Sunday, September 14, 2014

Monorail... Monorail... Monorail!

I don't know what the weather is like where you are, but here, it has been HOT. Definitely the hottest temperatures we have experienced all year, and it's September. 

So instead of going to the park to read yesterday like I intended, we cooled our heels indoors with our favorite guys.

We've spent the last couple weeks enjoying Simon's semester break, catching up on TV shows, movies, and video games. Important stuff. But of course, we've done other things, too.

On the Wednesday after Labor Day, I managed to snag tickets for a surprise last minute show at UCB. Amy Poehler, one of the founding members of UCB and one of my favorite comedians, is releasing a book in the fall called Yes Please. On Wednesday afternoon, UCB announced that she would be reading from her book later that evening, and tickets for the show sold out in minutes. Armed with just an iPad and a microphone, Amy read the last chapter of her book out loud, and told us that it was being recorded for the audiobook version of her upcoming book.

Although Amy is one of the founding members of UCB, we have never seen her at the theater because she only performs at the NY one, so it was amazing to see her there in person. She was funny, and so was the chapter that she read; I am really looking forward to reading the rest of her book when it comes out. As a perk of going to the show, we get the audiobook version for free, which is nice. I hope that one day, we get a chance to see her do improv, but this experience definitely helped tide us over until then. 

The next evening, we were back at UCB for Casey & Woods, which was excellent as usual, 

and on Friday, we returned for two shows. First up was the monthly recording of The Dead Authors Podcast, with H.G. Wells (Paul F. Tompkins) as the host and James Bond author Ian Fleming (Matt Gourley) as the guest.

We don't get the chance to see this show every month, but every time we've gone has been fantastic, and this was no exception. Gourley played Fleming in hilarious fashion, exaggerating his many bad qualities, and Tompkins was the bemused straight man. Combined, they made for an entertaining show, and I would highly recommend listening to the podcast once it is released. 

Our second show of the evening was hosted by comedian Matt Walsh. A few months ago, he created a Kickstarter for a film he was working on, and one of the rewards was tickets to a UCB show featuring him and a few friends. Since we have enjoyed Matt's work for years, we contributed enough to get two tickets for the show. 

The show ended up being a taping of Bear Down Podcast, a comedy/sports related podcast featuring Chicago Bears fans, both real and made-up. You may or may not know that Simon and I are not football fans, but the podcast had a variety of guests and was amusing enough to make up for the fact that it's a podcast about football. Horatio Sanz and Jon Daly were two of the highlights of the panel's many guests. 

The next morning, we discovered that someone stole my car's hood emblem. 

Now, in general, I am not too fussy about my car. I am missing two wheel covers, it has a couple of small scrapes, and it's perpetually dirty from the construction across the street. But the missing emblem was too much, even for me. So I ordered another one and replaced it, and now it looks so much better. I don't know where it was stolen - either at UCB or in front of our apartment - but I hope the thief doesn't strike again, since it was not free to replace.

Saturday afternoon, we went to Amoeba Records to check out a charity auction.

Actor Tim Simons was hosting an auction to benefit a performing arts high school, so I hoped we could find something in our budget to buy. 

Tim Simons was a very humorous auctioneer, and we ended up walking away with a commemorative plate and signed Blu-Ray from season two of Veep

After the auction, we went next door to Arclight to see Sin City: A Dame to Kill For

which was not as good as the original film, but thankfully not as bad as the reviews led me to believe. 

Sunday night, we were back at UCB for Gravid Water

This month's edition featured many of our favorite people, and the return of Cristin Milioti from HIMYM. She was great in her scene with Thomas Middleditch. I just realized that, due to other plans, we'll be missing this show for the next two months, which legitimately bums me out since it's one of my favorites. 

Monday evening, we were back at UCB for our first Harold Night. A "Harold" is the basic format for long form improv, and they have been talking about it in Simon's improv class, so we decided to check it out. UCB has several house teams that perform in pairs on a rotating basis. A lot of the performers we see at UCB have come from these house teams. Monday, we saw teams Winslow and Outside Dog each perform for about 30 minutes. Each team had at least one member we were already familiar with, and the shows were both funny. 

Tuesday night, we did something entirely different and... went to see improv. Okay, so that's not new, but we did go to a new place to see it.

iO West is Improv Olympic, an improv theater with locations in Chicago and LA. We got there early for Dasariski, a show we had seen a couple times at UCB a couple of years ago and really liked, with team members Bob Dassie, Rich Talarico and Craig Cackowski. They stopped doing the show at UCB for whatever reason, but still perform weekly at iO, so we thought we would check it out.

