Tuesday, April 25, 2006

Yo Mama Got an Afro with a Chinstrap

I have discovered a new train wreck in TV. But unlike a normal wreck where, as they say, "you can't look away," I can not only look away from this one, but I am almost constantly am tempted to change the channel. And when it's over, I not only feel unfulfilled, but a little sad.

The show, of course, is MTV's "Yo Momma," and it is truly crap-tastic!

Here's the concept. We go to different "hoods" (that's neighborhoods to the melanin-impaired) and have five or six people battle each other in a match of wits. Using "Yo momma jokes" or "the dozens" as they once called them in a more authentic time. Anyway, the different competitors battle for supremacy to represent their "hood" in a four-hood bracket, in a "Snaps" tournament of sorts.

All the battles are held in alley ways near chain link fences, surrounded by a multi-cultural tapestry of streetwise young people dressed in puffy Sean John and Roca-Wear jackets, all too eager to hold a closed fist to their mouths and shout "OHHHHHHHHH" when somebody rips someone else. This show oozes authenticity.

When you have a show that is this "street," you have to have a host that has street cred to burn. Of course that man in this case is Wilmer Valderamma, a.k.a. Fez from "That '70s Show." If you thought Ashton Kutcher cornered the market on in-your-face comedy for young people, wait til you see Fez cracking jokes like Ralph Malph with a sack full of Bazooka Joe comics.

On the serious tip (yeah I said it), I think this is a brilliant concept for a show. There was a time several years ago when the "Snaps" series of books and CDs was very popular, so there is a very clear market for "Yo Momma" jokes. Some aficianados may remember the very popular novelty hit "Ya Mama" by the Pharcyde, which included some classic "Yo momma" jokes, such as "Yo mama got a glass eye with a fish in it," and "yo mama got a wooden leg with real feet," and the inimitable "yo mama got a peg leg with a kickstand."

But those are real "yo momma" jokes, filled with clever insults and actually a good deal of wit. The jokes on MTV's "Yo Momma" are hardly of this caliber. Which brings me to the two main flaws of this show. (Oh, and by the way, these two flaws make the show almost completely unwatchable.)

Firstly, the show is far too regimented. They will have the many contestants "snap" on each other for about 2 1/2 minutes before deciding who the winners are. This is not done like a live battle where we can see the participants spar and react. Rather, it is a carefully edited bunch of clips that act as sort of a "best-of/worst of" with all the best insults and the worst insults being shown, along with the appropriate contrived crowd reaction of "OOOOOOOOOOH" or "BOOOOOOOOOO" depending on the dopeness/wackness of the competitor.

When the finalists are finally pitted against each other, that too has a strict itinerary. Wilmer and the two other dime-a-dozen hosts that accompany him lay down ground rules. ("Okay, first, only momma jokes. Then you have to bust on each other's personal style. Then each other's hygiene. Then each other's penis size. Then who has more friends on MySpace....") It reminds me of the scene in the American version of "The Office" on Diversity Day where Michael encourages all the employees, "let's get real!" when they are supposed to be insulting each others' races. This part takes all the fun, creativity and extemporaneousness out of the insults.

Furthermore, there is a very dull and stupid segment where Wilmer takes each of the two finalists to the other's home and searches through his personal belongings. This always includes the too-cool-for-school Valderamma mugging for the camera and dropping bad jokes left and right. The information gathered in these rooms is ostensibly meant to inspire more deadly insults, but is always out of context and the crowd never reacts well, since they had never been, in fact, in the room themselves.

But the second (and most crippling) reason that this brilliant concept of a show remains a mess when put into practice: the "yo momma" jokes are terrible. And I don't even mean just subpar. They are completely pointless and unfunny. Once in a great while, they will throw in an old classic like "Yo momma's so black, she went to night school and was marked absent," but all the good ones are from the old bag of jokes that any good "momma joke" aficinado would already know.

Instead we get a very sorry and pathetic collection of jokes that rely on stupid non-sequiturs and lame physical humor. The two most egregious examples are the ones that contain the words "she ______ like this" or "talkin' bout." Por ejemple:

"Yo mama got legs on her shoulders, she walk like this..." [Competitor does a silly walk]


"Yo mama wear a ring with a piece of coal on it, talkin' bout 'bling BLING'!"

