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Headsup: Improv, Poetry and High Weirdness

An ongoing attempt to make sense of the onslaught of new swag that people want you to buy. Should you? I’ll try and help.

Asssscat! DVD Cover Art
Gang of Souls: A Generation of Beat Poets DVD Cover Art

I’ve always had an appreciation for the Upright Citizens Brigade. The first episode of their TV series, featuring “The Bucket of Truth,” is probably one of the funniest comedy bits I’ve ever seen. So it’s no surprise that this quartet of maniacs do improv and do it well. And then they drag their friends into it with ASSSSCAT from Shout Factory. Somebody in the audience throws out an idea, and a monologist talks on it. Then from there they spin into crazed sketches featuring sex, drugs and a talking cactus. But don’t worry: he’s friendly. If you like comedy, then this is at least a rental. If you’re an UCB fan, you might want to snag a copy for yourself. It’s even funnier than the Bravo ASSSSCAT special they did with folks like Tina Fey, if that can be believed. Here you’ve got Chad Carter, Sean Conroy, Andrew Daly, Horatio Sanz, Will Arnett, Ed Helms, Jen Kirkman, Thomas Lennon, Paul F. Tompkins and Kate Walsh along for the ride. (Click here to buy it from Amazon.)

Next up, MVD has got Gang of Souls, a 1989 documentary about the beat poets. Interviewed are William S. Burroughs, Allen Ginsberg, Gregory Corso, and Diane Di Prima among others. In addition to these poets, they bring in others for commentary on the movement, like Marianne Faithfull, Henry Rollins and Lydia Lunch. The docu allows the poets to enter into their element: talking about themselves, their work and then giving us bits of that work. It’s an excellent primer for people who perhaps know Ginsberg only from English class (for those of us lucky to have real English classes in this country) or Burroughs from his later spoken word albums or collaborations–but don’t know about the movement they helped forge. Worth at least a rental. Serious beat fans will want to own. (Click here to buy it from Amazon.)

Outrageous Fortune Series One Umbrella Entertainment Region 4 DVD Cover Art
Eerie Indiana Complete Series Umbrella Entertainment Region 4 DVD Cover Art

Outrageous Fortune is a series out of New Zealand–the first series is now available as a Region 4 release from our friends at Umbrella Entertainment. What happens when a family, dedicated to a life of crime, suddenly gets shocked by the father of the family being sent up the river for four years? Well, the mother decides they’re going to get legit (lewhat?). But as anybody who’s tried to just stop a habit dead in its tracks can tell you–it’s just not that easy. And this is more than a habit with these folks…it’s been their whole life. This show is an excellent mix of comedy and drama and it’s worth checking out for anybody–because I understand they’re trying to do an American version. So best check out the primary source material while you can. You get thirteen episodes across three discs, plus behind the scenes goodness. (Click here to snag it from Umbrella Entertainment.)

Also from Umbrella is the Region 4 debut of Eerie Indiana. The complete series has hit: nineteen episodes across five discs. This early 90s show earned itself a fanbase because it was basically a young adult version of what happens when you stick Twin Peaks, The X-Files and The Monster Squad in a blender. With a sprig of The Burbs for decoration. There was a short-lived spinoff series as well as a book series. A great array of character actors strolls through this thing in guest appearances, including Ray Walston, John Astin, Henry Gibson, Dick Miller, and Matt Frewer, just to name a few. If you’ve got kids who enjoy High Weirdness or own the complete library of Daniel Cohen (I just borrowed them from the library myself), then they would dig the hell out of this. (Click here to snag it from Umbrella Entertainment.)