Four Letter Nerd

Category - Comedy

Bo Burnham’s “Make Happy” Might Make You Kind Of Sad, But That’s OK

It was a cold, dark October night. My wife and I were driving around downtown Nashville trying to find a place to park for free because I’d forgotten my wallet at home and she’d forgotten her purse, we had no cash on us at all, and we hadn’t realized this until we got down there. We were on our way to the War Memorial Auditorium to see Bo Burnham. It was his “Make Happy” tour. We’d had the tickets since, literally, the minute they went on sell, and everything in the world was trying to stop us. See, we’d also both been violently ill for 2 days leading up to the night of the show and had only not been excreting unwanted bodily fluids (and some solids) for less than 24 hrs so we were just drained of all energy. That’s the main reason we were so scatterbrained and just took off without making sure we had everything we’d need like, you know, money. I said, “Maybe we can Google free places to park in Nashville?” So we did. And guess what… you can park at pretty much any meter for free after 6:oopm in Nashville. I know, right?! We’d driven around for like 20 minutes and passed a billion meters that we could’ve parked at, but whatever. We finally parked and headed to the venue to see something that, after everything that had been going wrong, would make us happy.

That show we saw was just one tour date in a string of them leading up to the filming of the official “Make Happy” special which premiered on Netflix on June 3rd of this year. If you’re not familiar with Bo, this is his 3rd major special, after 2010’s “Words, Words, Words“, and 2013’s “what.” (which my wife and I also were lucky enough to see live). I want to recommend “Make Happy” to everyone, but I feel like you benefit from it more if you see the two previous shows so that you can understand the progression of his craft, so If you haven’t seen those please watch them.

“Make Happy” is the next evolution in Bo’s one-man shows. I say “one-man” shows because that’s a way better representation of what you’re watching. It’s comedy on the surface, but underneath Bo is making comments on society and culture in ways that transcend “stand-up”. I think the first clue that Bo was different from other comedians was his “Art is Dead” song from “Words Words Words”. The idea that a comedian would break the wall that way and express a sad reality right in the middle of a comedy show was both surprising and refreshing. Like, “Ok, this dude is self-aware.” Most comedians won’t show that side of themselves without partnering it with some kind of arms-length self-deprecation that lets you in just barely, but still keeps you from seeing too much. Much of that special is just very clever comedy, but there’s one other song that stands out. “Rant”. It’s just Bo sort of going off about religion, specifically the Catholicism he grew up in. Pretty much every comedian ever has had some joke or bit about religion but there’s something different about this because some of the things he says in it are so relatable that it’s almost hard to laugh at.  He does a fantastic job of injecting moments to lighten the heavy reality of it though, which is something he’s very good at…

I remember sitting in my seat at Marathon Music Works the first time I heard Bo perform “From God’s Perspective” and being paralyzed by how profound it was. It had a huge impact on me. There are some funny lines but, overall, the message resonated with me on a deeper level more than just some throwaway joke song would. I walked out of there and carried that song with me, eventually struggling to recall the whole thing, until the special was released and I could listen to it over and over again. Those first two specials had these carefully placed serious moments surrounded by very well-written and brilliant comedy, but “Make Happy”… is very different.

“Make Happy” is not a comedy special in the traditional sense. Not even in the same way that “Words…” and “what.” were. Each special has allowed Bo open up a little more and “Make Happy” is where he pours it all out on the table and says, “This is who I am.” It’s VERY funny, but it’s also VERY emotional. There are a few bits that are just straightforward comedy, but most of them are laced with some kind of social or cultural commentary, or something personal for Bo. The opening number is very energetic but he still makes space to slow it down and softly sing, “I can’t wrap my mind around exactly why I’m here. I know you paid money. I should be funny. Other than that, don’t know why I’m here.” It’s introspective, yes, but it’s also a teachable moment to the audience. An opportunity for us to realize that being spectators of his introspection is… really strange, but that’s what makes it art and not just “a comedy show”.

From there Bo satirizes things like the emptiness of modern hip-hop, our failure to accept reality when searching for love, and the plight of the “Straight White Male”, by singing about how hard it is when women want rights, and gays want rights, and “the blacks want… not to be called the blacks” but nobody cares when he gets an brand new iPhone with a iPod Touch’s case (“The case doesn’t fit that phone”). But maybe the best thing he lampoons is the lack of substance and creativity in “stadium country music.” Somehow, in writing about how pop-country is nothing but pandering trash Bo ended up accidentally writing the best country song of the year.

There’s also an enlightening moment where he destructs the hollow nature of things like “Celebrity Lip Syncing” and how these people are pretty much doing the absolute bare minimum to be labeled “entertainment” and we’re allowing ourselves to be captivated by it. He says to the audience, “Your attention’s a valuable thing. I’ve worked for three years to get it for an hour, and I *barely* get there.” That’s heavy.

