Episode Seventeen of Radio Free Charleston saw your host, Rudy Panucci, sporting a “Kung Fu Grip” Shirt, and was loaded with all sorts of cool stuff.
We had RFC Diva, Melanie Larch in a wrestling ring, cutting a promo; Music from John Radcliff and Under The Radar, recorded at LiveMix Studio; and we had an episode of Pentagram Flowerbox plus our end credit repurposed a Stan Freberg commercial as our animation.
Go back to March, 2007, for “Kung Fu Grip Shirt.” You can find the original production notes here.
You could say that I have toys shows on the brain this week.
ToyLanta is happening now. I told you about that Wednesday. I’m not there in person, but I’m there in spirit and will be at JoeLanta in August. Your humble blogger is currently at the Lexington Comic and Toy Show, and you’ll be hearing all about that next week.
But today, I have the final batch of photos from the KVRA Model Train Show, which happened in Charleston a couple of weeks ago.
You can see the first batch of photos HERE, and the video I made HERE.
Below you’ll see photos of some of the train and non-train vendors, close-ups and details of some of the train layouts and even a personal holy grail that your PopCulteer unexpectedly stumbled upon.
So let’s look at the pics…
Cool paintings from a local artist.
A table was dedicated to diverse books.
If I had room in my house for more cool stuff, I probably would’ve snagged one of these cool repurposed industrial lamps.
Mel had to drag me away from this table, seriously.
Handmade wooden minatures that could be used with model railroading, or just for display.
The model train vendors mightily tried my self-restraint. I considered buying this.
This was also tempting.
This vendor’s display wrapped around the corner of the rather sizeable room.
Larger scale trains, taunting my wallet.
There were plenty of layout structures available too.
Though mesmerized by some of the vendors, we could’ve spent hours just staring at the model train layouts.
This layout is prominently featured in the video we made.
This was part of a huge, oval layout that ran through several real WV locations.
Going in for close-ups. The detail is amazing.
Espertly executed row housing.
A very realistic depiction of an industrial area.
An aerial view of cows at a watering hole.
More cool scenery.
A really nice way to enhance the 3-D modeling with 2-D backdrops.
Ultra realism with a 1930’s-era scene.
I couldn’t pass up this Mail Pouch barn.
Finally, the unexpected Holy Grail. I didn’t expect to find anybody selling vintage vinyl at this show. And I certainly didn’t expect to find a Crack The Sky album that I’ve been looking for since I heard their live cover of “I Am The Walrus” in 1978, on the waning days of the free-format WVAF. So this nice vendor, who is normally based at The South Charleston Antique Mall on D Street, helped me scratch a 45-year itch.
With that minor miracle we wrap up this photo-essay PopCulteer. Check back for our regular features and fresh content every day.
You should know the drill by now. There’s plenty of STUFF TO DO in Charleston and all over the Mountain State as the forces of Spring attempt to beat back the oppressive forces of Winter, creating climate chaos and lots more wind that we shoulda oughtta have.
Live Music is back at Taylor Books. There is no cover charge, and shows start at 7:30 PM. Friday it’s Minor Swing. Saturday McKenna Hope entertains the crowd at Charleston’s beloved Bookstore/Coffee Shop/Art Gallery.
The Empty Glass has some great stuff through the week to tell you about. Thursday from 5:30 PM to 7:30 PM, Swingstein and Robin play fiddle and piano and sing swing and early jazz standards. Each week they donate their tips to a local nonprofit (as you’ll see below, this week it’s a really good cause). Next week they’ll have an open mic with Unmanned Monday night, and Songwriter Showcase on Tuesday. Other shows that have graphics are listed among the images below.
Please remember that the pandemic is not over yet. In fact, it’s sort of surging again. Many people who have very good reasons are still wearing masks, and many of us, understandably, are still nervous about being in crowds, masked or not. Be kind and understanding while you’re out.
If you’re up for going out, here are a few suggestions for the rest of this week, roughly in order.
ToyLanta happens this weekend at the Hilton Atlanta Northeast in Atlanta, Georgia, and for only the second time in eleven years, your PopCulteer won’t be going.
Nothing drastic or dramatic has happened. Last year ToyLanta, which started as “JoeLanta,” a GI Joe-centric toy show, spun off JoeLanta as a separate show once again, this year happening in August, and since I couldn’t fit last year’s JoeLanta into my schedule, that meant I had to miss it.
