John Landis interview from the “Kevin Pollak Chat Show”

This is a legendary, nearly 3-hour interview with film director John Landis from the Kevin Pollak Chat Show that is one of the best and most candid interviews I’ve ever seen with a director.  Landis directed some of the funniest movies ever made (“Kentucky Fried Movie,” “National Lampoon’s Animal House,” “The Blues Brothers,” “An American Werewolf in London,” “Trading Places,” “Coming to America”), some terrific documentaries (“Slasher” and “Mr. Warmth”), and arguably, the most famous music video of all time (“Michael Jackson’s Thriller”).  Landis has so many great, oftentimes extremely funny, tales of a career that spans almost 50 years … one that started when he was a teenager.   It’s a career that includes directing the likes of Michael Jackson, Eddie Murphy, John Belushi, Dan Aykroyd, Don Rickles, and many others too numerous to mention.  I don’t know if everything he’s sharing is the truth, but even if 20% of what he says is true, he’s lived a more exciting life than pretty much anyone reading this right now.  The man is a great storyteller and this interview seems way shorter than it actually is.  If you’re a comedy or film nerd, you must watch this.

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“It’s my house!!!” from Eddie Murphy’s “Delirious” (1983)

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Eddie Murphy was one of the best stand-up comedians in history. Unfortunately, a lot of his older material (specifically his material on gays) doesn’t carry over quite as well in these more enlightened times.

However, Murphy’s monologue about his drunken dad during a 4th of July cookout is still a classic and still one of the funniest things I’ve ever heard. Even when I first saw this when I was 13-years old, this was the bit that had me laughing the hardest. Though nowadays, I find myself laughing less and understanding his father’s laments. Seriously, I pay the bills in the motherf–ker and hey, kiss my a– if you don’t like it!!!! ‘Cos it’s my house!!!

Needless to say, not safe for work.

Eddie Murphy on Doo-Doo, Grandmothers, and Family Christmas Gifts

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From Eddie Murphy’s first comedy album, this is an extended routine that starts out about hassling girls with doo-doo, then goes into a routine about Grandmothers, and then goes into an extended monologue about Christmas gifts for family members. Three words: “BRUT … by Faberge.”

“Saturday Night Live 1980” – Nathan Rabin’s “How Bad Can it Be? Case File #23”

http://www.avclub.com/articles/how-bad-can-it-be-case-file-23-saturday-night-live,84591/

Bad comedy has always intrigued me, which is why I found this article about SNL’s infamous 1980-81 season so fascinating.  Part of Nathan Rabin’s endlessly terrific “My World of Flops” series, Rabin analyzes the SNL season most people believe was the series’ worst.   This was the season produced by Jean Doumanian, right after Lorne Michaels (and the rest of the original cast) left, and she had to start over with a new cast and new writers.  After reading the detailed account of this season’s failure in Doug Hill’s and Jeff Weingrad’s 1985 book “Saturday Night: A Backstage History of Saturday Night Live” many years ago, I had been trying to see these episodes for a long time.  Some of the episodes appeared on Comedy Central when repeats of the show were run, but many of them were severely edited.  It wasn’t until some DVD-Rs of this season mysteriously fell off a truck in a town I don’t remember that I finally got a chance to watch the season.

Yes, this season is pretty bad.  However, when you look at the show over its nearly 40-year history, there are other seasons that are arguably as bad.  What’s easier to see now (as opposed to back in 1980) is that the show goes through severe ups and downs, the downs usually being the years when the show has to start over with a new cast and writers.  It’s not that the performers/writers are bad during the down seasons, it just takes time for a new talent pool to gel, but watching that process can be incredibly painful (and interesting).  The 1980-81 season was one of those seasons, and Doumanian had an incredibly thankless job.  Because no one had ever seen this process before and because the first 5 seasons were so beloved, anything less than being better than the first 5 seasons would have been seen as a failure.

Despite these qualifications, the season is pretty terrible, though the obvious highlight is watching the introduction of Eddie Murphy.  Watching Murphy and how fresh and funny he was back in the day, it’s astonishing to think where his career has ended up over 30 years later.  Don’t get me wrong, the man still has enormous talent (“Dreamgirls”), but when you see the hacky comedies he’s become affiliated with in recent years (“Pluto Nash,” “Daddy Day Care”), it’s a sad reminder of how far he’s sunk.

The other fascinating person to watch that season is Charles Rocket.  Billed as a cross between Bill Murray and Chevy Chase and groomed to be the season’s breakout star by producer Doumanian, Rocket is a better talent than historians of the show would lead you to believe.  However, the pressure cooker environment of the show, coupled with the sky-high expectations put on his shoulders by Doumanian, likely contributed to him being immensely difficult to work with, as Hill and Weingrad allege in their book.  After being fired soon after dropping the “f-bomb” on live television, Rocket periodically popped up in character roles in movies and TV, usually very good and playing the kind of caddish roles that Wil Arnett specialized in before starring in “Up All Night” (ironically, produced by Lorne Michaels).   His 2005 suicide by slitting his own throat was especially sad, considering that before SNL, Rocket was considered an important figure in the Providence, Rhode Island arts scene during the early-mid 1970s, a scene that also produced Jonathan Richman and the Modern Lovers and the Talking Heads.  (Rocket played accordion on the David Byrne-produced B-52s album “Whammy”).  Below is a link to an article from the Providence Phoenix that discusses this part of Rocket’s career.

http://www.providencephoenix.com/features/p_and_j/documents/05030762.asp

Doumanian later went on to become producer of then-best friend Woody Allen’s films during the 1990s and early 2000s, until an infamous falling out occurred, detailed in the Vanity Fair article listed below:

http://www.vanityfair.com/culture/features/2005/12/woodyallen200512

“The Boys are Back in Town” – Bus Boys

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Continuing the Walter Hill thread from the last post is this seminal R&B song prominently used in Hill’s 1982 film “48 Hours” The film featured Eddie Murphy’s debut as a film actor and 30 years later, is still one of the most electrifying debut performances in movie history. The song is amazing and the Bus Boys, a tremendously underrated R&B / rock band from the early 1980s, were like the Blasters, albeit with more of a Stax-Volt feel.  Another great band that didn’t fit into any prescribed niche and therefore, slipped through the cracks commercially.