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Apollo Music Cafe Series Kicks-off This Friday

The cultural epic center of Harlem, the Apollo Theatre, turns up the notch to create the ultimate music experience. Transforming the Apollo’s newly renovated Soundstage for the first time in its history, the Apollo Music Café, is a new music series that promises to showcase some of the best underground artists on the cutting edge of music innovation and performance execution.

The series features a diverse collection of live music performance, poetry, spoken word, comedy and spinning DJ’s. The legendary theatre space’s rich history is mirrored in the events’ musical range, with R&B, hip hop, world music, neo-soul, blues, gospel and rock and roll having their rightful share of the spotlight.

Joi’s Futuristic Throwbacks – The Apollo Session, with Devon Lee
Friday February 11, doors 9 p.m./show 10 p.m.
Saturday February 12, doors 9 p.m./show 10 p.m.

The first show begins this Friday with Joi’s Futuristic Throwbacks and an Apollo Session with Devon Lee. At the theatre’s website, Joi’s music is described as “breathing new life into standards” while Devon Lee’s upcoming performance is detailed as “dark, dripping-with-sensuality groove that gives a fresh, new vibe to the pioneer of ‘neol-soul’.”

Blitz the Ambassador, with the Embassy Ensemble and special guest J. Ivy
Monday February 14, doors 9 p.m./show 10 p.m.

“The Apollo Music Café sets you up for an EXPERIENCE. This is not just another concert series…the artists that are performing at the Music Café Series, are committed to stepping outside of themselves, to tattoo you in a way that will leave you imprinted by the performance,” said Lisa Yancey, one of the series’ curators.

Yancey’s first show, Blitz The Ambassador with the Embassy Ensemble and special guest J. Ivy, will be held this Valentines’ Night. Her event’s Facebook Page gives a peek of what’s in store for event goers: “Genre-bending Ghanaian-American artist Blitz blends distinctly African sounds like highlife and Afrobeat with the boom-bap of classic hip hop, accompanied by the six-piece, brass-heavy band, Embassy Ensemble. Grammy Award-winning hip hop poet J. Ivy will appear as a special guest at this performance. “

Upcoming Performances:

Future Now: Tuan X, Karma Mayet, Gina Breedlove and Shae Fiol
Friday March 4, doors 9 p.m./show 10 p.m. (Tuan X and Karma Mayet)
Saturday March 5, doors 9 p.m./show 10 p.m. (Gina Breedlove and Shae Fiol)

Ki Ki Hawkins and Tess – Power
Monday March 7, doors 9 p.m./show 10 p.m.

Songs for Miriam, featuring Lorraine Klaassen of South Africa and Malika Zarra of Morocco
Friday April 1, doors 9 p.m./show 10 p.m.
Saturday April 2, doors 9 p.m./show 10 p.m.

Shades of R&B: Terrell Howard and Tai Allen
Monday April 4, doors 9 p.m./show 10 p.m.

To see the full 2011 performance line-up, go to Ticket prices are $15 in advance and $20 day of the show.

Raw Radio Online: Saying Things You Wish Your Mother Wouldn’t Hear

Mike “Ragu” Ragusa is the creator of Raw Radio Online, an online radio show that prides itself on testing the limits of freedom of speech. The show’s humor is politically incorrect, sexually explicit, rich with profanity, and generally aimed at making the audience think twice about whether it’s okay to laugh. However, after the first five minutes the shock wears off just enough that you can sit back and enjoy the show.

The radio show airs every Wednesday at 10 pm, and is available on their website and as an itunes podcast. Each episode is roughly an hour long and is broadcast from their studio in New Jersey. The show has only been up and running for eight months, but has already developed reoccurring segments. For example, Ragusa does a weekly rant on the things that piss him off.

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Feature: Hilarity On Wheels


David Birnbaum is a standup comedian who grew up in NYC.  Of course standup is a relative term, because he got into a car accident at age 19 and is confined to a wheelchair.  Birnbaum is a very talented comedian with a great sense of humor about his disability.  He jokes that he’s a disabled people who likes to overcome challenges.  Recently he completed his first marathon: 24 straight hours of Star Trek.

