Category: Comedy

Personal playlist: Marc Maron

Marc Maron

Aggressively honest stand-up comedian Marc Maron generally reserves the guest spots on his "WTF" podcast for his comedy peers. In an episode posted this week, however, Maron sat down with "Cruel to Be Kind" songwriter Nick Lowe. In honor of the occasion, Maron shared some of the music he's been listening to — and reading about — with Pop & Hiss. 

"I went on a little bit of an Art Pepper kick for a while after I read his autobiography," Maron said of the late saxophonist's "Straight Life." "It’s such an insane book. There’s about 25-30 pages of music talk, and 400 pages of jail and dope talk. He's one of the great alto-sax players, and after 400 pages the moral of his life is, 'Don’t be a rat.' "

Maron, whose music picks touch on jazz, blues and punk rock, will appear Wednesday night at Largo with Greg Behrendt and Dave Anthony.

John Coltrane's "Giant Steps." "I’ve been playing some vinyl lately, and not just because I have an old turntable. People have been giving me records, and that means I get back into my records. Someone gave me this double album, this boxed set. It’s a vinyl pressing on 180 gram vinyl, and it runs at 45 rpm, and I guess this is the way it was put out originally. It’s beautiful. It sounds great. I’ve been listening to that a lot. I love this stuff. I don’t know a lot about it. I’m not educated in it, but I have a lot of the bebop stuff on CD, primarily the names everyone knows — Thelonious, Miles and Coltrane.

"I listen to that stuff, but I can’t claim to know a lot about jazz. I do like to have it on sometimes. It’s pretty exciting stuff. There’s very few mediums where people so clearly went over the edge. It’s like, ‘Here’s your structure, and now I will see you later.' "

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The Grammy Awards have a comedic legacy

The Grammy Awards have a comedic legacy

When it comes to the Grammys today, we seldom think of comedy — unless it’s some on-stage incident such as Michael Portnoy (a.k.a. Soy Bomb) crashing Bob Dylan’s 1998 set or Pearl Jam’s Eddie Vedder bashing the awards show during his 1996 acceptance speech.

Still, year after year comedians — some of them also singers — take home a golden gramophone and join the ranks of legends including George Carlin and Steve Martin. In 1961, comedian Bob Newhart even bested the musical offerings to take the top Grammy prize of album of the year for his "The Button-Down Mind of Bob Newhart."

In 1959 the first comedic prize went to a rodent serenade by Ross Bagdasarian Sr. (better known as David Seville) called the "The Chipmunk Song (Christmas Don't Be Late)" —  yes, that chipmunk song (video below). The next year the prize went to Shelley Berman, who was the first comic to win a nonmusical comedy Grammy, for his 1959 album “Inside Shelley Berman.” In a Calendar piece looking at how the comedy category has changed over the years, Berman is quoted discussing the then-importance of the comedy album.

“There was a time when it was phenomenal, when it suddenly became a very important medium,” Berman says. “But TV took over, and the album performance lost its charm.” Today, he says, “I don’t think it’s in vogue — there are too many other ways to be seen and heard.”

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Personal playlist: Fred Armisen

Portlandia's Fred Armisen and Carrie Brownstein
Few comedians are as intrinsically tied to rock 'n' roll as "Saturday Night Live's" Fred Armisen. He was a drummer in the early '90s Chicago hard-core band Trenchmouth, and his role on IFC's "Portlandia" often sees Armisen lampooning indie rock culture alongside Carrie Brownstein of Sleater-Kinney/Wild Flag fame. Here, Armisen speaks with Pop & Hiss about some of the records he can't live without.

"I haven’t put that much thought into this, and that’s a good thing," Armisen said beforehand. "Otherwise, I would over-think this. These are generally the albums I go to the most, or the albums that stick out in my mind as perfect from beginning to end."  

