Sad 7-Foot Tall Clown Sings “Pinball Wizard” in the Style of Johnny Cash, and Other Hits by Roy Orbison, Cheap Trick & More

Readers, are you overcome with the Friday Feels?

Puddles Pity Party, a 6’8” Pierrot from Atlanta, empathizes.

The ‘Sad Clown with the Golden Voice’ has taken to releasing emotionally-freighted covers on select Fridays.

There’s something about a giant sad singing clown that comforts us, let’s us know it’s ok to feel, to show our feelings. It’s a sad and beautiful world, and we’re all in it together, even when we’re totally alone.

So quoth Big Mike Geier, the founder and frontman of the band Kingsized, and the man behind Puddles’ white makeup and rickrack-trimmed clown suit.

Whatever he’s tapped into, it’s real. The New York Times’ Jason Zinnoman, in a slightly skeeved-out think piece on clowns last year, wrote:

What makes him transcend the trope is his vulnerability. When you first see him charging down the aisle, he’s an intimidating figure, but his body is actually not aggressive. It slumps, passively. When he asks for a hug, it looks as if he really needs it. He makes you feel bad for finding him off-putting, and then he belts out a lovely song.

Friday, March 3 found Puddles accompanying himself on a red guitar for “It’s a Heartache,” a hit for Bonnie Tyler and later, Rod Stewart. They both have their strengths, but Puddles is uniquely suited to tap into the heartache of 'standing in the cold rain, feeling like a clown."

A previous Friday Feel, Roy Orbison’s “Crying,” was a fan request. (Yes, he’s still taking them.)

The video for “She’s Gone Again”---previously covered by Don Ho---touches on Puddles’  obsession with actor Kevin Costner.

February 10’s Friday Feel brought new listeners to a younger artist, Brett Dennen. Puddles praised his "Heaven" as “beautiful and thoughtful song,” confessing that he “barely held it together on this one.” Also see Cheap Trick's "I Want You to Want Me" down below.

The piece de resistance, wherein the lyrics of Pinball Wizard are sung to the tune of Folsom Prison Blues, is at the top of the page. It’s no great surprise that that one’s gone viral. Puddles is transparent, however, giving credit to the late Gregory Dean Smalley, an Atlanta-based songwriter who died of AIDS in the late 90s:

 Back in 1994 or so, I saw (him) perform this mashup at the Star Community Bar. I was floored. Greg was a force of supernatural proportions and he is missed. Many people have done it prior to me doing it. I guess it was always meant to be.

You can listen to more of Puddles Pity Party on Spotify, or support the artist with a purchase on Google Play or iTunes. Subscribe to his youtube channel to stay abreast of future Friday Feels, or request a song.

via BoingBoing

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Ayun Halliday is an author, illustrator, theater maker and Chief Primatologist of the East Village Inky zine.  Follow her @AyunHalliday.

Meet the “Grammar Vigilante,” Hell-Bent on Fixing Grammatical Mistakes on England’s Storefront Signs

In the age of Banksy, anonymity, energy, and acting without permission combine to make a potent brew. Those whose work springs up in a public setting overnight, without prior announcement or transaction, are freely assumed to be passionate swashbucklers, brimming with talent and sly social commentary.

But what about an anonymous middle-aged man who roams the streets of Bristol, armed not with stencils and spray paint, but a sponge-tipped broom handle that allows him to correct the improper punctuation on local businesses’ awnings and out-of-reach signage?

The so-called "grammar vigilante," above, became an Internet sensation after a BBC reporter trailed him on one of his nightly rounds, watching him apply adhesive-backed apostrophes where needed and eradicate incorrectly placed ones with blank, color-matched stickers.

While the manager of Cambridge Motors (formerly known as Cambridge Motor’s) hailed the unknown citizen who muscled his splintery wooden sign into compliance with the King’s English, elsewhere, the backlash has been brutal and swift.

The chairman of the Queen’s English Society shares the anonymous crusader’s pain, but frowns on his uncredited execution.

The Telegraph is one of several publications to have called him a “pedant.”

And the owner of Tux & Tails, whose website persists in describing the business as a “gentlemans outfitters,” is angry over what he says will be the cost of restoring a large vinyl sign, installed less than a year ago. “It looks like bird shit,” he declared to The Bristol Post.

On this side of the pond, Erin Brenner, an instructor in the University of California San Diego Extension’s Copyediting Certificate program, comes down hard in her Copyediting blog. In her opinion, there’s nothing to be gained from publicly shaming strangers for their punctuation boo boos:

It is not a kindness—it’s abhorrent behavior…It also gives the world a misguided idea about what professional editors, who are also passionate about language, do. We don’t go around slapping our authors’ wrists in public and telling them how wrong and stupid they are. 

Those with reason to fear vigilante justice for their public punctuation should be advised that the web abounds with apostrophe usage videos, one of which is above.

Watch a longer segment on the Grammar Vigilante here.

