Tuesday, March 5, 2019

Todd Glass - Comedy


When somebody finally writes a book called, "The Greatest Stand Up Comics of All Time," Todd Glass is going to get his own chapter. That's why I interviewed him. He's not just a great stand up comic, he is one of the greatest progenitors of modern comedy alive today. Long before modern comedy as we know it conquered new vistas like Netflix and the Internet, Todd Glass was there, helping to set the foundation. He is, he was, and he shall be.

I saw Todd Glass perform live for about fifty people at a show called Good Heroin in Los Angeles. I was impressed. Here was a comedian who had paid his dues, worked television shows and films back in the 80's, kicking ass and crushing an audience of hardcore, cynical, socially just Echo Park denizens. That takes talent, courage and genius. It also takes intelligence. Audiences change. Comedians must adapt. Glass had done all that and more. If you are a comedian, and I am interviewing you, it is because you are one of the best. A good comedian informs. A great comedian inspires. Glass is an inspiration. It was an honor to interview him.


By the time he was eleven Todd Glass already knew he wanted to be a professional stand up comic.
"I was able to relate to it. I could connect to comedians. It was fun to see adults act juvenile. I started at sixteen. It's addicting." Now a veteran in an industry that steadily disentegrates cowards and charlatans, Glass believes stand up comedy is the best bang a person can get for their buck. "If you go to see a comedian do an hour, you'll get hundreds of laughs. If you go to see a movie you don't get that."

Over the years Glass has not only performed in prestigious locales across the planet, he's also appeared on television shows such as "Jimmy Kimmel Live", "Late Night With Conan O'Brien", the legendary "Politically Incorrect", and sitcoms like "Home Improvement", "Friends", "Married With Children", his own Comedy Central special, and other shows including "Comics Only" and "The A List". Even after success, Glass warns that for any comedian, performing can still feel like taming a lion for the first time. "Stand up can be harrowing. It's like sex, you must really want to do it or you never would."


Stand up comedy is still a facet of the entertainment industry, and eventually any entertainer has to either make money or settle for enjoying the ride. Glass knows. Between the Internet, YouTube and other platforms, comics have more opportunities than ever to make it. "It really just takes its course. You just do it and do it. Some people take longer than others. I have friends that do it as a hobby. There's a lot more vehicles than there used to be. Comedy gets better and better, more real. Acting has gotten more real. Comedy gets more real and gets better." If you've always wanted to check it out, now is right. "I think comedy is in a good place," Glass says. "It seems like a golden age."

Glass observes that stand up comics should be realistic. "On one level, they all want to make a living. I've been doing stand up a long time. You see people who go further than you, but you also see people who quit." For some, simply doing stand up isn't enough. "There are actors who ended up on a series that got canceled and they are back to waiting tables. At the end of the day people want a vehicle to get noticed, and that can be just about anything these days," Glass says. "A podcast, Netflix, and even social media."


What's the one thing people just don't understand about doing stand up comedy that only a stand up comic understands? "I think it's the intimacy that doing it needs. Even if things are hectic, it is still very intimate. Good comedy clubs don't let you talk at the tables." Glass prefers venues that keep things quiet, like a jazz club. "I don't think people understand that intimacy. You have to pay attention. Most audiences are awesome." A bad audience, he explains, ruins the relationship. "Good audiences reap the benefits. You want to give them a big hug."

Glass keeps busy playing every club in Los Angeles when he isn't touring the rest of the planet or doing his podcast. "I just got done shooting another one hour special. I put a lot of time and work into it. My last one ended up on Netflix." He is still thinking of a name for it. "One was Act Happy. Another was Passive Progressive. I wanted to call it, Suck My Pigeon Dick, but nobody wanted that." He's also working on a television show. "I've shot a pilot called Camping with Todd." The premise involves taking various celebrities into a deep, dark forest for an interview. "We sit around a crackling fire and talk." So far some of his guests include John Dore, Zack Gafflinakus and Eddie Pepetone.


Part of the class Glass has is that he is cool with cannabis. "I said a long time ago I'm not pro marijuana in that I want to march to get it legal. I just want to smoke it." Across the country, however, possession can still mean prison. "Unfortunately, it is a fight," he says. "If someone is anti liquor, I get it. If you don't think pot or liquor is good, that's OK. If a person thinks liquor should be legal but not pot, I don't know where to start. If I go down to the beach and have a hack or wine, nobody says anything. So I act the same way about pot. I started smoking it at
30. I don't want to smoke it 24 hours a day. I don't smoke seven days a week, but I like getting high and I enjoy the people who enjoy it, too."

