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November 1999
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Twenty-One The Game Show

I have here in my hands an NBC Burbank Visitor's Pass from December 21, 1999, for Studio 9, Lot D (enter off Bob Hope Drive). This is because I passed the 15-question telephone test for the game show Twenty-One, whose phone number I got off the Internet.

Fifty of us crowded into a dull, bare conference room for a 30-question test. I think I got 28 or 29 questions right. I'd tell you what some of the questions were, but one of the contestant coordinators threatened to hunt us down like dogs and emasculate us if we put any of the questions of the Internet. Worse yet, she promised us we would never ever be contestants on the show.

In any case, I was one of 20 people who made the cut and got to play the game for the contestant coordinators. Among them was Harve, the contestant coordinator from Win Ben Stein's Money, who walked up to me after my appearance on that show and told me I was the best contestant he'd had so far (about 12 weeks into the first series of shows).

Suffice it to say that I gave an excellent performance and consider myself highly likely to be flown to LA to be a contestant when the taping of the show starts on January 8 (first airing January 9).

Virtually no one reading this will remember the original 21, but it was featured in Robert Redford's movie of a few years back called Quiz Show. It was the game show hosted by Jack Barry which featured two contestants in isolation booths asking for questions of varying difficulty with point values from 1 to 11. The first player to 21 won the game. The plan, as of press time, was to have the first game be worth $100,000 with a $200,000 bonus round. Then each additional game is worth another $100,000.

It looks like a lot of money and a lot of excitement, and I, for one, can't wait to play. I have a feeling this will finally be my big one.

I don't know what it is about me and game shows, but I'm really excited.Moreso than I was for Wheel of Fortune, Jeopardy, Scrabble or even Win Ben Stein's Money. By the way, I have posted a luridly detailed journal of my appearances on Wheel and Jeopardy.

My Sense of Humor (written): Benchley, Perelman, Marx and Keillor

Last week I mentioned my sense of humor when it comes to audio. This week, I want to mention briefly the kinds of written humor I find most amusing. My all-time favorites are Robert Benchley, S.J. Perelman, Groucho Marx and Garrison Keillor. Note that there is not a belly-laugh in the bunch. For some reason Art Buchwald and Dave Barry leave me cold. Benchley, Perelman and Marx loved to play with the language and use unusual vocabulary for comic effect. And Keillor, in writing as in spoken performances, has this gentle buildup to abusurdity that just rocks my world. It is hard to explain, and I shudder to think what my taste in humor says about me, but there you are. I have all published worked written by all four of these authors.

Christmas Message

In the fine old tradition of journalists who recycle their holiday messages year after year, here's my Christmas message, based on last year's Christmas message, from Dec. 21, 1998 (with a few slight modifications)

Season's greetings to one and all. Apologies to those of you who feel oppressed by the season. I know Christians, atheists and Jews who feel the seasonal oppression in equal parts. Oppression and depression. I'm sorry. This message isn't going to cheer you up, much.

This is a time of year that has inspired some of the most brilliant writing in the English language, from Dickens' A Christmas Carol, to the sturdy newspaper editorial entitled "Yes Virginia, There is a Santa Claus," to The Grinch Who Stole Christmas and the unforgettable Bill Murray vehicle, Scrooged.

Alas, like so many of us, the muse seems to have taken off early. I briefly considered throwing in some of Dylan Thomas' A Child's Christmas In Wales which Fr. Harrison West and I recited several times at Benson High School assemblies (long before he was Fr. West). But then I decided just to do a quick Christmas column, then leave you to your holiday vacation.

What is Christmas about? It can be about the birth of Jesus, but for most of us it isn't. It's about many things.

