Wednesday, July 22, 2009

No Sweet reward

Tim Bearden

President Barack Obama spoke to the nation on July 22 regarding his health care package and the economy.

Leave it to the Chicago Sun-Times White House correspondent to get off task. Lynn Sweet, whom I never liked covering the president anyway, asked about Henry Lewis "Skip" Gates' arrest and race relations in America.

You wonder why your paper is in the tank. We're still in one of the worst recessions in 50 years, health care is a hot button topic and you asked about a professor who was locked out of his home. Knocked that one out of the park didn't you Sweet. Way to ask the tough questions.

You wonder why your paper is in the tank? It's coverage like that and your past coverage of Obama that makes people not able to take you seriously. I'm reminded of your bracket columns during March Madness when people the government loaned money to were taking large bonuses.

Are you the sole reason your paper is struggling? Of course not, that would just be unfair to Conrad Black. But columnists like you aren't helping.

I'm not taking away from the importance of race relations in America. It is an important issue and racial profiling does need to be addressed, as Obama said in reply. But there is a time and a place for questions like that.

That's why Robert Gibbs, Obama's press secretary, has daily new briefings. Ask him about it. He'll get an answer from the president for you.

While a press conference is a good way to get your questions answered, use your head Sweet. It's like asking about the president's wardrobe for a ball during a hostage crisis. It's not the time nor the place.

I expected more from a seasoned journalist. Then again...

Thursday, July 9, 2009

Kathy Griffin to host Rivers Roast

Tim Bearden

Kathy Griffin. Who would have thunk it? A woman with a loud and annoying voice has been selected to roast the comedic icon Joan Rivers.

Since most of the people who know Rivers are either dead or extremely old I would like to remind them to not only stay in their coffins, but also turn down your Beltones. When either woman gets to the mic it'll sound like the clanging of aluminum trash can lids in your ears.

But, why Griffin? Was Fran Drescher unavailable? Is Wanda Sykes too busy palling around with Julia Louis-Dreyfus? I'm sure either of them could compete with Rivers' in a shouting for attention match better than Griffin.

What's most surprising about Griffin being the master of ceremonies is that she is actually working. I thought Comedy Central mainly chose emcee's who were either washed up T.V. stars, B-List comics or reality stars.

Oh, wait! Griffin is a reality T.V. star--an Emmy Award-winning reality TV star. Her life on the D-List has brought her.up to the B-List.

Not to take away from Griffin's talents. She is a funny comedienne, but I find it odd that Rivers, known for her boisterous critiques on the red carpet, is being roasted by someone who is equally piercing. That's what America wants, two cats howling into its ears for an hour.

At any rate, congratulations Griffin, now you can make fun of an A-list comic with a B-List billing.

Wednesday, April 8, 2009

Rivers roasted equals comedy drought

Tim Bearden

Comedy Central just announced it's latest roast victim, Joan Rivers.

Joan Rivers is an accomplished comedian with such credits to her resume as Spaceballs, the Academy Awards' Red Carpet walk and The Last Supper. It's probably the fact the plastic hasn't melted her face off under the bright lights of the Oscars that made Comedy Central comfortable to do this roast.

The roast masters will most likely be Greg Giraldo, Lisa Lampenelli and God, in his first roast appearance. Anyone who basically isn't that busy. Lampenelli is the only one with a fully operating career right now. As we can see from the wars erupting and Daniel Tosh getting his own show, God's on vacation.

Comedy Central got it right, for a change, and is roasting someone worthy of it. Let's just hope her robot parts don't rust on the way to the studio.

Friday, March 13, 2009

Cramer wrongfully victimized by Stewart

Tim Bearden

Alright, so Jim Cramer of CNBC’s “Mad Money” wasn’t wrongfully victimized, but that headline got your attention and that’s my point.

As Jon Stewart of Comedy Central’s “Daily Show” said in his interview with Cramer, this is the same exploitation of possibly inaccurate information and advice given by the commentators and reporters of CNBC.