So for 2023 I planned to skip ToyLanta and will instead make it to part of JoeLanta before splitting the weekend with PowerCon in Columbus, Ohio. Instead of ToyLanta, this weekend Your PopCulteer and his lovely wife will be in Lexington at the Lexington Comic and Toy Show, where ironically, we’ll probably see Larry Hama, the legendary writer of the GI Joe: A Real American Hero comic book, and somebody we first met at JoeLanta ten years ago.
But ToyLanta is still one of the biggest toy shows in the Southeast and it’s loads of fun, so if you’re anywhere near it and into cool toys, you should make last-minute plans to attend.
As a bit of a preview, today I’m going to re-present an annotated and updated index to the coverage that we’ve provided for JoeLanta/ToyLanta in this blog since 2013. Photos are all taken from previous year’s coverage.
As I mentioned, ToyLanta began life as JoeLanta, which was originally inspired somewhat by The Official GI Joe Club Convention. Over the years the Official GI Joe Club (which shut down in 2019) shifted their focus from the original 12″ GI Joe from the 1960s and 1970s, to the “Real American Hero” Joe of the 1980s.
This left a lot of collectors of the original GI Joe feeling disenfranchised, so in 2000 they decided to put on their own show, based in Atlanta, that would provide a more intimate and more affordable gathering of collectors of the larger GI Joe, with a focus on custom figures and outfits, and elaborate dioramas.
JoeLanta quickly gained a reputation as the most fun toy convention in the country. JoeLanta eventually became a fundraiser for the non-profit Cody Lane Foundation (named after a young fan who had passed away) and is now focused toward raising money to build a toy diorama museum. In 2017 JoeLanta became ToyLanta.
Longtime PopCult readers may recall that, for the first several years of this blog, I was not able to travel. I’d been a full-time caregiver for my mother until her death in 2006, and rather than get a reprieve from caregiving, I was almost immediately pressed into service managing my uncle’s healthcare, and eventually becoming his chief caregiver.
Because of this, I could not travel to toy shows, despite being fairly well-known for writing about collectible toys since 1996.
By 2009, I had some help taking care of my uncle, and was able to get away for day trips to The Marx Toy Convention and MEGO Meet when both shows were in Wheeling. In 2013, Buddy Finethy, from JoeLanta, got in touch with me and persuaded me to make the trip to Atlanta for my first big toy collectors convention.
I’m always going to be grateful to Buddy for that.
Later in 2013 my caregiver responsibilities ended, and for the first time in over twenty years, I was really free to travel. JoeLanta became an annual trip and Mel and I always have a blast going down there for what became week-long visits that included shooting locations for The Walking Dead and lots of fun shopping in addition to the best toy show in the country. JoeLanta became ToyLanta a few years back, to reflect the expanded interests of the convention-goers.
At this point, I’m going to turn the story over to the links below, which will give you a chronological portrait of PopCult going to ToyLanta.
This is not a complete list of every post I’ve made on the subject. Many of them were redundant, just re-posting previous years worth of material to plug an upcoming show, so this index will just focus on the meaty, original content.
You know I’m bringing one of these home with me.
Let’s start in 2013…
I did announce my first trip to JoeLanta in advance. This was risky, since my uncle’s relatives had a nasty habit of trying to create emergencies to disrupt any trip I took out of town, but I did indeed mention my trip to JoeLanta in advance, and it’s in this post, which includes a dead video I need to edit at some point.
We made a short visit that year driving down Friday and back Sunday, but hadn’t quite unpacked on Monday, so I ran this as Monday Morning Art. The following Friday I had a brief photo essay ready to go. Later that day I posted video of the State of the Hobby Roundtable, which I also participated in. A few days later I finally had my first JoeLanta wrap-up video ready, which included interviews with Buddy Finethy and David Lane, and my old online friend (who I’d met in person for the first time), Dave Matteson.
In 2014, freed from my caregiver obligations, we made a longer trip to JoeLanta, which included our first visit to Senoia. I previewed that year’s show HERE. I had also prepapred a PopCulteer column to run on the first day of the show in case I didn’t have time to report from the road, but it turned out that I did have time to get some photo essays online. This turned out to be the day with four PopCulteer columns. We covered the Walking Dead tour of Senoia, which took place on the Thursday before the show, and that bus trip also included trips to see the collections of Tim Merrit and Bryan Tatum. The Sunday of ToyLanta we brought you a Studio Joe video from Tim and Lisa Weedn, who have become good friends and are hilarious filmmakers.