Christmas is about singing (or listening to) Christmas carols. My favorite annual Christmas party, bar none, is the Christmas Caroling party held annually by our best friends. They're Jewish, and so are many of the partygoers. Joyful voices raised together. Doesn't matter if they're not in tune. Doesn't matter if some of the lyrics are Christian claptrap. Jingle Bells, White Christmas and Jingle Bell Rock, along with the rest of the secular Christmas liturgy are just plain fun. I wince a little sometimes when we sing the later verses of "God Rest Ye Merry, Gentlemen," or "Good King Wenceslas." (Question: why is it that the muse flees most lyricists somewhere between the first and second verses?) Besides, Norm Schlansky and I get to do "Five Golden Rings" every year. {This year, we held the party at our house, and I wrote about it in the column a few weeks ago).

Christmas is about family and friends. It is about Egg Nog and all the rest of the seasonal food. It is about the children--bless my wife for her decision a decade ago to limit gift giving to the kids (that is, adults give gifts to kids, not to each other). Since then, not another fruit basket has been sacrificed to the impossible task of thinking up presents for adults who already own everything they want.

It's about travelling, at the worst travel time of year, to be with your family. (Marlow flying in from New York, for example).

Christmas is about family traditions when you're a kid, and the blending of family traditions when you marry. My family stayed at home on Christmas, my wife was always a Christmas runaway. My lights went up the Saturday after Thanksgiving each year and came down the Saturday after New Years. Vicki's went up on Christmas Eve and came down on Boxing Day.

We've had artificial trees for year. Marlow asked for a big tree this year, her first at college, and we got a 14-footer. I think she'll be impressed.

Christmas is about giving thanks. Thanksgiving is the official holiday to give thanks for our good fortune, but nothing says you can't do that at Christmas as well. Every Christmas morning when I wake up with my health, my wife, my children and my parents as part of this world, I count my blessings. Mine are beyond counting. I hope yours are too. I am now diagnosed with adult-onset diabetes, but you know what, I'm grateful because there are lots of worse diseases in the world.

Merry Christmas!

I still don't know if it snowed seven days and nights when I was 12 or 12 days and nights when I was 7...

My Sense of Humor (Audio): Firesign, Python, Freberg, Keillor

First, a special surprise Christmas present from me to you: I have encoded the New Eugene Oregon Show, a radio program I wrote and starred in that was recorded during January 1972 and broadcast over WTBS-FM (now WMBR-FM), the MIT student radio station in Cambridge, Mass.

The New Eugene Oregon Show

I don't write the pieces of this column in order, and as I write this, the whole thing is too long. So I'm not even going to try to analyze myself. I'll just say that my taste in audio humor runs to Firesign Theater, Monty Python, Stan Freberg and Garrison Keillor (can you find the odd name on this list)?

I am so grateful that the Firesign boys are back together and recording again that it may be affecting my judgment. Their Give Me Immortality or Give Me Death from earlier this year was their funniest and most coherent album since All Hail Marx and Lennon in 1969. Now they're out with a new CD, Boom Dot Bust, and it's just hysterically funny. Although it lakes a truly coherent story line (even one as flimsy as "day in the life of a radio station," which was the plot for Immortality), their spot-on parodies of cultural artifacts include city-boosting videos, films shown to visitors at national parks, commercials, Civil War-style documentaries, Infomercials, Cable-TV shows. Is nothing sacred? Not to the Firesign Theater.

If you want to order the new Firesign Theater CD, it is Boom Dot Bust.

I love Freberg. I've loved him since the first time I heard him, in a Freberg marathon on KSFO in 1967, as my family drove to LA from Portland on a trip to Disneyland.

Here are the notes on a new collection of his greatest hits:

Stan Freberg was one of the most popular comics and satirists of the '50s and '60s. Tip of the Freberg includes selections from his Capitol albums, from radio programs (an entire disc's worth of never-released radio spots) and a Freberg video.


Website of the Week: The Goddamn George Liquor Show

The Goddamn George Liquor Show

Did you like Ren and Stimpy? Then you'll love this flash animation from John Kricfalusi, the guy who created that whacky, lovable, tasteless cat and dog team. Elsewhere at his Spumco site, you can see the new take he offered on Yogi Bear and Ranger Smith (including, for the first time ever--a glimpse of Yogi's head under his hat).

