February 2011

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Day # 42 -- New Movie Reviews

Friday, February 11, 2011

Never Say Never -- -5,000 out of 7 Golden Slacks

Synopsis (from IMDB.com): Follows Justin Bieber with some footage of performances from his 2010 concert tour.

Joe's Take: Historians can't agree on the impetus for the uprising in Egypt, but most think it probably had something to do with this movie. Justin Bieber, the 16 year-old singer, has released a movie about achieving his dreams and overcoming obstacles.  My dream is to lure him into a barrel and toss him into the ocean.  I someday hope to achieve my dreams.  Did I mention that the movie is in 3-D. I watched the trailer and pulled some clips that showcase the great things we all can experience in 3-D.

1. Justin's on a segway.  Absent from photo: the senile janitor he is preparing to roll over. 

2. Justin is surfing the net.  Laugh along with him as he finds himself by searching "douchebag" in wikipedia.

3. SPOILER ALERT: You will be able to actually smell the crap he produces.

Unexpected Scene: Justin hangs himself.  His note reads: "I never gave up... on suicide attempts."

Just Go With It -
- 1 out of 7 Golden Slacks

Synopsis (from imdb.com): On a weekend trip to Hawaii, a plastic surgeon convinces his loyal assistant to pose as his soon-to-be-divorced wife in order to cover up a careless lie he told to his much-younger girlfriend.

Joe's Take: I remember a time when Adam Sandler was funny.  Mubarek was still in power and things were right with the world.  Then, he (Sandler, not Mubarek) stopped starring in movies written by Tim Herlihy and things went downhill fast. Movies like this lack someone sitting in the corner during production meetings asking, "Why?"  For example, when the writers (and Sandler) invented a premise in which coworkers, friends, and families have to support a lie that could be rectified with a simple two-sentence explanation, someone -- it could be me or Mubarek (he has some free time) -- should ask why.  Or when someone suggests a beautiful actress to play Sandler's new girlfriend, someone should ask why. 

Apparently, they do have someone present at those meetings who chimes in every so often to remind the writers to add more crotch-hitting.  I imagine inspired meetings during which a writer is struggling with the ending of a scene.  In it, Sandler is placed in an uncomfortable position by someone who is about to expose his lie.  "How can we get out of this scene?" the scribe asks.  "Hit him in the crotch!" the man will yell.  He might even be holding a pennant emblazened with similar words.  The writer will say, "But there's nothing around that could hit him in the crotch -- he's with a bunch of kids!" "Then, have a kid use his head to nail him in the nuts," the man will say.  Relief. Below are two stills from the movie -- one illustrates the scene I just described and the other is a textbook case of a bridge-in-your-groin punchline.  


Instead of watching this movie, you should join the army in Egypt.  Things seem to be better over there.

Unexpected Scene: Just when it seems like someone is going to hit Sandler in groin with a pool cue, he moves out of the way leaving his crotch unharmed.

Gnomeo & Juliet -- 0 out of 7 Golden Slacks

Synopsis (from IMDB.com): Garden gnomes Gnomeo (voice of McAvoy) and Juliet (voice of Blunt) have as many obstacles to overcome as their quasi namesakes when they are caught up in a feud between neighbors. But with plastic pink flamingos and lawnmower races in the mix, can this young couple find lasting happiness?

Joe's Take: Imdb credits seven writers with the creation of Gnomeo and Juliet.  Among them are Andy Riley, writer for Katy Brand's Big-Ass Show, Kathy Greenberg, a scribe for the L-Word, Emily Cook, another writer for Katy Brand's Big-Ass Show, and that guy William Shakespeare who wrote some unproduced plays (and was not a writer for Katy Brand's Big-Ass Show).  I wonder if Shakespeare ever imagined his words coming from the mouths of animated gnomes.  I know I have, but I'm not an iconic writer.  I look forward to book reports from high school students who opted to see this movie in lieu of reading the play.  "My favorite part was when Juliet fell into the driveway and almost killed that hilarious talking iguana played by Robert Loggia."  

