the other night watching South Park, and because of Eric Cartman I found myself laughing uncontrollably for about ten straight minutes. By the time the commercial break finally hit I was light-headed from breathing so frantically and gasping for air in between muffled chortles. Amy, I think, just was going under the assumption that I had flipped out and turned simple on her.

But I didn’t turn simple, I was just happy because that’s what Cartman does to me. He’s such an unapologetic prick trying to act so mature, yet falling so completely short. I wouldn’t want that kind of kid in my life, but my goodness is he funny to watch on television.

It got me thinking about other TV/movie characters that make me laugh frenziedly for the duration of their time on their screen. Like the chorus of a good song, or the dessert after a good meal, I find myself desiring the company of these characters, waiting on baited breath for the time that they finally pop onto the screen and deliver their hysterical lines. The following is a list of my Top Ten Unconditionally Funny Characters from TV and Film, and you best believe Cartman’s on it…

***Warning*** Some of these clips contain adult language. Parental discretion is advised. Clips that are not safe for work will be labeled “NSFW.” Enjoy the clips!

10. Fez, “That ‘70s Show”

In real life, Wilmer Valderrama is about as funny as drying wallpaper glue, and to prove this I submit his gig hosting that crappy MTV show with all the “yo mama” jokes, in which he basically hops around like a jumping bean on Flubber yelling inaudible retorts like “Oh snap!” etc.

On “That ‘70s Show,” however, Valderrama rocks the house as foreign exchange student Fez, whose ignorance of American culture and broken English combine for some extremely funny moments on the show. It’s a great sitcom on it’s own, but there’s hardly anything funnier than when Fez calls someone a “son-of-a-bitch” in his rapid-fire accent.

9. Vince Vaughn, “Swingers”

Vaughn, in my opinion, is the successor to Dennis Miller as the King of the Rant. He goes off on these never-ending, angst-laden tirades about all kinds of things, and it’s the anger, the fast talking, and random details thrown into the fray that make what he says so funny. He goes so quickly sometimes that it takes a minute for the rant to register and for the jokes to really set in.

He’s got his moments in “The Wedding Crashers” and “The Breakup,” but probably my favorite Vince Vaughn performance is in “Swingers.” The Vegas pep talk, his trailer park re-hashing of an acting gig he failed to nail, and the NHL ’94 match at a buddy’s place are all Vaughn classics. They’re all laced with “F-bombs,” but hilarious once you get past all the profanity.

Then again, what’s so wrong with profanity? NSFW.

8. Rod Farva, “Super Troopers”

“Super Troopers” is kind of a cult movie hit made by the same group of guys that recently put out “Beerfest.” However, where “Beerfest” is tailored almost exclusively to a college, alcohol-obsessed audience, “Super Troopers” is a little more diverse, and a little more timeless. Plus, it stars Brian Cox—a real, live, credible actor—as the highway patrol captain, so it’s got to be good, right?

Farva is sort of the idiot guy on the squad—a meathead cop who is part of the profession for all the right reasons, which is part of why the other lazier guys hate him so much. However, Farva has a really short temper, which leads him into all kinds of ridiculous predicaments, including one ambiguous incident involving a school bus full of children. The “Large Farva” scene below is cult comedy classic. NSFW.

7. Gary Busey

An underrated comedic genius/completely insane person, Busey starred in a show for Comedy Central early in my college career called “I’m with Busey.” The premise revolved around a completely nerdy kid named Adam learning life lessons from one of the battiest people on the face of the planet.

Most of the show was improvised, and these two guys had real chemistry together, but unfortunately I can find no video from the show, no DVD for sale, not even a stinkin’ audio clip. You’ll just have to trust me that it was extraordinary. If you’re dying to see for yourself, and you can get a hold of the “Entourage” DVD’s, there’s an episode in which Busey almost kills Turtle for breaking a piece of Busey’s weird art. The man is completely cocked, which is fabulous, because it also means he’s funny.

