Tuesday, September 20, 2022

"Y'ALL HAD TO BE HERE" PART III - Comedy

This is part three of an interview with Steven Marcus Releford, Niles Abston and Johnny Mac about Y'ALL HAD TO BE HERE, a show combining comedy, improv, podcast interviews and an inside look at the lives of comedians that goes beyond mere stand up to entertain the audience with layers of humor and commentary from a team of who knows what they're talking about. It's an education for anyone who loves the business of stand up comedy and intellectual entertainment for everyone else.

If you are interested in seeing more from the very funny people involved in this project check out BASEMENTFEST, a three day event featuring talent from all over Los Angeles in a venue unique from the rest. The comedic extravaganza will have performers from Y'All HAD TO BE HERE and more with a party atmosphere only personalities as powerful as Niles Abston, Steven Marcus Releford, Johnny Mac, Arthur Hamilton and their fellow comedic performers can provide.


Just like any good TV show, many audience members could never understand the pain, sweat and tears it took to get to the point where Donald Glove could do a show with as much depth as Atlanta

Niles Abston: You have to look at all the groundwork Donald Glover has done to make white people feel safe around him. He is the safest bet for white people when it comes to a black guy. He's "The Black Friend" to white people. He's funny, he can rap, he's handsome...he's been in so many spaces from NYU to improv comedy to 30 Rock, to Community where he's collected all these white tokens in a way so it's like, "Alright, we'll let you make a TV show." And then it's like, "Woah! That's not the show we want you to make, but we like you so we'll let you do it.

Steven Marcus Releford: And it's making money.

Niles Abston: And it's making money. He's been able to do what a black film maker has never been able to do on television because he's been palpable to white people for so long.

He's had to make sacrifices to. It's on YouTube. Chevy Chase...

Niles Abston: He was so mean to him!

Oh yeah. Even Chevy Chase thought the writing for Donald Glover was terrible because he was portrayed as a dumb jock. There's also the problem of how Chase thought it was ok to use the n-word in front of Glover. I'm sure the young man was just sitting in the middle of all the controversy thinking, "I don't want to make any waves." He had to suffer without saying anything to move up in Hollywood.

Niles Abston: That's what being black is. Picking your battles. "I'm not going to say anything about this because down the road I want to direct." I've been told this: "It only takes black people ten seconds in this industry to be 'hard to work with,'" and once the word "difficult" gets used to describe you, especially black women, now people don't want to work with you. Donald Glover was like, "I'm not going to complain over some TV role, I'll just leave." He wanted to make a crazy TV show one day. It's crazy how we have to think like this. White people don't have to do that. They can just live in the current moment.

I've also been told about how there's a lot of pressure on black people from Hollywood executives sometimes to be a stereotype. To be more black. That's part of the reason John Amos left Good Times. The show became a parody of itself and the real people the writing was supposed to portray.

Johnny Mac: And the fucked up thing is that the executives are probably arguing, "But that's what people want." The fact is the audience is black, Asian, white...everybody. So a white executive might say, "Our white audience..." and if they put a black or Asian show on TV, only those groups would watch it. It's actually that the white executive wouldn't watch it. A middle aged white man is telling me that young white people won't watch a show. "Only black kids will watch this show," he thinks that. It's not the truth. That's why you need representation in there, or you need to understand what the big picture is.

Steven Marcus Releford: That's what's cool about stand up. You can tell your story any way you want to. You'll tell a joke, and it works, for either crowd, but the laughs are different, right? It's because it's still a laugh, and a truth, that needs to be heard. That's the same thing with Atlanta, it's like, "Oh, we didn't want you to make this type of show, but we've already green lit it and people love it." It's real. It's truthful shit. I'm laughing in a way that's different.

Niles Abston: He couldn't have pitched that type of show. And everything is based on the pitch instead of the actual product.

He also makes fun of both sides. He makes fun of African American culture and white racist culture.

Niles Abston: Right, from the things he knows, though. It's a genuine place. He's not making up a stereotype to make fun of. If a white person is making fun of black people it's like, you don't even know anybody who acts like that. What are you talking about?

It feels sometimes that Glover is also being very meta. He's making fun of stereotypes...and also making fun of television stereotypes, not the real person or predicament.

Johnny Mac: He makes fun of the white perception.

Niles Abston: Uh huh. He's a genius.

There's a part in his Childish Gambino video for "This is America" where he's dancing shirtless on a car in a parking garage. The camera pulls back. What's the color of the garage and everything around him? It's white. He's absolutely surrounded by a white structure. He's in a giant white parking garage in a white structure with layers going up, and he's still near the bottom.

Niles Abston: That's hilarious! I've never thought about it that way.

It's very subversive, if that's what he meant. He loves David Lynch, he also loves Kubrick. I saw that and thought, "That's how he feels. Look where he works."

Niles Abston: And he had to do so much to get to that point. It's almost like he became a rapper to make that show because he knew one good way for a black dude to get famous is to become a rapper. He did that stand up thing. He did stand up before rap.

Johnny Mac: He did improv, sitcom, rapper, movie star...and then they are like, "What do you want to make?" And he's like, "Fucking finally."

Niles Abston: That's the thing, he totally cut to the front of the line because of rap. It's because he got popular in another place. The only person to ever do that was backwards, like Will Smith got popular in rap and then went to TV. Donald Glover had to do the reverse, which is honestly stupid when you think about it.

Talking to all of you also makes me realize that even back then, Will Smith had to rap as if he was at a Def Comedy Jam because of the popular stereotype. "There's no need to argue, parents don't understand," sounds like a punch line.


You can buy tickets for BASEMENT FEST right here.

Check out more of Y'ALL HAD TO BE HERE by following this link. 

Monday, September 12, 2022

Dennis Feitosa, The Artist Known as Def Noodles

Def Noodles, keeping them entertained.

The comedian known to the planet as Def Noodles cannot be described by just a few adjectives or merely as a noun. A funny multimedia entertainer who knows how to criticize as good as he characterizes, Dennis Feitosa, aka Def Noodles, has several YouTube channels, and a heavy online presence, with more followers than Gandhi and more laughs than humanly possible. Armed with his own fully operational studio, as well as his own comedy club, the businessman, producer, director, comedian and successful media personality is a force to be feared, online or on the stage.

Def Noodles desire to right wrongs and tell truths has made him some adversaries. That's ok, the ancient Japanese samurai had a proverb: "An individual with no enemies is probably not respectable." The courage to say what's against mundane cultural norms is a hallmark of any famous comedian or writer, from Lenny Bruce to George Carlin to Richard Pryor to Dave Chapelle, today.

With so many YouTube channels dedicated to denigrating him you'd think he was some sort of superhero going up against an evil online conglomerate with only one power...filming themselves complaining about another, more qualified person's hard work.


