The Fallon Failing

Jimmy Fallon was on the cover of Parade magazine this past weekend. (Yes, I’m the old guy who still gets a Sunday newspaper… now get off my lawn!)

He’s a funny dude, and quite talented. The Parade article sums up his appeal nicely:

This combination of unfailing humor and heart has endeared Fallon, 47, to millions of fans. More than seven years into his plum Tonight Show job, the SNL alum has made his mark by eschewing smart-alecky barbs in favor of old-school variety-show-style entertainment. “I like that we mix it up so I can go out and sing a song with someone or dance and do sketches,” he says.

from the Parade profile by Mara Reinstein

That said, Jimmy can be… how can I put this gently? He can be a bit too much. “Extra” as the kids say (or used to a couple of months ago – I can’t keep up). This clip is a perfect example of how to NOT be a good host:

Instead of letting Fred Armisen do HIS bit, Jimmy tries to sing along… when he doesn’t even know the bit. And he practically ruins the enjoyment of it for the audience.

It’s not just me saying this – check out the YouTube comments:

It’s your show, Jimmy. Your name is on the marquee. So it doesn’t always have to be about you. It’s perfectly fine to let your guest have a couple of minutes in the spotlight. Follow the Jack Benny rule:

Benny knew he could be funny by following one simple rule: Let others deliver the punchlines. He discovered early that it didn’t matter who got the laughs on The Jack Benny Program as long as people were talking about how funny it was.

From this Oct. 23 Montreal Gazette article

Did Johnny Carson try to work his own punchlines into a Rodney Dangerfield rant? No. He just sat back and let Rodney roll. It’s funnier that way. Be a gracious host, not a grubby one.

Best New Artist

Surely you remember my good friend Dale Doyle? (OK, maybe you don’t… and I should stop calling you “Shirley.”) Dale and I worked together at an design agency for many years, and remain concert buddies. Three years ago, Dale was “downsized” by that agency — the place where he spent 23 years of his career. I wrote about that here, and a year later, I wrote about how Dale was killing the game at Holotype, the agency he co-founded. (He still is killin’ it, btw.)

Yesterday, this happened:

The album, Serpentine Prison, is from another Cincinnati kid, Matt Berninger, who also is the lead singer of The National.

I’m thrilled for Dale, not only because he’s a great guy and an amazing artist, but also because he loves music so much. A Grammy nomination is like a perfect storm of elation.

With Turkey Day just around the corner, I am thankful that I got to work alongside Dale and other super-talented artists like Keith Neltner, Tommy Sheehan and John Ham (to name but a few). A lot of their art is tied to commerce, and sometimes art snobs can look down their noses at that. But their work is as good as anything in the Louvre.

Why yes, I do have the album, signed by the Grammy-nominated artist…

A Fascinating Life

While he was still in high school, he was the lead actor on a radio show that aired in Cincinnati and later nationally on NBC. One of his high school friends was crooner Andy Williams.

In college, he was a drum major who gained renown for twirling lighted torches.

He toured the world with the Harlem Globetrotters, and was roommates with Olympic gold medalist Jesse Owens for a few days.

He made and operated puppets on a kids TV show.

He worked in advertising and directed the first TV commercial for the Easy-Bake Oven… and cast his daughter Molly in it.

He borrowed $10,000 from a college fraternity brother to make whiskey-flavored toothpaste, and wound up on “What’s My Line?”

Life magazine sent a photographer to his assembly line, but Poynter didn’t have one. He was mostly a one-man operation. So, he enlisted some friends to play-act in a warehouse with empty boxes in the background because he had nearly sold out of the toothpaste.

Source: this Cincinnati.com article

He invented dozens of novelty toys, including a Little Black Box – when you turned it on, gears would move inside the box and a hand would emerge to turn it off… this same mechanism was later used to make a hand that grabbed coins, marketed as “Thing” from “The Addams Family” TV show.

He dreamt up dry cleaning bags printed with dresses from Disney Characters so kids could use them as costumes. Walt Disney called it “the best promotion I have ever seen.”

He invented this:

And this:

His toys were featured on The Tonight Show and Late Night with David Letterman.

“Almost everything I’ve ever done is either making someone laugh or giving them pleasure, and if I didn’t, I’d be out of business.”

Don Poynter, in a 2015 interview.

Don Poynter passed away in August of this year, at the age of 96. He said “I’ve had a fascinating life” and he wasn’t kidding.

You can read more about Poynter and his inventions in this Cincinnati.com article and two Cincinnati Magazine articles, here and here.

Going viral for good

The interwebs can be a cesspool. Facebook has prioritized profits over patrolling perfidy, so news feeds polarize and even radicalize. The dark web offers easier access to a virtual “endless shelf” of vices. And that boring friend of yours expects you to read his lame blog posts (guilty as charged).

But every once in a while, there’s a glimmer of hope in the sea of sewage. Sometimes two glimmers.

Glimmer #1

A 16-year-old girl from North Carolina who was missing for days was rescued from “unlawful imprisonment” in a car driven by a 61-year-old man. The car was pulled over by police in Kentucky because someone in the car behind had recognized the girl’s hand gestures as a signal that she needed help, and called 911. The 16-year-old who used the hand signal and the person in the other car who recognized the gesture had both learned it from… of all places… TikTok.

