Author: Corey Blake

Corey Blake does things on the Internet, and sometimes even in real life.

AMA: The Rodney Dangerfield Dream Joke

Hi Corey, I have a question for you. One night last March I had a dream that I was watching Rodney Dangerfield perform in a comedy club. He told a joke that the audience barely laughed at, and that I didn’t get at all. When I woke up I still didn’t get it. Here’s the joke: “Just heard the weather report. It’ll be operations in rain today. Heck, I’m standing IN operations! Huh. No respect.” Remember, he only told this joke in my dream. Can you please tell me how it’s funny? I still don’t get it. – Nick

Hi, Nick – thanks for reading and asking!

I can’t believe you don’t know that extremely famous Rodney Dangerfield joke? Everyone knows that joke! “Standing in operations”! Whoo-boy, so good!

Yeah no that doesn’t make any sense. I was trying to connect some pretty vague dots between running military operations in the rain and standing at attention but… It doesn’t really work.

Since the in-dream audience didn’t laugh either, my guess is it wasn’t supposed to be a good joke. Maybe dream-Rodney was working out new material. Or maybe he was riffing and stumbled.

Dreams are created by the sub-conscious, possibly by our brains trying to make sense of brain synapses and light patterns we see while sleeping. Or something else. I don’t think anyone really knows for sure why we dream or what they’re supposed to be. Maybe we’re actually peaking into an alternate reality. Sometimes they make sense, sometimes they’re even meaningful and help us work things out, and sometimes they are a random assortment of images and events.

I’ve had plenty of dreams where I or someone tells a joke or says something that is supposed to be funny, but it actually either isn’t funny at all or straight out makes no sense in the real world. I’ve come to the conclusion that what is being said doesn’t actually matter, it’s just a place-holder. It’s kind of a Mad Libs collection of words that sound similar to a cohesive thought but are only there to represent someone saying that type of thing in that kind of moment. The moments around what they said are probably more important. But our brains like to try to figure things out, so after we wake up, it’s easy to latch on the nonsensical part and try to make sense of it, when that might not have been the part of the dream our brain wanted us to focus on.

So I guess that’s my answer. The content of Rodney Dangerfield’s joke is irrelevant. Instead, look at the context. What does the joke represent and what was happening before and after it. There might be something more meaningful there.

Or your brain was just amusing itself with total gibberish and none of it holds any significance. Yay human brains!

Facebook and the Rules of Friendship

I’ve been on Facebook since 2007 (back when they forced your status to start with your name. “Corey Blake is sleeping.” is an actual status of mine from April 11, 2007, that now just displays as “sleeping”). It’s fun, and one of the things that amuse me are some of the habits or quirks of how people behave on Facebook.
I was once de-friended by someone because he decided that all his Facebook friends had to have real photographs as their profile pic. So he went through his list of 5,000 Facebook friends and de-friended anyone that broke his rule.
 
For years, I have used a cartoon drawing of myself that was given to me by Scott Shaw! when we were both working on Dig Comics. I love that drawing, because it really captures by double interests of performing and comic books. It’s not like it’s a drawing of Wolverine as my profile pic. This is an original piece of art that is intended to represent me. But I’m sure this person didn’t do that much research on it. He just saw a drawing and hit unfriend.
It was so ridiculous but really he was just finding ways to free up spots. Facebook caps you out at 5,000 friends and he kept getting new requests from people that he wanted to let in. Which I get. It’s not like we personally knew each other.
While I really liked some of what he posted, I was kind of relieved because half of his posts were just updated declarations of new rules. A week would not go by where at least one new edict would not be issued.
I still have a couple of other Facebook friends that do this, and it just cracks me up. Is anyone keeping track of all these rules? I don’t know how you could. They’re spread out across so many individual posts, and Facebook’s algorithm may not even show all of these high priority notices. Then it looks like you’re flagrantly disregarding their rules if you accidentally break one. Ignorance is no excuse, after all. Just try using the “I didn’t know” excuse with the police. It just doesn’t fly.
Maybe Facebook can generate a downloadable user manual-style PDF that compiles all of my friends’ various rules for being friends with them. I just can’t keep them all straight and it would be super convenient to have them all in one place where I could ignore them.
If you’re one of my Facebook friends that does this on a consistent basis, don’t worry about my silly post. You keep being you. I’m sure there’s a good reason. If it makes being on Facebook and life in general better for you, then I’m in full support. I just don’t know if anyone else is keeping track quite as closely as you.
 
