The Undeniable Appeal of Donald Trump – Part III

To paraphrase my man Michael Bublé, it’s a new dawn, a new day, and I’m feeling…not as great as the folks who seemed to have a collective orgasm when Joe Biden took the oath of office a couple of weeks ago. On his first day in the White House Biden killed thousands of jobs, choosing the cult of environmentalism over the employment of blue collar American workers…an inauspicious beginning to be sure.

At any rate, before standing by & helplessly watching that dumpster fire for the next few years it’s time to close the book on President Donald Trump, thus completing a trilogy that began nearly five & a half years ago when I dismissed the idea that Trump would even receive the Republican nomination and continued a year later with a mea culpa in which I explained my reason(s) for preferring him over Hillary Clinton. So let’s take a look at where we stand now in the wake of what has been a fascinating four years. You may agree or disagree with my assessment & that’s okay. I’m just trying to be forthright & straightforward as we take a look at…

 

 

 

from the home office in Palm Beach, FL…

 

 

 

The Superfluous 7 Honest Conclusions About Donald Trump

 

7 He is neither the best nor the worst President in American history.

To be fair I think it is far too soon to properly judge the Trump presidency, especially when passions are still inflamed on both sides. But I’d say the same thing no matter who it was. When George W. Bush left office I opined that eventually history would be much kinder to him than people had been in the moment, and I was right. The media & even some Hollywood types seem to think W. is just dandy now, when fifteen years ago they despised him. A decade from now when wounds have healed and historians look back on the past four years thru the prism of what Trump accomplished in the face of unprecedented hatred I believe many will admit what they refuse to right now: despite his many flaws & personal errors in judgment he led a robust economy and would’ve almost certainly gotten a second term if not for some extraordinary conditions. Conversely, I will not join fellow conservatives in calling Donald Trump the best President ever. Let’s step away from the carving tools and not put his head on Mount Rushmore just yet. I don’t think any one term President (even considering the unusual circumstances) deserves those kind of kudos.

 

6 He did not incite an insurrection on the U.S. Capitol.

Okay, okay, okay…I know I’m treading on dangerous ground here. First, allow me to reiterate…I’ve already stated that the DC rally/protest in the waning days of the Trump presidency that led to so much chaos & heartbreak was a terrible idea. The event never should’ve happened. It was a fruitless endeavor that wasn’t going to change the outcome of the election, and gathering 100k pissed off people in one place will rarely end well. Having said that, I’ve read President Trump’s speech from that day (I didn’t watch as it was occurring), and nothing he said can be interpreted as “Hey y’all, why don’t you go over to The Capitol & open up a can of whoopass…break stuff & scare the hell out of people.” Donald Trump had held numerous rallies when running for President & even while in office, and though one might call such events self-serving or arrogant, to my knowledge none were ever violent. Ask yourself this…if law enforcement, FBI, Secret Service, et al thought there might be cause for concern why weren’t they more prepared?? I do not believe for one second that Trump thought what happened would happen. At worst I think he saw it as one last opportunity for a huge crowd to heap adoration upon him. Misguided?? Absolutely. Out of touch?? Probably. Sedition?? I really don’t think so.

 

5 He probably shouldn’t have run for a second term.

Imagine this: Donald Trump decides that one term is enough. He knows the hatred for him in certain circles is so deep that his opponents will do almost anything to screw him. He’s a billionaire who doesn’t need the hassle. He steps aside and let’s Pence, Cruz, and whoever else duke it out to be his successor. The nominee can run on Trump policies & accomplishments but will almost certainly be a more palatable candidate, so leftists let their guard down just a bit. Meanwhile, much like the Clintons & Obamas, President Trump is still a power broker in his party. He’s a kingmaker with tremendous influence. In all likelihood his candidate wins, and the Trump legacy thrives. If only, right??

 

4 He did some great things during his one term in office.

We have to get past the cult of personality. I know so many allegedly intelligent people who absolutely detest Donald Trump simply because “Orange Man bad!!”. He’s not a smooth talker like Clinton or Obama. He isn’t soft spoken & allegedly “kind” like Biden or Jimmy Carter. He’s egotistical, not a great public speaker, sort of misogynistic, and a bit of an ass. No one is disputing any of that. It’s just a matter of how much it really matters. I get it…we’d all prefer the perfect President, but life isn’t a TV show or movie. Jed Bartlett (The West Wing), Andrew Shepherd (The American President), Thomas Whitmore (Independence Day), Tim Beck (Deep Impact)…none of those guys are walking thru the door because they are fictional. In real life our politicians are quite flawed, so perhaps we should focus on what they do versus what they say. In the case of President Trump there was 3.5% unemployment before COVID, increased peace in Middle East, two new SCOTUS judges that shifted The Court slightly to the right, increased energy independence, less cumbersome regulation on small businesses, lower taxes, and renegotiated trade agreements more favorable to us. Donald Trump is not a globalist…he always put America first, and we haven’t had a President that did that since Ronald Reagan.

 

3 COVID-19 & #BLM did tremendous damage to his Presidency.

What would a world that never endured the race riots of 2020 or a global pandemic look like?? Aside from the obvious I am pretty sure you’d still be calling Donald Trump “Mr. President”. It’s no surprise that people tired of the chaos that defined 2020. Everyone just wants a bit of tranquility & order back in our lives, and whether you put the blame for everything that has happened in recent years squarely on the shoulders of Trump or actually have critical thinking skills the result is still the same…a perception that something needs to change, and the ballot box affords Americans the opportunity to do that. Could Trump have managed the COVID crisis better?? Perhaps, although it’s pretty easy to play armchair quarterback. Let’s be honest…we’ve all been flying by the seat of our pants with this thing. There is no rule book for something we’ve never faced before, and criticizing after the fact is lazy, although that’s exactly what every talking head on television, radio, & The Internet gets paid to do. Is it fair that Trump took much of the blame for the race riots?? Even if you agree that he is a racist (a spurious accusation at best) I’m not sure how one can pin the death of George Floyd & others on Donald Trump, and those events are what gave rise to the #BLM movement. Either way,  what matters is that both the racial unrest & the pandemic absolutely weakened an otherwise strong term in office for POTUS.

 

2 He was right about The Swamp all along, and that became crystal clear during his final weeks in office.

I’ve been a pro wrestling fan almost my entire life, and there are good guys (faces) & bad guys (heels). One of the most entertaining things in wrestling is a heel turn, especially when someone turns on their tag team partner. That’s exactly what happened in the final few weeks of Trump’s presidency, and I’m not sure why anyone was surprised. After four years of relentlessly going after Trump the media finally painted him into a corner and he became toxic. Politicians don’t stick around in DC or anywhere else for multiple decades by showing loyalty. They have perfected the art of self-preservation and will stab anyone in the back if it means helping themselves. That became clear when they concurrently passed spending bills that sent billions of dollars to foreign entities while barely agreeing to help American citizens with a $600 stimulus check. I’m not familiar with the ins & outs of money laundering, but it is my understanding that much of those foreign aid dollars somehow end up back in the bank accounts of our “leaders” in Washington. That’s nothing new…it’s been happening for decades. It’s a huge reason Donald Trump got elected in the first place…American citizens are fed up, and along comes this guy who isn’t part of it and doesn’t hesitate to call The Swamp out on their BS. That one thing was so huge that half the country was willing to take a deep breath, hold their nose, & vote for an otherwise objectionable candidate. Anyway, the passage of those bills made it quite evident that it doesn’t matter if they are Democrats or Republicans…they’re all crooked weasels who do NOT give a rat’s ass about you & me despite all of their flowery speeches. They are greedy & power hungry. Most of them refused to even acknowledge the possibility of election fraud, and absolutely would not take steps to insure the legitimacy of the results. Nearly all of Trump’s alleged allies turned on him, impeaching him for an unprecedented second time. The Swamp is terrified that he could run again in 2024 & win, although he’d be 78 years old by then and I don’t believe he’d do it, but they’re going to make damn sure of it. Not only that, but the few elected officials who stood with Trump until the bitter end will probably suffer consequences. That’s how The Swamp operates. They are about a half step above the freakin’ Mafia.

 

1 There was rampant election fraud in 2020.

The more the media tells me something is false the more I become convinced it is true (and vice versa). Whether COVID-19 was a convenient crisis Democrats took advantage of or its origins are much more sinister, the fact is it altered how, where, & when many citizens voted. There are just too many stories about people finding out their dead relative or even their dog voted. There were too many instances of states being flipped by the sudden emergence of thousands of votes in the middle of the night after the election. Too many oddities & irregularities to overlook, like alleged racist Trump actually receiving more of the black vote than he did four years ago but somehow losing. That is unheard of. Like the news media that has eliminated all pretense of fairness & impartiality the Democrat Party barely tried to cover their tracks in stealing the White House. They pretty much openly did it then mockingly said “Ha!! Prove it!!”. With the Deep State, mainstream media, power brokers in business & entertainment, and Big Tech giants who are more iniquitous than we could have ever imagined all in lockstep it became quite effortless. If it wasn’t so damn wicked I’d actually applaud the resourcefulness of it all. Unfortunately I have to live with the results and what’s going to happen the next four years. Let’s just say I’m not anticipating anything good.

What Is Understood Need Not Be Discussed

“Music, when soft voices die, vibrates in the memory.” ―Percy Bysshe Shelley

 

 

I’m not a listener of Howard Stern’s radio show, but I do follow him on Instagram and have seen bits & pieces of his recent interview with Wolfgang Van Halen. Following that interview young Wolfgang released a poignant video tribute to his father, and that is the kick in the pants I needed to proceed with my own eulogy, something that has been on my mind for weeks, but y’all know how I get. I really thought I’d be much more prolific in the midst of a global pandemic, but instead I’ve gone in the opposite direction, not reading or writing nearly as much as I should have the past several months.  

 

At any rate… We lost Eddie Van Halen several weeks ago, and as I have done in the past with Whitney Houston, Robin Williams, & Glenn Frey I feel it necessary to do a bit more than just note his passing in the RIP portion of The Sammy Awards. Hero worship isn’t my cup o’ tea for many reasons, not the least of which is the fact that so many creative geniuses…actors, writers, musicians…are flawed human beings just like any other person. However, as I’ve grown older I’ve learned to have mercy and overlook such things, choosing instead to focus on the talent and an individual’s contribution to the world. The cool thing about these folks is that they leave a legacy the rest of us can enjoy forever. We read books written by people that died centuries ago. There are movies & TV shows whose entire cast has been gone for decades, yet we still watch. Music may go in & out of style, constantly evolving thru the years…but for most of us, once we become fans of a particular band, performer, or genre, we are fans for life. Personally, though I am openminded and occasionally hear new stuff that I enjoy, when I settle in with my ear buds & Amazon Music app (as if Bezos needs a free plug) I almost always end up chillin’ out with tunes I’ve listened to countless times over many years…and I’m okay with that.  

