After the triumph of OK Computer, Radiohead fell into a creative tailspin -- and frontman Thom Yorke into a nervous breakdown. Exhausted from touring, hounded by press, and jaded by copycats, he escaped into the electronica scene pioneered by Kraftwerk and Warp Records -- fertile ground, the band discovered. Trading spacey rock for apocalyptic brooding, they teased their new sound not with singles or music videos but with innovative web streaming and cryptic, dreamlike "blips" -- winterlands, flocks of cubes, eyeballs, bears. After nearly breaking up over tracklist angst, they cut the kid in half. Thus fifteen years ago today, Kid A and (later) Amnesiac debuted, a confounding mix of electronic fugue, whalesong, pulsing IDM, drunken piano, and epic jazz funeral whose insights into anxiety, political dysfunction, and climate crisis would make it one of the most revered albums of the twenty-first century. See the documentary Reflections on Kid A for interviews and live cuts, or look inside for much more. [more inside]
Hello from the Magic Tavern! A few months ago, Arnie Niekamp fell through a magical dimensional portal behind a Burger King in Chicago and found himself in a strange magical land called “Foon.” He's still somehow getting a weak wi-fi signal from the Burger King and so, as you do, hosts a weekly podcast from the tavern the Vermilion Minotaur, interviewing monsters, wizards, and adventurers.
"We wanted to kill the game," says Eirik Fatland, a Norwegian interaction designer who has spent over twenty years creating, participating in, and theorizing about these types of forward-thinking LARPs. In 1999, he and some others started a movement called Dogma 99. Modeled after Lars Von Trier's Dogme 95 and Jerzy Grotowski's minimalist, impulse-driven notion of a "poor theatre," the movement included a ten-point "vow of chastity" intended to maximize LARP's dramatic immersion, while removing pretty much everything else.
"When Dystopia Rising went well, there were moments that felt natural, perfect. My first night was filled with gang warfare and hunts for a cult of radiation-worshipping Social Darwinists, but one of the parts I remember best was sitting next to a busker who played me a song from Hedwig and the Angry Inch, gave a mythologized retelling of the musical, and ended up explaining the origins of a group I believe was called the Church of Daft Punk" -- The Verge on playing in the massively complex post-apocalyptic LARP ( Live Action Role Playing) game, Dystopia Rising.
On September 1st, Paul F. Tompkins officially checks in to the Superego Clinic For Analytical Pscience™ for the long-awaited fourth season of the group's comedy/improv podcast. Can't wait? There's good news! Throughout the month of August, Superego will be posting new unreleased material to hold you over, starting with part one of a new Behind The Bonus episode, featuring previously unreleased material ($1.99 download). There will also be new animated Superego Supershorts posted to their You Tube channel, and more. The Superego facebook page is also a flurry of activity, and you can even get a personalized post card. [more inside]
Creepy texts get even creepier when they're read out loud. Creepy Text Theater [NSFW SLYT]
After two long years, season three of Check it Out! with Dr. Steve Brule returns to Adult Swim with a look at Planes. A spin-off of Tim and Eric Awesome Show, Great Job!, it stars John C. Reilly as Dr. Steve Brule. Every week, Dr. Steve Brule "checks stuff out" like Relationships ("If your body's lonely it's gonna get sick, probably!"), Food ("Try going a day without it. You'll miss it, Charlie!"), Space ("One small mankind, I'm gonna leap the hell out of this rocket!"), and Animals ("Just turn around and look, you dingus. Your best friends are animal.") All 13 episodes and two special presentations are available online. [more inside]
Superego (previously) and The Thrilling Adventure Hour present A War of Two Worlds, a multi-part, crossover, podcast event spectacular. Written by Ben Acker and Ben Blacker and improvised by Superego, The WorkJuicePlayers, and special guests. Written and improvised? Yes! [NSFW] [more inside]
The Dead Authors Podcast: Legendary time-traveling writer H.G. Wells (Paul F. Tompkins) welcomes literary giants to The Upright Citizens Brigade Theatre in Los Angeles for a lively discussion in front of a live audience. Unscripted, barely researched, all fun! [more inside]
It was probably the cap on the toothpaste that did it. Matthew Flynn and Autumn Stein improvise a video that distils an entire relationship into 5 minutes.