2016 was a bit of a strange year for your PopCulteer. For the second year in a row, Mel and I had gone to New York for the International Toy Fair just a few weeks before JoeLanta. I had tons of photos and video from Toy Fair to edit and post, and didn’t get it all done before it was time to leave for JoeLanta. At the same time, my hands were getting increasingly weaker, and I was having trouble keeping my eyes focused. We took Lee Harrah with us to JoeLanta, and he was a huge help, because by this point, I couldn’t even open a water bottle by myself. I managed to keep my weakness fairly well-hidden, but I knew something serious was going on with me. A month after we got back from JoeLanta, I was diagnosed with Myasthenia Gravis, which was a life-changing revelation, but was also a huge relief, just having a diagnosis.
2016 was also the year that, due to my diagnosis and the lovely hurricane of meds that followed, I didn’t get the wrap-up video finished until November. I was appropriately mortified by this.
To make up for that, in 2017 I went a bit overboard and ran previews for two weeks ahead of the event. I’m not going to post links to all of those, because most of the previews just re-posted stuff that you can see in the links above. However, the first one is filled with pertinent new info. Our first post during the convention that year covered the name change from JoeLanta to Toylanta. and sprinkled in a few early photos. I also managed to post photos of Mike Gardner building his epic Avengers diorama. As soon as we got back, I posted photos of my haul from the show. Photo essays from the show were posted HERE, HERE, HERE and HERE.
After we got back, an installment of Monday Morning Art was inspired by the custom figure and Bryan Tatum’s cool cave diorama piece.
In 2018 I did another week of preview posts for the show that used material from previous years, but among those posts I also had a new GI Joe-centric Monday Morning Art, with a digital painting that I had printed on canvas and donated to the ToyLanta auction. I had a placeholder post set to publish on the first day of the show, but I also managed to sneak in a quick set of photos of the pre-show trip and activities. I also edited a quick trailer for the show on the road, just to see if the laptop was capable of rendering video.
The reason I wanted to see how well the laptop handled video was because I got the crazy idea to do a video each day while I was there, so that I wouldn’t have so much video editing to do once we got home. This didn’t work out too well because people watched the first day, then didn’t bother watching anything else. Also, I didn’t get a chance to start on the video until after midnight, and wrapped it up and posted it about six hours later, which meant that I was operating with about 90 minutes of sleep on the second, very long and busy, day of the convention. I was too wiped out to do any more videos while we were on the road. In fact, I spent much of Saturday hallucinating that I was being followed by cows.
2018 was also the year that…SURPRISE…the hotel was being renovated AND a water-main break meant that nobody could drink tap water or take a shower. I whined a bit about it in this post. However we did manage to have a good time despite all that, and I brought you a taste of the ToyLanta Film Festival from Tim and Lisa Weedn. I also showed off my toy haul from 2018, but you have to scroll down past a depressing essay about Toys R Us first. I re-edited much of the “Day One” video and combined with everything else I’d shot to put together a longer wrap-up video.
My allergies took a real beating on this trip, and we returned home to Arctic weather, and that combined with audio issues due to the renovations and breaking news about Toys R Us, meant that a lot of stuff from ToyLanta 2018 didn’t get posted for quite some time. To be honest, I still have a ton of stuff from 2018 sitting unused on one of my external drives. However, I did manage to get two panel videos done…just in time to promote ToyLanta 2019!
First I put together two short promos for ToyLanta, 2019, using footage from previous years. You can see those HERE. Then I posted toy designer, Greg Autore, and his panel on GI Joe toys he designed that never made it to retailers. After that, I posted the 2018 Space Toys panel, with Carlos Morrison, Clay Sayre, Terry Stair Jr. and George Felix. Tim and Lisa Weedn also made a cool trailer for the 2019 show, even though they couldn’t make it that year. Another preview for 2019 was one more GI Joe-inspired Monday Morning Art piece that I had printed and donated to the annual ToyLanta auction for the Cody Lane Foundation.