Another thing I found interesting was the song “Kill Yourself”, which is a response to people feeling like an empty pop song will change their lives and make them feel better, but what I find most fascinating about it is that it also feels like a follow up to “Repeat Stuff” from “Words, Words, Words.” I’ll explain what I mean. I feel like “Repeat Stuff” was Bo’s attempt to warn us about the careless impotence of corporate pop music, and “Kill Yourself” is a resolution that his warning went mostly unheeded so… you know… fuck it? That may sound crude but it’s exactly the way you would feel if you went out of your way to warn your friend about a shitty taco truck and it was like all your time and energy were wasted because they kept going there and ending up getting sick. You would eventually cave to the futility also, and say, “Fine. Keep eating the shitty food and making yourself sick. I’m done trying to help.”

Classic comedian Ed Wynn once said, “A comedian is not a man who says funny things, he’s a man who says things funny.” On “Make Happy”, instead of injecting ideas and emotions into the comedy, Bo has cultivated a piece of comedic art with correlating humor and sincerity. Sometimes that sincerity is a tad… hostile? What I mean is, you can tell that Bo’s relationship with the audience is strained, because there are moments where he almost seems surly toward us. It all comes to a head in the finale of the show when he takes a cue from Kanye and laments his problems with an auto-tuned sing/talk demonstration. Now, like Bo, I also happened to catch a stop of the Yezzus tour so I knew exactly what he was talking about when he began to explain it. When I saw him he was complaining about how NIKE was blowing him off about some shoe deal so he went and told on them to the president of Dolce & Gabbana, or something.

Bo starts his parody by griping about the size of Pringles cans before moving onto grumbling about a messy burrito at Chipotle, and it’s absolutely hilarious, but then… shit gets real. He begins to pour out his real feelings; his discomfort with having to please an audience and feeling like it’s expected of him by them and by himself. He defines himself as a “skinny kid with steadily declining mental health”, and then he repeats “I don’t think that I can handle this right now” over and over.  It’s one of the most heartbreaking things I’ve ever witnessed. Seeing it live for the first time was kind of a shock. I think I didn’t really know how to process it, but I was impressed with his ability to be so open and honest. The first time I watched the special on Netflix my wife and I reacted differently because it was just the two of us in our bed together and we were holding hands and we kept holding hands until it was over. She cried and I just sat there stunned by the emotion of it all.

I watched the special again, alone, really only casually, and it affected me very differently yet again. I pulled it up to watch on my phone while I was doing some housework and by the time the end rolled around I was doing the dishes. I had my phone propped up on the paper towel holder above the sink and as I began to hear him unload his emotions I stared weeping. Standing right there in front a sing full of dirty dishes, with my kids playing in the room behind me, I gripped the sink and just cried. Like, ugly crying. Maybe it’s because something in me sympathized with him, or maybe it’s because I related to it in some way, or maybe it’s because the idea of “Make Happy” was hitting me in the heart like a fucking bulldozer. I have no idea, but in that moment I feel like I began to understand the title as more of an action than a label. MAKE Happy. It’s not a noun, it’s a verb. A challenge. Go *make* happy. Don’t expect it to be hand delivered to you. This sentiment is backed up by the final song of the special, which was not performed live, that I recall. I assume it’s titled “Are You Happy?” because that’s what Bo sings interwoven between lines like, “I really wanna try to get happy…” and “You’re everything you hated.” It’s not funny at all. Rather, it’s very reflective and antagonizes a lot of feelings inside you. I use the word “antagonize” intentionally because that’s what’s happening to you. It isn’t creating new feelings inside of you. It’s activating dormant feelings you have and urging you to indulge them. Embrace them. FEEL them. Which, again, is what makes it more than just comedy. It’s art. Tangible in ways that you didn’t know were possible, and Bo’s way of letting go of our collective hand and politely saying, “From now on… you make yourself happy.” It’s sad, but it’s a happy kind of sad and that’s more “real life” than anything a comedian will give you. You only get that from an artist.

Local Spotlight: Third Coast Comedy Club

When most people think about Nashville, comedy is not likely to be high in the list of things they’d associate with the Tennessee capital. “Music City”, the official(?) moniker, brings to mind country music and Gibson guitars more than stand-up and improv comedy. Well, there are two guys who don’t think it has be that way and they’re doing something about it. Luke Watson and Scott Field are the founders of Third Coast Comedy. Together, they have almost 3 decades of experience in improv and sketch comedy and they’re using their knowledge and accumen to create a space, the Third Coast Comedy Club, where other creative comedic minds can hone their skills, and where if you just really love to watch sketch and improv comedy you can do that too! Check out my interview with them below!