 

I don’t remember exactly when I became a Van Halen fan, but it was probably when I was about 12 years old and their mega hit album 1984 hit the shelves of my local record store. MTV was still fresh & fun and actually aired music videos, and everyone remembers David Lee Roth doing air splits in spandex pants. Jump was and always will be Van Halen’s signature song, but they were so much more than that. They were bigger than Roth, who thought he was good enough to go solo not all that long after the success of 1984. He was wrong, because he didn’t understand what all of us eventually came to realize…the core of Van Halen was Eddie himself. To be honest I enjoyed the second incarnation of Van Halen even better because Sammy Hagar is a much more talented vocalist than Roth. I hate the fact that Eddie & Sammy had a falling out, but I appreciate the fact that they made peace months before Eddie’s death. Still, it pains me to think of the two+ decades of fantastic music we missed out on.  

 

I was blessed to see Van Halen on their Balance tour shortly after I graduated college. I’ve heard many of my contemporaries jokingly say that they’re glad social media wasn’t around back then to capture some of our more unsavory exploits, and I understand the sentiment. However, I wish I had more photos & videos of such fun times. The magic of The Internet allows me to know that Van Halen played at The Charleston (WV) Civic Center on Sunday April 23, 1995 (the same day Howard Cosell died). They opened with The Seventh Seal (which is the fifth best song from the Balance album at best), closed with Right Now, and played a two song encore of Don’t Tell Me What Love Can Do and Panama. They didn’t even perform Jump. It’s hard to believe that night was more than 25 years ago, and I would love to have pics & videos of it, but sadly it lives on only in my memory. I may not have gotten to see Van Halen at their peak, but I’m so thankful I got to see them in concert. History tells us that the band would break up shortly thereafter. Van Halen brought in Gary Cherone to sing on one album, but it just didn’t work out. Cherone is a fine performer, and I don’t hate Van Halen III, but Hagar’s departure and the years that followed were all products of Eddie’s “demons”. Van Halen reunited with Roth, then with Hagar, then with Roth again, but most fans acknowledge that, for all intents & purposes, Balance was pretty much the end of the road. The band never produced anything noteworthy afterward, although what they gave us in those first two decades is more than enough, and thank God for that.  

 

In keeping with the general premise of Superfluous 7 I have decided to offer up…in no particular order…my favorite Van Halen songs. But since the band’s legendary career is almost always thought of in two distinct eras I have decided to present seven Roth tunes and seven Hagar tunes. What they all have in common is Eddie…in my opinion the best rock guitarist of all time. Just click on the song & listen to…..        

 

 

from the home office in Amsterdam, Netherlands…..

 

 

The (Supersized) Superfluous 7 Favorite Van Halen Songs:

 

 

Roth Era

Jump

Panama

Ain’t Talkin’ ‘Bout Love

I’ll Wait

Dance the Night Away

Unchained

You Really Got Me

 

Hagar Era

Best of Both Worlds

Dreams

5150

When It’s Love

Not Enough

Take Me Back (Deja Vu)

Why Can’t This Be Love

 

Superfluous 7: Worst Halloween Candies

Happy Halloween Manoverse!! My trick-or-treating days are way way way in the rear view mirror, and since I have no children of my own and no crumb crunchers will be visiting the ol’ Bachelor Palace I’ll be spending the evening with Boris Karloff, Abbott & Costello, and Washington Irving. However, y’all know that I have an active sweet tooth and never pass up an opportunity to discuss junk food. Candy Corn seems to receive a lot of unnecessary wrath this time of year, and I recently remarked to a friend of mine that I could easily name a dozen sweet treats which I find much more revolting. That set the wheels in motion, and the result is what follows. So sit back, relax, and prepare to edit your shopping list for tomorrow’s discount candy binge, as I present…..

 

 

 

 

from the home office in Hershey, PA…..

 

 

 

 

 

The Superfluous 7 Worst Halloween Candies:

 

 

 

7          Whoppers

Whoppers come in at #7 because they do actually contain chocolate, which is a good thing. However, it’s what is underneath those little chocolate balls that I can’t get past. Malted milk?? What in the world is malted milk?? Well…apparently it is “a powdered gruel made from a mixture of malted barley, wheat flour, and evaporated whole milk” originally developed as “an improved, wheat- and malt-based nutritional supplement for infants”. So basically Whoppers are chocolate covered oatmeal. No thanks.

 

 

 

6          Tootsie Rolls

I’ve always been confused by Tootsie Rolls. Is it caramel?? Is it chocolate?? I guess it’s chocolate caramel?? I don’t know. The candy’s creator named it after his daughter, whose nickname was Tootsie. That’s nice, but I still can’t get into it. Given a choice I’d pick candy corn every time.

 

 

 

5          Bubble Gum

I am a big fan of chewing gum, but I cannot stand the taste of bubble gum. That’s probably why I never learned to blow bubbles. Also, if you’re going to turn on your porch light and welcome the neighborhood youngsters at the door let’s not be cheap. Handing out bubble gum is about a half step above those evildoers who kept giving Charlie Brown rocks.

 

 

 

4          Heath Bars & Skor

Much like Tootsie Rolls I am a bit flummoxed by these two, and just like Whoppers yummy chocolate on the outside masks the insidious wickedness hiding beneath the surface. What is underneath that chocolate is toffee, a concoction “made by caramelizing sugar or molasses (creating inverted sugar) along with butter, and occasionally flour. The mixture is heated until its temperature reaches the hard crack stage of 149 to 154 °C (300 to 310 °F)”. It’s that hard crack stage that I want to focus on. I bet if we did some market research we’d find out that Halloween distribution of Heath Bars and Skor is part of a sinister plot from Big Dental. I realize that eating enough sugary snacks will increase the bottom line for dentists everywhere over the course of time, but hey, why not hasten the process and force the rugrats to come in for a visit to get that cracked tooth repaired, right??

 

 

 

3          Licorice

Licorice seems to be an all or nothing proposition. Either you love it or hate it. Whether it’s Twizzlers, Red Vines, or any other brand, I fall into the latter category. Once again, I’ll take candy corn every single time.

 

 

 

2          Gummy & Chewy Candy

You know what I’m talking about. There are a hundred different brands out there. Jujubes. Sour Patch Kids. Dots. Mike & Ike. AirHeads. Swedish Fish. They tend to be fruit flavored and have a weird, gelatinous, jelly-esque consistency, which I find rather gross. The only place I ever see them prominently displayed is at the movie theater concession stand. I suppose there are some folks that buy them, but I’m not sure I could be friends with or ever truly trust such individuals.

 

 

 

1          Hard & Sour Candy

Here we have a two sides of the same coin situation, with the common thread being there isn’t a speck of chocolate anywhere in sight. This is a movie theater’s version of counter-programming. Y’all know how at Christmastime, while other TV channels are airing non-stop Christmas movies, there is always one station that does a John Wayne marathon?? While most of polite & intelligent society is spending their candy money on a wide variety of chocolate bars, there are a handful of savages who go in the opposite direction and choose to consume stuff like Good & Plenty, Warheads, Nerds, Skittles, Lemonheads, SweeTarts, Smarties, & Runts. Those people aren’t normal, and I bet they’re the ones who commit most of the violent crimes in our country.

Superfluous 7: Favorite Halloween Movies & TV Shows

It’s a psychological fact that some people enjoy…to a degree…fear. I’m not a scientist and won’t bore you with a bunch of jargon, but there are a couple of reasons for this phenomenon. First, fear triggers the pleasurable release of dopamine, the same thing that happens in our brain during sex. As one article I ran across put it…”Dopamine is love. Dopamine is lust. Dopamine is motivation. Dopamine is attention. Dopamine is addiction.” So adrenaline junkies, drug abusers, folks with a bit of a gambling problem, & nymphomaniacs all have a similar brain chemistry as those who are really into horror movies. I am sure that is an epic oversimplification, but it’s the best I can do. Secondly, there is something called “excitation transfer”, which essentially means that after one gets really scared they calm down, but it’s not just the average everyday calm. When the heart rate levels out, breathing normalizes, & muscles relax one feels an intense sense of relief that is exceedingly positive & enjoyable, and that pleasant feeling is what is remembered about the experience in the long run.

I tell you all of that as a preamble to saying that I am not one of those people. I don’t enjoy being scared. I don’t like horror movies. I couldn’t possibly care less about haunted houses. However, I am rather intrigued with Halloween. I’m a bit of a history buff and have developed somewhat of a fascination with cultural anthropology, folklore, & mythology. I might have explored career options in that general direction if I’d known such pathways existed as a kid. Halloween has a quirky, fun vibe and a peculiar backstory & evolution. I completely understand that many of my fellow Christians choose not to celebrate Halloween, and I respect those opinions. However, there are frivolous elements of the occasion that I rather enjoy. As much as I appreciate a big ol’ bag of candy I am a little too old to go out trick or treating, so instead I’ll keep the lights low in The Bachelor Palace, snuggle with Rocco, and delight in some fantastic Halloween themed entertainment. I’m a bookworm and cannot recommend highly enough Washington Irving’s 1820 short story The Legend of Sleepy Hollow. Yes, I know there have been countless film & television adaptations, but trust me…read it. Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s Sherlock Holmes novella The Hound of the Baskervilles could qualify as Halloween-ish, as could any number of stories written by the late great Ray Bradbury. Tastes vary, but there are worse ways to spend Halloween than curled up with a good book. However, this being the 21st century, many are predisposed to grab the remote and watch a movie or TV show. So sit back, relax, maybe drink a glass of cider & snack on some candy corn as I present…..

 

 

 

from the home office in Anoka, MN…..

 

 

 

The Superfluous 7 Favorite Halloween Movies & TV Shows:

 

 

 

 

7       Beetlejuice and Young Frankenstein

We begin with a tie!!

I was a little late in joining the Beetlejuice bandwagon, having first watched it several years after its 1988 release. However I have always been a fan of Michael Keaton’s work, and this is one of his most iconic roles. He stars as a long dead “freelance bio-exorcist” who is enlisted by a newly dead couple to scare a living family away from their house. Alec Baldwin, Geena Davis, & Winona Ryder are in the cast as well, and the film is directed by Tim Burton with music by Danny Elfman…a most impressive crew indeed. It’s an odd amalgamation of comedy & horror that really works. A sequel has been rumored for awhile, but to my knowledge it’s all talk right now.

Did you know that a Halloween comedy inspired Aerosmith’s hit song Walk This Way?? Mel Brooks’ Young Frankenstein hit theaters in 1974 and is now regarded as a comedy masterpiece. It is a spoof of classic horror films, focusing on the grandson of Dr. Victor Frankenstein…an American named Frederick Frankenstein (which he hilariously pronounces “Fronk-en-steen”) who disavows his crazy family legacy until he inherits the estate in Transylvania. Once Frederick moves into the castle hilarity ensues as he decides to duplicate his grandfather’s infamous experiment. The terrific cast includes Gene Wilder, Teri Garr, Marty Feldman, Peter Boyle, Madeline Kahn, & Cloris Leachman. Gene Hackman makes a brief but hysterical cameo. If, like me, you enjoy a well-written parody you can’t go wrong with Young Frankenstein at Halloween.

 

 

6       Hotel Transylvania

Adam Sandler has had a bad run, starring in mostly putrid affronts to good taste for most of the past 15 years. A rare exception is this animated 2012 offering in which Sandler voices Dracula as he tries (and fails) to keep his daughter away from humanity while hosting her 118th birthday party with many of his famous monster friends in attendance. Selena Gomez is even more beautiful animated than she is in real life (or maybe I’m just really lonely), and a bunch of Sandler’s buddies…Andy Samberg, Kevin James, Steve Buscemi, David Spade, Molly Shannon, Jon Lovitz, et al…add their voices to the fun. A sequel was released in 2015, and a third film is coming in 2018.

