Friday, January 30, 2009

Office Asshole

Somewhere in this office lives an office asshole. This person is probably hiding in the shadows of one of the dark cubicles on the other side of the office, sneaking back and forth from public space to public space, performing unspeakable terrors.

Anyone who has worked in an office knows the office asshole.

The office asshole is the one who does not know how to work the coffee machine. He or she always puts so much water in that the coffee overflows onto the burner, creating that awful burnt coffee smell.

The office asshole is the one who takes the cheese off of that last piece of communal pizza, but instead of throwing the slice out leaves it in the box for the next person.

This is the same office asshole who leaves one quarter of a doughnut for the next coworker to stumble upon in the breakroom.

The office asshole is also the person who never learned how to use the bathroom properly. It is because of the office asshole that we are forced to attend ridiculous meetings like the one I experienced on Wednesday about not urinating all over the men's room. The office asshole is also responsible for attrocities that take place in the ladies room - attrocities so horrifying that I dare not mention them on this blog.

The office asshole cleans no dishes.

The office asshole leaves left over Thai food in the fridge for three and a half months.

The office asshole took that coke out of the fridge; the coke that you were saving for this afternoon; the one that you've been looking forward to all morning.

One day I will find the office asshole. And once I do, I will destroy him/her.

Thursday, January 29, 2009

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Today We Are Like Children

I remember the day that Mr Kite, the totally awesome British PE teacher who was the one male teacher at our grade school, took all the boys from my class aside and explained to us in a very proper English way that we as a group needed to revisit our bathroom practices. He suggested practicing aim and accuracy at home by using Cheerios. Given that we were all little kids it was probably an approriate and important conversation to have.

Today, we at the office had pretty much the same conversation.

Except, of course, instead of being little kids we are all grown ups.

Yesterday, "the boys" of the office received a meeting invite where no topic was mentioned but where it stated explicitly that "attendance is mandatory." The invite immediately invited speculation on what could possibly necessitate a meeting of all the men in the office. Was there some sort of harrassment something or other? Beer pong tournament?

The curiosity was killing us. So when our boss Jim came around to our group to do his daily check in one of my coworkers asked if this was about the bathroom.

Yes.

A couple of months ago, we received a company wide email imploring people to conduct themselves properly in the restrooms in regards to aim and general cleanliness. Evidently, this was not enough emphasis as today at 11:00 this morning we gentlemen all had to meet in the big conference room (named "The Taj" which is a strange name for a place to conduct business because the Taj Mahal is essentially a giant tomb so why you would want to name your conference room after a giant tomb is beyond me but hey what do I know?) and have a quick 10 minute chat.

That chat included discussions of respect and once again involved suggestions of Cheerio usage as a means of practice.

So I guess I'm going to have to stop peeing on everything.

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Macbeth - The Power of Spittle

We were told that the Chicago Shakespeare Theatre's version of Macbeth was for mature audiences. What this meant was blood and bare breasts. Also guns. And crazy lights and set stuff and some smoke machines and see-through bath tubs and all sorts of other cool stuff.

Scottish accents? Kilts? No no, my friends, this was a modern adaptation set in a quasi-modern universe where soldiers wear fatigues, noblemen wear suits, and witches wear... stripper bondage gear. That's fine; it was like a Shakespeare action movie. And with the price of admission you certainly got your money's worth full of bangs, explosions, weird sound effects and nudity.

All in all, I had a very enjoyable evening at the theatre and found the show to be thoroughly entertaining.

But when you're willingly strapping yourself in for some Shakespeare, you're going to want a little more than pretty staging. And for all the technical awesomeness, I feel like the shows focus was more on taking the story - we all know this one right? about a Scottish nobleman who murders his king and takes the throne only to flip his shit and get killed - and bringing it into the quasi-modern world and less on just telling the story.

The actor who played Macbeth was technically very sound. He was sound in his stage fighting, certain in his movement and he had a strong stage presence. He enunciated his words to the point where he was spitting after every consonant. I was sitting second row on the side of the stage and could see every molecule of saliva leave his lips, fly through the air and then land splattering against the stage. He enunciated so much it was actually distracting to me.