4LN – How did you each initially get into comedy and improv?

Luke Watson: I think I’ve always been “into” comedy. Its always been my favorite genre of movie/tv shows and whenever someone asked me for a role-model it wasn’t uncommon for a comedian to be the first to come to mind. When it comes to improv, I was doing it with friends in college before I even knew it was a performance art form. I knew the show “Whose Line is it Anyway?” existed but I had no idea that there was an improv culture that existed and regularly performed at venues all across the country. When I moved back to Atlanta after college a friend of mine who was performing at Dad’s Garage Theater introduced me to an independent improv team and before I knew it I was on stage performing with them.

Scott Field: I credit my family of origin! I HAD to be lighthearted growing up in the dark, depressing alcoholic fueled Central Pennsylvania town that I did. I never did theater in high school or college. Instead, my first comedy troop was made up of all the guys on the cross country teams I ran with. In my mid 20s I took some classes at improv Boston, auditioned, and then performed with their main stage cast for several years.

 

4LN – What, or who, would you say were your biggest comedy influences growing up?

Luke: I’ve always been all across the board with my favorite comedians: Carol Burnett, Robin Williams, Zach Galifianakis, Ellen Degeneres, Demitri Martin, Jim Carrey. Then of course the SNL folks: Tina Fey, Amy Poehler, Chris Farley, Rachel Dratch, and Will Ferrell. Each of those people are on there for a different reason. Whether is was Jim Carrey’s lack of fear or judgement as he played a character at a 12 on a 10 scale, Ellen Degeneres’ and Zach Galifinakis’ ability to deliver a joke. Demitri Martin’s style. Robin Williams physicality and energy. Carol Burnett’s originality and eternal relevancy. Most of those comedians still make my current top 10 list.

Scott: The guys on the teams I was a part of, for sure. I love listening to Bill Cosby, Robin Williams, Steve Martin, watching Saturday night live, Monty Python, SCTV…

 

4LN – You both started out elsewhere and then came to Nashville later. Was there anything in particular that drew you here to further pursue your comedy careers?

Luke: I didn’t move here for the comedy–and didn’t move here for music, either. I moved her to be closer to my sister and brother. But then the improv ‘itch’ started and I couldn’t help but get back into it. I started with a local troupe and shortly thereafter decided to start LOL Nashville and focus on long-form improvisation (going back to my Atlanta days).

Scott: My career has been in teaching, not comedy. What drew me to Nashville was the lifestyle and affordability. The city has been very open too and it’s supportive of my own comedic interests.

 

4LN – What do you say to people who are unconvinced, or surprised, that Nashville has such a thriving and evolved comedy scene?

Luke: I’d say they’re not getting out of the house enough. The fact is, its getting to the point where its hard to not notice it. There is literally some form of comedy performed on any given night of any given month in this city–often times several opportunities on the same night. Live comedy has taken a presence in every corner of this city from bars and music venues, to coffee houses and restaurants. Once the Third Coast Comedy Club launches it will be hard to find someone who is unconvinced that the comedy scene here is thriving.

Scott: I would say that I am not surprised. Unless you know someone directing or doing shows, or really look for a comedy, it is in fact hard-to-find. Overtime that has been less and less the case. With our venue, it will be impossible NOT to find comedy with a local flavor in the local cast.

 

4LN – You’ve launched a Kickstater project to help get your comedy club off the ground, but it really is so much more than just a typical comedy club. Can you tell us about Third Coast Comedy Club and your vision for it?

Luke: Our vision in one word can be summed up with: community. Whether it be the sense of community involved in the conception, production, and casting of shows to the stage design and bar atmosphere, this club will be the place that local comics will not only want to produce their shows or grab some stage time, it will also be a place where they’ll go to grab a drink with other comedians or go to write the last pages of the script for a sketch their working on. What makes me so excited about the club is the vision for the shows. Third Coast Comedy will be different than many other comedy clubs in that it won’t be dedicated to just one form of comedy. We will regularly have sketch, improv, stand-up, comedic plays, variety shows, experimental shows, etc. It will be nice for someone to have what may seem like a crazy concept and have a chance to try it out in an actual theater.

Scott: This will be, simply put, a venue designed for improv and sketch comedy produced by people who live in Nashville. We want audiences to be able to easily find us, enjoy their time at the club, and return again and again because of the positive vibe, comfortable, welcoming feel, and funny shows. It has to be a fun place to be for people buying tickets and for people performing. We really want to encourage people to take nutty ideas and bring them out into the world. We are going to be the birthing center for local comedy, and that means there’ll be a placenta, but we’re comedy doctors, so we’ll clean that up. Natural comedy birth, so no epidurals. Sorry.