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Ayun Halliday is an author, illustrator, theater maker and Chief Primatologist of the East Village Inky zine.  Follow her @AyunHalliday.

Steve Martin Will Teach His First Online Course on Comedy

Can comedy be taught? The question has no clear answer, but if it can, Steve Martin would surely occupy the highest rank of comedy teachers. He could probably teach a fair few other crafts as well: besides his achievements as an innovator in stand-up as well as in other forms of comedy — famously appearing on Saturday Night Live so many times that even some of his fans mistake him for a regular cast member — he's also established himself as an actor, as an essayist and novelist, and even as a respected bluegrass banjo player. Still, despite his impressive artistic Renaissance-man credentials many of us, at the mere mention of Steve Martin's name, laugh almost reflexively.

Hence his place at the front and center of "Steve Martin Teaches Comedy," a new online course from Masterclass, the education startup whose faculty roster, as we've previously featured, also includes the likes of Werner Herzog and Aaron Sorkin. "We're going to talk about a lot of things," says Martin in the course's trailer above. "We're going to talk about my specific process, performing comedy, we're going to talk about writing." For a cost of $90, Masterclass provides more than 25 video lessons, a downloadable workbook with supplemental lesson materials, and an opportunity to upload your own material for critiques by the rest of the class as well as maybe — just maybe — by Martin himself.

Whether or not a master comedian can pass along his knowledge as a math or a language teacher can, anyone who's paid attention to Martin's comedy so far, as well as his reflections on comedy, can sense how much intellectual energy he's put into figuring it all out, even at its extremes of absurdity, for himself. Students unwilling to follow suit need not apply, nor those worried about landing agents and getting headshots, for the esteemed instructor makes it clear up front that he grapples only with the most important question in comedy, as in life: "How do I be good?" You can sign up here.

Note: If you want to hear Steve Martin narrate his memoir, Born Standing Up: A Comic's Life, you can always sign up for's 30-day free trial, and download it for free. (Everyone who signs up for a free trial with Audible gets two free audiobooks. Get more info on the free trial here.)

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Based in Seoul, Colin Marshall writes and broadcasts on cities and culture. He’s at work on a book about Los Angeles, A Los Angeles Primer, the video series The City in Cinema, the crowdfunded journalism project Where Is the City of the Future?, and the Los Angeles Review of Books’ Korea Blog. Follow him on Twitter at @colinmarshall or on Facebook.

Creating Saturday Night Live: Behind-the Scenes Videos Reveal How the Iconic Comedy Show Gets Made

I’ve yet to meet anyone who doesn’t have some gripe about the state of SNL, very often rooted in nostalgia for a simpler, funnier Golden Age. It’s hard not to associate iconic TV shows with lost youth, even shows that have moved on when some of the rest of us haven’t.

The live sketch comedy show, now two years into its fourth decade, has done its best to keep pace with changing times and tastes. While my own fandom has waxed and waned, one thing has remained a constant: my considerable appreciation for the talent and sheer moxie required to stage original live comedy on national television, week after week for forty years.

Comics and celebrity guests risk the disaster of dead air when jokes fall flat. Crewmembers rig up convincing sets only to strike them minutes later for completely different environs. Make-up artists transform Kate McKinnon from the cartoonish Jeff Sessions to the bald, jowly “Shud the Mermaid” in-between sketches, a process that seems to unfold in seconds in the sped-up behind-the-scenes video above.

Sure, everything on the show is scripted and choreographed, and the actors read from cue cards. But as the popular phenomenon of “corpsing”—breaking character by breaking into laughter—shows us, anything can go wrong live with the best-laid plans of writers and directors. The quick-change transition between the cold open and the opening monologue, which both happen on the “home base stage” of studio 8H, as you can see at the top; the rock-solid segues from the live band, below…. The SNL machine depends on every one of its many moving parts to function.

And if—or inevitably when—one of those parts malfunctions, well the show goes on... and on and on and on…. How many seasons does SNL have left in it? Another forty? A possibly infinite number? Given how well its teams of creatives and crew have mastered the art of live televised sketch comedy—not all of it to everyone’s taste, to be sure—it’s possible that Saturday Night Live will outlive even the phenomenon of television, transplanting itself somewhere in our brains in the far future, where we'll lean back, close our eyes, and hear the saxophones and that familiar, rousing announcement, “Live, from New York…."

See the show’s makeup department head and hair designer walk us through their process below, and watch four more behind-the-scenes shorts at the “Creating Saturday Night Live” playlist on Youtube.

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Josh Jones is a writer and musician based in Durham, NC. Follow him at @jdmagness

Stephen Hawking Auditions Celebrities to Provide His New Voice: Lin-Manuel Miranda, Liam Neeson, Anna Kendrick & Michael Caine

Stephen Hawking's computer-synthesized voice is distinctive. You know it when you hear it. But, after so many years, it's time for a change. That's the premise of this short comic bit, created for Comic Relief's Red Nose Day. Above, watch A-list celebrities--everyone from Lin-Manuel Miranda and Liam Neeson, to Anna Kendrick and Bill Gates--audition to become the new voice of Prof. Hawking. You can see how it plays out.

