November 12, 2006

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Love, PSA-Style: Part II I begin Part II in the How Can I Tell If I'm Really In Love series with a pre-cursor, basically a formal introduction by those who will be guiding you, the confused and vulnerable teenager in 1986, through the tricky, sticky (ew, pun?) world of romance and sex. [Excuse the inky black spots that appear in the first few seconds of the video - my Internet accidentally soiled itself during the uploading process.] Aside from the teenagers who make you wonder if being a high school student in LA in 1986 was, indeed, the worst possible time to be in high school, those here to lead you through the intellectual landscape that is Sex and Romance include Justine Bateman, her little brother, and a guy who would soon go on to give it to Mary Steenburgen (*shudder*). And, oh yeah, did I forget about Sol? Besides being batshit crazy, the original stunt double for The Joker, and quite possibly a child molester (although wouldn't that be ironic?), Sol also goes by Dr. Sol Gordon, the author of How Can You Tell If You're Really In Love, the book on which this PSA was based. Again, I make the case that, although I wasn't there, the concept of irony couldn't possibly have existed before the mid-to-late nineties if a man who looks like this... ...was selected to be regarded by an auditorium full of high school kids as "the 'cool' doctor/approachable professional." The D.A.R.E. program, I admit, felt quite ineffective (if not wholly retrogressive) when I was a kid, but How Can I Tell makes D.A.R.E. look like an intellectual boot camp. Okay, so who's here to educate us on sexual politics? Sitcom stars, a witch doctor, and my homegirl, Alysa. Keep up the good work, sugartits! The first official segment I've clipped is about boys and why they will say or do whatever they must in order to insert their penis into a vagina. "Boys' Lines" is meant to both educate and empower the female viewer, to make her aware that there is, as Sol so nicely puts it, "no connection" between sex and love. (Nice. Kick 'em while they're down Sol...) If the jump cuts weren't enough to already confuse you, the editor makes sure to take advantage of Ted's on-the-spot diddy, which is repeated many, many times. Perhaps it's when Ted strives for those bass notes that you really understand where he's coming from: he's been there, man! He had to fend off pussy like wild cougar! He knows these lines, ladies. And he's looking out for you! What's not to trust from this face? Justine (who, it appears, added a layer while filming this scene in the waiting room of her gynecologist's office in Boca Raton) pulls out "The Little Black Book" in time to alert us as to what one might expect from a guy insistent on getting some vertical smiles before the night is over. Apparently, Ted has one, too, although he appears to have written most of them himself, resulting in a much more sly, dirty read. Justine isn't having it, either. Now...how did this mess happen? "Okay, Laurence, we're going to do a low angle close up." "K." "Now, can you tilt your head down so we can get the overhead fluorescents to bounce off your greasy adolescent skin?" "K." "Excellent. One more thing: just mix up the gel in your greasy mullet and then fluff it out. Yeah, like that. Good job. Just let it kind of poke through from behind...right, like a tall collar. Nice." "K." "Okay, and now what's going to happen is I'm going to give you a signal. At that point, you're going to look directly into the camera and say, 'Baby, you're driving me wild.'" "K." "Can you do that for me, Laurence?" "K." ... "I mean now, Laurence. Can we practice that once?" "K." ... "Laurence?" "K." "Is he retarded? Does anyone know if he's retarded?" "Baby, you're driving me wild!" "Oh! Oh my God, he said it! Laurence, just do that one more time when I point at you, okay?" "K." "And bring out the speech impediment." "K." "Aaaaand...go!" And magic was made. Of all the characters in How Can I Tell, Sol remains a total mystery to me from beginning to end. As someone with a doctorate degree - furthermore, as a medical professional in the area of sex, romance, and adolescence - might Sol have missed the mark by citing as an example of one way in which a guy might attempt to bed a girl, "Say, honey, I reeeeally love you...but do you have a condom?" Is there a context for such a question? And aren't we supposed to applaud a guy who plans to use protection? Although it's not anything I'd like to visualize, perhaps that's the motus operandi in the Gordon household: mildly-worded seduction. More over, the mocking tone he uses when playfully posing as a desperately horny man begging his girlfriend to let him "stay in for a minute" is enough to make me lower my head between my legs until everything settles. But following that up with a punchline as stale as "What am I, a microwave oven?" makes Dr. Sol Gordon a true pioneer in his field. Seriously, who else could persuade an entire audience of teenagers to embrace abstinence simply by forcing into their heads the image of Sol Gordon's pasty genitals? Sadly, I don't have that image handy, so instead I'll leave you with an image that should cheer you up, as you can congratulate yourself on not being in this picture (extra points if you're a girl who never had a bowl cut):
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Vaginas Make Me Laugh There's an inherent prejudice against women that often labels them as inferior to men in their ability to make us laugh. It's a sentiment that will likely never go away. That being said, it's also common knowledge that the comedic female lead is seldom one that sees the light of day in most mainstream fare (and when it does, it's usually not very funny unless you think Whoopi Goldberg dressed up as a Caucasian man is HI-larious). Perhaps it's a result of empathy on my part, but I especially enjoy witnessing a woman who can make me laugh without remembering the unfortunate "handicap" that shadows so many female comedians and actresses. There's a reason that so many female stand-up comedians generally aren't funny. Despite the fact that I've been raised in a unusually fresh time of comedic awareness - one that relies heavily on meta-irony and complex satire - women who have gladly accepted the term "comedienne" or [the possibly even less flattering] "funny lady" often deliver material that comes off stale, contrived, and regurgitated. In other words, Caroline Rhea is as boorish as Richard Jeni, Rita Rudner is as tragic as Joe Rogan, Lisa Lampanelli is as predictable as Dane Cook, and so forth. However, when Tina Fey, Sarah Silverman, Jackie Clarke, Amy Poehler, or the girls from Variety Shac perform, it's not only enjoyable because they're naturally funny. Rather, these women are, in a sense, acting subversively and - in the smartest of instances - taking advantage of the fact that they are, by default, facing a greater challenge than their male colleagues. Therein lies the extra ounce of enjoyment. When they regard the fact that they do, indeed, have vaginas and incorporate a level of self-satire, nothing could be funnier. The joke then merges physical humor with societal commentary. Veering away from the gray, scientific breakdown of why ladies are funny, I should also note that some women, whether or not they're thinking about it, are naturally hilarious. The underused, underrated Jan Hooks, a former SNL cast member during its cultural resurgence in the late eighties (and then wasted on Designing Women and Third Rock From The Sun), is a woman so natural, so flexible and comedically gifted, that she often outshined her male counterparts. Below is a clip from the short-lived where, as Regis Philbin and Kathie Lee Gifford, respectively, Carvey and Hooks spark an undeniable chemistry not seen since...Regis and Kathie Lee. Carvey, naturally, tries to steal as much face time as possible (he's moderately funny, but am I the only person who finds constant manic behavior somewhat of a ploy?), but Hooks really steals the scene. Between her whispered pronunciation of Peabo Bryson's name and the exaggerated vibrato she utilizes while singing to a monkey, she is flawless. But nothing - NOTHING - makes me happier than watching a fake Kathie Lee Gifford grow unabashedly abrasive toward her producer, so much that she chokes up with WASPy-voiced fury while yelling at him like a misbehaved dog ("Gelman, DON'T YOU START!"). And, yes, the guy playing Gelman is exactly who you think it is.

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