Archive: September, 2012
Mike Birbiglia and Ira Glass' Sleepwalk With Me opens today at Ritz at the Bourse (see our review here). In anticipation of its release, the duo sat down for an interview with City Paper's Frida Garza that quickly went from chatter about the movie to a sweeping, almost romantic saga about how the project got started. These guys are total goofballs. Read on.
City Paper: My first question is for Mike. Sleepwalk With Me has been a one-man show, it’s been a book, it’s been a segment on This American Life. When was the first time you told the story of your sleepwalking.
Mike Birbiglia: The first time I told it to anyone was the night it happened. I was on the phone with my wife and my parents. It was a really weird phone conversation, because I was calling them in the middle of the night saying, “OK, this really weird thing happened.” I think it was really shocking for them. And I’m sorry that I had to put them through that.
CP: So when did it progress from something that was happening in your life to something that you were starting to include in your comedy?
MB: A few months after it happened I started to tell people conversationally, and then I said, 'you know, I think I’m gonna tell this onstage.' I found that it was really connecting with audiences. I was doing it in a standup setting, and eventually I merged it with my one-man show, Sleepwalk With Me, which I was already writing.
CP: This one’s for Ira. When did you first hear this story and how did you react the first time you heard it?
Ira Glass: My part of the story is a little boring, because I heard a recording that Mike had made for … The Moth. Somebody on my staff heard it and they thought, ‘We gotta get this guy on the radio.” They played it for me and I agreed. You know, when I heard the story — the short, 15-minute version — the things that are appealing about the longer movie version were there. It has this spectacular trajectory of somebody in denial about what’s really going on his life and then it expressed itself through big, physical action. That’s the thing at the heart of the film.
CP: So, when did one of you turn to the other and say, ‘This is something that we should make into a feature film’?
IG: It was over a candlelit dinner, and Mike …
The New Normal, Ryan Murphy (Nip/Tuck, Glee, American Horror Story) and Ali Adler’s new half-hour sitcom, which premiered this week on NBC, breaks so many of the gay barriers we’re used to seeing on primetime TV. Sure, Modern Family has been showing mainstream audiences a well-adjusted homo family for a few seasons, but The New Normal takes it a step further. The premise is built around a gay couple who are not only funny, super-adorable and capable of raising a healthy family, but, unlike Cam and Mitchell, they actually smooch and hug and snuggle.
The storyline follows swishy Bryan (Andrew Rannells) and geeky David (played by total-babe Justin Bartha), a well-to-do couple living in Los Angeles who have just decided to have a baby. Meanwhile, single mom Goldie (Georgia King) moves to L.A. — with her cutie-pie daughter Shania (Bebe Wood) — to escape a two-timing husband and her pestering, bigoted grandmother (hilariously played by GILF Ellen Barkin). Strapped for cash, Goldie decides to make money by becoming a surrogate mother — and that’s how she comes to meet Bryan and David. A new modern family is born.
I don’t want to seem blasphemous by stating that Ian Hunter died for the sins of glam kids and punks that followed in his wake. Rousing versions of David Bowie and Lou Reed songs (“All the Young Dudes,” “Sweet Jane”) and a self-penned roughneck sound with cuttingly cynical lyrics that gave The Clash their inspired spark doesn’t make you a god. It does, however, make you a prophet or a harbinger or a guy good with a rant or forty.
After having been the smartly caustic (yet warmly emotional) frontman of Mott The Hoople throughout the early '70s and an equally smarmy disarmingly tender solo act ever since, the curly-haired (still, at 72) Hunter knows how to reach his cult, the likes of which nearly sold out (only one ticket remained!) World Café Live on Thursday night.
Last night, Kyle Kinane, Portland's Ian Karmel, NYC's Rolo Perez and Philly's own Aaron Hertzog absolutely killed it at Helium. Feature act Karmel (Portlandia) nearly stole the show with his riotous bits about being terrified of shark attacks, but Kinane — who's been on John Oliver's NY Standup Show, Conan, Live at Gotham and others — won the audience over with weirdly hilarious stories about drunk-dialing a cab to take him to the drive-thru at Wendy's, and the time he saw a crazy guy eating pancakes out of a plastic shopping bag on an airplane.