His club, his comedy, and the people who love it.

In a recent adventure Def Noodles hosted a roast at his comedy club in downtown LA, right off of Sunset Ave. where many legendary stand up comics got their start. While a traditional comedy roast is supposed to be good fun, where nobody loses their temper and silver tongues win, not violence, a man somewhat unknown to the world calling himself Salvo Pancakes (hereafter known as Mr. Pancakes) decided to try to ruin a fun night out by trying to start a fight and create a scandal to gain notoriety, similar to the dumbass that rushed Dave Chapelle months ago and got so beat up he looked like he lost The Ultimate Fighting Championship.

Violence is never cool in stand up comedy, and The Slap, which is what comedians call what Will Smith did to Chris Rock at the last Academy Awards, has made stand up comics afraid to perform, especially females. Mr. Pancakes didn't just act like a kichigai (it's a great Japanese word, perfect for describing an egotistical narcissist that ruins the party, look it up) for his fifteen seconds of online fame...the man ruined his career and endangered the lives of women in the club, trying to start a riot just because of an online argument that never needed to get violent. I guess Mr. Pancakes isn't a feminist, aside from not being fun to work with or funny to others. So what happened?


How did Mr. Pancakes end up at your show?

Def Noodles: It's a crazy story. I can't go into all of the details because it involves a legal situation. Essentially, we did the first roast battle. People online would chicken out. They would all talk a bunch of shit I would invite them to come over and they would all find some excuse. We had one person say, "I'm going! I'm going!" on Twitter space and then I said I would pay for her ticket to come, and she said, "I can't." So we did the first one. It was very successful. A lot of fun to do. A lot of people really enjoyed it and came back for the second one.

The first Roast Battle was sold out, right?

Def Noodles: Yeah, it sold out. The narrative on the internet is that I had seven friends here. As far as tickets go we sold 38, 39 tickets, we had all the plus ones and the guests, so it was about 50 people. For the second Roast Battle we had 55 to 60 people. So the difference is that we only had one camera angle on the first one because I had some technical issues so we didn't really show the audience but there were a lot of people in the building. The whole building was packed for the second one.

So how Pancakes ended up at the second one is that as soon as I announced it...I think I announced the second one after maybe a couple days after the first. He reached out and said he really wanted to be in it, that he would fly in from Ohio, which is where he's from...he essentially invited himself. I was aware he was a troll who works for people I'm suing. I thought it would be a good precedent to set for other YouTubers.

You wanted to give others a chance to back up their words, and also give yourself a chance to do the same.

Def Noodles: Yeah. I liked the idea of having somebody show up. This has never been done before in the YouTube community. Comedy happens all the time. On YouTube it's usually people talking shit behind a screen protected by the anonymity or the difference between themselves. So I thought it would be interesting to have that play out here and that's how he (Mr. Pancakes) ended up getting invited. I was like, "Let's have a YouTuber." I like helping out people. We help each other out all the time out here.

To his credit, he's being courageous. You are pretty high up up there amongst the clouds with your career and this guy is still on Earth, so you are being nice to reach down and help this dude.

Mr. Pancakes, being unhappy.

Def Noodles: Yeah, the entertainment business is not really built for upward mobility. All of this I had to build myself. I had to save the money and then surround myself with other people who are even better at it than I am so we can do more, which is where everyone else comes in. Everyone brings something to the table.

Comedy itself, and the entertainment business, doesn't allow for any of that. It's usually that the same hands wash each other, the same people help each other, and that's how you get into a position where people like Chris D'Elia are being replatformed in these clubs even though he's a fucking sexual predator. He's a comic. His dad is a famous screenwriter. His dad came from the business. That's how you get people like that who are essentially a self confessed criminal. There's essentially a paper trail for what he's done but he's still getting replatformed by all these clubs because we know how this business is.


Looks like D'Elia likes them too little.

I like creating culture. I think creating something fun and cool and funny is ultimately the objective and incorporating YouTube as much as possible because it's such an insular thing. What I get from a lot of people is, "Why did you put up so much of of Pancakes shit?" Because honestly I wanted to see where it would go because nothing like this has ever been done in the YouTube community. You're getting street comics, and YouTube drama from people used to trolling you in a basement, putting it all together and seeing what happens.

Pancakes had the courage as a troll to show up and do something. I admire that. It took balls.

Def Noodles: 100%. As a comic I can appreciate the balls that it took. That's like, first year comic shit, a lot of the stuff he did, being so antagonistic, so in your face. I used to host open mics in New York and I saw the same thing happen some guy walks in and he's with his friends who think he's funny and he bombs. Those same people who are funny in front of a group of friends cracking jokes can't handle it onstage so they start bombing and panicking.

In one case I saw this guy have a violent meltdown, take off his shirt and start flailing, trying anything he can to be funny. That's first year comic shit. If Salvo had any experience he'd know that he's essentially jeopardizing all the comics around him, and endangering everybody around him, by doing the shit that he is doing.

Sure, he's getting a specific audience of trolls to laugh because of the schadenfreude. They are enjoying, "my downfall." "Yes! Dennis is taking it!" And at what cost? There's no club in LA or New York that would put up with that type of shit.

Also, when you listen to him and look at him in the video of the roast the guy looks unhinged. He looks angry. A roast is a bunch of guys making fun of each other. It's not supposed to be serious. Mr. Pancakes looks like Wolverine going into berserker mode and taking out half of the MCU.

Def Noodles: Yeah, honestly the way we handled it, outside of me pushing him when he wouldn't get off the stage...if I could take it back, yeah, I shoulda woulda coulda walk up onstage and kindly told the dude to sit down and even if he got into my face like I did before he came onto the show.

Was Mr. Pancakes angry and violent with you before the show?

Def Noodles: He'd been trying really hard to break into the green room and cause a scene. Two of my staff had to stop him. He was banging on windows when he first got here. I didn't want to have him in the green room because he had been antagonizing other comics. I didn't want to have a situation in the green room get out of hand, I'd rather have it in a controlled environment where we have three security guards instead of just one back here.

So he was already trying to create a scene before he got pushed?

Def Noodles: 100%. Exactly. He was walked off stage two or three times before anyone walked out. He knew I was going to come out because the show was starting. So he was looking for a reaction, and he definitely got a reaction. He got his clip, he got his fight. He got pushed by Def Noodles and all that . I would have done that differently. I think that honestly, the whole night, considering the environment we had, that we had 10 to 15 hecklers at one time...


Def Noodles killing it at Flapper's.

You guys look like you are all keeping calm.