4LN – These next questions are for our “lightning round.” Just answer with the first thing that comes to mind. All-time favorite comedy album…

Luke: That’s very tough. But I’m gonna have to go with Zach Galifianakis, Live At The Purple Onion, even though to my knowledge its only on DVD and was never made into a CD album.

Scott: Paul F. Tomkins Freak Wharf

 

4LN – Where’s the best place to eat in Nashville, and what’s the best thing to get there?

Luke: Hattie B’s. Great hot chicken–just be careful. They’re not messing around with their hot sauces. Seriously. I won’t even go beyond the Hot. Honestly, I normally get the medium. OH! And don’t forget to save room for their Banana Pudding is ah-mazing.

Scott: I love Batter’d N Fried. A lot. I’m a veggie, so I get the veggie sushi and beer. I also consume Boston Red Sox games as the place is modeled on a Boston pub.

 

4LN – What was the last concert you went to?

Luke: When I go out to listen to music its typically to hear a local band play. I think my last concert was almost a year ago (can’t believe its been that long!) at Bonnaroo (which by the way, Mumford and Sons killed it).

Scott: Neil Young a few weeks ago at Ascend. First time there. Awesome!

 

4LN – This will be tough, because there a lot of them, but name for me one other local comedian that you think everyone should know about…

Luke: Well, you’ve done it again…making me narrow a lot of great options into one answer. And you’re right, there’s a lot of them. But I’d say Dusty Slay. He’s got an original brand and his material is solid and polished. Check out his “Makin’ That Fudge” album. You know its good when you’re still laughing when listening the third time around.

Scott: I like Brad Pendergast (Brad Edwards). He’s so impatient and miffed and dirty. It’s a nice combination. Plus, he tries to spill hot coffee on me sometimes which is so funny.

 

4LN – Finally, since we are a “nerd” blog, what comic book character, or characters, do you think would be great at improv? (Personally, I feel like Deadpool and Plastic Man could nail it.)

Luke: When it comes to humor, Deadpool would be a great option. But I think Iron Man would be a great improviser, as well. His ability to make something from very little and without any preparation. Also, I love his sarcasm.

Scott: Groot, from Guardians of the Galaxy.

 

I want to send a huge THANK YOU to Luke and Scott for chatting with me! Make sure that you check out their Kickstarter campaign and please seriously consider contributing, especially if you live in or around Nashville. If you’re interested in supporting Third Coast and you also happen to be looking for something to do this weekend, check out this awesome fundraiser show at 12th & Porter on Sunday night!

Terrible Comic Book Friends – Eddie Brock

We all have those “friends.” You know, the ones you don’t really like, but they are in your social circle so you have to put up with them. Maybe they are a friend of one of your friends. Maybe it’s someones boyfriend who is just a crappy guy, or maybe it’s a girlfriend who just sucks the life out of her boyfriend and all of his friends. We ALL know someone like this, and it’s such a struggle to put up with these kinds of people. And, have you ever stopped to noticed that these crummy people always end up being the popular ones? And this leaves you on the sidelines thinking “What…? Why doesn’t anyone else see this?!?! How is this person popular?” Well, no one knows this feeling better than everyone’s favorite neighborhood Spider-Man, Peter Parker.

Peter just seems to have THE WORSE luck. It’s that Parker Luck that everyone knows so well in our little nerd community. When one thing starts going well, there seems to be several things that come crashing down. There is no better example than the delightful, wonderful, and caring character that is Eddie Brock, better known as Venom (that was sarcasm, Eddie is neither delightful, wonderful, nor caring). A little back-story on the delightful character that is Venom… he grew up with just a father, his mom died during his childbirth and this in turn lead to his dad resenting him for his entire life. Brock spent many years trying to impress his father, whether that was through sports or academics, but his father still wont approve of him. The entire origin story is made for us to slightly feel bad for the character, but as he involves into a villain, and later an anti-hero (See 2011’s Spider-Island), we begin to see the character in a better light, but that is fairly debatable on if Eddie is still a good “friend.”

 

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Eddie HATES Spider-Man, with a passion. Our friendly Spider-Man “essentially” ruined Eddie’s life and/or carrier. Eddie was working as a journalist, similar to Peter, and working on a high profile case, Sin-Eater. He’s contacted by who he believes is the killer, but in reality it’s someone who is just a compulsive confessor. Spider-Man catches the real Sin-Eater after Eddie runs an exposé revealing that the villain is the false suspect and this pretty much ruins his career. Eddie heads to a church to ask God for forgiveness and plans to take his life, but at this moment the venom symbiote attaches to Eddie Brock and forever takes over his life (Spider-Man was at the church getting rid of said symbiote). From this moment on, Eddie becomes the epitome of  Gym, Tan, Laundry, and Getting Swole Bruh. Besides being Venom, Eddie also later works with the United States Military (as Venom), and after suffering with Cancer, Eddie becomes Anti-Venom and plans to cure the world of the Venom Symbiote that plagues him for so long.

