283 posts categorized "Comedy"

March 31, 2018

CHIEF ZABU

ZABU-THE-CAR“Chief Zabu” is a fascinating cult comedy for an odd collection of reasons, not the least of which is the punchy comic chemistry that flows between died-in-the-wool New Yorkers Zack Norman and Allen Garfield.

Garfield plays Ben Sydney, a slimy New York real estate developer angling for an economic foothold on Tiburaku, a tiny Polynesian (recently independent) island nation. Ben falls for conman George Dankworth’s (Allan Arbus) pie-in-the-sky promises about an island known for its proximity to French nuclear testing. Naturally, Ben wants to pitch Dankworth’s $5000 buy-in to his pal Sammy (Norman). Dankworth has gone so far as to ship over a phony diplomat Chief Zabu (Manu Yupou) who is supposedly attempting to gain admission of Tiburaku into the United Nations.

Lucianne Buchanan

The comedy is all about tone and irrational gags, as when Sammy has adulterous [loud] sex with an investor’s wife (Lucianne Buchanan) much to the dismay of his neighbors.

“Chief Zabu was completed in 1986 but yanked after negative previews. Nonetheless, for nine years, Zack Norman took out a weekly ad in Variety that featured his face with the line “ZACK NORMAN As SAMMY In “CHIEF ZABU” in the hope of finding a distributor for the movie. It took until 2016 for a newly-edited cut of “Chief Zabu” to be publicly presented. If you ever have a chance to see it, don’t pass it up. Here is a rare comic artifact worth savoring.   

Zack Norman & Allen Garfield

Rated R. 174 mins. (B) (Three Stars — out of five / no halves)

January 27, 2018

THE TRIP TO SPAIN

Trip_to_spainMichael Winterbottom’s reliable comic road movie franchise, featuring Steve Coogan and Rob Brydon doing endless Michael Caine impersonations, is the best Cinema franchise going. The films are based on a British television sitcom from  2010. This third installment follows films where the duo toured northern England and Italy.

Steve Coogan and Rob Brydon play close versions of themselves while going on another food-and-culture tour. This time, Spain has the pleasure of accommodating, or absorbing, the funny men whose verbal wrangling is the wry stuff of brilliant British humor.

Coogan

The competitive man/boys attempt to outdo one another. While waiting for their dinner to arrive Coogan creates a constant high-pitched hum while appearing to speak normally. Rob Brydon picks up the bit and pretends to not be able to hear Coogan because his hearing-aid battery has died. The goof leads into Brydon doing his signature “Small-Man-In-a-Box” voice, which lives in a universe of bizarre hilarity.

Coogan reports, “life affirming butter” over the gourmet meal the men share while trying to crack each other up. Steve’s not imbibing this trip, so Rob is left to savor great wines alone.

Brydon makes fun of Coogan wincing due to shoulder pain. “You look like a tentative Nazi,” Brydon says in a camp German accent. The carrot juice is served.

The Trip To Spain

Brydon draws blood when he holds out his fork with a piece of food that he informs Coogan, as his physician, of the good news that they’ve found the cyst and it’s benign, the bad news is that they’ve “found seven more of them.”

Steve Coogan just loses it, and so too does the audience. It's one of the funniest scenes I've ever witnessed.

The “Trip” films have the appeal of watching two comic masters riffing as you might experience while watching a Jazz duo (Ella Fitzgerald and Joe Pass, for example). Winterbottom puts a grace note of drama at the end that doesn’t fit the funny tone of the movie. It’s a mistake the director can fix during the next installment of this exquisite series of films.

Here's a freebie, courtesy of Steve Coogan. "Time flies like an arrow; fruit flies like a banana." Ba-dum-bump. Thanks Mr. Coogan, thank you very much indeed. 

Coogan

The Trip to Spain is currently streaming on Netflix

Not rated. 108 mins. (A) (Five stars — out of five, no halves)


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January 13, 2018

JERRY BEFORE SEINFELD

Colesmithey.comJerry Seinfeld caps off his comedian’s masterclass web series (“Comedians In Cars Getting Coffee”) with a beautifully conceived, and executed, performance of the exact jokes he told while climbing his first stairs of stand-up comic success back in the mid ‘70s. Manhattan’s Comic Strip comedy club, located at 1568 2nd avenue between 81st and 82nd streets, provides the original venue where a teenaged Jerry Seinfeld honed his first bits and comic chops.

Many of the jokes are from Jerry’s childhood. He tells about being a kid and admiring adult men’s habit of checking their pockets for objects they clearly don’t possess. We get a glimpse of Jerry’s “Superman” bookends he’s had since his boyhood, exhibited on the back of the piano of the Comic Strip’s tiny stage.

The hilarious stand-up performance switches periodically to docu-styled narrated sequences that take us to locations where Seinfeld built his early reputation as a world-class comedian. We see him sitting in the same department store window at Madison and 57th street where he ate his lunch every day when he was 21, and dreamed of being able to live off a loaf of bread as a professional comedian.

Jerry Before Seinfeld

“Women need a constantly expanding of cotton balls, while men require none.” Funny stuff.  

Jerry takes questions from audience members as he flashes through performing his early jokes with exquisite timing, phrasing, and physical embellishments. His material is so sturdy, clean, and quick that Jerry Seinfeld’s stream-of-thought reveries hit you with a seamless logic of inevitable laughter. A more polished comic performance you will likely never witness. It’s no coincidence that Michael Bonfiglio (“Oprah’s Master Class” television series) is the filmmaker behind this perfect example of stand-up comic entertainment.   

Seinfeld

Jerry Seinfeld is currently running victory laps in overdue response to his legendary career as one of history’s most popular comedians. “Jerry Before Seinfeld” (a reference to the “Seinfeld” television show that ran for nine seasons) is a thoroughly enjoyable comic romp with a ton of historic context thrown in for fun. Here is a comic performance that’s from the ages, and for the ages. It doesn’t get any better than this.

Seinfeld

TV-14 62 mins. (A+) (Five stars — out of five / no halves)


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