Category Archives: WRLD

Weird, dark, and awkward: The best British comedy shows

Rich Fulcher and Matt Berry in Snuff Box

Rich Fulcher and Matt Berry in Snuff Box

The first time I saw an episode of Monty Python on television I was hooked on British comedy. As a teenager in the mid-80′s I loved watching The Young Ones on MTV. And now, the last 10 years has been a golden age of British comedy. What follows is not a comprehensive list of every British comedy show — just a selection of shows that I’ve watched or re-watched over the last decade. Feel free to add your favorites in the comments. I’ve loosely organized the list by genre, or by groups of actors who’ve worked together on multiple shows.

Matt Berry, Richard Ayoade, and The Mighty Boosh

Snuff Box
Snuff Box [Amazon | Netflix] – Matt Berry and Rich Fulcher play two hangmen who spend most of their time in a lounge drinking whiskey. The show is interspersed with Python-esque sketches. Snuff Box is only six episodes, and aired once on BBC 3 back in 2006. A DVD was released in 2011, and the show recently became available for streaming on Netflix.  You might recognize Matt Berry as the big boss Douglas Reynholm on the IT Crowd. Both Berry and Fulcher also appeared on The Mighty Boosh.

  • Garth Marenghi’s Darkplace [Amazon | YouTube] – A hilarious faux 80′s haunted hospital drama starring Matthew Holness and Richard Ayoade.
  • Man to Man with Dean Learner [YouTube] – A spin-off of Darkplace, Man to Man is a talk show that’s a must see for Richard Ayoade fans.
  • AD/BC: A Rock Opera [Amazon] – A 30-minute 70′s style rock opera show from 2004 starring Matt Berry, Julian Barratt, and Richard Ayoade. Noel Fielding and Rich Fulcher have bit parts, too.
  • Toast of London [YouTube] – Matt Berry plays Steven Toast, an eccentric failed actor.

The Mighty Boosh
The Mighty Boosh [Amazon | Netflix] – Noel Fielding and Julian Barratt are out there. The show also features Rich Fulcher, who Noel once described as “the weirdest person I’ve ever met.”

  • Noel Fielding’s Luxury Comedy [YouTube] – A British Pee Wee’s Playhouse set in the 70′s on a bunch of psychedelic drugs. Surreal and bizarre.
  • The 2011 offbeat comedy The Bunny and the Bull [Amazon | Netflix] was directed by Paul King, who also directed The Mighty Boosh.
  • Julian Barratt from The Mighty Boosh was in the 1996 show Asylum alongside Simon Pegg. This show is a bit difficult to track down.

The IT Crowd
The IT Crowd [Amazon | Netflix] – Yes, the infamous “have you tried turning it off and on again” show. Written by Graham Linehan (Father Ted, Black Books), and featuring Richard Ayoade, and Matt Berry.

The Legacy of Monty Python

Monty Python's Flying Circus
Monty Python’s Flying Circus [Amazon | Netflix] – The movies are fantastic, but the Flying Circus is what originally got me going on British comedy. The box set is indispensable.

The Young Ones
The Young Ones [Amazon | Netflix] – As a teenager, The Young Ones left a lasting impression on me. 30 years later and it’s still weird and funny.

  • Bottom [Amazon | Netflix] – Can’t get enough? Rik Mayall and Adrian Edmonson of The Young Ones are bickering roommates in Bottom.

Little Britain
Little Britain [Amazon | Netflix] – Matt Lucas and David Walliams are two strange lads who play almost all of characters in this fun sketch comedy. Some bits are better than others, but when it’s good it’s fantastic.

  • Come Fly with Me [Amazon | Netflix] The lads play just about every character in this airport comedy. More hit and miss than Little Britain.

The League of Gentlemen
The League of Gentlemen [Amazon | Netflix] – What if you crossed Little Britain with Delicatessen [Amazon | Netflix]? This is a local show for local people. Definitely the darker side of British Comedy.

  • Psychoville [Amazon] – If you’re a League of Gentlemen fan, you’ll probably like Psychoville.

Simon Pegg, Dylan Moran & Friends

Black Books
Black Books [Amazon | Netflix] – Clerks [Amazon | Netflix] may be the ultimate movie about working retail in the U.S., but thankfully there’s Black Books for the U.K. Dylan Moran is perfect as the grouchy, nihilistic book store owner, and Bill Bailey is his wacky foil. Simon Pegg’s bit role as the chain bookstore manager is hilarious.