Last week, Improv Everywhere set up the ACJW Ensemble Orchestra (of Carnegie Hall and The Juilliard School) in Herald Square in New York City and placed an empty podium in front of the musicians with a sign that read, "Conduct Us." [more inside]
Set List is a live show where "the world’s top comedians get a never-before seen “set list” of bizarre, outrageous, and ridiculous topics as the audience follows along on the screen behind the performer." Edited highlights of this combination of improv and stand-up have just started to be posted on the Nerdist's Youtube channel. Including sets by: [more inside]
Jonathan Winters, the wildly inventive actor and comedian who appeared in such films as "It's a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World" and "The Loved One" and played Robin Williams' son on the TV show "Mork & Mindy," has died. He was 87. [more inside]
On this date in 1963, the most influential comedy theater to ever emerge out of the Bay Area - The Committee - opened its doors at 622 Broadway in North Beach. Thus began a full decade of widespread cultural influence, with multiple studio albums, appearances on The Tonight Show and The Dick Cavett Show, and a feature film. The Committee's provocative and confrontational style, influenced equally by Chicago's Second City and the radical politics of the era, set the stage for much of the comedy to follow. The Groundlings was a direct descendents (Gary Austin came from Committee workshops) and the improv structure known as Harold, basic arithmetic in the halls of IO and the Upright Citizens Brigage, was birthed at The Committee under the direction of Del Close. To celebrate this anniversary, I'd like to present a recently unearthed recording of their Satirathon from 1968, from the archives of the late Peter Bergman. Featuring, among others, Garry Goodrow, Carl Gottlieb, and Chris "The Egg" Ross, an improv genius who succumbed to an overdose, in 1970, at the age of 25.
Last week a debate erupted in the US comedy community between stand-up comedians (like Kurt Metzger and Mike Lawrence) and the Upright Citizens Brigade Theater about the fact that at none of their three theaters pay any of their performers (including UCBEast in New York, which often has Saturday Night Stand-up shows). Other comics such as Chris Gethard eloquently came to their defense. This week two of the founders Matt Besser and Matt Walsh released an episode of Besser's pocast Improv for Humans that goes into details about the club's philosophy, including why they have never taken any money from founding and running the theater. [more inside]
Patrick Stewart performed with NYC's Improvised Shakespeare Company. Famed thespian Stewart joined five lads from Chicago to perform improvised Shakespeare this past week. The Improvised Shakespeare Company reports that "Patrick Stewart is the coolest person [they] know."
For Vanity Fair's Comedy issue, the groundbreaking improvisational comedy duo of Mike Nichols and Elaine May sit down (but don't quite sit still) for their first joint interview in decades.
"There are plenty of reasons to recover from addiction, anxiety, depression, and trauma....But comedians are perverse people who often don't care about any of those things. So maybe this will convince them, and maybe this will convince me: get better — so you can get funny." In a frank, personal, and revealing article, essayist Jaime Lutz interviews comedians Marc Maron, Eddie Pepitone, Paul Gilmartin, and Anthony Atamanuik about the uneasy relationship between mental illness and comedy.
2 fried amps, a drummer playing lead, and brains full of boo: The Dead C.'s Harsh 70s Reality turns 20
One of New Zealand's greatest-ever exports of experimental music, The Dead C. have built a huge catalog of challenging "rock" music over the last 25 years that offers massively dosed psychedelic excess, improvised all-night flights, blistering free noise and deconstruction of blazing garage punk for adventurous listeners. They've cheekily called themselves "The AMM of punk rock" and it's not far from the truth. Their high-water mark -- the double-LP Harsh 70s Reality -- has reached twentieth anniversary status and has just been reissued on vinyl by legendary US imprint Siltbreeze, restoring a few cuts that didn't make it to the late 1990s CD re-release and offering this fearless free music to a new generation of fans. [more inside]
Composer Dr. Richard Eigner put together a group of musicians to jam on a bunch of improvised instruments made out of credit cards. slyt via andrewsullivan
In 1999 MTV launched Downtown, an animated slice of life show about young people in Manhattan's Lower East Side based on interviews with non-actors (Pilot part 2 part 3 ) created by animator Chris Prynoski (Daria, Beavis And Butt-head, Metalocalypse). Despite an Emmy nomination, the show was cancelled after one season (with one unaired episode). Like so many MTV shows, licensing complications prevented it from reaching DVD, meaning the only way to watch the show was to e-mail Chris directly. Until someone uploaded the entire series to Youtube.
Sex-crimes cop by day, improv artist by night. Kyle Kizzier works as a detective in the Sexual Assault & Child Abuse Unit and is also one of Seattle's best improvisational comedians. [more inside]
Years after its final broadcast, the award-winning, pond-hopping, cult comedy hit Whose Line is it Anyway? is returning to television! Sort of! Tonight in just a few minutes, Drew Carey's Improv-A-Ganza (promo, sample segment) makes its debut on GSN, reuniting Carey with popular "Whosers" Ryan Stiles, Colin Mochrie, Greg Proops, Brad Sherwood, Wayne Brady, and many more. Though the show will air every weekday, you don't have to wait around for new episodes to get your improv fix -- in spite of the lack of DVD box sets, there's a veritable treasure trove of past content available free from multiple online sources, including the complete run of the American Whose Line on both YouTube and fansite WatchWLIIA along with every episode of the original UK run from Channel4's official YouTube channel and their streaming video site 4oD. Too much content? Look inside for selections of the show's most hilarious moments as sampled from the show's burgeoning TVTropes entry. See also: Fan guide - American episode guide (UK version) - List of game types [more inside]
Richard Grayson is a (now retired) composer and classical improviser. To give you just a taste, Wagner's "Ride of the Valkyries" in the style of a Tango, "Heart and Soul" a la Mahler, "Take the A Train" as a Chopin Funeral March.
