On this edition of 3rd and Fairfax, the official podcast of the Writers Guild of America, the guests are the co-creators of the Comedy Central series, The Other Two, Chris Kelly (who wrote for Saturday Night Live for seven years, as well as the series, Broad City, and the film Other People) and Sarah Schneider (whose credits include writing for SNL for seven years.)
Today's guest contestant on the 'Not My Job' segment of the NPR game quiz show Wait, Wait...Don't Tell Me! is the wonderful celebrity chef and humanitarian Chef José Andrés, whose World Central Kitchen provides relief food after disasters around the world -- and who pulled his restaurant from the new Trump Hotel in Washington, D.C. after Trump insults to Mexicans. His enthusiasm with host Peter Sagal during the interview is infectious and often hilarious, most notably his discussion of canned food -- which trust me is not what you think it is..
Because of the fire devastation in Australia, BBC's new nature series Seven Worlds, One Planet announced that they will now open the program with the Australia episode and will include information on how to support relief efforts. The documentary series is narrated by Sr. David Attenborough and starts tonight, Saturday, January 18, at 9/8c on BBC America, AMC, IFC and SundanceTV.
The title for this week’s Al Franken podcast with guest Lawrence O’Donnell is pretty funny – “MSNBC’s Second Most Popular Host.” Franken describes the show this way, very simply – “Lawrence O’Donnell – Son of Dorchester, West Wing writer, Moynihan Senate Staff director – tears Trump and CNN a new one.” It's a very enjoyable, interesting show, made all the more fun as Al keep giving O'Donnell good-natured grief throughout.
Once again, we here at Elisberg Industries celebrate the anniversary of Benjamin Franklin's birthday, This year, it's his 314th, born on January 17, 1706.
It's always struck me whimsically odd that there are two stage musicals where Franklin is at the forefront, so we do our celebrating with a menagerie of songs from those shows. The first is -- no, no 1776, but rather one all about him alone -- Ben Franklin in Paris, when he went to France to earn support and financing for the colonies in their War of Independence. The show opened in 1964 and starred Robert Preston, his first musical after The Music Man. The music and lyrics were by Sydney Michaels, and though it wasn't a hit, the show had a fair run of 215 performances.
It's not a particularly distinguished score, but happily there's a video of one of my two favorite numbers, complete with dialogue, that was performed on The Ed Sullivan Show. Here is "Half the Battle.
And this is my other favorite song from the show, "Look for Small Pleasures," sung by Preston with his co-star Ulla Sallert. The song actually had a bit of a life outside the show, with a few popular recordings.
Okay, and now we go to 1776, the Pulitzer Prize-winning and Tony Award Best Musical-winning show with a score by Sherman Edwards. Lots to choose from, but we're going to go with "The Egg," sung with Howard Da Silva as Franklin, along with William Daniels as John Adams, and Ken Howard as Thomas Jefferson.
And...oh, what the heck, it's not about Ben Franklin, but it's close enough in spirit. From Mary Poppins by the Sherman Brothers, here's "Let's Go Fly a Kite."
Once again, Trump reiterated his insistence that he doesn't know Lev Parnas, doesn't know where he's from, doesn't know anything about him. Yes, there are photos of him with Parnas, quite a few, but (for the sake of argument) it's certainly possible that all those are just quick, random "Here, take a photo with this guy" things. No, it's not likely or probable, given how many of them are, but -- just to bend over backwards for argument's sake -- sure, it's possible.
But then last night on Rachel Maddow's interview with Parnas with see what crushes that argument completely into dust. It's an email from Trump's lawyer Jay Sekulow to his former lawyer John Dowd who had said he probably had a conflict defending Parnas since he (Dowd) had been Trump's lawyer. And so Dowd asked Sekulow if there was, in fact, a conflict.
There you have it. Not only does that show Trump knows Lev Parnas, but well-enough to give approval to his former lawyer to represent him.
There was also something related to all this that leaped out loudly yesterday.
Trump adviser Kellyanne Conway was on Jake Tapper's show on CNN and said something that Trump defenders have been saying for a long time time, but yesterday it took on especially-substantive meaning given that it was the day the Articles of Impeachment were signed and officially transferred to the Senate, where Chief Justice John Roberts swore all senators in for the trial of "Donald John Trump."
In the interview, Ms. Conway said two two things of note. The first was to remind everyone that Lev Parnas had been federally indicted, something that was a talking point by Trump spokespeople all day. And as I wrote yesterday, Parnas is not a good guy. Indeed, he has a seedy past. But what is important to point out, just to be fair, is that being indicted is not the same as being convicted. It is reasonable for anyone to say that someone has under indictment when they are. It is equally proper to make clear that in the United States, a person is innocent until proven guilty. Furthermore, it is fair to respond that while "He is under federal indictment" is an accurate charge, it is not a denial that what the person said isn't true.
