Tuesday, April 17, 2007

What Was I Thinking?

I have noticed many things over my long years, some of little consequence and some of major consequence. I am going to tell you about a major one: renovating a room in your house. Let me start with this.......DON'T DO IT!! It is like a cancer that infests itself in the foundation of your bank account. Once you start it doesn't stop and one room leads to another and another and another...well, you get the picture. What starts out to be a little weekend project turns into a wallet bloodletting experience and excruciating ordeal that will drain you like a vampire with an insatiable appetite. I know you're saying, "Oh, Paul it can't be that bad" and "Aren't you exaggerating just a bit much?" Well, yes I am...it's really much worse than all that! Take my word for it.
My wife and I decided that we had to do the Master Bathroom over because it was now 25 years old and really in bad shape. It did have to be done and we figured it wouldn't cost too much to make it nice and contemporary. On the surface that would normally be correct but when you add this and you add that, you are suddenly over budget and overwhelmed. But you rationalize it because it is needed. Let me just say that guys don't really care too much about this sort of stuff. We generally don't like too much change and we do things to make the little woman happy and to keep the peace. (Or is that piece?) After all, if it weren't for women we'd probably be still living in caves. We would have still invented television to watch sports and porn but we'd be in caves just the same. But I digress. The bathroom came out terrifically and looked like something you'd see in 'House Beautiful'. All was right with the world again and life was good, with the exception of one minute problem; now the master bedroom looked cruddy and old in comparison. After all, that was 25 years old also. What should we do? What could be done? The answer was obvious to my wife. We should redo that room also just so that it all flowed nicely together as one. Hell, we could do it cheaply. The point was just to make it look new enough to compliment the now palatial 'Master Bath'. I say palatial because it was all marble, polished brass fixtures, crown molding and all top of the line finishing touches. I mean, how could we skimp on a room we were going to use so much and it really didn't matter that not many would ever see it. It was for 'us'...wasn't it? So, one month and many underestimated dollars later, we had a brand spanking new 'Master Bedroom'. Now we could rest in comfort in our little lap of luxury and just enjoy what we had done.
We could now finally be proud of our accomplishments...if it weren't for one last thing. The second bathroom was falling apart and time had really taken its toll on it and very soon, me, and although I saw it coming, I couldn't get out of its way. Like the eye of a hurricane, it is only calm for a little while and then all hell breaks loose. The tiles were falling off the walls and coming up off the floor and there were some water stains, mold and mildew from years of abuse. After all, it was 25 years old and we were sure it could be done pretty inexpensively and stay within a small budget. It was a pretty small bathroom so it shouldn't be too dear to fix up. Do you see where I'm going with this? How come I didn't? Well, after another two months or so, it was done and I must admit, it came out great. We were finally done. I could see the sun shining through the clouds, the light at the end of the proverbial tunnel, the finish line at the end of the race.....I think you get the point. We now had an absolutely beautiful Master Suite and Guest Bathroom. NOTE: The last guest we had that stayed here was 23 years ago and so, I guess it was imperative that we be ready for our next guest.
It was a shame though that when you walked in the front door, the foyer didn't make a statement. It is, after all, the first thing you see when you walk into a home and it should reflect something about the people that live there...so said my wife. I felt that it did reflect something about the owners of this home and indeed did make a statement. It said that these people are obviously broke! But that wasn't going to stop us, was it? Not according to my wife. It just had to be done. The foyer was 25 years old too, remember? How could we live in such squalor? So, up came the old floor tile, down came the old wallpaper and oh yes, we have a little half bathroom right by the front door that couldn't be ignored. We did the other two bathrooms didn't we? We didn't want to hurt the little bathroom's feelings. How much could such a small half a bath cost anyway? A pittance, in the words of Ralph Kramden. A mere bag of shells. Plus, I didn't care anymore. I had lost my will to fight it. I already needed a transfusion anyway and I was going down for the count. (Count Dracula, that is). The foyer was tremendous when it was done, a statement was made and the half bathroom became 'the little bathroom that could'.
It was finally all over. It was a lot of work and a lot of money, but it was definitely worth all of the aggravation. The house was new and beautiful and if it weren't for the rugs, it would have been perfect. But with all of the work that was done and with all of the trampling from bringing all the junk in and out of the house during the past few months, the rugs had been ruined and just had to be replaced. You can only steam clean them so much, I was told, before they have had enough and don't forget, they were 25 years old. They were due to be changed and changed they shall be. So was the new law of the land.
Could this be it? Could this be the pinnacle? The accumulation of all we had achieved in such a short span of time? I certainly thought so. But being an entertainer, having many friends and both of us coming from such close families, we have many parties and social gatherings. And no matter how many people we have over here at one time for any such event, we inevitably all end up in the kitchen. There would sometimes be as many as 40 people huddled in the kitchen at one time, which was hard with such a small room. Thank God my wife had a solution for such a problem. We could redo the kitchen and make it bigger. After all, it was 25 years old now and its time had come. The appliances were old and archaic, the floor was the original linoleum and the counter was just not enough space for entertaining so many people at one time. Not to mention that there weren't enough seats at the table for everyone. But enough was enough. We had added a booth, garden window and new back door just the year before. I had to finally tell my wife that I was tapped out and that was that. We just weren't going to do anymore at this time. I hated to do it but I had to put my foot down and stand my ground. So, we knocked out the back wall of the house and added a large conservatory room, that became part of the new kitchen, with an ideal large granite counter that wraps around the entire room and another one with bar stools for more seating. We got all new appliances and changed the whole layout of the room altogether to make it perfect for any occasion. And I must say, that it is truly perfect and worth every penny I didn't have. The new conservatory is all windows from top to bottom and overlooks the deck and back yard. The back yard is breathtaking with gardens and an enormous built-in pool, gazebo, arbor, retaining walls, bridge and pond and a little shed that looks like a small version of our home. Did I mention that I did all of that work myself from the years 1999 to 2005? After all, the back yard was 25 years old, not very nice and just had to be redone.
The house was now complete, finally! Was it all worth it? Yes. Would I do it all again? Probably. Did I wish that I had never started this whole thing to begin with? Ask my wife. Would I rather have sold the house and let the new owners worry about all the 25 year old things? YOU BET YOUR ASS!! That's what I have been trying to say here. Don't start, don't begin and don't even entertain the idea of starting a little weekend project unless you are ready for the consequences of your actions. Sell, rent, live in a tent or go on the road. Hell, go live in the woods and commune with nature. You'll still have money in your pockets and you won't have to even think about such things. No pressure, no 'statements' and you won't have to worry about where the bathroom is or how it looks. Anyway, that's my advice. You can take it or leave it. It's entirely up to you. And so as my wife and I are now redoing the outside of the house with stucco, siding, new balconies, landscaping, pavers for the driveway and new fixtures because everything is 25 years old and just has to go, I only have one more thing to say to you.......Good freakin'luck and don't say I didn't warn you! I can see the future and it's expensive. We have twin girls and they are almost college age, but that's another story for another time and one I don't relish thinking about at the moment. Let me just end with this one last thought; looking back, I am surprised my wife has kept me around for as long as she has. After all, I've been here for 25 years now and with the frequency of things getting replaced around here, I know that I am most definitely on borrowed time.
Thanks for reading from, THE COMEDY TORNADO!!

