Friday, March 24, 2017

Anthurium no. 0892 "Eddie Izzard"

Hey there. It's been a while since I did an Anthurium seedling post. I have several reasons for this, the main one being that I was getting pretty sick of the Anthurium seedlings. They hadn't been doing anything terribly interesting, and then there were the ghost mites / Xanthomonas / thrips / scale, and it seemed easier to just say, hey, screw the Anthuriums, I don't even like them anymore.

But, the feeling passed lessened, and 19 more Anthurium seedlings have bloomed since 1095 Carolina Pineforest hundreds of years ago,1 some of which are actually doing new and interesting things. So the blog is probably not ending for a few more months still, though if you haven't found the last couple months interesting, you're probably not going to get excited about the next couple either: it's all Schlumbergera and Anthurium seedlings from here on. Which I'll try to make worth your time, but you already know sometimes it's not gonna be. So plan accordingly.

Anyway. 0892 Eddie Izzard isn't one of the interesting seedlings, but he's an interesting celebrity, so he gets a pass.

A long time ago, I followed a link to Aisha Tyler's2 podcast, Girl on Guy,3 and it turned out to be a good thing to listen to while trying to wash dirty pots in the bathtub,4 so I wound up listening to a bunch of them. And one of the things I found unexpectedly fascinating about Tyler is that, especially at first, the people she was getting on the show were other stand-up comics, and stand-up comics who became TV stars, those being the kinds of people she knew, and so inevitably there was some discussion of stand-up comedy.

The actual life of a stand-up is not very interesting -- travel, hotel, do the show, sleep, more travel, new hotel, do the show, sleep, etc. -- but they occasionally got into talking about what it's like to do the actual work. How do you come up with a set? What do you do when you're in front of an audience who is just not enjoying you? If you come up with new material, how can you try it out to see whether it works, without risking losing your whole audience? Etc.

As a result, I've been gradually getting into stand-up. Watching specials on Netflix, with an eye toward how different comics build their jokes, and their sets. What topics do they talk about? What makes, say, an Amy Schumer joke different from a Steven Wright joke, or a Louis C.K. joke?5 When a batch of jokes isn't working for me, why doesn't it work? Why do some old comedy routines still seem fresh and funny now, and others seem horribly dated and/or offensive? Etc. Not saying I have mad stand-up critiquing skillz or anything, but it's something I find really interesting, trying to understand how it works.

The point of mentioning this is that, although I guess he's not still doing it, Eddie Izzard's stand-up was fantastic. What I like about it the most is that there's very little meanness in it. Here's a sample:

Not only are none of those jokes particularly mean,6 but Izzard is a fucking genius at inventing characters from almost nothing. Some context, body language, tone of voice, and careful word choices, and suddenly there's a conversation going on between multiple people. And it's funny. He's amazing.

If you haven't seen it before and can track down a copy somewhere, Izzard's 1998 special Dress To Kill (the source of the "cake or death" bit) is well worth your time. (1997's Glorious is also great.) I found a copy of Dress To Kill on YouTube that I was going to include here, but it got taken down, alas, so you'll have to track down your own.

Anyway. Izzard isn't a drag queen (as he explains early in Dress To Kill, he prefers "executive transvestite"), but I figure close enough for seedling naming.

The seedling isn't great, alas. Fairly small blooms, boring color. The leaves would be okay without the thrips,

but lately it's been looking like the seedling has a Xanthomonas problem: I keep seeing occasional spots like the one on the back leaf in this photo:

That's not how Xanthomonas normally manifests,7 which is why I haven't thrown out the seedling yet, but I'm probably going to eventually. Even if the spots are fine, the flowers aren't anything special, and I only have so much space.

Anyway. So go do your homework. Or don't.