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But even with the good AND bad that Venom has done, he’s still just a shitty “friend.” Now, he’s not exactly Peter Parker’s friend, but surly this guy has got to have some friends? Maybe he has a roommate he lives with and he’s just a dick too. You know, he would be the type of guy who would have a date with a really attractive person, but blow them off because he has to keep working out. Besides being a gym rat, I can see Eddie also being the type of guy who is WAY to confident, like, in anything he does he thinks he’s the best at it. A jack of all trades, but the master of nothing. Finally Eddie seems like the kinda guy you would find in a bar being the center of attention, he’s the alpha male. Plan and simple, he’s gotta be the biggest threat in a room, the toughest guy around, and he’s not going to listen to you. If there is a conflict while drinking, Eddie is going to solve the problem with his two best friends; left hook and right hook.

With all this being said, Eddie wouldn’t be the guy you want to run into while grabbing a drink with some friends. There will be problems when he’s around, and you’ll end up pissed off or worse. When I think of Eddie Brock, I think of Brock Lesnar. So chances are, and this is a blanket statement, if you have “Brock” in your name (And you aren’t in Pokemon) people won’t be too fond of you. (Apologies to anyone named Brock who may be reading this but, really, you should be mad at your parents.)

Who do you think is a shitty comic book friend? Let us know in the comments, and tell us why you think they are.

Remembering Robin Williams

Like most people, I was made aware of Robin Williams’ passing through a post on Facebook. At first I was skeptical, seeing as how it’s not uncommon for fake celebrity-death-rumors to pop up all over the internet. But then I saw the source… USAToday.com. “They would definitely fact-check that before writing about it wouldn’t they? Oh hell.” And the reality hit me like an arrow in my heart, that Robin Williams was really gone.

 

My introduction to Robin Williams was watching Mork & Mindy reruns on Nick at Nite. I just loved the absurdity of Mork and, as an adolescent boy, I glamorized the idea of being an adult but still getting to behave so silly. It was the first time I really believed that being an adult didn’t have to be so serious. Thinking back through my life, I can actually pinpoint the times, in pretty great detail, that I saw many of Robin’s films. I saw Popeye at a sleepover at a friend’s house. Everyone else was asleep but me and this other kid were still wide awake so we were going through some VHS tapes and found that flick. We started watching it and I was transported to that silly grown up world all over again. Not long afterward, My mom took me and my brother to the drive-in theater. The film we were there to see? Aladdin. I don’t think I stopped quoting the Genie for a month. This was my favorite scene…

 

One evening when they went out for a date, my parents left a movie they’d rented us. “Hook” was the name of it. The babysitter hated it by the time she left because when it finished, we rewound it and played it again, and again, and again. This was THE movie. There were now no other movies and my life would forever be yelling “BANGARANG” and running around the yard with my Peter Pan sword, chasing pirates and saving people. How could a full-proof pan like that not lead to stable and healthy adult life?

 

A few months or so later, while we were shopping, I noticed my mom had picked up a movie to buy and once we got out of the store and to the car I bugged the hell out of her to tell me what it was. She eventually threatened to take my Dunkaroos away so, in the interest of maintaining the lifestyle to which I’d grown accustomed, I let it go. But… I eventually snooped around and discovered a VHS copy of Mrs. Doubtfire. I waited until mom was not home one day and asked my dad, while he was busy doing something else so he’d be too pre-occupied to notice what he was agreeing to, if I could watch it. He of course said yes and I ran to our guest-room and shoved the tape in the VCR and laid on a bed I wasn’t supposed to be on, watching a movie I wasn’t supposed to watch. It was the best. I remember laughing so hard at the scene where he’s making the dinosaurs talk.  This movie was a new experience for me in a lot of ways because it was the first time I ever really understood the reality aspect of film. This was a guy, with a problem, trying to find a solution. Sure, it was silly, but he was willing to go that far for his kids, just to be with them. I had never really seen films as having a real world application before, and this opened my eyes to whole new way of watching movies.