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Sunday, April 8, 2007

My Favorite Top 10 Comedy Movies

I have always been a movie fanatic for as far back as I can remember and although I have enjoyed all genres, I especially gravitated to comedy movies for the most part. My father and I would sit watching comedy movies and laugh until it hurt and on Fridays in the summer, it was always a given that my parents would take my sister and I to the Drive-In Theater. (Does anyone remember them?) If it was a comedy, that was a double plus for us. So, for me to say that I love comedy movies would be a vast understatement and for me to make a Favorite Top 10 list is literally next to impossible. In fact, making a Top 20 would be hard enough as it is, but I am going to try anyway. I will cover groups of movies and some solo movies and then try to accomplish my feat for the evening. And although this will be my most difficult task to date, I will most definitely enjoy the memories that these movies provide to me and hopefully for you also.

The In-Laws with Peter Falk and Alan Arkin is so funny and enjoyable. The way that Falk's character slowly gets Arkin's character, Sheldon, involved with all of his CIA shenanigans is priceless. A definite must see for those who have never heard of this gem. "Serpentine Sheldon, serpentine!"
Let It Ride is one of the most unique comedies I have ever seen, in that, every character is nuts. I mean, in every comedy you have some normal people and then the funny ones. But this movie has no normal people. It takes place at the race track and everyone is a funny character. Richard Dreyfuss is great as Trotter, as he is with every character he portrays. What About Bob?, Moon Over Parador & The Goodbye Girl, to name a few, are terrific Dreyfuss movies.
Since I already mentioned it, What About Bob? is a classic with Dreyfuss and one of my favorites, Bill Murray. I love watching Murray drive Dreyfuss crazy ever so slowly during the course of the movie. 'Baby Steps'. And when you speak of Bill Murray, you have to acknowledge Stripes, Groundhog Day, Ghostbusters, Scrooged and of course, Caddyshack. What a terrific cast Caddyshack had. It was Harold Ramis' first attempt at directing and he did a fantastic job in making what is now a Golf Country Club classic that had so many memorable lines delivered by the irrepressible Rodney Dangerfield. The war between him and Ted Knight was hysterical. "Hey, who stepped on a duck?"
The Producers is a Mel Brooks masterpiece and a screenplay Oscar winner. Zero Mostel and Gene Wilder are so superb in those roles. The idea was to sell much more than 100% of a Broadway play to investors and make sure it is a flop by acquiring the worst script, 'Springtime For Hitler', the worst actors, director, music and anything else to assure a quick closing. This way they could keep the money without paying the investors back. But of course the play is a hit and there is no possible way they can pay everyone back, since they sold about 5000%. So they end up in jail and do they learn their lesson? Nope! They produce 'Prisoners In Love' and sell the warden 200%. While on the subject of Mel Brooks, how can I not list Young Frankenstein, High Anxiety, History Of The World Part 1 and another favorite, Blazing Saddles. The absolute Best Comedy Western of all time, period. Cleavon Little, Gene Wilder, Madeline Kahn, Harvey Korman, Mel Brooks, Slim Pickens and of course, Mongo (Alex Karas). What a blast!
The Pink Panther movies are some of the best works of the great Peter Sellers. Inspector Clouseau had to be one of the funniest bumbling fools to ever grace the silver screen. A Shot In The Dark, The Pink Panther Strikes Again and Revenge Of The Pink Panther were such great vehicles for Sellers. And on the topic of Peter Sellers, how about Being There, The Mouse That Roared and Dr. Strangelove, or: How I Stop Worrying And Love The Bomb. Peter Sellers plays 3 roles in this movie and makes them all so funny and memorable, a tribute to his comedic acting genius.
A Day At The Races with the Marx Brothers would make my Top 5 of all time no matter how long a list I had. I loved the Marx Brothers and this movie is one of my absolute favorites. They were so off the wall and this movie had so many incredible funny scenes. Then you have A Night At The Opera, Monkey Business, Duck Soup and Horse Feathers.
Abbott & Costello Meet Frankenstein was so great to watch as a kid. Here were the monsters of the times that used to scare us, Frankenstein, Dracula and The Wolfman, and now here they were in a comedy with one of the best Comedy Teams of all time. What a treat! That whole scene with Costello in the hotel room and Lon Chaney,Jr has already changed into the Wolfman. Lou didn't know it and is so close to getting killed. A great comedy effect of anticipation.
