Tuesday, March 29, 2005

All Schiavo, All The Time

Holy Blog Drought, Batman! What amazes me is how many of my fellow Soapboxers continued blogging, even with nobody able to read what they were writing. That's commitment.

I had planned to do a Week in Review, but I'm way too behind on my reading to even attempt one. Instead, a few updates:

I just got booked to headline at an Atlantis Cruises resort in Cancun on May 1. They're flying me to Mexico on a Saturday night and flying me back Monday. Obviously, I'm thrilled, but the pressure to develop 45 minutes (read: an eternity) of strong material in the next 30 days is rather intense. I've got four upcoming April dates to get ready, and would gladly welcome more.

Are these guys laughing at my comedy, or my physique?

Saturday night I dragged Jason to Rose's Turn and did an all-Schiavo set, which was generally well-received. (Sample joke: "I don't want to say the Pope's in bad shape... but Terri Schiavo's parents just announced they want him taken off life support.") During the bridge of "Life in a Northern Town," when I always do schtick, I said, "This is the part of the song where Michael Isaacs turns down the lights... and then I remove his feeding tube." Without missing a beat, Michael said, "That's not my feeding tube, Sir." The crowd roared. Paul Schaffer's got nothing on Michael Isaacs.

So a big news day: Johnnie Cochrane -- dead. The media is treating him like a hero, which strikes me as odd, since I thought he was a snake who got a murderer off by exploiting the country's racial tensions.

Speaking of racial tensions (and Schiavo), professional media whore Jesse Jackson turned up in Florida today with Terri Schiavo's parents, demanding that doctors stop "starving" Terri, the process of which he called "inhumane."

"If it blinks... it can think!," said the Reverand Jackson to a throng of cheering Christians. "If it moans, leave it alone!" (All right, he didn't really say that, but it's only because his rhyming speechwriter is away on an Atlantis Cruises vacation in Cancun.)

Speaking of using religion to further a political agenda, Jerry Falwell is in critical condition in a Virginia hospital. In other news, Lucifer has been spotted hovering over a hospital in Virginia.

"How very unkind."

Speaking of bloated hypocrites, Douglas Smith Jr., national program director of the Boy Scouts of America, has been charged with trading kiddie porn on the Internet. According to The New York Times, Smith spoke on behalf of his organization's policy of dismissing openly gay scouts and scout leaders in a 2004 case that reached the Supreme Court, saying, "Some intolerant elements in our society want to force scouting to abandon its values and become fundamentally different." Yes, we gays are so intolerant: of pedophiles who scapegoat us, that is.

And finally, anyone watch "American Idol" tonight? Paula Abdul seems to be heavily medicated, perhaps on a combination of oxycontin and Absolut. With her glazed eyes and slurred, rambling comments, she's about six months away from starring in a reality TV series.

Oh, wait -- she already is.

Thursday, March 17, 2005



I believe this is what they call a "turning point."

Now excuse me while my head explodes.

Too Much TV On My Hands

Jason has been in Puerto Rico all week, so I've been watching even more TV than usual (which is frightening).

Among my observations:

"24" is suffering from the same mid-season malaise it did in all its previous incarnations. Frankly, I just don't care anymore what the real conspiracy is, or what evil the terrorists are going to attempt next, or whether ex-spouses Tony Almeida and Michelle Dessler are going to reunite in one of CTU's bathroom stalls. (Actually, I kind of would like to see that.)

Just do each other, already!

And while I had no problem, politically, with the show's portrayal of Arabs as terrorists, the show lost both fair-mindedness and credibility this past Monday night with the introduction of two angelic Arab teens who save Jack's ass by letting him hole up in their sporting good's store, which was looted earlier by out-of-control Los Angelenos (read: black people) who targeted the boys because of their Middle Eastern heritage. More than that, they voluntarily join Jack and Paul in their gun battle against a large, well-trained SWAT team. "We want to help you fight the terrorists responsible for today's bloodshed," one of the boys tells Jack, as a halo is projected around his head. "We grew up here. This is our home."

Where to begin.

In the first place, as always, "24" has cast the two WASPiest-looking Arab actors on earth to play the roles of these saintly brothers. They look like they came over on the Mayflower. (When not casting Westerners and Western-looking Easterners to play these roles, the producers rely on Latinos -- see Nestor Serrano as Behrooz Araz. But who can tell the difference, anyway? They're all dark.)

Secondly, "24's" writers apparently believe Arabs come in two flavors: Terrorist and Too-Good-To-Be-True. This is not unlike Hollywood's treatment of most minorities over the years, but aren't we past this? At best, it's lazy and sloppy writing, on a show that fans rely on for its sharpness and unpredictability. I give it one more episode, and then I'm switching to "Everwood."

