Todd Alcott: now available in book form!

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Attention, people who can read! There are two excellent new books out, Devastator #9 by the editors of The Devastator and Lebowski 101 by Mr. Oliver Benjamin.

What makes these particular books excellent? I am featured in each! Devastator #9, a typically sly and brilliant issue of Geoffrey Golden’s humor quarterly, features one of my rarer-than-hen’s-teeth comics pieces, and Lebowski 101, a volume of smart writing on everyone’s favorite Coen Bros movie, features my own take on the now-classic.

Pick them both up today at your favorite online retailer!

Space Chimps, by guest reviewer John McCain

My friends, greetings. First off, I’d like to thank

  for giving me an opportunity to address a forum that’s generally overlooked on the campaign circuit, and for giving me a break from discussing the issues of the day. Campaigning is a tiring exercise and I, like a lot of Americans in the summertime, like nothing better to escape into the world of the movies. For the five and a half years I was held prisoner and tortured by the Vietnamese, I didn’t get a chance to see any movies at all.

I liked Space Chimps a lot, and as you know I don’t like talking about my experiences as a POW. In the movie, the lovable chimp Ham gets sent with his pals Luna and Titan to a harsh, inhospitable alien world. I could relate, my friends, because I spent five and a half years in a harsh, inhospitable world myself, undergoing tortures that I dislike talking about these days, but which have left me unable to lift my arms above my shoulders. Ham and his pals never have that problem, even though they spend a lot of time in a space capsule not much bigger than the cell I was kept in for five and a half long years. I wish I had had the easy humor and high spirits of those chimps during those years, where I spent the time reflecting on the death of Christ and memorizing the starting lineups of my favorite football team, which changes depending on who I’m talking to these stats

Ham gets into big trouble with an alien race in Space Chimps, just as a lot of people are in big trouble today with failing mortgages and high gas prices. But Ham’s troubles, and America’s, are nothing compared to the five and a half years of torture I underwent as a POW in the infamous “Hanoi Hilton,” days I’m extremely reluctant to discuss. In the movie, Ham and his pals must face down the evil overlord Zartog, just as we Americans must face down the evils of international terrorism, wherever they may be, just as I had to face the evils of communism in the form of my Vietnamese captors, some of whom were homosexuals, although never towards me.

Ham gets out of his situation on the alien planet through cleverness and determination; I didn’t have that choice as a prisoner of war, I had to wait five long years until I was rescued.  I don’t like to keep bringing this up, but there are people today who seem to think that being tortured for five and a half years isn’t such a big deal, there are people who think that me leaving my wife, while she’s hospitalized, to go marry an heiress, or that me having over $100 million, or that me having more houses than I can keep track of is somehow a bad thing.
There are even some who say that since the tortures inflicted on me are the same as the tortures our government is inflicting upon our detainees at Guantanamo, and since I’ve said that our detainees at Guantanamo aren’t being tortured, that I wasn’t actually tortured for five and a half years by the Vietnamese in the infamous Hanoi Hilton. Some point to stories I’ve told about being captive, about how some of them seem to be stolen from other sources, about how I’ve “changed” them to suit different audiences over the years, about how I remember things about my time as a POW that didn’t happen until years later. Well my friends, let’s lock you up and torture you for five and a half years and see how you hold up.

Ham leads his pals to freedom and victory, just as I will lead this nation to freedom and victory, even though I suffered terribly for five and a half years as a POW in the infamous Hanoi Hilton. My opponent may look more like a chimp than I do, and he may have a scary middle name and he may, like Ham, have the gift of gab, but he does not have the experience I do, and he certainly was not tortured for five and a half long years at the infamous Hanoi Hilton, and I want you to remember that when you go to the polls in November. How dare my opponent question my integrity, my great wealth, my hypocrisy and my unwavering support for the worst president in American history? He was not tortured as a prisoner of war, he has no right to say anything about anything.

In conclusion, my friends, Space Chimps is the kind of movie we can believe in, and I should know, because I was a prisoner of war who was tortured for five and a half long years by the Vietnamese in the infamous Hanoi Hilton, and I’m extremely reluctant to talk about that.

