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Sunday, May 29, 2011

Podcast episode 233ish: Richard Lett

While you're anxiously awaiting tonight's live episode with Sara Bynoe, why not check out last week's twelve step program featuring the kinder and gentler Richard Lett? It's available now in the popular podcast format. Richard talked about what led him to cleaning up his act. No, not his stage act – that's as edgy as ever – but his life. He talks about getting in his car and driving 7000 kilometres before winding up in a shelter far, far away... or not. But he did log those k's.

Stream the episode here, if you like, or download it at iTunes and listen at your leisure.

May 29: Sara Bynoe

Do you love deliciously rotten writing? You must, because you're here. But there's lots more out there, if you've ever browsed through any bookstore in the world searching for the perfect book that will take six months out of your life (you're all slow readers like me, right?).

Our guest this week celebrates truly stinky prose with her live comedy show Say Wha?! The show celebrates its one year anniversary at the Cottage Bistro on Main on June 15th and Sara Bynoe will be in studio tonight to tell us all about herself, the big celebration, and read some samplings of the literary awfulness. She's also the brains behind the Teen Angst Poetry nights, which, I guess, is just lousy unpublished writing, when she's not penning her own plays and acting.

Here's a sampling from a previous outing of Say Wha?!:

Sunday, May 22, 2011

May 22: Richard Lett

I don't know which guest holds the record for most number of visits to What's So Funny? but Richard Lett has got to be right up there. Tonight marks his sixth appearance on the show. But how many of those was the real Richard there? Certainly not the last time. I'm not aware of the details on Richard's lifestyle over the years but that last guest spot was a doozy. I do know he's been clean and sober for about 17 months and is so much more sane to talk to now. A quick glance at the podcast schedule and I notice that his last appearance here was 18 months ago. Hmm. Wonder if that had anything to do with him cleaning himself up? We'll discuss tonight.

After years and years (the bulk of his professional life) living in Vancouver, Lett recently moved to Toronto. But he's flying back today for a short stay and his first stop will be the WSF? studios. We'll have lots to talk about and he'll actually make sense this time.

Saturday, May 21, 2011

Podcast episode 232ish: Bill Reiter

Yo, my little mugwumps! Our usual (well, for the past month, anyway) drop date for podcasts is Sunday but we wanted to get this one up a day early so you have time to enjoy it before either being ascended into heaven or figuring out what to do with the undead until October. This special Rapture Day podcast features the inimitable Bill Reiter. What a pleasure it was to meet him (again, as you'll find out if you listen).

Reiter's a guy I've watched and listened to since I was a kid. I was a little too old to enjoy his kids show Zig Zag when it aired in the '80s but I certainly knew of it. In this episode of What's So Funny? we learn that his feud with co-star Rick Ducommen hasn't resolved itself. Ducommen, if you're out there, come on the show. I'd love to play the Jimmy Carter to their Sadat and Begin.

I wasn't too old, or young, for Dr. Bundolo's Pandemonium Medicine Show, though, which ran nine years on CBC radio then two years on TV. In a shocking revelation, Bill explains how the cast members felt about their TV experience. (I'm going for tabloid talk in order to help boost ratings)

What else can you expect in this honkin' ep? I get Reiter all verklempt when I reveal some information about myself, we sample some of his famous voice work, he explains his conscience when it comes to doing commercials, lays the hammer down on the Royal Canadian Airfarce, and talks about his passion for black music. Oh, and he supplies lyrics and singing to our closing theme! It's a good one. Download it now or suffer the wrath of God!

Click below to stream it directly onto your computer or head on over to iTunes and download it for the reasonable cost of nothing down and nothing a month. Heck, why don't you just subscribe to it? It's good for your soul.

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Tracy Morgan

Is it the dreaded hockey playoffs that killed Tracy Morgan show at the Orpheum this coming Saturday? Or was it that he over-saturated the market? Probably a bit of both. Throw in the fact that Vancouver is a notoriously last-minute town and it spelled doom for the promoters, methinks.