Def Noodles: Yes, we handled it pretty well. I think Salvo is going to look back at himself and be extremely embarrassed if he isn't yet. Unless he feels absolutely no shame whatsoever or he's that gung ho about clout and getting attention that he'll do anything for it. I do believe that at some point he's going to look back and feel a deep sense of shame because he didn't ruin the show for me, I just feel bad because people came up to me who had also bought tickets for our next show and said they couldn't enjoy the show because he was causing a scene outside and screaming at people outside of the club after he got kicked out.

So Mr. Pancakes was going out messing with the show after he was 86'd?

Def Noodles: Yeah, he got taken out, and after that we wrapped up the show in about a minute after we got our bearings back together. What he doesn't understand is that there is a greater spectrum than the one he is insulated in who just enjoy trolling. There's a greater community. What he did is fucked up.

What bothers me is that in the videos where he talks about the roast Mr. Pancakes says, "Ha! He fell into my trap! Def Noodles totally fell for what I was going to do!" That tells you he is a guy that walked in with an agenda.

What people online need to understand is that in the video, he is trying to destroy the world around him. You guys are being very calm despite that. You're trying to protect the world around you. A protector is under an incredible amount of stress because you are worried about your people and establishment while he's just shooting everything with a flamethrower. When you pushed him you were just trying to protect the show.

Def Noodles: Yes. That's not the narrative on the internet. The narrative is that I assaulted him and he's some sort of victim, even though I've shown how he, a dozen of his friends and some guy who created another show essentially coordinated this attack, how they were literally trying to incite a riot in my building, I got an email from the guy who paid for Pancakes to fly out here tell me a week and half beforehand, "I hope you have insurance, we are going to burn your place down."

Wow. That's not cool.

Def Noodles: They were making threats. They were going to have people faking seizures. The first show we had three security guards work the show. This time I had four and an EMS. It was still not working. I was advised to get off duty LAPD cops to do it and prevent a SWAT raid. They still couldn't handle the situation.

It's more volatile because there are a million people watching online and anything can make you look bad.

Def Noodles: This is unprecedented too because we are filming it live online. Our first show got banned on Twitch because somebody said something that was against the terms of service. We had to figure out with the second show how to have a delay in the stream to save my social media account and not get banned.

I thought his plan was just to go up there and get me banned on my social media accounts. He could go up there and yell a slur, or just hold a sign that has a slur written on it. So I had to be able to censor the stream, and the last thing you want to do with comics is interrupt their flow. I'm literally running a television station that has a delay, like they do for the Oscar's. I can't afford to lose my platforms because of how volatile it has gotten.


Mr. Pancakes, shortly before he left the show.

If you could do it again, what would you have done differently to handle Mr. Pancakes?

Def Noodles: I would have never let him in the building. If I had let him in the building, I would have kicked him out earlier because he was already causing destruction and bothering people. It was my curiosity. I wanted to see the end of the situation instead of cutting it short and thinking of what it could have been. That often bites me on the ass.

You are on the horns of a dilemma too because if you don't let him on, you are a coward who is afraid to face him one on one. So he gets to show up, destroy the place, and to a person that doesn't know what's really going on you look like you just kicked him out. Mr. Pancakes wanted to blow the whole thing up.

Def Noodles: That was a dilemma, too. Somebody highlighted that on Twitter. So it's lose or lose. I got a lot of shit because we got to his part of the show eventually, and there are a lot of people who didn't even watch the whole show, so they just see him get onstage and get kicked out immediately. No, the guy sat there for the whole duration of the show, to the very end, and towards the end I was advised by people I trust to not give him the mic.

People still loved the show. So did people online. So I decided to draw out the suspense. Will I him give him he mic? So we could draw it out for the people online and for the whole community. I asked the audience, "Should I give him the mic?" Some people said, "Yes!" Some said, "No!" I was going to give him the mic anyways. I was just curious to see what he had. 

So I kept walking onstage and getting heckled, and then I got a lull where I could talk, so I tried to thank him for flying over, because I think that took a lot of courage to fly out from Ohio, spend two nights in a hotel...apparently he has a nine-to-five job, he has a wife and kids, he seems like a person who has a full-fledged family and he gave all that up to come here and cause this scene.


At the roast keeping cool while facing the fire. 

At least he looked you in the eye. He's brave for doing that. He made the journey. A lot can go wrong on a journey.

Def Noodles: I respected him for doing that. Then I gave him the mic. His moment in the sun. After everything he did...he completely chokes. And then he says, "I'm not going to do any jokes, I'm not going to roast you. I'm going to monologue for an hour." So he starts to yell, "Fuck Def Noodles," and everything is chanting with him, so I jump in and chant too, I don't give a fuck. Fuck me. Fuck everybody.

You were rolling with the punch.

Def Noodles: Then he starts calling everyone who showed up before him a hack, just disrespecting every other comedian that was onstage, which is an asshole thing to do. He's not really a comic. He doesn't understand what he is doing. Here's the irony. He calls everyone a hack and then starts to make hack jokes, like calling me old, which is stuff that I joke about.

There was this little scandal on the internet that my age was listed as being 37. My agent listed me as being that young so I could get more jobs playing younger roles.

In your defense in Hollywood, it's not your age, and the age you can play. That's what a lot of people don't get. Everyone looks younger in Hollywood. You're not lying, you are indicating the age you can play.

Def Noodles: So ok, I'm old. He had his shot. He had 3-5 minutes. He starts getting heckled and then turns to me like, "Are you going to do something?" I'm like, "Bro, I've been heckled for 90 minutes. You can't take getting heckled for two?" Here's a taste of your own medicine. Eventually security took the microphone away and dragged him out. He caused a scene. That's all he wanted. To be dragged out.

In the video people can see he's trying to peaceful noncompliance act when he raises his arms and just drops on his ass like he's a protestor at a rally on the streets. The problem is a person can't do that in a private establishment. That shows his intent. The owner of a business can legally kick a person out whenever they want. He's trying to act like a peaceful protestor because he doesn't understand the law.

Def Noodles: Like I said, there's plenty of evidence if this ever goes to court. He says he has a ruptured disc...I've had a ruptured disc once and couldn't walk for a week and a half. I couldn't get out of bed. He was running around for two hours after getting kicked out. I was immediately unable to walk.

It's obvious. If he was really injured he would have gone to a hospital, gotten treatment from a doctor, and then filed a police report.

Mr. Pancakes complains, Def Noodles explains.

Def Noodles: He didn't file a police report. He didn't check in with any local hospitals. He's just trying to have his 15 minutes of fame.

Yeah, if he's so busted up because you hurt him so bad, why is he doing all of those interviews? That's not a person in pain and agony, fighting for his life because of the injuries. He's just trying to get bad publicity.

Def Noodles: 100%. Then he gets into his limo afterwards and says he's going to sue me, and he's just joking around. I have footage of him walking away perfectly right outside the club here. He stayed around for ten minutes after the show was over, still bothering people, still getting into vocal situations with people.