And speaking of the WB, "The Starlet" continues to charm. On this week's episode, in which Donna, a drag queen from Manhattan, was voted out, the girls had to tape a hair care product commercial on the beach while clad only in a bikini. This is the second desperate attempt in a row to get straight men to watch this gay show, following last week's lesbian kiss episode. Anyway, one of the women, the ridiculously named Mercedes, had a bit of a meltdown. It seems she's got major body image issues and deemed her ass and thighs to be too monstrous to be seen on camera. This led to her insisting on covering her lower half with a sarong (which was SO WRONG), and giving a lackluster performance. (Though how one was supposed to channel Meryl Streep while shilling for a hair care product was not explained.)

It should be mentioned here that Mercedes is not fat in the slightest. In fact, she's below weight, compared with the average woman.

Cut to the critique. Mercedes enters the room looking despondent and stressed. The judges watch Mercedes's commercial. They note the sarong and shake their collective heads. Vivica A. Fox is the first to speak. I'm expecting a lecture on self esteem -- how Mercedes should love and appreciate her body and not feel she has to cover it up, etc. Instead, Vivica says, "Girl, you need to lose some weight!"

As Mercedes bawls, Faye Dunaway chimes in, her collagen-stuffed lips curling up into a smile: "You need to wake up! Get yourself to the gym every day! You need to do it! Look at you, you're crying over this! Ha ha ha ha ha!"

"Hello. I have no soul."

As for Mario Lopez dropping out of "American Idol," I believe it will go down as one of the most bizarre happenings ever in the annals of TV history, pun intended. I don't know what skeleton is hiding in Mario's closet, but I guarantee you it's truly filthy. Nobody walks away from the No. 1 show in television on a whim.

Stay tuned. And come see me Saturday night at New York Comedy Club. Details on adamsank.com.

Tuesday, March 15, 2005

My New Head Shot Debuts!

..Or does it?

I tried several times to upload the photo, and each time I got a little message saying, "Your upload was successful!," but all I see is that same, tired ol'
photo with that big-assed toothy grin Maybe it takes the Soapbox a little while to get its bearings?

In any case, if you are seeing the new photo, I do realize how ridiculous it is. It looks like somebody put the face of Joan Collins on the body of Doogie Howser, M.D. (with whom I once got drunk, but that's a story for another time). But I just couldn't stand looking at the other head shot any longer. Maybe I'll change it again soon.

A frightening combination, indeed.


In addition to the new head shot, I debuted a new song at Rose's Turn Saturday night. As noted before in this space, I always (ALWAYS!) sing "Life in a Northern Town" by Dream Academy and, if Michael Isaacs invites me to sing another tune, I do "Cats in the Cradle" by Harry Chapin.

I still love singing the former; nobody ever expects to hear it at a piano bar, and it nicely accommodates my paltry vocal range. Plus, the staff at Rose's Turn, including the Tony-nominated Terri White, sing the most gorgeous harmonies when I get to the "Hey-Ma-Ma-Ma-Ma!" part, making me sound a lot more melodious than usual.

But I HATE "Cat's in the Cradle." It's the most depressing song ever, sung by the most depressing singer ever, and it always brings down the room.

So I've been practicing various numbers in the shower, and I decided I could probably handle "Time After Time" by Cyndi Lauper. (What can I tell you -- I'm a gay boy from the 80s. The whole piano bar thing should have tipped you off.)

So Saturday night, I'm at the bar with my good friend Amy Slotnick
, sipping my Tanqueray & Tonics and waiting patiently for Michael to call me up. (Actually, the first thing I did was bump the table, knocking some poor queen's Cosmo onto his lap. Whoops.) Michael makes eye contact with me like, "Yah, I see ya, dude." He does a set. And then some guy comes up from the crowd and murders a cat. And then Kim Lee Hicks does a nice set. And then some woman comes up and attempts Patsy Cline's "Crazy," (which I don't recommend, should you ever find yourself at the mic in a piano bar). And FINALLY Michael calls me up.

Well, by now, an hour has passed, and I have forgotten my own name, let alone any of the shtick I was gonna try out, let alone the words to "Time After Time." Then I remember: Michael always introduces me as a comic, so I was gonna say, "People are really confused by me -- because I'm a comic who likes to sing... I'm a singer who likes to come... I'm a Jew who likes German guys..." etc., and hilarity would ensue.

But of course, I get it backwards, and I say, "I'm a singer who likes to do comedy I..."


"I'm a gay guy who likes Germans..."

(freeze) (what?)