That's funny? It makes one weep for the state of American comedy. If this is the finest that the urban, streetwise comedy scene has to offer, I'm going to go back to watching "Yes, Dear." If you are going to create a show predicated on cleverness and creative insults, you should at least have some semblance of cleverness or creativity. Instead, we get high school age Don Rickles wannabes shouting jive at each other, not quite sure if what they are saying is funny or not. In fact, it seems the audience surrounding and watching the competitors can't figure it out either. Honestly, I found more humor in one three-minute Saturday Night Live sketch where Seth Myers plays the great insult comedian "Zinger" than I have in the several episodes of "Yo Momma" I have watched.

(There is one note I would like to mention here. For all its flaws, it is perhaps the one show I've ever seen where race is fair game. They have white boys calling out the blackness of black guys' momses, and black guys making fun of Asians' driving. In that regard, it is a somewhat refreshing change to see people who are too young to worry about getting sued for discrimination.)

I would love to see this type of competition with the likes of Oscar Wilde or Winston Churchill or Mark Twain, but unfortunately two out of the three of those men are dead. Instead, we're left with D-Redd and Fez. Oh, does the humor ever stop?

Sunday, April 23, 2006

Dude Be Messin With My Post-Season, I Go Cold Upside His Head

I promised several months ago that there would be no more football posts until April. And like the pillar of integrity that I am, I kept my word. And this will likely be one of my few football posts until June or so. So savor this one, folks. Cherish it. Print it and read it during those dreary days where I'm not writing anything football-related. This one should get you through those depressing summer months.

Now I know this isn't the most appropriate time to bring this up, since it actually happened like a month ago, but in the NFL owners meetings, Kansas City Chiefs owner Lamar Hunt -- so illustrious a character is he that the AFC Championship trophy is named after him -- suggested that the NFL consider changing from a 12-team playoff format to 16 teams, seeding the teams one through eight like basketball and hockey, and eliminating the bye weeks for the top two teams in each conference.

With all due respect to Lamar (and I know for a fact that he is an avid reader of mine, so my respect is certainly appreciated), this is a godawful idea. Absolutely terrible. For two reasons.

First, the current NFL playoff format is impeccable. It's the best playoff system of all the four major sports (and yes, hockey is a major sport, haters). First of all, the bye week is the ultimate reward for playing well in the regular season. It gives the top four teams in the regular season a full week off to rest and game plan for the next opponent. It also gives those teams at least one game of home field advantage.

Lamar Hunt said that the reason he opposes the bye week in pro football is because it (and I'm paraphrasing) places the "showcase teams" of the league on a shelf for a week. In other words, if the Colts are the best team in the league (for the sake of argument), why would you want to have a week where they were not on television, in effect hiding them from public consumption. This is a very short-sighted argument. Which is a better option? To milk television ratings for one weekend or maintain the integrity of the current playoff format (which, by the way, after 17 seasons, has had very little downside). No league does a better job of straddling the line between rewarding the good teams, and allowing the other teams to have a chance, especially in post-season play.

The second reason this is a terrible notion is that the 16-team playoff format is, and will continue to be, a laughingstock. It's not like this is the NCAA Men's Basketball tournament, where there are hundreds of schools to choose from, and 65 is actually a low percentage. The NHL and the NBA have playoff formats that basically assure that all non-terrible teams will make the playoffs.

But that is a laughable format for two leagues that each have 30 teams. Do the math, baby. That means that more than half the teams in those leagues make the playoffs. This isn't CYO basketball, where Bill Shannon's crappy 0-22 team of 8th graders still gets to play in the tournament. It's major pro sports. This year in the NBA's Eastern Conference (of course), three teams with records of .500 or lower made the playoffs. This is clearly not the intent of postseason sports.

In the NFL, good teams miss the playoffs. And that's how it should be. Back in the 2004 season, my favorites bunch of losers (next to my friends), the Buffalo Bills, would have made the playoffs under this 16-team format. But you know what? And it pains me to say this: they didn't deserve to. Had they won their last game of the season (a pathetic effort, getting blown out by Pittsburgh's third-stringers, a game which I attended and clearly jinxed), they would have made the playoffs anyway.

