Yesterday, I blogged about a busy week ahead, with lay speaking assignments bookending a week at Mountain T.O.P. But what I didn’t mention is that I have a couple of more lay speaking assignments on the radar beyond that, including one at a church I’ve not spoken at before and where I have several friends.
Here’s the rundown:
June 23, 9:30 a.m.: Mt. Lebanon UMC, near Wheel in southwestern Bedford County
June 23, 11 a.m.: Cannon UMC, Shelbyville
June 30, 10 a.m.: First UMC Shelbyville
July 14, 10 a.m.: First UMC Shelbyville
Sept. 1, 11 a.m.: Morton Memorial UMC, Monteagle
I am excited about Morton Memorial. I’ve never spoken there before, but I’ve been to the facility on numerous occasions. When LEAMIS was based in Marion County, we used to use Morton for board meetings and for mission team training events. Several of my Mountain T.O.P. and LEAMIS friends are affiliated with the church, although at least one of them will be on the Holy Land trip that is taking Rev. Amanda Diamond away from the pulpit that weekend.
It will be an interesting weekend for me, because I’ll probably be up really late the night before covering the Tennessee Walking Horse National Celebration for the newspaper. But I couldn’t resist the chance to speak at Morton. I understand that Kylene McDonald was responsible for recommending me.
I started work on a sermon today. This week (which should also be relatively busy at work) I’ve got to finish the sermon and make some final preparations for Mountain T.O.P. Adults In Ministry (AIM). On Sunday, as a lay speaker, I will load up my car, preach the sermon at Mt. Lebanon UMC at 9:30, then at Cannon UMC at 11, then I will head immediately for Altamont, arriving (with permission) a little late for AIM. I’ll miss orientation but should make it in time for opening worship.
I’ll return from Mountain T.O.P. on Saturday the 29th. On the morning of Sunday the 30th, I’ll preach pretty much the same sermon from the week before at my home church, First UMC Shelbyville. Then, that afternoon, I’ll go to First UMC Tullahoma for a big lay servant event, titled “Fan The Flame,” where I’ll be one of several people giving five-minute messages. That one is already written, and has been for several weeks, but I’ll have to tweak it at some point between now and then to tie in better with the two messages that will precede it.
Fortunately, neither Rev. Doug Dezotell from Mt. Lebanon and Cannon nor Rev. Lloyd Doyle from my home church minds me straying from the Lectionary this once (in fact, it was Rev. Doyle’s idea that I use the same sermon from the week before, since I won’t have any time for sermon-writin’ on the mountain).
Because my AIM trip was such a last-minute, hastily-arranged affair, I still won’t know exactly what I’m doing in Summer Plus until I hear from the staff. Last week, I was trying to upgrade my old second-hand, rarely-used laptop to the latest version of the Linux-based Ubuntu operating system so that I could take it to camp and use it for e-mail and to type up our group project in creative writing class (assuming that I’ll be teaching creative writing, and I don’t know for sure yet). But something about (or coincidental to) the Ubuntu upgrade has wrecked the laptop’s networking capabilities. It won’t recognize its old PCM-CIA wireless card, and it won’t even recognize being plugged in by Ethernet cable. I can still use it for the creative writing project, but I’ll have to check my e-mail by phone for the week.
Andy Burroughs attended the AIM week which ended yesterday, and he’s posted photos and videos, which only make me that much more anxious to get back to the mountain. In some ways, I feel more alive sitting in Friends Cabin (in the lobby or on the back porch) than anywhere else on the planet. It looks strange in Andy’s photos to see Friends Cabin’s Tyvek-wrapped doppelganger sitting right next door.
By the way, AIM is still in need of home repair volunteers. If you can arrange to go away next week on short notice – or if you want the dates of another AIM week later in the summer – click the link above or give me a call.
I’ve been a fan of the show, an improv comedy showcase, ever since episodes of the original British version ran on Comedy Central.
Here’s a typical episode from the British version. I’ve embedded part 1, or you can find the whole thing in tabs by clicking here. As you can see, three of the four comics are North American. The UK version started with mostly British comics, but as time went on Ryan Stiles, Greg Proops and Colin Mochrie started to appear more often:
Eventually, when Ryan Stiles was working as a supporting player on Drew Carey’s ABC sitcom, the two of them became involved in bringing “Whose Line” to the U.S. Drew was the host of the U.S. version; I liked him well enough, but I will always love Clive Anderson’s dry wit the best of all. Drew Carey started the show by telling you that the points he awarded to the players after each game didn’t matter. Clive Anderson would never have spelled something like that out; you had to figure out yourself that this wasn’t really a competition and that the points were just another comedy bit.
