Before the late, great Jim Henson was an empire, he was a person. A comic, in a sense. One who worked late-night TV spots on The Ed Sullivan Show and Saturday Night Live, riffing on anything that would make people laugh, without regard for demographics and ideas of parental guidance. “He was always doing puppetry for adults,” says son and now Jim Henson Co. producer Brian Henson. “Not exclusively adults, but that was his approach. So when he did Sesame Street, I think one reason why everyone loved it is because those are very sophisticated characters, and sometimes they’re being quite wry in a very adult way, and sort of naughty.”
Jim Henson’s Muppets would eventually go on to become one of the strongest forces in youth entertainment, capturing the imaginations of multiple generations of American kids, and the tradition continues today. The ninth feature Muppets film — starring Jason Segel — hits theaters nationwide this fall, and beginning Thursday, local audiences will be able to see the Muppets in their raunchier form, in the spirit of Jim Henson’s original puppeteer ideology, as son Brian, along with SF Sketchfest, brings his show Muppets: Stuffed and Unstrung to the Curran Theatre this week. Henson recently took a moment to chat about the project and how it fits into the Muppet canon.
It was So You Think You Can Dance in an Indie Band? night at the Great American Music Hall on Monday, brought to us by brooding synth pop trio Cold Cave and atmospheric New Age revivalists Austra.
Let’s meet the competitors.
A quick piece of advice for the IAMSOUND Sessions promoters who booked the phenom indie pop band Cults last night at the Clift Hotel: it might be wise to schedule what’s called an “opening act” next time your headliner doesn’t come on until 10:30 p.m., even if the show is free. Asking hundreds of fans to wait idly with $10 drinks and thumb their cell phones for 90 minutes on a Sunday night doesn’t do much to engender support for the spotlight band. By the time Cults came on, the crowd was impatient, angsty, still chatty and generally indifferent to what was happening onstage. (#hipsterproblems)
Charlie Murphy has seen through the looking glass, and he’s still not entirely what side he’s on. The famed comedian was at Cobb’s last night — the second of a four-night stint at the North Beach comedy club — and outlined for a boisterous crowd his take on our surreal popular culture. Reality, turns out, is one hell of a drug.
Few could have hallucinated the life of Murphy, who has spent his entire professional career in the daunting shadow of his megastar brother Eddie. He’s managed to forge his own singular identity and cult following thanks to a coup of a gig on Chappelle’s Show and various semi-high-profile TV and film roles.
Can chillwave really be all that “chill” in the live setting? With apologies to the kids too baked to move, live instrumentation has a way of turning blissful ambiance into head-thrusting, dance-pop affairs. We saw it a few weeks ago with Washed Out at GAMH, which turned trippy pop experimentation into an orgiastic dance affair. And last night at Slim’s, The Memory Tapes inspired something similar, winning dancing hearts and head-bobbing minds with a sound more rooted in tradition pop ideas than any new genre-of-the-moment branding would suggest.
Ever since the Purple Onion tried to re-establish itself as a comedy destination some seven years ago, weekly series have come and gone, and the place has mostly been a spot for fledgling local comics to find stage time. A good thing, to be sure.
The historic laugh lounge's latest stab at renaissance is its new weekly Comedy & Cocktails series, a free show featuring a long list of comics of varying experience levels. We'll assume that means short sets for all involved, save the headliner. Like speed dating, but with comedians.
If imitation is indeed the sincerest form of flattery, Jay Pharoah sure loves to kiss some arse. Thursday night at Cobb’s Comedy Club, the SNL prodigy spent the first 40 minutes of his set mimicking the patriarchs of hip-hop and Hollywood, as if he were rehearsing for a hosting gig at the BET Awards. The kid is clearly skilled, if a tad one-dimensional.
The 23-year-old Virginia native tills the same comedic soil as MadTV’s Aries Spears, who brought a very similar routine to Cobb’s earlier this year. Both are virtuoso impersonators, holding up mirrors to high-profile rappers and other idiosyncratic personalities of urban culture.
We’re all too familiar with the narrative infrastructure of ODC Theater’s latest musical, OMFG: Lonely man meets lonely woman. They flirt. They exaggerate their case for why they’d make ideal companions. True identities are revealed. Love is in the balance.
Once upon a time these types of encounters were the marked territory of contrived rom-com cinema, but the veils and deceptions of the Internet have made everyone with a laptop a potential author of such yarns. All the virtual world is a stage (too), the perfect place to ignore what we see in the mirror. So people bend the truth and hide insecurities as best they can. Until they can’t anymore.
Like any great artist, comic Dan Cummins knows how to source his inspiration — or where to source his inspiration, to be exact. In his weekly Off the Pot YouTube series, Cummins goes to that last solitary place where man can escape the distractions of modern life and be alone with his thoughts — the porcelain god. OK, so it's not exactly Walden Pond, but there's a certain genius to it. He riffs topically, and quite cleverly. It's potty humor, technically, but it's not.
Cummins has been on the comedy beat for some ten years now, having matriculated to Los Angeles from the Pacific Northwest to pursue comedy and all its related fields: TV, film, novel writing, web series, etc. His tongue has sharpened and he seems primed to be L.A.'s next great comic you may or may not have heard of. Before his stint at Punchline this week, he took a moment to answer some of our questions:
There’s something vaguely Cobainian about San Francisco’s latest prodigal punk son gone national, Ty Segall. Perhaps it’s all on the surface — the stringy blond hair covering his face, his nihilistic, alyrical groan, his haphazard yet taut soloing. But there’s a certain grunginess to his band’s aesthetic, also a nuts ‘n’ bolts alignment of guitar, bass and drums. All of it begged a certain question: were we watching something special on Saturday night at The Independent? Was this what it was like to see Bleach-era Nirvana in a Seattle club in the mid-‘90s, when all that mattered was the channeling of angst?
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