Coffee with… Anna Russell

Would we drink coffee with Anna Russell?


Kristy:
Absofragginlutely!  Are you kidding me?  Of course, I’d drink coffee with Anna Russell!  Granted, I’m gonna go for an iced coffee because I totally anticipate it coming out my nose before the meeting is over.  We are talking about someone who was once called the funniest woman in the world.  And with good reason.

My main source of knowledge about Ms. Russell comes from a podcast of an interview with Shelagh Rogers that Cammy put on a CD for me.  At the time of the interview Anna Russell was already in her 80s and still feisty and hysterically funny.  Totally the kind of old lady I want to be.  It’s also amazing to think of all the things she lived through and everything she achieved as a woman from her time.  The entertainment business is still male dominated and comedy even moreso.  I’d love to hear her take on the business and all that.  Plus, think about people watching with this woman!  Basically… I just want to listen to her while trying to not snarf my coffee.

Cammy: YES!  Anna Russell is hi-frackin-larious and absolutely brilliant.  I was introduced to her by the same Shelagh Rogers podcast I shared with Kristy–CBC Sound’s Like Canada’s Digital Extra.

Her best known work is basically turning classical music into sketch comedy.  Her most famous piece–and one included in the Digital Extra–was The Ring of the Niebelungs (An Analysis) which crams the entire Wagner Ring Cycle into a 30 minute sketch that nearly made me pee my pants laughing, and yet, was basically spot on to that massive operatic work.  And it’s not just verbal–Russell was a trained and talented musician who basically give you a greatest hits collection.  If you know Wagner, you’ll find it hilarious, and if you’re new to opera you will find it far less intimidated after this, I guarantee.  And that kind of broad appeal is evidence that this woman was made of awesome.

But more than her work, the interview revealed that this woman was just as much of an entertaining character in real life as on stage.  She treats the telling of her own life story with the same kind of hilarity as the telling of the Niebelung Saga.  And with the kind of history she has (involvement in the early days of radio, doing time in an English boarding school, immigrating to Canada….) the wealth of information she could turn into gut-busting comedic performance over coffee is basically endless.   She claims more than once in her telling of the Niebelung Saga “I’m not making this up, you know!” — she doesn’t need to make it up, because she makes it funny.

Kristy: I just feel like one of us needs to say, “But that’s the beauty of grand opera–you can do anything so long as you sing it!”

Pint-sized Time Vampire

It’s midsemester.  Otherwise known as the season where I start having thoughts like, “If I were in jail, no one could make me finish this paper.”  And then I start genuinely pondering what I could do to get me sent to jail, just long enough to avoid the rest of the semester.  And due to a couple other things I won’t go into, I’ve kind of been in a rotten mood.  A mood that was saved by this week’s time vampire.

I don’t have any personal beef with “mommy bloggers.”  I even know a few.  I think they’re swell.  I imagine.  I have to be honest, I’ve only sampled them.  ‘Cause for an outsider… well, their appeal is limited.  I can see where for mothers of small children it’s probably helpful to hear from other mothers of small children and get advice, know they’re not alone, etc.  But you have to wonder sometimes, how do their kids feel about being used for social networking?

Enter Bedtimes are for Suckers which one of my online friends linked last week.  This blog is run by four-year-old Lily, who’s determined to show the other side of the story.  Lily counters her mother’s mommy blog and lets us know what kids are really thinking.  For someone who’s twenty-six years away from preschool years, it’s enlightening.  Now I understand how difficult it is for children to have their parents rifle through their candy on Halloween.  And how munchkins manipulate adults.  And that there are others who lie awake at night wondering what will happen if the world runs out of cake.

Okay, okay, so the real reason I like this time vampire should be obvious by now.  Lily brings the funny.  In quantities so large the belie her small size.  And this week, I’ve really needed a laugh.  So I haven’t had a lot of time for the vampires to suck away, but I gladly let Lily suck a bit of it up.  She deserved it.

