I think the first time I brought up the Jim Henson memorial service, that took place in 1990 was when I posted a video of the Muppeteers singing a deeply-moving version of the song “Just One Person,” which I posted here.
That same performance also showed up here the other day when I posted a long medley of favorite Henson songs at that memorial, which ended with that performance of “Just One Person.”
What I noted in that original post back in 2013 was that while most people probably think that “Just One Person” is a Muppet song, written for them – when in fact it’s from the stage musical Snoopy!!!!” with a score by Larry Grossman and Hal Hackady.
I had mentioned this the other day when I sent the memorial video to my friend Carla Winnie who I got to know a little over three years when she was my realtor. Why I sent the video specifically to Carla is that (as I’ve noted here) it turns out that earlier in her career, Carla was an actress in musicals and was actually in that original production of Snoopy!!! and can be heard on the original cast album. To be great surprise, when she watched the video (and loved it), she had absolutely no idea that “Just One Person” was no associated with The Muppets. But was thrilled to know that the song had been given such a wonderful afterlife. I liked, too, what she said, as well –
“That is my favorite song from Snoopy. I just love that song, and taught it to my son's class when he was in the 5th grade. Thank you so much for thinking of me. I had not realized the Muppets adopted it. How perfect. I know that Charles Schultz loved that song.”
And what a wonderful coda to know how much Charles Schultz loved the song, from its original incarnation.
The Muppets first sang it on The Muppet Show when Bernadette Peters was the host that week. And perhaps other times, as well, I can’t recall offhand. I bring all that up because for all the other performances they’ve done of the song, I have a feeling that this video below may be what solidified the song with The Muppets for them and in the public’s mind.
It requires a bit of an explanation for the full impact. After he died, The Muppets did a tribute special on Jim Henson. The premise of the special was that The Muppets had heard about this guy Jim Henson who seemed pretty great, and so they wanted to honor him – though to the viewers it’s clear they’re unaware he’s passed away. Also, for some reason that The Muppets can’t understand during this broadcast, Kermit is not there backstage with them to help put the tribute together. In fact, he’s not there for the entire show. The subtext, of course, for the TV audience is the question: without Kermit’s voice will the Muppets be able to go on without him?
This clip is from the end of the tribute special – it’s very good, but all the more impactful when you understand, to reiterate, that there’s been no Kermit for the full hour. Not a word from him, no sight of him. Only all the other Muppets. So…what will they do? Note, too, that at the very end, they bring in Big Bird, Bert, Ernie, Elmo and some others from Sesame Street – I think it’s the first time characters from Sesame Street (other than Kermit) were on TV with those from The Muppet Show. So, it sort of unites all the Muppets together without Kermit, and the question of how they can go on not just without Kermit, but importantly, without Kermit’s voice.
Which brings us to this clip --
And a bonus comment to this all --
I don’t know if this was intentional (I suspect not, though it could have been), but the Muppet character who was so sad about being ignored and then Bernadette Peters sings "Just One Person" to in the aforementioned first performance of this song The Muppet Show is Kermit’s nephew Robin. And in that Jim Henson tribute video above, I noticed that the Muppet character who cheers up Fozzie Bear and starts to sing “Just One Person” is…Kermit’s nephew Robin! If that was intentional, it was very clever. And if it was just chance, what a fascinating bit of kismet.
At his press conference on Wednesday, Gov. Greg Abbott wanted the public to know that Texas has allowed 18-year-olds to buy rifles for 60 years. What he conveniently left out was that only four years later (on August 1, 1966) was when the nation's first school shooting took place -- at the University of Texas. And with a rifle. Far more than that, it was a high-powered, semi-automatic weapon and overloaded with ammunition. There were 14 people killed. And 47 casualties overall.
To be clear, there may be no direct cause-and-effect between the then-new Texas law and shooting -- or was -- but it was a Really Horrible Example for Abbott to use.
Further, not totally dissimilar from this week's school shooting, the murderer Charles Whitman killed his mother and wife the night before he headed to the tower on the college campus for his killing spree.
An acclaimed 1975 TV movie was made about the ghastly tragedy with Kurt Russell, called The Deadly Tower. It also starred Ned Beatty, John Forsythe and Pernell Roberts. And the actor Richard Yniquez played the heroic Hispanic police officer who is able to end the rampage. The film is gripping -- methodical, underplayed and wonderfully done. From the taut build-up until the attack begins through the long and horrifying shooting. Highly recommended. It's available for streaming on Amazon Prime here for $3.99.
You can read more about it on its iMDB page.