Honestly, I don't know where that type of behavior leads you. There's not positive outcome for that. I really believe that there's a cycle of karma. When he's facing the same shit he's been doing to everybody it's going to be bad. Karma is ruthless.

In Hollywood, whether it's film or theater you've gotta get along. He's basically telling every comedy club producer, "I'm going to start a riot. I'm not going to get along, I'm going to bust up your show and ruin it," based on that video of the roast nobody is going to want to hire this guy. He's proven that he's useless and cannot be trusted.

Def Noodles: Somebody like that can only exist on the internet. This little tiny bubble on the internet that values this destructive behavior. That shit gets old. There are a lot of people that have made their careers doing that and they don't really last more than two years. There's always somebody who does that shit better.

That's why it's cooler to build communities, with cool, artistic shit happening to try to empower people so you are building everybody up around you so everybody is lifting each other up and then you have something cool at the end that everybody can show up for, instead of, "I went there for a day and destroyed it. That's my legacy." Can you imagine that? You'd have to be tremendously unaware to think that's good. There were people who came up to me afterwards who were literally traumatized.

The video of the roast looks like a prison riot. It's not cool.

Def Noodles: Exactly, that's the memory he's leaving people with. There are people who did enjoy the schadenfreude. They were super entertained. But that only lasts so long, because if you are just destroying you aren't building something up. You're not adding value.

I agree. What breaks my heart is Mr. Pancakes was so focused on hurting you, and look at the people he was working with? There was some A+ talent on that stage. Steven Marcus Releford has and all of those other comics have worked everywhere. They are in films and on Netflix specials. This guy had a chance to work with talent he never would have been able to work with. He should have said, "Now is the time to get along." Instead he's ruining a career he never really had. He wasted the opportunity.

Setting the stage...literally.

Def Noodles: You are right. People are only seeing only the very beginning stages. They are seeing just a baby that's three weeks old. By the time it's 5 or 10 it's going to be totally different. It's like a television show. There are pilots that are shot on a shoestring budget. The Office only shot six episodes and ended up being the longest running comedy. In every season they got better, they got more writers, they got better at everything, the coverage, the filming.

This is just the beginning. When big companies approve comedies they greenlight a dozen episodes because they know it will take a while for people to understand the humor. So people shouldn't see the second roast and think that's it. We are thinking two or three years down the line. Everybody else is just looking at what just happened.

You are trying to grow roots for a community, for people who are poor and need the money and the stage time. Mr. Pancakes isn't just bothering you, he is burning down a community. He's the bad guy in every Disney film. He's just one person trying to hurt everybody else.

Def Noodles: 100%. We're trying to build a platform in a community that would rather give a platform to sexual predators, right? It pisses me off because I'm the face for all this, so it's like having a target on your back.

People watching the roast should really understand the bad position you were in. In the video Mr. Pancakes looks very angry, his face is red, and you are all doing your best to smile, look confident and keep the show going on. Everybody else onstage was being a professional. You did your best.

Def Noodles: It was definitely a learning experience. I was never in a room that was that hostile. With comedy shows there is an understanding that everybody paid their ticket to be there and is there to be entertained. But there was a large group of people who came and their entertainment wasn't the show, their entertainment was disrupting this show as much as possible.


The mighty Los Angeles underground legend and celebrity comedian 
Steven Marcus Releford, Dennis Feitosa and friends in the green room.

True.

Def Noodles: That's like some Twitter shit. That's gonna be a memory that I'll have forever. There were a lot of comics that weren't really happy about it and I had to apologize afterwards.

He was like a terrorist with bombs strapped to himself. If a person is willing to kill their career to trash your show, and doesn't care about hurting the audience or other performers, even Superman couldn't stop something that bad.

Def Noodles: I didn't expect it to go the way it did. We were talking about it before. He really came here feeling emboldened with all the people backing him up. If he just came here by himself it would have been different. If he had came her with a neutral crowd or my crowd it would have been different. I don't try to use my crowd against people. That would be fucking terrible. Nobody would want to perform here. Weaponizing my audience to attack people who come here...

You don't want to be a demagogue. You want to be a host.

Yeah, exactly. I'm wondering, if he had come here by himself, would there have been a different dynamic? Imagine if he's by himself without the 10-12 people supporting him who were yelling and chanting people with him.

Were those people planted here?

Def Noodles: Yeah, they were plants. I have the facebook posts by this guy from Chicago, his name is Mike, he runs a show called Red Bar, it's like a public access show. He's built a career making fun of comedians. A lot of comedians absolutely despise him and really don't like him. So he paid for Salvo's plane tickets, he paid for him to stay here, he paid for his limo, for his security guard and the fans who came over who were all fans of his show Red Bar.

Mike David, the anti-comedian, and his strange radio show, "Red Bar."

That's how Mr. Pancakes got assistance. He had a bunch of bots.

Def Noodles: Yeah, he got a bunch of people but it was Astroturf shit. What politicians do to each other. They know there is going to be a rally, so they pay somebody to heckle their opponent. They do that shit all the time, it's just that nobody expects that to happen at a comedy show because everyone else is there to be entertained.

Your detractors should also understand that it's very difficult for anyone to keep their cool with a dozen people heckling them. Even Mother Theresa would eventually start flipping them off.

Def Noodles: It's not even protected speech. It's what they call the heckler's veto. It's yelling "Fire!" in a crowded theater. I could take legal action against him for that. For a lot of free speech laws there's a year long statute of limitation on it. I'd have to look into it. I'm pretty sure he committed several crimes with what he did. He said he intended to incite people. That's not protected speech. You can't go inciting people to act that way.

Mr. Pancakes had no jokes. He was just angry. People also have to remember this is after Will Smith slapped Chris Rock at the Oscar's. Every comedian in LA I talk to is afraid of someone walking up and attacking them for performing. They don't want Mr. Pancakes at their show.

Is there anything else you'd like to add?

Def Noodles: I know I got a lot of shit for pushing him. My conclusion is I had two options. I should have either not pushed him or gone all in and knocked him the fuck out.

Get sued. Go to jail. Fuck it, that's punk rock. Not a good way to host a comedy club, though.

Def Noodles: Honestly, if I'm going to get accused of something I didn't do then I'm going to do it. Moving forward I am never going to have a situation like that. I want YouTubers to be a part of this because I think it's a cool thing to have. I have to establish limitations. Sure, I'll lose the public battle on social media because I'm kicking them out of the show, but the integrity of the show is being preserved because people get to see the show they paid for. So at this point I'm learning which battles to choose.

Winning is easy if you're willing to work.

A roast is about having a good time, being funny and constructive criticism. Mr. Pancakes wasn't there for any of that. People who aren't at your level will try to bring you down. It like crabs in a bucket.