6. Sarah Silverman

Noticeably the only woman on my list, because she’s probably the only female comic in the entire world who makes me laugh. My girlfriend Amy is funny, I have a friend from college named Ashley who’s always been a big hoot, and then there’s Sarah Silverman. Outside of those three, I feel like women’s humor is too tailored towards other women for me, a manly man, to fully appreciate it.

I’ve always found Silverman to be a riot, making her much more attractive than she actually is, and her new show, “The Sarah Silverman Programme” is genuinely hilarious. (Ex - In talking to a class of first graders about AIDS awareness, she says, “You think you’re invincible, huh? I was that way once. I knew it all! Nothing could touch me! Sure, I did some drinkin’, some druggin’, tried it in the butt one or nine times. Just have fun. Or so I thought…”). Who knows how long the show will last on the air, but the gal’s got a gift. A special, special gift.

5. Dwight Schrute, “The Office”

It’s hard to choose only one representative from the office because Michael Scott (Steve Carrel’s character) is also one that makes me laugh with regularity. However, I think Dwight’s here instead of the World’s Best Boss because Dwight’s on screen with less frequency, so I miss him more.

Rainn Wilson (the actor that plays Dwight) said once that “There’s a lot of comedy in taking yourself too seriously,” which is exactly the kind of character Dwight is. He’s tough guns, loves what he does, and truly believes he’s superior to everyone else in every possible way. He’s also extremely gullible, making Pam and Jim’s prank scenes that much more pleasant.

4. Tobias Funke, “Arrested Development”

Since “Arrested Development” is my favorite show of all time, I could list almost anyone in the cast. GOB is a favorite, as is Buster, but Tobias is the guy that gets me tittering with more habitually than anybody else. He’s a former psychiatrist who quits the medical profession to pursue an acting career. Going nowhere under the tutelage of Carl Weathers (of “Happy Gilmore” fame), he drives his wife and daughter absolutely mad with his constant failures. He truly sucks at acting, which makes for some entertaining auditions (also that he sends studios headshots marked with his own lipstick kisses in bags filled with glitter and confetti—just one of many vague hints that Tobias is a homosexual).

He then later tries to join the Blue Man Group to no avail, but for the rest of the show’s life you can see blue body paint in the background on pretty much every wall and major appliance in the house. It’s the small things like that which make “AD” the greatest of all time. If you haven’t watched this show yet, you must. You absolutely must.

3. Jiminy Glick

Martin Short’s still got it in so many ways, but none of his characters has been more enjoyable than faux talk-show host Jiminy Glick. Glick is a fatso who drives the interviews more towards discussion about himself than towards the celebrities he’s working with (Stephen Colbert basically ripped off and watered down this interviewing style for the “Colbert Report,” which is coincidentally one of the funniest shows currently on television). He’ll rip on his guests, mispronounce their names, and go on wild, off-the-cuff tangents that last for minutes at a time.

Some of the guests play along, some get angry, and some can’t help but laugh the entire time. No matter how you shake it, it’s high-shelf humor. Some of the best you can get.


2. Ali G

The world’s on a bit of a Borat trip right now, but Sacha Baron Cohen’s best character is that of Ali G, an idiot gangster wannabe from a suburb in England who somehow manages big-time interviews with people in high political and social standing. The interviews are always very well-planned, as Ali G asks only questions certain to rile up or confuse the person he’s interviewing. In one instance I swear Andy Rooney was going to kill him. You almost feel sorry for the guests because they try so hard to explain things rationally to Ali G, but he’s just not rational. Not at all.

But irrationality leads to great fun, and nearly every single Ali G interview is a scream the whole way through.

1. Cartman, “South Park”

When I started writing this I had no idea who’d be my number one, but I guess it all comes back to Eric Cartman of “South Park.” He’s my fave for the reasons listed above, and I guess it’s just because I never grow tired of him. The show’s been on for years, and I have yet to tire of the fat little jerk. But that’s how great comedy is supposed to work, right? Timeless… NSFW.