Here's a five-minute clip. It's just a movie, not news footage, but it's fact-based, understated, showing what happened during that heart-sickening gun massacre, four years after Gov. Abbott proudly pointed to the then-new Texas law opening up the purchase of rifles.
There are a few odd, jump-edits by the person who posted this, but overall it's straightforward from the film. One note: at one point, we see a young woman on the phone, but it cuts away mid-sentence. That's the wife of the police officer who eventually makes it into the tower.
On Tuesday, I posted a Media Alert for the great movie "Z" which was airing on TCM. I noted that it was the first foreign-language movie to ever get nominated for Best Picture. And said that viewers should stick around to the very end of the closing crawl when it explains what the title, "Z," means.
I recorded the film, and watched it -- and waited to the very end, but that final moment is extremely dramatic and moving. Fortunately, I'd seen the movie before.
That's because, to my amazement, the film cut it off, mid-crawl, just before the explanation of why the movie is titled, "Z"!!! And it went directly to a promo for the next movie!! This means that , a person could have watched the entire, gripping movie... and Not Know What the Title "Z" means!!
I have no idea what on earth went wrong. This was utterly bizarre and, I'm sure they would acknowledge, inexcusable. I hope they make sure you fix this print so that it never happens again. I sent a comment to TCM to let them know this.
I don't want to give away the explanation here, but if anyone watched the movie the other day and therefore missed the end of the closing crawl and wants to know what "Z" means and why it's the title of the movie, scroll to the bottom of the page and click on the "Contact Us" link.
Ack. How awful and sloppy.
Over on his website, my pal Mark Evanier was pondering who might replace James Corden when he quit his Late, Late Show in a year. And Mark’s conclusion is that while we can sometimes guess who’ll be hosting a new talk show in the “early” late night spot, the later “after-show” tends to go to someone lesser known – or unknown here – who maybe the network is trying to develop. So, the answer is “Who knows? Make a guess.”
Okay, I’ll make a guess. And it’s nothing more than just a guess.
I first became aware of Mike Birbiglia about 6-7 years ago from the inveterate Chris Dunn who had been a big fan of him for years. He convinced me to see one of Birbiglia’s stage shows – at maybe the Amundsen Theatre of the Los Angeles Music Center, I think – and he was wonderful. And I’ve enjoyed his work since. I don’t seek him out as does Chris (who, as I said has been a big fan for years, but I wanted to repeat that because he’s a really big fan and deserves big points for his taste and prescience), but I’ve always enjoyed it when I watch.
On Sunday, I sent Chris a Media Alert heads-up because I saw that Birbiglia was scheduled to be a guest on Tuesday on Jimmy Kimmel Live! And then the news broke that Kimmel had tested positive for COVID. And then the show said that guest Mike Birbiglia – who probably many of the show’s fans didn’t know (even though he’s been a guest several times) – would be hosting. And not just hosting that night he was scheduled to be on…but the whole week.
I’ve tuned in, and think he’s been wonderful. And from his humorous, self-effacing monologues, it seems the TV audience has been liking him, albeit in a bewildered. (The tweets that Birbiglia has been showing have been begrudgingly semi-positive, but unsure what he’s doing there. Like, “He’s not horrible and better than I thought.” And “He’s okay, but I’ll have to Google him tomorrow to find out who he is.” And “He isn’t terrible, but why didn’t they get The Rock?”) The even better bit was the first night when they showed clips of local TV news anchors announcing the Kimmel COVID story and mangling how to pronounce “Birbiglia.”
What I think has worked well for him is that he has a very low-key, charming, wistful, ingratiating, personable style. And as a stand-up, he’s used to talking to a live audience. And being quick on his feet. That doesn’t mean, though, that a stand-up would be good at interviewing someone or show real curiosity, that’s a separate skill. And thus far, Birbiglia has seemed very comfortable interviewing others. (On Jerry Seinfeld’s Comedians in Cars Getting Coffee streaming series, several of his comedian guests have pointed out that he should get a talk show because he’s so good at interviewing them. And Seinfeld always responds that NO, he loves talking to comedians but would be bored talking to other celebrities and guests. Birbiglia seems at ease.)
If you don’t know Mike Birbiglia’s work – by the way, it’s pronounced “Burr-big-lee-uh”), it’s sort of in the vein of John Mulaney (who’s hosted SNL quite a few times) or Seth Meyers or perhaps Ellen Degeneres.