Birnbaum has been performing standup comedy regularly at NY comedy clubs since 2004.  He performs at NYC’s Carolines, Broadway Comedy, The Comic Strip, Gotham and Laugh Lounge.  He also writes humorous essays, which have been published in places like The New York Times Magazine, The Village Voice, The New York Press, and in a college textbook Patterns of Essay Writing which also included essays by David Sedaris and Steve Martin.

As if being a successful standup comedian and comedy writer weren’t enough, David also has worked for NYU Biofeedback Labs, Bell Laboratories Artificial Intelligence Research, AT&T Online Learning, Diversity  He is currently Vice President and leads the corporate training department at the nation’s largest real estate company.

While David is a situp comedian, his wonderful positivity, sense of humor about his disability and determination to live life to the fullest regardless of the challenges he faces makes him truly inspiring.  Birnbaum’s upcoming performances are listed on his website: and he is well worth seeing in person.  The next time that you let some seemingly monumental problem hold you back from doing what you want to do, think of David refusing to let anything take the smile off his face.

Christine Lavin: An Unexpected Smash

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At first, I was dubious of the round cheeked woman wearing a sweater, guitar hung over her shoulder, as she climbed up onto the stage at Birdland Jazz club.  She didn’t resemble the chicly dressed, poised, graceful musicians I was used to.  Instead she reminded me of an aunt who had decided to take up a new hobby.  My skepticism evaporated almost immediately when she began to sing. Christine Lavin is easily one of the most humorous, opinionated and genuine musicians I’ve ever heard perform.

It is a real shame that while she has won many awards, she is not very well known.  Christine Lavin is a singer/ songwriter/ guitarist/ recording artist living in New York.  She has recorded 20 solo albums, and has produced 9 compilation CDs showcasing the musicians whose work she loves.  She has also recorded with other female folk artists under the name “Four Bitchin’ Babes.” As if that weren’t enough, Lavin writes for various publications such as The Washington Post, The St. Petersburg Times, The Performing Songwriter, and Delta “Sky” Magazine.  Two of her more famous songs are titled “Sensitive New Age Guys” and “Bald Headed Men.” Several of Lavin’s songs have been featured in Off-Broadway musicals, and are the basis for a new musical scheduled to premiere in Los Angeles.

Lavin was working at Caffe Lena in Saratoga, New York, when Dave Van Ronk convinced her to make a career out of her music and move to New York City.  She took his advice, and took guitar lessons from him as well.  She has lived in NYC ever since.

Christine’s eccentric lyrics are not the only thing quirky about her.  She hosts knitting circles backstage prior to every show, and often ends a concert by twirling a glow-in-the-dark baton with the house lights turned off as she leaves the stage.  She worked on a book entitled Remember Me When I’m Gone, in which she and other performers such as Larry King and Oprah Winfrey wrote their own obituaries. She also posed nude as Miss January for a “Nude Folk” calendar in 2005, a project designed to promote folk music in North America, with some of the profits going to the North American Folk and Dance Alliance.

Lavin also wrote what is being called “the longest song title in music history.” It’s 123 words long and is called: “Regretting What I Said to You When You Called Me 11:00 on a Friday Morning to Tell Me that at 1:00 Friday Afternoon You’re Gonna Leave Your Office, Go Downstairs, Hail a Cab to Go Out to the Airport to Catch a Plane to Go Skiing In the Alps for Two Weeks, Not that I Wanted to Go With You, I Wasn’t Able to Leave Town, I’m Not a Very Good Skier, I Couldn’t Expect You to Pay My Way, But After Going Out With You for Three Years, I DON’T Like Surprises!!” And it’s subtitled “’A Musical Apology’ In this song I attempt to take back everything I said while standing in a phone booth on the corner of 49th and 3rd.”

Christine Lavin is clever, creative, and never fails to top your expectations.  I suggest you hear her perform live, but if not at least buy her CD.


