On The Rapture of Dancing Alive
(or: I Finally Watched That Future Islands Performance and I Feel Changed)
Doing work on my couch last night, I ended up on Letterman, watching the end of an interview—Nick Offerman—and then the musical performance of the night, some band Letterman was cracking jokes about before they’d even started. The Strypes. I think I remember Letterman saying something about ‘mom picking you all up’ after the show, which was funny, because look at them. He also made a joke about taking them to play laser tag after the show, which, ha.
But it reminded me that there was this Letterman performance that everyone was talking about a few weeks ago I had yet to watch, this Future Islands thing. I didn’t know exactly what it was that everyone freaked out about, I just remember there being that typical morning-after Internet peak-chatter level of talk, the kind I’ve made a habit of avoiding instinctually. Because when you work in Internet, that inescapably loud and concentrated volume of talk about That One Thing, at least for me, strips some of the joy out of it.
So, right then, I finally watched it.
0:30 (as performance starts): Okay, this sounds very 2006. This all looks very 2006.
0:32: At least that lead singer is moving. Decent two-step.
[BAD MID-AUGHTS VIBE INTERLUDE: For anyone even remotely paying attention to rock from 2005 onward, the name of the band—Future Islands—sounded gratingly familiar. There were (or still are?) The Futureheads, Islands, and a Jimmy Eat World album called Futures that I’d never listened to. Also: Future (rapper). Everything about it seemed so typical I was pretty convinced that whatever I was missing out on was some sort of schtick, like some band shooting themselves out of cannon. Which, I mean, I love the Arcade Fire, but look at them: In 2014, they’re demanding their fans dress up in costume to their shows. It’s fair skepticism, is the point.]
0:41: Okay, kind of into this post-Morrisey post-synagogue thing and there’s an expressive eyebrow, and is that the thing?
0:45: Wait what’d he just do with his legs.
0:49: Where did his head go what was that, do that ag
0:54: He’s slowing down, maybe that was just a Thing. And he’s touching his chest, is this vamping? Is that what he’s doing? Maybe he’s actually feeling i
1:00: He’s doing the leg thing again and moving his head what even is that? It’s amazing. Okay, I get this, guy has moves.
1:04: What did he just do with his voice? Wh—Did he grind the note?
1:14: Holy shit he just dropped it to the ground. How did he do that? Where did he learn that mo
1:17: He did the thing with his voice again I swear to god I heard it he’s actually doing that right?
1:29: Oh my god his hand is in a fist and he’s looking out into the audience like the answer is there and they’re all the answer this is really something.
1:33: WHOA did not see that coming, the punching through the air and following through with his entire body on a note, which kind of looks like a combination golf swing/victory fist pump but he gets it, I get it, I get wanting to do that at a chorus, that which is the physical iteration of that particular guitar crescendo.
1:37: His hand in the air, holy shit, there are performances of Les Miz that are less theatrical.
1:43: And now he’s washing away the light with his hands and he totally grinded that note in his throat, okay, okay, I think I get this now, he’s secretly got a great voice and great moves, this is very solid.
1:52: The camera just went tight on his face and wow this guy is really, truly selling what’s happening here.
[LARRY SANDERS INTERLUDE: If you’ve ever watched The Larry Sanders Show, you know that the musical performance is usually when Garry Shandling either gets screamed at by Rip Torn about some crazy backstage nonsense or he’s hitting on a celebrity guest. For the most part Larry Sanders doesn’t care much for his musical guests, and I imagine, night in and night out, this is how Letterman feels about his musical guests: A lot of monotony. He’s really seen it all before. And I imagine him talking to a producer or somesuch as the band is on. Remember: Letterman really loves acts that put their all into it, and say what you will about the Foo Fighters—and there’s plenty to—you can’t say Dave Grohl doesn’t know how to put on a performance, which is why they’re one of Letterman’s favorite acts to have on Late Show. So I imagine this is around the point Letterman looks over his producer’s shoulder, and goes: ‘Hey, wait: Who the hell are these guys?’]
