Archive for the ‘Odds and sods’ Category

The plight before Christmas

Monday, December 22nd, 2014

 Originally appeared in the Cape Cod Times on December 24, 2007.

(With apologies to Clement C. Moore )

‘Twas the noon before Christmas, and all ’round the mall,

Not a parking spot was open, not even one small.

Dad checked his long list, with a dull, vacant stare.

He knew Christmas Day soon would be there.

The children were nestled at home on vacation,

With dreams in their heads of a brand new PlayStation.

And Mamma at home scanned her shopping list.

Gifts for everyone, not one had she missed.

Away to the mall Dad had gone in a flash,

With presents to buy and not too much cash.

The crowds in the mall were entirely male

As they searched all about for a last-minute sale.

When what to Dad’s wondering eyes should appear,

But a personal shopper, who said, “Help is here.”

With a shake of the hand, so firm and so quick,

He gave Dad his name: “Call me Dominic.”

More rapid than NASCAR, Dad’s checklist it came.

He mumbled, then shouted, the products by name:

“An iPod, a scooter, an Xbox, a football.

“Some Gap jeans and Webkinz, a cell phone, a Bratz doll.

“My family dropped hints, some big and some small.

“Their wish lists are clear. I must have it all.”

As other men wandered the mall in a daze,

Dominic guided poor Dad through the maze.

Through Best Buy and Target and Borders they flew,

Lugging bags full of toys and new clothing, too.

And then in a panic, Dad slapped his forehead.

A thought had occurred that filled him with dread.

“How could I forget a gift for my wife?

“I’m sure to end up in the doghouse for life.”

Dad’s heart – how it pounded. His pale face was sweating.

Mom’s gift! Of all the things he could be forgetting.

Dominic’s little mouth flashed into a grin,

As he thought for a moment and tapped on his chin.

“As long as there’s room for a charge on your Visa,

“I’m sure we can find a gift that will please her.”

Dominic was cool and collected, a most charming fellow.

In spite of himself, Dad started to mellow.

Dominic spoke not a word, but went straight to work,

Finding gifts for dear Mom, so Dad won’t be a jerk.

Dominic saved bumbling Dad, without a single complaint.

Said Dad, “Nick, I tell you, you’re really a saint.”

The mall’s stores were closing. It was time to be going.

They walked to Dad’s car, their arms overflowing.

Dominic threw gifts in the trunk, with one last mighty heave,

And said, “Merry Christmas to you. See you next Christmas Eve.”


Lily Tomlin at the Tent

Friday, July 26th, 2013

“I didn’t always want to be a gifted actress,” Lily Tomlin confessed midway through her show Thursday night (July 25) at the Cape Cod Melody Tent. “I wanted to be a waitress. When I lost a tooth, my father left a quarter under a plate.”

She left her childhood home in Detroit to go to New York to become a waitress. “I knew it was going to be tough. All I could get was work on Broadway. It was my third year on ‘Laugh In’ when I gave up all hope of becoming a waitress. I knew I was going to have settle for being a star.”

That she is. She’s gained acclaim on TV (from “Rowan & Martin’s Laugh In” to “Malibu Country,” winning five Emmys along the way), in the movies (“Nashville,” “Nine to Five” and “I Heart Huckabees”), on stage (the Tony-winning one-woman show “The Search for Signs of Intelligent Life in the Universe”) and on recordings (the Grammy-winning comedy album “This Is a Recording”).

On stage, Tomlin comes across as relaxed and friendly, without the amped-up agitation of so many comics. Her wry humor is delivered through a mix of nostalgic stories, snappy stand-up lines and bits by classic characters.

Archival videos on three big screens introduced some of those characters, including Ernestine the tart-tongued telephone operator and beauty-products spokeswoman Judy Beasley. Each of them was pulled into contemporary times. Edith Ann, an eternal 6-year-old, complained about an older sister who spent all her time with her iPod, iPad and iPhone, while Beasley pitched a product designed to improve the sex lives of suburban housewives.

One of the highlights was the segment where Tomlin transformed into Ernestine, who now works taking phone calls for a health-insurance company. Some of her responses to a caller: “An apple a day keeps the doctor away. So does being poor. … Being blind is a pre-existing condition. You should have read the fine print. … Of course we don’t cover acupuncture. I was just needling you. … Remember, your health is our business, not our concern.”