 

 

5       Halloween Documentaries on History

Nerd alert…I have decided to include an ode to the documentary. The History Channel may have gone in the crapper the past few years (Life After People?? Really??), but once upon a time it actually focused on…duh…history, and occasionally still does (even a broken clock is right twice a day). The original Haunted History of Halloween was first broadcast in 1997 and traces Halloween all the way back to its origins with the Celtic tribes of Medieval Ireland thru an American renaissance of the holiday in the 1950’s and the rise of horror films in the 1980’s. Whether you are determined to view Halloween as a pagan celebration of darkness & death or choose to look at it thru the eyes of innocent children dressing in fun costumes and asking for candy, every angle is presented, all narrated by the mellifluous cadence of newsman Harry Smith. In 2010 History produced an update called The Real History of Halloween, which covers a lot of the same territory, albeit with a more ominous tone and without Smith’s dulcet inflection, as he is replaced by the guy who seems to narrate everything on History (name unknown). Both documentaries are worth your time. Learning really is fun kids…I promise.

 

 

4       Frankenstein & Dracula

Bram Stoker published Dracula in 1897, while Mary Shelley (wife of poet Percy Shelley) wrote Frankenstein way back in 1818. Both are great novels that have frequently been adapted for the stage & screen. Most movie versions don’t hardly resemble the books at all, but that’s a discussion for another day. Universal Studios produced a collection of horror films in the 1930’s & 40’s with Dracula and Frankenstein featured prominently in many of them, and it all started in 1931 with Dracula starring Bela Lugosi and Frankenstein starring Boris Karloff. Lugosi’s performance as Count Dracula and Karloff’s interpretation of The Monster both set a standard for our pre-conceived notions of those characters. Neither film is all that scary thru the prism of what modern slasher flicks have become, and that’s just fine with me. There are several other creature features in the Universal canon of that particular era, including The Wolf Man, Bride of Frankenstein, The Mummy, & The Invisible Man, that are worth watching if you are so inclined. However, I suggest starting with these two.

 

 

3       Abbott & Costello Meet Frankenstein

I grew up in the 1970’s & 80’s, and comedy team Abbott & Costello had their heyday in the 40’s & 50’s, so I’m not sure how I became a fan. Though it may be counterintuitive, it seems like their movies (along with classic stuff from The Three Stooges, Ma & Pa Kettle, The Marx Brothers, and Laurel & Hardy) were on TV with some frequency during my childhood long before there were hundreds of channels or streaming was invented. At any rate, at the height of their popularity Bud Abbott and Lou Costello teamed up with Universal to make a handful of films in which the humorous duo encounter classic monsters. This 1948 offering is the first & best, although later entries like Abbott and Costello Meet the Invisible Man, Abbott and Costello Meet Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, & Abbott and Costello Meet the Mummy are perfectly delightful as well. Contrary to the title the twosome meet more than just Frankenstein’s Monster…Dracula & The Wolf Man are around too. It’s a seamless blend of absurd fun & fear, which is exactly what I like.

 

 

2       Halloween

It really is the only horror movie I like. To be clear, I am speaking of the 1978 original. A bunch of sequels were made, and remake(s) came out just a few years ago, but really, other than 1981’s Halloween II, I don’t care about any of them. The original was written, directed, & produced by John Carpenter (who even composed the legendary theme song) with a $300k budget, which was super low even back then. However, the film made $70 million so everything worked out alright. Actually I think forced frugality did the film (and audience) a favor. Instead of graphic blood & guts Halloween is more suspenseful than scary, perfectly capturing the mood of the titular holiday. I have come to appreciate minimalism in relation to many aspects of life, and with movies I respect directors who show restraint, whether it is an artistic or economic choice. I can count on my hands the number of horror films I have bothered to watch in my four & a half decades on the planet…they’re just not my thing. Among those I have seen Halloween is the only one that I keep coming back to. It’s an annual tradition.

 

 

1       It’s The Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown!

Charles Schulz’s Peanuts comic strip began in the fall of 1950. Fifteen years later Coca-Cola sponsored the first of what would eventually be over fifty Peanuts animated television specials…A Charlie Brown Christmas. After the enormous success of the Christmas program plans were formulated for a different holiday show. The Great Pumpkin first aired on October 27, 1966 and has been warming the cockles of children of all ages ever since. It makes complete sense if you think about it…kids are all about Santa Claus, right?? So why wouldn’t a youngster like Linus Van Pelt desire another mythical gift giver on what is…for most children…the second coolest holiday on the calendar?? Of course we all know that the magic of Santa Claus isn’t possible without agreeable participation from parents, therefore the absence of such adults in the Peanuts universe dictates that the Great Pumpkin mythos is logically doomed. Schultz seemed to have somewhat of a jaded worldview, and it shows up throughout Peanuts. These are some cynical little crumb crunchers!! At any rate, everything about The Great Pumpkin is perfect, from Charlie Brown getting nothing but rocks in his trick or treat bag in what has to be the cruelest neighborhood in history, to Snoopy going all Walter Mitty and battling The Red Baron on a flying dog house, to the charmingly vibrant animation & groovy jazz soundtrack. I might be “middle-aged”, but I never hesitate to wave my inner child flag and bask in the glorious glow of nostalgia. The Great Pumpkin is quintessential Halloween, and for that I am thankful.

Superfluous 7: Worst Christmas Songs

caroling1I love Christmas. Everything except the cold & snow. I especially love Christmas carols. I have been disappointed this year because the local radio station that used to play Christmas songs 24/7 for most of December has apparently decided not to do so anymore. Bummer. The good thing is that, due to technology, I can pretty much listen to whatever Christmas songs I want whenever the mood strikes. Several years ago we did a little review of some of the best Christmas tunes out there, but let’s be honest…they aren’t all gems. Just like any other form of entertainment one must occasionally endure the bad while enjoying the good. I am fully aware that some may disagree with the opinions I express, and that’s fine. Fortunately this is caroling2a light enough topic that I think we can have some fun back & forth, so don’t hesitate to tell me if you actually like the songs I list here, and also what Christmas songs you don’t particularly enjoy. With that in mind, The Manofesto joyfully presents…..

 

 

 

from the home office in Humbug, AZ…..

 

 

 

 

The Superfluous 7 Worst Christmas Songs:

 

 

 

7       Little Drummer Boy

I’m probably going to get some grief for this one. Written in 1941 by an American composer & music teacher, the song tells the story of a young boy who goes to see the drumbaby Jesus. The kid is poor and has no gifts to offer except his talent for playing the drums. That’s cool. I get it. I understand the point behind the song…I just don’t care for it. I think it’s all that “rum pum pum pum” stuff. I need real lyrics. Despite the uplifting theme of the story the music is written in such a way that I find it to be kind of a downer. Your mileage may vary.

 

 

6       I Saw Mommy Kissing Santa Claus

Nothing says Christmas like catching your mother cheating on Dad with Santa Claus. Written in 1952, the song was recorded by a 13 year old boy and has been a staple kissingof the Christmas season ever since. I just don’t know why. Look, I’m a fun guy. I rather enjoy a good novelty song. I’m okay with the fact that not EVERY Christmas movie or song has to have ultra-religious connotations. And I realize that this tune is kind of a wink wink nod nod to the fact that (spoiler alert) the kid’s father IS Santa Claus. However, I still find it just a little bit creepy.

 

 

5       All I Want for Christmas is My Two Front Teeth

The kid that sings this should get together with Hermie the Elf from Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer. Hermie wanted to be a dentist and this kid wants his teethteeth…perfect symmetry. The guy that wrote the song in 1944 was a music teacher whose class full of second graders apparently had a lot of teeth missing. One just never knows when or how inspiration will strike. I suppose many people find the song to be cute & catchy. I just think it’s annoying.

 

 

4       Christmas Shoes

Oh boy…I’m going to catch it now. This is a tune that seems to strike a chord with really churchy types. Not necessarily genuine followers of Christ, but rather the folks shoesthat tend to make a pompous show of their religiosity. The song tells the story of a young boy in the checkout line at a retail store on Christmas Eve. He wants to buy shoes for his mother, who is apparently on her death bed, but he doesn’t have the money to pay for them. Fortunately the singer of the song is a good dude and he volunteers to pay for the shoes so the kid’s mother can die happy and in style. Oh. My. God. Just shoot me now. First of all, the singer couldn’t carry a tune in a pickup truck. Secondly, the little boy needs to read his Bible. Jesus doesn’t care if you’re wearing nice shoes when you arrive at The Pearly Gates. If Mom is dying shouldn’t the kid be home spending precious moments with her instead of schlepping around WalMart on Christmas Eve?? How did the kid get to the store?? Is Dad out in the car waiting for him, and if so who is home with the sick mother?!?!?!?? I know a lot of folks probably think this song is really sweet. Conversely, it makes me want to vomit.

 

 

3       Grandma Got Run Over By A Reindeer

It’s the Redneck Christmas Anthem!! I know, I know…it’s just silly fun. But really, is someone’s grandmother getting killed by Rudolph on Christmas Eve something to granrnovrhave a jolly good chuckle about?? Not only that, but Grandma was gooned on eggnog when she was trampled and on Christmas Day, while everyone else is in mourning, Grandpa is acting as if everything is just fine while he throws back a few cold brewskis. Now I realize that not everyone has the same awesome family experiences as I have been blessed to have, but the idea that someone’s grandparents are a couple of lushes doesn’t feel like an appropriate idea to laugh about. Look, I’m one of those people who thinks of Die Hard as a Christmas movie, so I’m not hellbent on everything associated with Christmas necessarily having to be warm & fuzzy, but this song…I just can’t.

 

 

2       Happy Christmas (War Is Over)

I’m just going to throw this out there – The Beatles are the most overrated band in the history of rock n’ roll. Yes, I said it. I went there. They certainly have some catchy christmaswar& memorable tunes, and there’s no denying that Lennon & McCartney were talented songwriters, but I’ve never really understood the hype. Perhaps I’m just a decade or two too young. At any rate, Lennon wrote this song in 1971, after he let his wife Yoko Ono break up the band, as a protest against the Vietnam War. While I am not really the hippie radical protest type I recognize anyone’s right to engage in such activities, and I understand the power of music in relaying a message. I just don’t believe that a Christmas song is an appropriate way to utilize the bully pulpit. A very Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year. Let’s hope it’s a good one without any fear. And so this is Christmas, for weak and for strong, for rich and the poor ones the world is so wrong. Wow, what uplifting lyrics!! Okay okay…I understand…this song is a product of its time, an era that preceded my birth. What I can’t wrap my head around is why it still gets so much play every December four decades later. It’s mind boggling.