Unexpected Scene: Somebody throws Gnomeo at Adam Sandler's groin.  Audience rejoices.

Behind the Scenes with Pete

Thursday, February 10, 2011

Blog by Pete Jackson

Time is starting to become the enemy. It’s that part of the trip where the three of us need to buckle down for some tough traveling. There is much less time between cities going into this last month of the tour, so it’s going to be many more sleepless nights. Don’t get me wrong: this whole trip has been trying. Take, for example, last week. We left Chicago at 12AM and drove through the night to get to Cincinnati for a broadcast opportunity that had not officially been locked yet. We also did not have a place to stay, so if there was any time in our lives that we could officially say we were “headed nowhere,” that was it.

That night was just another reminder of how things can go when you’re on the road. Things come up, schedules instantly change and most of the time we’re moving so quickly that we don’t even take a moment to notice our surroundings. (Joe had just mentioned the fact that even when we’re driving 10 hours, we don’t realize that we’re passing a beautiful sunset because we’re buried in our computers trying to keep everything on schedule.) When it’s just 3 guys, an around-the-clock operation and nothing but road, you can sometimes experience moments of disconnect much like Tom Hanks did in the movie Castaway. Although each one of us has our own “Wilson,” sometimes it takes other people's humanity to remind us of our own. (For you youngsters, Wilson is the volleyball that Tom Hanks “befriends” while he is stranded on a deserted island.)

That’s why we are thankful for those rare times when we’re tugged away from the work by some of the people we cross paths with. This note is a thank you to everyone who has given us a glimpse of humanity on this trip thus far - whether you have opened your doors to us, volunteered to act in one of our videos, come out to see the shows, or checked up on us daily via the website or Facebook.

As your reward, I have put together a short game of connection. Try to match the COB cast/crew member with their “Wilson” from the trip.


Day # 40 by Joe Piccirillo

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

        pictured above: douchebag

Dear Barnes and Noble Community Relations Manager, Katie Schuster:

Congratulations!  You have been nominated for Conan or Bust's Douche of the Month (for January).  Each month, I compile a list of the people who have made my life more difficult for no discernible reason.  Previous nominees include Dr. Laurence Fuchs, the doctor who diagnosed me with "sniffles" after placing the stethoscope onto my shirt even though it was in a chair across the room at the time;  Stan, the customer service operator at Sears who repeatedly called me Mr. Caterpillar while refusing to process my return order for a projector screen with reasoning that inspired incredulity, if not madness; and the entire city of Cleveland -- a place where the toothless seek refuge.

Katie, you came to my attention during a phone conversation that was brief yet informative.  I found out three things almost instantly: 1) I could not perform at your Chicago B & N 2) according to corporate policy, I would not be allowed to perform at ANY Barnes and Noble, despite the fact that I had already successfully booked 3 of them in different parts of the country 3) you are a douche.

The next day,  I received template rejection letters from the Barnes and Noble reps who had booked me.  When I called to follow-up, I was told to stop contacting the company -- my project violated their corporate policy.

By alerting corporate headquarters to my project in an effort to shut it down, you, Katie have earned your nomination for Douche of the Month. 

Winners will be announced on Feb 15.  Winners will be featured prominently on the site and will receive a Douche of the Month T-Shirt, magnets, and a special visit from our intern Torio who will kick you in the ribs.


Joe Piccirillo

Behind the Scenes with Pete -- Football Sundays

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Blog and Movie by Pete Jackson

It’s not every day that you get an opportunity to travel across the country on a road trip for 3 months to pursue a life-long goal. Sometimes when I take a moment to sit back think about what we’re doing I smile, because I know deep down this is a once in a lifetime opportunity. I also smile because Joe and I have both been able to experience a sense of ultimate support from some of the people who are closest to us.