The press release announcing the cancellation of his upcoming show cited "unforeseen circumstances and scheduling conflicts" but what are they going to say? Nobody wanted to see him again so soon after playing the River Rock and before that Yuk Yuk's? Maybe the hockey playoffs played a small role but I was at the Vogue Theatre to see Tommy Tiernan on Sunday night when the Canucks were playing and the place was packed.

I got the chance to interview Morgan a week or so ago for a story that was to run in the Georgia Straight tomorrow ahead of his scheduled appearance. But not now. I'm a little surprised that in all the years I've been doing this, this is the first time it's happened. Curious as to what you would have read? Well, I've got it for you here. I'm sure the editors would have fine-tuned it to perfection but here's the raw copy:

by Guy MacPherson

If there’s one thing Tracy Morgan wants you to know, it’s that he’s not Tracy Jordan, his fictional batshit crazy alter-ego on NBC’s 30 Rock. To wit: Jordan doesn’t swear and… well, that’s about it as far as I can tell.

In an intense 15-minute phone interview with the Straight from his home in New Jersey, the 42-year-old comedian was variously unhinged, opinionated, hilarious, introspective, and even briefly sane. Is it a case of art imitating life or vice versa? Who knows? Who cares? When it comes to Morgan/Jordan, you just sit back and enjoy the ride.

While Morgan, the comedic actor, has made it big on the back of pre-censored network television, Morgan, the standup comic, is anything but ideally packaged family entertainment. His live shows aim low with endless dick and pussy jokes. And he relishes it.

“I don’t care. Be offended! I love it!,” he yells. “I want you to be offended. Maybe you’ll change things. If people don’t get offended, you probably ain’t funny. I’m always confrontational. You don’t like it, leave, man, but don’t judge me. You ain’t walked a mile in my shoes. You don’t know where I’m from. I came out there to make you laugh. I left my family and my home to make you laugh. The least you could do is have a sense of humour. Don’t take it so serious. But we got assholes out there that think that they coming to see Tracy Jordan. You don’t know the difference between stand-up and TV? You don’t know the difference and you a grown-ass person? People actually think that Tina Fey’s gonna be there!”

She won’t be. The two, amazingly enough, don’t hang out in real life, it turns out. It’s Morgan alone on stage, predictable in his unpredictability.

In a 2008 New York Times profile, Morgan was painted as a jester with no off-switch. It’s easy to reach that conclusion based on his work and appearances on talk shows, but the funnyman denies it. Vehemently.

“I ain’t on all the time. I’m on when I wanna be on,” he says petulantly. “This is my life. Don’t nobody control me. Don’t nobody tell me when to be funny or not. Nobody! My father died when I was 19 years old. So I’m funny when I wanna be funny. The New York Times don’t hang out with me every day all day.”

Vancouver comic Sam Easton recalls opening for him at Yuk Yuk’s a few years ago. “He didn’t have a lot of written jokes or material or polished stuff but he was funny,” he told me on last week’s episode of What’s So Funny? on co-op radio. “I remember we had a 2-show night. His first show was an hour-twenty-five and the second show was 25 minutes. So you just never know.”

Indeed, Morgan says he never feels compelled, professionally or otherwise, to be funny.

“I don’t have to be nuthin’. If I don’t wanna go on stage, I don’t. I cancel,” he says before backtracking slightly. “But I don’t do that because I don’t feel the need to. I’m funny. I love what I do. I told you, nobody controls this here. Nobody evah. Not [30 Rock costar] Alec [Baldwin], not Tina, not [Saturday Night Live producer] Lorne [Michaels], nobody! Nobody stood over me in 1968 when I came outta my mother’s vagina and said, ‘You shall be funny! You shall do comedy!’ This was all my idea, man. This was all my idea. All of it!”

Got it. Duly noted. So is this all an act, a put-on for the press? Who knows? Even a fellow comic like Easton doesn’t know.

