A Talk Show Disaster

My days are filled with the sensation that I am always five minutes away from a terrible mistake.

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The UG! Quarantine Show is one of NYC-based actor/director/stand-up Todd Montesi’s many, many ongoing projects. Live on Instagram, he and his fellow stand-ups discuss life and comedy in our pandemic era. He won me as a fan just because he pronounces the name of the show as it is written: “Ugh! Quarantine,” and not as I had pronounced it in my head when I first saw it: “U. G. Quarantine,” like the name of a long-ago college president.

He also sometimes says, “U. G.,” but it is his show, so he can.

In May, I started to work with a friend, Meghan Jenkins, an actor/comedian/director/creator/writer whose work and personality have started to attract notice from those whose notice might be desired. I assisted others more talented than I am in some of the work required to launch her website, and she has allowed me to publish a couple articles for her there. She also asked me to contribute a monologue to be read each week on her online improv comedy show, The The Ding Wrong Show.

My friend, Ms. Jenkins, landed an appearance on the UG! Quarantine show on October 10, and, not to get all show-bizzy on you, she slayed, as anyone who knows her might expect she would. (Video after the fold.) What was unexpected by your correspondent—me—was the fact that she spoke my name at all during her appearance, more than once. To judge from her discussion, one could be forgiven to think that I might be an individual worth an interview. Thus, I made my own appearance on Mr. Montesi’s program on October 12, and based on the video, it is clear that I am not that individual. (Shakes head vigorously, like a restaurant patron with regrets about that request for “extra parmesan.”)

Here is Ms. Jenkins’ appearance on the UG! Quarantine of October 10 (she makes her appearance at 8:09 into the show):
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30 Years with the Magnificent Glass Pelican

Perhaps the radar that the Magnificent Glass Pelican has flown under for many years had never been turned on. We escaped detection for so long because no one was looking.

My association with the longest-running unknown radio campus comedy show dates back to around this date in 1990. Before I met my friends (now lifelong friends), several had written skits and started to record them in a home recording studio.

One day, the friend with the recording studio (and the home!) asked to play me some of those tapes. I was a graduate student who had just started to study English Lit. and he had just finished his degree and was now an instructor in the English department. This was at SUNY (State University of New York) New Paltz.

I had just experienced a non-triumphant summer in which two college friends and I attracted enough attention to one of our theatrical productions to earn a negative review in the local daily newspaper. Compared to some, that made me an impresario.
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Goodnight, Sweet Prince

Even in his later years, hunched over a cane, age did not appear to de-fang him. Don Rickles was still quick with his quips, even if the quips came quickly to him because he shot them out every day for six decades, quick with his many facial expressions of disgust and disappointment.

His reactions to audience reactions often brought his jokes from the barely memorable to the legendary. Rarely has a performer conveyed so much with the mere flicker of a expression change.

Don Rickles died today. The stand-up comic was 90, a month shy of his 91st birthday, but he was rarely shy. (I’ll be here all night folks, thanks.)

His stand-up act, till his last days, was remarkable, for someone past age 90 or not even 19, really: it was always unscripted. Yes, he knew what “insults” he was most likely going to deploy “against” audience members, and he knew that somehow he was going to convey that he was on the audience member’s side and not punching down at them. That was the extent of the notes he carried on stage with him. It was a tightrope act.

“If I were to insult people and mean it, that wouldn’t be funny. There is a difference between an actual insult” and doing that, he often stated.
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Farewell, ‘Prof.’ Irwin Corey

“However.” Sometimes he spoke the word as an exclamation, sometimes as a half-question. He never connected it to anything that preceded it. It was not a reply, or it was a reply to everything the world had offered him up to the moment he encountered the audience on the other side of the footlights.

“Professor” Irwin Corey would shamble up to the microphone in an over sized suit, his shoelace necktie askew, his hair combed by a blender, and his first word to the audience in his role as “The World’s Foremost Authority” (topic always TBA) was always: “However.” What followed was always a stream of words that bore a relationship to English sentences that could be diagrammed, but the relationship appeared to be closer to a divorce than a marriage.

However one remembers “Professor” Irwin Corey, who died on Monday at the age of 102 and a half, one should remember that he and his act were embraced by activists, by anti-authoritarians, and by those who always take sides against pompous twits and those blowhards who love bureaucracy.
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Peter Cook: An Appreciation

John Cleese has said that for him it often took hours of “grinding” work to write several minutes of comedy, but that Peter Cook could write three minutes of top-quality material in just over three minutes. It appeared to come to him that easily early in his career.

But Cook did work hard. As a writer and performer, Cook worked hard at avoiding politeness for politeness’ sake if a laugh was available instead. When the Prime Minister of England, Harold Macmillan, wanted to attend a performance of the hot new West End show, Beyond the Fringe, either no one told him that one part of the show was the performance of a monologue by Peter Cook as Macmillan and that Cook made Macmillan sound like a sluggish dolt, or it was expected that Cook would simply skip that section of the performance in deference to the nation’s leader. He didn’t.

In the monologue, Cook’s Prime Minister Macmillan reports on a visit with President Kennedy: “We talked of many things, including Great Britain’s position in the world as some kind of honest broker. I agreed with him when he said no nation could be more honest, and he agreed with me when I said no nation could be broker.”
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It’s Garry Shandling’s Tribute

“I had a vivid near-death experience that involved a voice asking, ‘Do you want to continue leading Garry Shandling’s life?’ Without thinking, I said, ‘Yes.’ Since then, I’ve been stuck living in the physical world while knowing, without a doubt, that there’s something much more meaningful within it all. That realization is what drives my life and work.”—Garry Shandling

The news broke about two hours ago that Garry Shandling died this morning. It was first reported by a gossip website and then confirmed by the Los Angeles PD.
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A Pelican’s Life

For reasons that bore me, I am one of those (un)lucky, (un)happy few whose brain does not retain jokes. Neither knock-knock groaners nor shaggy-dog tales stick in this cranium; there are not many punchlines that are still connected to the matching set-up in my thinker.

In itself, this is sort of a joke, as I have written and performed radio comedy on and off for as long as I have been an adult. A quarter of a freaking century.

Each Wednesday night at 7:30 p.m. (alert: this is tonight), the Magnificent Glass Pelican half-hour is broadcast on 88.7 FM WFNP (“The Edge”) in the Rosendale-New Paltz, New York, area. The Pelican is a live half-hour radio comedy show that my friends and I have written, produced, and acted in since 1990. Lately, it has been an improvised half-hour, produced by us and scripted live on-air. We have an unwritten rule that no rules should be written.
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An Actor’s Life?

I am a self-conscious actor, yet I sometimes work at it half-heartedly. Now and again. Half-hearted and hesitant—I blush easily, which makes radio the perfect venue for the experiment (and if you write for that type of character, a blushing, stammering sort, I’m your man).
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