Now my wife has supported my foray into entertainment from Day 1 of our relationship. I’ve never been concerned about her dedication to my [sometimes ridiculous] endeavors. But after all is said and done, the harsh reality is that I will have been away from my wife and son for almost 90 days. Making this up to my wife should be easy - I know in the back of her mind she’s already planning a solo trip to Hawaii for a week-long stay in some Sex In The City-style hotel that’s run by hunks in speedos. Just wait until I tell her the cards are maxed out, tee-hee…

In actuality, it’s my son who I worry about most. These will be 3 solid months that I can never get back with my son and sometimes the thought of that makes me sad. I suppose the people who serve our country overseas occasionally ask themselves the same question: How do you make up for lost time?

Well, son, in honor of the football season ending last week and your birthday coming up this week, here’s a little something to remember your old man by…

Love you, miss you.

- Pete


Day # 38 by Joe Piccirillo

Monday, February 7, 2011

In an interview with UK's Harper's Bazaar magazine, part-time actress Gwyneth Paltrow said that Beyonce is "the most talented human being on the planet."   I agree.  To be sure, I pitted Beyonce's accomplishments against those of noted scholars.

1. Jonathan Franzen Vs. Beyonce

Jonathan Franzen wrote The Corrections

Beyonce wrote Booytlicious

Winner: Beyonce. 

Reason: You can't dance to The Corrections.


2. Dr. Mark Kline, MD Vs. Beyonce

Dr. Kline implemented (in conjunction with UNICEF) the Pediatric AIDS Corps, which has single-handedly improved the expertise in HIV care in Africa by 500%.

Beyonce performed at a South African AIDS benefit show in November 2003 to combat the AIDS epidemic in sub-Saharan Africa.

Winner: Beyonce

Reason: people still have AIDS but Beyonce wore a glittery dress while singing "Crazy in Love."


3. Junot Diaz Vs. Beyonce

 Junot Diaz was voted # 7 on the most Influential Pulitzer-Prize Winning Authors List by Time Magazine

Beyonce was voted # 1 on Vh1's 100 Hottest Hotties

Winner: Tie

Reason: Same playing field


4. Stephen Hawking Vs. Beyonce

Famous quote from Hawking: "The whole history of science has been the gradual realization that events do not happen in an arbitrary manner, but that they reflect a certain underlying order, which may or may not be divinely inspired.”

Famous quote from Beyonce: "I'll show you crazy.  Just try me, bitch!" -- from 2009's Obsessed.

Winner: Beyonce

Reason: Hawking's quote sounds a little forced.


So Gwenyth was right.  Too bad Coldplay still sucks.


Day # 35 by Joe Piccirillo

Friday, February 4, 2011

Dear readers,

Surprising news: I had a great show last night.  I had convinced the co-founder of the IO Chicago to put me up on a Friday night before the scheduled improv shows.  She told me that she knew the writers at conan and that she would tell them about me whether I was good or bad.  This was, essentially, an audition set for Conan.  If I ate it, she would tell them to ignore me.  If I succeeded, they would still ignore me but it would be in spite of her recommendations.

I sat in the lobby of our Chicago "Shining" hotel scrutinizing and tweaking my five-minute set for nearly 7 hours.  There comes a time for every writer and comedian when his work no longer evokes any sort of emotion.  I sat there looking through my stuff with incredulity -- what the hell am I doing? -- until it was time to go to the show. 

There were sitcom mishaps on the way to the show -- we ran out of gas, I forgot to bring my extension cord, Torio couldn't find his insulin (I threw it out of the car to make room for a cooler filled with Triscuits), and the club didn't have three pronged sockets for my equipment.  Also, the co-founder wasn't there when I arrived and people treated me with the kindness one affords to TB patients on airplanes.

