Macaulay Seminar One at Brooklyn College
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Category — Oral Performance

BAM

Hitchcock was one of my favorite things we watched together this semester. I enjoyed how he made a sort of hind-sight movie in a sense, looking back at the production of his greatest success. It was inspiring to me, seeing how so many people said that “Psycho” was going to be a failure and was not going to be successful. It was shocking to see that all these people did not believe in him despite his success in the past. However, he was headstrong and did not let these people’s pessimisms discourage him. This was very inspiring to me.
The comedy show was not very good. The seats were limited and the first few acts were not funny. I ended up leaving after the first 3 performers. Apparently the show did get funnier as the night progressed, but I feel that they should’ve put their best performers first and put everyone in a laughing mood and a good mood. This way, the less funny performers would get more laughs because the audience will already be in a good mood and ready to laugh at anything even slightly funny.

December 19, 2012   No Comments

BAM: Hitchcock and Stand Up

Going into the Hitchcock movie at BAM, I wasn’t so sure what to expect, especially after spending our class time watching old Hitchcock shows and movie clips. But from almost the very beginning of the film, when the camera pans to the actor playing Hitch, who looks and sounds kind of like the real Hitch (as far as I can tell, with my minimal knowledge of Alfred Hitchcock I got from watching some clips in class), and starts talking to the audience just like the real Hitch did i some of his shows, to the end (which closes in a similar manner- Hitch talking to directly to the audience, and an allusion to his film “The Birds”) I really enjoyed myself. For some reason, going into the movie I thought that maybe it was some kind of documentary film, or maybe a film that was similar to the Hitchcock works that we had previewed in class-something spooky or macabre. But I was pleasantly surprised that it wasn’t really that at all, and although it was biographical, it was still a very entertaining movie.

Then there was the stand up comedy. Going into that, I was really excited. I very much enjoy comedy, and especially after the uptown showdown that we had previously seen (and that I really liked) I think that my expectations were a little high. Unfortunately, I don’t think my expectations were really met. There were definitely some jokes here and there that elicited a giggle or two, and some that got a full out laugh, but overall I was a little disappointed. I ended up leaving after the second or third performer, which I didn’t mind too much at the time. I did, however hear that Judah Friedlander made a guest appearance after I had left, and that he was pretty funny. Oh well.

December 18, 2012   No Comments

Stand-up Comedy and Hitchcock- comments

I stayed for three of the performances (the host and the first two comedians). Out of those three, I thought the host was the best. I found it interesting how most of their jokes were quite vulgar. I believe a good comedian should be able to make people laugh without talking about such topics. It’s almost as if talking about vulgar topics is the easy way out for a comedian. Perhaps making ordinary topics funny is harder. I’ve heard that the performances later on were much better, so I wish I stayed a bit longer.

Coming into BAM, I had higher expectations for the stand-up comedy than for the Hitchcock film. However, I was surprised at how good the Hitchcock film was; I ended up enjoying the movie much more than the comedy. My low expectations for the film were caused by my lack of knowledge of the film. I actually thought it was a going to be a documentary, so I wasn’t really excited about it. However, I was pleasantly surprised when the movie turned out to be more of a drama than a documentary. I wouldn’t have enjoyed this movie as much if we didn’t have a lesson on Hitchcock in class. I wouldn’t recommend this movie to people who don’t know about Alfred Hitchcock because they wouldn’t be able to catch various references about his life and movies. However, anyone who knows the slightest about Hitchcock should watch the film because I thought it was really entertaining and informative for something that’s supposed to be like a biography (which tend to be boring normally).

December 15, 2012   No Comments

Uptown Showdown

I had an excellent time at the uptown showdown. I thought all the comedians (except for maybe one) were super funny, the topic of debate- Hanukkah vs. Christmas, and the fact itself that the comedy show was presented in the form of a debate, was cute and kind of silly, and I found myself laughing almost the entire evening.

One of my favorite parts was hearing Seth Herzog’s rendition of the Hanukkah story. Some parts were a bit dry, but i loved hearing a story that I grew up hearing for so many years. Especially because it was pretty much the way i remembered being told, except with a lot more jokes involved.

I also really liked the use of audio visuals for the use in the “debate”. I can’t say I’ve ever seen a powerpoint presentation used in such a comedic fashion.

Also, I thought that MichaelShowalter’s debate- “Which holiday is less worse” was pretty clever. And his style and delivery are kind of interesting, but really good, in my opinion.

And I forgot to mention the host, who also had some pretty good material.

So in conclusion, I had a really great time (apart for some of the q & a section, which got kind of awkward), Jackie Hoffman was kinda scary (but I totally sang along with her Hanukkah songs in my head), and in the end I didn’t mind having to go all the way to 95th street.

Also, I’d like to formally apologize to Ronny, in front of everyone in the class and all of the internet for my eggnog comment. That was stupid of me. I don’t even know what eggnog smells like. So I’m sorry.