“Oh, he’s nuts. He’s crazy and hilarious,” he says. “Some of the things, you don’t know if he’s doing it just for show or if that’s really how he feels. I couldn’t tell. I was hosting for him so he was treating me with respect but not other people. You don’t know if he’s doing it for just hijinx and for laughs or he’s actually doing it because that’s how he treats people. He always kept you off-balance.”

Morgan’s devilish sense of humour and questioning of authority got him in trouble at school, he says, but he was always a bit of a star growing up in Brooklyn, even before he started standup or got on TV.

“Other kids loved me,” he says. “I was the funny dude in the neighbourhood so they protect that. We didn’t have no money, we was too poor to go to Radio City [Music Hall] to see Richard [Pryor] so they had me. So they protected that. The funny dude always gets protected as long as he’s got a good spirit. My father taught me that early in life because he was a comedian: ‘Always tell jokes with a good spirit. That way, when you do make fun of somebody, they can laugh and you can laugh.’”

That advice has served him well over the years and kept him from being smacked upside the head. And family is obviously important to him. It’s when talking about his late father or his three grown sons that Morgan’s sensitive side shines through. He says, softly, the hardest thing he ever did was bury his dad, that his boys are “beautiful” (“Me and my ex-wife raised them right”), that five months after his kidney transplant his health is fine (“I’m doing great; I’m in high spirits, as you can tell”) and that he’s five years clean and sober after struggling with alcohol addiction.

When his publicist interrupts the conversation to let us know the time is up, we get a hint that maybe the bravado is a bit of an act afterall: “Guy, you gotta admit, this is a very passionate, interesting interview. And you need more! Like, ‘Tracy is an interesting dude, man! He’s got a point of view and everything!’ Why you think my lady love me?”

Maybe because his lady is like the rest of North America and loves a good whackjob with a heart of gold, apparently.

Our chat really was nuts. I'll post the full transcription sometime soon.

Monday, May 16, 2011

Podcast episode 231ish: Sam Easton

Little Sammy Easton is all growed up. Or is on his way. The man-child went the way of the hairline and now Sam Easton is a man in transition. In this episode, Sam talks about that transition as well as his relationship with the late great Irwin Barker and how far they'd go for the laugh. He also reveals who the most disappointing act he's ever seen live is (hint: he's coming to town soon!)

Here's the deal: This gizmo below will play the episode for you right here, right now. Or, if you'd rather, go download it to your iPod or MP3 device over at iTunes. I'll admit, the levels are a little 'hot', as we say in the business (it sounds a bit distorted) but we're working on it. We believe it's a station streaming issue and believe me, heads will roll. But don't let that stop you from enjoying this week's podcast.

Saturday, May 14, 2011

May 15: Bill Reiter

I usually post show details on a Sunday but I'm a little excited about this one so I'm getting it done early. Our guest on What's So Funny? tomorrow night (May 15) is the legendary Bill Reiter.

If you're of a certain vintage, you'll know precisely who that is. The BC Entertainment Hall of Famer is best known for his work on Dr. Bundolo's Pandemonium Medicine Show (which ran on both radio and TV), being Biff to Rick Ducomen's Bart on the kids show Zig Zag, hosting the first black music radio show in Canada, Groovin' Blue, on CKLG-FM (a show that continues on in podcast form to this day, 40 years later), and originating the catch-phrase "Yo my little mugwump" as the Kokanee Sasquatch, and starring in hundreds of classic TV ads. And if none of those credits ring a bell, you'll immediately recognize his voice the moment you hear it. He's done literally thousands of funny radio ads.

Bill has a YouTube channel that archives tons of his work. This ought to whet your appetite. It's a nice little overview of his career:

That was just ten minutes. We'll have a whole hour. So tune in Sunday from 11 to midnight at 102.7 FM in Vancouver or livestream it at from any other spot on the globe. I can't wait!