Coffee with… Zarqa Nawaz

Cammy: I would definitely have coffee with Zarqa Nawaz.  I feel like I owe her at least a cup of coffee as a thank you for Little Mosque on the Prairie.  I should probably be ashamed that the gaps in my knowledge about Islam are so great that it took a sit-com to give me a baseline education, but that’s how it goes.  Watching Little Mosque has been an incredibly informative experience, but it’s also been entertaining as all get out.  They bring the funny (especially Baber!) in massive quantities which we all know is essential in the My TV, My Peanut Butter Universe (they also have Carlo Rota, which absolutely never hurts).  I had once heard a rumor that they were going to port the show to America, and while I’d had to lose the inherent awesomeness that comes with the show being Canadian, I think it would do a world of good to have a show like this on American TV.  Believe me, this would be a topic I’d bring up over coffee.  But mostly, I’d just like to get more stories out of her.  Anyone who can create something as funny as this has to have other funny stories built up.

Kristy:
Without a doubt!  She created a show which brings the funny in large amounts and still has a really sweet heart.  Which makes me think she’s got to be fun to be around.  But even more I’d like to talk to her about her career in the television industry.  She’s got double minority status and I’m sure that didn’t make things easy, but it’s probably given her some great stories as well.  I also suspect she’s got some great things to say about other issues, such as the power humor has to open doors that might otherwise be closed and to foster understanding, sometimes better than anything serious can.

To Have and to Hold and to Bring the Funny

As previously mentioned in my rant about my fugly dishes, I’m going through one of those phases in my life where all my friends are getting married (seriously, has anyone noticed how that always happens in spurts?).  I just went to my friend and colleague S’s wedding yesterday, where I came to several important conclusions:

1.  They don’t make humorous wedding cards.  Which I think is sad.  My friend S would have loved a funny wedding card.  And rolled his eyes at a mushy one.

2.  There are also no cards for gay atheist couples.  Every card at the store was either gender specific or had a God reference in it.  Serious niche market being overlooked here.

3.  There should definitely be more funny at weddings.

Now I understand that weddings are solemn ceremonies symbolizing two people making a lifelong commitment to each other.  And if people want their weddings to be solemn and serious they have every right to make them so.  But I think there’s a sense that weddings have to be serious, and that’s what irks me.  Yes marriage is serious, but should it also be joyous?  And when I’m happy I like to laugh.

Fortunately I think there are more and more people incorporating the funny into their weddings.  By now everyone has seen the video of the couple with the highly choreographed procession from a couple years ago.  There are all sorts of funny first dance videos on YouTube.  But I think there can be even more.  Cammy told me a great story about her friend having funny incorporated into her vows (I’ll leave it to Cammy to add said story to this post or in the comments, because I’ll get the details wrong)

S and his husband K did a great job of incorporating the funny.  Their RSVP cards gave you the options of “gladly attending,” “regretfully declining,” “regretfully attending,” and “enthusiastically declining.”  Great way to set the tone.

Then, they walked down the aisle to the theme from StarTrek:  Deep Space Nine.  First of all, this is a great piece of music.  Then it said very loudly, “Yes, we’re geeks!  And we’re proud!”  It was also appropriate for them since they had their legal ceremony in Iowa while attending a StarTrek convention.

The first dance was to “When a Man Loves a Woman” which was not only hysterical but tied in with a very sweet story about them.  Early on in their relationship they were at another wedding and S was ill and not having a good time.  K finally convinced him to dance the next slow dance with him, so they got out to the dance floor, put their arms around each other, and guess what came on?

The hilarity continued in toasts (three words:  Mad Lib Toast!) and karaoke throughout the reception.  A good time was had by all and I walked away thinking, “You know, this is what marriage is all about.  It’s not the drag people make it out to be so much of the time, it’s a really joyous thing.”

So S and K (isn’t that a men’s wear store?) I salute you for bringing the funny.  And urge you all to further the cause of the funny at weddings.  Because I sat through the whole wedding and five hour reception, and didn’t once think about the neckline of my wedding dress or the dishes I’m going to register for (in some mythic, distant future when I get married).  And if it can make me stop being superficial, that’s something very powerful.

Coffee with… Mel Brooks

Kristy:  Would I drink coffee with Mel Brooks?  Seriously?  That’s a bit of a no brainer.  As we have established over and over again, we like the funny.  Mr. Brooks has made a career out of bringing the funny.  And funny that I have always enjoyed.  Funny that’s not shy, but not gross either.  Funny that’s sometimes intelligent and sometimes isn’t and revels in both.  What’s more, funny that sometimes has music in it!

But honestly, there’s more to it that just him being funny.  First of all, the man has been around for quite a while, second, he experienced a lot of life.  He’s got to have stories to tell.  If Wikipedia is to be believed (I know, I know, but it’s so easy to access) he gave his wife movie rights as an anniversary present.  How adorable is that?  Also, he apparently went to Virginia Military Institute (never would have guessed that).  So yes, I would drink coffee with him.  I expect to at some point snarf said coffee, but for Mel I’m willing to do that.