 

 

1       Do They Know It’s Christmas?

Celebrity types seem to have an odd fetish for assisting Africa. It’s true that The Great Commission in The Bible instructs Christians to “go therefore and make disciples sadsantaof all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all things that I have commanded you”, but since the aforementioned celebrities rarely seem to example Christ most any other time you’ll have to forgive my skepticism when it comes to them throwing bucket loads of cash at African nations while treating fellow Americans with arrogant disdain. At any rate, back in 1984 singer Bob Geldof gathered a few of his friends…Bono from U2, Spandau Ballet, Duran Duran, Phil Collins, Boy George, Kool without his Gang, & a bunch of others you’ve never heard of…and formed Band Aid. They recorded this song to benefit famine relief in Ethiopia, which is, despite my mocking, a nice thing to do. But the song…the lyrics…wow. Again, not really the kind of inspiration one typically enjoys when listening to Christmas music. It’s hard, but when you’re having fun there’s a world outside your window, and it’s a world of dread and fear where the only water flowing is the bitter sting of tears, and the Christmas bells that ring there are the clanging chimes of doom. If George Bailey would’ve listened to this back in Bedford Falls not even Clarence could have prevented him from jumping off of that bridge.

Superfluous 7 Best Thanksgiving Pop Culture Traditions

20071121-first-thanksgivingChristmas gets all the really cool stuff…carols, movies, animated specials, Santa Claus. But there are a few pop culture contributions to Thanksgiving, and I’m not even talking about food. Thanksgiving’s origins were actually just as faith-based as Christmas & Easter, but not directly tied to any particular event like the birth or resurrection of Christ. Multiple days of Thanksgiving were occasionally proclaimed by whatever authority figure might be ostensibly in charge of an area to thank God for His favor & bountiful harvest. That’s neither here nor there though, because our purpose today is not to dive into the debatable history of the holiday. Maybe some other time. Over the years much of the spiritual gravitas has been eroded, replaced by the simple yet universal desire to appreciate the blessings of family & food. Along with that other modest rockwell-thanksgivingtraditions have blossomed, mostly frivolous fun but not completely without meaning. We take comfort in tradition, in events that happen each year like clockwork no matter what kind of madness might surround us. I’d be thrilled to see folks get back to the more pious roots of Thanksgiving, and we can each do that on an individual basis. However I do admittedly enjoy some of the more lighthearted peripherals associated with the holiday. It is in that spirit that I present…..

 

 

 

from the home office in Pilgrim, MI…..

 

 

 

The Superfluous 7 Best Thanksgiving Pop Culture Traditions:

 

 

 

 

 

7       Home for the Holidays

Why are families in holiday movies always so unhappy & dysfunctional?? I’m not sure it is always what I would consider funny, but it’s usually entertaining in a hhhprofessional wrestling kind of way. This 1995 offering serves us an all-star cast including Holly Hunter, Robert Downey Jr., Anne Bancroft, & Clare Danes. Hunter stars as a recently downsized art restoration specialist going home to spend Thanksgiving with her peculiar family, including a stodgy sister & brother-in-law, a gay brother, & crazy parents. Did you know that the actress who portrays the weird aunt is the daughter of Charlie Chaplin?? To be honest more kudos should be given to the casting director than anyone else involved with the film, and cocaine probably deserves a tip of the cap for Downey’s frenzied performance. I’m not sure Home for the Holidays is particularly remarkable in the grand cinematic universe or even amongst holiday fare, but it’s entertaining enough.

 

 

6       Miracle on 34th St.

I struggled a bit with this choice because it’s a Christmas movie and our present mission is all about Thanksgiving. I’ve said for years that Thanksgiving is almost 34treated dismissively, like a pit stop on the way to something bigger & better. However, the link between the two holidays and the fact that they bookend a month long celebratory season cannot be denied. This 1947 classic in which Santa Claus is “put on trial” opens with a unique look at a certain annual parade that just so happens to take place on Thanksgiving Day. For that reason it is often the first Christmas movie I watch. A couple of things should be noted. First of all there are two versions of the original movie…the black & white edition and a hideously colorized copy. Y’all can do whatever makes you happy, but when I see the colorized film on TV I just keep channel surfing. What can I say…I’m a traditionalist. Also, a remake was made in 1994 starring the lovely Elizabeth Perkins and I have nothing bad to say about it except that it’s a remake. Watch them both if you like, but definitely do not overlook the original in lieu of its modernized rehash. One is a perfectly tasty hamburger, while the other is flawless filet mignon.

 

 

5       A Charlie Brown Thanksgiving

It’s probably third on the list of beloved Peanuts animated specials, but that’s okay. Originally aired back in 1973, the story follows Charlie Brown & Snoopy as they charlie-brown-thanksgiving-2015_0prepare a Thanksgiving “feast” that they’ve been roped into hosting by Peppermint Patty and her “friend” Marcy. The dinner hilariously consists of popcorn, toast, pretzels, jelly beans, & ice cream sundaes, which sounds like a meal I might have consumed after a few late nights back in college. All’s well that ends well though, as all the kids end up hopping in the ol’ Brown family station wagon and heading to Grandma’s house for an actual meal. I am always intrigued by the complete lack of adults in the Peanuts world. They are there, but we never see them.

 

 

4       Turkeys Away!!

Practically every television program ever produced has aired Thanksgiving themed episodes, but very few are memorable beyond its initial airing or stand out in the wkrpcanon of the show itself. This is an exception. I have opined previously that WKRP in Cincinnati is an underrated show, but among its four seasons one episode has stood the test of time. Originally aired on October 30th, 1978, Turkeys Away was only the 7th episode of Season 1. That’s like hitting your life’s peak in grade school!! The story follows station manager Mr. Carlson’s idea for the greatest Thanksgiving radio promotion of all time. The entire cast is fantastic, but special recognition must go to Richard Sanders as austere yet clueless news anchor Les Nessman. To my knowledge Sanders was never even nominated for an Emmy, which is criminal. If you are so inclined the show is easily found online, or if you have a streaming device on your TV it is available there as well.

 

 

3       Planes, Trains, & Automobiles

There are very few Thanksgiving films out there, but even if there were alot more I have to believe this would still be the best. John Candy & Steve Martin are a match made in 101117-planes-trains-automobiles-1p.grid-4x2cinematic heaven, carrying what is essentially the kind of buddy/road trip flick that has been done many times over (The Blues Brothers, Rain Man, Dumb & Dumber, Tommy Boy, Sideways, The Hangover) to a higher level. It doesn’t hurt that the film was written, produced, & directed by the incomparable John Hughes. Planes, Trains, & Automobiles subtly & hilariously makes the point that, unlike other holidays when we may get caught up in…stuff…like presents, chocolate, roses, fireworks, or parties, the primary goal for most of us on Thanksgiving is to be somewhere we consider home, amongst family & friends.

 

 

2       NFL Football

Pro football has been played on Thanksgiving since the sport’s earliest days in the late 19th century. The first Thanksgiving football game took place in Philadelphia on lionsThanksgiving Day of 1869, only a couple of weeks after Rutgers beat Princeton in what most still say was the first American football game and only six years after President Lincoln declared Thanksgiving a federal holiday in 1863. The Detroit Lions have hosted a game each season since 1934, and the Dallas Cowboys began their own tradition in 1966. In the past decade a third game has been added to the mix since Thursday night football became a regular part of the NFL schedule. College football is part of the Thanksgiving recipe, but since conference realignment has eliminated some of the best rivalries the impact has been reduced, and regardless of that fact the really big games are usually saved for Saturday. Sure it’s still Thanksgiving Weekend…but it’s NOT Thanksgiving.

 

 

1       Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade

Macy’s Department Store was founded in 1843 by a Massachusetts Quaker. A couple of decades later he relocated the store to New York City. A century & a half later, macys3thru mergers, bankruptcies, buyouts, & all the other maneuverings that occur in corporate America Macy’s has nearly 800 stores, but the New York City location has stood tall as the largest department store in the world, taking up over 1 million square feet of space and an entire NY City block. Macy’s acquired a Newark, NJ store called Bamberger’s in 1924 and decided to move its Thanksgiving parade to The Big Apple. The parade’s origins are said to have come from store employees, many of whom were immigrants that wanted to celebrate their new home country, and what’s more uniquely American than Thanksgiving?? Of course it doesn’t take a genius to see the connection between a retail establishment and the kickoff of the big Christmas shopping season as well, which is why this Thanksgiving tradition always ends with the appearance of Santa Claus. The parade was first broadcast on national television by CBS in 1948, although it had been on local TV a few times before that. NBC has shown the parade annually since 1952. From the huge cartoon character balloons (Mickey Mouse, Popeye, Superman, Woody Woodpecker) to the marching bands to the badly lipsynched songs by whatever pop artists are in vogue that year it’s all very old-fashioned & kind of peculiar, but in a good way. Parades are a unique slice of Americana, and this is the biggest parade on perhaps our most singular holiday.

Superfluous 7 – Favorite Songs By The Eagles

eagles1Typically I don’t comment on the deaths of celebrities except for the RIP section of the annual Sammy Awards, a segment that was initially meant to spoof the Oscars “In Memoriam” but has become a part of the “show” that I take rather seriously because I feel like the people noted have earned atleast that small token of recognition. However, there have been occasions where I felt compelled to make additional observations (Whitney Houston & Robin Williams are two such examples), and now we have another.


A couple of weeks ago we lost Glenn Frey…guitarist, lead singer, & co-founder of freylegendary 1970’s supergroup The Eagles. Were they a rock band?? Country?? Rockabilly?? R&B?? Folk?? Yes…all of the above. The Eagles embodied the sound of an era…mostly mellow, occasionally rockin’, with sublime harmonies and superbly written songs that paint pictures & tell stories. It’s a level of quality stratospheres above almost everything that music lovers are exposed to nowadays on the radio. I really liked The Eagles as a kid growing up in the late 70’s & into the 80’s, and was beyond blessed to see them live in Columbus, OH in 1994. I am especially glad to have gotten that opportunity now that Frey is gone because no matter what the remaining members or former members of the band do in the future it won’t be the same. Rest in peace Mr. Frey…you did good and brought much joy into the world.


eagles2Unlike previous & future editions of Superfluous 7 I am not numbering or ranking these selections in any particular order. To me and millions of other fans there is no such thing as a bad Eagles song, and among the bigger hits it is nearly impossible to choose one over another. These just happen to be a handful that I am especially fond of for various reasons. The great thing about music is that even when performers are no longer with us the fruits of their genius remain for the masses to appreciate for decades to come. It is with that comforting thought in mind that I wistfully present…..

 

 

from the home office in Winslow, AZ…..

 

 

 

The Superfluous 7 Favorite Eagles Songs

 

 

Best of My Love
The 1974 album On the Border was The Eagles third record and the first with guitarist Don Felder. Felder replaced Bernie Leadon because the band wanted to skew more in a rock-centric direction rather than a country-ish vibe. This song, which tells the story of a failed relationship, was co-written by Henley, Frey, & their friend JD Souther and became The Eagles’ first #1 hit song.

 

Hotel California
What can I say about Hotel California?? It is arguably one of the best and most famous rock songs ever written. The title track on the band’s fifth (and best-selling, excluding greatest hits compilations) album came from a guitar riff conceived by Felder, with the lyrics penned by Henley & Frey. What do those lyrics symbolize?? There has been much speculation…everything from the church of Satan to being institutionalized in a mental ward to drug addiction…but Henley has downplayed all of that, indicating that it is simply allegorical social commentary about what was then modern culture. Regardless of its meaning, the fact is that Hotel California is an awesome song with memorable words and outstanding musicality.