Spaced
Spaced [Amazon | Netflix] – Simon Pegg stars in this roommate comedy that’s laced with cultural references, weirdness, and inside jokes.

  • Green Wing [Amazon] – More of a dramedy – I know British comedy fans on both sides of the fence about this show.
  • There are 2 or 3 wonderful, full length Dylan Moran standup shows on YouTube
  • A Film with Me In It [Amazon | Netflix] – Dylan Moran stars in this dark comedy where everyone keeps freakishly dying.
  • Burke and Hare [Amazon | Netflix] – I suppose selling cadavers for science counts as dark comedy. Starring Simon Pegg.

Awkwardness: The cringe humour of The Office UK, and Mitchell and Webb

The Office UK
The Office UK [Amazon | Netflix] – Ricky Gervais is an acquired taste for some, and funny beyond belief to others. This depends on how comfortable you are being uncomfortable.

Peep Show
Peep Show [Amazon | Netflix] – If you enjoyed cringing your way through the awkwardness of The Office, Mitchell and Webb will test your cringe reflexes to the limit.

  • That Mitchell and Webb Look [Amazon | Netflix] – Highly recommended sketch comedy from Mitchell and Webb with less cringing than Peep Show.

Further Explorations

Some additional shows that have been recommended to me that I haven’t investigated yet.

  • Big Train
  • Nighty Night
  • Jam
  • Brass Eye
  • Monkey Dust
  • Human Remains
  • Rising Damp

So, Anglophiles, what other shows am I missing? I look forward to hearing about your favorite weird U.K. comedies in the comments.

 

 

WRLD: Grandmaster, Magic, Big Star, Townes, Creation, Cutie, 1-800-MICE, H Day, Abandoned Futures, Coin Locker Babies, Satellites, Mogwai, Exploding Star Orchestra

Watching

The Grandmaster
Last month Martin Scorsese interviewed Wong Kar-Wai about his 2013 film, The Grandmaster. The cinematography is amazing, and overall the film is pretty good [Amazon]. ★★★

Deceptive Practice
The best documentary I’ve seen in ages is Deceptive Practice: The Mysteries and Mentors of Ricky Jay [Netflix, Amazon]. Ricky Jay’s dedication and artistry are inspiring, and the film is riveting from start to finish. Highly recommended. ★★★★★

Big Star
This documentary profiles the Memphis rock band Big Star from their early years to post-breakup. Essential viewing if you’re a fan [Netflix, Amazon]. ★★★

Be Here To Love Me
Be Here To Love Me is a portrait of singer songwriter Townes Van Zandt. A haunting look at a tortured artist [Netflix, Amazon]. ★★★★

Upside Down
Upside Down is an uneven documentary about the UK label Creation Records. Selling records and partying with Scottish accents, it’s half entertaining and half annoying [Netflix, Amazon]. ★★

Cutie and the Boxer
Cutie and the Boxer profiles an 80 year old Japanese artist and his wife who are living in New York and barely making ends meet. I had high hopes for this one after the preview, but the film focuses too much on the antagonistic wife [Netflix, Amazon]. ★★

Reading

1-800-MICE
1-800-MICE is bonkers. Blurbed by Daniel Clowes and Matt Groening among others, but none of them get it quite right. Surreal, absurd, extraordinary, and utterly unique. Highly recommended.

H Day
I’ve been a fan of Renee French since 90′s comic books Grit Bath and The Ninth Gland. H Day tells parallel stories on facing pages without words. One side is about migraines, and the other is about an ant invasion. Mysterious, weird, and quite enjoyable.

Abandoned Futures
With a cover photo from the Pearsonville Junkyard, night photography workshop alum Tong Lam presents well crafted photos of some world class ruins. Tong doesn’t like the term ruin porn, and instead makes a case for the history of ruin lust. Abandoned Futures contains some of the best writing on the symbology of ruins in recent years, and is highly recommended.

Coin Locker Babies
I’ve read quite a bit of Haruki Murakami’s work, but hadn’t read Ryu Murakami until my book club selected Coin Locker Babies. This novel is the story of two orphans who are abandoned at birth in a coin-locker, and are raised in the shadows of a ruined factory town. While the violence was a bit graphic for my taste, there were some hypnotizing sections that gave me new insight into why I photograph abandoned places.