Earlier yesterday, before reading Mark’s piece and deciding to write this, I wrote to Chris about how good his fave comedian was doing and how pleased he must be, having him hosting all week. And I added that I suspected his agent's phone has been ringing. After all, as I noted, this is a major platform for a guy who was quite a bit under the wire -- hosting a major talk show all week. And coming across SO funny and likeable. And I thought (especially since they’ve been addressing all week that he was only supposed to be a guest) that audiences also recognized that it was done with zero preparation. Yet he comes across like this is his regular job and has been for years.
I think it helped, too, last night when Ewan McGregor was the first guest, there to talk about his new Disney+ series, recreating his Star Wars portrayal of Obi Wan Kenobe – and almost the first thing McGregor wanted to talk about was what a huge fan his oldest daughter is of Birbiglia and that she has all his albums, and that when he and his daughter were driving on a road trip, they were listening to him, and McGregor said he was laughing so hard he had to pull off to the side of the road and stop. Birbiglia seemed truly flabbergasted and touched.
My point to Chris was not that Birbiglia would become a major superstar from this – but it’s very high profile for a full week, not an eight-minute standalone guest spot that most lesser-know comedians have, and he’s succeeded wonderfully. So, maybe he’ll get to host SNL next year. Or perhaps a director or producer thought, gee, this guy would be perfect in a particular role in their upcoming movie. Or Netflix would want him to do yet another comedy special for them. That sort of thing, that pushes one’s career forward. I thought he’d be terrific hosting a talk show, but there weren’t any openings.
And then when I read Mark’s discussion about James Corden leaving in a year. And man, if I was CBS, I’d at the very least have Mike Birbiglia name on my “To discuss” list at the next staff meeting for Who Do We Get to Replace James?
I’m not saying they will hire him. Or that Birbiglia even wants to host a talk show. (Though he certainly alluded to how much a good time he’s having, suggesting to Jimmy that he wasn’t looking great and might have long COVID because “I like long hosting.”) I’m just saying that if the answer to who will replace James Corden is, “Who knows? Make a guess” – that’s the only guess I can make right now.
Here's his first night monologue, so you can get a sense of what I mean. It’s just the first part, since they then go into a long bit with the sidekick Guillermo, but it’s still 10 minutes. (And yes, the show began with Birbiglia's selfie video, that's not an add-on.)
And what the heck, as a bonus, just to show how he handled interviewing, here’s his interview with Ewan McGregor. Keep in mind that he’s not a professional interview, and he was just thrown into this the night before. At the very least, watch the first 90 seconds. You’ll understand why –
By the way I have a theory here. Notice that at around the 1:30 mark, Ewan McGregor sort of looks up quickly, slightly to his left, and says, “Oh, the albums…” and then tells Birbiglia about how his daughter “told me to tell you” that she has all his albums. My theory is that his daughter is right there with her dad, just off camera, because she’s a Big Fan of Mike Birbiglia. And when he looks up and says, “Oh, the albums…” it’s because his daughter realizes her dad forgot to tell her favorite comedian that she has all his albums and so she said, “His albums.” Which is why he raises his head and says, “Oh, the albums…” and makes clear, “She told me to tell you…” I could be wrong, it’s possible that he simply remembered he was supposed to tell Birbiglia. But it would be odd phrasing, “Oh, the albums…” if he wasn’t prompted, so that’s my theory. Go watch it again, and I think I make a good case.
Yesterday, President Zelenskyy said he felt like Bill Murray in “Groundhog Day," having to answer the same question over and over every day. If "Saturday Night Live" can pull it off, they should ask Bill Murray to come in to do a sketch as Zelenskyy.
I loved the sitcom Green Acres, which ran from 1965-1971, and even still watch it on occasion. It was really smart, significantly-smarter than it appears on the surface as just a low-brow hick comedy. Weird, subversive in its humor, clever and continually breaking the fourth wall, referencing the audience (especially when having fun with the opening and end credits, but much more).
This ran on Nick at Nite, with Marc Summers serving as host. He does an okay job, though far too often cuts off the guest answering. And oddly, he doesn’t bring Eddie Albert into the conversation much. However, Eva Gabor and Pat Buttram are wonderful. Also included are two other of show's smaller, but fun regulars, there Alvy Moore and Sid Melton. Because this is Nick at Nite, it’s sort of required to be a bit sillier than one would wish for such a fun gathering, but it all fits well enough.
As a bonus, this is the full TV reunion movie they refer to. Made in 1990, it’s actually pretty enjoyable, which is impressive for a show that went off the air 20 years earlier. I think I posted it a long while back, but it fits here again.
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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