 

When I was in Jr high, our school held a fundraiser where you could pay $2 for a ticket to see Jumanji in the auditorium during classes, or… you could go to class. Frankly, the money could have been going to support buying gasoline to burn down of the rain-forest, they were getting my 2 damn dollars and was not gonna learn any knowledge that day. I sat there in the 3rd row just amazed at how fantastical this movie was. All these crazy animals running amok, a living board game, a MONKEY BOY! Do you understand that? He was a BOY, and then the game turned him into a MONKEY! This was one of the greatest discoveries I have ever made.

 

As I grew through my teenage years and on into adulthood (I’ll let you know if I actually ever get there), Robin’s films became opportunities for my family to spend time together. Jack, What Dreams May Come, Father’s Day, Bicentennial Man, Patch Adams, etc. These are all movies I distinctly remember seeing with my parents and my brother. Once I hit high school I would go back a rent movies I missed for whatever reason. Me and my friends would pick up a handful of movies from Blockbuster and watch them all night and then go back the next night and get another handful. This is how I finally saw flicks like Good Will Hunting, Dead Poets Society, The Fisher King, The Birdcage, Good Morning Vietnam, and Awakenings. I had no idea of how vast Robin Williams’ range was as an actor. He was very funny, but he could also tap into a deep emotional place and give these heavy, visceral performances. No other comedian can even come close to how brilliant he was as an actor.

 

Around the time I graduated High School I remember Robin had a trio of films that came out one after the other that, I felt, were all some great examples of his ability to evolve as an actor; Insomnia, Death to Smoochy, and One Hour Photo. The last film in that list is a real dark exploration of the psyche of a man who is dangerously obsessed with a family he develops photos for at the department store he works at. If you’ve never seen it, I HIGHLY RECOMMEND that you track it down and watch it.

 

Also around this time, I began to get into Robin’s Stand-up comedy. He’d just debuted his new Live on Broadway special and I was OBSESSED with it. My then girlfriend, now wife, and I watched the DVD so many times together. I even bought the CD so I could listen to in my car. This made me want to go back and caught up on his classic stand-up work. Being such a huge fan of stand-up it seemed a crime that I wasn’t familiar with his classic stuff. If you’re interested in doing the same, I recommend his A Night at the Met special. It’s just an amazing example of how much energy and hilarity he brought to the stage.

 

After our oldest son was born, the very first movie my wife and I saw in theaters was License to Wed. Not one of his classics or anything, but a funny movie nonetheless. Just recently we watched The Butler and were surprised to see Robin portraying Dwight D. Eisenhower. We had no idea he was in the film, but very much enjoyed his depiction of the former U.S. President.

My point with all of this is to show you that I grew up with Robin Williams. Since from the first time I can remember caring about film and TV entertainment, Robin has been there. I had to whittle down to the examples I gave you because there are so many more stories that come to mind for me. But now, he’s not here. I’ll keep growing up, but Robin won’t be here. It’s just a strange, sad feeling. I know that I have his arsenal of work from the past to enjoy but that doesn’t make me feel better. The only thing that sort of helps is knowing that I can share it all with my kids. I can watch Aladdin, and Hook, and Jumanji (they LOVE Jumanji) with them and Robin will still be bringing them the same joy and exciting wonder he brought me. But gosh, it just hurts so bad. Right now, I can’t help but feel like I’m always going to miss him this much. I think the fact that suicide was the cause of death is a part of what makes this so difficult. Depression is a hell of a thing. If you’re struggling and feeling overwhelmed, reach out to someone for help. We’re losing too many good people as it is. I’d like to recommend this article, that I think addresses the issues of depression and suicide better than I ever could.

Robin. We love you so much man. Wherever you’re at, whatever you’re doing right now, if these words somehow fight their way through the noise and the illusion of time, please know that you made my life better by just being who you were. You helped me believe that being a grown up doesn’t have to be boring and joyless. I could never thank you enough for that.

“Comedy is acting out optimism.” – Robin Williams, 1951 – 2014

“In The Beginning…” – The Origin of 4 Letter Nerd

A long long time ago, on a Facebook thread hidden deep in the interwebs,  there was a little boy named Bill who wished upon a dying star that he could somehow work in the nerd community. And like the shadow of Xerxes’ arrows, 3 old guys and a tech genius descended upon him within minutes and began what is now known as Four Letter Nerd. That is where our journey began a year ago, and we’d like to invite you to read the thread itself for all it’s glory. Enjoy.

 

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As you can see by the main image at the top of this article, we’re throwing ourselves a Birthday party! We’re calling it 4LN’s BirthdayCon, and we want you all to come! Come party with us at our favorite comic shop, Comic Collector Live: the Store! Get more info by going here: on.fb.me/1ANqbfM

 

Comic Book Review: New Suicide Squad #1

Book: New Suicide Squad #1
Writer: Sean Ryan
Artist: Jeremy Roberts
Colorist: Blond

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Summary from comixology: “New members Joker’s Daughter, Deathstroke, and Black Manta join Harley Quinn and Deadshot for a mission in the most dangerous and unpredictable place in the world: Vladimir Putin’s Russia.”