 

Peaceful Easy Feeling
I’m not sure if it’s a song that tells a story as much as it evokes a mood. It was written by a man named Jack Tempchin, who would go on to co-write Glenn Frey’s handful of solo hits in the 80’s and also wrote Swayin’ to the Music (Slow Dancing), a Top 10 song for Johnny Rivers in 1977. Peaceful Easy Feeling appeared on The Eagles’ 1972 self-titled debut album and has become one of the band’s signature tunes.

 

Saturday Night
Co-written by all four members of the original band (Frey, Henley, Meisner, & Leadon), this is an oft overlooked song on their second album Desperado. There are 2 or 3 more well-known tunes on the record (including the titular title track), but I really like this one. It’s a typical story from the viewpoint of a lonely guy reminiscing about the gal that got away and features the soothing harmony for which The Eagles are famous, as well as Bernie Leadon playing the mandolin.

 

Seven Bridges Road
Here we have a song that The Eagles never released on any of their studio albums. It is a cover tune originally written & recorded by a man named Steve Young (no…not the NFL Hall-of-Fame quarterback) in 1969 about an actual road in Montgomery, AL. The Eagles would use it to warm up before their concerts in the 70’s and it was often the show opening tune. I first became aware of the song in college when my fraternity performed it during the annual Greek Sing competition. It is performed “a capella” with a bit of acoustic guitar accompaniment and features the fantastic harmony that the band did so well.

 

Take it Easy
This was the band’s first single, released in 1972 on their debut album. Co-written by Frey and good friend Jackson Browne, it champions a lifestyle philosophy of chilling out and not taking everything so seriously. A music critic for Rolling Stone wrote that Take It Easy “has everything: danceable rhythm, catchy, winding melody, intelligent, affirmative lyrics, a progressively powerful arrangement mixing electric guitar and banjo, and a crisp vocal, with vibrant four-part harmony at just the right moments for maximum dramatic effect.” I concur.

 

The Sad Café
Whether it is a bar, a friend’s house, or some other location, we all have fond memories of certain hangouts of our youth. Thoughts of such venues recall a perceived simpler time when all of our hopes & dreams were in front of us, nothing seemed impossible, and we had big plans to conquer the world. This song speaks of such a place and also alludes to the idea that oftentimes those idealistic visions of grandeur don’t come to fruition. It was co-written by Frey, Henley, Souther, & Joe Walsh and has a hauntingly beautiful saxophone solo at the end. The Sad Café was on the final Eagles album before their 14 year hiatus, The Long Run, which contains a few more celebrated tunes, but this is an underrated gem.

Superfluous 7 – Dumbest Overreactions to the Confederate Battle Flag Controversy

As everyone that hasn’t been living under a rock knows, on June 17, 2015 a sick & twisted individual attended Bible Study at a predominantly black church in Charleston, SC and, after spending an hour studying God’s Word and praying with church members, shot & killed 9 people. The shooter was eventually captured and has been proven to be a mentally disturbed racist who was upset after being jilted by a woman (gee…I wonder why she dumped him??).

 

Those facts don’t seem to be in dispute. However, the aftermath has went in an odd & fascinating direction after a photo was discovered with the shooter holding a Confederate battle flag. Because the people in Charleston reacted to the tragedy with prayer & mercy rather than looting & chaos the media quickly grew bored with the story and had to fan the flames of controversy & outrage. What has followed in the weeks after the shooting is a concerted effort by leftists to eradicate the past of the American South. Even though The Civil War has been over for a century & a half and the Civil Rights Movement of over 50 years ago has proven to be successful, affording minorities opportunity & equality that they should have enjoyed all along, the shooting stirred up a storm that isn’t likely to calm anytime soon. South Carolina’s Governor began the snowball by asking for the Confederate battle flag to be taken down from the grounds of the state capitol. Unnecessary?? Meaningless?? Misguided?? Yes…all of the above, but also understandable. Those that say that this is The United States and that only our national flag and perhaps an individual state’s flag should fly on government property probably have a point. My only issue with it is that it didn’t seem to be a problem for years & years & years and for people to all the sudden be offended by that flag because of one photograph is disingenuous, reactionary, and ignores more legitimate concerns. Having said that, I didn’t have a huge problem with removing that flag from South Carolina’s capitol and whatever other government properties from which it was taken down.

 

However, after that things became really stupid and people have lost their freakin’ minds.

 

I think oftentimes the meanings of things can evolve and morph into something else over time. One can debate what the Confederate flag represented 150 years ago, and it is certainly a thought-provoking topic. However, I am more concerned with modern times, and it is undeniable that, for most folks in the past few decades, it has come to stand for southern pride, redneck culture, & the hillbilly lifestyle. To the vast majority of people who fly the flag, wear clothing emblazoned with it, or own any other associated knick-knacks and memorabilia it is not a “flag of hate”. It does not imply racism or a tacit fondness for slavery. It doesn’t even indicate a hatred for America or a desire for The South to literally rise again. It’s just a mascot, a logo, a harmless talisman with no sinister motives intended from most who display it. Southerners are generally some of the kindest, most genuine, eminently approachable, & good-hearted people one will ever encounter. As a whole they would not utilize a symbol inferring hatred of any kind. Most everyone seemed to understand this fact for decades…until now.

 

In his classic novel 1984 George Orwell wrote of the dystopian future that “Every record has been destroyed or falsified, every book rewritten, every picture has been repainted, every statue and street building has been renamed, every date has been altered. And the process is continuing day by day and minute by minute. History has stopped. Nothing exists except an endless present in which the Party is always right.” We may be 30 years past Orwell’s vision, but we are beginning to fulfill his prophecies. Because of one whackjob who was upset about a woman a movement has built steam to remove all reminders of The Civil War, atleast one half of it. Why now?? Why were these monuments & statues & buildings bearing the names of Confederate generals erected many years ago and few have had any complaints until this summer?? One tragedy is enough to erase history?? I have to believe that there were legitimate reasons why these things were made or named in honor of certain people in the first place. What has changed?? Why were these things not offensive a month ago, a year ago, a decade ago, or beyond??

 

At any rate all that is a longwinded introduction to our intended purpose today, which is to recognize…..

 

 
from the home office in Appomattox, VA…..

 

 
The Superfluous 7 Dumbest Overreactions to the Confederate Battle Flag Controversy:

 

 

 

7 NAACP Wants To Deface Stone Mountain
I rank this lowest on the list because it hasn’t actually occurred…but the subject has been broached. I’ve never been to Georgia, & stone mountainheretofore the only thing I knew about Stone Mountain is that it is where legendary WWE wrestler Jake “The Snake” Roberts was from. Apparently there is an actual mountain there (well, it’s actually more like a knob or a ridge), and on that mountain is a sizable carving of Generals Robert E. Lee & Stonewall Jackson as well as Jefferson Davis, along with their horses. The piece was begun in 1912 but not completed until 60 years later for various reasons. Anyway, now the NAACP (itself a divisive, race baiting organization) is pushing for the images to be sandblasted away. Now we could go down the road of debating the strengths/weaknesses, plusses/minuses, & positives/negatives of Davis, Lee, & Jackson on an individual basis, and I am sure that there are knowledgeable historians that have studied each man’s life. But the issue is this…folks didn’t know those facts and debate the issue a hundred years ago?? How about during the SIX decades it took to finish the thing?? If the carvings are so offensive how come no one…during all that time…said “Hey…let’s just forget it and start over. Maybe carve some pretty flowers or happy little trees instead.”?? But now…all the sudden…40 years after its completion…it is offensive?? May I humbly suggest that what has really changed is that our culture wasn’t so infested with politically correct, perpetually offended pansies back then.

 

6 Tom Petty & Bubba Watson Selling Out
pettyIt’s no surprise that Tom Petty is a wussified, angst-ridden, tookas kissing opportunist. Actually it’s more surprising that Tom Petty is alive and people are still paying to hear him sing. Who knew?? At any rate, in a pathetic attempt to remember what it was like to be relevant, Petty recently told Rolling Stone (that’s something called a magazine kids…we used to read them in the old days) that he regrets utilizing the Confederate battle flag as stage décor & album art…30 years ago. Really dude?? No one cares. I can’t remember what I had for dinner yesterday, let alone what some record had on its cover in the 80’s. Get over yourself…you’re not that important. And then there is Bubba Watson, a decent pro golfer and alleged fellow fan of The Dukes of Hazzard. In fact, Bubba was such a big fan that in 2012 he paid $110k for one of the show’s approximately 300 General Lee cars. Specifically he purchased one of the earliest General Lees, the one that is seen jumping over a police car in the opening credits (it’s a scene from the very first episode). But now…because of all the hoopla…Bubba says that he will paint over the rebel flag on top of the car, replacing it with the American flag. That’d be like owning an original Batmobile and painting it green, or replacing the gull-winged doors on a Back to the Future DeLorean with standard doors. There are less than 20 original General Lees left. Regardless of one’s bubbaopinion of the show it is indisputable that the car is a valuable piece of memorabilia, cherished by collectors all over the world. Maybe Watson is receiving heat from sponsors. I get it. But for the love of God if he is that weakminded then sell the vehicle…don’t destroy it & make it just another worthless car. To my knowledge he hasn’t followed thru with the paint job yet so there is still time to do the right thing. However, as things stand I must say that, though I’m not really a believer in karma, I smiled when Bubba Watson recently missed the cut at The British Open.

 

5 Amazon & Walmart No Longer Selling Flag Merchandise
amazonThis is what really got the crazy train rolling. Did, as one customer service rep reportedly told a customer, the federal government “encourage” Amazon to remove all Confederate flag related merchandise from its site?? We’ll probably never know. WalMart is based in Arkansas and for years has been the mothership of lowbrow redneck culture, so for them to fold like a cheap suit and remove flag related products was truly shocking. I’m not a boycotting kind of person because I just don’t believe that such movements are effective. Like so many big corporations these days Amazon & WalMart are so gargantuan that it would take a truly focused & united effort to negatively impact their bottom line, and the American people can rarely reach a consensus like that these days. I shop at both places regularly and am unlikely to stop doing so, but nonetheless I am extremely disappointed in their decision to remove clothing & other items adorned with the Confederate flag (even though I’ve never owed any walmartof those things anyway). It is the textbook definition of pandering, and from a business standpoint makes no sense at all. Sure there’ll be some that will applaud the decision which will earn both companies some PR brownie points, but that is a short term benefit. I wouldn’t be surprised if both entities quietly add flag merchandise back into their inventory in the future, once all this controversy simmers down.

 

4 #NoFlaggingChallenge
Someone is going to get hurt. There is just no way around it. Apparently some mental giant started this idea on Twitter, daring people twitterto invade others’ private property and remove Confederate flags from vehicles, homes, etc. Thankfully it doesn’t seem to have caught fire like the Ice Bucket Challenge or The Macarena, but I have seen a few videos where folks have actually done this. Most adults know that two wrongs don’t make a right, so no matter how much a person might hate the Confederate flag (probably because the media told you to) it is absolutely insane to think it is okay to violate someone else’s property, committing theft or vandalism in the process. Anyone doing so is a misguided punk, and I sincerely hope as many as possible are arrested. That is atleast a better option than getting beaten into a bloody pulp.

