Tag: Bill Morrison

Brainiac On Banjo: Mad About Claptrap

Brainiac On Banjo: Mad About Claptrap


I’m sick and tired of sitting back listening to all of your claptrap. If you could get me to take the rap, I guarantee you’d leave me with a backslap. “Angry,” written by Paul McCartney and Eric Stewart.

Claptrap— Idiotic Parodies of Iconic Films, by Desmond Devlin and Tom Richmond, published by Deadline Demon Publishing and available from the artist. If you’re looking to use up some credit card points, sorry: as of this writing, Amazon is sold out.

Like many mischievous baby boomers, I learned how to mischief from my addiction to Mad Magazine. I discovered Mad in my sister’s comics pile. The first issue I found was Mad #40, July 1958 (I was seven years old) and by the time #41 came out my subscription copy was delivered to the family mailbox. I don’t recall how I conned my parents into that subscription, but I presume I was so damn obnoxious they mailed off the check just to shut me up. This became my time-honored technique for everything.

I learned a lot from Mad — for example, how to pronounce “idiot.” The magazine affirmed my most obnoxious tendencies. It sanctioned and encouraged my more whimsical aggressions and did a great deal to make me the mannish geriatric boy I am today. I remain quite grateful to “the usual gang of idiots.”

But if there was one thing that bothered me about Mad, it was their movie parodies. Not that I didn’t enjoy them — hell yes I did! — but by the time each issue came out they were pretty dated. One of the hidden rules of parody: timeliness is funny. Now I can add to this another hidden rule: so is timelessness.

Eventually, Mad Magazine went the way of all flesh and right into reprints. It had grown a bit dusty and needed some new energy, and despite a massive boost from new editor Bill Morrison (of Bongo/Simpsons/Futurama fame) the powers that were running Warner Bros. that week plugged the cash flow. In terms of that wonderfully juvenile ability to shove establishment faces into their own fecal matter, Mad had been eclipsed by Beavis and Butt-head, The Simpsons, South Park, various HBO comedy specials, and the MAD TV show that was more-or-less based on Mad. Well, as George Harrison intoned, all things must pass. Continue reading “Brainiac On Banjo: Mad About Claptrap”

Brainiac On Banjo: The Rasputin of TV Animation!

Brainiac On Banjo: The Rasputin of TV Animation!

“Now it’s been ten thousand years. Man has cried a billion tears for what he never knew. Now man’s reign is through, but through the eternal night the twinkling of starlight so very far away, maybe it’s only yesterday.” In The Year 2525, written by Rick Evans.

For a brief few years, Rasputin was a very powerful man in pre-Soviet Russia. He pretty much ran the joint during World War I and was perceived generally as a mystic and a healer; in fact, very little is known about his life. However, we do know a lot about his deaths. He made it through a near-fatal hemorrhage in his thigh and groin in 1912. Two years later, he survived being stabbed in the stomach.

In December of 1916, members of the Tsar’s inner circle decided he he had undue influence over the Tsar and was a good part of the reason the nation suffered from threats of revolution Thus, they decided to kill him. He was poisoned. Twice. That trick didn’t work either time. Then he was shot three times – once in the forehead, which has got to hurt — but he recovered from all that as well. Shot a fourth time, the conspirators dropped him off of the Petrovsky Bridge into the Malaya Nevka River. It took authorities two weeks to find his body, which had been trapped underneath the thick river ice. His boss abdicated less than three months later.

Fun fact: according to Wikipedia, Rasputin’s “daughter Matryona emigrated to France after the October Revolution and then to the United States. There, she worked as a dancer and then a lion tamer in a circus.” She died in a Los Angeles suburb in 1977.

Clearly Rasputin was a hard man to do away with and, remarkably, so is the animated television series Futurama. Happily, fate smiled on the better of the two.

If there’s an award for aggressive conflation, I hereby bestow said award upon myself.

Futurama, created and developed by Matt Groening and David X. Cohen, ran on the Fox network from 1999 to 2003. It returned as a series of four home video-first “movies” in 2007, was revived at Comedy Central between 2010 and 2013, and in July Hulu will begin airing 20 new episodes over two “seasons,” which, these days, could mean anything. Of course, everything — including the movies, each of which have been chopped up into four-parters — is in syndication and has and might still appear on more cable networks than Dick Cavett. Continue reading “Brainiac On Banjo: The Rasputin of TV Animation!”

Brainiac On Banjo #042: We’re Not Getting Mad…

Brainiac On Banjo #042: We’re Not Getting Mad…

All your children are poor unfortunate victims of lies you believe / A plague upon your ignorance that keeps the young from the truth they deserve. – Frank Zappa, “What’s The Ugliest Part of Your Body?”

For those who have been following the long and lingering death of Mad Magazine, a couple days ago things took another turn for the worse when it was announced that after two more inventory-burning issues, the legendary publication would stop running new material.

That’s sad. 67 years ago Mad changed the nature of our culture, being the first comic book to confront our nation’s culture and its many foibles head-on. It was an important part of a vital movement in the 1950s spawned by innovators such as Lenny Bruce, Dick Gregory, Second City, Ernie Kovacs and Moms Mabley. Mad was all the more important by being the first specifically oriented to those not yet old enough to vote. Continue reading “Brainiac On Banjo #042: We’re Not Getting Mad…”