Tomin delivered two sets of about an hour each, including a post-show question-and-answer section. Throughout she veered barely into PG territory only a few times, and the closest she came to using a dirty word was when she described how clean-cut life was in the Detroit of her childhood. “If someone painted that word on an overpass, by the next morning some adult would have changed it to Buick.”

Tomlin tread lightly into politics. Mentioning the nearby nuclear power plant, she said, “Many Cape Codders are protesting Pilgrim. Many Native Americans are still protesting the Pilgrims.” As for same-sex marriage, “If all of us homosexuals started imitating heterosexuals, it could be a slippery slope. What’s next? Monster truck rallies?”

If you were looking for signs of intelligent life Thursday night, there was plenty of evidence on stage at the Melody Tent.

Lampanelli at the Tent

Friday, August 6th, 2010

(Warning: R-rated humor ahead.)

Lisa Lampanelli knows how to put her audiences to the test. The Queen of Mean is funny, but she builds her jokes on a foundation of offensive viewpoints: Arabs smell bad. Black men are lazy. Gay men perform repulsive sexual acts.

With a different style of delivery, Lampanelli’s routine at the Melody Tent on Aug. 5 would constitute a hate crime. But she’s so far over the top, that it was hard not to laugh – even if you were simultaneously thinking, “I shouldn’t be laughing at this.”

Lampanelli’s rude humor was only amplified by her use of language that would make George Carlin blush. Most of her jokes couldn’t be printed in a newspaper, like when she rattled off a series of punchlines about her fiance’s “nutsack” (its unusually large, she says) or said that male genitalia looked like Foghorn Leghorn.

Lampanelli managed to skewer just about every ethnic group. “The only thing shorter than a Jew’s penis is a black guy’s to-do list,” she said. Picking on different audience members, she made a distinction between “slurpee Indians” and “casino Indians.”

Gays are one of her favorite targets. Pointing at one audience member, she said, “He’s so gay, he shits skittles.” Then she added, “I love the gays. Thank you for showing up. I guess there’s nothing on Bravo tonight.”

She also poked fun at herself and her fiancé, a muscular Italian guy. “We made love under an airline blanket,” she said. “The woman in between us was a little put off.”

Lampanelli plugged her appearance in a comedy roast of David Hasselhoff  (debuting Aug. 15 on Comedy Central) by saying the “Baywatch” star’s “liver is so fat and broke it could have starred in ‘Precious.’” She also poked barbed fun at Michael Jackson, Gene Simmons, Flavor Flav, George Hamilton and other celebs.

But no matter what, she couldn’t coax a boo from the crowd. After making a wisecrack about Sarah Palin’s youngest child, who has Down syndrome, she said, “That joke always gets one or two moans. But not you, you evil people.”

The surprising thing is that there’s a tiny chance her show at the Melody Tent was toned down just a little bit. She introduced a couple in front-row seats as her parents.

Opening the show was Mike Morse. Some of his punchlines were a bit predictable (when his wife gave birth, he was “locked in a room with no booze, no TV and an angry woman”), but he also scored some laughs. He started out by saying that the wind-chill factor represents a concept that could be used elsewhere. “I’ve worked for 45 minutes, but because of the ‘(jerk) boss factor,’ it feels like nine hours. I’m putting in for overtime.”

He’s not nearly as outrageous as  Lampanelli, but he delivered some lines that made you laugh and cringe. He said his 5-year-old son has ADHD, “which means he’s really hyper, but he gets great television reception.”

Brian Regan at the Tent

Friday, July 23rd, 2010

The brother act at the Cape Cod Melody Tent on July 22 was a chance to see contrasting styles of comedy. Opening act Dennis Regan delivered more belly laughs in a 20-minute than his famous brother Brian Regan did in 70 minutes, but in the end, it was Brian’s act that was more satisfying, with a more constant level of amusement.

Let’s start with Dennis, whose credits include a writing stint for “The King of Queens.” He’s a solid stand-up in the churn-out-the-punchlines mode – and there were some good ones:

“I just gained 20 pounds for a part in a movie, a vampire movie. So if any of you folks are making a vampire movie, I’d like to audition.”

From a bit on mumbling McDonald’s workers: “I like to screw with them. ‘I’d like to get a McWhopper with mashed potatoes and a Heineken.’ If you change your order, it’s like you asked them to rewire the Pentagon.”