2:07: Ohmygod he’s pounding his chest so hard the mic just picked it up this is amazing bordering on uncomfortable.
2:24: Yes! People do change! They gain one piece but they lose one too! You are making so much sense I am completely on board with this now, this is just, everything, church
2:27: They just went tight on the rest of the band and they’re the most innocuous looking people ever, the bassist looks like whatshername from Chelsey Lately, which I guess is sm
2:30: WAIT WHAT THE FUCK WAS THAT he just grabbed at his shirt and made that noise from his throat again! That was real! And he’s curling his lip into a sneer and BAM he’s back into the moves
2:41: He just did it again I’m so not making this up
2:53: Is he crying? This is all so much but also there will never be enough of it.
2:58: BOOM and he launches into the chorus again and he’s pounding his chest and the mic is picking it up and somewhere Meatloaf just jumped out of his Lay-Z-Boy screaming at the TV like “GO MOTHERFUCKER GO GO GO”
3:14: I am sold, I completely get this, I am watching this again as soon as it’s over because why wouldn’t anyone want to feel anything this much? This is what Joseph Campbell called, when asked about the meaning of life by Bill Moyers, “the rapture of being alive,” and
3:28: HOLYFUCKINGSHIT HE
3:29: 'SREALLY DOING THE DEATH METAL THING I
3:30: FEEL LIKE HE JUST REACHED THROUGH THE SCREEN AND
3:31: IS CHOKING OUT A PART OF MY SOUL
3:34: And now he’s dancing again and staring out into the audience but dancing harder than he’s danced this entire time and maybe in his entire life, he is dancing with purpose, like he’s going to generate energy or lifeforce by doing so and don’t be over and
3:35: It’s over. It’s all over.
- - -
And this is the point where Letterman comes out and screams: “BUDDY! COME ON! How about that? I’ll take all of that you got!” And Letterman knows what you just saw because he just saw it, and he is equally enraptured himself. Any band who goes on Letterman for the next month, at least—like the one that was on last night—has been completely screwed to hell by this one.
There are so many reasons why this is great, but the three that stuck with me this morning on the way to work were:
1. If you’ve ever danced in the bathroom—and I’ll readily cop to doing so, mostly in high school, before heading out to a party or a date, usually to something as desperate and pathetic, like The Cure’s “Close To Me”—your moves probably somewhat resembled an incredibly watered-down iteration of this. These aren’t bad unkfunky whiteboy moves, either: Dude has rhythm. He’s dancing along with the bassline, and he’s actually moving his feet and hips.
2. It’s really easy to be cynical about anything so sincere, especially since this lacks the kitsch textures of twee (see: Anderson, Wes) or polished veneer of pop. It’s confusing in the same way Meatloaf and Morrissey are confusing, in that there may be intent and awareness, there may be that allusion to death metal, but where those things normally serve to let an audience know that the artist is in on the joke, here it’s simply disarming: the acknowledgement that they have you, they’ve got you, you’re done for and now they can do whatever they please with you, like tear at their chest and plead and cry and scare the shit out of you.
3. Back to dancing in your bathroom: It was so much fun, and in retrospect, expressed so much, and this maybe made you (and definitely made me) recall in a very real way the energy of that stupid fun in a way you (or I) haven’t felt in a while. But more than that, it’s that this band—which has apparently been at it for 11 years now—finally got their shot. They got a spot on Letterman. And whether this is exactly what this guy does every night at his shows, or not, the bottom line is that he went with it, went for it, he didn’t water down a single thing about what got him to this moment. In fact, he doubled down on it. And the rest of the band played their part, too: They know how to make music, and not complicated music, and probably could’ve thrown themselves into it, too, but that would’ve betrayed what they knew they had to do. They had their one chance in life to make this kind of impact, and they did. And that’s really kind of amazing. Who won’t take all of that?
Agreed on every count.
the mashup you didnt need.
This is the stupidest fucking thing I’ve ever heard and it made me laugh in a very pure way
Row row row your boat.