The hand gestures used by the teen have been popularized on TikTok and “represent violence at home – I need help – domestic violence,” the sheriff’s office said. A witness in a car driving behind Brick’s Toyota called 911 upon recognizing the hand signals and told dispatchers the teen appeared to be in “distress.” 

from this article on Cincinnati.com

You can read more here. And you can learn the “violence at home – send help” hand signal, created by the Canadian Women’s Foundation, here:

Glimmer #2

For a glimmer that’s a bit lighter, please welcome The Mountain Goats to the stage.

They too went viral on TikTok, when a short snippet of one of their songs, “No Children” — which was released nearly 20 years ago — was used in dozens of videos on the platform.

In most of the viral videos made with the song as soundtrack, users do a brief bit of choreography that illustrates the divorcing couple in the song drowning. Or, in many cases, they use their cats to simulate the narrator sinking into the ocean. Something about the sheer, extreme bitterness of the sentiments therein has grabbed younger generations who are clinging to its only partially tongue-in-cheek anger and despair as if it were their own.

from this article in Variety

This Variety interview with Mountain Goats lead singer John Darnielle is great, because he appreciates the serendipity of it all.

“No Children” had just been sitting there since 2002. When I say it’s just been sitting there… it’s been one of our most popular songs in our catalog. But the Mountain Goats are, I always say, sort of a boutique concern. We’re not for everybody. My voice can be a deal breaker. We’re never reaching for the brass ring. We made literary rock. [Laughs.] But when people do find it, it affirms for those of us who make indie music that when the broader public is exposed to it, there’s more people who would like it if they get a chance to hear it. The consolidation of radio and the diffuse nature of the media landscape means that there’s lots of good stuff that people don’t generally hear unless it gets a viral moment.

Mountain Goats lead singer/songwriter John Darnielle in the Variety interview linked above.

I love the Mountain Goats (so does Stephen Colbert…check out the clip at the end of this post). I also love it when the interwebs goes viral in a good way.

That’s what’s fun about this: nobody on my side tried to do this at all. Because the internet could be fun. We know it’s kind of a train wreck because of algorithmic recommendations and a number of other things that have made it pretty problematic, but the fun of something like this is really when listeners show you that they’re engaged, that they have another way of listening, and will tell you what your song did for them, even if it’s a 15-second piece of the song. That’s fun and cool. 

John Darnielle, in the Variety interview

Pigs in Space

I’m really torn about the recent spate of billionaire rocket rides.

I do think there’s a need for space exploration.

But it feels like it’s turned into a “willie waving contest” as a Brit former co-worker put it. It’s about ego, and conquest… and commerce. (Get your tickets now!)

Our space icons are now the powerful owners of private companies, who have infused space travel with their own personal narratives and idiosyncratic ambitions. During the Apollo era, the most visible participants in the moon effort were the astronauts—Neil Armstrong, Buzz Aldrin, Michael Collins—men who were certainly venerated but who approached their task with the duty of soldiers. At this moment, the most visible participants are eccentric billionaires having rocket-measuring contests in public.

Marina Koren, in this article in The Atlantic

They’ve certainly got the cash to burn. Perversely, the pandemic was like a booster rocket for their personal fortunes:

But it seems like such a waste of resources. I know some will counter that we have to look at the bigger picture, and that the know-how needed to put those flights into space will benefit all of us down the line.

But I don’t know how willing these titans of industry will be to share the secrets of their interstellar success. They’re more likely to try to corner the Milky Way market.

I’m actually aligned with another rich guy:

We need some of the world’s greatest brains and minds fixed on trying to repair this planet, not trying to find the next place to go and live.

Prince William, the Duke of Cambridge

Can’t Musk, Bezos and Branson focus their billions on the 8 billion people on the single planet we all share, instead of taking Captain Kirk on a joy ride?

Dave Whamond | Copyright 2021 Cagle Cartoons

The “moon shot” we all need is a bit more down-to-earth.

Find Your Own Rhythm

Charlie Watts passed away Tuesday, at the age of 80. For nearly 59 years, he was the drummer for the Rolling Stones… “the greatest rock and roll band in the world” according to none other than Bob Dylan.

On stage, while Mick was strutting around like a peacock and Keith was firing off those classic guitar riffs — usually while a cigarette dangled from his mouth — Charlie was the quiet guy in the back, just doing his job, keeping time.

Off stage, while Mick was hanging out with Andy Warhol at Studio 54, and impregnating Brazilian models… while Keith was ingesting every drug under the sun, Charlie was hanging out with his wife Shirley. They got married in 1964 and remained married until the day he died.

Picture: Getty/ SWNS

In Robert Greenfield’s STP: A Journey Through America with The Rolling Stones, a documentary of their 1972 American Tour, it is noted that when the group was invited to the Playboy Mansion, Watts took advantage of Hugh Hefner’s game room instead of frolicking with the women.

From this article about Charlie Watts in the Independent

Rock and roll drummers are supposed to be the crazy ones. Keith Moon of The Who practically invented the port of trashing hotel rooms. John “Bonzo” Bonham played 20 minute drum solos during Led Zeppelin concerts, and rode a motorcycle through the lobby of a Hollywood hotel. Actually, he rode one through the lobby of three different hotels.

(It’s also worth noting that Keith Moon died of a drug overdose at age 32, and John Bonham also was 32 when he drank so heavily (the equivalent of 40 shots of vodka in a 24-hour period) that he choked on his own vomit and died.)

At some point in our lives, most of us want to be the rock star or the the guitar hero. But maybe it’s better to be in the background, keep a steady rhythm, and stay true to the beat of your own heart.

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