Overview: Ok, seriously, what’s not to love about that summary? Deathstroke? Check. Harley Quinn? Check. Russia? Check. This book was a really solid number one, and might actually be one of my favorite #1’s in a while. I personally really love the characters Black Manta and Deathstroke so I knew I would love this book. And Harley Quinn has really turned into a popular character since she got her own book. I feel that she can become DC’s version of Deadpool.

The Good: This issue was seriously a lot of fun. I’m not sure how else to describe this book rather than fun. I feel like this is going to be a great book IF people don’t take it to seriously. If DC can keep this book light, goofy, and fun, it could have a lot of potential. I think the interactions between Harley and Joker’s Daughter could cause some fun situations and if Deadshot and Deathstroke end up having some sarcastic dialogue back and forth it could add a lot to the book. I also really liked Jeremy Roberts’ artwork. He wasn’t trying to be overly impressive, but his art really fit the book. I absolutely loved Deathstoke putting a gun in Harley’s mouth and later in the book Harley hits a grenade with a baseball bat. HOW CAN YOU NOT LOVE THAT?

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The Bad: I’m going to be a fanboy and say the only bad thing that I found was the lack of Deathstroke. Sure, he’s in a majority of the book, but I would love if he was on every page, but that might just be me. I’m not sure if I like having Joker’s Daughter in the book, but it’s too early to tell for sure. There honestly wasn’t much to not like about this book.

The Final Say: You really need to go buy this book. I give this a great score of 4 out of 4. This book has so much potentially to be a villains chaotic Justice League. You should really go read this book right now, and its only $2.99! Go pick it up before it sells out and let us know what you think about it in the comments section below.

Brian Gaar: The World Warrior

I’m a long time stand-up comedy fan. I remember the very first time I ever heard stand-up was when I was 6 years old. I was with my parents at this yard sale in our neighborhood and I found a cassette of Bill Cosby’s “Himself”. I bought it for 25 cents and it changed my entire life. (Well, it changed as much of my life as one can realistically have built after only 6 years on this god-forsaken earth. Sorry. That got unnecessarily bleak.)

As I got older, I consumed everything I could. I listened to every stand-up album I could get my hands on, and watched every comedy special I could. I watched every comedian that was on Letterman, Conan, and Leno. I watched every “Comedy Central Presents”. I would watch BET’s ComicView almost religiously. I wanted to see and hear everything.

As an adult, having a connection to stand-up has been so much easier. Especially with Twitter around. I’d say that about 50% of the people I follow on Twitter are comedians. It’s an excellent tool for helping them stay connected with their fan-base, and allows them more opportunities to engage people. This is where I found Brian Gaar. Someone had retweeted one of his jokes and I immediately started following him.

 

His jokes about video games and superheros struck a nerve with me, mostly because… I like playing video games and reading comics (you’re surprised, I’m sure). But, I think one of the main reasons his jokes about that stuff resonate with me so much, is because there aren’t a lot (hardly any really) comedians doing jokes about the X-Men and playing Double Dragon for 4 hours.

 

Brian recently released his first comedy album, titled, “Never Gonna Be Famous”. There’s got to be something liberating about titling your album that. It’s like a declaration of “what do I have to lose?”. You’re basically giving yourself the freedom to say WHATEVER THE FUCK YOU WANT (and believe me, he does). But, it’s also a kind of ironic title as well. As of the time I’m writing this, Brian has the #2 comedy album on iTunes (a week makes a HUGE difference on those charts). That’s pretty fucking cool if you ask me. I’d say that there’s a chance you at least have a minor amount of fame to have achieved that.

 

I’ve listened to the album over a half dozen times already. I can’t stop listening to it once I’ve started. I can’t just listen to one joke, I have to keep going. Basically what I’m saying is this album is like cheap meth and it will absolutely ruin your life, but you’ll be trapped in a euphoric world of superheroes, cop-sanctioned house parties, and Street Fighter. So, it’s totally worth the loss of teeth and loving-human-relationships. Brian was cool enough to let me interview him without judging my Chris-Farley-Show-like-awkwardness. In typical 4LN fashion, it gets kind of nerdy. (Also, yes the title of the article is a reference to Street Fighter II. I considered calling it “Brian Gaar: The Animated Movie”, but I didn’t want to commit Brian to something he couldn’t deliver on…)

 

4LN – How long have you been doing stand-up?