Def Noodles: I've learned that I'm a little too laid back sometimes. Honestly, I could end up making this all into a movie. There were two times I had to get off the stage because I needed a drink of water. I was sweating buckets, it was like 120 degrees in Los Angeles. We had air conditioning but there were too many bodies.

The moment I stepped out Pancakes started doing jokes about George Floyd to really piss people off and get us banned. So when I stepped out there was just this wave of negativity and all that anger, while back here (in the green room) it was just chill, but it was like people witnessing an automobile accident. So I'd step outside and just imagine a camera on a dolly following me in and seeing all that. The guy said, on the show, that he flew from Ohio to kill me. That's literally what he said.

Author's Note: Mr. Pancakes was not available for comment.

You can find Def Noodles on YouTube right here.

Check out his Instagram page. It's fun and informative.

Don't forget to follow him on Twitter.

Def Noodles is also on facebook over here.


Wednesday, June 15, 2022

"Y'ALL HAD TO BE HERE" PART II - Comedy

This is part II of an interview with Steven Marcus Releford, Niles Abston and Johnny Mac, a few of the brilliant minds behind "Y'ALL HAD TO BE HERE." For those who missed their legendary, sold-out show last time, you have a new opportunity to experience their multimedia music and comedy extravaganza thanks to "Y'ALL HAD TO BE FREE'D" live at Bar Lubitsch at 7702 Santa Monica Blvd., West Hollywood, CA on June 19th at 8:30 PM. You can buy tickets for that show right here.

...

Johnny Mac has a good point about how social media has impacted stand up comedy.

Steven Marcus Releford: Doing stand up I was apprehensive about social media. "Why do I need social media if I'm already out there doing stand up? That's not where it's at!"

At least you had developed mad skills at places like The Garage before focusing on social media. Many people don't want to put in the work. Desmond Dekker was a Jamaican musician and producer that helped create Bob Marley and The Wailers. To sharpen them up into the perfect machine for playing live music with no fear Dekker would have the band perform alone in graveyards at midnight for the dead.


The absolutely incredible Desmond Dekker.

Niles Abston: That's what an open mic is like. If you could perform for the dead then having fifteen live people watching you is going to give you that energy. That's what The Garage open mic was like. If you can perform for people knocked out in their chairs drunk and asleep...

You know you're ready for the big time.

Niles Abston: When I was putting my Netflix special together, I knew that if my joke made people chuckle at The Garage, than the same joke for one hundred people who paid to see me will cause the roof to come off. That was always my gauge, does it get laughs at The Garage mic? If it doesn't I'm throwing it out.

What you said about Desmond Dekker making the band perform in the graveyard, if the band can bring that much energy to a live crowd and they do well it makes perfect sense. The Garage was our graveyard.


Bob Marley and the Wailers.

Plus, any Los Angeles stand up comic performing live is going to be tougher because L.A. stand up comedy is tough.

Niles Abston: You have to want to be here to be here.

It's a gift for the audience too because all of you sharpened your acts at The Garage together, so now you are bringing the finished product to the people paying you to perform.

Steven Marcus Releford: There is an element in this group that we have from performing shows together for years. We've been running shows for a while. We've been working the scene with feet on the ground so we know what's happening.

That's the energy we got from The Garage. With our show we'll all be able to witness the greats coming up. To have that osmosis between the people and us is that energy in the name, "Y'ALL HAD TO BE HERE." Because if you missed it you missed it, so now here it is, again.


Johnny, have you ever seen an LA comic that's more focused on creating a character to play in a Hollywood film, so they don't have real jokes, and then go out to New York City only to fail because of that deficit?

Johnny Mac: I've never personally seen it but it is kind of a known thing in New York City. It's a running joke in the scene. "I had an LA comic on my show and..."

Niles Abston: They had a lot of charisma.

Johnny Mac: Exactly. They were all personality and no jokes. Because in New York it's all about the jokes.

Niles Abston: When I moved there in 2019 I would always get the, "Are you sure you are an LA comic?" I didn't know what that. They really don't think we can write jokes out here because some people really went out there and fucked that all up.

There are killer joke writers up on stage out here, it's just that some people went out there before they were ready and fucked it up for the rest of us. That's why I started Basement Fest as a way to chip away at that. I'd bring comics out from LA for the festival and they'd kill in New York, so it's not the truth.

So LA can write jokes. I like how you created Basement Fest to defeat the stereotype.

Johnny Mac: Comedy is performance plus writing. You are the actor and the writer. And in LA you got a lot of actors who want to be comedians. They want to be funny actors. Someone like Will Ferrell, he's hilarious, but we don't know if he is a stand up comic. If someone wrote jokes for him though, he would kill it.

The power and fury that is Will Ferrell.

We write our jokes and perform them. If you are a performer without the material, it shows. The better writers seem to be better performers. You want to have a balance. That's the best version. But if you can write comedy and do it deadpan, that's the best comic. If you are very personable, but have no joke or punch line, that's not a good comic.

Niles Abston: We see those people there. They will yell the punch line. They'll change their voice into a British accent or they'll sing the punch line. Because they know that in their head there's a voice that's saying their shit ain't funny. So they throw something extra on it to try to make something else.

I've seen that all the time. Why are you faking a British accent if you aren't British? Why are you singing the punch line even though the joke is not about a song. Oh, because you are not funny, and I'm talking about a specific person, right now.

You're talking about many. I've seen a lot of comedians like that. For their punch line they'll use an emotional, cartoon voice and transform into a different human being. They'll use a radio disc jockey voice like they are doing a commercial or suddenly screech their punch line and shock the audience into laughing because of the cringe factor. They'll wave their arms like a windsock puppet because they don't have a punch line or much of a joke. People in mental institutions do that, so it seems funny.

Niles Abston: I know a lot of comedians that perform in their black voice. When they are up there doing stand up, that's not how they are in real life. They are trying to sound like a black person. You see a lot of white people doing it. Trying to sound black.

Johnny Mac: Growing up, most of my favorite comics were black. I did my own voice.

Steven Marcus Releford: I feel like stand up at large is kind of like the martial arts. LA has The Way of the Crane. New York has The Way of the Monkey. So it's like, if you pull back from it there are different styles, but there is an overlap of what makes comedy, comedy.

I believe that LA comics are under great pressure to be a character that works on film, instead of a stand up comic that performs on stage. Some great comedians would just never look good on film.

Steven Marcus Releford: My family was visiting the other day, and said, "Look at you. There's nobody like you on Netflix." It's like I have to fit the mainstream whatever so people will be like, "Ok, he goes into that box." Black comedians go through that too. People assume there are only three types of black comic archetypes.