Interestingly, under this 16-team playoff format, Lamar Hunt's Chiefs would have made the playoffs in 2005, since they were the best team to be locked out of the playoffs in the AFC. Granted, Hunt has been pimping this idea for a long time, but still, intriguing no?

I have written before about the NFL being the league that is going to kill the goose that lays the golden eggs, tarnishing all that is great about the game for quick money. But if they did this, it would be a case of the league taking a very bad idea from a very good man in the interest of creating two more playoff games every season. I'm just hoping that the money-hungry owners of the league like Jerry Jones and Dan Snyder don't try to continue their hostile takeover of the league by adopting this hare-brained idea.

The league is already perilously close to over-saturation, and that's coming from an erstwhile psychotic football aficianado.

Thursday, April 20, 2006

Note: I am going to do something in this post that I promised I would never do. I am going to (ugh) get sentimental. Oh sure, I re-live old tales of the past with a hazy, sepia-toned eye all the time. But this is about all the people in my life now. Yes, it may be vomit-inducing, but it needed to be done. (Especially since it's the end of April and I was really drawing a blank about other topics.) So if you detest award banquets and/or interviews with James Lipton, you may want to turn your head or click "Next Blog" up top.

Okay, I'm not very good at this.

The last couple of months have been a struggle for me. There has been a lot of change and transition in my life. Anyone who has talked to me since my 30th birthday knows what I'm talking about. Anyway, I just wanted to take a second to sincerely thank all the people (well, my "subscribers" anyway) who have really been there for me and kept me from jumping out the nearest window on those tougher days.

I am a creature of habit. I do not fear change; change scares the living piss out of me. I have never been able to deal with it or react to it. And lately, my life has been turned around in a lot of ways. I have felt an odd sense of limbo. My surroundings are different, and my daily and weekly routines are different. So when an event comes up that upends with the convoluted order I have tried to maintain in my life, it sends me into somewhat of an existential tailspin.

So with that, I want to specifically name and thank those folks who have seen my unrest and reached out to me. Whether it's inviting me to stay the weekend, to go out for a drink, or to just hang out and watch TV. You have all been great and when the proverbial chips were down for me, you all propped me up. And I really, sincerely thank all of you, without even a hint of irony (if that's even possible). I have to tell you guys like this because I just can't do this kind of thing in front of you. So sorry if it comes off a little impersonal. But trust me, I know you guys are the best. (This is absolutely no particular order, by the way.)
  • Javen and TT, for hosting me in the Electric City a couple times (with more to come, I hope) as well as visiting me on Final Four weekend. (Danny, this goes for you too, buddy.) You guys really go out of your way to show me a good time and it does not go unnoticed.

  • Doug and Rachel, I feel like that homeless drunk who just shows up on Tuesdays and Wednesdays, which won't be the same after you guys leave. I want to thank you for letting me come over and hang out. It's been a weekly highlight. Sorry I leave so many empties and stay so late. I'm sad to see you guys go, but I feel like I've really maximized my last few months together with you.

  • Will and Jaime, my new roomies. Even though you are taking away my beloved "bachelor pad," I am very glad you are going to be here. I hope we can keep the Friday tradition alive, even if just for an hour or so. And who knows, maybe after that, Will and I can have sex with each other? Just a thought.

  • Mike C., my ace boon coon. I've only seen him once but he is constantly making me laugh by calling me terrible names and implying that I am a homosexual. And, last paragraph aside, who would ever believe that? (Quiet, Javen.) Thanks for at least saying to my face what so many others say behind my back.

  • Tracie, who helps me figure things out and maintain perspective. Day by day, you help me see the light at the end of the tunnel, always keeping my spirits up when they are down. Whether it's lending me $1.43 when I'm short on coffee money or just telling a funny story about how you tripped on something and fell, I hope I can somehow pay you back for the strength and support you have given me.
It's just the little things you all have done to pick me up when I've been down. You didn't have to do it, but you did. I was thinking about it and just wanted to show my appreciation. No sarcasm, no punchline. I love all of you guys. Thank you.