Review: Bar 82 and Sage Stand-Up Comedy

Cozy and comfortable, Bar 82 isn’t a place New Yorkers should skip if they’re in need of a drink and good conversation. The free stand-up comedy every Tuesday, only sweetens the deal!

Located in the tattoo parlor-flooded East Village, Bar 82 resembles an upscale cabin with a cool atmosphere. Wooden floors and brick walls give it that good old camping feel. A large projection screen a couple steps from the pool table gives you a great view of the Yankees getting yanked around by the Texas Rangers while alternative rock booms through the speakers.

The rotating backless seats also give it a 1950s burger joint feel. Plush black seats and couches are present in the house as well, and there is even a nice seasonal Halloween theme. Pumpkins and candles help the bar’s feng-shui, along with the dim red and yellow lights.

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The people are lively and the bartenders are open and prepared to cater to your tastes. My long island iced tea was perfect, setting me up for their Sage Stand-Up Comedy Show.

Once through the back door behind the pool table, the scene changes from dim-lit red to black. There are both high tables with high seats and small tables in the middle of the room, as well as a small stage. The lack of red lights is compensated by the spotlight that shines comics daring enough to step on stage and the Bar 82 audience laugh.

This is where Sage Stand-Up, formerly held at the Sage Theater in Times Square, have been holding their shows for the past three years.

Started by Harrison Greenbaum and Sam Morrill, it’s a show that you can’t go wrong checking out. The comics are great, and you have to commend them for being brave enough to go on stage.

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“It’s hard, but it’s fun,” said Greenbaum about performing. “There’s not really enough time to think about how hard it is while you’re on stage.”

A Peter Parker look-alike, Greenbaum is a grinder with a hectic schedule and maniacal work-ethic. He did 700 shows in 2009 alone.
Sage Stand-Up’s acts have been featured on Comedy Central and Last Comic Standing, so there’s no need to worry about their experience.

The atmosphere at Bar 82 is unlike any other. It’s intimate and compact. In a sense, the acts have no choice but to interact with the crowd, whether it’s tough or not. But hey, it’s New York, what do you expect?

A lot of pressure is put on the host to keep the crowd awake in between acts but bearded Baratunde Thurston enjoys the challenge, especially at Bar 82.

“I love performing. I also write and have done on-air work, but there’s nothing like performing,” said Thurston, clad in a gray sports coat and burgundy glasses. “Performing in front of people brings an energy that you can’t get on Twitter. This is like coming home. Even though I perform a lot of places, I don’t miss many shows here.”

Bar 82 is definitely worth a look-see. Their prices are reasonable for drinks and the Sage Comedy Show is free of charge with no drink minimum. Why wouldn’t you?

Photo Credits:, Harrison

Top 10 Ways To Get Away From Comedy Central Street Marketers In Times Square

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10 ways to escape the clutches of those annoying comedy street marketers

1. Pretend that you can’t hear them over your ipod and keep walking. 
2. Scream “I see The Naked Cowboy” pull out your camera, and run the other way 
3. (for women) Pretend you’re having cramps. 
4. Say “No thanks, but he loves comedy” and point to the stranger next to you. 
5. Say that you spent your last dollar on a statue of liberty foam crown. 
6. Pretend you have the hiccups and continue to hiccup until you’re safely away, 
7. Say that you’re OCD and every time someone laughs you have to hit them. 
8. Pull a flyer out of your wallet/purse and try to sell something right back to them until they run away. 
9. Duck and cover! 
10. Pretend you speak another language. Just say “Que? Que? Que?” over and over again until you get away.

Review: Family Guy: Excellence in Broadcasting

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Last night on Fox there was a certain excellence in broadcasting that showcased satire at its most absolute finest.

I am talking about the new episode of Family Guy: Excellence in Broadcasting.

What unfolded Sunday night had a lot of viewers scratching their heads. I sat there with my girlfriend and said to myself “What the hell did I just watch?” It was unlike anything I had ever seen on Family Guy.