Sleeper is a great Woody Allen movie. The premise was he was revived 200 years after being frozen cryogenically. The results were as funny as you would expect from an early Woody Allen movie. Let me also give tribute to Bananas, Annie Hall, What's New Pussycat?, Play It Again Sam, Take The Money And Run and Everything You Always Wanted To Know About Sex (But Were Afraid To Ask).
Monty Python And The Holy Grail is a true classic with so many funny and out of the ordinary scenes. I especially loved the scene with the sword fight at the bridge and the loser has his limbs sliced off one by one and yet keeps insisting that he is winning the battle. Even when he is just a torso on the ground he states, "So we'll call it draw then?" Let's also throw in Monty Python's Life Of Brian and Monty Python's Meaning Of Life. On the side, I must mention that if you ever have the time to see a play on Broadway, then by all means go see Spamalot. I laughed the whole entire play and you don't even have to be a Monty Python fan to laugh your fool head off, as I did.
It's A Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World was the first comedy movie of it's kind. It was the first movie with an all star cast like that. Anyone who was anybody in comedy at that time wanted to be in that movie, even if it was just a small cameo appearance. If you weren't in that movie, you weren't on the comedy map, so to speak. One of the great comedy premises for a movie and an absolute amazing cast of actors, headed by Spencer Tracy. A must see for any generation.
The Nutty Professor and The Errand Boy are terrific comedy performances by Jerry Lewis. I know the word genius is used a lot but Mr. Lewis certainly proves that he is in those two classics. The Nutty Professor remake with Eddie Murphy was fantastic too. A virtual tour de force comedy performance by him with all of his family characters. Plus, I must mention two movies with Dean Martin and Jerry Lewis together to complete his work: The Stooge and The Caddy. "Whose you're little whosie? Whose you're turtle dove?"
Now I would like to write about some comedy movies of more recent times.
There's Something About Mary is hysterical with so many unique scenes that have never been done before, and in comedy that is extremely hard to do. The scene with Matt Dillon and the dog is one of my most favorite scenes of all time. I literally fell out of my chair laughing at that one. He accidentally kills the dog and tries to resuscitate him by giving him an electric jolt with the live wire from a nearby table lamp. Ben Stiller has really made a name for himself in the business, which makes sense knowing that his parents are Jerry Stiller and Ann Meara. And when talking about Ben you must mention Meet The Parents, Meet The Fockers and Night At The Museum.
Analyze That with Billy Crystal and Robert DeNiro was great and though it was a sequel to Analyze This, I loved it even more. The scene when DeNiro comes down to the Shiva with his robe open and nothing on underneath was hysterical. "Hey, who do you have to f*#k around here to get some bacon? Not you I hope." Mr. DeNiro, as everyone knows, is a tremendous serious actor, but he delivers comedy equally as well, as he did in Midnight Run with Charles Grodin. They were supposed to make a sequel for that but never did. I wish they had. Other Billy Crystal movies I have loved are City Slickers 1 & 2, Mr. Saturday Night and When Harry Met Sally.
Liar, Liar with Jim Carrey is terrific. But of course, I love Carrey in everything. He is so animated, rubbery faced and one of my favorite comedic actors. I love the outtakes at the end of the movie also. They really show his improvisational abilities well. Then there is Bruce Almighty, Ace Ventura: Pet Detective, The Mask, Dumb and Dumber, Dr. Seuss' How The Grinch Stole Christmas and Me, Myself & Irene.
My Cousin Vinny is a well written and wonderfully acted comedy movie with Joe Pesci, Fred Gwynne and Marisa Tomei. In fact, Miss Tomei won an Oscar for her role. The chemistry between the three of them on screen was terrific, as were all of the courtroom scenes. In the words of the judge, "What's a yute?"
Something's Gotta Give was very funny with Jack Nicholson and Diane Keaton. What a great script. I think it should have won an Oscar for Best Screenplay. Of course, you can never go wrong with Jack in the movie. He has such a great face. Even in the horror flick, The Shining, he makes me laugh. The Witches Of Eastwick, Terms Of Endearment, As Good As It Gets, Batman and One Flew Over The Cuckoo's Nest and so many more are such an amazing body of work.
Stir Crazy with Gene Wilder and Richard Pryor is absolutely hysterical and their chemistry together was wonderful to watch. So I am glad that they did a few more movies together that also delivered some big belly laughs, Another You, Silver Streak and See No Evil, Hear No Evil.