2019 was a bit of an unusual ToyLanta for your PopCulteer because we made plans to do something on the trip for Mrs. PopCulteer, Mel Larch, who is a huge fan of The Walking Dead. For a very brief and limited time, the studio where they shot TWD was giving tours of all the places that were normally forbidden for the general public. I told Mel to book us on a tour during the trip, and the only day they had open was Sunday, the last day of ToyLanta. My plan was to shoot tons of video and photos on Friday and Saturday, pull an all-nighter on Satuday night (after the Radio Cult show, which ran really late that year) and get up Sunday and check out and head to Senoia. In previous years, the only thing happening on Sunday was great last-minute deals from dealers who didn’t want to have to carry stuff back home.
However, after we booked the tour, we discovered that every single one of the GI Joe panels had been moved to Sunday. So I didn’t shoot any video of the panels that year. But since they never offered that studio tour again, and it had Mel beaming with joy, it was worth it.
Amid another MG flare-up, I posted the raw video of the dioramas from 2019, and photos of my toy haul from that year. Much later, I was able to post photos of the diorama and custom figures HERE, HERE and HERE. I also snuck in an abstract painting of Bambie and Ricky from Radio Cult jamming at Buddy Finethy’s restaurant, Hawg ‘n’ Ale.
In 2020 there was no ToyLanta. I covered its cancellation in real time HERE. I was able to bring you that year’s planned Film Festival, compiled by Tim and Lisa, HERE. In 2021 it was still too soon for my immuno-compromised butt to go to a toy convention, so we sadly had to miss the show for the first time since we started going.
I’m sure it’ll be a great show this year, and if I didn’t have to choose between ToyLanta and JoeLanta, we might’ve done both this year, but knowing that I’ll see all my ToyLanta friends at JoeLanta in August takes the sting out of it a bit.
Once again it’s Tuesday on The AIR and that means it’s time for a new Radio Free Charleston.You simply have to point your cursor over and tune in at the website, or you could just stay here, and listen to the cool embedded player found elsewhere on this page. RFC is our only new show on The AIR this week because technical issues over the weekend spooked yours truly a bit. Everything seems to be back to normal now, but just in case we’re delaying our other new shows until next week.
But we do have one new hour and two hours of RFC International from 2019 today on Radio Free Charleston this week. Our first hour is loaded with new releases from West Virginia artists, plus a full set of great new tunes courtesy of our friends in Chicago. We even toss in an Italian song from 1959, just to keep you on your toes.
Our second and third hours revive an old Radio Free Charleston International from February 2019, and it’s a great mix of stuff from all over. The full show is just a valentine to free-format radio, and it’s loaded with what was newly-released music back then, so it’s like a bit of a time capsule. That’s a nice wake-up call for folks who didn’t realize that Joe Jackson, The English Beat, Matt Berry and A Perfect Circle all put out new records just four years ago.
Check out the playlist below to see all the goodies we have in store. Live links for the first hour will take you to the artist’s pages so you can find out more about them, buy their music and find out where to see them perform live…
Joe Jackson “Fool”
TC&I “Scatter Me”
Lebowski “Midnight Syndrome”
Dead Bones Bunny “My Name Is Dead Bones Bunny”
The Dandy Warhols “Forever”
Steve Hacket “Underground Railroad”
The English Beat “Be There For You”
A Perfect Circle “Hourglass”
Kate Bush “You Want Alchemy”
Weezer “Sweet Dreams (Are Made of This)”
The Struts “People”
The Beatles “Happiness Is A Warm Gun”
The Monkey Swingers “She’s So Fat She Looks Chinese”
First of October “Rollerbladin’”
Cassettes Won’t Listen “Let’s Go To Bed”
Peter Hamill “Milked”
The Church “Before The Deluge”
Matt Berry “Night Terrors”
Elvis Costello “Burnt Sugar Is So Bitter”
Martin Barre “And The Band Played On”
Fish “Man With A Stick”
Roine Stolt and His Flower Kings “Next To A Hurricane”
You can hear this episode of Radio Free Charleston Tuesday at 10 AM and 10 PM on The AIR, with replays Wednesday at 9 AM, Thursday at 3 PM, Friday at 9 AM, Saturday at Noon and Midnight, and Monday at 11 AM, exclusively on The AIR. Now you can also hear a different episode of RFC every weekday at 5 PM, and we bring you a marathon all night long Saturday night/Sunday morning.
I’m also going to embed a low-fi, mono version of this show right in this post, right here so you can listen on demand.
After RFC, stick around for encores of last week’s episodes of MIRRORBALL at 1 PM and Curtain Call at 2 PM.