Because I feel like I should say something nice about our experience, I did enjoy the show. But the theater is definitely not someplace we are eager to return. There's a bar with reasonably priced beer, which is awesome, but that's literally the only advantage this place has over UCB. They were running 15 minutes behind schedule, and we had to guess when the house was open to grab our seats. The chairs are horribly uncomfortable, and smashed right up against each other. The seating is set up awkwardly for the way the stage is laid out, so some of the seats have a limited view of the stage. But the worst part is that the place is attached to a nightclub, so we could hear music pounding through the walls for the entire show. Comparatively, UCB is a palace.

We spent Wednesday evening at home, and on Thursday, I did some reading in Hancock Park behind the Tar Pits. 

I even made a friend.

That night, we went to see a screening of The Skeleton Twins at LACMA.

It's a dramatic, dark comedy starring former SNL cast members Bill Hader and Kristen Wiig, and it was pretty good. They both adapted to drama quite well, and though the plot is a bit meandering, we liked the movie. Hader, Wiig, and the director Craig Johnson did a Q&A afterward with Elvis Mitchell. I couldn't get a photo, so here's one from Film Independent's FB page.

We actually ran into a couple of friends at the screening, which is (sadly?) the first time that has happened to us since we moved to Los Angeles. 

On Friday night, we returned to the Hollywood Bowl for a show celebrating the 25th anniversary of The Simpsons

We didn't know what exactly they were going to be doing, but we knew that a bunch of voice actors and guest stars from The Simpsons would be there, and it's one of Simon's all-time favorite shows. 

The Bowl was decked out with Simpsons stuff everywhere: cut-outs, blow-ups, huge figures, and people dressed up as the characters were everywhere you looked. It was very cool.

There was a Duff blimp, and Duff drinks, and the ushers wore Sideshow Bob wigs.

The show was a mixture of clips, reminiscing and musical performances. Creator Matt Groening was first on stage. The last time we saw him, he was signing autographs five feet away from us at Meltdown Comics, and this time he was introducing the show in front of 16,000+ people.

Hank Azaria was the host, and he did a bunch of character voices and one of Apu's songs.

There were many notable appearances - Nancy Cartwright (Bart) and Yeardly Smith (Lisa), Weird Al,  the Los Angeles Gay Men's Choir (with composer Hans Zimmer conducting them for part of the show),

Jon Lovitz, and band Vaud and the Villains, who had a flaming tuba on stage.

But my favorite part was when Conan O'Brien, who was a writer on The Simpsons for years, sang the Monorail Song, originally performed by the late Phil Hartman.

Overall, it was a really nicely done show, and it touched on a lot of great Simpsons stuff. Twenty five years is a long time to be on TV - I was four when the show started airing, which is crazy to think about. Here's a review of the show from the LA Times, if you are interested. 

Yesterday, we had a very lazy Saturday, culminating in dinner on the patio at The Little Next Door,

a bottle of wine, and our new season two blu-ray of Veep. It was a very pleasant evening.

Today, we hit up the farmer's market and a new place for breakfast called Homestate, which serves breakfast tacos. It was cute and the food was pretty good, but everything was a bit dry. We think we are going to try to replicate their food at home sometime soon. 

I hope that you guys had a good weekend. As much fun as we have doing stuff here, we miss being able to drive an hour or so to see our family & friends. Love you guys! 

Tuesday, September 2, 2014

FYF: The Sequel

Happy September! August was a lot of fun, but Simon had very little downtime due to work & school. He just finished up his most recent graduate class this weekend, so the next three weeks before his next class starts should be an excellent break. 

We spent pretty much all day yesterday lounging around the apartment, playing video games and watching the first couple of Doctor Who episodes from this season. But we were more productive in the recent past. Last Friday, we went to UCB to see Neil Casey & Zach Woods do their two man improv show, which was excellent as always.

We hadn't seen them in a couple of months, but thanks to the idiosyncrasies of UCB's schedule, we will be seeing them again later this week. No complaints here.

Saturday afternoon, we headed to the Expo Line station at La Cienega to take the train downtown to FYF Fest. We went to the festival last year and had fun, so when they announced a good lineup this year, we decided to buy tickets again.

A couple dozen other wristbanded folks squeezed on the train as well, and twenty minutes later we were at the festival grounds. We walked up to the main entrance gates...

and quickly realized that there was a line to get in. So we turned the corner to find the end of the line... which we did, about a mile later. Meanwhile, the line was barely moving, and we were not the only people displeased with the situation at hand. I'm still not sure what the hold-up was, but we waited in line for an hour and a half before they finally let us in through the VIP gates - the line had hardly moved at all during our wait. 

We missed most of Man Man's set, which was unfortunate since they were the reason that we showed up early. But we did catch the last couple songs, since they were playing on the first of four stages that you encountered when entering the festival.

Afterward, we parked ourselves in the shade by the same stage and listened to most of Real Estate's set.