“I just spent a week in Luxembourg – not Luxemboug, Mexico. I was really bad in geometry – not geometry, algebra.”

It’s funny stuff, but not much of Dennis’ persona came through.

With Brian, it was a different vibe. A frequent guest on “The Late Show With David Letterman,” he’s looser and more animated than his brother. Coming across as a toned-down version of Jim Carrey, Brian zooms in on the absurdities of day-to-day life. He’s the kid who cracked you up at inopportune moments in school – and managed to squeeze out of trouble by making the teacher laugh, too.

Brian’s greatest gift is in physical comedy, which can’t be rehashed as easily as a punch line. His bits about dancing beneath a strobe light, gorillas discovering a city, shadow polo (as a response to a shadow boxing) and climbing on the back seat of a buddy’s motorcycle were highlights.

But in a meandering fashion, Brian delivered plenty of chuckle-worthy lines.

“We’re from a big family – eight kids, nine parents.”

“My wife and I have two wonderful kids – and another kid.”

“Whoever invented the bagpipes, I don’t think he’s finished.”

“Irish people aren’t known for their dancing, except from the shins down. ‘You’ve got some talented ankles.’”

As a pirate PR person: “I have a prepared statement. It comes directly from the pirates: Arrgh!.”

Forget about dog tricks, like fetching a ball. “I want a dog that does illusions. I want a dog that will levitate, get up to eye level and look just as surprised as I am.”

He threw in an occasional Steven Wright-kind of line: If you were to second-guess your decision to book a visit to see a Native American community? “That would be a reservation reservation reservation.”

The two brothers’ acts made for an interesting comparison in comedy styles, but one thing’s for sure. A family gathering at the Regan house must be a mighty good time.

Cheech & Chong at the Tent

Wednesday, July 14th, 2010

Long before Cheech Marin co-starred in TV’s “Nash Bridges” and several decades before Tommy Chong was a guest star on “That ’70s Show,” Cheech and Chong were two of the biggest comedy stars of the ’70s. The cannabis kids hit it big with “Big Bambu” and other comedy albums and “Up in Smoke,” among other popular movies.

America’s favorite drug duo, Cheech and Chong, brought their Get It Legal Tour (their second reunion tour since 2008) to the surprisingly smoke-free Cape Cod Melody Tent on July 11.

Tommy Chong’s wife, Shelby, opened the show with some drug humor and provided some support when the duo needed an extra voice. Some of her material was a bit past its freshness date (Michael Phelps’ bong photo; Sarah Palin’s view of Russia), but she also had some funny lines.

Shelby claimed smoking pot makes food taste better. “I know because Tommy thinks I’m a fabulous cook,” she said.

She and Tommy have two sons. “Tommy has got both the boys into farming. It’s not that big of a farm. It’s the size of a closet.”

After her 10-minute solo routine, Shelby introduced Cheech Marin and Tommy Chong and asked them some questions she’d collected from the audience.

Someone asked which was which, and they pretended like they weren’t too sure. Chong recalled being awakened in the middle of the night by Shelby saying, “Cheech, Cheech – Chong will be home any minute.” He shrugged and added, “I was halfway down the driveway before I realized I’m Chong.”

The pair used the classic “Dave’s Not Here” routine as a starting point for a newer skit showing Dave getting busted. It wasn’t as funny as the original material, but it gave the two a chance to revisit some favorite themes: the pleasure they get from marijuana and their frustration with anyone who wants to suppress what they see as a harmless substance. “It’s the little green flower that gives us the power” is one of their mottos, and they say they find support in the Bible, where God is referred to as “the most high.”

The duo devoted about half the show to musical bits, which featured appearances by some memorable characters: Basketball Jones, Blind Melon Chitlin and Alice Bowie. Cheech is limited as a vocalist, but he can sing well enough to get the punchlines across.

Chong, on the other hand, is a decent musician, as he proved in the role of ancient blues singer Chitlin. In the ’60s, Chong was part of Bobby Taylor & the Vancouvers, a group that signed with Gordy Records, an offshoot of Motown. Chong co-wrote “Does Your Mama Know About Me,” which was a hit for his group and later was recorded by Diana Ross & the Supremes.