So there you go! Comedy at its best, people! Who is ranked too high? To low? Who was left off of the list entirely (because I’m sure I’m forgetting somebody)? Hopefully, at the very least, you got a few laughs at home or at work, because let’s face it: We all need a giggle here and there, even if laughing at the evil of Eric Cartman feels totally wrong. If finding this stuff funny is wrong, then baby, I don’t want to be right.

Monday, February 19, 2007

The Colors of the World

So I found out late last week that I have a neurological disorder. Cool, huh!

I’ve tried explaining this weird thing my brain does probably a million times, and every time I do people end up looking at me like a freshly-shorn Britney Spears. But it’s completely true; there’s something special going on in my noggin. I swear I’m not making any of this up.

I should probably first clear up the fact that although this thing I’ve got—technically referred to as synesthesia—classifies under the category of “neurological disorder,” there’s nothing unhealthy about my brain. What I’ve got is no more or less than dangerous than color blindness or perfect pitch.

With that little caveat taken care of, allow me to delve into what exactly this whole phenomenon is (which might be hard because I’ve never written about this before).

I see/associate colors with absolutely everything—days of the week, letters in the alphabet, numbers, personalities, rooms, temperatures, music, names, and even situations. Before I figured out that these were called synesthesiae, I always called them “auras,” because there are literally colors enveloping everything I see, hear, and experience.

These colors aren’t physically there; so I don’t look at a person and actually see red or blue around their bodies, but in my mind’s eye, and in my gut, that person feels red or blue (or yellow or green or whatever). People have colors, and those who I know better and are more comfortable around tend to be warm colors like red, orange, or yellow, and those I do not know as well, or with whom I’m not as easy around, I tend to feel green or blue.

With music, more upbeat, full-sounding songs are warm. The more I like it, and the more it energizes me, the closer to red the aura is. Ballads are without fail a cool color, and the more emotional the song makes me feel, the closer to blue it will be.

Letters are a crapshoot, but every character has a color. Red always seems to be for things I like most, and as a result the red letters are B, R, M, and J. It’s probably no coincidence that these are the dominant consonant sounds in my own name.

Days the week and months of the year are wrought with color, too. Some make sense (October is orange, November is brown), while others seem to have no real rhyme or reason (April is yellow, June red).

In school I always used my colors to help with me things like tests. For example, I’d tackle multiple choice questions by lining up possible answers with the question until the colors matched. I’ve always studied for tests, but it was this method that made me absolutely sure even more so than just knowing the answer. I knew the answer because the colors were right, if that makes any sense. I guess it kind of worked like photographic memory.

I’ve also let color dictate a lot of my social interactions as well. If a party had a bad, weak, or muddy color, I wouldn’t go. If it were vibrant and warm, I’d be there. Bars around town that have cool colors associated with them are ones I tend to steer clear from, and ones that are warm are more enjoyable for me. I even had a couple of instances in high school where a situation felt great (red), but would change colors very quickly, so I’d bolt. Sure enough, Gates (who I’d be roaming the halls with during homeroom) would get caught doing something stupid minutes after I headed back to class. He called me “Angel” because I managed to do this so many times over our homeroom wandering careers.

It’s definitely made my life simpler, and it’s also why I enjoy simple organizational tasks. It’s sort of like fung shui, but actually based off of real feelings that I’ve got, and not some stupid commercial book that tells you were to put stuff (some of their suggestions I agree with, others not).

I probably don’t sound any less crazy than before I started writing this, but I swear that synesthesia is a real thing. See, even MIT acknowledges it! Besides, you shouldn’t call me crazy. I’ll use my super powers on you and douse you in magical colors. Mwoohahahaha!

Sorry. That was just the neurological disorder talking.

Thursday, February 15, 2007

So Refreshing

In the category of live musical performances, this one was certainly… unique. I’ve got Kyle to thank for the tickets, since he’s able to get his hands on pretty much anything he wants here in Bloomington-Normal through his connections with the radio stations. They provide him with promotional access to everything—John Mayer this weekend, Ron White last week(had to turn that one down), and tonight, it was Ladysmith Black Mambazo.