Find out more about Todd Glass at www.toddglass.com. His terrific tweets are at www.twitter.com/ToddGlass. His fabulous Facebook page is at www.facebook.com/toddglassshow.

Tuesday, February 19, 2019

The Stranger Things 2 Autopsy, Part III - The Weird



"In this book it is spoken of the Sephiroth and the Paths; of Spirits and Conjurations; of Gods, Spheres, Planes, and many other things which may or may not exist. It is immaterial whether these exist or not. By doing things certain things certain results will follow..."

-Aleister Crowley
Book VI: Liber O

"The gate. I opened it. I'm the monster."

-Eleven
Stranger Things, Episode 6, "The Monster"

"...I learned a terrible truth. If you investigate deeply enough, sometimes you become part of the conspiracy."

-The Reverend Ivan Stang of The Church of The SubGenius
The Big Book of Conspiracy Theories

"Who is Number 1?"
"You are, Number 6."

-The Prisoner

BEFORE WE BEGIN

I mentioned before that there were no conspiracy theories for me to mention in regards to Stranger Things 2 to entertain your brain in my last couple of blog posts. I was wrong, there are several. First of all, and I have to admit this was new to my mind, one of the themes I've found in reviewing the zany, crazy theories surrounding The Montauk Project is that the scientists working for the government there were trying to do something very important to our discussion: mass mind control.

Apparently the big chair scientists were placing disposable psychics in (study the original conspiracy theory if you need to catch up) had another purpose...to allow the psychic to control massive populations of people at once. This wasn't the original intent of the work, it is just that by the end of the project's run (according to conspiracy theorists and supposed whistleblowers) having a way to mass mind control a population using technology developed by scientists with a window into the future is kind of what happened.

An actual photo of Montauk at Long Island, New York.

From a government perspective, I could imagine how having a chair that allowed a single psychic to make an entire enemy military, or even nation, stand down in the event of a war is pretty amazing. You wouldn't have to kill anybody to win the war if you had such a weapon. Of course, only a fool believes that evil people working for the government wouldn't use mass mind control on their own population. Only a fool believes that the government isn't trying to control your mind, right now.

My personal problem with the concept of placing a psychic into a mind control chair to amplify his powers is...what if he mind controls the people working in the entire military facility? Or just the scientists in charge of the project? Seems like a great way to escape to me, like something Dr. Who would do...use incredibly powerful technology created by the bad guys against them to destroy their evil plans. So I just can't imagine that part of the theory being true, compared to summoning a rampaging id monster from deep inside a psychic's mind to destroy a military base from within, which is equally bonkers.

Inside the plot device, I mean, The Pandorica.

There are actually many, many other splendid theories regarding our government, and other government's, studies into people with paranormal powers. In one instance a scientific study conducted by Dr. J.B. Rhine back in 1941 centered upon a gambler he met who claimed to have an ability to mentally affect the tumble of the dice roll. After numerous experiments designed by Dr. Rhine to eliminate any mechanical bias, it was determined that the gambler could change the dice rolls using his mind. The chances of the man being able to affect these chances was determined to be about 10115 to 1.


In another instance, experiment after experiment has been conducted to figure out why a person can detect when another person is staring at them from behind. In 1989 two separate experiments were conducted on children in public schools, one in America and the other in Germany. In both instances children could detect being stared at 56.9% of the time, with some children able to individually detect being stared at from behind at an even higher rate. The probability of the children being able to do that by chance is 3 in 1,000,000.


A recent document declassified by the CIA and released to the general public reported that China has been studying super powers in humans for decades. Chronology of Recent Interest in Exceptional Functions of The Human Body in the People’s Republic of China” makes it clear that people can perform incredible feats such as psychokinesis, clairvoyance and telepathy. According to the report the Chinese military have been working on repeating these feats since 1984.



Another declassified document released under the Freedom of Information Act reported that the Air Force figured out that people can both teleport, and teleport objects at will, decades ago.


Another CIA document reports that back in the 80's our own government conducted studies to determine how and why some people, including children, had the ability to see small objects in containers with their mind, and somehow move these objects through space and physical barriers. The CIA even created a film to record these miracles being performed. Why isn't that on YouTube?


THE BEGINNING AGAIN

It all started in Stranger Things, when Eleven was asked to make contact with the Demogorgon. Where did it come from? From the Upside Down, the infinite blackness that seems to exist in her mind. What happened when Eleven made contact with the Demogorgon? It turned around, roared, Eleven screamed, and a rift opened up between this world and a nasty, horrible place called The Vale of Shadows.