Why I Think You Should Watch Comedy Central’s “Broad City”
Right off the bat, I should confess I’m biased when it comes to this show because I was a staff writer, but nevertheless, I would like to make my case for why you should watch it.
"Broad City" was created by Abbi Jacobson and Ilana Glazer, and they are two of the funniest, smartest, nicest and most driven people I have ever met. I was a huge fan of "Broad City" when it was a web series, and getting the chance to help turn it into a TV show with them, I was absolutely FLOORED by how amazing they are. I honestly can’t say how wonderful they are enough. They are quick and weird and have a voice and a vision that makes you say "Oh, shit."
And they funny.
Like, really, really funny.
They have a created a hilarious show that really portrays what it’s like to be poor-as-shit in New York. To spend an entire day accidentally ruining your day more and more as you go. To walk out the door of your shitty apartment in Queens and just follow the city, for better or worse.
And on top of being funny and filthy and strange, Abbi and Ilana are also sooooo supportive of each other. And it SHOWS onscreen. If a good TV show is ultimately about its characters, and the best TV show makes you feel like you want to hang out with them, then “Broad City” is truly great in my eyes. This show has such a great friendship at the center of it because that’s what it’s like for them in real life. Their friendship is no joke. It’s true. And great. And maybe borderline dangerous.
One of my favorite memories of making the show was late into filming. It had been a long day for the girls, and Ilana and I were at Video Village watching Abbi film a scene. Ilana just kept saying to herself, “Damn, she is so funny in this scene. She is so so great. God, she’s great.” Immediately after, Ilana went to film a scene, and Abbi was watching from Video Village. Within moments, Abbi was saying, “Oh my god, she is so funny. She is so great.” Months into shooting, years into prepping, those girls were there every moment together, constantly pumping each other up and supporting each other and making each other better in a way I was really, sincerely moved by.
These girls just have It. And I think they have created a show that is weird and true and strange and experimental and funny and kinda ludicrous.
There were also so many other amazing people who worked on the show, including power-duo Paul W. Downs & Lucia Aniello, Eric Slovin, and Tami Sagher.
But above all, it was Abbi and Ilana. Those girls busted ass to make this show. But that’s not why you should watch it. You should watch it cuz it’s damn great. At least I think so.
"BROAD CITY" is on Comedy Central Wednesdays @ 10:30! WATCH!
Watch my new video “My Posse”
I love you,
Why not buy the song on iTunes so I can make more?
I really love this.
Holy shit this builds so well.
I actually am obsessed with this.
This is great.
Every grunt from Home Improvement
This was a popular thing
14 minutes well spent
The perfect soundtrack for kidnapping and murdering someone.
chrischond asked: Hey Josh - I wanted to reach out to you because I know you're super experienced at the UCB and writing professionally. What kinds of things (classes,YouTube vids, etc)could you recommend for someone interested in working at SNL? I've been taking improv classes at UCB, but wanted to know some other things that would help. Any and all answer would be greatly appreciated!
Hi! Thanks for asking. The best advice I can give is to point out that working at SNL is equal parts talent and luck, AND the number of people who work on the show at any given point in time is such a small, small percentage of comedians, actors and writers who would be positively great on the show. What this means is that, from a strictly numbers perspective, setting “working at SNL” is a goal that is a little bit too narrow, more akin to winning the lottery or being cast for a well-financed movie out of nowhere than it is a logical outcome of any comedic career path.
THAT BEING SAID, goals are great! My goal before I got hired wasn’t to work on this show particularly, but it was to be the best joke writer I could possibly be, and support myself through creative endeavors (be it writing, teaching improv, directing sketch, etc.). It’s useful, for me at least, to see a broad path but take it one step of the time. Partly because it’s a way I can concretely affect change, but mostly because thinking more than two steps ahead of anything fills me with a paralyzing anxiety and a crippling sense of failure. But no matter what your more immediate goals are, any path that begins with working as hard as you fucking can and being as nice and as generous as you fucking can is already headed in the right direction.
Also, be nice to yourself and don’t get complacent.