And it makes me wonder: are there some Facebook users with only 2 friends because they’ve disqualified everyone else?

What Representation Feels Like

There’s a school of thought that poo-poo’s or ridicules the use of diverse characters in entertainment. Whether it’s the gender-reversal of Ghostbusters or the attempt at increasing female and minority characters in super-hero comics and their adaptations, I hear a segment of fans dismiss it.

“I just want good stories. I don’t care if the character is black or not,” goes the veiled objection.

As if having a character that isn’t a straight, white male as the lead character automatically puts the quality of the story at risk. Besides, nobody sets out to make a bad story.

One of the aspects that make stories good to an individual is the story’s relateability. If I see myself in the story, I’m going to have greater empathy for the narrative of that story and will be more likely to like it and consider it “good”. That’s because I know my own story, and when I see someone that looks like they’ve been through the same life experiences as myself, I attach the possibility of us having both gone through those experiences to the story. That may not be entirely logical or even reasonable, but it’s human nature.

Having diverse representation is powerful because it allows audience members not accustomed to seeing themselves in entertainment instantly feel recognized, empowered, and somehow seen by the world.

It’s hard for me to exactly explain why representation is so valuable because as a straight, white male, I’ve been represented by media 99% of the time since before I was alive and will continue to be represented. I see myself pretty much where ever I go, so me seeing myself in a movie doesn’t have a huge impact on me anymore. Me seeing a skinny, dorky, straight, white guy in the lead role. That has a better chance. If I had never or rarely seen me, I would have a big reaction.

This is usually most powerfully felt by kids. It’s another reason why I have a hard time putting a lot of weight in people’s objection to representation because they’re usually adults. These stories have a crossover appeal for adults due to nostalgia or just universal fun and appeal, but they’re most magical for kids.

When you see and feel how kids respond to seeing themselves reflected back at them for the first time, it’s beauty and power are undeniable. This video illustrates it more powerful than I ever could. This little girl has a prosthetic leg and for her birthday, she got a doll with a prosthetic leg.

I can’t imagine not being moved by that. The absolutely pure evolution of her response is amazing. She goes from (a) happy she got a doll but nothing too out of the ordinary when she first things it’s yet another doll, to (b) surprised disbelief it also has a prosthetic leg, to (c) in tears at the realization that it’s “just like me”. Now imagine if that doll had its own comic book, TV show or movie.

I remember the joy I had when I saw Superman: The Movie and Ghostbusters for the first time. Straight, white men have nearly every iconic pop culture thing marketed to us. If they’re going to love it to the extent that little girl above loved that doll, I gladly want them to have their own Supergirl and Ghostbusters. I still have my memories and attachment to my version, and they get to have theirs, and everyone wins.

Kristen Wiig

Kristen Wiig is seen at the Los Angeles Premiere of Columbia Pictures’ “Ghostbusters” at TCL Chinese Theatre on Saturday, July 9, 2016, in Los Angeles. (Photo by Eric Charbonneau/Invision for Sony/AP Images)

AMA: What is your secret to being loved by everyone you meet

“What is your secret to being loved by everyone you meet?”

I debated answering this because it seems so incredibly egotistical. I swear, I didn’t ask myself this question!

Whoever submitted this is incredibly kind, so thank you. Or they’re being incredibly sarcastic and a complete jerk!

I’m not even sure how to answer this. I mean, I disagree with the premise of the question. There’s just no way it’s true that everyone I meet loves me. That is an intense emotion for a large number of people over a very short amount of time.

And surely there are people who are just annoyed by me, maybe even outright hate me. At the very least, there has to be a significant percentage of people I meet who are just plain indifferent to me.

Ultimately, it’s a completely unprovable statement. Is this person following me around and interviewing every person I meet on how they feel about me? Even if they were, how can we be sure that the people being interviewed are telling the truth? Maybe they’re just being polite. Can I see your polling data? Maybe it’s flawed.

Halfway through Blog-ust!

Today is the 15th, so that means I’m basically halfway through my daily blogging challenge.