But at the end of the show I didn't really care for the character. I felt no real bond between him and Lady Macbeth (who, by the way, was excellent apart from being complicit in this lack of a bond). I heard every word he said clearly, but in my gut I didn't understand him and I didn't sympathise with him because I didn't feel like he had been torn or felt any remorse or any of the conflicting emotions that would have made him human to me.

So at the end, I started asking myself 'why?' Why should I care about this guy? Why did he betray the king? And, while we're at it, why all the nudity and the blood? Never thought I'd ask that particular question but I did. And, while we're at it, why are we bringing this play into the modern world? What's the point? What do we gain?

In the last act of the show, Lady Macbeth has committed suicide. She is naked in the see-through bathtub, ass displayed prominently towards the audience through bloody bathwater. Next to the bathtub sits Macbeth. He stares out at the audience and, stone faced, proceeds to recite the 'sound and fury' monologue with spittle flying through the air. There he sits, competing with a naked bloody ass, speaking every syllable but the sum of syllables signifying nothing.

That scene was more or less the experience in a nutshell.

Monday, January 26, 2009

RvD Monday!

Howdy Friends,

As part of our efforts to actually use the interwebs, Monday's post can be found on the Robot vs Dinosaur blog. This week's post deals with Gran Torino, Clint Eastwood's codgery and the Pussycat Dolls. Go say hi to the roboblog.

Enjoy!

-Nat

Friday, January 23, 2009

"There Is No Mercy... In Girls Basketball"

A couple of odds and ends for your Friday entertainment.

Oh Texas...
...Y'all take your high school sports way too seriously. The latest proof comes by way of my buddy Pat. I'd synopsis, but you really should just read the article.

Return of Robo-Bloggers!
One of our new years resolutions at Robot vs Dinosaur (which include such gems as resolution #8 "Stop crying so much" and #22 "Try not to touch that so much in public") is to actually do something with the blog this year. To that end, each of the seven writers have picked a day and are supposed to write something every week. My day is Monday. You can check out the Robo blog here.

Kharma Plug:
Speaking of Robot vs Dinosaur, we have a new writer named Catherine Monahan and she has her own little slice of internet out there. Her blog lives here. Go check it out if you have the chance.

Finally, VAMPIRE KITTY!!
Oh no! Vampire kitty!

Thursday, January 22, 2009

No Cussing Club? Are You Fucking Kidding Me?

Last night I could not sleep so I put on The Tonight Show in the hopes that Jay Leno's witty banter with Cuba Gooding Jr. might help lull me into a state of drowsiness. Alas, I was still awake when it came time for Leno to welcome his second guest, the No Swearing Kid.

'No Swearing Kid?' I said curiously, 'What the fuck is that shit all about?'

Turns out there's this teenager from South Pasadena, CA who became so bothered by his friends' use of dirty language - terms like fuck, shit, ass, damn, bitch, cock, bastad, taint, dick-licker, motherfucker, shit-kicking nob-gobbler etc. - that he challenged his friends to stop using any of that offensive language. And then somehow they formed an official club. Which then spawned a website. Which then spawned merchandise. Which begat the hug card:
(How disturbing is that shit? I shall not begin to comment on all that is horribly right and woefully wrong about the hug card)

Far be it from me to denounce people, especially kids, from pledging to clean up their language. I respect their God Given Right to some good old fashioned patented American Freedom of Fucking Speech. In fact, they should be applauded.

But a club? We need an organized club that promotes awareness and the use of polite language in public? And furthermore, that club needs to sell orange wristbands, like the money goes towards curing the vulgarity disease, and other shit (and I mean that not as in the generic but rather as in 'chintzy cheaply made garbage') to people?

My biggest concern is that these club members are in danger of becoming chronically lame. This is not like Chess Club where the kids are ridiculed but grow up to be geniuses, or Debate Club where they grow up to be lawyers. Or a Book Club where people learn to fucking read. Even D&D Cubs teach kids to use their imagination and, I don't know, make their own chain mail or something.

These are skills.

But No Cussing Club? What are these people learning other than to be mildly tiffed at but nonetheless respectful of other people? How lame is that?

I mean, fuck.

...

Also, ass.

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Barack Obama - To Do List

Well, ladies and gentlemen, we officially have a new President. Barack Obama was sworn in and made happy speech time for the public, and then everyone partied and paraded about and generally made much ado and had a good time.

Normally around this time, I would be recommending that we all lower our expectations and that we try not to expect too much to happen immediately.

But who am I kidding? This is Barack Freaking Obama we're talking about here!

He seems to be of above-average intelligence and somewhat competant. Given that we've been getting by reasonably well ('reasonably' compared to, say, Sudan) the last couple of decades on blatantly shady and/or criminally stupid persons in leadership positions, there's no reason not to expect great things immediately.

So, instead, I would like to offer the following five requests as a small list of things for the new President to accomplish:

(1) FIX THE ECONOMY - This should be done within the next couple months, preferably. Obama should be able to create millions of new high paying jobs, fix the stock markets, increase the value of the dollar all over the world so that if I decide to travel I can buy more stuff, and lower taxes. This one is a no brainer.

(2) STOP WARS - I'm not just talking about Iraq and Afghanistan. I'm talking about all wars everywhere, from big ones to tiny little disputes. And for good, as well. I want no more wars to show up in the future either. Obama should be able to complete this easily using the power of his soaring rhetoric.

(3) FIX EDUCATION - I want our kids to be a new class of tiny geniuses. I don't want our kids being shown up by no Swedish astrophysicist children or Asian math geniuses. Each and every child should be able to win a Nobel Prize by the end of the year.

(4) BRING BACK ARRESTED DEVELOPMENT - The TV show. It was great. Completely underappreciated in its time. The big O should be able to do something about that.

(5) DEFLECT METEORS AWAY FROM THE EARTH USING THE POWER OF HIS CHARM - Again, a no brainer.

Monday, January 19, 2009

Sketchfest - A Debrief

Well, sketch fest finished up this weekend and I'm happy to say that I managed to see a lot more shows than last year. Maybe not as many shows as I would have liked but still a sizable chunk.

Now that everything is wrapped up, it's helpful to look back and think about what all one's taken away from the whole experience and what one has learned.

(1) It's always fun to see the wide array of good ideas, good scene work, and good comic bits that come out of the shows. Regardless of whether or not the sketch show is great, there's always something in every show that's worth remembering.

(2) The shows that stand out to me are the shows that concentrate on a unique angle, shows like Best Church of God or Ten West or (even though it isn't actually sketch comedy) The Improvised Wrestling Show. The performers concentrated on creating an entire experience for the audience which made them stand out from your more traditional lights up/lights down shows.

(3) I think what separates a good sketch show and a mediocre sketch show is execution. While a lot of groups had really good ideas and really funny moments, I think the sketches could have used an extra rewrite. There's nothing worse than hitting that funny moment and then having the sketch drag on for another three minutes. I don't know if this is a symptom of sketch coming from improvisation with less of a focus on writing, or if it's a function of rushing the process to meet a deadline, but I think concentrating on the quality of the script is very important.

(4) For those groups from out of town, don't overdo the Chicago references. We appreciate that you're trying to make Chicago jokes but chances are we're coming to see your show because you're not from Chicago - it's one of the draws of the festival - so please just do your thing.

(5) I tended to enjoy shows that featured a little audience participation. Best Church of God actually had a fake missal so that the audience could sing along. Stuff like that plays into the draw of live theatre and gets people involved in the process.

(6) Conversely, I tended not to enjoy shows featuring videos - partly because half the time they didn't work and partly because the videos tend to be of iffy quality which, I mean, why pay to see something you could see for free on youtube? Team Submarine had a funny bit where they would gesture to the video screen and the video would not work and then they would talk about how someone must have screwed something up. For my taste, anything that can be done live on stage should be done live on stage.