Prince's "Sign o' the Times." "Everything is perfect on this album. Everything. Every note, every lyric, every piece of artwork. It’s a monster of perfection. It sounds like it was created by someone who isn’t of this earth. It’s almost like an alien came down to make music.

There’s a song called 'The Ballad of Dorothy Parker,' and I still can’t figure out what kind of music it is. There’s a drum pattern to it that can’t be classified as anything. It has a danceable quality, but it’s still something different, and it’s not regular R&B. I can’t even tell if it’s a drum machine. I don’t know if it’s electronic pads or how that pattern is working. There’s a roll in it -- a snare roll, but it still sounds electronic. And the lyrics? There’s no way you can do them justice. And the artwork? On the cover, he’s a little out of focus. I love that. There’s a drum kit, and he’s a little out of focus. It’s everything an album should be. And then there’s androgynous photos on the inserts. Who is that? It’s great. Prince had every opportunity to make ‘Purple Rain Part 2,' or something to try and compete with Michael or Janet Jackson. Instead, it’s an R&B concept album."

Kraftwerk's "Computer World." This will never sound dated to me. It’s from 1981, and it still sounds futuristic. It’s still ahead of its time. I was a teenager when I bought that record, and I remember when I put it on my turntable. The sound was so crisp. It was so minimal, and it just sounded great on my stereo. Even today, however I listen to it, it’s still crisp and bright. I like that they had to use analog to record it, but it’s still digital sounds. It’s a perfect mix of instrumentation and recording technology. It jumps out of my speakers and headphones all the time.

This is another one where I can’t figure out how they made the sound. It’s not as simple as finding a setting on a synthesizer. It’s like, ‘What is that?’ Especially the rhythms. It almost sounds like the equivalent of a CD that’s scratched -- the clicks on the scratched CD. It’s so tinny, but it has so much rhythm to it. They could have new-waved it up. This was the prime time for new-waving it up. Instead, this is ice cold. This is an ice cube of an album."

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Showdown! The week's best music parody: 'South Park' vs. Kid Rock & Sheryl Crow vs. the Vegan Black Metal Chef

Pop music is often best when it has a sense of humor or at lease some self-awareness. Absent both, you end up with this. So witness the first-ever Pop & Hiss pop music parody showdown!


The week's best music parody contestant No. 1: The Vegan Black Metal Chef: Episode 2 — Easy Meal Ideas of The Ages.

Argument for: Vegans have a tendency to lean toward the sanctimonious side of the spectrum, which makes them an easy target for parody (Dear vegans, don't write in. Pop & Hiss loves you, too). Additionally, the concept of domesticating the satanic theatricality of black metal is simple but downright effective. Finally, cooking instructions-turned lyrics like this are gold: "Crush the potatoes with a mace! And show them no mercy." 

Argument against: With a second video at more than 12 minutes, the Vegan Black Metal Chef pushes the boundaries of the Internet attention span, which means some of the biggest laughs — the commentary on Farmer's Markets and the order to lick your Brussels sprouts "seductively" — demand a patient viewer. Also, the initial surprise of the first video in the series can't quite be replicated. But really, these are minor quibbles. It's the Vegan Black Metal Chef. That should say enough. (Times rules forbid the video from being embedded above, because it contains strong language.)

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Please let Wednesday's 'South Park' tackle Odd Future

No word on whether or not the act farting over some electronic beats in the above clip is inspired by local media hip-hop obsession Odd Future, but after viewing this brief clip, parallels could be drawn. The line between shock value and artistry is one "South Park" knows well, and the loud-mouthed members of hip-hop collective Odd Future Wolf Gang Kill Them All have what many have harrumphed as an unhealthy obsession with rape, death and homosexual slurs. 

A Comedy Central spokeswoman said the network sees the episodes when they air, and a quick holler to a South Park Digital Studios employee didn't result in any gossip. But a few things are clear: Odd Future likely isn't singing about Harley drivers when it uses verboten words, and "South Park's" Randy Marsh could stand in for any number of music crits, a number of whom may or may not be fearful of appearing out of touch.