Was it Louis attacking Fox News when she said, “Even true things once said on Fox News become lies”? Or perhaps it was when Brian, a left wing liberal, turned right wing extreme Republican under the guidance of Rush Limbaugh himself.

Yes you read that right. Rush Limbaugh, right wing extremist, was the subject matter and special guest of Family Guy last night.

The episode began quite normal. With Brian explaining what you missed when watching The Brady Bunch without wide-screen television, six African Americans and Peter careening his car into a children’s swing set… with two bloody mangled kids still dangling from the chains and twisted steal. Then all hell broke loose.

There is a book signing at the local bookstore. Rush will be attending, and Brian leaps on the opportunity to give him a piece of his mind.  With Brian having never read Rush’s book, Rush convinces him to read what he has written. Brokering a deal, Brian states he will only read four pages, and maybe more if the episode of The Office winds up sucking.

You see what’s going to happen here?

1.     He reads four pages.

2.     The Office winds up sucking.

3.     He reads more.

4.     ????? (This is where something snaps in Brian’s psyche.)

5.     “Rush Limbaugh was right! Conservative Replicanism IS the answer!”

We’re off!

The rest of the episode unfolds with Brian taking an infatuation with Rush, dressing in a suit and red tie, and going around town trying to convince people why they are wrong to disagree with anything he (the right wing) says.

You were expecting a review right? Here is my review in one word. EXCELLENT.

While not funny in the cheap shot, joke after joke, toilet humor fashion, in term of political satire this was spot on! Rush and John McCain spoofed a quick scene from Scooby Doo! The Mummy is “Old Man Barney Frank” by the way.

To make a longer story longer, the musical number was “Republicantown”. Digest it, enjoy it, and then go throw it up in whatever sensible fact checked wastebasket currently under your desk made with environmentally safe wood from IKEA.

Brian replaces all of Rush’s foreign home appliances with American made appliances, where they then properly begin to malfunction one after the other. Even his cat starts to moo… like a cow.

The stage is set for conflict between Limbaugh and Griffin. Brian goes around acting as a phony right wing extremist. Rush for whatever reason sees this as wrong.

After Rush bails him from jail, then telling him that he should not try to be someone he is not, not to mention that he’s a liberal for even remotely siding with Louis when admitting she was right all along, they exit the police station and exchange some viewpoints that can only be described as “damn accurate.”

Brian calls Rush a “boneheaded fascist corporate bone shilling blowhard”. Limbaugh fires back calling him a “godless socialist pot-smoking maggot infested member of the blame America first crowd!”

Everything is then right with the universe and we are back to normal.

Except that last part where Limbaugh runs down the street, begins flapping his arms, turns into a bald eagle, and flies off into the sunset. Fade to American Flag and our national anthem.

What this episode of Family Guy was saying was that in both parties, Republican or Democrat, people will always side with the winning party and throw sticking to their traditional values and beliefs out the window. That is exactly what Brian did by radically changing his political views over night. Brian is labeled as a Contrarian, having to always be in the out-group, by arguing with whoever is on top, whoever is in power, and sticking it to the establishment. This pretty much sums up 75% of the entire population of this country. I base that statistic on absolutely nothing. Republicanism. See! I can do it to!

No but seriously. People will side with the out-group to be in the in-crowd. The only thing totally standing in the current administration’s way is the right wing and Republicans on the hill getting in the way. Nothing is getting done and that’s the basis of Brian telling Rush that he has completely bastardized America.

You see what happened here in the past two years? Democrats rose to the top. Republicans became the underdog. Rush Limbaugh took it upon himself to label the current political party as the source of the problem, when in fact… well… I don’t think I have to repeat the events of the past decade. That’s not what this is about. This is about a message from one of our most beloved television shows. While siding with the left, sensibly I might add, the show’s writers and Seth McFarlane proved last night that they could make a very valid point and remain completely credible. They had one of the most hated and controversial men on the planet, glorified him, and executed it perfectly. Not once during this entire broadcast did I want to run head first into my screen at an attempt to annihilate the monster and resume my normal Family Guy experience. But I digress.