Red Nose Day (just held on March 24th this year) is a fundraiser to help struggling people in countries around the world. You can donate to the cause here.

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If you'd like to support Open Culture and our mission, please consider making a donation to our site. It's hard to rely 100% on ads, and your contributions will help us provide the best free cultural and educational materials.

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How Animated Cartoons Are Made: A Vintage Primer Filmed Way Back in 1919

Many techniques shown in Bray Studios’ 1919 short How Animated Cartoons are Made, above, were rendered obsolete by digital advancements, but its 21-year-old star, animator Wallace Carlson, seems as if he would fit right in at Cal Arts or Pratt, Class of 2017.

Like many of today’s working animators, the industry pioneer got started early, getting attention (and a distribution deal!) for work made as a young teen.

His comic sensibilities also suggest that young Carlson would’ve found a place among the 21st-century’s animation greats (and soon-to-be-greats).

It doesn’t hurt that he’s cute, in an indie Williamsburg Dandy sort of way.

The vintage feel of his little instructional film is pretty hip these days. It could be the work of a very particular kind of millennial, familiar to fans of Girls, Search Party, or other shows whose characters spend a lot of time in cafes, making art that will find its greatest audience on the internet.

You know, download some silent clips from the Prelinger Archives, browse the Free Music Archive for a suitably jangly old time tune, and put it all together in iMovie, messing around with title fonts until you achieve the desired effect. That’s what Carlson might have been doing, had he been born a hundred years later.

Some of his (silent) observations about his craft still ring true.

Unless you’re working on your own thing, it’s a good idea to get the boss’ blessing on your script before embarking on the painstaking animation process.

And character eyebrow movements remain an excellent storytelling device.

Animators whose talents are more visual than verbal could take a lesson from Carlson’s kicky period dialogue---“Gee I just busted a window! Hope I don’t get pinched.”---though I’d advise against turning a character’s disability into a punchline.

While today’s young animators have little to no experience with film processing, Carlson’s exhaustion after pumping out drawing after drawing may strike a chord. The devil is still in the details for anyone seeking to produce work of a higher quality than that which can be achieved with purchase of an app.

It’s also pretty cool to see Carlson prefiguring white board animation 56 years before the invention of dry erase markers, as he demonstrates how to set a scene using his Little Rascals-esque characters Mamie and Dreamy Dud.

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Ayun Halliday is an author, illustrator, theater maker and Chief Primatologist of the East Village Inky zine.  She used one of the alluded-to archives to create the trailer for her play, Zamboni Godot, opening in New York City next month. Follow her @AyunHalliday.

Deconstructing How Louis CK Writes a Joke

Those who subscribe to the notion that deconstructing a joke ruins it may consider making an exception for the Nerdwriter (aka Evan Puschak).

His careful parsing of Louis CK’s Monopoly joke, above, takes rhythm, word choice, and the importance of a clearly stated premise into account.

Delivering the 207-word joke at the Beacon Theater, CK is characteristically nonchalant, but Puschak argues that there’s nothing unrehearsed about his performance.

Take the way he ramps up a scenario that will be familiar to any parent---the six-year-old who is emotionally unequipped to handle losing at games. CK gets at an even deeper truth about the howling injustice of being six, by saying that his younger daughter is “not emotionally developed enough to handle her inevitable loss in every game of Monopoly.”

Oh, the humanity.

Puschak also singles out CK’s acting ability. The way he speaks to his daughter, placing her in the first row of the audience, sharpens the comedy by helping the audience to fully visualize the scenario he’s set up:

I play Monopoly with my kids, that’s really fun. My nine year old, she can totally do Monopoly. The six year old totally gets how the game works but she’s not emotionally developed enough to handle her inevitable loss in every game of Monopoly because a monopoly loss is dark. It’s heavy. It’s not like when you lose at Candyland ‘Oh you got stuck in the fudgy-thing, baby! Oh well you’re in the gummy twirly-o’s! You didn’t get to win!’ But when she loses at Monopoly, I gotta look at her little face and go ‘Ok, so here’s what’s gonna happen now, ok? All your property, everything you have, all your railroads and houses, and all your money…that’s mine now. Gotta give it all to me. Give it to me, that’s right. And no no, you can’t play anymore because, you see, even though you’re giving me all of that, it doesn’t even touch how you owe me. Doesn’t even touch it, baby. You’re going down hard, it’s really bad. All you’ve been working for all day, I’m gonna take it now and I’m gonna use it to destroy your sister. I mean I’m gonna ruin her! It is just mayhem on this board for her now.

You can view the Nerdwriter’s other videos essays on his website or subscribe to his YouTube channel where a new video is published every Wednesday.

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Ayun Halliday is an author, illustrator, theater maker and Chief Primatologist of the East Village Inky zine.  Her play Zamboni Godot is opening in New York City in March 2017. Follow her @AyunHalliday.

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