Constantly productive and frequently amusing theater group Improv Everywhere takes on an iconic Star Wars scene in a New York subway car. [more inside]
Improv partout? N'importe qui descends on an amateur football (soccer) match outside Montpelier, Improv Everywhere style. Allez, pantless dude in the sombrero! The force behind this is Rémi Gaillard, a shoe salesman turned French prankster. My favorite prank is Le Tour de N'Importe Qui, which turns unsuspecting casual cyclists into trophy-winning heroes. (videos contain brief images of male nudity from behind)
Jason Rohrer's Sleep is Death (discussed previously) has been awake since Friday, and one thing is certain: This is not a game. It's improv theatre. And though it costs $14 to participate, sitting in the audience is free.
The Second City, the world's premier theater of comedy and school of improvisation, is celebrating its 50th birthday. The school has had many notable alumni: Some early Second City performances by Steve Carell and Stephen Colbert, some reminiscences by Tina Fey, Ryan Stiles and Colin Mochrie, and Fred Willard. [more inside]
ImprovEverywhere has a gallery opening in the New York Subway. "In the course of making the art labels, the mundane stuff of the platform really did become weirdly compelling and beautiful. I wasn’t sure if everyone else would have that experience, or if we would be busy consciously pretending that these random objects were art. In the course of the event, some other friends who came made brilliant observations about the pieces that helped bring my mindset firmly back into of-course-this-is-art, rather than viewing the subway as a collection of quick fixes over time. It’s wonderful how we can decide to create a collective reality, and how it can sometimes catch us up within itself. I’m glad other folks also got caught up in "Wow.. This might really be art!", and that some non-agents got such a kick out of it!"
"For [Improv Everywhere's] latest mission, Agent Lathan gave out 2,000 high fives by standing next to a subway escalator during the morning rush. Five additional agents spread out along the adjacent stairs, holding signs that prepared commuters for the upcoming high five fun. Enjoy the video first and then check out the mission report and photos."
Paul Sills, son of Viola Spolin and one of the fathers of Chicago style improv comedy through his work with The Compass Players (who sort of morphed into Second City) and through his Story Theatre work has passed away at age 80. Chicago has lost two of its legends in one day.
Improv Everywhere turned a little league baseball game into a major league event. Jumbotron & all. [more inside]
"I am a master impressionest and I will not dignify that with a response..." Continuing in the vein of posting links to UCB Performers videos. YouTube War is produced and stars Chris Gethard along with Zach Woods. Also created a whole bunch of other shorts, "The Worlds Most Akward Boy": Rides an Elevator, Goes to the Deli, Enjoys a Hot Tub, and many more.
Frozen Grand Central. A little bit of Saturday fun. The folks at Improv Everywhere are at it again. This time they freeze over two hundred people in Grand Central station. (via GoodSh** NSFW) [more inside]
Béla Fleck and the Flecktones. He plays the banjo, but he isn't just some hick. He enjoys Chicks, jamming with friends, wide open spaces and fights.
When is the 7th Annual No Pants! Subway Ride? This Saturday, January 12th, New York City. They seem to have done it in 2006 as well. Village Voice article on 2006's shenanigans.
Jazz dispute is billed as a heated exchange between Charlie Parker and Dizzy Gillespie. Jazz not your thing? Classical music can provoke a range of emotions too. (YouTube alert)
Eddie destroys the ship. Ron Moore's Battlestar Galactica podcasts have been discussed before, but the most recent one contains a gem. At the end of the episode Maelstrom, Edward James Olmos ("Eddie" to his friends on the set) lashes out in an unscripted, improvised, emotional moment, destroying a sailing ship model that had been a frequent prop on the set. Turns out the ship ... ahem ... wasn't a prop, but an extremely valuable museum piece.
The Night Andy Kaufman Sabotaged After Michael Richards flipped out at the Laugh Factory, some speculated that Kramer had an "Andy Kaufman moment" gone horribly wrong, but did you know that Richards was once a target of Kaufman's humor himself? On February 20, 1981, Andy Kaufman hosted ABC's late night comedy show, Fridays , but refused to stay on script during the live Broadcast. After deliberately blowing lines in several sketches, Kaufman instigated a fight during one sketch, by pouring water on Fridays cast member, Michael Richards. The next year, ratings for Fridays were so low that they asked Kaufman to host a second time to boost ratings. (More inside.)
Slo-Mo Home Depot. Improv Everywhere got 250 people to wander around a Home Depot in slow motion. [via]
80 improv artists invade Best Buy disguised as employees. Predictably the real Best Buy employees freak out. (via /.)
Making any jokes or statements during the screening process may be grounds for both criminal and civil penalties.
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