Sunday, May 8, 2011

Podcast episode 230ish: James Danderfer

I spent Friday night at the Cellar Jazz Club watching last week's guest, James Danderfer, noodling on the old licorice stick. Opening for him were comics Graham Clark and Ivan Decker. Comedy and jazz, just like God always intended. It was a fun night.

Today's podcast episode takes us back in time one week, before the big Cellar gig. Jim Dandy talked about his dreaming of getting his jazz chocolate in the comedy peanut butter, told some musicians jokes, and informed us of the surprising comic who blew the musicians away on a cruise ship before getting fired. And along the way we played some very funny comedy clips, many of which lampooned his chosen art form. We heard from Paul F. Tompkins ("Jazz"), the Fast Show ("Jazz club"), Martin Mull ("Straight Talk about the Blues"), Mike Storck ("Cruise Ships"), Bill Burr ("Being a Mother") and The Mighty Boosh ("Jazz Trance").

Oh, and if you're wondering about the theme song on this episode, it's an original track from James' album, Run With It (Cellar Live, 2006), called "Cafe & Beignet".

Listen to the episode right here right now or download it at iTunes.

May 8: Sam Easton

To celebrate Mother's Day, we've got... Sam Easton? Sure, why not?! He loves moms, I'm sure. And look at that mug. What mother wouldn't love that baby face?

It's been a while since young Sammy has been on the show. The last time was way back in 2005. Since then, he's had a couple roles in movies, moved to Toronto for a few years, starred in a play about Irwin Barker, and, most recently, moved back to his beloved Vancouver. So there's lots to talk about. Gather your moms around the old timey radio and listen tonight from 11 to midnight. She will thank you.

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Winning!... not

If you heard Charlie Sheen admit for the first time publicly that he bought a hooker for Tom Cruise once, that would pique your interest, right? You'd might wonder when it was. Maybe you'd want to know if Tom actually used said hooker. Maybe, given the rumours about Mr. Cruise's sexuality, you'd be curious as to the sex of the professional sex worker. But you wouldn't just let the comment pass without a follow-up question, would you?

Well, at his Vancouver, um, event (it wasn't really a show and I don't know how else to describe it), Sheen told interviewer Russell Peters precisely that: He bought Tom Cruise a hooker once, then admitted that he had never mentioned it in public before. So...???

So that's it. Nothing more to learn, obviously. Sheen made a crack that now that he's brought it up, "the Church of Martian Idiots" will be all over him. "Those people are fucking dangerous," he added. And that was that. It was on to the more incisive questioning from someone in the crowd wondering if there'd be another Major League movie. (Yup.)

Peters was decent with his initial line of questioning and kept things funny for the most part, and, in fairness, he's not a professional interviewer so maybe he can be forgiven for leaving those juicy nuggets just hanging. But it doesn't take a seasoned journalist to want to hear more on this scoop about Cruise. Does it?

Sheen makes me laugh. I mean that sincerely. I've never seen a single second of Two and a Half Men (has anyone? he claims it was on for 8 years and 177 shows but I don't know a single person who's seen it; then again, I don't know a single person who voted Conservative and they won a majority government on the same night... hmm, coincidence?) and I honestly can't remember if I've seen any of his movies (honestly), but his week on the interview circuit left me in stitches. Tiger blood, winning, duh! Man, I ate that up.

I heard his tour was a bit of a gong show but I had no idea what to expect. And after seeing it, I have no idea what I got. There was no show to speak of – just a sit-down semi-interview interrupted throughout by a dude hitting random strings on his guitar (no idea why he was there or how he got on the stage). At one point, as cat-calls rained down, Sheen chastised the punters with, "How about when we talk, you guys fucking listen? Isn't that what you came here for?" Then he and Peters basically said that since they never advertised what the show would be, nobody could legitimately complain about what it was. Or wasn't. I don't think it works like that, fellas.