Satellites
Satellites is the result of an amazing 7 year journey exploring the forgotten outposts of the former Soviet Union. Unfortunately this book is out of print, but it’s definitely worth seeking out at your local library.

Listening

Hardcore Will Never Die, But You Will
Mogwai’s Hardcore Will Never Die, But You Will has been in heavy rotation during January. Maybe because it’s good workout music? The Drowned in Sound review of the album is right on target.

Exploding Star Orchestra
The Exploding Star Orchestra takes a wild journey through large ensemble jazz improv with a wide array of field recordings. A wild but engaging sonic ride. Here’s a nice review on Dusted.

Doing

  • A wonderful English artist is producing a marquetry version of one of my photos. I’m excited to see how this turns out, and will share photos when it’s done.
  • I’ve switched from using a Really Right Stuff pano-head to a Nodal Ninja Ultimate M2. More on this decision later.
  • My office is loud. I tried a lot of noise-cancelling headphones. All marketing hype aside, the Bose QC 15 really do work the best. Audiophile magazine Sound & Vision nails it in this Bose review. If you need to shut out the world, this is 300 bucks well spent.
  • I’m shooting video at work. It’s way harder than shooting stills. But fun. I’m learning Premiere, too.
  • A couple of my Holga images are in a recently released color grading book. More info when I get a copy.
  • I’m online less and less these days. I still like looking at pictures on Tumblr. That’s about it. You wanna talk? Send me an email. And don’t be surprised if my online presence becomes a bit more sporadic this year.

WRLD: Stanhope, Motorcycles, Yakuza, Cults, Pynchon, Aerial Photos, Feral Teens, Origami, and Prog-Folk

Watching

Beer Hall Putsch
Stand-up comedy is like dance for me — I can’t watch 98% of what’s out there, but the 2% that’s good is really good. Doug Stanhope is in that 2%. His most recent 1-hour special is called Beer Hall Putsch [Netflix only], and it’s over the top. The Occupy Wall Street and NFL fantasy bits are nuts.

Long Way RoundLong Way Down
In 2004, Ewan McGregor and his friend Charley Boorman went on a 20,000 mile adventure on motorcycles in Long Way Round [Netflix | Amazon]. The series starts a bit slowly, but the hard travel segments in Russia and Mongolia are amazing. In 2007 they rode from Scotland to South Africa in Long Way Down [Netflix | Amazon].

Pale Flower
I recently watched the nihilistic 60′s Japanese yakuza film Pale Flower again, and it’s still astonishing. Now on Blu-Ray from Criterion [Netflix | Amazon].

The Source Family
The Source Family is a really great documentary about a 70′s cult led by Father Yod, who had 14 wives, a health food restaurant, a Rolls Royce, and a psychedelic band [Netflix | Amazon].

Reading

Bleeding Edge
The new Thomas Pynchon novel Bleeding Edge will be released on Tuesday, 9/17. The extensive 7,000 word piece on Pynchon published last month on Vulture is a must-read for fans of his work. And Jonathan Lethem’s review in today’s New York Times really nails what’s great about Pynchon.

Around the Bay
The new CLUI publication Around the Bay: Man-Made Sites of Interest in the San Francisco Bay Region is essential if you live in the Bay Area. The book pairs aerial photographs with a short history of the industrial sites around the Bay. The companion exhibit, Above and Below, runs at the Oakland Museum runs through February 23, 2014. The big, projected fly-over video of the Bay is fantastic.

Mira Corpora
Jeff Jackson’s debut novel Mira Corpora is a dark, surreal coming-of-age story that I could not put down. Featuring a section with feral kids living in the woods on the edge of an abandoned amusement park which is down the way from a crumbling house inhabited by a teenage oracle.
Ametsuchi
I’m really surprised Rinko Kawauchi’s new book Ametsuchi isn’t getting more attention. I picked this up in a book store and was blown away. Images of controlled burns, constellations, Buddhist rituals, and a unique design with inverted versions of the images behind the pages. Here’s a video interview with Kawauchi with a look at the book. Highly recommended.

Listening


The Master Musicians of Bukkake are back with a new album called Far West which delves into prog-folk and Morricone inspired soundtrack music.

Ghost Capital
Ghost Capital is still blowin’ up the spot with a great selection of hard-to-find world, African, and electronic music.

Doing

Despite the crowds, riding a bike on the new Eastern span of the Bay Bridge is a lot of fun. Here’s how to get to the path.