Cammy: Coffee with Mel Brooks?  Definitely count me in for this one.  I’m banking on some side-splitting laughs.  I’m sure you’re right about him having some awesome stories, but, really, I just want to bask in the funny.  Besides, he gave the world Spaceballs and anyone who did something that awesome is so worth having coffee with.

Hold your pinkies out

Would we drink coffee with… Winston Churchill?

Kristy: Now, I don’t know anything about British politics.  And I’m not really a WWII buff.  So my knowledge of Winston Churchill has nothing to do with his policies.  And if I were better informed, I don’t know how I’d feel about him.  But what I know about him are a handful of semi-apocryphal stories and a bunch of smart ass quotes.  Which means that what I know about the man is that he could bring the funny.  So much so that I’m almost afraid to have coffee with him.  I don’t want that acid tongue turned on me.  Given my druthers, I’d rather watch and listen to somebody else have coffee with him.  But since I doubt said opportunity will arise.  And since, as most everyone knows, I have a deficient self-preservation instinct, why not?  If I can have stories to tell and funny (if mean) quotes to recite for years to come, I’m totally up for coffee with Winston.

Cammy: Oh, most definitely.  The man had a tongue like an adder, and, as you say, Kristy, that brings the funny.  I think knowing this ahead of time actually makes me less fearful of him.  I know what I’m in for, and the possibility of being verbally skewered is one I’m willing to risk.  But on a more serious note, I would also welcome the opportunity to see what we could extract out of him regarding some of the tougher decisions he had to make.  Coventry and Dresden being the two biggest ones.  And more than that, I want the man to have read some recent news and render some kind of opinion.  There’s no a way man like that wouldn’t have some sort of opinion on current events.  And if we were really lucky, it would include some hilariously scathing comments.

Bring me the Funny!

Today we explore an important, commonly used phrase in the My TV, My Peanut Butter lexicon:

“To bring the funny” (verb phrase)

Definition:  To amuse us.  To include humor.  To entertain.

Etymology:  While I cannot say with any degree of certainty that this was the origin of the phrase in general, the phrase was first introduced to Kristy and Cammy through The West Wing episode “Seventeen People.”  Incidentally, this was the episode I used to convince Cammy that she did, in fact, love The West Wing and that she wanted to continue watching it obsessively with me (Ainsley Hayes was my secret weapon).  In this episode the phrase is used as a critique of a speech written for the White House Correspondents’ dinner which was apparently less than entertaining.  The writers “forgot to bring the funny” and one of the plots of the episode is a large portion of the cast attempting to “find the funny” in order to make the speech successful.

Cammy and I frequently use this as a critique of television episodes (or fanfics.  Don’t judge) that fail to amuse us the way we want to.  Such episodes “forget to bring the funny” or “don’t bring the funny.”  When West Wing kinda sucked for a couple seasons, it was largely because it forgot to bring the funny.  Incidentally, the phrase “the funny” can occasionally be used as a stand alone phrase to mean “that which makes something amusing.”  My good buddy Russell once insisted that a missing nuclear submarine qualified as “the funny” but I’m still less than convinced.

A particular character may be praised for “bringing the funny.”  Cammy likes her almost namesake on Bones because “she brings the funny.”

It is important to understand that neither Cammy nor I tend to watch comedies.  I would never say “How I Met Your Mother brings the funny.”  It would not be incorrect so much as unidiomatic.  “Bringing the funny” is something that happens mostly in otherwise serious situations; it is a technique for creating levity which helps us process and cope with said situations.  The aforementioned West Wing episode is a great example.  The major plotline of the episode is heavy and ominous, but it is balanced by “the funny” of the speech writing and Ainsley/Sam, Josh/Donna banter.  (I’m being deliberately vague since one of our five readers has just finished West Wing Season 1 and I don’t want to spoil the brilliance of this episode).

Anyway, the long and the short of it is that if you want My TV, My Peanut Butter to enjoy something, it definitely helps to bring the funny.  And if we are able to bring the funny, even a little bit, here on our little blog, well that makes us extremely happy.