Brian – I’ve been doing stand-up seriously for almost six years. Before that, I’d done comedy sporadically opening for friends’ bands in various small Texas towns. And those crowds were as open-minded and tolerant as you’d expect.

4LN – Can you pinpoint the time, or moment, when you decided to more seriously pursue stand-up?

Brian – Yes. I was coming off a video game bender that had lasted approximately two years. One day, I put down the controller, rubbed my eyes and thought, “That was awesome. I think I’ll try stand-up now.” Then I picked the controller back up and played for another two years. But eventually, at the tender age of 32, I went to my first open mic and gave it a shot. And here we are. Emailing each other when I should be working.

4LN – Who are some of your comedy influences?

Brian – Comedy-wise, David Letterman, David Cross, Jon Stewart, Bill Hicks, Jeff Foxworthy and Chris Elliott. And of course, the hit TV show Friends. Especially the one where Chandler got caught doing auto-erotic asphyxiation and everyone laughed (except for Chandler, who died and then came back in the next episode because it’s TV).

4LN – Do you think that having a talent for stand-up and being a nerd correlate for you, or do you think someones nerdiness serves their talent more?

Brian – I don’t know. I’ve never thought of myself as nerdy, I just like the things I like. Have I ever “had sex with a woman?” No. But I recently got a free download code for Mario Kart 8, so who needs love? Am I right, dudes reading this with porn open on eight other windows?

4LN – You’ve just released your first album, “Never Gonna Be Famous”, and listening to it at work got me reprimanded for laughing and “being disruptive”. Where are some other public places you’d recommend people listen to your album?

Brian – Ideally, after dinner surrounded by your family. My Elmo/911 bit is something to be enjoyed by children and racist grandparents alike. In fact, that’s my target demographic. Especially old people who think that things are so much worse now, even though they lived through institutionalized racism and homophobia, but they’re all “Waa waaa, everything sucks now because I’m about to die.” God, I hate old people.

 

4LN – I’d like to toss you some “lightening round” questions now… Best Street Fighter game?

Brian – Street Fighter II, the original one. Because that’s the one they had at Aladdin’s Castle at the mall in Wichita Falls, Texas, where I sadly grew up. One birthday, I asked my mom to drop me off there for the day. And she did, after giving me $10. Which was a lot of money back then. And at the end of the day, I was pretty good with Blanka.

4LN – What graphic novel or comic should everyone be required to read?

Brian – For me, it doesn’t get better than Chris Claremont’s run on Uncanny X-Men. Also, Infinity Gauntlet.

4LN – Most underrated video game?

Brian – Solomon’s Key. It was hard and the main character was a dude named “Dana,” which was illegal in Texas in the 80s. Also honorable mention for most horrible game is Hydlide for the NES. Which was a gigantic piece of shit and I’m still mad about that $50 wasted

4LN – I hear you’re a big wrestling fan. What’s the greatest injustice in the history of wrestling?

Brian – I’d say the Montreal Screwjob, but I read Bret Hart’s autobiography and by the end, I was ready to strip him of the belt, too. So much crying.

4LN – Best Nic Cage movie?

Brian – Raising Arizona. Also, all of them.

4LN – Pick one historical figure to battle one comic book character… who’s in your match-up?

Brian – George W. Bush vs. The Comedian from Watchmen.

4LN – Can you write us a brief obituary for any video game character of your choice?

Brian – RIP E. Honda. Once everyone figured out how to counter the Hundred Hand Slap, you were just a fat dude in a diaper.

4LN – Last thing, when I told the other guys that I was doing this interview with you one of them, a dude named Bill Clark, wasn’t as excited as the rest of us because you make fun of Aquaman, and he loves Aquaman (It’s an unhealthy obsession really). He even wrote an article for us about how Aquaman is better than Namor. Bill is a borderline basement-dwelling-neckbeard. Anyway, as kind of a “fuck you” to Bill, could you elaborate a little more on why Aquaman is terrible?

Brian – Look, Aquaman IS terrible. He lives in the ocean and talks to fish. What are they talking about? “Hey, I found some food yesterday, turns out I’m an idiot and got a hook in my mouth because I have a fish brain.” The only way Aquaman would be cool is if he lived in a fish bowl and the rest of the Justice League had to feed him periodically.

 

I highly recommend you follow Brian on Twitter, and check out his website, www.briangaar.com, for more videos and links to buy his new album on iTunes and Amazon!

 

– UPDATE – 02.06.15 –

Yesterday Brian released his first ever 1 hour special on Vimeo. It’s titled, “Jokes I Wrote At Work”, and you can download it for the low price of $4.99 just by following that link. Trust me, it’s 100% worth it.

Brian Gaar – Jokes I Wrote at Work – Trailer from Type55 Films on Vimeo.