WRLD: Steidl Books, Wayne White, Joe’s Junkyard, Black Maps, X-Planes, Black Lung, AAL, Battles, and Electric Wizard

Auto Detailing

Auto Detailing — by Joe Reifer

Watching

How to Make a Book with SteidlGerhard Steidl is one of the most respected photo book publishers of the last 20 years. Watch him work with famous photographers on their photo books. Subtle but fascinating. [Amazon | Netflix]
Beauty is EmbarassingThe wacky world of artist Wayne White. Troy’s review got me to watch this one – “he’s bitter and says fuck a lot.” [Amazon | Netflix]

Reading

Joe's Junk YardLisa Kereszi’s grandfather was a boxer turned junkyard owner in the 1950′s in Pennsylvania. Joe’s Junk Yard mixes historic photos with Kereszi’s images, and also includes her grandfather’s scrapbook pages. These elements come together to form a deep, multi-generational narrative of a family’s struggles. You’ve never looked at a junkyard this way before. Highly recommended.

Black MapsBlack Maps: American Landscape and the Apocalyptic Sublime is a masterpiece of modern landscape photography. Absolutely astonishing. Over 100 aerial photos that explore open pit mines, clear cut forests, and human sprawl. If Google Earth was 1000 times sharper and more interesting and somehow turned into a painting that was a cross between Diebenkorn and Rothko, that’s what you’d get. This will most likely be my photo book of the year. Get this while it’s $55.

X-Plane CrashesX-Plane Crashes: Exploring Experimental, Rocket Plane & Spycraft Incidents, Accidents & Crash Sites - if you’re an aviation nerd, you’ll definitely enjoy this book. The crash site research from black ops programs at Edwards and Area 51 paints an interesting history of modern aviation. Required reading for Mojave Desert aficionados.

BlacklungThe graphic novel Blacklung is not for the squeamish. A teacher is shanghaied aboard a pirate ship, and much violence ensues. Dark and intense, Blacklung has haunted me for days.

Listening

I’m really impressed by Weightless, the second album from Animals As Leaders. AAL is an instrumental prog rock power trio with a strong jazz sensibility, but also with some heavy, almost Meshuggah-like grooves. Tosin Abasi is a really amazing guitar player without being a noodly show off. Heard this on Pandora.

I can’t stop listening to Gloss Drop by Battles. Proggy polyrhythmic post-rock dance music that’s completely addictive. The track with Gary Numan is fantastic.

Electric Wizard’s Come My Fanatics is a huge, heavy, sludgey, tripped out doom rock masterpiece. Turn your stereo up to 11 and don’t hurt your neck while banging your head.

Doing

I’m working on a few photography projects. I’ve been spending considerably less energy on the presentation layer of photography lately. I’m enjoying shooting more, and not worrying about the constant cycle of dribbling out images on social media. When the time is right, I’ll turn on the presentation layer again. Although it seems like the less I look at a computer screen, the more I’m smiling.

The Christmas Card Filter: Please Stand Clear While Dumping

360 Night Panorama: Stand Clear While Dumping

360 Night Panorama: Stand Clear While Dumping

When I was a kid, my Mom would get Christmas cards from far away family members and people we knew who had moved away. The card or Christmas letter recorded the peak moments in a family’s year. So and so got married. So and so graduated from the University of Minnesota Duluth. This was more than enough news.

I want to bring the spirit of the yearly news report back. I want social media to be like a Christmas card. The volume is currently much too high. There needs to be a Christmas card filter for Facebook.

I’m willing to make a compromise between current reality and the Christmas card filter. How about a monthly update from everyone you know that tells you the one big thing that happened. Look at this awesome cat photo. I had the best Sazerac at this bar. You’d have to pick the best thing that happened all month, and that would be the only thing you could post. Facebook — limited to 1 post per month, and everyone could see your post without filters or promotions.

I’d even make a further concession. Using my Watching Reading Listening Doing (WRLD) formula, you could make 4 posts per month on social media. The best movie you saw, the best album you heard, the best book you read, and the coolest thing you did in real life. Once your posts were done for April, you’d have to wait until May for the next ones.

Think about how much time you’d save. You wouldn’t have to hide or unsubscribe to so many of your “friends.” The world online would be a much of a better place with some editing.

But I’m an idea guy. I’m not going to start my own social network. So you’ll have to continue to please stand clear while dumping. Break your own rocks online if you want to. It’s optional.

Take a 360 virtual tour of the industrial plant at night