What I witnessed was completely satirical, smart, witty, and completely entertaining. But no, it did not change my life. It would take more than a cartoon to convince me that maybe the right wing has some pretty valid points. Don’t get me wrong, they do. Just maybe if there was like a door prize that didn’t involve selling my soul to the devil for 50% off of what it’s originally worth. I mean I’ve sold some pretty cheap things in my time, my wisdom teeth… ok so I donated those. It was to science!

Why can’t we all just sit down, have our homemade apple pie, and agree to disagree. At least things might get done that way! Possibly the dishes perhaps.

Family Guy has evolved into one of the best modern day comedy sitcoms of our era. Just like South Park before it, and The Simpsons before everything since the dawn of time. What has been deemed funny nowadays is not the typical toilet humor of the late 1990’s and this here early decade, but witty political and topical satire that tries to convey a message. However indirect it may be, in this sense, rather blunt.

I have a bleeding concussion from the bat of political correctness that whacked me over the head. I hear you can get 20% off of gauze. As long as its plugging or wrapping up the truth and environmental science fact.

Never lose your sense of humor America.

Watch the full episode on Hulu here: Family Guy: Excellence in Broadcasting

Family Guy: Excellence in Broadcasting Season 9 Episode 2

Review: Jack Goes Boating Sinks

Jack Goes Boating, above all, is indistinct. My memory of the film isn’t yet a week old, and already the transience of its impact has set in. If the script, based with painful obviousness on a stagnant stage play, was really the material that made Oscar winning actor Philip Seymour Hoffman want to throw his director’s beret into the ring, surely I must be missing something.

Jack Goes Boating doesn’t have an ounce of creativity, which is a shame because Hoffman honestly shows promise as a director, and the performances of his entire cast are superb. The unfortunate inevitability in following bum blueprints is that the whole thing collapses.

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Review: Eastbound & Down Resets

Kenny Powers is back in Eastbound & Down, but is he better than ever? This past Sunday’s premiere, the start of a seven-episode second season, is about as different from its progenitor as imaginable; a new setting necessitates a mostly different cast, a fresh set of challenges, and an even uglier hairdo for America’s most hilarious antihero. There’s definitely going to be an adjustment period.

But then, my relationship with Eastbound & Down has always been one of gradual reward. Last year I dismissed the brilliant series after all of 10 minutes, only to be hooked a month later when the buzz started to build. I’ve since watched and fallen in love with those first six episodes, the cliffhanger ending to which had me both excited and nervous about the future direction of the show.

So long North Carolina, hello Mexico. “Chapter 7” has two difficult tasks to accomplish right off the bat. One, it needs to account for time passed; Kenny has since fled the states and is now a successful cockfighter in a depressed city south of the border. The people and events that shaped his life during the first season obviously still carry weight in his mind, and the character spends time meditating on their absence. It’s hard not to miss them too.

Secondly, the episode needs to establish a trajectory for what will follow, and if I had a complaint, it’s that I can’t yet see the target. Season one had a clear narrative arc and a simple premise; by comparison, season two already feels busy. I suppose it’s tough to come out swinging when you have so much exposition to unload, but the Eastbound & Down premiere didn’t dispel my fears, it merely procrastinated them. I’ve yet to be convinced Powers’ southern excursion will live up to his suburban one.

Probably the most troubling aspect of Eastbound & Down Sunday’s episode, however, was the scarcity of its laughs, which could likewise be attributed to its writers’ struggle for traction in their new environment. Let’s hope so. After all, they’re reinventing a show they only did six episodes of to begin with. As a viewer, the shock of their defiant changeup alone is enough to warrant a second viewing before issuing any hasty condemnations.

Like it or not, you have to respect the team’s creative decision to innovate. If my experience with the series last year has taught me anything, it’s that Eastbound & Down is a show that transcends the importance of first impressions. It is ever the acquired taste, and even diehard fans will have to cleanse their palette going into the new season.

“Chapter 7” isn’t even bad; it just doesn’t seem to have decided on a destination yet. This year, though, I owe Eastbound & Down the benefit of the doubt.