 

3 Man Calls Cops On Antique Store
A typical 21st century American male (that is to say wussified & emasculated…probably a fan of One Direction and an avid viewer of fleaThe Bachelor) was recently shopping at a flea market in Connecticut. That flea market happened to have for sale both Confederate flag & Nazi memorabilia. I will not defend Nazi merchandise. That’s a bit much even for me. However, had most people with an ounce of sense encountered the same situation we would have likely done one of three things: a) ignore the items, b) complain to whoever is in charge of the flea market, or c) leave & take our business elsewhere. This idiot chose Option D…he called the police. Now folks, I know law enforcement has taken it on the chin a bit lately for various reasons, but I still hold most cops in the highest regard. I’m not sure what kind of thuggery & delinquency occurs most often in Connecticut, but I feel confident in saying that their ladies & gentlemen in blue probably have more important matters to deal with than a moron at a flea market offended by items he is under no duress to buy. Needless to say no charges were filed because, as the United States is still a free country (for now), the flea market can sell whatever legal items it wants, no matter who might be upset by them. As a matter of fact what should have happened is the prompt incarceration of the shopper himself (who was apparently so distraught he was shaking & almost vomited…seriously) for wasting the taxpayers’ money & the police’s time.

 

2 Taking The Dukes of Hazzard Off TV
dukes3I thought for sure this would take the top spot because it is the one that has angered me the most. I am from West Virginia, and my feelings for my home state are ambivalent at best. The economic & entertainment environment here is bleak to say the least, and if I had been wiser & more brave I would have escaped this Appalachian abyss two decades ago. To that end I have never embraced the whole redneck/hillbilly thing because I am a little embarrassed by it. I get tired of the jokes & preconceived notions. Everyone I know wears shoes & has indoor plumbing. I am not only literate but college educated. We don’t all sit around drinking moonshine and I have never met anyone that has been intimate with their cousin or any other close family member. Having said all that, there are a few southern conceits that I happily embrace. When I was a kid I LOVED The Dukes of Hazzard. I faithfully watched it every Friday night. As an adult I realize that the show was a bit hokey and the production values not great, but I also appreciate even more the homespun southern morals it espoused. The Dukes of Hazzard wasn’t violent, the good guys always won, it was sexually tame (Daisy Duke’s short shorts are nothing compared to the filth we see on TV now), there were no drugs, & even the villains (Boss Hogg & Sheriff Roscoe P. Coltrane) weren’t all that bad. The show was good clean fun. Like many other television shows I grew up watching, The Dukes, along with other beloved classics like The Andy Griffith Show, The Golden Girls, The Brady Bunch, & Cheers, have continued to entertain us decades after their first run airing thanks to syndicated reruns, and I would still rather watch an episode of The Dukes any day than most of the crap that is currently popular. Unfortunately, as of a few weeks ago, that isn’t as easy as it used to be. Why?? Because one of the main “characters” on the show is a really cool car called The General Lee that happens to have a Confederate battle flag painted on its top. This is suddenly, three decades after the show ended its original run as one of the most popular shows in the country, considered offensive. Lunacy!! glYou want to take the flag down from a government building?? Okay, fine. But to somehow catch a TELEVISION SHOW in the web of politically correct fascism is beyond stupid. The Dukes of Hazzard is undeniably one of the least offensive programs of all time, yet TV Land & other channels have bent over and kissed the…feet…of the perpetually offended leftist minority that is ruining the America I knew & loved. Anyone who ever watch The Dukes of Hazzard would have to honestly say that it wasn’t at all bigoted or racist. It was a spaghetti western with fast cars instead of horses. Good triumphed over evil…always. Family, community, respect, friendship, helping out your neighbors, doing the right thing…that’s what the show was about. Yet because a few people have become upset about a vehicle’s paint job the powers-that-be have taken the program off the air. Seriously people…that’s messed up.

 

1 Desecrating the Grave of Nathan Bedford Forrest
I am a huge fan of the 1994 Oscar winning film Forrest Gump. In that movie the dimwitted main character mentions that he was forrestnamed after Nathan Bedford Forrest, who was the first Grand Wizard of the Ku Klux Klan. Forrest was also a lieutenant general in the Confederate army. A few weeks ago the city council in Memphis, TN voted to DIG UP THE REMAINS of Forrest & his wife from a park in the city. Full disclosure…the remains have been dug up before, relocated from their original cemetery lots and moved to the park in 1904, which at the time had been named in Forrest’s honor. However, I am not a fan of desecrating graves, especially for reasons involving idiotic political correctness. Look, no one is defending The Klan. Well, I’m not anyway. There might be some that would. But I think it is so wrong to be digging up graves, no matter who the person is or what they might have done. And here is the kicker. Forrest condemned The Klan a decade before his death and called for its disbandment. This is particularly interesting to West Virginians like myself, who constantly hear so many defending the late Senator Robert C. Byrd, himself a former Klansman who had called black folks “mongrels”. “But but but…Byrd “evolved” on the issue and regretted his Klan history!!” Well…apparently so did Nathan Bedford Forrest. Let’s be clear…I am not saying that Forrest was a good guy. I am simply pointing out an obvious double standard and opining that desecrating a grave for almost any reason is disrespectful & wrong. You’re mileage may vary and that’s okay.

Superfluous 7 Favorite Late Night Television Hosts

It feels appropriate to piggyback on recent themes and complete somewhat of a trilogy. First I rated my all-time favorite stand-up comedians. Then, upon the retirement of the venerable David Letterman I bid a melancholy happy trails to my childhood of the 1980’s. And now I shall close the circle by pontificating about late night talk show hosts.

I’ve always been a night owl, even as a child. My mother knew that one of the best ways to punish me when I’d been mischievous was to send me to bed super early. I had a set bedtime on weeknights anyway, but making me go to bed an hour or two early was akin to what a modern youngster might feel like if they had their iPod taken away or their game console privileges restricted. It was as if I was afraid I was going to miss something. I don’t know why some folks are nocturnal while others are early risers. I am sure there is some sort of scientific explanation, but long ago I just decided to go with the flow and embrace who I am. I feel energetic & creative when most of the world is fast asleep. The vast majority of the things citizens of The Manoverse read here are produced after midnight. When combined with my affection for laughter and predilection for comedy over drama the affinity for late night talk shows makes much sense. So I thought it might be fun to discuss the hosts of these shows. The guys whose names are on the marquee. The engine that makes each program go and largely determines its success. I have my preferences, and if you like late night TV as much as me I am sure you have yours. Maybe we agree…maybe we don’t. But with all the darkness & misery in the world it is atleast a casual & pleasurable topic to ponder. Therefore, may I present…..

 

 

 

from the home office in Ha Ha Bay, Newfoundland, Canada…..

 

 

 

The Superfluous 7 Favorite Late Night Television Hosts:

*

7 Craig Ferguson
I will always regret that I was late to the Ferguson party. I was somewhat familiar with him cffrom The Drew Carey Show in which he played Carey’s boss Mr. Wick from 1996-2004. When he took over CBS’ Late Late Show in 2005 my 12:30am allegiance had long been with Conan O’Brien’s Late Night program on NBC and my memories of Mr. Wick & The Drew Carey Show were hardly fond enough for me to switch things up. I’m either loyal or stubborn & inflexible…you decide. At any rate, it wasn’t until I quickly became bored with Seth Meyers’ incarnation of NBC’s Late Night franchise in the winter of 2014 that I decided to give Ferguson a whirl. Sadly, just a few weeks later, he announced that he’d be leaving the show by the end of that year. Though I only had about 9 months with Ferguson I thoroughly enjoyed that time. It is likely that had I began watching him a few years earlier or he’d not abdicated his throne as the clown prince of late night TV that he’d rate much higher on this list. To call Ferguson irreverent would be inaccurate, because I always felt that he had a deep respect for his job, his guests, & the audience. However, like a quarterback who uses his playbook only as a general outline but mostly improvises, Craig Ferguson kind of made up his own rules. His monologue was always an extemporaneous stream of consciousness. Usually fun, sometimes serious, always sincere. His sidekick was an animatronic robot skeleton named Geoff Peterson (voiced by gifted impressionist Josh Thompson). He ripped up whatever kind of notes he had about his guests and ad-libbed interviews, making them more like a genuine conversation between two real people. There was no house band. It is almost impossible for me to accurately describe Ferguson’s show. Like other gentlemen we’ll be discussing one watched Ferguson’s program for the talent & charm of the host…the guests were almost unnecessary. Supposedly Ferguson had decided to leave the show before news of Letterman’s retirement was announced. Maybe that is true. Maybe he is the restless type, a vagabond who doesn’t like to stay in one place too long and yearns for new challenges & adventures. However, I think it is very possible that he felt disrespected when the idea of him moving to 11:30pm was almost immediately dismissed. Whatever the truth may be, the fact is that the late night landscape is less interesting without Craig Ferguson, and I hope that maybe one day he might get the itch…and the opportunity…for a welcome comeback.

*

6 The Jimmys – Fallon & Kimmel
Guess what folks…you better either love these guys or learn to like them as much as possible because they are likely to be the foundation of late night television for possibly the next 20-30 years.


I first became familiar with Kimmel in the late 1990’s when he hosted both Win Ben Stein’s jkMoney and The Man Show on Comedy Central. He’s a natural for late night TV. One can tell that he grew up a fan of Letterman and emulates him in a kinder, gentler way. Unfortunately ABC painted his show into a corner from the very beginning, airing it at midnight for its first decade of existence due to misguided & outdated loyalty to Nightline. ABC corrected their error a few years ago, but it’s put Kimmel behind the proverbial eight ball, as if he’s ten years behind and perpetually trying to catch up. Jimmy Kimmel Live!, despite its name, doesn’t air live anymore but that’s no big deal since neither does anything else. In the early days Kimmel used to have a bar in the studio and various celebrities would be his “guest co-host”. I recall Snoop Dogg getting plastered on live television one night, which was hysterical. Mostly the show follows the standard late night outline, although certain elements are individually underwhelming. Cleto, the bandleader, and Guillermo, the sidekick, are both forgettable. Jimmy’s Uncle Frank was the show’s security guard & sidekick until his death a few years ago and he is missed. Kimmel is sardonically affable, and that what has kept the show afloat. There still seems to be something missing, but it’s a solid alternative that may yet gain momentum and become the go to show in late night.


Fallon, obviously, gained fame from his stint on SNL and starred in a few movies. He took jfover NBC’s Late Night franchise for about 5 years and it was awesome. The host himself is genial & engaging, and at 12:30am his comedic sensibilities were spot on. Sidekick Steve Higgins is sneaky talented…a more versatile Ed McMahon. I’ve never been a huge fan of house band The Roots, atleast partially because I don’t understand why they are introduced as “legendary” when I’d never heard of them previous to Late Night, but they are talented and good at what they do. I love Fallon’s Friday night staple “Thank You Notes”, and at 12:30 audience participation games like “Models & Buckets” & “Dance Your Hat & Gloves Off” were goofy fun. He has his finger on the pulse of pop culture and effectively utilizes social media, which is a double edge sword. Millenials and people like myself who atleast try to keep up with the times enjoy the humor, but older folks my father’s age don’t connect with it at all. I was excited when Fallon took over the Tonight Show more than a year ago, but my delight quickly soured. At 11:30 Jimmy comes across as annoyingly enthusiastic and somewhat narcissistic. While many games & comedy bits on Late Night were silly, harmless entertainment, on the Tonight Show they often seem juvenile, forced, & not all that funny. I can’t imagine that celebrities who are there to promote a movie, book, album, or TV show really want to participate in such childish activities. Having said all that, just like his counterpart this Jimmy has time to modulate and find a more stable formula, although I may be the only one pining for such an adjustment since the show’s ratings and Fallon’s popularity are thru the roof and probably will continue to grow with less competition for the next few months.