(7) If you're going to do a movement to music piece, make sure you find a way to let your audience know why you're doing the piece. This works best when the music heightens whatever action you're trying to perform. I saw one group do an interpretive dance acting out the words of a The Who song while wearing crazy masks. It was visually interesting but a couple of minutes into the piece but it didn't really mean anything outside of being a live performance of a music video.

That's what I took away. If anyone has anything to add, go ahead and leave a comment.

Friday, January 16, 2009

Hell Show... Now Showing in Hell!

I'll bet you'll miss it, won't you?

No, I'm not talking about the show. I'm talking about me talking about the show.

Last night was the last performance of Are You There God? It's Me, Satan (albeit a stripped down version) and I can safely say I'm quite happy with the way the whole experience turned out. People seemed to really like the show last night, and I think the amount of work - writing, rehearsal and otherwise - really showed on stage up for us.

Thank you for everyone who came out, especially but not limited to those of you who braved the blistering sub-zero temperatures, put down good hard-earned cash and were kind enough to laugh.

For those of you who did not laugh, you can kiss my ass.

So now, we (meaning RVD, not the royal 'we') take a couple of days to bask in the glory of our reminiscences.

And then, we get back to work next week writing the funny.

"What's next up for Nat?" you might ask.

Currently? Nothing. Back to writing sketch shows, hopefully auditioning more. Essentially, anything I can find to distract myself from, you know, work.

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Surrounded...

...by stacks of files and paperwork, with a full email box.

Right now, you are probably thinking, "This is the worst blog ever. All this guy does is plug the same shows and complain about how busy he is."

My rejoinder to that is a hearty "Eat my ass."

...

I'm sorry. I overreacted. I'm sorry. You didn't actually even say anything. That was all me.

Ugh.

Ok well, uh... this got awkward.

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Shameless Plug Again!!

Just had our tech rehearsal last night for our sketchfest show coming up on Thursday. It will be a cold night, so come let the cast of Robot vs. Dinosaur warm you with our mouths and our movement.

That doesn't sound right....

Hmm.

Sketchfest information in the left hand column.

Monday, January 12, 2009

Sketchfest Week#1 Review/Thoughts/Impressions

This is my third year participating in sketchfest and I am historically bad at seeing the other peoples' shows, which is a shame because one of the few perks of performing at sketchfest is seeing other shows for free. This year, I resolved that I am at least going to try to see some other shows. So far, I've seen five which, I believe, is more than I saw last year so this is a good thing.

This exercise won't be particularly helpful for anyone wanting suggestions for shows to see, as all of these shows are done and gone, but I thought I'd share some impressions anyway. The groups may be back for next year so, who knows.

FRIDAY NIGHT SHOWS

Came directly to the Theatre Building after a rehearsal, so the earliest I got to see was...

10:00 PM - Ten West
A two person group out of Los Angeles. It basically amounted to a two person clown performance based loosely around a nondescript funeral with the clowns playing the pallbearers. The performances themselves were reminiscent of Chaplin, Keaton and the Marx Brothers: very physical, very chaotic, classic comedic relationships between the two. It was fun to watch the two performers navigate between scenes - more like 'bits' than short narratives - and engage the audience. All in all, a very solid show. If you get the chance next year, I would recommend seeing them.

11:00 PM - Team Submarine
Another two person show, this time two guys originally from Chicago who have since moved to New York. They began their show by showering the audience with candy as "I Want Candy" blared over the loud speakers. As they went along, they passed out more and more ridiculous stuff - wheat bread, potatoes, microwaves - before long they were passing a folding table and a bike into the audience. Once the orgy of stuff was finished, the guys stopped and said, "great, now we'll need everything back" and had the audience pass everything back up to the front. It was a fun and novel way to get the show started.

The remainder of the show was more or less about these two guys trying to perform the show on stage, sort of a meta-sketch show. I have often thought of trying to do a similar type of show, but I see why it would be hard to do as it relies on the audience connecting with the performer's personality immediately, and I think it's a lot harder to do that than get them to connect with a character. I'm not completely sure why I feel that way, but it's the impression I formed from watching this show. That said, Team Submarine still had some very fun moments and I would likely see them again.