Stewart has been lampooning CNBC this past week after reporter Rick Santelli was seen on the floor of the Chicago Mercantile Exchange shouting about bailout money going to home-owners. Much to his dismay, I’m sure, Cramer decided it would be a good idea to become, as Stewart put it, the face of CNBC.

But that’s also not the point of this column. The point of this column is we have found true journalism in comedy and that’s both ironic and funny, but not necessarily “funny ha-ha” more like “funny uh-oh” as Yakko Warner would put it. (But misdirection keeps you reading)

Comics tend to turn to the news makers for material. The idea of current events comedy is what started “The Daily Show.” You recap the events of the day, week, month or year and put your own spin to it.

Stewart has taken this a step farther, whether he wanted to or not, and is becoming the watcher of the watchdogs.

Perhaps the best clip of the past week’s war with the financial station was when a reporter, asked one executive accused of Ponzi schemes “What’s it like to be a billionaire?”

Hard hitting, isn’t it? That’s point Stewart was making and he’s absolutely right. It’s sad and stupid that we have to get this information from the same guy who was in Half Baked asking “Have you ever seen the back of a $20 dollar bill…on weed!”

Why can’t more journalists call out other journalists? Because the newspapers or shows they work for are part of the same company. Let’s take the Chicago Tribune, for example.

Tribune Media Co. is owned by Sam Zell. His media group has not only the Trib, but also WGN-TV, WGN Radio and CLTV. Now, let’s make believe CLTV had mostly commentators instead of reporters, like a lot of the national media.

Would that group honestly call out CLTV the same way CNBC was called out by Comedy Central? No, absolutely not, even though they probably know more of what goes on than other media outlets. If they screwed up, it would be news in competing papers, but it would most likely die. Journalists have other things to worry about a lot of the time, such as it not happening to them.

Then again the Trib doesn’t really need to worry about any kind of controversy, considering gossip is such a big deal for Colonel Tribune, the newspapers resident tweeter. Bristol Palin and her boyfriend breaking up was big enough news for him to hop on and get excited about, which was first reported by the Associated Press. And I’m pretty sure these people have more things to worry about than the daughter of a failing Alaskan Gov.’s social life.

Anyway, back on message. From a business stand-point, chastising your own affiliate would cut into your profit margins and, much like what the rest of the market has been doing, your stock would tank. As Chuck Klosterman said in his book Sex, Drugs and Cocoa Puffs, journalism is a business owned by “massive conservative corporations” and they “own everything.” And all those CEO’s know are profit margins.

Editors know that, so they try to keep bad news about their business--(drumroll) out of the news.

CNBC failed and Cramer became the spokesman. The hard-hitting financial network reported on more fluff and crap than the comedy news show. In turn failed to see the bigger picture of what was not just happening, but what they were perpetuating too.

Stewart noticed this, Stewart called them out and it’s ridiculous the journalists missed it.

We’re supposed to be the watchdogs of society, but we were too busy knawing on the bones of G.W. to notice a huge mistake in our own backyard.

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Watchmen induces mixed feelings

Tim Bearden

I really wanted to like the Watchmen, but the movie was more two-dimensional than the comic.

That’s not to say the movie was horrible, because it wasn’t. It’s also not to say the effort wasn’t somewhat of a cinematic achievement, because it was. But director Zach Snyder got stuck in the same pitfall that made 300 less than appealing, the story and characters were flat.

Snyder is most revered for his visual directing style and rightfully so, which is why a 600-word review cannot begin to capture the complexity of the film, much like three hours wasn’t enough to capture the complexity of the book. Or was it?

Peter Jackson accurately portrayed each 500 plus page Lord of the Rings book with a movie that was both enjoyable to fans and beginners alike. Each of the theatrical releases was about three hours in length. He was able to give the characters depth, make the viewer believe this alternate world existed and stay true to the story line while remaining visually compelling.