 

 

5 Bob Costas
Yes, that Bob Costas…the one who has been a foundation of sports broadcasting for three bcdecades. From 1988-94 he hosted a show that aired for 30 minutes at 1:30am on NBC and that I ranked 18th amongst my 50 Favorite TV Shows of all time. There was no monologue. No jokes. No sidekick. No comedy bits. No house band. It was just Costas doing a cozy one-on-one interview with a single guest…and it rocked. The host himself was always engaging, articulate, & attentive, and if the guest was interesting that was icing on the cake. The show was occasionally mesmerizing and almost always compelling. Studies have shown that night owls are intelligent & creative, so, while on the surface it may seem like any show is doomed to fail at 1:30 in the morning, the truth is that this kind of program, when packaged correctly, is a fantastic solution. It’s a unique departure from the typical late night menu and a format whose return is much needed. There are only so many jokes to go around and a plethora of options to be entertained in that manner. We have comedy shows. We have “infotainment” like Entertainment Tonight and Extra. We have cooking & lifestyle shows. ESPN has a full lineup sports talk shows. We have mind numbing stupidity like Maury Povich, The View, & whatever poor NFL Hall-of-Famer Michael Strahan is forced to endure with the tiresome Kelly Ripa every morning. I wouldn’t mind a bit if someone would revive this show so I could once again look forward to something cool every night.

 

 

4 Jay Leno
The whole Leno thing is sort of complex. Things got off to a bad start for him when Johnny jlCarson retired in 1992 and NBC couldn’t decide who should get the Tonight Show gig. Leno ultimately got the job, but lost supporters along the way. It didn’t help when a book called The Late Shift was published in 1994 and exposed just how insecure & desperate he had been about keeping the job. And then after nearly two decades of solidly entertaining the masses Jay was dumped after a 5 year transition plan that the knuckleheads at NBC had to have been drunk to even fathom might work. Why would you replace a guy that had been winning the ratings?? To keep Conan O’Brien?? Really?? Anyway, once again Leno came out looking bad after eventually “taking back” the Tonight Show instead of doing what he should’ve done…tell NBC to shove it and walk away, likely right into a new show on Fox or in syndication. On top of these controversies Jay Leno was often criticized as being lame & old-fashioned. That criticism isn’t necessarily invalid, but I think it’s a bit harsh. He certainly never pushed the envelope and rarely did anything wacky. I think in his mind the Tonight Show had been successful for many years and he wasn’t going to even try to re-invent the wheel. He believed that the formula that had worked in the 70’s & 80’s would still work. Did it?? The ratings seemed to indicate that it did, but you’d probably have no problem finding folks who will claim fervently that Leno sucked. His monologue was topical and often political, although I thought he was usually even-handed, especially in comparison to his competition. He had been a successful stand-up comic so obviously it was a strength. I thoroughly enjoyed “Headlines” on Monday nights, but there are those who will cite the bit as a prime example of Leno being old & out-of-touch since newspapers had become archaic, while the aforementioned Fallon was making copious use of Twitter, Instagram, Facebook, etc. Over the years he made hay with big news stories like the OJ Simpson trial & the Hugh Grant hookerpalooza. His interviews were solid. I understand why NBC chose Jay Leno in 1992. He was a fun, comfortable, approachable, safe presence at 11:30pm…just like his predecessor. Society may have developed a thirst for edgier, more rebellious entertainment, but there is still a place for laid-back, pleasant, old school amusement. Leno gave us that. People may not really miss him all that much, but we’re fortunate that he filled a void as well as he did for as long as he did.

 

 

3 Tom Snyder
God I miss Tom Snyder. He was The Man!! I was too young to have caught him on Tomorrow, a show that aired on NBC at 1am on weeknights TS2throughout the 1970’s. Apparently he also had a program on CNBC in the early 90’s, but I believe I was still a drunken frat boy at the time. At any rate, I became familiar with Snyder when he hosted the inaugural incarnation of the Late Late Show at 12:30am on CBS in the mid-90’s. It still ticks me off that some genius at CBS thought it was a good idea to replace Snyder with former ESPN snarkmaster Craig Kilborn in 1999. What drive-thru is Kilborn manning these days?? Is he still alive?? Does anyone care?? Snyder’s Late Late Show was a one-on-one conversation much like Costas’ Later, but the hosts couldn’t be more different. When I did my 50 Favorite TV Shows a few years back, I ranked Later 18th and Snyder’s Late Late Show 25th. In retrospect I believe I might reverse that simply because Tom Snyder was such a matchless presence on the TV screen. He had a deep, resonant voice and a smoky, infectious laugh. He had the gravitas that comes with decades spent as a radio & television reporter, but didn’t seem to take himself too seriously. He could conduct a thoughtful interview or relax & have fun…sometimes both within the same hour. Snyder was the kind of guy that one suspects drank & smoked a bit too much in his down time, but he came from an era when that was acceptable, even cool…not the politically correct, health conscious, information obsessed, afraid of everything 21st century. Snyder had no sidekick or house band. He’d just banter with unseen beings, presumably producers & directors of the program. He’d slyly encourage the audience to enjoy a beverage while watching/listening, calling the theoretical drink a colortini or simultini (because the show was simulcast on radio & TV). And he would tell stories. Tom Snyder had been around. He knew people. He’d done things & went places. I could have listened to him laugh & tell stories for hours. The dude could have done a boxed set of CDs filled with him simply talking, chuckling, & telling stories and 15 years after he left the air I’d still be listening to them. Thank goodness for YouTube.

 

 

2 David Letterman
I don’t know what else I can say about Letterman that I haven’t already said. His tenure in late dlnight television can be neatly divided into two periods…the decade he spent at the helm of NBC’s Late Night and the two decades+ that he hosted CBS’s Late Show. The NBC years were fresh, innovative, & funny. The CBS years can be further divided, with the first half being a slightly more mature yet just as amusing version of what Letterman had accomplished at NBC, and the latter half being somewhat stale comfort food tinged with cynicism and bereft of the originality that had made the host a star. Early Letterman was groundbreaking, must-see TV (if I may borrow a phrase), and old Letterman, even though he was resting on his laurels & coasting to the finish line on fumes, was still better than most of his peers. Hindsight is 20/20, and looking back I think that NBC probably made a mistake all those years ago. Dave probably should have gotten the Tonight Show, and Leno could have been rewarded with the 12:30 show. How would late night have looked if that’d happened?? The obvious casualty would have been Conan O’Brien, who’d probably still be a comedy writer for various TV shows. I would have been okay with that…no great loss. CBS & ABC would probably still have ended up getting into the late night game eventually, and guys like Fallon & Kimmel probably would have ended up with hosting gigs somewhere. But the 1-2 punch of Letterman & Leno on NBC could have been a juggernaut thru the 90’s and into the 21st century. Ahhh what might have been.

 

 

1 Johnny Carson
The undisputed King of Late Night. Unmatched. Unchallenged. Oh there were people that jctried…Chevy Chase, Joan Rivers, Arsenio Hall, Pat Sajak. They all failed. Television was different during Carson’s reign. There were fewer channels. Nothing aired 24/7. Obviously we didn’t have The Internet. It is fair to say that Johnny had little legitimate competition and ponder whether he’d be as successful now. However, that’s probably an unfair question. Almost everything…music, television, clothing, technology…is a product of its time. Very few things are timeless. Letterman wouldn’t have clicked had he came onto the scene a decade earlier. Leno, accused of being obsolete & unfunny by some, might have been considered edgy & daring if he’d been center stage in the 80’s. Half of Fallon’s shtick revolves around ideas that weren’t even around in the 90’s. It’s all relative. Johnny Carson was the right man with the best job at the exact time in history that happened to be a perfect fit. He was 2/3 of the way thru his run on the Tonight Show by the time I became a fan. I never sensed the weariness in him that seemed to hinder Letterman’s stretch run, but then again I don’t recollect the early years that would enable a comparison. All I know is that throughout my childhood, through high school, & into college Johnny Carson was as much a part of Americana as fast cars, mac & cheese, rock n’ roll, and fireworks on the Fourth of July. Other late night hosts have come & gone. Several are still plugging away, doing their best to make us laugh every night after the local news. But Carson is the measuring stick, the gold standard. He always has been and likely always will be.

Superfluous 7 Favorite Stand-Up Comedians

My man Michael Wilbon recently posted a video commentary…for no apparent reason…on comedythe PTI Facebook page about his Top 10 stand-up comics. Because Wilbon, as erudite as he seems on TV, is subconsciously a militant black man and a throwback 60’s radical his list was, shall we say, just a little bit prejudiced. It wasn’t too terrible I suppose, but it had Wanda Sykes for God’s sake, a woman who is only mildly amusing at her best, while leaving off 2 or 3 certified comedy legends. My dismay with this absurd display of racially biased poppycock has inspired me to create my own ranking. I have made a concerted effort to eschew the kind of poor taste & obvious sociopolitical slant shown by Wilbon, but to be fair we are all a product of our background, bound to be influenced by the time & place in which we were raised and the things to which we were or were not exposed. I’m about 15 years younger than Wilbon, was raised in small town WV as opposed to Chicago, and watched way too much TV as a kid. I am a child of the 80’s (with fond memories of the late 70’s) and became an adult in the 90’s. I do think my rankings are better & more reasonable than the list that motivated this effort, but others may disagree. So be it.


comedy2In pondering this idea I had a lot of names pop into my head. It became necessary to create parameters. The focus here is on stand-up comedy…just a guy (or lady) on stage with a microphone in front of a live audience. Many of the best comedians have gone on to star in TV series or become movie stars. That’s fine, but that’s not what this is about. Jimmy Fallon may have once done stand-up comedy, but in my mind he is an SNL alum who went on to do a few forgettable films and now hosts the Tonight Show. Same deal with David Letterman. To me he is a talk show host that has been a centerpiece of late night television for ¾ of my life. At any rate, even with those self-imposed boundaries the list was overflowing, so we will begin with some Honorable Mentions that didn’t quite make the cut for one reason or another.

 

Honorable Mention

Tim Allen
His stand-up routines landed him a successful sitcom which he parlayed into a mediocre film career, so I think of him primarily as a comedic actor.

Billy Crystal
I LOVE Crystal, but to me he is an actor & awards show host.

Bob Newhart
His standup career was before my time. I remember him as the star of two of TV’s more underappreciated sitcoms.

Don Rickles
He’s funny, but his career trajectory plateaued before I was born.

Johnny Carson & Jay Leno
I know them primarily as two long time hosts of the Tonight Show.

Bob Hope
An undisputed legend, but one whose career peaked long before I was born and who I fondly recall as hosting the occasional variety show special on TV.