I’ve been to my fair share of rock concerts over the years—the kind where you go in with perfect hearing and healthy ear drums, and come out with the auditory freshness of a 90-year old war vet with his Beltone turned all the way down. I’ve also been to a handful of rap concerts, which are about as musically enriching as a symphony of garbage can lids being knocked over by cats in a dark alley.

These concert experiences (for the most part) have been energetic, flashy, and commercial, but there’s no real substance to them. Kids aren’t going to these shows to hear a prophetic artist speak his/her mind on a controversial subject, or to spread peace and love to the people sharing the music with them. Quite the contrary, actually—most rock concerts involve a thrashing throng of inebriated teens with tattoos and pink Mohawks whose main objective is to sever any flailing limb within a ten-foot radius of their bodies.

Mambazo, however, was peaceful and positive and uplifting. The group is based in South Africa, and was started by a man 46 years ago who literally dreamt the harmonies that would become his group’s signature style. Now the man’s an ordained minister and professor of music with 12 Grammy nominations and appearances at Nobel peace ceremonies.

The music itself is a droning meditation of harmonies and African improvisations. The songs are about the condition of the world, and what all of us can do to help make it better. Smiling and waving with both hands throughout the concert, the singers seem like genuinely nice people. To be truthful, I would absolutely love to hang out with the fellers from Ladysmith Black Mambazo. I have no doubt it’d be a night for the ages.

I’m not saying I’m going to burn all my Incubus albums or anything, but tonight’s show was a different kind of musical experience—one that took me to a new place. I’m too tired at this hour of the night to really give it much deeper thought than this, but I know I enjoyed it thoroughly and plan to resurrect the Paul Simon “Graceland” CD to get the rest of my fill of these guys.

Just remember that even though the general state of modern popular music is in serious decline, there’s still some worthwhile positive stuff out there. At the very least, you’ve got to love that old Life Savers commercial they did, right?

"So refreshing…"

Thursday, February 08, 2007

Following the Trail Wherever It Leads

So I’ve spent the better part of the last two days’ lunch hours playing a little game you might have heard of—it’s a little something I like to call “The Oregon Trail.”

As I child I remember playing this game at school (along with the also fantastic “Number Munchers”) with absolutely zero success. To be completely honest with you, I can’t remember a single childhood incident that involves me getting to Oregon. I couldn’t have even told you what the “Congratulations, You Win the Oregon Trail” screen even looked like, though I’m guessing there’s some Champaign involved, and maybe some dancing bikini models in fabulous 8-bit color graphics.

That said, the game’s journey was oddly entertaining despite its sober simplicity and complete lack of anything exciting or flashy. The highlight of the game is the “hunting” option, in which you fire little bullets at albino deer and buffalo. The only problem is if you shot a particularly large animal you could never carry all the food back with you in the wagon for some reason. It’s a state law; you can look it up.

Another of the game’s personalized options tickled me to no end, as your wagon-mates could be named after anybody you want. I always got a kick out of seeing in what fashion my dearest friends would die: “Sam got dysentery!” or “Patrick has cholera!” There was also some enjoyment to be had in typing monikers for human waste instead of people’s names, a la “poop” and “boogers.” These were truly the prime years of my life.

Anyway, the moral of the story is that as an adult, I finally beat the stupid game. Apparently there are little things you can tweak during your journey to insure a safer passage through the mountains, etc… With a little more practice, I could be the best.

So watch your backs all you eight-year olds out there who think you’ve got something to prove. Mr. Joel Brigham is coming through town to rough you up, show you how it’s done. I’ve even brought my posse with me: Sam, Patrick, Boogers, and Poop.

Prepare to meet your demise, you stupid trail.


If you haven't already, check out my friends' satirical news website, The Giant Napkin. They do really funny stuff, and I recently started helping (just an iddy bitty bit) write some stuff. I won't tell you which is mine, but I will say that Chase Thunder has been a great friend to me. I love that kid.