But it was the other thing she said that I think stands out far more. Not just because we've heard it so often from Team Trump in the past, but especially since (as I noted) today was the beginning of Trump's trial. And that's when Ms. Conway's response to Jake Tapper was that we all have to remember that everything Lev Parnas had been saying was not under oath in a court of law.
And here's the thing -- as much as she and all Trump defenders want to properly stand on this reality as something the American public should consider profoundly important, they are digging their own hole, because what is equally true is that that point, that what Lev Parnas say is not under oath so we should be skeptical about believing him, is exactly just as true for Trump.
And Mike Pompeo. And William Barr. And Rick Perry. And Mick Mulvaney. And Mike Pence. And -- yes, Kellyanne Conway. And indeed every single person in the Trump administration who Trump has been blocking from testifying under oath.
If we are not to take as absolute fact that what Lev Parnas as said was the truth because he was not under oath, then we cannot take as the absolute truth the denials of any of these people who are not under oath.
For that matter, by that very argument of Trump's spokesperson, the only way we can determine if what Lev Parnas is saying is the truth is to have him testify under oath. And it follows that the only way we can determine if the denials of Trump officials are true is to have them all testifying under oath, as well.
It is not to be expected that this latter will happen.
But it's good to know that the Trump administration's lead spokesperson wants us to know that it should. Because whether or not she said that -- it is exactly what she was saying.
We head back into the kitchen for another of the wonderful "50 People Try to..." videos from Epicurious. And this one was particularly fun for me because it's one that I actually have wanted to do but have been uncertain. It's "50 People Try to Peel and Chop a Butternut Squash." The good news is that I was pretty close in my assumptions on how to best do it. But it's still more involved, and most of the those trying were pretty amusingly lost.
Last weekend, I posted Al Franken's podcast where he interviewed Conan O'Brien. I noted that it wasn't about politics, but that they just talk about entertainment.
In fairness, I didn't go far enough, and decided I should be more clear. So, here's a better way to describe the talk. For an hour, they are REALLY FUNNY. It's just an hour of great stories and laughter. Mostly about Saturday Night Live, with behind-the-scene tales and discussion of favorite sketches that never made it on the air, but more than that.
So, if you missed it, the link is here.
For the record: Joseph Bondy is the attorney for Lev Parnas.
I watched last night's interview on The Rachel Maddow Show with Lev Parnas. And I'm sure it's not shocking to know that I largely believed what he said. Not because he said it, and it confirms what I wanted to hear. Because because it's confirmed by a lot of the other evidence, and because a lot of the other evidence suggests that much of this is true, and because he has presented a lot of documentary evidence to back up much of what he says.
There are some "Howevers."
His documents don't back up much of what he says. There isn't a lot of confirmation yet to much of what he says. He is an awful guy who was at the center of this plot to extort the president of Ukraine for months. He's never shown remorse for that, only saying he wants to set the record straight. And he's an awful guy from his past history prior to all this, as well.
To be clear, none of the "howevers" mean the reasons I believe much of it aren't valid. Just that I don't begin to see him as this heroic, whistleblowing character, and he's a very untrustworthy guy. I simply think that it has to be investigated further and verified. But it's certainly an extremely strong starting point.
The biggest starting point is that it's near-impossible to believe that he did this without full support of Rudy Giuliani, and that Rudy did this all on his own without support of Trump, and that Trump kept all of this hush-hush quiet without protecting himself by those around him he relied on. And the Parnas interview and papers do support all that. So, that's in large part why I do believe most of it. I just kick in with the howevers and would love to see this serve as the start of a full investigation.
By the way, on a separate matter, though Trump-impeachment related --
As we all know, Trump has a standard way of operating which is to distract when bad news is coming his way. So, I feel near-certain that when it was known the House would be signing the Articles of Impeachment today, Trump (being Trump) thought it would be a great idea to distract by announcing the apparent signing of the China trade deal he's been trying to tout for SO long. But in what universe did he think that pretty much any news would top the signing of only the third impeachment in U.S. history???? Forgetting for the moment that the "trade deal" got generally ridiculed. What the announcement mainly got was buried and lost in the news. So, this loooong build-up that Trump has been hyping for what seems like forever, on which he's likely been expecting massive praise and hosannahs...was totally, utterly wasted.
The heart bleeds.
Robert J. Elisberg is a two-time recipient of the Lucille Ball Award for comedy screenwriting. He's written for film, TV, the stage, and two best-selling novels, is a regular columnist for the Writers Guild of America and was for the Huffington Post. Among his other writing, he has a long-time column on technology (which he sometimes understands), and co-wrote a book on world travel. As a lyricist, he is a member of ASCAP, and has contributed to numerous publications.
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