Between some impressive blues riffs on the guitar, Chitlin shared some of his life philosophies. “When you’re blind, there’s only two kinds of women: those that smell good and those that don’t. I love them both,” he said.

Many of the funniest lines, especially those by Cheech’s alter ego Red (from the movie “Cheech & Chong’s Next Movie”), are too R-rated to appear here. While the pace wasn’t as relentless as on their old comedy LPs, there were plenty of laughs over the course of the night. Whether or not Dave was around, it was good to have Cheech & Chong here.

History, in brief

Thursday, March 11th, 2010

My buddy Dan started a Facebook page called Everybody Writes: 100 Words on the Word of the Day. I’ve been an inconsistent participant, but on the days I took part, I decided to revisit historical moments, telling a tale in as close to 100 words as I could get. Be advised: These are my fictional accounts of real events (in the case of a famous murderer, I changed the day of the big event, just to have a little fun).

March 10 (word of the day = giggle):

Buzz watched as Neil stepped from the ladder to the ground. “I should slam the door and hit the engine button,” Buzz thought. He couldn’t help but giggle at the image of a quickly shrinking Neil waving frantically in a thick cloud of dust.

“Why’d that stiff goody-two-shoes get to be the first one? Everyone’s going to remember him. I’m the afterthought who’ll be forgotten.”

But Buzz was a West Point man through and through. He’d follow the orders, every last one of them. What the hell? Being the second man to walk on the moon wasn’t the worst thing in the world.

Feb. 5 (bitter):

“Hey, thanks for calling. What will I do next? People have been asking me that a lot the last few days. You, too, I bet. I’ll just hunker in for a while with the wife and the kids – catch up with some reading, watch some movies, maybe grow a beard just for the heck of it. Some people would be bitter, but that’s not my style. Yeah, things might have been different if you weren’t in the race, but don’t worry, Ralph. I’m not the type to hold a grudge. Tipper, on the other hand, you better steer clear of her.”

Feb. 4 (trick):

Someone was knocking at the door. She stopped and listened. Nothing. She went back to work.

Wait, more knocking. A loose wisp of hair tickled her nose, so she wiped her sticky fingers on her apron and tucked her hair back under her bonnet.

More knocking. Mother of mercy, what was going on out there?

Ax in hand, Lizzie walked to the front of the Borden home, threw open the door and saw three short figures on the doorstep: a fisherman, a nurse and a ghost.

The children shouted out, “Trick or …” and stopped, mouths open, eyes huge, as they stared at the warm blood dripping off the ax.

Feb. 3 (stand):

They were trying to get everyone gathered into the church tent, but there were too many people to fit in there all at once.

Two of the kitchen workers were lugging a big bucket into the tent. A guy with coke-bottle glasses tapped on the microphone and fiddled with a plug, as Rev. Jim stood behind the lectern, waiting for the right moment to speak. He looked agitated.

The pretty girl I liked, the one who worked as the nurse’s assistant, tapped me on an elbow.

“Don’t just stand there,” she said. “Hand out some of these paper cups.”

Thanksgiving soundtrack

Tuesday, November 24th, 2009

What’s Thanksgiving without some music? Here are some songs to get you from start to finish.

“Thanksgiving Day” by Ray Davies

“Stuff the Turkey” by Alien Sex Fiend

“Stuffy Turkey” by Thelonious Monk

“Be Thankful for What You’ve Got” by William DeVaughn

“Ode to My Family” by the Cranberries

“Too Much Food” by Jason Mraz

“Little Wing” by the Jimi Hendrix Experience

“Peas and Carrots” by Michael W Proud

“Pass the Peas” by the J.B.s

“Sweet Potatoes” by Geoff and Maria Muldaur

“(Do the) Mashed Potatoes” by James Brown

“Gravy” by the Monkees

“Good Gravy” by Sonny Boy Williamson

“Pass the Gravy” by Plas Johnson

“More Gravy” by Willis “Gator” Jackson

“Apples, Peaches, Pumpkin Pie” by Jay & the Techniques

“Sweet Potato Pie” by James Taylor

“Leftovers” by Millie Jackson

“I Don’t Want No Leftovers” by Koko Taylor

“One Man’s Leftovers (Is Another Man’s Feast)” by 100 Proof (Aged in Soul)

“Cold Turkey” by John Lennon

“Nap Time” by Frank Zappa

“Snooze” by Toots Thielemans