At 3 PM we offer up a couple of early episodes of The Swing Shift. Every week yours truly strives to bring you the best of over 100 years of Swing Music on one of our most-listened-to programs, and since we’re in techno-fear reruns this week, we’re going to encore some of the formative episodes of our music programming. These two shows orignally aired in August, 2016.
You can hear The Swing Shift Tuesday at 3 PM, with replays Wednesday at 8 AM, Friday at 10 AM and 8 PM and Saturday afternoon, only on The AIR . You can also hear all-night marathons, seven hours each, starting at Midnight Thursday and Sunday evenings.
This week our art is a pastel crayon drawing of a Pagoda Gazebo that I photographed in Chicago’s Chinatown a few years ago. Looking at the photo on the screen, I drew the above piece with some new pastel crayons that were a Christmas present.
After finishing the drawing, I scanned it, and then cleaned up some smudginess and tweaked the saturation digitally. I did a pencil drawing of this same pagoda a few years ago, but even though my fingers were working better back then, I feel it needed color to really do justice to the real thing. This small piece on paper for pens was done to try to limber up my fingers, but they never did quite come back for this. Still, even with the MG, I was happy with it.
We had planned to bring you all-new programming on The AIR this week but since there were technical issues with the stream over the weekend I made the decision to delay them a week while the bugs get worked back out. There will be a new RFC on Tuesday, but otherwise we’ll be in reruns all week. As of Monday morning, The AIR is back up and running, but just in case, I don’t want folks tuning in for a new show and finding dead air.
So, Monday at 2 PM on The AIR, we bring you a recent episode of Psychedelic Shack, and then at 3 PM a recent edition of Herman Linte’s weekly showcase of the Progressive Rock of the past half-century, Prognosis. You can listen to The AIR at the website, or on the embedded radio player elsewhere on this page.
PsychedelicShack can be heard every Monday at 2 PM, with replays Tuesday at 9 AM, Wednesday at 10 PM, Friday at 1 PM, and Saturday at 9 AM. You can hear Prognosis on The AIR Monday at 3 PM, with replays Tuesday at 7 AM, Wednesday at 8 PM, Thursday at Noon, and Saturday at 10 AM. You can hear two classic episodes of the show Sunday at 2 PM.
At 8 PM you can hear part four of David Mitchell’s history of British comedy on an encore episode of Comedy Vault.
Tonight at 9 PM the Monday Marathon presents five classic episodes of Prognosis. That’s all depending on our hosts getting their streams up and running.
Last weekend Mel and I visited the KVRA Model Train Show at the Charleston Coliseum and Convention Center, and we shot video of some of the cool train layouts they had set up at the show.
I ran photos of the show HERE, but above you can see the toy trains in motion, set to some relaxing music. Zone out and enjoy the model railroading! We’ll probably another batch of photos sometime next week.
From March 2007, This episode of Radio Free Charleston is called “A Place Of Solace Shirt” in honor of the Huntington band who didn’t appear on RFC until many years later. Our musical guests on this episode are John Radcliff and Al Carey.
Radcliff is an old buddy from way back in my radio days, and Al was unknown to us, but submitted a music video with a striking, but dated and ham-handed political commentary. Rad sings the very XTC-like “Rainbows,” while Al provides us with a song which, in the intervening years, has pretty much lost any relevance that it had at the time.
Also in this show is animation by Stephen Beckner, a short film by Frank Panucci and a vintage Major Matt Mason toy commercial. Read the original production notes here.
It’s Saint Patrick’s Day, and…I got nothing for that. Sorry.
Even though I’m almost half-Irish, I was never really able to muster any enthusiasm for this holiday. As a kid, all it meant was getting pinched if you forgot to wear something green. As an adult non-drinker, it’s a pretty useless day, since the only thing I ever binge-drink is water.
And if I want to celebrate my Celtic roots, I’ll do it at Celtic Calling, which happened a couple of weekends ago.
But that doesn’t mean I’m empty-handed for this week’s PopCulteer. Below we have a book to recommend and a TV series to avoid.
The PopCult Bookshelf
Kahiki Scrapbook, The: Relics of Ohio’s Lost Tiki Palace
by David Meyers and Elise Meyers Walker with Jeff Chenault and Doug Motz
The History Press
ISBN-13 : 978-1467152846
Five years ago I discovered and raved about the book, Kahiki Supper Club: A Polynesian Paradise in Columbus, by the same roving gang of historian authors listed above. That book had been published in 2014, but I was late to the game and enjoyed it so much that I still reviewed it, even though it had already been out for four years.