My honorable mentions, which would definitely make it to my list if I did a Top 100, are Used Cars, Tommy Boy, Lady In Red, Airplane, Weekend At Bernies, Hooper, Smokey and The Bandit, Animal House, Home Alone 1 & 2, Evil Roy Slade, The Naked Gun Movies, Repossessed, Fire Sale, The Road Movies with Bob Hope & Bing Crosby, Carry On Teacher, Arthur, 10, Cheech & Chong's Up In Smoke, Clifford, Meatballs, The Jerk, The Court Jester, The Inspector General, The Birdcage, Neighbors, Porky's, My Favorite Year, Night Shift, Brewster's Millions, Pee Wee's Big Adventure, Seems Like Old Times, Easy Money, Back To School, Kentucky Fried Movie, Bachelor Party, Forrest Gump, Toy Story, Chums At Oxford, Police Academy, Trading Places, 48 Hours, Cheech & Chong's Nice Dreams, Start The Revolution Without Me, Gremlins, Lost In America, Defending Your Life, Modern Romance, The Scout, Cat Ballou, Back To The Future, Clue, Beverly Hills Cop, Weird Science, Ferris Bueller's Day Off, Fletch, The Golden Child, Crocodile Dundee, Tootsie, Soapdish, A Fish Called Wanda, Good Morning Viet Nam, Coming To America, Mrs. Doubtfire, Pirates Of The Caribbean: Dead Man's Chest, Edward Scissorhands & Buck Privates.