Alvin and the Chipmunks, by guest reviewer Rudy Giuliani

First of all, I’d like to thank

  for the opportunity to discuss the comedy hit of the year, Alvin and the Chipmunks, a feel-good movie that certainly made me feel better than I felt on September 11, 2001. I was the mayor of New York City on that fateful day, September 11, when a group of dark-skinned, foreign jihadists rammed two commercial jets into the World Trade Center, destroying them and killing three thousand people. No one gets killed in the riotous Alvin and the Chipmunks, but the fact that we, as Americans, can produce this kind of strong-willed family entertainment, even after the devastating losses suffered on September 11, produces in me a sense of wonderment, the same kind of wonderment I felt as the nation, indeed the world, rallied around my fair city on September 11.

Alvin is a classic American archetype, a sassy, can-do optimist, a lot like the ordinary, everyday New Yorkers I met in the aftermath of September 11. At the beginning of the movie, we meet Alvin and his pals leading an innocent, carefree life in nature, just as many Americans led an innocent, carefree life prior to September 11. They sing songs in their sweet, sped-up voices, bringing to my face a smile I haven’t felt since I saw the hope and spirit that rose from the ashes of the World Trade Center in the months following September 11.

They meet Dave (My Name Is Earl‘s Jason Lee), a down-on-his-luck songwriter, and proceed to turn his life upside-down, just as a team of murderous Islamic fascists turned America’s fortunes upside-down on September 11. Dave, charmed by their singing talents, writes them a Christmas song, a song everyone falls in love with, although I doubt any of the plotters of the attacks on September 11 would enjoy it. Their success is then hijacked by a mean music-industry record-producer (Arrested Development‘s David Cross), much like the two commercial jets that slammed into the World Trade Center, generating orange fireballs and enormous black clouds of religious hatred, were also hijacked on September 11.

I laughed until tears rolled down my cheeks, a sharp contrast to the tears I shed in mourning on September 11, as Alvin and the gang upend the mean record-producer’s plans. In the end, Alvin shows that he cannot be intimidated by a callous music industry, just as America showed that they could not be intimated by the evil forces of Islamic Jihadism in the bloody conflicts that followed the attacks on September 11.

I greatly enjoyed Alvin and the Chipmunks, and hope that they don’t wait until there is another catastrophe on the scale of the unwarranted attacks we as a nation experienced on September 11 before they release a sequel. It’s toe-tapping fun for the whole family, and I recommend it to anyone who was not brutally murdered on September 11.

America’s Mayor,
Rudy Giuliani

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Holy week celebrations continue

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I just think students should have access to all points of view

click for larger view

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The Kid-pitching sketch

Schools have fund-raising dinners.  If the school has some talented parents, one of the parents might get up and entertain.

My son Sam goes to a school in Los Angeles, so all of the parents are talented.  And for their fund-raising dinners, instead of parents getting up and singing or doing a magic act, the parents all get together and make a short self-satirizing movie produced by, edited by, directed by and starring well-known industry professionals.

I’m still getting used to all this, but for the fund-raising dinner the other night the school asked me to write a short sketch to incorporate into their movie.  I suggested a scene where some parents “pitch” their kid to the school as if he were a movie idea (since “pitch sketches” are the only sketches I’m capable of writing).  It turned out pretty good, so I thought I’d share it with a wider audience.

The Kid-pitching sketch

The Spider-Man sketch

Spider-Man by Sam, age 3.  This was his first-ever representational drawing.

In honor of
[info]urbaniak‘s appearance today at the NYCC (with jacksonpublick , Doc Hammer and my good friend Mr. Steven Rattazzi) I here present the famous “Spider-Man” sketch, which James and I performed a couple of years ago at a similar event at MoCCA.

UPDATE: as one can see, I have finally figured out the “cut” function.  Thank you ghostgecko.

The Spider-Man Sketch

The Happy Ending Shakespeare Company, Volume 3

by William Shakespeare

     (a wood.  MACBETH and BANQUO enter.  They’ve just won a battle.  It’s late.  They encounter a trio of witches.)