I sat with Torio in the corner of the stage while the crew began setting up for the show and Pete went to Radioshack to pick up an outlet converter.  I saw the improv teams arrive and hug/shake hands/grind each other.  I saw the audience filter in -- all young and seemingly intelligent, and I had that feeling that it was going to be a good show.

The co-founder showed up and vouched for me, Pete came through with the converter, and I picked up a new extension cord.  Torio died, but you can't win everything.

Charna, the owner set me up to succeed or fail, which is exactly right. 

"Before we start the show, I want to do something we've never done here before: stand-up," she said.

"I got a call from a young man who said he was on a tour called conan or bust and he asked for five minutes.  I figured, 'why not?' He could be great or he could suck.  I don't know.  If he's great, we'll see him on Conan someday maybe.  If he sucks, I'll give him notes.  Here's Joe Piccirillo!"

I got on stage and crushed.  Killed it.  Best performance to date.  At the end of the set, Charna took the stage and said, "Well... no notes." 

Later, in an interview for the documentary, she said that my writing was brilliant and that I should be writing for a late night show like Conan.  Then, she pulled out a rolodex of names of people from all of the late night shows and said she would forward my writing packet to all of them.

Regardless of what happens, which is probably nothing, I received validation from someone with no vested interest in my success.  She wasn't a friend or family member or even an audience member -- she was a player in the entertainment industry and she vouched for me.  It's a moment that makes all of the struggles worthwhile.

I know you shouldn't derive self-worth from other people's opinions -- it should be derived from how many people wish you happy birthday on facebook.  Still, having someone in the business tell you that you're not crazy and you should keep going is something I'll take with me for the rest of my life.  I had my audition and I didn't choke.  I passed.

No notes.

A Moment with Torio (The Intern)

Thursday, February 3, 2011

What follows is a blog post from our intern, Torio:

Up until now, all of my knowledge about Chicago came from the song “Homecoming” by Kanye West and Chris Martin.  Which, by the way, is a song about coming home to Chicago performed by dudes who were born in Atlanta (West) and England (Martin).  I think that’s a neat idea.  I can’t wait until I get home to Rio de Janeiro.

As it turns out Chicago has more to offer than Kanye’s raps and those sweet Chris Martin piano riffs.  For example, did you know that Chicago can do an amazing impression of Cleveland?  It’s true. When Chicago gets hit by a blizzard, it completely closes down.  I went for a walk yesterday and I felt like I was walking in a post-apocalyptic movie.  If we hadn’t just come from Cleveland, a city that must have forgotten to reopen after a blizzard they had forty or so years ago, I would have been pretty uncomfortable. 

My experience in Chicago has served as a very startling wake up call.  We take for granted our access to food in this country.  Most of us can walk a block or two, and be at a grocery store or restaurant, eager to fill our needs.  I’m not here to preach to you about being thankful for what we have, or more compassionate for people that go to bed hungry.  That kind of thinking is what lands you as one of those suckers going to bed with an empty stomach.  Instead, I’m urging you to prepare for a warrior culture.  Let’s face it, eventually this easy way of life will come to an end.  Maybe the religious nut jobs who preach of Rapture will be right, maybe the Mayan calendar has it correct, or maybe you live in Egypt.  The point is that when push comes to shove, will you be ready to fight for your food?  I will.  Starting today I put myself on a fierce workout regimen: I did eight sit-ups and half a pull up.  I know I’ll be sore tomorrow, but it’ll be worth it come loincloth season.

 - Torio


Day # 33 - Chicago Sucks by Joe Piccirillo

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Hey Chicago,

It's Joe Piccirillo.  For years, I've had to listen to people sing your praises: Chi-town is beautiful, inexpensive, and fun.  "It has spirit!" people would say shortly before I would punch them in the ribs or throw their popcorn/catheter across a room.  The problem is that I'd never been to the home of corruption and failure (think Cubs and Perfect Strangers) and I couldn't refute their opinions.  And say what you will about me, I like my hatred when it's based upon facts.