Sucking my Time Away… From the Couch

In today’s time vampire is in a little different vein.  It’s not a game or a vast compendium of knowledge or humor or lists.  It’s a blog.  A blog that is a times a vast compendium of knowledge, humor, and lists.  And where I have lost a lot of time

The blog in question is The Couch Gymnast.  At one point the tag line for the blog read: “Gymnastics and Lists:  Two of my favorite things” (paraphrased from memory).  It just so happens that Gymnastics and lists are also two of my favorite things, so clearly me and the blog are like *this*.  (The new tag line is  “Where the rant never ends” which is delightful, but slightly less descriptive of me.  Maybe.)  I used to describe my love of gymnastics as “my strange fascination with gymnastics” since it struck many people as odd that I am so borderline obsessive about a sport I never participated in.  Then it occurred to me that many football fans have never participated in football and Cammy’s fixated on biathlon though as far as I know she’s never even put on a pair of skis.  So I refuse to apologize for my love of gymnastics anymore.

Anyway, back to the time vampire at hand… It is a blog about gymnastics by a fellow non-former gymnast who is also a fellow graduate student.  She hails from Australia and I believe her name is Bridget.  She is not the Bridget who occasionally comments here; that’s my former roommate.  Unless my Bridget has been hiding the fact that she’s secretly an Australian gymnastics blogger, which would be weird.

I follow a couple gymnastics blogs, but Couchy is my favorite by far, largely because she brings the funny.  And because of a few features she rotates through on a somewhat regular basis.  By far my favorite, and I’d guess the one she might be best known for, is her “World’s Worst Leotard” contest.  Seriously, I thought that team USA’s hot pink concoction in Beijing were bad.  Couch Gymnast has shown me they could be SOOO much worse.  My second favorite feature is a sort of “what are they thinking” kind of thing where she captions what gymnasts/coaches are really thinking in photos, with high-larious results.  (example )  Then she does this “Cartwheels in…” feature where she explores gymnastics programs in countries that never make it to television.  This reminds us that there are girls who work their tushies off (literally) for years and years without the chance of making it onto a Wheaties box.  And that Couch Gymnast is just as big a nerd as I am.

So anyway, check her out.  I don’t think you have to know a thing about gymnastics to understand how hysterically ugly some leotards are.

Time Vampire on Crack

You might have noticed by now that we here at It’s My TV, It’s My Peanut Butter have a thing for lists.  I don’t know what it is, because generally speaking we’re a couple of rather disorganized gals, but there’s something really satisfying about arranging bits of random material into lists.  And not to be overlooked is the major comic potential inherent in lists.  Again, hard to explain, but hopefully you know what I’m talking about.

You know who definitely knows what I’m talking about?  The folks over at Cracked.com.  Our Time Vampire of the Week.

Cracked.com advertises itself as “America’s Only Humor and Video Site since 1958.”  And you know, I’m trying to think back to other websites I was frequenting around 1958, and can’t think of any that related to humor or videos.  So it must be true.

But that’s not why I wind up losing hours and hours of time there.  I lose hours there because the site is full of really random, fully explicated lists.  And just now when I bopped over there one of the lists was “6 Shockingly Evil Things that Babies are Capable of.”  Anyone who knows about my evolution- defying hatred of babies understands now why I love this site.  So much so that I forgive them for starting a sentence with a numeral and ending it with a preposition.  This site brings the funny.  And their lists are hilarious, not just in terms of subject (though there is nothing funny about the evils of babies) but in the ways they explain them.  I laughed out loud at least four times in the 25 minutes I just wasted there.  For the record, I wasn’t planning to spend any time there at all.  See how an effective time vampire works?

If you’re like me and crave knowledge of the completely useless variety, Cracked is actually quite educational.  Just now I learned about the badass exploits of St. Vladimir of Kiev and why he’s one of the “Six Saints who could Kick My Ass.”  He’s also an ancestor of mine, so I’m thrilled to find out he provided humorous historical material for future generations.  It’s important to leave something behind.  A lot of the links are equipped with video and hyperlinks to provide extra material, if you don’t think a random humor website is a good enough factual source.  Also, delightfully photoshopped images.  Fun times!

I do feel I must give you this warning, however, that not all of Cracked.com‘s lists are completely safe for work.  Or small children.  Or factories that employ child labor.  Particularly not in the language department.  And sometimes in the picture or video department.  So explore this time vampire carefully my friends, but have fun.  (That sounds really dirty, but I’m not going to correct it.  Ha.)