Niles Abston: "Is he a crazy one?" One of the biggest comedy archetypes is what I call, "The Def Jam." It sounds crazy, but white comedians expected us all to be like that. They didn't even want to have Def Jam happen. That was invented by Russell Simmons and his company. They presented it to HBO and it almost didn't get made because they were trying to explain, like, that black comedy was synonymous with hip hop because hip hop was popular at the time.


It was the 90's so black comedy had to reflect that. They couldn't get black people to watch comedy, but there were these underground spots like The Peppermint Lounge live in New Jersey where you would go practice there and end up on Def Jam. If you could kill with the black crowd in New Jersey, you would end up on Def Jam and so that almost didn't make it on TV.

And now 20-30 years later, you want black comedians that you almost didn't want back then? So that means whatever the new wave is right now, you are suppressing that, and it almost won't happen. Whatever we do in 2022 with our finished product, they are going to make black people do that in 2040. That's just not going to work.

What you are doing with your show is a completely different art compared to Def Comedy Jam. With the current technology you'll also be able to present the show to more people than comedians could 20-30 years ago. It can be on YouTube, Hulu, Netflix...

Larry Byrd, killing it.

Niles Abston: I kind of compare everything to NBA and basketball. Stand up comedy is a lot like the NBA. Back in the 80's Larry Byrd was one of the best basketball guys ever. Everybody was freaking out because he was making two or three threes a game. Now you got guys coming off the bench that are making two or three threes a quarter because the League realized three is more than two so lets just take more of these shots.

So for a kid growing up now they would watch a kid from the 90's would think it's boring because they are only scoring 80 points. Now it's just, shoot the three, shoot the three. The game has evolved. I feel like comedy has evolved that same way. Most of the stand up comedians you know have a podcast, edit the podcast on your own, direct on the side, write scripts, do stand up, run shows, do all these things and we are still expected to kill onstage like our predecessors.

Yes, that's right.

The unbeatable Chris Rock.

Niles Abston: I love Chris Rock. I love Dave Chappelle. I wouldn't be doing what I do without them. But if you compare 26 year old Chris Rock or Chappelle to 26 year old me, I would eat those motherfuckers alive because I have to edit, I have to direct, I have to write. I have to do all these different things they don't have to do, and I still have to do stand up.

The audience is also much more demanding. They have heard it all before.

Niles Abston: Exactly.

Steven Marcus Releford: Oh yeah. If we are all able to achieve what we've done now imagine how high we will fly when we can delegate these tasks to others and have that weight lifted off of us.

Johnny Mac: We are training with weights, dude.

Marcus was talking to me earlier about how just being his own manager takes away from the time he has to write jokes and perform.

Niles Abston: You gotta damn near be a company yourself.

Steven Marcus Releford: Its also a testament to being black on the scene. You have to work ten times harder and build that shit on your own.

Niles Abston: You can't just be good.                          

We were talking about it before, and what a lot of people don't understand about being African American in Hollywood is that you do not have the same generational wealth that white comedians and actors, mostly actors in Hollywood, have.

Niles Abston: We could do a Top White Actors List. Look at all the kids that are actors in Hollywood. They are all kids of white actors or executives. The only kids we have like that is Jayden Smith and he sells water. He doesn't even want to do that shit. He sells boxed water. He's like Jesus. Will Smith raised Jesus. He's like this good person that tries to help people, and then he makes music here and there. Every other white kid like Jayden Smith is an actor or producer.

It's also, look at the top studios you think of when you think of the giants even now that affect Hollywood. They are all white. And then you try to name a famous black Hollywood studio. You can't.

Niles Abston: Oh yeah. And they can only make so many projects a year. How many black kids growing up did you know that wanted to be a P.A. (production assistant)? They are like, "PA? Is that Pennsylvania?" But white kids will have families that get them to be a P.A. on a project, and now they can just sit back and watch a big time director do their job...

Sun Rise the Divine from "Y'ALL HAD TO BE HERE."

Steven Marcus Releford: And get paid $700 for a major fucking film.

Niles Abston: I'm finally going to get to watch a director do their thing because I had to grind for seven years, to get hired on a TV show, write that show, make it funny so I could see the words I wrote be directed. That's how I managed to see a major director work. While some other kid can just say, "I have an uncle that works here so I'm going to go check that out." So you just look at the hurdles we have to go through just to be around to see the stuff. Because you can't be the shit you want to be unless you see it.

It sucks because people tend to hang out, by default, with other ethnicities they are apart of, whether they are Armenians, Jewish or white, although LA and NYC are more integrated. To make it in Hollywood an African American has to hang out with those Hollywood industry, generational wealth Caucasians. That can be tough.

Steven Marcus Releford: That's where the resources are at. There are people starving right now, crossing deserts, looking for where the white people are at. "I don't care where I end up, I'm bringing my baby where the white people are at to find some food."

What bothers me about Hollywood is that there are no African American Golden Era Hollywood studios going back decades, but they are more than happy to profit from the African American, gangster stereotype. Or any black stereotype.

When I grew up, there'd be movies with African Americans shooting people, and they'd be more than happy to collect the money based on films like Boyz in the Hood, or Menace 2 Society exploiting the black gangster archetype.

Johnny Mac: They'll even hire white writers to tell black stories. It's crazy.

I understand how sometimes to tell a story you have to have an outside perspective, but you still have to represent that inside perspective without using a stereotype. Paul Mooney, a great man, understood the black experience, and had to explain to white people who aren't paying attention, especially middle class white people, by being an ambassador without insulting them when he wrote for The Cosby Show

He provided an example of a happy, upper class black family to inspire others the way he could because he was dealing with white Hollywood executives. Hollywood has gotten better. Reservation Dogs, on Hulu, is doing a good job of talking about Native Americans without resorting to stereotypes.

Niles Abston: FX is killing it. At the end of the day that is a Native American show with a Native American creator, Taika Waititi, directs a lot of episodes, but they had to package their culture, while there are some rich white people that are like, "Ok, fine." Meanwhile there has never been a show that is too white for TV. You never hear that. But you hear, "Too Asian for TV, too black for TV, too Mexican," because we have to make our experience palpable to them, first.

When you look at Atlanta people think, "Wow, they are really talking about some shit black people don't get to talk about on TV." Here's the thing, you have to look at all the groundwork Donald Glover has done to make white people feel safe around him. Donald Glover is the safest bet for white people when it comes to a black guy. He's the black friend to white people.

He can rap, he's handsome, he's talented, he's been in so many spaces like 30 Rock and Community where he has collected all these white tokens in a way so that they say, "Yeah, we will let you make a TV show," and then, "Woah! That's not the show we wanted you to make...but it's making money." So he's been able to do what a black director hasn't been able to do on television because he has been so palpable to white people for so long.


Friday, May 27, 2022

Stranger Things 3! - The Weird

"Can you count, suckers? Because I say the future is ours...if you can count."