At the time, my only complaint about the book was that I wanted to read more about this legendary Tiki supper club.
So I was pleasantly surprised last year when I found out that Meyers, Meyers Walker, Chenault and Motz were planning a follow-up book. Kahiki Scrapbook, The: Relics of Ohio’s Lost Tiki Palace is just out, and it’s a great supplement to their original visit to The Kahiki.
It turns out that, after the publication of Kahiki Supper Club: A Polynesian Paradise in Columbus, the authors were inundated with much more information, photos, recipes and stories about this now-vanished Columbus institution.
As the publishers’ blurb says:
The Church of Tiki To aficionados of Polynesian Pop, the Kahiki Supper Club was and remains the touchstone for all things tiki. The epitome of a fad that started at the end of Prohibition, it has been rediscovered by each successive generation, with relics of the original ‘mothership’ proudly displayed in tropical restaurants and bars throughout the country. Years after its razing in August 2000, the legacy of the Kahiki continues to inspire artists, entrepreneurs, and other visionaries, many of whom never set foot inside the fabled tiki palace. From the authors of Kahiki Supper Club comes a new collection of more stories, more images, and more delicious recipes that explain why the Kahiki was such a historically, culturally, and sociologically important artifact of the twentieth century.
Kahiki Scrapbook, The: Relics of Ohio’s Lost Tiki Palace is a great follow-up, loaded with first and second hand recollections of the employees of the Kahiki, along with photos (including a color section), cocktail and food recipes and updates on the key players in both books.
If you loved the first book, you’ll want the second. If you haven’t read Kahiki Supper Club, this is still a good starting point. Any fan of Tiki culture should want to read Kahiki Scrapbook, The: Relics of Ohio’s Lost Tiki Palace. Maybe someday they’ll combine these books into a coffee-table book with full-color illustrations throughout.
You should be able to order Kahiki Scrapbook, The: Relics of Ohio’s Lost Tiki Palace from any bookseller by using the ISBN code, or take the easy route and get it from Amazon.
The History of the World Part Duh
I really wanted to like Mel Brook’s History of the World Part II, the eight-episode series that premiered on Hulu earlier this month. It’s a sequel to the movie, History of the World Part I, from 1981, which is a mixed blessing because, while funny in places, the original movie is not primo Brooks.
Don’t get me wrong. I love Mel Brooks. I think it’s great that he’s still active at the age of 96, even if he only narrates and appears as a deepfake muscled up guy. I really wanted this to be good.
But History of the World Part II, which is largely the work of writer/producers Nick Kroll, Wanda Sykes and Ike Barinholtz commits one of the cardinal sins of comedy: If you’re going to be stupid, at least be funny.
History Part II has the stupid part down pat. In fact, it’s fair to say that the writer’s room must be profoundly ignorant of history. Unfortunately that makes it difficult to create an effective parody of said history.
Most problematic is the Civil War sketch, which runs through six of the eight episodes. It’s based on two faulty premises: Ulysses S. Grant was a raging alcoholic during the entire Civil War, and West Virginia was a member of the confederacy.
A big chunk of this multi-episode sketch craps all over The Mountain State. The ignorance of basic American history is galling. This sketch has Grant’s Union Army based in Virginia (A confederate state) and sees Grant going undercover to go on a raid in confederate West Virginia, which for the sake of one decent gag (a callback to Blazing Saddles) is depicted as an Old West town, complete with a Saloon with swinging doors.
Possibly among the worst comedy sketches to ever air on television.
Given that Grant’s issues with alcohol were exaggerated and fictionalized as part of the “Lost Cause” mythology that sought to belittle his efforts and rehabilitate the traitorous South, you’d think that maybe the diverse and supposedly politically aware writer’s room might have chosen a different direction.
That they depict West Virginia as a racist confederate stronghold is just dumb as hell. I mean, yeah, the state is run by racists NOW, but back then this state split off from Virginia so we could remain with the Union. They literally had eleven genuinely confederate states to choose from, and picked a Union state for this bit. Would it have killed them to set this sketch in Virginia or North Carolina?
If they wanted to do something funny about the Civil War, why didn’t they just hire Mark Metcalf (Douglas C. Neidermeyer in Animal House) to play Stonewall Jackson, and show how the bumbling general was shot by his own troops, and had his arm amputated and buried in a different state from where he was ultimately interred. That’s comedy gold waiting to be mined. But no, they took the Jay Leno/Rosie O’Donnell/Whitney Cummings tack of punching down on West Virginia any chance they can get.