The “Watchmen” graphic novel was about 100 pages less, but it was arguably more complex than “Lord of the Rings.” Within the graphic novel there are many competing story lines woven into one larger story. Snyder, while staying true to the art of the book, just couldn’t bring a majority of these characters to life or lift the story from the page.

One major problem with his adaptation was the emphasis he put on the superheroes. I can respect he did this for the viewers who had not read “Watchmen,” but at the same time I have to chastise him for it. Superheroes were merely a plot device of the book, not the central focus. The central focus was the contempt mankind had for itself and each other.

To put it historically, the book, set in alternate 1985 New York, was written around the same time Bernhard Goetz had just shot four men who were attempting to mug him in a New York subway. From the acclaim he got for being a vigilante, he became a martyr, which is the same kind of story the Watchmen seemed to convey.

It was that underlying story that made the book a New York Times Bestseller and one of Time Magazines “Top 100 Books of all Time,” not the visuals. If you were to take the comic aspect away from the novel, you would have the same amazing book with the same interesting characters and story.

In order to really criticize the other major flaws with the film, I have to briefly describe the philosophy (which could have been written by Nietzsche himself), psychology (which really captures both sociopathic behavior and the “Peter Pan” syndrome) and human condition (mankind ultimately wanting to destroy itself) without losing the integrity along the way. Much like the film had to do and failed at. See why 600-words can’t do this justice?

But, to his credit, Rorschach and Dr. Manhattan had the depth and complexity they deserved. They were major players in the comic and I like the fact Snyder stayed true to them.

Their separate story lines were just as important in the movie as they were in the novel, but I still didn’t feel as though the alternate 1985 was real, like I did when I read it.

Terry Gilliam is well-known for making an alternate universe feel real (i.e. Brazil, The Fisher King and Tideland) and Watchmen is placed in an alternate 1985. When he attempted not once, but twice to make this film and said he couldn’t do it that should speak volumes. But it didn’t. And just like Gilliam goes over budget, I’m going over word count.

Basically, Snyder, this piece was too big for you when a seasoned filmmaker openly admits defeat, but the fanboy attempt does not go unnoticed (being a fanboy myself), no matter how handicapped or half-hearted that attempt may have seemed.

Wednesday, March 4, 2009

Robin Williams' medical issues

Tim Bearden

Robin Williams, who is scheduled to be in Chicago for his first performance in late March, had to postpone four stops of his "Weapons of Self-Destruction" tour due to health issues.

According to the press release, Williams is being evaluated by doctors and was suggested to take a week of rest. He was reported having "shortness of breath."

Williams probably replied "God was under twice as much stress and he only rested one day. Bite me."

Then again, the 57-year-old comic probably is at the stage of his life that he'll still listen to doctors despite being annoyed.

It comes as no surprise Williams is experiencing shortness of breath, especially with his style of comedy. His high energy, A.D.D. routines would cause even the most adept meth addict a heart attack.

The energy Williams performs with is higher than I have seen with any reputable comedian. His comedic allure has always been the off-the-wall, Tazmanian Devil approach to material.

It still makes you wonder, if this great will fall soon too. In the past year we've had two comedians die from "health complications," the late George Carlin and Bernie Mac. As everyone knows bad things happens in threes. This would be contemporary comedy's third.

Not that I'm wishing any ill-will toward Williams. In fact, quite the opposite. I hope for a speedy recovery followed by a long life of performance. I love his comedy and appreciate his passion and ability to perform with such high energy.

This is why he is one of comedy's greats. We at Comedy Corner Magazine wish him well and want Williams to know Dog is watching over him.

Friday, February 27, 2009

Robin's kind of town

After his "pop in" visit last year to Lakeshore Theater, Robin Williams left Chicago wanting more.

The wait is over as he has announced two shows at the Rosemont Theater in Rosemont, Ill. The legendary comedian will be back in the Chicago area on both March 27 (sold out) and April 18 to perform for Windy City fans.

Tickets range from $49.50 to $95. Supply and demand charts prove his show is not overpriced.