"Well, uh... fuck... I'm gonna sing a one-hit wonder by a group called 'Dream Academy.'"

Crowd goes WILD! My good luck -- they're all 80s fags. I sing the song. I sound GOOD! Perhaps it's the gin.

Then I lean over to Michael, grabbing on to his shoulder so I don't land face-down in the piano. "Can I do one more?," I mumble. "Can I do 'Time After Time'"

Ever the kind soul, he says yes and lauches right into it.

Crowd goes WILDER! This is everyone's favorite song EVER!!! I murder it, forgetting the words about three times, and going off pitch even more. And here's the thing: NOBODY EVEN NOTICES! They're all singing along so loudly, I am inaudible. I finish to thunderous applause. "You've never sounded better," says Michael, and he's not lying.

Moral of the story: Song choice, baby. LIke Paula says, it's all about song choice.

Next blog: Why "24" has ground to a halt.

Thursday, March 10, 2005

Mama's, Mario and Mary Cone!


Help! I've fallen off Comedy Soapbox, and I can't get up!

Some recent developments and observations, in no particular order:

Had a wonderful time at the Gay & Lesbo Fest at Don't Tell Mama last Friday night. Regular M.C. Ron Poole was off on a cruise, which worried me a bit at first; he sets the perfect tone for these events with his initial set. But guest host Sidney Meyer proved to be light on his feet (and not just in the obvious sense).

Sidney doesn't do standup, per se; he does funny cabaret-style songs, such as "Mary Cone," which is about the most famous woman in Latin America. (Sample lyric: "Mary Cone! Mary Cone!/I hear her name much more than my own/When I walk down the street, people call out her name/Mary Cone! Mary Cone! Mary Cone!") He opened with that one, and it killed. Then, between each set, he offered some choice ad-libs.

Then again, I think we all could have read the phone book to this crowd, and they would have howled. They were ridiculously easy to please (which, believe me you me, is not always the case with gay audiences). I felt so comfortable, I went ahead and did something I've always dreamed of doing with that shiny, red tinsel curtain at the back of Mama's stage: I wrapped it around myself and sang the theme from "Tootsie." ("Go, Tootsie Go...") They loved it.

My favorite movie of all time!

The prior Saturday, I made an increasingly rare visit to Rose's Turn. (The guy I'm dating, who, it can now be told, is named Jason, hates all piano bars. Houston, we have a problem.) Michael Isaacs, playing his heart out at the piano as usual, appeared delighted to see me; it seems a friend of his had discovered my blog and told him how I'm always singing his praises. So to Michael, if this gets back to you, thank you again for always being so supportive and so friggin' talented. Singing with you and the gang at Rose's is always the highlight of my week, except when I have one too many Tanqueray and tonics. Now if I can just convince Jason to tag along...

My parents got back from their month-long sojourn to India this past week. They've already presented me with a nice area rug for my dining room area, and there are mumblings about a possible Chinese chest of drawers being shipped. Sweet.

What else? Oh, so I'm addicted to yet another reality show -- "The Starlet" on the WB. I was all set to write a hilariously scathing review of it in this space, but alas -- Alessandra Stanley beat me to it in The Times, and she said everything I would have -- but better. So I'll simply sum up what I love about this show in two words: Faye Dunaway.

"Barbara, please -- leave us alone. PLEASE BARBARA!"

As for my old obsession, "American Idol," I must concede this season's growing a bit long in the tooth. I kind of wish they'd get to the final eight already. I dig both rocker dudes, but for my money, its going to be Mario Vasquez and Nadia Turner in the final finish, even though the latter has hair like Thing 1 and Thing 2 from "The Cat in the Hat."

Separated at Birth

I could go on, but coworkers are starting to walk by my desk and peer, puzzled, at the images on my screen. My next gig's at New York Comedy Club Saturday, March 19 at 7:30 p.m. See you there!

Tuesday, March 1, 2005

In Spite of Popular Demand, My Oscar Wrap-Up

Before I get to the Oscars, I have to point out that "24" may have jumped the shark last night when A) Driscoll's schizophrenic daughter managed to slash her wrists and bleed to death while under round-the-clock hospital supervision and B) Edgar saved the United States from nuclear holocaust essentially by advising Curtis to simultaneously press "control-alt-delete." Makes you really appreciate your company computer geek, no?

On with the show!

First, I'm sort of shocked by the negativity aimed at the telecast in general and at Chris Rock's performance in particular. "His few attempts to put his mark on the event fell flat," wrote Caryn James in The New York Times, "most conspicuously with a filmed routine in which he interviewed black moviegoers who loved the dopey Wayans brothers comedy 'White Chicks' but hadn't seen best-picture nominees like 'The Aviator' or 'Finding Neverland.' The segment, suggesting that the Oscars are out of touch with a huge swath of moviegoers, hit what is probably the academy's biggest fear, and landed in the audience with a silent thud."