SUNDAY AFTERNOON SHOWS

I saw three of these before heading off to a staged reading. The first show was at...

3:00 PM - Best Church of God
...which featured my friend and cast mate Trish. Basically, it's a send up of fundamentalist Christianity, and includes everything from songs the audience sings along to out of a missal all the way to fake Eucharist at the end of the show. This show is not intended for the religiously conservative, and I saw one or two shaking their heads in the audience (for a Chicago sketch comedy group, always a welcome site). While the show lampoons the blind adherence of many Christians, I never felt like it was particularly insulting to spirituality in general. Being the irreverent type myself, I enjoyed it and was perfectly happy following along with the crazy. For those of you interested in the group, they have a website.

4:00 PM was a double bill. First was Okibono
A new sketch group featuring a friend of my friend Geoff. Okibono is a new group - I think Geoff said this may have been their first performance - but they had a lot of good moments. I felt some of the sketches could have used some judicious pruning, though. This will come with time as they get more experience working as a group.

Second was the 20th Generation of Off-Off Campus
This is a college sketch group from the University of Chicago. It was, as is to be expected, a college sketch show. Having done a couple of these - although we called them Evening of Scenes back where I come from - I know that they can be very hit or miss and this was exactly the case here. They had a couple of good ideas (their last sketch was a Nazi take off of a classic Superman scene) but they could have used some refinement. Some of the sketches felt like they were trying to flex their smart muscle, and some of them felt like they were trying to be Monty Python. Regardless, there's definitely some good young talent in the group.

So there you go. Robot Vs Dinosaur is on Thursday night this week. For those of you interested, see the info in the left hand column. I'm sure I'll be around this weekend trying to cram in a couple more shows.

Thursday, January 8, 2009

One Week From Tonight!

Your final chance to check out Are You There God? It's Me, Satan is next Thursday night. We will be performing a much smaller version of it for the Chicago Sketch Comedy Festival. Details can be found here.

We will be performing in the South Theatre on Thursday, 1/15 at 9:30 along with the group Think Tank (full schedule here). It's a good opportunity to see what you missed from our full run or, if you were brilliant enough to come see it, a chance to see old favorites.

And by old favorites, I mean a guy getting hit in the crotch with bats.

ONE NIGHT ONLY! TICKETS ARE $12.50! TWO SHOWS FOR THE PRICE OF ONE! FREE SEX!*

All Sketch Fest performances are at the Theatre Building Chicago, located at 1225 W Belmont Ave. Box Office#: 773-327-5252.

*False Advertising: Sex is never actually free.

Wednesday, January 7, 2009

Work work work...


"Work, work, work. Work, work, work. Work, work, work. Hello boys, have a good night's rest, I missed you."

Tuesday, January 6, 2009

Putin Quiz

For those of you who are unaware, there is currently a natural gas war in Eastern Europe that is causing severe reductions in available natural gas supplies to at least seven - SEVEN - European countries: Bulgaria, Romania, Turkey, Austria, the Czech Republic, Greece and Germany. The cause of the shortage is Gazprom, Russia's gigantic energy company, shutting down some pipelines running through Ukraine that then supply the aforementioned European nations. The Russian company claims that the Ukrainian company - Naftogaz - owes them $2 billion in payments.


Who gives a damn? Why am I telling you this?


I'll tell you why: posting about Russia allows me to post this:



VLADIMIR PUTIN!! Pictured above cloaked in death.


Question: Who would win in a fight? Vladimir Putin or a Sabre-toothed Tiger?


Question: Who would you rather face in a fight? A Sabre-toothed Tiger or a maimed but rageful Vladimir Putin?


Question: Would you like Vladimir Putin on your side during a bar brawl knowing full well that once his anger takes over it cannot be stopped until everything before him is destroyed?


Look into his eyes:


Question: Can you lie to Vladimir Putin?