The startling ignorance of their chosen subject matter is one of the major downfalls of History Part II. They do a sketch about Genghis Khan’s proclivity for fertility tied into an ancestry service, which is a really funny premise, but then they ruin the joke by confusing Genghis Khan with his grandson, Kublai Khan. Also the sketch is eight times longer than it needed to be.
Johnny Knoxville, easily the best part of the series.
Yet another weakness of the show is that every single sketch, save for Johnny Knoxville’s appearances as Rasputin, goes on way, way, way too long. A sketch about the Russian revolution would have been really funny at one-fourth the running time. A brilliant parody of Shirley Chisolm’s campaign for president, done up as a Black 1970s sitcom, overstays its welcome by its second installment.
A running sketch about Jesus goes on and on and on and confusingly jumps from being a parody of Curb Your Enthusiam to The Notebook to The Beatles Get Back to a Superhero movie. The first installment was pretty funny. The rest should have been left on the cutting room floor. The idea of an historical figure using modern social media is a funny idea…once. They milk that premise for gags so many times that by the fourth episode it induces groans.
That’s the biggest problem with History Part II…it needed a strong editor, someone who would look at at an eight-minute sketch and say “It’s done after two minutes.” Or somebody who would say, “That isn’t as funnny the fourth time you do that gag.”
As it is, I don’t think that there’s an hour of good material spread across the eight episodes. By the sixth episode Melanie and I were yelling at the TV because sketches that weren’t funny to begin with (“statue removal service,” I’m looking at you) were brought back four, five or six times and seemed to go on for hours.
If brevity is the soul of wit, History Part II is soulless.
Jack Black as Stalin
There are some nice cameos in this series, Jack Black is great as Josef Stalin. Josh Gad is interesting as Jack Black doing Shakespeare. Johnny Knoxville as Rasputin is brilliant and is easily and by far the best thing in the entire series. David Duchovney does a great, make-up assisted imitation of Howard Cosell. Taika Waititi is hilarious as Sigmund Freud…in a sketch that could have easily been trimmed by half.
Other cameos are wasted. Margert Cho and Sarah Silverman are seen briefly in throw-away gag roles. Andrew Rannells manages to be somewhat funny, but in a sketch that horribly overstays its welcome. Jason Alexander shows up so late in the Civil War sketch that you just can’t care anymore.
Taika Waititi as Freud
Like I said, I really, really wanted to like Mel Brook’s History of the World Part II. Evidently most critics bent over backwards to be overly kind to this show. It currently has a 73% positive critic’s score at Rotten Tomatoes.
The audience score is only 30% positive.
It seems like the show is largely written by the folks who do Big Mouth for Netflix. Melanie enjoys that show. It doesn’t do much for me. I’ve enjoyed the work of Kroll in other things and Sykes is one of the bright points of History Part II (until the sketches she’s featured in run too long), but I think History Part II is a mostly a swing and a miss.
Hopefully, if there ever is a Part III, they’ll let anybody else take a crack at it. Maybe give it to the writers of Mr. Show or Upright Citizen’s Brigade or Kids In The Hall.
Mel Brook’s History of the World Part II does acurately reflect the real history of the world in one respect…it’s mostly disappointing.
That’s this week’s PopCulteer. Check back for all our regular features and fresh content every day.
The Kanawha Valley Railroad Association held their annual show last weekend at The Charleston Coliseum and Convention Center. This was their second show at the Coliseum, and your PopCulteer and his wife were there to enjoy the show, take photos and shoot video.
This was the 17th annual KVRA Model Train and Craft Show, and it was a rousing success. Hampered by a bum knee and back, your humble blogger missed the first day, but we got there early Sunday and had a great time.
There were several displays with working train layouts and dozens of vendors selling model railroading supplies, toys, clothing and related cool train stuff. We’ll show you more of the vendors next week.
For information about next year’s model train and craft show visitKVRA’s Facebook Page or visit their website. Sunday you’ll get to see video of some of the train layouts, and next week we’ll bring you more photos from the show. But now, here’s the first look…
Walking into the hall early Sunday morning, we just saw a hint of the wonders that lay within.
There was a cool mix of working train layouts scattered throughout the large room, interspersed with several vendors.