Whew! As you can see, I pretty much named almost every darn comedy movie ever made but there are so many that I love and I could write about them for a year and not make a dent. And yet, I know that somehow I still may have forgotten some.

Anyway, here it finally is:
My Favorite Top 10 Comedy Movies
1. The Producers
2. It's A Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World
3. A Day At The Races
4. Blazing Saddles
5. Monty Python's The Holy Grail
6. Liar, Liar
7. The Return Of The Pink Panther
8. There's Something About Mary
9. Abbott & Costello Meet Frankenstein
10. The In-Laws

Here is my next 10 if I would have made the list a Top 20:
11. The Errand Boy
12. What About Bob?
13. Analyze That
14. Dr. Strangelove
15. Stir Crazy
16. The Nutty Professor w/ Jerry Lewis
17. Sleeper
18. Caddyshack
19. Let It Ride
20. My Cousin Vinny

Well, if I left off something that you would have liked to see on this list....tough. You try to narrow down your favorite genre to a Top 10 and see how far you get. This was definitely the hardest list I ever had to write and the only good thing about it is this: any other Top 10 list I ever write will seem so easy by comparison! Once again, thanks for reading from, THE COMEDY TORNADO!!

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Sunday, April 1, 2007

My Favorite Top 10 Cartoon Characters

If you are anything like me or half of the population, you have loved cartoons growing up and most probably still do. If you are saying to yourself, "Nah, I am too old for cartoons anymore", then you are probably forgetting that The Simpsons and The Family Guy are cartoons that have become Primtetime Shows for adults but are still cartoons nonetheless. Looney Toons are still my favorites of all time and far as I am concerned, Mel Blanc was a voice and sound genius. With all that being said, I will go through some of my favorites of all time and then compose my absolute favorite Top 10.