-Cyrus, The Warriors


"Camilla: You, sir, should unmask.

Stranger: Indeed?             

Camilla: Indeed it's time. We've all laid aside disguise but you.    

Stranger: I wear no mask.                                   

Camilla: (Terrified, aside to Cassilda) No mask? No mask!"  

-The King in Yellow, Act 1, Scene 2. Robert W. Chambers


"Strange is the night where black stars rise,     

and strange moons circle through the skies,             

But stranger still is  

Lost Carcosa" 

-"Cassilda's Song," The King in Yellow, Act 1, Scene 2. Robert W. Chambers


"My name is Legion," he replied, "for we are many."    

-The Bible, New International Version, Mark 5:9


"My fantasy      

has turned to madness      

And all my goodness       

has turned to badness."                         

-Michael De Barres, "Obsession," Animotion


BEFORE WE REALLY BEGIN...

This is part one of an exploration into the myths, conspiracy theories, horror films and occult concepts behind Stranger Things 3, the hit Netflix horror/sci-fi show created by my favorite geniuses, The Duffer Brothers. To fully understand what the frack we are about to discuss, you will want to read the first work discussing the first Stranger Things right here. After that, check out my observations on Stranger Things 2 over here. After that, follow me on Instagram. Please. Thank you!

INTRODUCTION

Just like you this writer watched Stranger Things 3 through one bloodshot, inebriated, very high eyeball and decided the whole show had gone someplace else, far beyond horror, into realms we saw in movies before during the 80's. Action and science fiction are now part of the pastiche. Even Dungeons & Dragons has been abandoned. It's all about being cool, getting chicks and going to the mall. The Montauk Project seems to be a long time ago, in a galaxy far, far away...


CONFESSION

So rather than break down Stranger Things 3 my writing time went to putting together a screenplay for a science fiction horror flick about mind control called The Populace. No, really! None of us can get away from the topic of the show. We always return, as if programmed to do so. The script got finished, and yet the conversation was still about Eleven and her wacky friends. Here we are again.

The problem was, at first there seemed to be nothing new I could tell you about the third season that wasn't already discussed before in the previous work done on the website discussing the show. You know about conspiracy theories like MKULTRA, PROJECT STARGATE, THE MONTAUK PROJECT, THE PHILEDELPHIA EXPERIMENT, tulpas, fallen angels and demons. You also already know about the Dungeons & Dragons references. What can I say that will entertain you, now?


The Day the Earth Stood Still

MORE SCI-FI FOR YOU

Surrealism began to creep in when I realized that a lot of sci-fi really is horror. The Day the Earth Stood Still is really just about the Greek myth of Talos and automata, or the mythical horror story Jewish folklore has about the golem. The Terminator is also about a golem. He's a killer robot, a card from The Horror Tarot Stephen King talks about in his masterpiece, Danse Macabre. The Thing is also a monster, and that shows up later by the end of Stranger Things 3. The living mind-controlled zombie men that show up controlled by the strange dark fluids they injected into themselves. This goes back to The Stepford Wives, which is also a sci-fi horror story.


Stranger Things is a sci-fi horror story. So is the conspiracy behind The Montauk Project, the government's exploration into alternate universes via time travel tunnels, and the id monster summoned by the psychic that destroyed the base and ended the experiment. The original conspiracy also dealt with time tunnels and cracks in reality that scientists attempted to explore, leading into alternate realities and very terrible places. So if Stranger Things 3 decides to add all those elements, plus films from the 80's like Fast Times at Ridgemont High and Die Hard, and Back to the Future to the mix, who am I to argue?

GROWING OUT OF YOUR OWN MYTH

The real problem I had decided whether or not to write this intellectual excavation of Stranger Things 3 is because there really seemed to be nothing more to discuss. They sort of dropped the Dungeons & Dragons references, because the kids aren't paying attention to that. The show was now growing up, like the children, and reinforcing it's own structure with references to itself.

If The Duffer Brothers created a show based on Goldilocks and the Three Bears, the same way they created a show based on The Montauk Project, there'd only be so far we could go once we described a female burglar sampling porridge created and consumed by three bears. We can guess what's going to happen until the bears show up. So you can understand how once the Soviet Union showed up, built a secret base under a shopping mall, and now everyone is referencing Star Wars (or Raiders of the Lost Ark) by putting on uniforms and sneaking around a military installation, I just lost interest. That wasn't a part of the original conspiracy theory. Not my department.

If the original story of Goldilocks and the Three Bears suddenly has a big brother, some penguins, a centaur, talking trees and a bowl of clam chowder, it's going to be rather hard to predict or discuss these new elements as they relate to the original fairy tale of Goldilocks and the Three Bears. The Duffer Brothers did that with the original conspiracy theories behind their work. There's so much more that was never a part of the conspiracy theories that are now part of Stranger Things 3. Since that's not my department, we are done. Nothing more to talk about, right? Good bye!


Talos, an automata (robot) from Greek mythology.

THE MISSING THINK

Ha ha ha, just kidding, there's actually more to discuss because I fracked up! There are things I missed while discussing Stranger Things and Stranger Things 2 that watching 3 again helped me remember. It's actually embarrassing. The Duffer Brothers did more than reference The Montauk Project, alien abductions and horror movies about psychic powers. Other concepts are at work here, including deep parallels to western European folklore about The Gentle Folk and Greek mythology.

THE CHINA SYNDROME

At the beginning of 3 the USSR is attempting to blast a hole into the same underworld Eleven closed at the end of 2. The machine blows up, the tentacles emerging from crevasse before it does, and the resulting electrical backlash triggers the remaining detritus of the monsters from Stranger Things 2 to become a strange cloud that controls animals and then people. It's also an infection, associated by electricity, that is related to the weather, particularly thunderstorms. Why?


This concept of The Cold War getting so bad that an out of control corporation might do something that triggers the destruction of the Earth, or at least a good part of it, is very similar to The China Syndrome, a movie about what happens when beating the USSR becomes so important we end up going too far, with technology out of control. For instance, many scientists believed that when the first atomic bomb was tested in New Mexico it would cause all the oxygen in the atmosphere to ignite at once, killing all life on Earth. That's a lot better than losing to the Nazi's, so they tested the bomb anyways. The rest is history.

FRIDAY THE 13th PART VII: THE NEW BLOOD

If the thought of Jason Voorhees from Crystal Lake walking around chopping people to death fills you with awe, glee and wonder, than by all means check out this flick. It has everything! Lighting brings Jason back to life! He's a zombie with a weapon now, totally brought back to life just like Frankenstein. Horror, sci-fi and electricity were really made for each other, huh? Just like electricity is a big deal throughout Stranger Things 3.