Two heads...one for Eleven, one for The Monster.

Eleven and The Monster escaped. When The Monster followed Will, it took him into the Vale of Shadows while Eleven appeared in the real world. Will hid from The Monster for a while but it eventually found him, and he ended up unconscious with a strange, animal tube stuck in his mouth. The Sheriff took the tube out of his mouth and got Will back to our world.

After The Monster was banished Eleven ended up in The Vale of Shadows, but later escaped back into our world. Will came back, but he started to barf up little slugs that went down the sink and became Pollywogs. These slugs were similar to the slugs that came out of Barb's dead body in The Vale of Shadows. These slugs seemed to be able to teleport back into the other world, even in their larval state, which makes sense when you think about what The Monster could do instinctively.

An obvious Alien reference.

DEMOGORGON, POLLYWOGS, THE ROT, THE THESSALHYDRA & WILL

At the beginning of Stranger Things 2 the problems left over from the first section are haunting the next section of the series. The Pollywogs Will is coughing up escape from the sewer and begin to burrow into the earth around the town, eating animals for their blood and leaving behind a waste that rots and corrupts the soil, causing plant death and leaving behind strange, seemingly biological tunnels rife with fleshy tendrils and nasty fungal plant life that sprays poison and seems to be a bridge between The Vale of Shadows and this world.

The rot and corruption seems to form a dark cloud that Will can only see everyone later calls The Thassalhydra. It possesses Will (because it is biologically related to him since the entity came from the waste the Pollywogs left after he coughed them up) and slowly starts to turn him into Something Else. Fire eventually drives it out of Will while Eleven simultaneously closes the portal into The Vale of Shadows where all of these nasty things come from.

Notice how the Thassalhydra resembles weather...a cloud without rain.

Eleven has her own problems. She escaped from one bad place where she was imprisoned by a dubious father figure. Now she's in a cabin, seemingly held hostage by the Sheriff, a dubious father figure. I don't think Eleven had the supernatural power, or psychic self-awareness, to close the portal at the beginning of the second season. She had to go through an epiphany, a series of enlightening events, before she could do so.

At the end the portal is closed, Will is saved, Hawkins Energy closes and all seems well. Except that Will can still sense the Thassalhydra, still able to perceive our world from the next, probably because while the Pollywogs are dead and burned, the rot is still in the land. The tunnels are still there, forming portals into the next world. The invasion is not over because there is still another connection, causing the problem.

This seemingly simple story belies a massive amount of supernatural and cinematic references connecting the work to a long series of similar works that reveal a profound, deep connecting mythology that exists in horror, sci-fi and other sources from decades ago. Art in film does that. It ain't literature unless it is somehow connected to something else from somewhere else, including mythology, featuring a bildungsroman about growing up enough to appreciate your own power so you can defeat evil in the world around you, which is what Eleven had to do before she closed the portal. She probably could not have just pulled it off in the first episode of season two.

If Will was The Mind Flayer did he mentally blast Eleven?

I have a question...what would have happened to Will if he had continued to become possessed? Since he would have basically been a vassal for the Thessalhydra (in the same way that the little girl in The Exorcist is a vassal for the demon Pazzuzu), what would have been his purpose, then? Perhaps he would have been like The Yellow King, another Lovecraftian, Antichrist, Harbinger of Cthulhoid Doom type character. By the way, Prince of Darkness features possessed characters, too. So does Ghostbusters

He'd predict a horrible future for everyone, and then start doing everything he could to make the tear in reality Eleven fixed worse. His job would be to help the other evil dimension (what the kids call The Vale of Shadows) invade, probably using the leftover rotting tunnels in the earth to do it. This is, of course, my prediction regarding one of the characters in Season 3. We've already seen someone nearly possessed. Next we shall see someone absolutely possessed. Remember, the rot is still there, the tunnels remain, and the Sheriff sure got a big blast in the face from something Not of This World. Will the Thessaldydra attempt to control him, next?


I must admit at this point that I don't quite understand the relationship between the Demogorgon in Stranger Things and The Vale of Shadows, including the denizens that dwell there like the tentacles, the slugs and The Thassalhydra. Maybe the Demogorgon is the Thassalhydra, leftover from when Eleven blew it to bits. The fact is we never see another Demogorgon in Stranger Things 2. We still don't know where the tentacles come from. We do know that Barb got taken, and ended up with slugs coming out of her mouth. Will got taken, and ended up with slugs coming out of his mouth. 

