Saturday, September 20, 2008

The Top 10 Top 10 Lists

Bloggers and news sites love top tens. It would take years to actually read all of the lists available after a simple Google search, so consider this a random, unranked list compiled on a Saturday.

Top 10 Worst Celebrity Baby Names
“Banjo” and “Wingspan” aren’t on the list (fictitious yuppie names from Baby Mama) but I’m sure they’ll appear on some birth certificates this year.

Dave Letterman’s Top Ten List Archive
Let’s face it; every list on a Top 10 could come from Dave’s staff over the years so I added their fab archive instead. It’s searchable by key word and date (from today back to 1993 when Late Night on NBC switched to the Late Show on CBS. I haven’t found NBC’s archive for 1982 to 1993 (sounds like a task for YouTube).

Top Ten Excuses for Being Late to Work
I searched and didn’t think the lists written so far were that funny, so I wrote this one today. Don’t try these at work.
  1. I could swear you said we could work from home starting today. Or was that a dream? You were also wearing bunny slippers and a Frankie Say Relax t-shirt.
  2. I had a choice: stop to help pull the orphans from the burning building or show up on time. OMG, you still look pissed. What kind of a monster are you?!
  3. Isn’t time just a relative thing in the grand scheme of life? Who appointed you the clock Nazi, anyway? I certainly didn’t get the announcement.
  4. I was so inspired by our company’s “Going Green” PR campaign that I took myself off the grid – it’s hard to power an alarm clock that way.
  5. I clicked my heels three times repeating “There’s no place like work” but it didn’t take.
  6. With no plans to move the office closer to my house, I decided to maintain a personal speed limit of 30 to save on fuel. Get up earlier? Apparently you don’t remember: I’m off the grid!
  7. I have no excuse. Sometimes, Joel, you just have to say WTF and make your move.
  8. I heard you were going to be in today, so I had to stop and get some valium first.
  9. I was feeling under the weather and wanted to come in, but had to check my symptoms on WebMD first; you know, to make sure I wasn’t contagious. My hunch was scurvy and I was right: I stopped for a Jamba Juice on the way in and I’m all better!
  10. I had to wait for you to leave first. By the way, you’re out of coffee.

The World's Top 10 Wine Soils
And I thought the adjectives that describe wine were pretentious enough. There is such a thing as too far, oenophiles.

Top 10 US WTF Sex Laws
Ah, morality legislation; just as effective as "judge not, lest ye be judged" has been for the judgmental. This one’s not for the kiddies.

The FBI’s Ten Most Wanted Fugitives
Not a joke list but it is the original top 10. No wonder we can't find him: it's "Usama"!

CNET’s Top 10 Downloads of the Past 10 Years
A top 10 based on info compiled over the past 10 years deserves my props.

Top 10 Blogs from Technorati
OK, it’s a top 100 blog list but page one is the top 10. Where’s mine? With an “authority of 5”, I think it may take a while. You can also get the Top 10 Blogs by Number of Fans – but I currently have 0 because I’m too modest to vote for myself, but not too humble to ask you to hook me up with a vote Vote for Do I Amuse You?!

The Top 10 Commandments
It’s still the original list, though it instantly triggers in my mind the classic scene from History of the World Part I when Moses brought three tablets down from Mount Sinai, announcing he held the 15 Commandments. Then, after dropping one of the tablets and watching it crumble to rubble, corrected himself… ”Oy! Ten! Ten Commandments.” And I’m definitely not questioning the Lord Almighty (though maybe the translators) because I wonder if the Commandments were written in the true order of precedence. Personally, I think # 6 (Thou shalt not kill) would have ranked higher.

The Top 10 Mantiques
Yes it’s my own, but it did land me a gig on Sassy Bean and I just didn’t feel like searching anymore!

Saturday, September 06, 2008

Impin' Ain't Easy

I signed up for an Intro to Improv class recently, and I was honestly quite humbled. After watching so many seasons of Whose Line Is It Anyway?, I was thinking I will kill in this class. I was looking for the props (my favorite game) on day one.

Improv, my friends, especially for the novice, is not easy. But it’s a lot of fun.