WITCH 1. Macbeth, you will be king.
WITCH 2. Banquo, your sons will be kings.
MACBETH.  Really?
BANQUO.  Wow.  Really?
MACBETH.  Hey, fabulous.
BANQUO.  That’s great.
MACBETH.  Hey, congratulations, buddy.
BANQUO.  Right back atcha.
MACBETH.  This calls for a celebration.
BANQUO.  I’ll go get the mead.
MACBETH.  Wait a minute.  Wait.
BANQUO.  What’s up?
MACBETH.  I’m going to be king?
WITCH 3. Yes, and Banquo, your sons will be king.
BANQUO.  That’s me, second place again.  Ha.  (Beat)  Thane?
BANQUO.  What’s the matter?
MACBETH.  Well, I’m thinking.
BANQUO.  Share.
MACBETH.  Well, I like power.  You know I like power.  And my wife certainly likes power.
BANQUO.  Boy, does she.  (to Witches) You should get a load of his wife.
WITCH 1.  Mm.
MACBETH.  It’s just –
BANQUO.  What.
MACBETH.  Well, I’m thinking — you know what I’m thinking?  I’m thinking, who are these women?
BANQUO.  How do you mean?
MACBETH.  Well, let’s look at the situation.  They’re camping in the woods.
BANQUO.  Yes –
MACBETH.  And they’re, well, let’s say they have spurned the fickle master of contemporary fashion.
BANQUO.  Agreed –
MACBETH.  And they’re ugly.
BANQUO.  Mm hm –
MACBETH.  That one even has a wart.
BANQUO.  Mm.  And that means — ?
MACBETH.  Who is the messenger?
BANQUO.  Who –
MACBETH.  You see?
MACBETH.  I — wait — is that, is that a cauldron?
BANQUO.  I — well how about that.  It is.  It is a cauldron.
BANQUO.  I’m beginning to.
MACBETH.  Here’s what I’m thinking.  I’d like to be king, you know that.
BANQUO.  Sure.
MACBETH.  I like nice things, my wife likes nice things, It would be great to have everyone pay me taxes.  Truth is, I’m kind of sick of being Thane, hauling my ass out into the woods to fight battles for Duncan, who, as you know, I don’t hold in the highest regard.
BANQUO.  We were just talking about it.
MACBETH. (imitating Duncan as a drooling idiot) “Hey, Thane, go fight a battle for me!  It’ll increase my glory!”
BANQUO. (laughs appreciatively) Boy, you nailed him.  You nailed him.
MACBETH.  It was up to me, sure, I’d be king, your sons would be kings, everything.
BANQUO.  Sure.
MACBETH.  Whole deal.  The works.  Let’s go for it.  Right?
BANQUO.  Right.
MACBETH.  But it’s not up to me.
BANQUO.  It’s — oh, that’s right.
MACBETH.  Know how it’d be up to me?
MACBETH.  If I killed him.
BANQUO.  Killed — ?
MACBETH.  Duncan.  If I killed him.  You know, like invite him to dinner, drug him, stab him in his sleep.  That’s how I’d become king.
MACBETH.  See?  That’s the only way that would happen.  In our system, the way it is.
MACBETH.  And then what?
BANQUO.  And then you would be king.
MACBETH.  Yeah, but then what?  I’d spend my life worrying that someone was going to find out.  Right?  And what else?
BANQUO.  I don’t know.
MACBETH.  Well, think about it.  I’d have to kill your sons.
BANQUO.  Oh.  Snap.
MACBETH.  And you.
BANQUO.  Riiiiiiiggghht.
MACBETH.  You see?
BANQUO.  Right, ’cause of the — right.  Wow.  (shakes head) Wow.
MACBETH.  And then where would we be?
BANQUO.  Good point.  Wow.
MACBETH.  Would anybody be happy then?
BANQUO.  Not me.
MACBETH.  Not me, not you, not my wife, nobody.
BANQUO.  Shit.  See, that’s why you’re the Thane.
MACBETH.  Now then.
MACBETH.  Now then.  Okay.  So.  Three strange women.  Around a cauldron.  In the woods.  Tell me I’m going to be king.
BANQUO.  I see –
MACBETH.  You see?
BANQUO.  They’re not really in a position to –
MACBETH. — to make that happen.
BANQUO.  They’re talking out their asses.
MACBETH.  Or worse.
BANQUO.  Worse?
MACBETH.  I think they’re witches.
BANQUO.  Shit.  Yeah.  Yeah, ’cause of the cauldron, yeah.  Shit, yeah, witches.  Geez.
BANQUO.  Abso — yeah.
MACBETH.  When did a witch ever do you a favor?
BANQUO.  Never.
MACBETH.  Why not?
BANQUO.  ‘Cause they’re no damn good.
MACBETH.  You see?
BANQUO.  Fuckin’ witches, man.
MACBETH.  They’re up to no good.  See?  They’ve got nothin’ better to do –
BANQUO.  Than fuck around with a couple of second-level noblemen on their way home through the woods after a battle.
MACBETH.  This is what I’m thinking.
BANQUO.  And we almost fell for it.
MACBETH.  You see?
BANQUO.  Absolutely.
MACBETH.  So, as nice as it would be to be king –
BANQUO.  And for my sons to be kings –
MACBETH.  I think we would do well to not to base important decisions on the words of some witches who live in the woods.
BANQUO.  Pal o’  mine, I think you’re right.
MACBETH.  And so, ladies, we must bid you adieu.
BANQUO.  Yeah, sorry.
MACBETH.  Let’s leave this place, old friend.  Home fires await.
BANQUO.  I’m right with  you.
     (Exeunt.  Beat.)
WITCH 1.  Well, we tried.