Apparently people paid a pretty penny to see Sheen. Caveat emptor, I guess, but I think he and the producers have an onus to at least try to give the people something. It's not like he doesn't care about us. Witness this statement, uttered with conviction: One questioner asked who the biggest asshole he ever worked with and the answer was, obviously, Chuck Lorre, his former producer on Two and a Half Men, to which he added, "It's not just what he did to me, but what he did to all you good people." That might have been the funniest line of the night if it weren't delivered with utmost sincerity.

Despite that, I think Sheen came off as a sympathetic character. The Warlock looked defeated, embarrassed and nervous, but sane. Or as sane as can be expected under the circumstances. But sane doesn't sell. There's no pizazz in rationally explaining that "tiger blood" is a metaphor or that he realizes he "chose poorly" with goddess/porn star Bree Olson, who recently made a midnight run in the opposite direction. And it certainly doesn't sell in Vancouver on election night. The Arena was cordoned off at about the one-quarter mark, and even that section wasn't full. Maybe he made it up at the sizable merch table or in the $20 programs.

Other tidbits of the evening included:
* He's been waiting for a statement of support from former co-star Jon Cryer, to no avail.

* Jennifer Gray was the first celebrity he banged.

* Ginger Lynn was the best lay among porn stars he's shagged (although he saw her years later and thought, "I fucked that?")

* Melanie Rios was the most disappointing porn star he had sex with.

* When Kelly Preston shot herself in his bathroom in the spring of 1989, he heard the shot and thought "she did it, she finally fucking did it. And they're going to blame it on me."

* The accusations of him beating on women are "all horseshit."

* He never held a knife to Brooke's throat.

* He's OCD when he's high.

* "I'm not bi-polar; I'm bi-winning... Which still doesn't make any sense."

* "Party as fucking hard as you want, but honour your commitments."

* The most genuinely decent human he's ever worked with (a question, by the way, that elicited boos from the lynch mob), is his dad, Martin Sheen.

* We don't know if he's made up with his brother, Emilio, but we know he recently sent him a text message. No further questions were asked.

* Sheen turned down White Men Can't Jump, Indecent Proposal and Born on the 4th of July.

* Sheen mentioned at least twice that he and Peters should do a sitcom.
That's about it. It wasn't a comedy show, despite Peters' presence, and after 20 other appearances around North America, this one was his penultimate, with one more to go in Seattle. So I'm not sure why I went or why I wrote about it. Just thought you'd want to know. As for the details on the Tom Cruise hooker, you'll have to make up your own.

Sunday, May 1, 2011

May 1: James Danderfer & Joe Poole

Jazz musicians on a show about comedy? Say what? It's not as strange a notion as you might think. Especially if you've ever seen James Danderfer in action. Not only is he one of the best jazz musicians in the country (and, I daresay, the best clarinetist), he's also a very funny dude in his own understated way. Half the fun of going to one of his shows is listening to him talk between tunes. But James is also a huge comedy fan. And, as such, has decided to marry the two art forms. Again. There's a bit of a tradition going back years and years. I remember Jimmie Walker told me that he used to open for Miles Davis at the Cellar Door in Washington, DC. And that's just one example. But it's a rarity these days.

Now we've got two of Danderfer's favourite local comics, Graham Clark and Ivan Decker, supplying the professional jokes while Danderfer's trio (featuring Joe Poole on drums) will supply the swinging tunes at the Jazz Cellar on Broadway, near Alma, on May 6 & 7. I can't wait. Comedy and jazz? What's not to love about that?! (By the way, if you think you don't like jazz, I bet you really do. You just need to experience it live.)

Both Danderfer and Poole have played cruise ships and have some stories about that experience. One of them involved Bill Burr's brief stint as a cruise ship comic. So we'll share some stories and also play some music-related comedy, from Paul F. Tompkins' hilarious take on jazz to Martin Mull talking about the blues to the 2000-Year-Old Man explaining music. And a whole lot more. So tune in tonight at 11 PST on CFRO, 102.7 FM or livestream it at If you want to hear/read more of James' thoughts on music and life, read his most excellent blog. And for even more, read an in-depth interview I did with him in 2009 for We even talk a bit about comedy.