The first concept I struggled with is: Don’t try to be funny. That’s really, really hard when it’s your life’s goal to make people laugh. Like a class clown, there’s nothing I enjoy more than breaking up the room with a quick line. But coming up with a quick line in the game of improv ping-pong (you feed up the line or your partner feeds one to you) isn’t like a classroom situation, or the perfect set up at an office meeting. The best lines are the ones that come out of left field, that surprise everyone, even yourself. Your mistakes are often gold.

You also accept anything another actor gives you – the “Yes, and…” concept. It’s totally affirmative. It’s also a best practice to make your partner(s) always look good. This positive environment is simply awesome. I left my first class with a smile and 15 new friends. There wasn’t one person in the room I didn’t like; and that's a first.

I’m not an actor, so a lot of this is brand new to me. I actually took the class because I want to be more spontaneous in my writing. I love my reactive comedy, but writing doesn’t work like that. I need to start it. I also want to give standup a shot, and I really have to build my confidence on stage. This will help me do that.

Another core concept is: Don’t think about what you’re going to say before you get up there. Again, not easy! But it makes total sense. Improv is not scripted. Thinking about what you’re going to say and delivering the perfect one-liner sounds contrived to the audience and simply disappoints. And you can get caught off guard when another actor goes in a direction you’re not expecting.

If you believe what you’re saying, so will your audience. But when I clear my mind, it often stays that way and I freeze. And then I don't know what I'm saying, let alone selling it. And that is humbling.

Then I worry so much about not being funny, that I fulfill my own prophecy. So I’m going to work on keeping my mind empty, not freezing up, not trying to be the class clown, and see what comes out of my mouth.

And I can’t wait for more games and techniques. It’s so much fun! Even when I tank.

Friday, September 05, 2008

Junior Handles Stadium Heckler with Style

Last week the Chicago White Sox were in town, visiting my Orioles at Camden Yards. My friend Frank and I bought two sweet seats at the scalp-free zone (one of Baltimore’s best ideas) for $30 a pop, six rows from home plate, and the visitors’ dugout.

We sat next to a nice gentleman, Howard, a 78-year-young season-ticket holder. I really enjoyed our conversations. We also sat behind a foursome who scored sweet seats like we did. Nice enough crew, but one of the guys was the self-designated heckler. You know, that guy who tosses a few back and then throws out lame one-liners. No one really laughs, except for maybe a few nervous chuckles. The most annoying part is the constant repetition of the same “jokes”. We didn’t laugh the first time; what are you expecting the second and third?

Anyway, with great seats like these, this guy kept bugging the batters on deck, especially Ken Griffey Junior. Hey, we’ve got no problem with Junior. We were all excited to see a future Hall-of-Famer just a few feet away. And when he was warming up, everyone would whip out their cell phones and try and grab a quick picture, mostly of his back. Our local heckler tried to get him to turn around for a picture: “Hey, you’re no A-Rod but you’re still pretty good.” Cute, but obnoxious.

The third time Griffey was on deck, Frank asked me, “How do these players tune out the fans?” With authority, I said, “Aw, Frank. These guys are pros. The fans are so close in stadiums these days, and they’re at an opponent’s park half the year, they just tune them out. They have to.”

Dumbass repeats his taunt again, and Ken turns to him and says, “He’s behind me.” He pauses a beat, then adds “ every stat.” Classic heckler comeback. All of us are rolling, even the heckler.

I was totally impressed, and laughing even harder because it was brilliant timing: silencing the heckler and totally negating my statement. But it did have me thinking…leading Alex Rodriguez in every stat? Really? Hey, it’s Junior. I’m not going to argue with him. I was actually hoping he would step up to the plate, look back at the defeated fan, call his shot pointing to right field and then belt one out, hitting the warehouse. But this guy wasn’t worth it, and it would have added another run to the routing they were giving Baltimore anyway.

Of course I had to check Junior’s stats against A-Rod tonight. Junior certainly isn’t leading him in 2008 in virtually any stat, except for his one triple (A-Rod has none). He is leading in most lifetime cumulative stats (so far), but in fairness, he has a five-year head start. And A-Rod still has a better lifetime batting average, on-base percentage and slugging percentage. But I bet he can’t shut up the hecklers.

What a great night!