'South Park' has fun with Kanye West's ego

Odd Future Wolf Gang Kill Them All is performing rap on its terms

'South Park's' Cartman tackles Lady Gaga's 'Poker Face'

-- Todd Martens 

Musical comedy outfit Garfunkel & Oates are side players no more


There is a point during most Garfunkel & Oates performances in which Kate Micucci will declare she was a late bloomer. The candid look into her personal life usually comes sometime after the folksy comedy duo has led the crowd through a kazoo breakdown, taken a knock at pregnant women and discussed where ducks rank on the bestiality scale, all of it delivered with buoyant ukulele-led pop.  

As for Micucci's confession, it greets one of the newer additions to the Garfunkel & Oates oeuvre, a peppy keyboard rap entitled "I Don't Understand Job." In the song, Micucci and bandmate Riki Lindhome profess their confusion toward an act of intimacy, but rather than find comedy in lewdness, the pair focus on their own nerdy naivete.

The fact-checking process for this article did not include an investigation into Micucci's past romantic dalliances, and thus the 30-year-old ukulelist will be taken at her word. Yet there's evidence that the graduate of Loyola Marymount University isn't exaggerating. In fact, a certain four-letter word that appears regularly in the Garfunkel & Oates catalog is one Micucci promises she did not say until two years ago.

"I got yelled at when I was a little kid for accidentally saying it," Micucci said. "We were playing Duck, Duck Goose, and my babysitter said, 'Say a word that rhymes with duck' ... And then he yelled at me like you wouldn’t believe. I was so scarred from this babysitter, so I didn't say it again until two years ago."

If so, then the last 24 months of exercising repressed demons have been rather productive. With a mix of innocence and vulgarity, the act's monthly appearances at the Upright Citizens Brigade improv theater are guaranteed sell-outs, and a bigger stage awaits Feb. 10 when the pair headline Largo at the Coronet. What's more, a self-released CD is imminent, and a production deal inked earlier this month with HBO will potentially position the duo as the West Coast female response to "Flight of the Conchords," the network's popular Brooklyn-centered musical series that ran for two seasons.

"I think it will be a little edgier, maybe a little more frankly sexual," Lindhome said of a possible series. "We swear a lot, and [the songs] are really sexual and personal. And they always portray us in a bad light."

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Personal playlist: Rob Corddry


We ran into Rob Corddry at a party in Hollywood last month. The former Daily Show correspondent — who earlier this year starred in “Hot Tub Time Machine” and is also the creator-star of the medical show parody “Children’s Hospital” on Adult Swim — lives in Silver Lake these days. “Can’t you tell? Look at this mullet!” he jokes — though he’s no longer sporting the Mötley Crüe look.

The event was a release party for the Ubisoft game Assassin’s Creed Brotherhood, for which Corddry was a spokesman. Is he a gamer? “I’m terrible. At any game,” he says. “This one, I’m not so bad at.”

But music … that’s something the comedian knows a thing or two about. He goes out of his way to stay up on emerging bands, he says. In fact, Corddry was a ubiquitous presence at the big Matador Records 21st birthday party in Las Vegas in November, which featured performances by Cat Power, Yo La Tengo, Belle & Sebastian and Ted Leo and the Pharmicists, among others. Here’s what’s on Corddry’s iPod …

“I just made a mix — can you even call them mixes anymore? They’re, like, playlists. OK. I’ll tell you what’s on my “Walking Around Playlist.” Music I like to walk around to. Warpaint. They’re a new band from Silver Lake — all women. Incredible. And they’re gonna be huge. They’re just starting to break. One of my favorite bands is the Thermals. Nada Surf. Blind Pilot. Oh — Free Energy. That’s a big one. They’re great.”

--Deborah Vankin

Photo credit: Kirk McKoy / Los Angeles Times


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