Back in 2017, I posted what is considered the best "making of" documentary about a Broadway show cast album. It was called Original Cast Album: Company, about the making of Stephen Sondheim's musical Company. The film was directed by acclaimed documentarian D.A. Pennebaker, and what made it stand out was that it was not made as a feel-good promotional vehicle for the musical, but showed how the album was made, warts and all. It's most famous sequence was when Elaine Stritch, wearing her sailor's cap throughout, was not able to get her showstopping number, The Ladies Who Lunch, right -- and kept getting more frustrated and upset as the clock ticked to morning. And they finally had to send everyone home, to try and get it the next day.
If you haven't seen it, you can watch it here. And I highly recommend that, not just because it's so good...but also it will make today's video all the better.
There's a wonderful series on the IFC Channel, Documentary Now!, which is a parody of documentary series on PBS. The show has a strong Saturday Night Live pedigree, being created by Fred Armisen, Bill Hader, Seth Meyers, and Rhys Thomas. And they often get very well-known actors to take part, including Cate Blanchett (who's been in three), Owen Wilson, Michael Keaton, Jack Black, Anne Hathaway, Faye Dunaway, Kenny Loggins, Haim and more -- sometimes in a leading role, sometimes as "talking heads." In fact, the authoritative, serious host who introduces each half-hour film is Helen Mirren.
Back in 2019, they did one of my favorites -- a parody of that Pennebaker documentary about a musical called Co-Op. It was written by Seth Meyers and John Mulaney (which confirms my suspicion that it's been Mulaney who writes all the musical parodies whenever he guest hosts SNL.) It's meticulous in its detail, down to an Elaine Stritch-like character wearing a little sailor-like cap throughout. And happily, I was able to track the production down online.
The Documentary Now! film, which they properly call "Original Cast Album: Co-Op" is funny on its own, though I think it goes to another level if you watch the Pennebaker film first.
But however you choose to fly, here it is.
I love Charles Grodin’s acting – and always enjoyed when he was a guest on David Letterman’s show. Their act together was that Grodin had a barely hidden disdain for Dave, and even though if it was true then Letterman would never keep having him back and back – but Grodin was so convincing that there was still always a touch of uncertainty.
I didn’t remember well-enough, but it turns out that this was a persona he took on back when Johnny Carson was hosting The Tonight Show. My friend Myles Berkowitz sent me this video, and it’s a hoot. I get the sense that, while Carson surely knew that Grodin would go into his pissed-off mood, he didn't know how it would manifest itself. Both Grodin and Carson are incredibly quick here. People "mad" at one another isn't inherently funny, even when it's fake. It takes real craft to pull it off. And the battle is helped when it's even. So, Carson is wonderful here -- but Grodin’s disdain is dripping.
A couple of side notes. I’ve actually read the book he’s there to promote, one of his several memoirs, It Would Be So Nice If You Weren’t Here. The title comes from what a society lady said to him once when (if I remember the details correctly) a film crew was at her home.
The other thing is that I had reason to meet Grodin once, briefly. It was when I was working at Universal Pictures and walking through the lot back to my office. I saw Grodin walking nearby, and went over for one specific reason. It was to tell him how much I absolutely loved one particular scene in the movie, The Heartbreak Kid -- "the pie scene." It’s when his character has tells his new bride (played by Jeannie Berlin) on their honeymoon that he wants a divorce, so he’s taken her to a restaurant known for great pecan pie. When it later turns out that they’re out of the pie, he takes all his pent up angst out on the waiter. It’s a brilliant scene (written by Neil Simon) that’s hilarious, painful and tragic – and goes on for about 11 remarkable minutes. I mentioned how difficult it must have been to film. I don’t recall much of our conversation, but he was very appreciative and personable – I suspect it wasn’t something most people brought up to him (though they should have…), and talked about how, yes, it was indeed a challenge to do.
Anyway, here he is with Johnny Carson, going at one another.
If you didn't see Last Week Tonight with John Oliver last night, his Main Story was on Monkeypox. It was an interesting and surprising look at the history of the virus -- considering that there was a small outbreak of it 20 years ago that was easily contained -- as well as problems with how its been addressed since. All done with sardonic humor mixed throughout.
Lest anyone think that Randy Rainbow would have little to write about after Trump left office, perish the thought. He has a new song just out, one of his more scathing, which is saying a lot. If the song it's based on isn't familiar, it's "Dance Ten, Looks Three" from A Chorus Line.
And we finish out the Bad Lip Reading 5-segment extravaganza of their interpretation of the musical Hamilton, which in their ears they call "Axe-Assassin Albertson." And thanks to the KASCAID voice recognition technology from the future, they claim a 98.3% accuracy. No guarantee on that pesky, remaining 1.7%, of course.
This is the finale, with some wonderfully odd dialogue to start with. and then getting to King George III (or whoever KASCAID thinks he is) later singing the malevolent number "Elven Bodyglove." One thing you'll note is that not only have the Bad Lip Reading people come up with their own odd, funny and impeccably-crafted mis-heard words...but they've even written their own music throughout, which is what makes their effort all the more impressive. So, don't expect the light, jaunty tune of "You'll Be Back" (which seems to come out here as 'Cuban bacon'), but something much darker.
There's one more video to go after today's Segment Four of Bad Lip Reading's loopy version of Hamilton, that they call "Axe-Assassin Albertson." Today's episode, which as always is 98.3% accurate thanks to the voice recognition KASCAID software, feature the haunting ballad, "Nuts."
Strange as this all is, I am thoroughly impressed by the craft that goes into these things.
If you want to catch up with the previous videos, Segment One is here, and Segment Two is here. And from yesterday, this is Segment Three here.
Robert J. Elisberg is a political commentator, screenwriter, novelist, tech writer and also some other things that I just tend to keep forgetting.
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