Don't Eat The Entertainment
Let's continue on to the HHK&C content I've been going over now; continuing my previous post on this.
Encounters of Our Kind
I consider this one to be the first fully-formed title and as a concept, it's probably the most complete. We did things just as funny or funnier after this, but this one still has the best-executed flow and consistency. So let's get to the tracks:
1. "If You Thought..." This little introduction is a hold-over from our previous project, "The Making of Burger Wars." "Burger Wars" (BW) was a tape that Lee and I did by ourselves. I plan to revisit this one at a later date. The "Making Of" was a partially completed mock-umentary that was the first to feature Phil. Even though this track makes little sense if you hadn't heard the prior stuff, it's still an amusing way to get into the tape. Note the use of "Also Sprach" which we will use again as well as the clipped voice of Mandy Kelts near the end.
2. "Rock Influences." Doesn't it seem odd to have this piece of classical music introducing a show about rock music? I can't remember why we used this cue really, though maybe it matches up with the stuffy-sounding host. Clearly this was a good excuse for Phil to do his John Lennon imitation, though it's really a device to get us into...
3. "We Interrupt..." We now meet one of Lee's major characters, Jeffrey Scott. This guy pops up quite a bit, bad accent and all. Now he's apparently dead (lost in space, what's up with that?!) so we get to hear his funeral. This scene has me standing off to the side reading the eulogy while Lee and Phil act as the grieving friends/family. I forgot that Lee plays three characters here (or four?) including Dirty Fairy. This scene is a bit on the long side, in retrospect. The track ends with the cut-back to the end of the "Influences" interview; very funny. "Who are we next week?" "I don't know, I think either Jesus Christ or the Bee Gees."
4. "Eye in the Sky" Lee does his EZ-Listening announcer voice and we're into a midnight traffic reporters, which is a fun concept. Around this time, Phil was a DJ for an elevator music station so we had a limitless supply of bad music, which we made ample use of. The funny thing here is the comment about the news of the UFO landing pre-empting The Cosby Show; in the middle of the night?
5. "On the Ground" Phil and I run in place next to the mics for that oh-so-authentic sound. 'Elllloooo! My main question about this track is, why don't John & Phil ask, aren't you dead?
6. "Pounded Puppies" This is one of those dated jokes, pound puppies. The song is multiple layers of us singing (Lee sings too, can you tell?) along with music from the "Tron" soundtrack!
7. "Hospital" So the traffic reporters take Jeffrey to the psych ward...where he's pumped full of drugs so he can get us all into...
8-10. "Star Trek" I've always considered this to be one of our more successful bits. The portrayal of Kirk that Lee does is very funny, though it doesn't really sound at all like Shatner (how many times does he say, "My GOD!" anyway?). Phil's Scotty voice is a combination of Scotty and a leprechaun. Our guest star Jeff does a great Spock whose rattling off decimals of pi which sends the bridge into a tailspin. The two things that struck me as funniest this time around were the scene in sick bay with Spock's canoe-sized ears and the end where they go back in time right before the ship explodes...again. That sequence was aided by the recording gear's ability to run at different speeds and the music that changes pitch was done with a malfunctioning cassette deck we had in the house. This machine ran at half speed unless you held down the play button (a lever-mechanical control). By taking your finger on and off the button, you could make the queasy pitch change happen. The ad in the middle here is obviously making fun of all those awful multi-record sets sold on TV (we revisit that ad satire later on), but you may ask, why Don Pardo and Grimace?! My Grimace voice is a holdover from the Burger Wars tape and Don? Well, besides thinking it would be amusing and warped to have them singing duets (preceding the trend of Duets albums methinks!).
Phil was famous for his Don Pardo voice when we were in high school (that and for getting thrown out of government class for saying everything in a Scottish accent!). I don't remember why we paired them up. As often happens on our projects, the ad is longer than whole scenes in the tape. And Grimace isn't really rapping...but it's still fun to hear multiple "Duh" along with music from Devo.
11. "The Hypnotists" This scene took a number of takes for us to get down, while the Star Trek stuff was done in very few takes, even though this scene is pretty simple by comparison. I think the real difficulty lies with the fact that both Phil and I were doing goofy voices. Phil's voice changed a lot from take to take and the gibberish I was speaking was quite random. Listen to the outtakes of this scene and you'll know why it took as long as it did--funny stuff even today.
12. "On the Ship" As Jeffrey rides on the alien ship, he gets to hear our version of TV shows on an alien ship...or is it them watching our shows? We made interesting use of multiple tape recorders for background sound effects here. Some dated 80s references here ("it's all the fault of my trusted advisors") , but at least we get another snippet of Dirty Fairy (DF). And speaking of DF, we get the whole "stand up" routine which still cracks me up. But not before Phil gets to do the most nasal-sounding lounge singer ever. Another thing that still amuses me is the way Lee plays both DF and the heckler ("what is it?!").
13. "Jeffrey Loses His Mindk" Back to the hypnotists where he falls into his "deepest/darkest fears." So who is supposed to be saying, "goodbye Jeffrey Scott?" It doesn't sound at all like the hypnotists...
14. "The Toilet Zone" More scifi fun which turns into a strange game show. Holy crap there's a lot of copyrighted music in this section! I just love the part here where he gets to the door where he has to be locked up with all the people he can't stand...FOR ETERNITY!!! I've gotta say that there's a surprising amount of menace in Phil and my voices where Jeffrey has to face his doom. At the end where he runs away from the hospital and Phil and I talk in our normal voices, there's this exchange:
Phil: What was his problem?
John: I don't know, must have been the drugs we gave him.
Phil: Yeah those drugs, oh well.
Just the way that last line is delivered makes me laugh; great stuff.
15. "Jeffrey Escapes" Like the Star Trek sketch, this whole thing comes full circle. That's one of the things I like about this tape; it has, to use the overused term, closure. And I am SO glad I thought to use the "disco" Close Encounters music at the end where Phil gets to spaz out doing Don Pardo: "Captain Don Kirk....ahhhhhhhhh!"
16. "Credits" Well, what can I say about this except that we like movies and if they can have long credits, why not us? As has become a long-running joke, I had a cold/larangitis so I could barely talk by the time we did this. I suppose it made this section more memorable. We thought that we deserved some self-congratulatory time at the end after all the work we put into it.
17. "Previews" More movie-style stuff. Amazingly, we actually made one of the tapes we did a preview for (not that we had any clue what it would be at the time). And a sequel to Burger Wars...uh. yeah!
18-27. Outtakes. This stuff is downright hilarious, particularly for those of us who were there. There's something universally funny about performers cracking up while delivering lines.
Encounters has always been a favorite of mine. It's pretty much all silly, some of it dated, some of it not quite so good as we thought it was 20 years ago (but what is?). With a single exception, these projects are pretty much profanity-free. It's not that we didn't swear, but felt that we could be funny without it.
So that will do it for this one. I'll be back with another post for the epic, B.O.B."