Xhosa Nostra

Trevor Noah with His Favorite Punching Bag

Of late, I have been watching Trevor Noah’s The Daily Social Distancing Show at 11 pm on Comedy Central. When he first took over from Jon Stewart as the host of The Daily Show, I had my doubts about him; but in the intervening years he has become an engaging presence on the air in his own right.

I even read Noah’s book Born a Crime: Stories from a South African Childhood. I don’t read many biographies, but Trevor’s was interesting. He was born in Johannesburg, South Africa of a Swiss father and a Xhosa mother. As the child of a mixed union, Trevor Noah was by his very existence in violation of South African law under Apartheid. It was interesting to see how he managed he become an entertainer and a small businessman against all odds.

Trevor Noah’s Autobiography

The book is worth reading and throws a lot of light on a welcome personality in these hard times. My only problem with his show is the terrible feng shui: There seems to be an edge of a bookshelf that is on the point of bopping him on the right side of his head. Perhaps he shouldn’t stand in the corner of his home set.

During the coronavirus outbreak and the presidency of the soon to be ex-Trumpster, one of the things that has kept me going is humor. Trevor Noah’s humor is cool and collected. Under the guise of pure entertainment, he manages to get in some very astute political satire and conducts some excellent interviews with various celebrities, such as soccer star Megan Rapinoe and newscaster Rachel Maddow. Like Jon Stewart, he cuts to his own cadre of guest commentators, who run the gamut from good to great.

Fun in a Raging Hellscape

Weird Al Yankovic

Yes, it is possible to have fun in times of adversity. Today, I saw a YouTube video with Weird Al Yankovic (with the help of the Gregory Brothers) called, pleasantly enough, “We’re All Doomed!” I haven’t laughed so hard for weeks. Without further ado, here is a link to it:

“We’re All Doomed – Trump vs Biden”

On this Thanksgiving, I would have to say that one of the things for which I am most thankful is humor. For a while, I thought my country’s political situation was so dire that even the comedians were losing heart. But now, it seems there’s a ghost of a chance we might recover.

I would have to thank not only Weird Al, but also Trevor Noah, John Oliver, Bill Maher, and Stephen Colbert for helping to see me through these evil times—which are far from over.

So have a Happy Thanksgiving and don’t each too much turkey.

The Annual Stooge-a-Thon

The Original Thee Stooges: Larry Fine and Moe and Curly Howard

Today, Martine and I attended the Three Stooges 22nd Annual Big Screen Event at the Alex Theater in Glendale. I think that the two of us have attended some 16 or 17 of the annual screenings over the years, missing only those years when I we nt off to South America in November. This is probably the only Stooges event where all the films shown are 35mm prints direct from Sony Pictures, which owns the rights to the Columbia Pictures screen archives.

The Stooges shorts are much more fun to watch with a large, enthusiastic audience—and attendance filled about 95% of the seats this afternoon. (We usually attend only the matinee performances.) Shown, in order, were the following Stooges shorts, all produced by Columbia:

  • “Pardon My Scotch” (1935)
  • “Saved by the Belle” (1939) directed by Charley Chase
  • “So Long Mr. Chumps” (1941)
  • “Studio Stoops” (1950) with Shemp Howard
  • “Three Pests in a Mess” (1945)
  • “Dizzy Pilots” (1943)

Between the two of us, Martine is the big Stooge fan. I was surprised to see that up to 40% of the audience consisted of women, who appeared to be as enthusiastic as the men.

For Martine, it was an opportunity to have some great chicken. For lunch, we went to Sevan Rotisserie Chicken on Glenoaks and, for dinner, Elena’s Greek and Armenian Restaurant on Glendale Boulevard.

 

 

The Stairs of Silverlake

One of the Stairs of Silverlake

One of the Stairs of Silverlake

This being Labor Day Weekend, Martine and I attended the Cinecon film restoration show in Hollywood. To me, the highlight of this show was how three comics of the 1930s and 1940s used the stairs of Silverlake, a hilly area just west of today’s Dodger Stadium. The stairways still exist, and I would not be surprised  if hundreds of student films took advantage of their cinematic qualities.

The three films in the so-called “Silverlake Steps Trilogy” were:

  • The Music Box (1932). The best of the three, starring the inimitable Laurel & Hardy, who try to wrestle a player piano up the steps. (See illustration below.)
  • An Ache in Every Stake (1941), with the Three Stooges. Larry, Curly and Moe try to deliver ice blocks on a super-hot day up the steps, only to have them turn into cubes once they get up top. The film ends with the three acting as chefs at a birthday party at the house where they deliver the ice.
  • It’s Your Move (1945), with Edgar Kennedy hefting a wash machine up the steps.

Billy Gilbert with Laurel and Hardy in “The Music Box”

Billy Gilbert with Laurel and Hardy in “The Music Box”

The above films are not only in chronological order, but also in descending order of quality. By the time It’s Your Move was released, the big studios were less interested in short programs, especially as television was looming over the horizon.