Steve Martin
I realize he was a revolutionary stand-up comic in the 70’s, but I know him mainly as a film actor and for his numerous appearances on SNL.

Garry Shandling
Funny, but not quite elite. I recall him as a frequent guest host on the Tonight Show and remember his first sitcom on Showtime in the late 80’s.

Buddy Hackett
He was before my time. I remember him mostly for his guest appearances on Carson’s Tonight Show in the 1980’s.

Sam Kinison
Sadly Kinison was gone far too soon, killed by a teenage drunk driver at the age of 38. Kinison was obnoxious, controversial, & often blasphemous, but he was funny. It would have been really interesting to see how he might have evolved. Would he have softened with age?? Would he have become a caricature of himself, still trying to be the loud, abrasive rebel even as an elder statesman of comedy?? Or would he have just flamed out & faded away once his shtick started to grow old?? We’ll never know, and that’s too bad.

Steven Wright
Wright’s deadpan delivery is unmistakable yet kind of defines him as a one trick pony. Amusing in small doses, but there is a reason he never became a huge star.

Ron White
I gave this spot to White over Jeff Foxworthy because I think he is funnier. His humor seems kind of restricted to a specific southern demographic, which is fine by me but limits his star power and accessibility to the masses.

Gallagher
You know & love him as the prop comedian who busts watermelons with a sledgehammer. It’s a gimmick that has narrowly defined his career for four decades.

Andrew Dice Clay
He’s funny & memorable enough to get a mention, but just too vulgar to be ranked amongst the best.

Andy Kaufman
It is difficult to describe exactly what Andy Kaufman did on stage. He was more of a performance artist than a traditional standup comedian. It seemed as if he was trying to entertain himself more than anyone else, and if that meant offending, annoying, & confusing the audience then that was just dandy. Kaufman is another artist that we lost far too early, as he succumbed to lung cancer at age 35. I remember him mostly as Latka Gravis on the sitcom Taxi, a role that he allegedly despised.

Redd Foxx
To me he is iconic junk king Fred G. Sanford from the 70’s sitcom Sanford & Son. However, before that role he had a long & successful career as a crude & profane stand-up comic. That was in the 50’s & 60’s though…way way way before my time, and in an era when profanity was actually shocking instead of the accepted norm.

 

Okay, so now that the honorable mentions are out of the way it’s time to move to the main attraction. To be honest I wish more of these guys worked “clean”, but it’s rare to find a comedian who does that nowadays. We live in an era in which F Bombs and sexual humor sells, so that’s what many do. It’s not my preference, but for the most part I think my choices would still be funny if they took the road less traveled instead of conforming to low worldly standards. At any rate, sit down, enjoy a cold beverage, and maybe chuckle, chortle, guffaw, & giggle as I present…..

 

 

 

From the home office in Happy, TX…..

 

 

 

My Superfluous 7 Favorite Stand-Up Comedians:

 

 

 

7 Eddie Murphy / Richard Pryor
murphyY’all should know by now, there will be ties. These guys are legends, with Pryor being the trailblazer who heavily influenced Murphy. Pryor’s stand-up career was en fuego in the 1970’s when I was just a baby. By the time I got to the age where I was consciously making entertainment choices and discovering what I enjoy Pryor, like so many others, had segued into acting. It is really interesting that a vast majority of comedians cite Richard Pryor as a huge influence. He really did make it look easy. His comedy was edgy & vulgar, yet accessible to the masses. Perhaps one of the most regrettable byproducts of Pryor’s legacy is that so many comics believe that peppering their act with a plethora of F-Bombs & other profanities is hysterically funny. I suppose it was humorous in a shocking kind of way when he did it, but now it’s just derivative & tedious. Murphy’s career has been all over the place, with a prominent chunk of the early 80’s spent as a cast member on SNL followed by a three pryordecade movie career with some hits (48 Hrs., Trading Places, Beverly Hills Cop, Coming to America) and a lot of misses (The Golden Child, Vampire in Brooklyn, Pluto Nash, Norbitt). In between those gigs, for a brief time in the mid-80’s, he was a comedy rock star that did a few really good HBO specials that became big sellers on home video. Unfortunately Eddie Murphy seemed to buy into the whole movie star fantasy and has become more aloof & pretentious over the years.

 

6 Chris Rock / Dennis Miller
rockI don’t often agree with Rock’s politics, but there is no denying that he is an intelligent, thoughtful guy whose observational comedy is a cut above. Much of his humor has racial overtones, but I’ve rarely found it racist. It is more like a brutally honest, undeniably subjective worldview to which I can’t relate. In contrast, Miller’s philosophies & attitudes are much more in line with my own. He also is a smart & solicitous dude whose comedy was tinged with insightful commentary about life even before he became a regular guest on political talk shows. Miller doesn’t dumb down his comedy for the masses. You either get the odd analogies & obscure references he makes or you don’t, and he’s not going to slow down and draw a picture for you. Both Rock & Miller had notable runs on Saturday Night Live. Rock has gone on to be a run-of-the-mill movie star in mostly pedestrian films, millerwhile Miller has dabbled in the whole talk show host thing (I really wanted him to be the guy to replace Letterman), did a season in the booth on Monday Night Football (not a good fit), & in recent years has become bogged down as a political pundit. I’d love to see him get back into doing stand-up.

 

5 Jim Gaffigan / Bill Cosby
gaffiganOkay…let’s first address the elephant in the room. I am not here to judge what Cosby may or may not have done in his personal life. That’s not my place, and I think the damage that has been done to his legacy speaks for itself. Both of these men do basically work “clean”, which is good. The foundation of their humor is family, marriage, children, & relationships. They tell stories that many folks recognize from their own lives. It’s easygoing & affable. Their comedy isn’t meanspirited, edgy, or brash. Cosby, of course is…or was…a living legend that has done movies & TV shows and has generally been a part of the entertainment landscape for a half century. Gaffigan has been around for about a cosbydecade. He’s a soft-spoken, self-deprecating guy who likes to joke about being fat & lazy, comedy to which I can relate. Young comedians need to study these guys and understand that intelligent, relevant, witty comedy doesn’t need to be vulgar, obnoxious, or malevolent.

 

4 Frank Caliendo / Denis Leary
caliendoBy far my favorite kind of comedian is one who can do spot-on impressions. If I could ask God for any fun & frivolous talent I’d probably choose being able to do impressions over singing, dancing, or playing an instrument. Older generations might prefer Rich Little, but to be honest I was never that enamored with Little. Caliendo hasn’t become the sort of superstar that landed his own sitcom, but he’s done a wide variety of media appearances…MadTV, Fox NFL Sunday, & a ton of radio shows…and is a regular in Vegas. He does awesome impressions of folks like Al Pacino, Morgan Freeman, President George W. Bush, & Robin Williams, as well as a ton of sportscentric impersonations such as ESPN personalities Mel Kiper Jr., Adam Shefter, & Stephen A. Smith, former coaches John learyMadden & Jon Gruden, Charles Barkley, Jim Rome, and Bill Walton. I think Caliendo is brilliant. Leary has segued into acting now, but at one time in the early 90’s he was a chain smoking, fast talking, “angry” comedian…kind of a toned down Sam Kinison…and he was hilarious. His comedy album No Cure for Cancer is classic and helped make dreary days at a tedious job more tolerable for me in the mid-1990’s. Leary was a much better stand-up comic than he is an actor, and I hope he goes back to what he does best someday.

 

3 Jerry Seinfeld
Yes I am aware that Mr. Seinfeld starred in a highly rated sitcom. As a matter of fact I chose Seinfeld as my favorite TV show of all time just a few years ago. However, that show was based, atleast partly, on the observational comedy of its star. Seinfeld was a celebrated comedian throughout the 1980’s, with his casual, conversational style playing really well on television in appearances with Johnny Carson and David Letterman. Seinfeld comes across as a kind of everyman, a guy it’d be fun to have lunch with or go on a road trip. Much like the beloved television show his standup comedy is about the trivialities, conundrums, seinfeldfrustrations, & contradictions of daily life. In contrast to guys like Kinison or Leary he isn’t particularly angry, and unlike Pryor, Murphy, or Dice he is far from profane. I would describe Seinfeld as perpetually bemused by the fickle nature of humanity. People like him just have a whole different way of looking at the world. They see things that most people overlook…and then they tell funny stories & jokes about what they perceive. Thankfully that perception is often quite entertaining. I always thought Seinfeld would end up hosting a late night show, but the stardom he achieved with his sitcom skyrocketed him past that. He doesn’t have to work that hard or often now. He hosts an amusing talk show called Comedians in Cars Getting Coffee, which you can find online, and thankfully he has gone back to doing standup. Maybe one day I’ll get the opportunity to see him perform live.

 

2 Robin Williams
Robin Williams was like Jerry Seinfeld on cocaine. Literally. Sadly we lost Williams last year, but his legacy is rock solid. He, of course, became well-known in the early 80’s on the sitcom Mork & Mindy, and after that starred in a plethora of mostly good films. But Williams began as a standup comedian and never completely left it behind. On stage he did it all…jokes, stories, improv, pratfalls, impressions, observation. It is hard to put him in a box and categorize his williamscomedy. Robin Williams was manic, silly, intelligent, & creative. He was brilliant. His energy was unmatched. He always made me laugh. And not just a light snicker. I’m talking about wall shaking, tears in my eyes laughter that made others think I’d lost my mind. Hindsight informs us that the energy level was often drug induced, and sadly we also know that the comedy that made us laugh hid pain & depression that would ultimately lead to suicide. I don’t really know what to say about all of that. Unfortunately the tragic ending will likely forever alter the opinions of many about Robin Williams. I understand that, but for the purposes of this exercise choose to remember the good times.

 

1 George Carlin
George Carlin had a career unlike any other. He began doing standup in the 60’s and was still working nearly 50 years later. He dabbled a little bit in television & movies, but pretty much stuck to being a standup comedian. His observational comedy was a bit more acerbic, and many might say that in later years he bordered on meanspirited & angry. Carlin was a product of the counterculture 60’s and always had a bit of that “I’m smarter than you” attitude. In the 70’s he came up with his well-known routine The 7 Words You Can Never Say on Television, which seems a bit quaint now. I won’t repeat any of the words, but I will say that, as carlinopposed to four decades ago, I think I’ve heard atleast 3 or 4 of the forbidden words on network TV just this week. I didn’t really discover Carlin until the 80’s when he had several specials on HBO. By then he’d started doing a lot more sociopolitical commentary, much of it the complete opposite of my own worldview. However, I can usually overlook such disagreements and still find someone funny. While Jerry Seinfeld seems amused by humanity’s shortcomings they seemed to really tick George Carlin off. Sometimes this was hilarious, sometimes it wasn’t. The stuff I preferred from Carlin were his observations about language. He would talk about how language had evolved, mostly due to political correctness. Battle fatigue has become PTSD. Used cars are now pre-owned. Stewardesses are now flight attendants. Deaf people are hearing impaired & a person isn’t blind but has a visual impairment. I could go on but you get the point. Carlin was at his best when he was dissecting the idiocy of political correctness, something it seems like he hated as much as I do. That alone vaults him to the top of this list, despite everything he believed in that I disagree with.