Now I can speak with authority: you fail, Chicago.  We arrived shortly before a blizzard.  News reporters chatted nervously about its impending impact while pedestrians scrambled to acquire foodstuffs for the hibernating period.  All the while I sat in a bar (see previous post) and wrote scathing diatribes against Kathy Griffin.  After one night of admittedly decent blizzard weather, I awoke to find... sunny and clear skies.  The roads and sidewalks had been plowed and all seemed right with the world. 

I decided to celebrate with a cup of coffee.  Too bad not a single business -- restaurant, movie theater, or strip club (replete with breakfast buffet) -- was open.  Most had signs with words that had been scribbled on them in a panic that read: Closed for storm! or Storm forces us to close! or Open! (that was an ER).  So basically, after having realized that the blizzard was over, business owners decided to remain closed rather than re-open and rake in the money.  Had they opened, they could have earned my $5 for a breakfast burrito. 

Well, at least your hotel offered food and services, right?  Nope.  For the past few days, one would be hard-pressed to find hotel guests or hotel workers in the building.  It was like that AMC show Walking Dead only without the hope.  For a moment, I thought the world had been inhabited by zombies.  Then, I spoke to a hotel clerk and realized that it definitely was. 

After some travel, we finally stumbled upon an open bar and grill.  The waitress was an older woman with the sass of someone much younger, thinner, and attractive.  I had asked for some bread and she retorted, "Some or all of it?!"  I shot her the kind of glance the Terminator gives to someone shortly before it throws him through plate glass windows, but she was undeterred. 

In my fantasies, she would have a heart attack and beg for some of her medication and I would respond, "Some or all of it?"  Then, after she succumbed I would hang a sign from her that read: "Closed indefinitely."

Chicago, you have 3 days to make it up to me.  I like coffee, breakfast burritos and sassless waitresses.  Do the right thing.

- Joe



Behind the Scenes with Pete -- Journey Into the Snow Storm of Death -- Part I

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Blog post and movie by Pete Jackson

I’ve been in a blizzard before and it’s not pretty – it’s manageable but not pretty. I was in my first blizzard in downtown Chicago today, and it’s downright ridiculous. Last night we got into town right before the snow started and since we’re in a major city, parking is not cheap – between $30-$40 per night. Using a tip from a doorman, we found $18/night parking that was about 5 blocks away. How is that a problem, you ask? Well, the lot is automated and requires that you go back every 24 hours to buy another ticket to keep your car parked there - otherwise you’ll be towed. What that meant for this troupe is that one of us had to go back to the car at night in the middle of Armageddon to renew the parking.

I didn’t know that the game of “not it” was actually considered a valid way of avoiding duties in adulthood. Apparently Joe and Torio agree that the game holds true for all ages. But I’ll admit it, watching snow shoot through the streets all day at 70-mph didn’t really look too bad from inside. When it came time to put on the old snow jacket and prepare to face the elements I was feeling pretty good.

So I walked outside and the snow hit my face at the speed of a train. The snow was traveling so fast that the flakes literally pierced my eyeballs (seriously, I got a paper cut on my eyeball one time and this was just as bad). So I ducked back inside, secured my jacket hood, put on sunglasses as a makeshift ski mask and went for round two.

It was horrible. By the time I got to the car I felt lucky to be there and that was having traveled with the wind to my back. The car was my sanctuary, the pod of life that would revive me. After sitting in the car with the heat on for a few moments, it was apparent that it was time to go. The snow was starting to melt on my jeans and any good outdoorsman will tell you that cotton is a death cloth in winter. Once it gets wet and you remain in the cold it becomes a freezer for your body.

So I paid my fee and made the horrible trek back to the hotel as wind shattered windows around me. “Never again,” I promised myself. Although the snow will continue tomorrow, it will not be me who has to trudge forth into the wintery night. With you as my witness, I officially declare with great pride, “not it.”

- Pete