The National Museum of Crime and Punishment opened in Washington, D.C., two weeks ago with McGruff the Crime Dog greeting guests outside the entrance. The museum (which was financed by an Orlando lawyer and produced in conjunction with the Fox TV show America’s Most Wanted) strives to bring interactivity and entertainment to a museum about crime. I visited on a soft opening day, and then again the next day for the grand opening, the major difference between these days being that on grand opening day, McGruff high-fived me at the door, John Walsh of America’s Most Wanted was rumored to be in the building, and entrance was free for all law enforcement officers.

 

Both days, though, were united by the strange tonal shifts one experiences when one engages in silly fun, reads random factoids, and is then… More…

On a recent Friday night, in a 100-seat club in the hotbed of comedy known as New Brunswick, New Jersey, wild applause rose from the from the audience. The clapping mingled with the clank of bottles, the muted sizzle of the fryer from the kitchen in back, and something else — a rustling noise. It sounded like a chipmunk caught in a garbage can. But it wasn’t. It was the sound of adult men and women wearing ponchos and Hefty bags, sweating and grinning. In a comedy club called the Stress Factory, this could only mean one thing — that the man preparing to take the stage was Gallagher, the bald-headed smasher of fruit, the mustachioed owner of the Sledge-o-Matic.

Yes, in 2008, Gallagher is still touring. And tucked in the back corner of the club, against my better judgment, I was watching him.

I read a lot of comedy… More…

 

This year, Converse turns 100, and to celebrate its heritage, it’s running an ad campaign that features a single token athlete, NBA superstar Dwyane Wade, amidst a dream team of Hall of Fame screw-ups. James Dean, Hunter S. Thompson, and Sid Vicious: Just try to imagine any one of these maverick malcontents in high school gym class, doing layup drills! And yet because they chose to wear Converse All-Stars while stomping all over the wet concrete of history, the brand survives — divorced from its utilitarian roots, manically fashionable, a tightly laced blend of canvas and contradiction, but at least still alive. Happy birthday, Converse! You don’t look a day over vitally absurd!

When it was introduced in 1917, the original Converse All-Star was the world’s most functional shoe. Its rubber soles gripped hardwood floors better than its… More…

Fret not, guardians of authenticity! Bubbly, super-assured pop variable Miley Cyrus does virtually all her own lip-synching when she performs live in concert. All her own costume-wearing too. Her PR firm has assured us of this. Yes, there is that YouTube video clip that shows the 15-year-old star of the Disney TV series Hannah Montana surreptitiously exiting the stage in the midst of a song, only to have a body double, dressed in identical white go-go boots and classy blonde stripper wig, take her place for a convincingly simulated half-minute of dance-inspired flailings and high-energy pretend-singing.

But does that make Cyrus a fraud — Hannah Nontana, Hannah Faketana, or Miley Vanilli, as Internet hecklers have taken to calling her? Or is she just impressively committed to wardrobe diversity?

On her TV series, Cyrus plays a character with a dual identity. Most of the time, she’s Miley Stewart, an average teen… More…

It ought to be mentioned just once that American Idol is one of the best pieces of culture produced on this planet so far in the 21st century. It is also to be admitted that the century is young. Other things will happen. But I don’t want the people of the future to think that we, the people of today, were oblivious to the things happening around us. In many ways, I’m speaking to them. I’m speaking to the people of tomorrow as one who was here, who saw it all unfold in real time.

American Idol is generally categorized as “Reality Television.” Reality Television is itself a product, essentially, of the 21st century. The idea (so the story goes) was that scripted television, the “situations” of situational comedy and so forth, had become a little tired. Ratings at the end of the 20th century confirmed this intuition. “Reality” was… More…

It has been a long time since Andy Warhol started being Andy Warhol. Yet we still fail to appreciate the fact that art is happening largely on his terms. For anyone who was paying attention, Andy Warhol changed the rules for art and ushered in new times. The simplest way to put it is that he made it possible — with the soup cans and the Brillo boxes and the silkscreens of famous movie stars — to make art from the world of consumer goods, the world that we’ve all actually been living in for a few generations now. Some people still don’t want to forgive him for that. But, in the end, all he was doing was telling the truth. His best work is great because of how deeply Warhol was willing to accept that we live in the world that we do. The degree to which he allowed… More…