Kinane is undoubtedly — if not already — one of the next huge names in standup comedy. His acclaimed comedy album Death of the Party is available on Amazon and iTunes. "I'm just lucky they're actually paying me to do comedy," says Kinane. "I don't know where I'll be in three years and that's exciting to me. I just want to keep writing, keep coming up with new material."
The whole crew will perform again tonight and tomorrow at 7:30 p.m. and 10 p.m. For tickets ($21-$33), visit heliumcomedy.com.
Despite having members dispersed across the country, WHY? remains a productive purveyor of hummable confessionals. The group’s recently released Sod in the Seed EP contains enough witty wordplay and memorable melodies to keep fans sated until the full-length Mumps, etc. is unveiled on October 9. City Paper caught up with frontman Yoni Wolf as the band continues its worldwide tour. WHY? plays Union transfer tonight.
City Paper: You’ve mentioned during previous Philly shows that you used to spend a lot of time in this city. What’s your connection to Philly?
Yoni Wolf: My parents are from Philly so I used to come back all the time to see my grandparents, my aunts and uncles and shit.
CP: A couple years ago, you left the Bay Area to live with your parents in Cincinnati. What inspired this move back home to Ohio?
YW: I’m not sure exactly. It just kind of felt right. I had gotten rid of my apartment in Oakland because we were going to be touring for a few years. So I did and I was just kind of getting sublets here and there between tours. And after the last bit of touring on Alopecia and Eskimo Snow, I was kind of sick and I just went to stay with my parents and decided I am going to stay in Cincinnati. So I bought a house and stayed there.
CP: During the time when you were living with your parents, you’ve said that you had very little contact with the outside world. Was this a source of relief or stress?
YW: It was what it was – a necessary thing at the time. I developed a routine of going to the gym, yoga classes, and Whole Foods. That was all I’d pretty much do: go to the gym, Whole Foods, and then album. I would work almost every day on demos for the new album.
It's not often City Paper's film critics dole out A's when grading new-movie releases, and it's even rarer that top-rated films pop up on Netflix Instant. Recently, however, one of our 2012 A-earners, David Gelb's food-centric documentary on legendary sushi chef Jiro Ono, Jiro Dreams of Sushi, became available for instant viewing. Here's what critic Drew Lazor said about it when he reviewed it in late March:
"Leaning on sleek time-lapse footage and elegant close-ups to compound the intricacies of Jiro's every measured motion, Gelb shoots with so much respect and artistic clarity that Jiro's incredible standards of self-discipline are not noted so much as gilded. "Ultimately, simplicity leads to purity," the chef says of his job, a deceptively straight-ahead view from someone who not only loves, but lives, his work."
Not every loss is equitable to another. The end of a life is more important, crucial and sad than the demise of a mere television show. I’m saying this so that y’all don’t get upset by my grouping of sorrow-filled endings at the top of Icepack Illustrated. Let’s commence with the death of Tony Goldman. He developed Manhattan’s Upper West Side then pretty much created the idea of SoHo in the ’60s and ’70s and turned those areas from dilapidated to desirable. Miami’s South Beach in the ’80s came next with a similar formula to what he used in NYC, the erection of privately-owned chef-driven restaurant/bars, tony boutiques, nouveau riche condos and such, the usage of existing properties. By the late ’90s Goldman turned his attentions to Philly’s beat up 13th Street red-light area, freaked city councilmen out with his request for tax-increment financing, and re-made this city starting on that block. I was lucky enough to get one of the first ever interviews with Goldman when he came to Philly. I and was (and am) glad to call him a friendly acquaintance.
I can’t say I knew Kyra Kruz, a lovely part of Philly’s transgender community, but my heart always goes out to the boys and girls who bravely respond to what their souls tell them to do with their bodies. That she was slaughtered with no regard in a Fishtown field is a pathetic indication of what this city truly is beyond the bullshit of gentrification. A memorial candlelight vigil will be held tonight (Thu., Sept. 13) at William Way, 13th and Spruce — the same neighborhood that Goldman made glittering.