1In order of blooming:
0892 Eddie Izzard
0789 Marsha P. Johnson
0802 Dana International
1145 Jimmy James
0813 Arya Reddy
0929 Asia Persuasia
1271 Boy Child
0915 Parker MacArthur
0648 Bianca Del Rio
0378 Annie Thingeaux
0771 Nina Flowers
1181 Tajma Stetson
0473 Margo Howard-Howard
0696 Jessica Wild
1447 Daesha Richards
0779 Hollee Luja
0910 Aria B. Cassadine
1268 Li'l Miss Hot Mess
1452 Chastity Vain
2 Who you may know from such hits as Archer, Whose Line Is It Anyway?, Ghost Whisperer, CSI, BoJack Horseman, and Criminal Minds. As well as her stand-up comedy specials and probably fifty other things. She's very busy.
3 Not a good name for a podcast -- not only misleading as to its contents, but also a little risky to search for on-line.
4 'Cause you can't just re-use a pot for a plant without cleaning it, or at least you shouldn't be if the reason you have the dirty pot is because a plant died in it. And since I have a lot of plants, that leads, over time, to having a lot of dirty pots to wash. Which means that pot-cleaning is a huge ordeal that takes all day -- often multiple days -- to get through, and it's intensely boring to just stand there trying to scrub mineral buildup off of a thousand pots with plastic scrubby brushes and razor blades. Therefore: podcasts.
5 Among other things: an Amy Schumer joke is about 1000% more likely to make a reference to human papillomavirus (HPV) infection.
While I'm here: the husband and I were really disappointed by Schumer's "Leather Special" on Netflix. And then I looked around on-line and became disappointed about being disappointed, because she's apparently been targeted by internet trolls, who are trying to flood Netflix and Reddit with one-star reviews, because I guess trying to wreck Amy Schumer's career is entertaining. (I don't know why trolls do anything; it's not going to wreck her career.)
But the problem is, it just wasn't that great. And it's not easy to pinpoint exactly why and how stand-up goes wrong (it's often easier to look at good stand-up and see what's going right), but my overall impression was: she was drifting into self-parody. I agree basically 100% with the LA Times review, in particular "Ironically, the dirtier it gets, the less daring it feels." The things that worked for the Times worked for me too, so I feel like it wasn't just that I was in a bad mood or whatever: it just wasn't great. Which I feel bad about saying, what with the one-star-rating campaign and all (and I certainly wouldn't give it one star. Probably three? Two and a half?), but: she's done better work.
The crazy part is that right after Schumer, we watched Katherine Ryan's In Trouble, which if you can get through the kinda rough first five minutes or so is kind of amazing. Like, once she gets rolling, not only is she doing material that's really funny, she's doing it in a really complicated way. The last ten minutes or so is . . . like watching someone set up and knock down one of those gigantic 100,000 domino constructions. There's also a joke involving Joan Rivers in the middle of the show, that works on three or four levels at once (at least two of which are funny). It's fascinating.
Schumer doesn't tend to get that complicated; her jokes are usually more blunt. Lots of paraprosdokians, like the first joke in this video:

(That's also a good example of Schumer making a decent joke and then topping it with an even better one right after "Like I know where I'm gonna be in three years, right?"), which she does a lot. Schumer also likes to say a sentence, then mumble something that undercuts it, like the "No, he's cute, he is. He looks like one of the guys from The Hills . . . Have Eyes." at 3:20. The word choice isn't maybe surgically precise there, but the timing is fantastic. (Her timing in Amy Schumer: The Leather Special is still fantastic; it's the material that was the problem.)
And yes, I realize that analyzing humor is a good way to ruin it, but it's so interesting, though.
If you're interested in comparative standup analysis and can watch Netflix or YouTube or both, check out:
Iliza Shlesinger: Freezing Hot (YouTube),
Ali Wong: Baby Cobra (YouTube),
Hannibal Burress: Comedy Camisado (YouTube),
Maria Bamford: The Special Special Special (YouTube),
• Sarah Silverman: Jesus Is Magic (YouTube)
• Ellen DeGeneres: The Beginning (YouTube)
Katherine Ryan: In Trouble,
Mike Birbiglia: My Girlfriend’s Boyfriend, and the most technically impressive routine I've ever seen from any comic ever, to the point where it might not even be fair to call it standup --
Bo Burnham: what. (YouTube) (Make Happy is also good, in a similar way, but if you only have time for one, watch "what.")
And then we'll get together and pick them apart talk about them. (Probably none of these are safe for work. Bo Burnham is definitely not.)
And yeah, I realize that's kind of light on the men. The reason is that men aren't funny.
6 (though I suppose fans of Hitler and the Austro-Hungarian empire might reasonably a little offended)
7 (I usually see yellowing spots on the margins first, not dark spots with yellow halos in the main body of the leaves. Though I suppose that spot in the photo is still pretty close to the leaf margin.)


Virginia Burton said...

Thank you for all the links. Between those and all the great riffs on the failure to repeal Obamacare, my day is starting out happily.

Pattock said...

Thanks for the recommendations. I love Katherine Ryan on the panel shows on which I have seen/heard her but didn't think of searching Netflix for a show. Mike Birbiglia has a new one, Thank God for Jokes, not as good or just left for us to discover?

I hate being interrupted mid-sentence, I can now tell the impatient listener that this is because my sentences are frequently paraprosdokian.

mr_subjunctive said...


Oh. For some reason I was under the impression that My Girlfriend's Boyfriend was the new one. Birbiglia's always good, so it kinda doesn't matter, but yeah, I intended to recommend Thank God for Jokes.