The hardest part is making sure I make time for it. There are definitely times when I’m about to do something else and then realize I haven’t written the next day’s blog post. The discipline of reserving that time for it is crucial. And then making sure that reserved time has some flexibility to it because I don’t know how long it might take me to write. Sometimes it’s pretty quick, and sometimes not, like when it takes some time to realize what I want to write about, or if it’s a longer post.

I’m starting to think about whether I’ll continue after August. I’m pretty sure I won’t be doing it every day, but maybe every other day. Or maybe weekly. Not sure yet, but probably something. Unless over the next 15 days, it’s becomes torture.

Anyway, I’m really liking the Ask Me Anything questions. I’ve had enough questions coming in to answer those every other day, but I’m almost out. So I sure would love you to submit a question. As you’ve seen, it can be personal, it can be silly, it can be whatever you want. As long as there’s a question mark in there, I’ll figure out a way to answer it.

Fading Away

Over the last week or so, I’ve written about my decision to back off of pursuing acting for the most part. But I’m not saying it’s over forever. After all, never say never.

Case in point: In 1974, singer-songwriter James Taylor was seriously considering retiring early. After the back-to-back success of his albums Sweet Baby James and Mud Slide Slim and the Blue Horizon and the Grammy-winning hit single “You’ve Got a Friend” in 1971, he probably could’ve called it quits and done just fine. But after his fourth album One Man Dog under-performed, he allegedly wondered if maybe it was time to move on to doing something else. The song “Fading Away” came out of this period.

Last year, at the age of 67, James Taylor released his 17th studio album, Before This World, which debuted at #1 on the Billboard charts, his first album to debut at the top of the charts. So yeah, never say never.

Maybe acting is something I’ll want to pursue again. Maybe I’ll be able and willing to devote the energy and resources. Or maybe it’ll be something else. Or maybe not. For now though…

“No one will really notice if we just sit this next one out.”

AMA: Do you suspect me of being a super villain?

“Do you suspect me of being a super villain? So not one.”

Since your question was submitted anonymously, I have no idea who you are.

That aside, you are without a doubt a super villain.

I mean, come on. It’s so obvious.

Just ask yourself these three simple questions:

  1. Have you ever committing crimes to further your own goals?
  2. Do you feel compelled to share your plans with the person most likely to succeed in stopping those plans?
  3. Do you find yourself cackling maniacally when no one else is around?

If you answered any of those questions with answers, then you are definitely without a doubt a super villain. Nice try.

I finally watched Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice

So yeah I finally watched Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice, which given the title formatting, had less legal proceedings and court scenes than I expected.

Too infrequently, I am a member of the Part-Time Fanboy podcast run by my friend Kristian Horn. He thought it would be a good idea to get a bunch of us together at his house to watch the big DC Comics tentpole movie of the year. It turns out none of us saw it in theaters when it originally came out in March. Having just been released on DVD, Bluray, digital download, streaming, and physic projections, it seemed like a good opportunity. So all four of us gathered at his house, had some pizza, and sat down to see Ben Affleck’s debut as Bruce Wayne.

I think it’s only fair to come right out with biases. The DC Comics superheroes were probably my first exposure to superheroes. I loved the various incarnations of Super Friends (especially the Legion of Doom era), the iconic Superman: The Movie with Christopher Reeve, and the classic Wonder Woman TV series starring Lynda Carter. I had every one of the first wave of Super Powers action figures and the collector’s case. Tim Burton’s Batman was also a landmark. But I also watched Spider-Man and His Amazing Friends and the X-Men pilot (every week for months on end, I would check back in to see if they were ever going to air the next episode). While I enjoyed watching DC’s heroes, Marvel’s heroes were the ones I followed over into the actual comic books. By 1991, I was a certified Marvel zombie.

Several times, I tried to get into DC’s superhero comics when there seemed to be a good jumping-on point. Maybe I had a bad picker, but it seemed every time I tried to jump on to a title, it was underwhelming. So there’s a bit of frustration around DC for me, but I want them to do well because their characters are so engrained in American culture.