Now, here's the confession. Eleven's ability to use psychic powers is a total reference to this film. There's a young girl who is telekinetic in this movie! No, really! There's also no reason given why she has powers. She just does. The telekinetic eventually fights Jason and it's totally badass. Like, completely radical. Whey didn't I notice this when we talked about the first Stranger Things? Gag me with a spoon! Seriously, check out this film. Lot's of Stranger Things vibes to shake with.


FALLING LIKE LIGHTNING

The massive burst of lighting that reanimates the remains of the monsters becomes a whirling cloud that starts to control simple creatures, similar to how Dracula controls rats, and then moves on to control humans by grabbing them with tentacles. We were warned about this in the Stranger Things 2. The Mind Flayer, as the children call it, tried to control Will. Now it's controlling, and trying to control, everyone else.

The Duffer Brothers even give us a conversation with this horrific, extradimensional evil, and it's intent is pretty simple: conquest. Just like a disease, it wants to consume your body until you are something, or someone, else. This includes other free willed entities that die and become a monstrous collective.

I'm about to tell you a real life horror story. Trust me, it's horrific as it is scientific! You may want to skip down to the next part if you are faint of heart, have a mind that is easily broken, or are eating a pastrami sandwich. Take a deep breath. Brace yourself. It's about to get REAL.


Henrietta Lacks

CANCER...FOREVER!

Long story real short (I'll provide you with a link) there once was a woman that got cancer. The doctors studied it, but could not save her. She died. So far, so sad. Except...she lives! Apparently her cancer had a strange genetic mutation to it that meant it never died. Seriously. Worse yet, it kept growing.

The scientists kept feeding the cancer and giving samples to other scientist across the planet, who apparently aren't smart enough to watch horror films and learn to calm the frack down, until now the original sample is very, very big indeed. Bigger than the lady it came from! Like...tons! Maybe not tons, but dear Lord it's really big. Plus it's still alive, which is enough to make an army of atheists believe in The Devil.

Check out this link if you want. My point is that the body horror featured in Stranger Things 3 does relate to real life. The poor woman was afflicted by a genetic error that replicated, killed her, and lived on without her. It's still alive, like the horrific genetic monster in the Netflix show we know so well. A disease that controls the flesh, mutates it, and then kills the host, living on without them as the flesh that died creating it. Like The Mind Flayer, her cancer wanted to build. 

THE GATE

The Gate is a movie about a rift that opens to Hades, releasing little demons that try to murder everybody. This movie even (spoiler alert) kills a kid! Woah! They open the gate by doing the usual stupid things protagonists in horror movies do to open a gate to Hades like in Night of the Demons. Science always does that. Just ask Stephen King about The Mist. Or the scientists who worked on The Manhattan Project. So quite obviously Stranger Things 2 and 3 reference this, just like the first installment referenced alien abduction stories and conspiracy theories.


THE THEATER

A lot of attention is paid to the opening sequence inside the theater with some of the kids. A tunnel opens up in the film screen, broadcasting images into their little heads, living as electricity becoming holograms in their heads. This concept, that the film screen is a dimensional gateway into other dimensions of understanding, is very Stanley Kubrick. Just ask Rob Ager! The Duffer Brothers, like many good directors, are also very Kubrickian.

THE BEGINNING MOVIE

This one baffles me. Sorry. A young woman in a white room, obviously trapped. Kind of like Eleven was, huh? Is this even a part of the zombie flick the movie says it is? I don't think so. This, to me, is Eleven's dark side, The Demogorgon, living on as an image that taunts her and those wacky kids across film and television. The young woman certainly looks like an evil Eleven. Or maybe it's a reference to Eve in Genesis and Sophia in Gnosticism. A woman trapped by an evil god in a world of flesh and sin. So The Mind Flayer is kind of like Demiurge.


2001, A Space Odyssey

Which brings us back to Eleven, again. Is she from the future, maybe? It would explain why the scientists and soldiers trying to capture Eleven in the first Stranger Things were killing people. Perhaps they were trying to prevent a paradox. Does that mean the USSR military and scientists we keep seeing are also from the future, or even the past? I'm not sure. Later on the kids hide in a movie theater and a giant, flaming 11 appears on the screen from the film Back to the Future. If you understand The Duffer Brothers, you known by now that's not a coincidence.


Back to the Future

THE WILL TO CONTROL 

Have you noticed that the entire series is about control? Eleven was controlled in the first one. The laboratory shoved her into a room and made her obey. The second series saw Will get controlled. The third is also about control. The Sheriff tries to control Eleven by keeping her in a room in a cabin in the woods and makes rules, telling her what to do. When another character tries to investigate, she enters a room and is controlled by the men.

Eleven controls the robots in the very first episode. The Mind Flayer controls live humans. The adults try to control the kids, and are controlled by their government agents. Will is also a control freak, too. Did you notice that? Remember, Will was possessed in the last season. He also had a tube from The Upside Down (or Vale of Shadows) in his mouth throughout the last half of the first season. Of all the people in this show, Will is controlled the most.


When the Mind Flayer activates, because of the USSR electrical experiment, it starts to control everything. Rats and then humans. Will also does this. Throughout the first episodes he's doing the same thing. Trying to get his friends to play Dungeons & Dragons. He feels the sensation in the back of his neck when there is strange weather, and in the theater. He's part of the Mind Flayer, even though he's not possessed, and his personality still reflects it.

I honestly spent the first episodes of season 3 trying to figure out if Will was totally insane, or just a typical hormonal teenager trying to figure out life. He just wants to get his friends into a room and make them play his game. Like the Mind Flayer, the government trying to control Eleven, or the Sheriff trying to control her too, Will wants to control his friends and make them live in his imaginary world.

Dungeons & Dragons is the ultimate drug if a person is a control freak. A good Dungeon Master listens to the players, creates an imaginary world where their opinions, hopes, dreams and decisions matter, proceeding to reflect their freedoms through visualizations created for entertainment purposes only. Its like good comedy improv, "Yes, and..." where everyone is a participant.


Trapped in a world inside his imagination.

A bad Dungeon Master puts his players into a box (you know, a dungeon) and controls them. The players must play the game they are given. Their choices are preprogrammed. It's an illusion of free will. As his players begin to make choices that don't reflect the reality Will wants, he loses his temper. Later on, he destroys the tree house because the agony of watching his friends ditch a game for real life tortures him. It's as if being possessed by the Mind Flayer reinforced something in him that needs to enslave others, just like the disease itself.

When you think about it, Will's plan to get everyone together helps out The Mind Flayer. Occupied by a game inside of their heads, locked in a room, they won't notice all Hades breaking loose in the town. They'll be too busy counting experience points instead of corpses. Will's redemption is when he realizes that fighting evil in real life is a true adventure.

To be continued!

https://www.netflix.com/title/80057281