One-Man Show

One-Man Show: Introduction

Posted by on Jan 2, 2012 in One-Man Show | 0 comments

One-Man Show: Introduction

“Ladies and gentlemen – that should take care of most of you …” – Groucho Marx in A Night at the Opera Whenever I turned to this chapter during the writing of this book, I couldn’t escape the memory of something Roger Ebert once wrote. “A child that refuses to watch a black and white movie is one that should be sent to bed without supper until they change their minds.” While his hyperbole is, I think, meant to be comic, I can’t help but agree wholeheartedly. I have encountered dozens of...

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The General (1927), Steamboat Bill Jr. (1928), and Sherlock Jr. (1924)

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The General (1927), Steamboat Bill Jr. (1928), and Sherlock Jr. (1924)

Disclaimer: Don’t try any of this at home, kids. Writers have labeled Buster Keaton a great many things. One coined him The Great Stone Face, in response to the stoic expression on Keaton’s bottle-like mug, atop which a porkpie hat often rested. Others took note of his elastic grace, regarding his comedic acrobatics. Some called him a discreet romantic with meticulous historical accuracy. Several have analyzed Keaton’s portfolio as a director, and taken note of his fierce and discerning eye....

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A Night at the Opera (1935)

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A Night at the Opera (1935)

Disclaimer: Double entendres and all-out anarchy. Though he knew nothing of The Marx Brothers, Jean-Michel Frodon, a cinema writer at the French newspaper Le Monde, recalls going to the cinema to see A Night at the Opera at the request of an acquaintance. At only 10 years old, reading subtitles was a difficult task, especially considering the rapid verbal pace of the mustached man with a cigar. Not that he cared to see what they were saying by that time. After all, he was already rolling on...

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The Gold Rush (1925)

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The Gold Rush (1925)

Disclaimer: Starvation isn’t usually funny. They may not know it, but many children have seen the work of Charles Chaplin. Even if they haven’t seen one of his unforgettable movies, they’ve seen Chaplin. Maybe they’ve grown up with Looney Tunes, caught a glimpse of Big Top Pee-Wee or Benny and Joon, or have seen comedic gags of any kind. In any and all of those cases, they’ve unknowingly seen Chaplin’s work. To say that the man changed screen comedy is an understatement. Saying that he changed...

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Big (1988)

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Big (1988)

Disclaimer: Some adult-oriented sexual references, not to mention a love story involving a 30 year-old and a 13 year-old. To a kid, the world is an uncaring wasteland ruled by fascist dictators, who make them do chores for money, force them to choke down vegetables, tell them when to go to sleep, and make all of the rules. In this desolate land ruled by parents, kids can’t operate heavy machinery and are often told they’re too small for certain activities. After frustrations swell, almost...

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A Shot in the Dark (1964)

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A Shot in the Dark (1964)

Disclaimer: Looney Tunes-esque violence and comical sexual situations. A mysterious, mustached man in a trench coat sits patiently in a taxicab as it races to the scene of a murder. As cars pass the cab, their headlights reveal the man’s grimacing sneer and wide, inquisitive eyes topped with eyebrows raised with skepticism. When the cab arrives at the mansion, where a busty maid is suspected of killing a Spanish chauffeur, the straight-laced Parisian detective intends to solve the crime in a...

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The Nutty Professor (1963 & 1996)

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The Nutty Professor (1963 & 1996)

Disclaimer: The tame original has mild sexual content, while the riley remake has swearing, crude humor, and a bit more sexual content. A short time after Joseph Levitch (Jerry Lewis) and Dino Crocetti (Dean Martin) met in the 1940s, they developed a highly popular stand-up act and toured nightclubs nationwide. The duo branched out in the decade that followed, making 16 movies together. When the 60s rolled around and the group split up, one looked to concentrate on music and the other on...

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Uncle Buck (1989)

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Uncle Buck (1989)

Disclaimer: Some swearing and a little sexual content in the form of double entendres or dirty innuendo, but still tame even for a John Hughes movie. Writer-director John Hughes was the king of teen movies in the 80s, but his movies were rarely understood or enjoyed outside of that exclusive (and hormonal) group. Uncle Buck, however, is his most accessible film for teens, adults, and young ones alike. I suspect that it corresponds with the film’s main points of conflict: a high school girl and...

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Abbott & Costello Meet Frankenstein (1948)

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Abbott & Costello Meet Frankenstein (1948)

Disclaimer: Some mild scares from classic horror characters. Bud Abbott and Lou Costello are an amazing pair of comedians, if only for the significance of the time during which they were popular. This is a duo that started and mastered their craft, like so many others, on the stage. When radio became the popular medium, they dove in, and eventually they did the same with cinema and television. All with undoubted success, and their most famous routine, Who’s On First?, was immortalized through...

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Safety Last (1923) & The Freshman (1925)

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Safety Last (1923) & The Freshman (1925)

Disclaimer: I know I said this for Keaton already, but don’t try this at home, kids. When it comes to silent comedy stars, Charlie Chaplin, Buster Keaton, and Harold Lloyd are often referred to as “the big three,” but nowadays it couldn’t be more of a misnomer. Most know nothing of Lloyd or his excellent cinematic bibliography, which from Grandma’s Boy to Speedy was in some ways the most impressive of any star of the time. Perhaps most disappointing is that most people have seen the famous...

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Mrs. Doubtfire (1993) & Liar Liar (1997)

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Mrs. Doubtfire (1993) & Liar Liar (1997)

Disclaimer: Some swearing and sexual references in both, and cross-dressing in one. Very few family films have taken on the subject of divorce – for the simple reason that most are light-hearted comedies or action-packed fantasies – and even fewer have taken the subject and seen it through the eyes of a child (Parent Trap, Little Monsters, and E.T. come to mind). I’d like to say these two are different, and present characters that so many children nowadays can empathize with, but I can’t. Like...

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One-Man Show: Other Recommended Titles

Posted by on Jan 1, 2012 in One-Man Show | 0 comments

One-Man Show: Other Recommended Titles

Clifford (1994): Not a good movie by any means, but Martin Short’s diabolical role as the dinosaur-obsessed title character is priceless. Father Goose (1964): Cary Grant is hysterical, as usual, playing an alcoholic charged with spotting enemy aircraft on a deserted island during World War II. But the cost of living goes up another quart when he’s forced to care for a group of girls also stranded there. Kindergarten Cop (1990): “It’s not a tumor!” Arnold Schwarzenegger humorously plays an...

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One-Man Show: For Adults Only

Posted by on Jan 1, 2012 in One-Man Show | 0 comments

One-Man Show: For Adults Only

It’s a Gift (1934), The Bank Dick (1940), and You’re Telling Me (1934): WC Fields was crass, lewd, and an ingenious comedian who loved booze and verbally abused women and children at every turn. A true monument to screen comedy. Me and You and Everyone We Know (2005): Miranda July’s inspired modern classic features poignant intertwining stories, one of which has two children coping with separated parents and discovering online chat...

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