December 13, 2012   No Comments

The Uptown Showdown: Hanukkah Vs. Christmas

Coming into this debate, my Jewish background and upbringing was knocking on the inside of my head, saying “You better decide the right winner, Jake. Don’t mess this one up.” Ultimately, I think I would have to choose Christmas as the winner, but Hannukah was an extremely close second.

Michael Showalter, Craig Baldo, and Albertina Brooks made up the competitors for the Christmas side. They are all extremely talented comedians who have either had their own shows, sitcoms, or stand-up performances. As they began to compete for the audience vote, Craig Baldo brought out the Christmas Smell Machine, which produced christmas smells for the audience. This was a crowd pleaser, and he did very well. The rest of the Christmas team also did very well, with their arguments that Christmas gifts are better, the spirit is more jolly, and its a lot more fun to be celebrating Christmas.

The Hannukah team, made up of famed comedienne Jackie Hoffman, Seth Herzog, and some guy who was clearly not Jewish, fought hard and won on many points. They had more days in which to celebrate, and they didn’t have to deal with that Jesus guy.

Personally, I don’t have a crude threshold. I think as long as the audience is old enough and mature enough to experience that kind of humor, then lay it on. Some people may argue that the humor used in this debate was crude, inappropriate, or rude. I say lay it on. If it makes you uncomfortable or upset, then leave. We have the power to make changes in the media we allow to enter our lives. Change the channel. Change your seat. Your complaints will not stop the F-bombs and dirty phrases coming from the performers on stage. Maybe it is a sign of their inability to make people laugh without the crude. That’s an interesting concept. But overall, let them perform. It’s you who has the power.

And finally, unfortunately for the little Jewish man in my head, Christmas won.

December 8, 2012   No Comments

The Tempest

When we went to the opera, what struck me first was how fancy everything is. I was surprised I’ve never been to Lincoln Center, even though I’ve been living in New York almost my whole life. The place really displays grandeur, having the opera buildings overlooking the patio, with a fountain in the center. Inside the building, people were dressed very formally. We headed up the stairs, passing through an indoor balcony (which reminded me of the staircase scene in “Titanic”) to our seats.

staircase in “Titanic”

I laughed at how the chandelier in the auditorium rose to signify that it’s time to be quiet. I’m sure people who consistently go to the opera are familiar with it, although it was new for me.

Usually I find it difficult to follow the plot lines of plays, but this one was different for me. I understood everything that was going on, and sincerely enjoyed the show despite my expectations. The only disappointing thing was that there was very little actual melody to the singing during the opera. The dialogue was always sung, but the only time there was a melodious tune was in one of the final scenes, where Prospero forgives Ferdinand.

One interesting thing I noticed is how subtle the transitions between some scenes were. At the end of one of the scenes, the crew of the boat left the stage very slowly. They left so slowly that one wouldn’t even notice how they disappeared, unless he paid attention to them.

The music went along with the plot well. I remember how sharp bursts were played by violins whenever there was an argument, and calming chords were played during the romantic scenes. Once again, there were rarely any tunes played. Mostly, there were chords being played in order to emphasize the characters’ points.

It’s difficult to rate this opera, since I don’t have much experience with them, and can’t compare it to anything. But this was an interesting introduction to this genre of art. It must be difficult to synchronize all the talents that had to be used in this opera. That includes the musicians, actors/singers (especially Ariel), the gymnasts, the people who do lighting, the playwright, William Shakespeare, the costume designers, and the multitude of others whose hard work went into this production. A work of entertainment presented as successfully as this one must always be commended.

December 2, 2012   No Comments

Comedic Debate at Uptown Showdown

I was overall pleased with the performance we attended at the Uptown Showdown the other week. The Hanukah side focused primarily on insulting the cultural and religious significance of the two holidays, whereas the Christmas side commented more on the festivities and performance we create around them. In this sense, I feel they did not necessarily address the other side’s argument, which made it difficult for me to determine a winner. I was unsure whether to base my opinion on who was funnier or who had a more legitimate argument–or if Christmas simply won by default because I celebrate it and love everything about the holiday 🙂

The approach of the first speaker on the Hanukah side reminded me of the pitchmen’s technique we had discussed in class. He had a set story that was memorized, yet told a bit differently every time so there was still a sense of it being spontaneous and off-the-cuff. That being said, I felt the side remarks- the quick, witty rebuttals from the other teammates- were probably the best part of the show; they were genuinely spontaneous and on-the-spot, which can come across as a lot funnier than something that has been previously thought-out. Furthermore, I liked how the last speaker on the Christmas side took a completely different approach by arguing which holiday is less worse rather than which is better. The feigned surprise and pleasure, spending just 1 day with family because we could not tolerate 8- I felt he changed the pace of the debate by taking a different perspective.