After we grabbed a beer at the new-this-year craft beer garden, Simon waited in line at one of the many food trucks for dinner while I took the fifteen minute walk over to another stage to see Future Islands

Simon didn't have long to wait, and made his way over to me quickly. He wasn't initially interested in seeing Future Islands, but once he got to the stage he realized that he likes them and just blanked on their name. We enjoyed all three sets we'd seen up to this point, but this was probably the best one.

Afterward, the night started to go downhill for me. I stayed in the same spot for the next act, Julian Casablancas, and Simon left about halfway through to go check out another band, Tycho

He enjoyed Tycho's set, but Julian Casablancas was extremely unimpressive. I waited around, however, because I was very eager to see the band that was playing after him, Interpol

The crowd became more and more dense, so by the time Interpol came on I was tightly pressed up against the barrier wall behind me. The first few songs went well, 

but then a sweaty, drunk, argumentative couple stood pressed up in front of me for a few songs. I was actually really close to the stage where I was standing, so it was super crowded and there was nowhere for me to move. I tried to block them out, but a couple songs later, a different drunk girl threw up two feet away from where I was standing. At that point, I decided I'd had enough of people for the evening, and fought my way through the crowd just to get away from the stage and find Simon.

We made it home without incident, but the late start and the drunk people already had me annoyed with my decision to buy tickets for the festival at all. Since it was a two-day affair, I was dreading going back, and glad there were only a couple of bands we wanted to see on Sunday. Simon worked on his school project all morning, and then went to improv class. After he got home, we grabbed some pizza and headed back to the festival.

The metro was fast, and the line to get in went very quickly. After we had a beer together to kill some time, we split up to see bands at different stages. I saw Haim, while Simon watched the Blood Brothers. Both of these shows were excellent.

I tried to stick around for The Strokes, but left after four or five songs. They came on twenty minutes late, which was frustrating as they were the last act of the night. And after a couple of songs, some people in front of me climbed up onto a barrier to watch the show, blocking the view for everyone behind them.  At that point, I decided I would rather be on the way home, so I met up with Simon and we left.

Next year, we are not going to FYF. Both this year and last, they had great bands, but it's too much hassle for too little payoff. At a regular concert, you have some recourse for avoiding drunk idiots, but at a festival this is not the case. I would rather go to several concerts than another huge festival like this one again. I asked Simon to remind me of my words next year, in case I fall in love with the lineup and/or they put the festival in a better venue and/or I get temporary amnesia. 

Last week started off pretty slow, as Simon had a lot of final project work to do. But on Tuesday, I got a package that I was very excited about.

I've had HP laptops for my entire adult life, but when my most recent one was showing signs of wear, I decided to look into getting a Macbook. I used Macs throughout college and loved them, and had heard good things about the longevity of Mac laptops. Apple sells refurbished versions of their products at a lesser cost than new, so I decided to get a refurbished 2013 retina screen Macbook Pro. And it is beautiful! I could not be happier with the computer thus far. And it was great timing, as the screen on my old laptop stopped working on Monday. 

Thursday night,  Simon finished up his project. Afterward, we visited UCB for a new show, Extreme Gaming Championship, which was co-hosted by Thomas Middleditch, Ben Schwartz and Wario (Jake Perlman). 

They had contestants from the audience play old video games in competitive fashion, which was fun to watch, but made me glad that I did not volunteer. They looked pretty tough! It was also fun to see these guys do something other than improv for a change.

Friday night, we ventured over to Griffith Park for the last outdoor Shakespeare event of the season, The Taming of the Shrew. Having seen 10 Things I Hate About You multiple times helped me with some of the plot points, and the acting and staging of the show was excellent as usual. The Independent Shakespeare Company is one of the many things that I really appreciate about living in Los Angeles. 

Although this was the last outdoor event of the year, I bought season tickets for their four indoor shows from October through May. I'll be sure to tell you more about those once we attend one!

Saturday afternoon, we drove to Westwood to see a matinee performance of the Neil LaBute play Reasons to Be Pretty at the Geffen Playhouse. I had read some good reviews of the show, and it starred Amber Tamblyn, Shawn Hatosy and Alicia Witt, actors that we know from various TV roles. 

Unfortunately, we did not particularly like the play. Most of the acting was well done, and the set design was excellent, but we didn't find the play engaging. Of course, we will return to the Geffen, as we have enjoyed other productions that we have seen there. Hopefully the next one will be better.

Later that evening, we returned to UCB for Zamata and Byer, an improv show starring Sasheer Zamata (from SNL) and Nicole Byer. 

They were so funny together. I wish they could do this show more often, as they are both hilarious and provide an excellent comedic contrast to the sea of white male thirty-somethings that populate UCB. 

The rest of the three day weekend was very relaxing. Sunday, we spent the afternoon with some friends, enjoying both their company and their pool. And Monday, we finished up the Lego game we've been working on this summer, and caught up on some TV. Hope you guys had a nice weekend as well! Talk to you soon.