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The Happy Ending Shakespeare Company, Volume 2

by William Shakespeare

     (The throne room.  LEAR and his daughter CORDELIA.)

LEAR.  Do you love me, Cordelia?
CORDELIA.  Of course I do father, don’t be silly.
LEAR.  I just wanted to hear you say it.

     (They embrace.)

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The casting process, according to Mulholland Drive

The tiny man, Richard Nixon, the film composer, the cowboy.  These men run Hollywood.  In your dreams.

A pair of Italian brothers are financing a motion picture.  It appears to be the story of a fictional or semi-fictional girl singer from the early sixties.

These Italians are tough customers.  They know what they want, and they have extremely high standards for their espresso.

How do we know they’re tough?  Because one of them is Richard Nixon (not to mention a Texas bar-owner) and the other is — I can barely even say it — a film composer.

Whatever you do, don’t mess with a film composer.

The tough Italians want an actress named Camilla Rhodes to play the girl singer.  They are adamant about this.  They are so adamant about it they can barely speak.  They tremble with fury at the thought of anyone opposing them.

The director of the picture, a young man named Adam, doesn’t yet know who he wants for the part, but he knows he wants a say in the matter.

The studio is willing to put on a show of compromise for the director, but ultimately the decision has already been made — by a tiny man who lives in a windowless dark room.  No one may touch the tiny man, who doesn’t even have a desk or a television, only a telephone and a glass wall with an intercom that faces a pair of double doors.

The tiny man seems to be the studio head, and he seems to be sympathetic to the Italians’ choice of girl.

It seems to be a bleak existence for the tiny man, but he appears to be content.  He has, it seems, immense power and the few people who speak to him do so in stammering, gasping tones.

The director balks at the Italians’ behavior.  No one’s going to tell him who to cast in his picture.  He walks out of the meeting and trashes the Italians’ limo.  I guess no one told him — the Italians are Richard Nixon and a film composer.

It’s nice to think that, in the world of David Lynch, a film composer outranks Richard Nixon.

The director soon feels the wrath of the Italians.  They freeze his bank account while the tiny man in the dark room shuts down production on his movie.  They strongly urge him to go see a cowboy who lives at the top of the Santa Monica mountains.  The director (who has problems of his own) goes to see the cowboy who dishes out folk wisdom with an eerily calm demeanor and obliquely threatens the director’s life.  The Italians, it seems, don’t know any Italian hit men — they must rely on eerily calm cowboys to do their dirty work.*

The director, humbled, awed by the displays of power from the Italians and the tiny man, goes to the next day’s casting session.  Casting sessions in Hollywood, it seems, are expensive propositions.  Sets are built and actors are put into full makeup and wardrobe.  (Across town, a young actress, freshly in town, goes to try out for a picture and finds herself in the room with the lead actor, who apparently has made it his priority to attend every audition.)  The Italians’ choice auditions and the director wisely points to her and says “This is the girl.”

And young actors ask me every day how to get an agent.  If they were to only watch Mulholland Drive, they would know that agents have nothing to do with it.  You are either chosen in advance by Italians working in concert with a tiny man in a windowless room, or else you walk in the door and get an audition with the star.

Of course, in the latter case, the elder, visiting casting director indicates that the producer (Alcott faveJames Karen) is going about his production all wrong.  “He’ll never get this picture made,” she sighs.  It makes perfect sense — he hasn’t made the proper arrangements with the Italians and the tiny man.  It’s like they always say — it’s who you know.

Who the burnt guy is who lives behind the diner and owns a small blue box I have no idea.

*Wait a minute — they know some Italian hit-men after all.  They send one mountainous one to the director’s house.  He is unable to find the director, but he punches the director’s wife and her lover unconscious anyway.
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