The Road Runner with Wile E. Coyote have always made me laugh. And even though I don't want to ever see Wile E. Coyote catch The Roadrunner, I still can't help but feel sorry for him in the end. His sad facial expressions when he realizes that the rug has been pulled out from under him, so to speak, is priceless. By now you would have thought that he wouldn't buy any more stuff from ACME.
Foghorn Leghorn is terrific. That voice and the way he is always duped by The baby Chicken Hawk kills me....I say son, it just kills me!
Yosemite Sam is a great voice also. Loud and overbearing. And let's not forget about that terrific mustache and attitude.
Bugs Bunny is an unbelievable great cartoon character. Mel Blanc said he came up with the voice by blending a Brooklyn and Bronx accent. Bugs was The Groucho Marx of the Cartoon World. Conniving, slick, insulting, clever, sarcastic and knew how to manipulate his foes to his advantage.
Elmer Fudd was the perfect target for Bugs Bunny. Always being outsmarted and even with his threatening gun in hand, he was still no match for the superior rabbit...that little wascal!
Sylvester & Tweety Bird were also the case of the villain after the innocent one and the innocent one always winning, leaving us still feeling sorry for villain. The same formula as The Road Runner, just different characters. Tweety was just so cute and Sylvester was always getting put outside by the old woman.
Porky Pig was a fantastic voice characterization by Mel Blanc with that stuttering delivery. And where would Looney Toons be without that famous, "That's All Folks!" Of course, Porky took a little longer to say that.
Jessica Rabbit had to be the most beautiful cartoon ever conceived. If ever it was possible to have desires for something not real, she would be the epitome of those yearnings. I expect that many a young lad had many sleepless nights conjuring up images of her in their dreams. I am sure that older lads did also.
Mickey Mouse has to be mentioned just for being one of the pioneers of the cartoon universe. He was around before there was even sound and then evolved with the help of Walt Disney's voice and vision.
Daffy Duck was terrific and always second best to Bugs. They had a love/hate relationship that was epic and classic. Daffy was so excitable and insecure. Duck Season-Rabbit Season-Duck Season-Rabbit Season. One of my favorites.
Homer Simpson is one of the best cartoon characters of the modern era. The show was originally a spin off of The Tracy Ullman Show and it has survived for around 20 years now............Doh! The dialogue is very adult, clever and smart and the show has won an extremely large audience over the years and deservedly so.
Fred Flintstone and Barney Rubble were The Prehistoric Jackie Gleason and Art Carney of The Honeymooners. Wilma was definitely Alice. The amazing thing to me was that Fred had a car in that era and Ralph never had one in the 50's.
SpongeBob Squarepants is another today cartoon that is very hip and adult oriented and yet still for kids at the same time. Very funny for any age.

My honorable mentions are Popeye, Huckelberry Hound, Mighty Mouse, Baby Huey, The Vulture, Felix The Cat, Bluto, Rocky & Bullwinkle, Heckle & Jeckle, Goofy, Jimmeny Cricket, Beavis & Butthead, Mr. Magoo, Yogi Bear & Boo Boo, Woody Woodpecker, Boris & Natasha, Alvin and The Chipmunks, Taz the Tazmanian Devil, Betty Boop, Underdog and Tom & Jerry.

So after all of that, here it is:
My Favorite Top 10 Cartoon Characters
1. Bugs Bunny
2. Daffy Duck
3. The Road Runner & Wile E. Coyote
4. Foghorn Leghorn
5. Sylvester & Tweety Bird
6. Elmer Fudd
7. Yosemite Sam
8. Fred Flintstone & Barney Rubble
9. Homer Simpson
10. Jessica Rabbit

As I said before, I am very partial to The Looney Toons Characters and especially to Mel Blancs characterizations of them. I also favor the older cartoons to the newer ones. I don't know if it is because of my childhood memories or because I feel they are just better. I am not really sure if I am objective enough or not but it is, after all, My Top 10 Favorites. What are yours? Thanks for reading from, THE COMEDY TORNADO!!

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My Travels Part 2

This weekend I performed at Banana's Comedy Club in Poughkeepsie, NY and as always, I had a great time. I love working there because the club is the perfect setup. It holds about 200 people in a rectangular room and every seat is nice and close to the stage. A very intimate atmosphere, and you know how much I love that. The people of Poughkeepsie are fun people and they love to laugh. They also have a great mall there called The Galleria that I like to go to. Nice stores and I always seem to find something I've been looking for and this trip was no different. I have been looking for a particular type of clothing style, which I did finally. So that was nice and made my trip complete. On top of that, Pat and Vera, who run the club and I have known now for about 15 years, are terrific sweet ladies that are fun to be around. Unfortunately, Vera was on vacation this trip so I didn't get to see her. Also, Danny and John help to run the operation and both are great guys and both very knowledgable in the field of music. Danny and I are around the same age so we both have the same influences and some of the same memories of bands from the 70's and 80's on the club scene back then, my band, Salty Dog, being one of them. What a fantastic era to be in a rock band. The drinking age was 18 and the rock clubs were hot.
So once again, a terrific time with the great people of Poughkeepsie, NY. I have made some nice friends up there over the years and I always look forward to going back. So I will just have to wait until the fall to return and reconnect. Until then, stay happy and healthy my friends and thanks for reading, from THE COMEDY TORNADO!!

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