Existential dilemmas, questions of conscience and magical treatises on daily living (to say nothing of his deconstruction of the detective story) brought the literary toast of Brooklyn Paul Auster to our attention. Since the time of his earliest audacious works The Invention of Solitude, The New York Trilogy and Disappearances: Selected Poems, Auster has become an incisive self-absorbed chronicler of missing fathers, Asceticism, and the algebra of failure. Though a master of fiction and a delight as a poet, Auster is at his fullest as an essayist, and Winter Journal is a personal best. It’s not just that Auster looks upon his own passing of time with glee. He makes the reader part of the joy and melancholy of watching the woman you love sleep or taking an inventory of the scars that we hide.
Tonight, Thu., Sept 13, 7:30 p.m., $7-$15, Free Library of Philadelphia, (central branch), 1901 Vine St., 215-567-4341.
The Gazela isn’t your run-of-the-mill handsomely aged boat. You could blame its current acclaim on the fact that the Penn’s Landing legend is the oldest wooden tall ship still sailing in American waters. But seafaring status such as the Gazela’s certainly owes something to its occasionally visiting (and performing) bustier-and-fishnet wearing dignitaries from Philadelphia’s Seven Deadly Seas. That’s the crack team of burlesque locals (Peekaboo Revue’s Melissa “Bang-Bang” Forgione, Shoshanna Ruth, Kimberlie Cruse and Christine Fisler) and gypsy music practitioners (led by Jay Purdy and Sarah Lawson) that gather aboard the Gazela to act out strip-and-peels (in PG, not X fashion) and sing sea shanties with a pirate theme. There’s always a variation on that buccaneering theme (this season it’s corporate panty raiding) and, of course, the run of Stowaways & Sellouts, runs coincidentally with Sept. 19’s “Talk like a Pirate Day.”
Starts tonight, Thu., Sept. 13, 9 p.m. Runs through Sept. 23, $15-$25, The Gazela, Penn's Landing, Columbus Blvd and Market St.
Every year, there's hundreds and hundreds of performances at the Philly Fringe and Live Arts Festival, and unless it's one of the big shows, it's sometimes hard to tell what you're going to get. Here at Critical Mass we're sending writers to as many shows as we possibly can for 75 pocket-sized reviews over the course of the fest. Check back in with us at On The Fringe every day for real talk on what these things actually are!
SHOW: Notes on the Emptying of a City
GROUP: Ashley Hunt
GENRE: Performance art
ATTENDED: Tue., Sept. 11. 7 p.m.
CLOSES: Sept. 11
BRIEF SELF-DESCRIPTION: In a performance acting as a dismantled film, a narrator pieces together the sounds, images, and voiceover of a documentary before a live audience. Seated at a desk with a text and a laptop computer, artist and activist Ashley Hunt weaves video-testimonies of survivors together with his own personal recollections as a documentarian and organizer in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina.
While new disasters and emergencies move through the headlines on a daily basis, the political and human crisis of Katrina has, for many, receded into the past. Notes on the Emptying of a City brings back to the present the ruined and emptied homes, the cataloguing marks left by soldiers and police, and the prison that the city refused to evacuate. Hunt’s performance re-opens complex questions of race, visibility, and speech, which still beg for answers.
WE THINK: In a place where law has been suspended and at a time when people are scrambling to survive, Ashley Hunt could have gone in a variety of directions while covering New Orleans in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina. Really, he could have honed in on just about anything and made a documentary out of it. He doesn't do that, though. Despite being deeply immersed in the scene for several months, Hunt speaks from a position of being a step away from the action. As he states early on, "My audience won't be able to consume this greedily like something strewn together on Fox News to run in between commercials." He gives the survivors a voice, but also manages to tackle race relations, abandoned buildings, and the media's presence.
Split into two parts, it starts off as a fairly straight-forward production. However, after sharing his collection of notes and shot footage Hunt opens the floor up for discussion. He explains that whenever he takes Notes to a new city, he records this portion and it is added to the official record of his findings. Which is to say that the piece will never be completely finished, but then again the work in New Orleans won't either.
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