Originally, Ryan and Colin were to be the two regulars and the other two seats were to rotate, but Wayne Brady became such an immediate hit that he was immediately added as a third regular, leaving only one seat for the pool of guest performers.
Here’s a typical episode from the U.S. version, linked here and with the first part embedded below:
“Whose Line” had the unenviable task of competing with “Friends” on Thursday nights, and eventually with “Survivor” as well. But it was cheap to produce. At one point, when there was a threat of a writer’s strike, the cast and producers were asked to produce two years’ worth of the show in a few months, and they did. Eventually, the show ran its course on ABC, but it was rerun for years on the cable channel ABC Family.
One secret of the show is that they overshoot – for a half-hour episode, they shoot 90 minutes or two hours of material, and then they cherry-pick the games that turn out the funniest. The British version was a little more open about this and would sometimes run compilation episodes throwing together segments that turned out well but were cut from their respective episodes simply due to time. The closest the American version came to this was a few “Too Hot for Whose Line” specials, which ran at a later hour and included slightly more risque material which had been cut from episodes due to content.
I’ve also read that Wayne Brady is given a short list of musical styles or impressions that he might be called upon to do at a given taping. That doesn’t help him improvise lyrics, of course, since he doesn’t know what a song is about until the game is announced (and often until an audience member shouts out some sort of suggestion). But he can at least have some idea musically of where things might go.
There have been numerous attempts, many of which I’ve blogged about here, to recapture the show’s magic. These included:
“Drew Carey’s Green Screen Show,” with many of the “Whose Line” regulars, in which the participants played improv games and then animators were brought in after the fact to augment the skits with whimsical backgrounds, props and so on.
“Drew Carey’s Improv-A-Ganza,” a Las Vegas-based improv show.
Both of these suffered because they had more than four performers on a given episode. I think the four participants-plus-host on “Whose Line” worked a lot better. With six or seven performers, there’s less chance for trash talk, callbacks and running gags.
“Trust Us With Your Life,” from the producers of the original show, was shot in the UK even though it was being made for a US audience. It had Colin, Wayne and Ryan but was hosted by Fred Willard. The premise was that Willard would interview a celebrity guest, getting them to tell stories from their early life or career, and then those stories would be re-enacted by the cast in the form of improv games. I liked it, but it was a little gimmicky – and Willard got into legal trouble right around the time the show aired.
There were also improv shows that had no direct connection to “Whose Line,” such as “Thank God You’re Here,” in which a comic performer was thrust into an unfamiliar scene on a set he or she had never seen before. One of the other improv performers already on stage immediately says “Thank God you’re here,” and that begins the scene. Jim Henson’s son even tried to launch an improv show for puppet performers, called “Puppet Up,” which aired as a special on, if I recall correctly, TBS.
Some of these other shows had fun moments, but none could ever capture the exact formula that made “Whose Line” such a success.
Now, “Whose Line” is being re-launched by The CW, the minor broadcast network formed from the remnants of UPN and the WB. Ryan, Colin and Wayne are all going to be regulars – although the preview clips at the new show’s web site seem to imply you might not have all three there every week, since some clips feature more than one non-regular. Aisha Tyler will host instead of Drew Carey. You may or may not know the name, but she’s been on a million shows you’ve seen, with extended guest stints on “Friends,” “CSI” and “24,” among others. She was also a host of “Talk Soup,” the predecessor to “The Soup,” and as a cartoon voiceover artist she’s the female lead on one of the funniest shows on TV, “Archer.”
I have high hopes that this show – which brings back the original producer – will succeed where some of the other efforts have failed. I’m really looking forward to it.
“Breathless” is on TCM right now. I started watching it, but my mind keeps wandering – and with a subtitled, foreign-language film, you really have to pay attention. My main impression is that Jean-Paul Belmondo’s character is a jerk. Fortunately, I can just look at Jean Seberg, who is incredibly beautiful. (Run away from him, Jean! He killed a guy, and hasn’t told you. This can’t end well.)
Mainly, though, the movie makes me wish I were in Paris. I’ve always wanted to see Paris, and London. On my first Africa trip, we changed planes at Heathrow Airport in London and it just about killed me – here I am, stuck in the airport. All of the rest of the Africa trips, we changed planes at Amsterdam Schiphol airport, a great airport. On two of those occasions, we had long enough layovers to be able to take the two-hour bus tour of Amsterdam that leaves from Schiphol, and so that’s the only European city I can legitimately say I’ve been to.