Where did the tubes come from? Probably The Thassalhydra, since that is exactly what the creature of the same name does in Dungeons & Dragons. I'm beginning to think that Eleven's monster was totally new, and it was as alien to The Vale of Shadows as it was to our world since it came from The Upside Down in Eleven's mind. Why do some people end up being eggs when The Demogorgon gets them (like the Russian spy in the first season) while some people end up with tubes in their mouth, or a dead corpse with slugs coming out of them? Weird.


A doorway to another evil dimension (whether it's Hell or the antimatter universe discussed in John Carpenter's Prince of Darkness) that is going to open up and release demons/zombies/etc. in order to kick our dimension's ass is a common theme in horror films going back through the decades, so of course that is a theme in Stranger Things. The 90's horror science fiction film Event Horizon featured a stranger Hell dimension mirror universe that corrupted and drove insane the dumb humans from our dimension that ended up there, although it wasn't trying to invade our own dimension. It did, however, feature a possessed character, similar to Will.

Next time I'm going to focus on Eleven, her mental journey, and how coming to terms with her own darkness through personal visions is actually a big part of 80's film psychology. Why was Will called The Mind Flayer? Who is Kali? Who is King Mob? What is Barbelith? We'll find out more in Part IV!



Monday, January 28, 2019

Erin Lampart - Comedy



A very smart person once said that in America politics are downstream from culture. I would like to add that stand up comedy is even closer to the source. By the time you see a famous stand up comedian do a one hour special on television or Netflix you are seeing an end result. They have gone too far down the river, and they are not telling The Truth. That's why you have to see great performers like Erin Lampart to understand how people really feel about life right now.

Live stand up comedy is 300% more awesome when you see it in the flesh compared to film, TV or the Internet. I interview unique comedians that I've seen IRL like Lampart because she is the future. Performers like her and other comedians I've interviewed and admire from the Los Angeles area like Matt Ingebretson, Barbara Gray, and Dave Ross are the people you should check out now because they are the current cutting edge of cool with ideas, jokes, talent and stories that will inform, as well as entertain, all of us for many more decades. 
...
In a town like Hollywood, being pretty, smart and tough isn’t always enough, but a sense of humor can give you the edge to cut past the competition. Erin Lampart has these qualities, as well as a personal style that is “…kind of dark, a little dirty…I like to be weird. I like to do silly things.” Her material includes concepts like work, dating and family, infused with a twist that is as sardonic as it is comedic. “I guess a lot of times I take bad things that have happened and turn them into comedy. I like putting sunshine into the gray.”

Lampart rocks the mic.

Although originally from New York, her family moved to Pennsylvania, she says, “…after a series of unfortunate events. I’m sassy but still a country girl.” Lampart started performing for a living after taking summer acting jobs when she was 11 years old. “I was always a theater kid.” After growing up one day the talented lady had enough of, “…daydreaming at a country club and moved to L.A. I started doing Second City Improv, but it wasn’t until I saw Rory Scovel perform that I decided to do stand up. I was single and alone, so I had plenty of time.”

Aside from being a successful comedian, she is also a seasoned film and television actress. Lampart has starred in an as of yet unreleased independent horror film, a yet-to-be named but soon-to-be-released Comedy Central series, a television series called “GayCare,” and in the documentary 100 Jokes, where she expertly performed the role of herself. She feels that film is certainly easier than stand up. “I love taking direction. I’m into details and I listen very well. With stand up you have complete control. You can do what you want.”

Lampart acting.

Both mediums call for a performer to quickly actualize an amusing imaginary fantasy by evoking pure emotion and expressing it for a hopefully captivated audience. Lampart uses the same process for her signature stand up comedy. “There’s more emotion. More pain. When I am onstage really going for it, my performance has exhaustion and frustration.” She knows how to amp herself up in order to make her set more electrifying. The young woman says that before going onstage to do comedy, “Sometimes I’ll just read Yelp reviews about me to get angry.”

But just like the Force in Star Wars, comedy has a dark side, and every comic is aware of it. What’s the worst part, for Lampart? “The constant self doubt. You can keep having great sets until you have a terrible set.” This makes some comics stop, or even quit, paralyzed by the fear of failing. Lampart believes that all artists struggle the same way. “I live with and date a painter. He goes though the same thing.” She still believes that the bright side is worth it. “I love making people laugh. I love making people happy and forget their pain for a little while. I love connecting with people and making them feel good.”

You can see Erin Lampart perform live comedy at Sauce, Fridays at 8 p.m. at DeSanos Pizza, 4959 Santa Monica Blvd., in Los Angeles. (www.facebook.com/Saucecomedy). Feel free to follow her on Twitter at ErinLampart@ThatsSoLampy). Her personal website is also here