Finally, I often found myself not laughing at what they were saying, but how they were saying it: in other words, their delivery. Whether it was their tone of voice, gestures, facial expressions, or use of props, I felt I was laughing  at the comedians more than I was laughing with them (not to be mean or anything). Or, I found myself laughing simply because other people were, which emphasizes the importance of not only the interaction between the performers and their audience, but among the audience themselves.

 

The best way to spread Christmas cheer is singing loud for all to hear 🙂

December 1, 2012   No Comments

Hannukah Vs Christmas

So we went to the Uptown Showdown for this mock-debate. It was supposed to be funny. Most of it wasn’t.

Team Hannukah got started on the right foot with Seth. Seth made the Hannukah story funny, but got in the facts, like you’re supposed to do at a debate. Seth struck the right balance, something that none of the other people on stage managed to do.

Craig Baldo, aka “the guy with the vacuum cleaner”,  was funny, but didn’t have anything of substance to fight Seth off with. He did a good job at telling the audience why he loves Christmas, and that vacuum was entertainment GOLD.

Jackie Hoffman was NOT funny. She was too angry and serious, and her voice got really shrill and made me start looking for my ear plugs- and I don’t own any ear plugs. She did her research though, so she gets some points there, and her mocking Christmas songs was humorous.

To me, at least, Albertina Rizzo wasn’t funny, but to be fair, I NEVER find political people funny in person. At least I can now tell the world “Albertina is a Democrat” with confidence!

Both teams had slideshows. I found Team Christmas’s show by Michael Showalter funnier- those 3 denim shirts KILLED me. Kevin’s show was also pretty good.

The Q and A with the audience was a flop. I can’t tell if that’s because all Q and A’s are lame or this one was just bad because it started firmly on the wrong foot with that guy asking Michael Showalter if his tummy fat was real. That was just mean!

It was heartening to see both teams jump in to defend Michael- I felt it was symbolic, saying that no matter what you celebrate, being a bully is wrong. It was what Michael would’ve called a “RhinoceDuck moment”, where everyone can get along to shame bullies.

My problem with the debate was that the 2 teams didn’t respond to each other, but rather plowed on with their prepared programs. That’s not a debate.

When we debated each other in class, we actually rebutted the other team’s points about apples, we didn’t keep on talking about how awesome oranges are. Our classes’ debate was fierce, and we all got really into it. It was fun

 

November 30, 2012   No Comments

Christmas vs. Chanukah at Symphony Space

Last week, we saw a comedy performance at Symphony Space where a satirical debate was staged between Team Christmas and Team Chanukah. I was excited when I heard that it’s a comedy because we haven’t seen that type of art yet for our class. Mostly, I was excited because I love to laugh. Who doesn’t?

The first speaker was on team Chanukah, and gave a history of the holiday in a “stand-up comedy” format, making jokes along the way. He was very funny with all his clever jokes, noting that the Jews celebrate Chanukah not because they won a war, but because they got to save cash on oil when their lamp burned for eight days. He was the funniest of all.

The speakers who followed him were a little disappointing to me, as their jokes were corny, or required a vast historical understanding of both holidays. One of the Chanukah performers kept alluding to Jewish traditions which I’m not familiar with. The female Chanukah performer simply yelled into the microphone with her complaints about Christians. The Christmas team did a slightly better job with their humor, althogh Michael Showalter’s jokes during the Q&A session were crude and unclever. It doesn’t take a professional comedian to come up with what he said.

There were still some funny and creative moments dotted throughout the show. I enjoyed the man on team Christmas who used his “smell machine” to demonstrate differences between the holidays (I was even fooled the first few times, trying to smell what he was spraying on us). I also liked the woman on team Christmas who compared Christmas and Chanukah in a slideshow which greatly exaggerated the pros and cons of the holidays, making the Christians look like saints and the Jews look evil.

As for the show’s artistic elements, I believe the overall design of the holiday comparison was well done. Choosing to make it a debate was also a nice touch. The comedians who actually delivered good jokes well used some creative ideas. At the end of the show, the teams came together and hugged to show that we’re all friends. What makes this show a work of art is that it was designed with intent. It intended to entertain, to make us laugh at peoples’ differences, while at the same time teaching us that what was said shouldn’t be taken seriously, and that we should enjoy each other’s company, despite our different religions.

November 28, 2012   1 Comment

Uptown Showdown

I’ll start off by saying, I think the topic the comedians had to debate did not give them a fair chance to exhibit their ability to make others laugh and did not give us a chance to fairly assess their abilities.

The Christmas side was funny and kept it light (that is, until the end). Their performers seemed relaxed and their jokes were easy to laugh at and they kept it light. The Chanukah side was funnier but I felt that they were much more hostile and I felt intimidated by them. They did deserve to win the debate though, as they were funnier and made more points, whereas the Christmas side of the debate repeated their points over and over again.

All in all, it was an enjoyable night. I think the topic itself was a difficult one for anyone to really be all that funny with, but the comedians did a good job nonetheless.

November 27, 2012   No Comments