You have to love animation and be a little bit sick to like George Liquor or Spumco. But if you like toons with 'tude (I mean, for example, did you prefer Warner Brothers to MGM cartoons? Bugs Bunny to Tom and Jerry?) then you'll like these.

Speaking of Toons with Tude, have you seen the preview for next summer's Rocky and Bullwinkle, staring Robert DeNiro as Fearless Leader, among others? Apparently Rocky and Bullwinkle are animated, life size, into a live-action movie. This, as they say, should be interesting.

Say, what ever happened to that live-action Boris and Natasha that sunk like a stone in 1992, the one with Sally Kellerman? I think it went direct to video…

The Top 20 Slogans for Legalized Marijuana

I scored a rare double play, landing both spots 15 and 19 on the list. It isn't the ranking, it's the quantity that counts. I guess I'm ready for a job when legal marijuana comes around.

20> Got Buzz?

19> Pot: When You Care Enough Not to Care At All

18> A Day Without Pot is Like School

17> Weed My Lips!

16> Hey, America -- Let's Blow This joint!

15> What's So Great About Short-Term Memory Anyway?

14> Obey Your Jones

13> Hemp: The world's practical solution to making, like, paper and rope and necklaces and stuff

12> It's Not Just For Glaucoma Anymore!

11> Help Eradicate Road Rage in Our Lifetime

10> Official Sponsor of the NBA

9> Because the waste is a terrible thing to mi... Dude! I totally f***ed that up!

8> Cannabis: The PRE-Coital Smoke

7> This is your brain.
This is your brain on pot.
This is your brain desperately searching for Doritos.

6> When Was the Last Time You REALLY Looked at Your Hand?

5> SMOKE POT! (Did we just say that out loud? Or did we just think it?)

4> Recommended by 5 Out of 5 Deadheads

3> Just Doob It

2> It's the all-the-time smokey, skunky, sticky, greeny, seedy, stemmy, doobie so-you-can-get-high medicine.

and's Number 1 Slogan for Legalized Marijuana...

1> Skull-Shaped Bong: $12.00
Primo Maui-Grown Bud: $25.00
Watching Teletubbies with Your Buddies: Priceless

[ The Top 5 List ]
[ Copyright 1999 by Chris White ]

Selected from 136 submissions from 49 contributors.
Today's Top 5 List authors include:
Carla Brandon, San Diego, CA -- 1 (6th #1)
Paul Schindler, Orinda, CA -- 15, 19
Eric Huret, Atlanta, GA -- Topic
Tristan Fabriani, Passaic, NJ -- List Moderator
Chris White, New York, NY -- List owner/editor
ZZ Top, Houston, TX -- Ambience
[ The Top 5 List ]
[Copyright 1999 by Chris White ]

The Top 14 Atheist Holiday Songs

Tied for fourth…

December 16, 1999

14> O Little Town of Birmingham

13> I Don't Fear What You Fear

12> Oh, Krispy Kreme

11> Angels I Have Heard While High

10> Grandma Got Run Over By a Train, Dear

9> Oh Come *On*, All Ye Faithful!

8> Silent Night. Total F**king Silence.

7> Hark! The Victoria's Secret Angels Jiggle

6> We Kiss You a Mahir Christmas

5> Livin' La Vida Loca -- not that it has anything to do with atheism, but that Ricky Martin is HOT!

4> Whose Kid is This?

3> O Stoli Night

2> Amway -- I'm a Manager

and's Number 1 Atheist Holiday Song...

1> Got Breasts, Ye Merry Gentlemen?

[ The Top 5 List ]
[ Copyright 1999 by Chris White ]

Selected from 153 submissions from 57 contributors.
Today's Top 5 List authors are:
Jeffrey Anbinder, Ithaca, NY -- 1, 3, HM list name (3rd #1)
M.J. Finan, Cleveland, OH -- 4
Paul Schindler, Orinda, CA -- 4
Peg Warner, Exeter, NH -- Topic
Bill Muse, Seattle, WA -- RU list name (Hall of Famer)
Chris White, New York, NY -- List owner/editor
Billie Holiday, Baltimore, MD -- Ambience
-> Ambience explanation: