“The Best of Times” (1981) with Crispin Glover and Nicolas Coppola (Cage)

“The Best of Times” is a truly awful television pilot from 1981 that only aired once (to the best of my knowledge) and never continued past its first episode.  Co-produced by “Laugh-In”‘s George Schlatter, “Times” (I imagine) was supposed to be a lighthearted, albeit sensitive look at the struggles of being a teenager, though it’s executed in the most ass-backwards, tasteless early 1980s corporate TV manner.  It’s a truly weird WTF hybrid of lowest common denominator sitcom humor, occasional drama, and … yes … musical numbers.  Imagine “Freaks & Geeks” had it been produced by Sid & Marty Krofft and you’ll get the picture.

So why am I even talking about this?  Yes this is partly due to “Times” being truly one of those god-awful train wrecks that’s worth watching for its sheer cluelessness.  But mainly  because the stars are Crispin Glover and Nicolas Cage … sorry Coppola … before they became famous.  And they’re playing characters called Crispin and Nicholas, respectively.

I don’t feel too bad ripping on this because I’m sure Glover and Cage would gleefully agree this is not their finest hour.  But what makes this particularly an odd watch is seeing a 17-year old Glover struggling to play a “normal” early 1980s-era sitcom teenager.   It’s simultaneously painful and fascinating to watch and arguably stranger than Glover’s legendary appearances in “River’s Edge” and “Wild at Heart.”

Now here’s the really weird part … I totally remember watching this when I was 11 years old.  While my tastes back then were not as evolved as they are now, I remember being totally baffled by “Times” … and not in a good way.  This was so memorably bizarre that I actually thought about the show the other day, but not remembering the title or who was in it.  Thanks to Glover’s appearance on Marc Maron’s WTF podcast today, I looked the show up on YouTube and much to my shock, I realized “So, THIS was that odd and terrible show I remember seeing when I was 11!”

If you have a strong stomach, are a fan of really bad TV pilots, or want to see what certain stars did before they became famous, “Times” is a must-watch.

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Interview with Bob Zmuda by Marc Maron

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This is a lengthy, riveting, and extremely funny interview with Bob Zmuda, late comedian Andy Kaufman’s partner-in-crime that Marc Maron conducted back in 2012 on his “WTF with Marc Maron Podcast.” The interview is over 2 hours long, but if you’re an Andy Kaufman fan, this is a must-listen. While a lot of this is probably bulls–t to a certain degree (some parts are not consistent with the account Zmuda gave in his 1999 book “Andy Kaufman Revealed”), trust me when I say that this is some goooood bulls–t! I guarantee you won’t be bored. The interview starts 6:27 into the presentation.

Bob Zmuda on Norman Wexler (from Marc Maron’s WTF Podcast)

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Andy Kaufman’s best friend and co-conspirator Bob Zmuda had plenty of great stories when he sat down with Marc Maron for his WTF podcast. But arguably the best story Zmuda told was about the three weeks he worked for legendary screenwriter Norman Wexler (“Joe,” “Serpico,” “Saturday Night Fever”) in the early 1970s. Kaufman apparently got a lot of ideas (especially for his obnoxious Tony Clifton character) based on Zmuda’s tales of working for Wexler.  Zmuda reveals how Wexler really got his knack for writing intense, gritty dialogue.  Hilarious, jaw-dropping stuff, especially the tale about Wexler and Zmuda terrorizing a bakery.  This incident sounds like it was lifted from a Lars Von Trier film starring Sacha Baron Cohen, but it really happened, according to Zmuda. Not safe for work. If you like what you hear, you really need to read Zmuda’s terrific 1999 book “Andy Kaufman Revealed” which delivers more Wexler tales, as well as tales about Kaufman.

Judd Apatow on the inability to feel joy

I heard this amazing insight writer/director/producer Judd Apatow had about his own neuroses on Marc Maron’s extraordinary WTF podcast from 2011. Maron asked him why they don’t feel any sense of joy and Apatow’s answer made perfect sense to me. What’s missing from the transcript below is hearing Apatow and Maron both laughing their asses off as Apatow is explaining this. And damn if I wasn’t laughing as well… for reasons that are obvious if you know me…

Marc Maron: Why are we so afraid of joy?

Judd Apatow: That’s the question, and I’ve thought about it a lot. And I think it’s because we think that right behind joy is a knife that will cut our throat. And if we feel it, it’s almost like a laugh, and you’re chin goes up, and you’re throat is exposed. And if I laugh too loud, someone will slit my throat. And so, that’s the terror of joy. If I enjoy this as completely as I want to, it’s gonna hurt when it goes wrong. And the mistake is, it hurts already. Keeping shut down is what really hurts. And so it doesn’t actually make sense, and if you have to think about it all the time to know that’s what’s happening. Like I’m not actually enjoying this. And then you’re not present because you’re waiting for a punch. That’s how I feel like. I feel like I have my dukes up all day long, looking for someone who’s going to punch me, and here’s the thing: no one ever punches me.”

P.S. You’re not allowed to say “That’s OK Dave, I’ll punch you” in response … Not because it’s not funny, but because I’ve already thought of it.

Robin Williams interview with Marc Maron (WTF Episode 106)

http://www.prx.org/p/63067

Another brilliant interview from Marc Maron from his stellar “WTF” podcast.  This time, Maron interviews legendary comedian and Oscar-winnning actor Robin Williams (the interview took place sometime in 2011) and it’s the best interview I’ve ever experienced with Williams.  It’s been popular to bash Williams the last several years for the overuse of the manic schtick which made him famous.  Which, if truth be told, has not been entirely unfair.

But seriously, forget all those things you think you hate Robin Williams for.  In this interview, you get none of the manic schtick that’s been de rigeur for Williams for over 30 years.  And Williams still absolutely f–king kills!  Maron and Williams sound like two smart old friends shooting the s–t about all kinds of topics: addiction, the art of comedy, fellow comedians, etc.  Like most of Maron’s interviews, the interview flows like two jazz musicians riffing off each other.  It’s like eavesdropping on a conversation between two incredibly cool people where you can’t even imagine interrupting, because doing so would interrupt the conversational magic taking place.  An amazing hour.