Perhaps, but that segment hit the crowd at my Oscar party with laughter and applause -- not just because it was funny, but because it was brilliant social commentary. If you're not into that, you're not into Chris Rock. But I'd say he was at the top of his game, especially in the opening monologue. LOVED the bit about how President Bush was reelected despite the fact that he'd probably be fired from The Gap. (It was funnier than it sounds.)

(Speaking of my Oscar party, it wasn't actually mine, but rather the annual pull-out-the-stops costumed shindig hosted by my dear friends Julie and A.J. Jacobs. This year's party did not disappoint -- even though I uncharacteristically lost the Oscar pool and won only a single crappy trivia prize. Among the guests this year were two newcomers: ultraconservative New York Post columnist John Podhoretz (who, it turns out, is an Oscar trivia savant) and his lovely wife, Ayala. On the other end of that political spectrum were my sister, Anna and I, who came as the Swank sisters, in matching sports bras and French braids. Needless to say, I was devastated we didn't place in the costume contest.)

As for the show itself, yes, there were a lot of innovations: no-name nominees in police lineups on-stage; other no-name nominees having to give their acceptance speeches from deep in the bowels of the Kodak Theater; funky new MTV-style graphics (including constantly changing neon-lit signs on the stage floor). Clearly, some of these changes worked better than others. But the endless wailing and gnashing of teeth that have followed the broadcast seem over the top. It's the friggin' Oscars, for God's sake, not the Bible. There's nothing wrong with shaking things up a little. And clearly, the combination of those changes and Rock's hosting attracted younger viewers: E! online reports that ABC posted its best ratings among adults in the 18 to 34 demographic in three years. So to everyone bitching about how Rock bombed and how dreadful the show was this year, I say: suck it.

And now for the part (three of) you have all been waiting for... this year's Sanky Awards:

Most in Need of a High Colonic:
Sean Penn, who felt the need to defend Jude Law's honor in the face of Chris Rock's good-natured jabs.

Worst Comeback Line:
Rock's perplexing, "Sean Penn -- my accountants would like to speak with you," remark. Wha?

A Series of Unfortunate Events Award:

Annette Benning's hair.

Best Dressed:
Kate Winslet, in Badgley Mischka's jewel-encrusted periwinkle chiffon. In a word, fabulous.

Kate Winslet
"Oh my God! This award means nothing to me!"

Worst Dressed:
Scarlett Johansson with tiarra, looking like a pre-murdered JonBenet Ramsey in her brownie uniform.
Scarlett Johansson
"Yeah, but I got an Oscar, bitch."

Best Live Accompaniment to a Montage of Corpses:
Yo-Yo Ma on the cello. He had me at "Yo."

Golden Globes Award:
Sidney Lumet's daughter's breasts, which were so spectacular that even I went "Wow, those are some NICE tits!"

Classiest Acceptance Speech:
Jorge Drexler, winner of Best Song for "Al Otro Lado Del Rio. Denied the right to perform his own song during the ceremony (so that we could instead be treated to the dubious talents of Antonio Banderas), Drexler simply took the mic, sang the song a cappella, and strode off. You go, Jorge!

Sneakiest Attempt to Grab Every Possible Demographic:

Teaming Beyonce with Josh Groban to sing "Believe." Let's see: Black people? Check. White people? Check. Horny straight men? Check. Lonely grandmothers? Check. Hip Hop crowd? Check. Opera crowd? Check. Fags? Check Check!!!

Best Impersonation of that Big Monster Who Gets His Hair Done by Bugs Bunny, Using Dynamite Sticks as Hair Rollers:
Adam Duritz, of the Counting Crows.

"Monsters are the most interesting people!"

Funniest Bit by a Non-Host:
Robin Williams's riff on gay cartoon characters. OK, it's hack, but his delivery was better than its been in years.

Chris Rock's 3 Funniest Introduction Lines:
For Jeremy Irons: "Comedy superstar"
For Gwyneth Paltrow: "Only person to have breast-fed an Apple."
Tim Robbins: "The man who insists on boring us with his politics." (This one made Podhoretz chuckle.)

Worst She's Ever Looked Award:
Barbra Streisand; it may be time to shut the door, Babs.

There's so much more I could say, but I have now wasted two hours of my work day and can do so no longer. Don't expect to hear for me for the next few days -- I am spent. Oh, and come see me at Don't Tell Mama this Friday night, March 4, at 9:30 p.m. ♥