Sounds Like Now
A blog by saxophonist Brian Sacawa
Archive for Humor
The holiday for the rest of us. Popularized in an episode of Seinfeld, the “holiday” is now celebrated in varying degrees of seriousness throughout the world. Here’s a small Festivus primer for your celebration today:
+ The symbol of Festivus is a bare aluminum pole, an icon chosen for its opposition to the highly-decorated and overly-commercialized Christmas tree. During the holiday, the pole is displayed unadorned and praised for its “high strength-to-weight ratio.” (For the DIY-inclined, click here.)
+ The Festivus dinner seems to be undefined although according to the book, it (the Festivus dinner) should be accompanied with hearty beer, rum, bourbon, or wine.
+ Following the Festivus dinner comes The Airing of Grievances, a ritual during which each member of the family tells the others all the ways in which they have disappointed them throughout the year.
+ The final tradition of Festivus is The Feats of Strength. Traditionally, this is where the head of the household challenges another participant in the celebration to a wrestling match. Festivus can conclude once the head of the household is pinned to the floor.
SLN wishes everyone a Festivus Miracle.
(N.B. In somewhat similar off-beat holiday news, don’t miss this article from yesterday’s Times, which considers the rebranding of Xmas. The Christmas makeover was commissioned by WNYC’s Studio 360. Read about and hear the program here.)
(Or: why Sacha Baron Cohen is a genius.) Sacha Baron Cohen is the chameleon-like British comedian best known for his HBO series Da Ali G Show. On the show, Cohen interviews unsuspecting people in the guise of three very unique, but equally maladroit, characters.
Ali G, the show’s namesake, is a wannabe gangsta/hip-hop journalist from the west-London “‘hood” of Staines. (The irony is that Staines is not exactly the ‘hood, but rather an upper-middleclass London suburb.) Ali G regularly interviews people who have held prominent positions in American politics and culture, including John McCain, Sam Donaldson, and Donald Trump, usually making them feel extremely awkward and leaving them extremely confused. At his core, the Ali G character is an idiot, who conducts his interviews under the premise that he is connected to youth culture and that he understands how to communicate with them. To that it extent, it is amazing how patient some of the interviewees are with SBC since by being interviewed they believe they are reaching a demographic that is largely beyond their reach.
BrÃ¼no is a flamboyantly gay reporter from Austrian television, whose topics include fashion, celebrities, entertainment, and homosexuality. The BrÃ¼no segments often leave you in a state of disbelief about 1) how apparently stupid and clueless his interviewees (often members of the fashion cognescenti) are, 2) how easily they are manipulated into agreeing with outrageous statements, like boarding all the unfashionable people of the world onto trains and shipping them off to camps, and 3) how quick some people are to change their opinions (sometimes prompted by BrÃ¼no, who informs them that their stance is not what his viewers will agree with; and sometimes purely out of their own airheadedness).
Borat Sagdiyev is an awkward and bumbling Kazakhstani journalist sent to report on American activities and culture to his home country. Unlike Ali G and BrÃ¼no, who mostly interview famed or influential members of society, Borat instead mingles with regular (and quite unsuspecting) American people. And unlike Ali G and BrÃ¼no, people generally embrace Borat because of his sincere desire to understand America. The humor with Borat comes from his sincerity. He often extolls his “cultural” beliefs, which arise out of racism and misogyny, putting his guests in awkward situations but at the same time putting them at ease, which in turn facilitates their voicing of their own prejudices and hypocrisies.
It’s hard to believe that the same person portrays all three characters. They are each so believable (and ridiculous) that it’s easy to take what Cohen is doing for granted. But SBC is a comedic virtuoso in full command of all his facets and well aware of what he is up to. Robert Siegel did an interview with him in 2004. (It’s interesting to hear Cohen in his own voice, which most closely resembles Ali G.) If people haven’t heard of SBC yet, they will soon. His new movie, Borat: Cultural Learnings of America for Make Benefit Glorious Nation of Kazakhstan, opens on November 3.
(N.B. For those who have seen the show, I’ve actually been to the gym that Borat visits in South Beach in S1. I used to go there when I had performances with the New World Symphony.)
Some sharp satire from Alex Ross over the Hyperion Records case. How about the Alex Ross edition of Prokofiev’s Sarcasms?
Anyone who’s been to Japan and seen a hip-looking girl wearing a t-shirt that said something like “Open All Night”–clearly not understanding what it might be interpreted as–will appreciate www.engrish.com, a website that highlights “the humorous English mistakes that appear in Japanese advertising and product design.”
First Lady Laura Bush had some real zingers for the President at the White House Correspondents Dinner. (Courtesy of Wonkette! via The Standing Room.)
Ok, this happened a couple of months ago, but it’s still funny. On February 16 I gave my New York debut recital at Columbia Unversity’s Miller Theater. After the performance, a group of family and friends made their way back to the green room to congratulate me. Among my friends was Anthony Iaffaldano, who I’ve known since kindergarten. After some hugs and handshakes Anthony asked me, “Who’s Alex Ross?” “Alex Ross is the music critic for The New Yorker,” I replied. (And then instantly, the following shot through my head: Whoa, was Alex Ross at my recital?! With Allan Kozinn from The New York Times and David Salvage of Sequenza21 reviewing the concert I thought I’d already hit a home run. But now Alex Ross was here too?! Hmm, he did have me on his agenda for the week . . .) And then Anthony snapped me out of my inner monologue by letting me know that someone had mistaken him for Alex Ross. Oh. Just then, David Salvage came in to say hello before heading home to his computer to write the review. “That’s the guy who thought I was Alex Ross,” Anthony informed me. Apparently David mistook my parents and other friends who hadn’t seen Anthony in a while–they were gathered around him, shaking his hand, and talking–for Alex Ross groupies. I guess if you haven’t met Alex and only know him by the picture on his website, it might be easy to mistake him for Anthony. You can’t really blame David, they do resemble each other. Take a look for yourself!
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A certain music-loving community that lived on a certain block in a certain city was thrilled when a pianist moved into an apartment on their street. They were even more excited when the pianist put up a sign in his window that read: “The Nation’s Best Pianist.” The residents of the community enjoyed hearing him practice and felt a strong sense of pride upon reading the reviews of his concerts as his reputation began to grow.
Not too long after “The Nation’s Best Pianist” arrived on the block, another pianist rented an apartment in this music-loving community. After getting settled, he put up a sign in his window that read: “The World’s Best Pianist.” “Wow,” thought the memebers of the community, “We’ve got both the Nation’s and World’s Best Pianist living among us!” The new pianist’s career soared after he moved into his new apartment and he gained more international acclaim than he could have ever dreamed of.
Soon word about this music-loving community and their two famous pianists began to spread. Nobody could possibly move in and be better than their two resident pianists. After all, they were the Nation’s Best and World’s Best Pianists. Then one day another pianist rented an apartment in the music-loving community. The sign in his window read: “Best Pianist on the Block.”