Marvel has had much-covered success in turning their characters into movies ever since they took the creative reigns with the first Iron Man. Their unprecedented mega-franchise is trying to be replicated by a number of studios, and DC seems to be trying to play catch-up instead of letting their movies build on their own. Back in 2013, I wrote this post at Robot 6 about Man of Steel. I definitely had problems with it. Promotion for Batman v Superman seemed like more of the same stuff that kind of turned me off, so I just never prioritized seeing it in theaters. Reviews were particularly vicious, and it seemed like some were taking more pleasure in the hyperbole than actually writing a reasonable critique. With sufficient time having passed, it seemed like a good chance to see it.

I wanted it to be good. But… well, you can listen to our podcast review/discussion here. I definitely had fun hanging out with these guys and discussing the movie.

AMA: Have you considered doing Broadway?

“Have you considered doing something on broadway like live theater or do you consider Improv as being essentially the same thing, but maybe on a smaller scale?”

This question was sent in response to my post where I talked about backing off of acting (I guess that’s how I would summarize it?).

Improv is a form of live theater, but a play or musical (scripted theater) have their own unique aspects. Any time I can perform to a live audience, I’m going to prefer it. Hearing the audience, and letting their reaction inform how I perform, whether scripted or not, is a big draw for me. I find the audience-performer conversation fascinating.

Have I considered being on Broadway? I don’t know about “considered,” as it’s not like there’s a job offer on the table. “Imagined,” absolutely. Just as I’ve imagined being in Hollywood movies or on a network TV series or any number of other “break through” scenarios.

The reality is that it’s just not very likely, especially living in Los Angeles. It’s fair to say I’m not going to catch a flight to New York City, stroll down Broadway, and get offered a job.

That’s not to say getting to Broadway is impossible. My friend Kris Coleman and I used to work at the same company here in Los Angeles. He worked his butt off for a number of years, strategically pursuing commercial auditions and other work. His manager did a lot of good work for him. He risked his job ducking out for auditions. He got a few roles in some commercials. He was doing musical theater and other gigs. As more auditions came, he got more worried about losing his job. He was really in a precarious spot. And just as it seemed like he couldn’t get away with it much longer, he was auditioning for Jersey Boys on Broadway. Call backs and interviews followed. It was tense. And just like that, he got the call. He gave his notice and was off to New York City.

Writing it out, I actually don’t believe it myself. But miraculously, he really did it! He deserved it too. He’s talented and devoted all his energy and resources to making it happen. Plus some amazing timing worked in his favor too. He’s a wonderful guy, and I was so unbelievably happy for him. It was such an inspiring moment to see him really beat the odds. Because make no mistake, statistically, it is a miracle that anyone can make it through the crazy system to end up with an actual role in an actual thing that actually gets made.

I was so grateful to get to witness him go through all that, and it really motivated me to redouble my efforts. This was probably 9 or 10 years ago. So yeah. Needless to say, I didn’t follow him. Is it possible for me to do what he did? Absolutely. Have I been able to dedicate my time and energy and resources to doing what he did (or some version of it)? Because that and probably more is what it will take to do what he accomplished to get to Broadway.

In 2002, my wife Nahleen was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis. In 2010, she was also diagnosed with lupus. I’m sure someone else could more skillfully navigate that while also chasing acting and working a full-time job. I couldn’t. The business side of acting is crucial and that was always what I’ve dropped first. At this point, I don’t want to run that marathon (more like triathlon). Instead, every time, I’ll choose my wife.

As it turns out, I’m completely thrilled doing improv, which has a steady schedule and takes work, but is not as all-out demanding as going after Broadway or Hollywood. I actually feel like I’ve ended up exactly in the right place. As I said in my last post, it’s like I got rid of all the stuff that annoyed me or I was terrible at in acting, and just get to do the fun part that interests me. It’s joyful work.

Having said all that, yes I have done a number of plays while out here in Los Angeles. There’s an annual Halloween show that I do. So it’s not something I’m against. I love a live audience, so I like doing live theater, whether with a script or not. If I’m asked or if the opportunity presents itself, I do it. But I don’t need to go to Broadway.

***

Thanks for the question, anonymous person! This is exactly the kind of stuff I was hoping to get to talk about while blogging every day this month. I also love that I’ve been getting a mix of serious and silly questions – it’s perfect! Let’s have some more!

You Won’t Believe What Has the Highest Rating on Rotten Tomatoes

(I’m not proud of that click-bait headline. I feel dirty, in fact. But I’m curious to see if it actually makes a difference in traffic.)