Question: A passenger train leaves Vladivostok at 2:05 PM heading west towards Moscow (a distance of 3,974 miles) at 55 mph. Five minutes later, Vladimir Putin, wearing nothing but camouflage pants and one boot, begins chasing a rabid bear due east from Moscow. The train runs head on into the bear and Vladimir Putin, disintegrating the bear instantaneously. Of Vladimir Putin and the train, who can expect more structural damage? How many of the train passengers survive?


Question: Vladimir Putin and a shark. Discuss.


Question: Can a being so steeped in hatred and death (Vladimir Putin) ever truly know love? Does said being deserve to?


Mr. Putin will expect your answers in the comments section.

Monday, January 5, 2009

Arizona - A Quick Recap

At the start of the New Year, I was sitting in a Waffle House somewhere off of the highway east of Phoenix. There was a gas station next to the Waffle House. Across the street from the gas station was a chunk of desert. I was with Katie's family and we were sitting at the counter eating a very late dinner. On the jukebox was Oye Como Va. Our waitress looked up just long enough from mopping the floor to say "Happy New Year."

It wasn't the flashiest New Years moment, but a good moment nonetheless.

Also, their hashbrowns are great.

Some quick things I loved about the trip:
  1. The weather. When I left, it was 30 degrees in Chicago. I sat on a plane for four hours and when I got off it was magically 60 degrees.
  2. The scenery. Beautiful and just as you would imagine Arizona should look. Clear skies, gargantuan cactus, buttes (a term which I refuse to pronounce correctly for childish reasons).
  3. Katie and her brother and I went to the Phoenix art museum - because it ain't a trip without some sort of museum - which had a really cool modern art collection.
  4. We also saw Lewis Black perform on New Years Eve. He was quite funny, and his opening act was from the 'D.'
  5. Katie's parents place was very nice, which made for a very restful and relaxing couple of days.
  6. Food was great. They have In-and-Out Burgers in Phoenix. They are awesome.
  7. Did I mention Buttes?

Things I liked maybe not so much:
  1. The flight to Phoenix. We left a good four hours late due to a weather delay in Buffalo, NY of all places. Consequently, I said some very unkind things about Buffalo, NY which I now take back. Buffalo is a fine city. I just needed somewhere to vent my frustrations. Buffalo, you can expect an edible flower basket and a 'forgive me' card shortly.
  2. I had to overcome my inherant fear of being so far away from fresh water.
  3. Making right turns in Phoenix. Katie was pulled over by a motorcycle cop because she made an illegal turn into a 'bus only' lane. Of course, the 'bus only' lane was not marked 'bus only' so if you were not from Phoenix you would have no idea. The cop let us off with a warning - not because he wanted to be a nice guy but because eight cars made the exact same mistake as us while we were sitting on the side of the road.
All in all, though, a very good time.

Friday, January 2, 2009

Merry Christmas / Happy New Year/Holidays Etc. Etc.

Where the hell have I been, you may ask?

Arizona, bitches!


Beautiful ain't she? Not only that but she is warm too.

Didn't mean to leave everyone hanging on the whole blog thing. I'm sure all four of you regular readers were besides yourself wondering when I was going to post my next stream of drivel. And then I'll bet you went out and had a good holiday and forgot about me completely.

Well, now I'm back to work and drowning under a pile of emails. Luckily, most people are out of the office on Jan 2nd so I've mostly been left alone to play catch up.

570+ work related emails this morning. I've spent the past three and a half hours reading them and just now finishing up. Next steps are to gnash my teeth, flush my head down the toilet and then go to lunch.

So, don't expect too much from me today. Over the next week or two, I'd like to write a post about the trip, maybe one about 2008 in review, one about New Years Resolutions (my first New Years Resolution is to make mine on New Years and not several days after...) and maybe one about the upcoming year. What you will probably get, though, is the occasional painting of hell with the title "AAARGGGH!!!" over and over. I'll give real writing the good old college try, though, so we'll see.

Happy New Year, friends!