So for no known reason, I will sometimes spend (or waste) time collecting information that only I probably care about. This might actually be interesting to more than me, so I thought I’d post about it.

In case you don’t know, Rotten Tomatoes is a popular review aggregator of movies and TV shows. It’s often cited when talking about a movie’s critical reception, and also when people are trying to figure out whether something might be good or not. It has a lot of charts and different ways it presents its data but there isn’t one central hub. So I thought it would be interesting to collect as much as I could find and see… what’s the best reviewed thing on Rotten Tomatoes.

A few things to keep in mind. First, Rotten Tomatoes launched in August 1998 to collect consensus on movie reviews. In September 2013, they expanded out to television reviews. So the fact that consensus leans toward 21st century content is probably to be expected, even though it does have ratings on older movies, usually in regard to their home release.

The next factor is how Rotten Tomatoes presents their ratings. The site collects published reviews from critics. Reviewers at major publications are in a sub-set of that group, called Top Critics. Each review is assigned a rating from 1 to 10 based on the analysis of the Rotten Tomatoes staff. The Tomatometer shows the percentage of reviews that are positive. There are also audience reviews submitted by users on their website, where they rate the movie on a scale of 1 to 5.

And the final factor is that Rotten Tomatoes is a living, breathing aggregator of data that changes as new reviews are added, which is happening all the time. I pulled this data from their site on Monday night. I assume it’s still true at the time of this posting, but you may notice a slight variation if you to Rotten Tomatoes to double check my work. (Oh and final-final factor: there could be typos in my spreadsheet that throw the numbers off.)

I have collected only entries that have 100% on the Tomatometer both for all critics and top critics. Then I sorted based on Audience Score and then the Average Rating of each reviewer type (all reviewers, top critics, and then audience). For the sake of a decent consensus, I only included movies and TV shows with 20 or more critic reviews and at least 5 top critic reviews. This is the minimum criteria Rotten Tomatoes themselves uses in determining whether something is “Certified Fresh” (a stamp of approval for everything that has over 75% on the Tomatometer).

OK, enough with all the boring data and backstory! So what has the best rating across movies and TV shows? Take a look for yourself:

You can also view the above in Google Sheets here, if the above embedded version is a little too claustrophobic.

Easily, Breaking Bad has the highest score on all of Rotten Tomatoes. (Yeah, the picture at the top kind of gave it away.) Seasons 4 and 5 are the closest to having a perfect score. Depending on how you sort the data, Seasons 2 and 3 also make the top 10. The first season is the only season of the show to not chart, with a 78% on the Tomatometer. This brings the entire series score down to 95% but looking at individual seasons, it basically blows everything else away.

Breaking Bad: Season 5 is the only entry to have a 99% audience score. Season 4 has an average rating of 9.9 out of 10 from 24 top critics, and a 9.8 when including all critics. The average audience rating is 4.9 out of 5 among 4,551 reviews. Audience scores are generally less critical but because there are so many more contributors to the audience score, it usually averages out. So these kind of near-perfect audience scores among thousands of users is rare, if not almost impossible.

I loved Breaking Bad too, but I was amazed to see that it out-paced so many critically acclaimed movies. In fact, aside from Seven Samurai, Akira Kurosawa’s masterpiece from 1956, and 12 Angry Men, the original 1957 version directed by Sidney Lumet, the top 10 are all TV shows from 2010 or sooner.

I know TV is going through a renaissance, but that’s crazy to me. Are TV reviewers just being overly enthusiastic because TV is actually half-way decent these days? Are film critics more nuanced or snobby or contrarian? Or is Sherlock and Hannibal really that good? Better than Charlie Chaplin’s Modern Times? Better than Alfred Hitchock’s Rear Window? Is BoJack Horseman: Season 3 really better than the poster child for Greatest Movie of All Time, Citizen Kane?

I have a hard time comparing movies against TV shows, since they’re structured differently. Even comparing things so stylistically different is difficult, so things don’t really have to be better, per se. But the collected consensus seems to indicate that people are really loving TV right now.

Quantifying opinions is always tricky business, and of course it’s all to be taken with a grain of salt, but it’s fun to see what made the list of nearly universally loved movies and TV shows. Did your favorites show up?