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October 20, 2008

Underground Puppets

Michael Blowhard writes:

Dear Blowhards --

There's been a paucity of what used to be known as "underground art" in recent years. Is this because access and electronics have rendered the aboveground / underground distinction useless? Have corporations rendered people stupid and life bland? Are taboos out of date? Beats me.

Even Pedro Almodovar -- whose early movies combined casual surrealism, impish insolence, and beyond-camp absurdism -- has gone staid. The Wife and I caught up with his recent "Volver" and found it a stodgy (if elegant) yawn. But I've been bored by every Almodovar film that I've seen since "Women on the Verge of a Nervous Breakdown." Almodovar seems to me a bottle of champagne that has gone flat. If his early films were topnotch Cole Porter, full of sparkle and fizz, his recent ones are like droopy dirges composed by Stephen Sondheim on a gloomy day.

Maybe whatever it was that once made the idea of an "underground" meaningful has simply been lost. Still, I miss the racy, irreverent, drop-out spirit of much of that art. In fact, one of the motivations behind the webseries that I co-wrote recently was to revive the scrappy, sexy, woozily satirical spirit of the '70s "midnight movie."

So I've been very pleased to catch up with FurTV, an MTV-UK series about three layabout puppets sharing a squalid house in some godforsaken part of London. Mervin's the clueless punching bag; Fat Ed is the beer-swilling, heavy-metal-lovin', American bully; and Lapeno (a frog with sunglasses) is a suave, ever-ready-for-love DJ from Brazil. Cue numerous bad jokes about "Brazilians." (Gotta love the human actresses who play romantic and erotic scenes opposite Lapeno, by the way.)

Their adventures are pleasingly aimless yet enjoyably orchestrated; the action mostly veers between hanging out, grotty sex, and senseless violence; and drugs, alcohol, and profanity are insistently foregrounded. The characters are hilariously designed and wittily moved-about, and the camerawork and cutting are often inspired. These are fabulous furry freak brothers indeed.

YouTube uploader piterr82 has done a heroic job of making a lot of FurTV accessible. "Fat Ed's Furry Fucking Guide to Metal" is a raucous little classic. Of the longer episodes that I've watched so far, this one is my favorite, particularly for its well-done '60s-esque drug-hallucination scene. I'm willing to concede, though, that "Hot Pussy" may prove to have more lasting power.

I'm a lot happier watching this kind of thing than I am watching Pixar movies or "Shrek," let alone recent Almodovar.

Is there a lot of underground-ish entertainment around that I just don't know about? "South Park" and AdultSwim seem to me to be the closest things we have to FurTV.

Bonus point: Chip Smith keeps the spirit of the '80s 'zines scene alive at his blog Hoover Hog. Don't miss Chip's interview with the outrageous Peter Sotos.



posted by Michael at October 20, 2008


south park is the best as far mainstream far goes (not just cause the politics aren't simply liberal which is refreshing) sp's matt and trey get a little preachy at times with their opinions and their disdain for all forms smuggyness gets a little tired at times (sometimes those know it all cosmopolitans know a thing or 2 even though the smugness) but overall it's been a VERY adventurous show that only gets more fucked up as it progresses. parker and stone aren't hipsters, hipsters often struggle to be as off-center as trey and matt come about naturally, without much artist pretension, to boot.

i liked what i've ssen thus far of furtv, michael. thanks for turning me onto it. reminds me a little early to mid90s adult cartoons from my youth (i'm 26) like mtv's "liquid tv" and usa's "duckman" which i'd like to see again someday to see what jokes went over my head and if it even holds up.

Posted by: t. j. on October 21, 2008 1:27 AM

In regards to Adult Swim, their best stuff is more or less done with. Other than Moral Orel and the Venture Brothers, it's mostly posturing and good ideas poorly executed. The Tim and Eric stuff could be really exciting if they dropped the more extreme Andy Kaufman inspired stuff of basically punching their audience in the face with "humor".

Posted by: Spike Gomes on October 21, 2008 1:40 AM

Adult Swim is running Superjail, which is some of the most amazing animation with some of the grottiest topics I've seen in quite some time.

And I'm still a huge fan of Frisky Dingo, which has all the jokes of a typical half-hour sitcom done in 15 minutes.

Posted by: Eric on October 21, 2008 2:32 AM

Thanks for the plug, Michael.

If you're looking for a dive off the radar, I recommend Giuseppe Andrews' no-budget documentary, "Jacuzzi Rooms." I think it's slotted as an "extra" on the "Period Piece" DVD.

Posted by: Chip Smith on October 21, 2008 2:38 AM

Oh, "Metalocalypse" was/is a hoot, though it's more in the Beavis and Butthead tradition than in the underground-comix one ... And there must be tons of hilariously filthy and irreverent pop bands around, no? I'm completely out of the current pop music scene ...

Posted by: Michael Blowhard on October 21, 2008 9:26 AM


No doubt. My favorites are the Tiger Lillies. Sex, Murder, and all sorts of Depravity set to Cabaret music.

Posted by: Spike Gomes on October 21, 2008 11:18 AM

Hahaha, that FurTV is pretty funny.

Posted by: T. AKA Ricky Raw on October 21, 2008 11:06 PM

FurTV was, indeed, funny and juvenile.

I'm struck by the nostalgia behind this. Ah, for the days when we did nothing but hang out, get stoned and plot to get laid!

I did it, too, when I was a kid.

I'm reminded of your post, Michael, about whether we live to work, or work to live. Please explain what a grown person does without living to work. How much hanging out can you do? BSing at the cafe or the club, which I've done plenty of, gets pretty fucking boring fast.

In my old age, I'm finding both sides of this equation boring. Yes, sitting in a cube toiling for the corporation... what's that got to offer? Well, a few things... like social connection, group effort, making money.

The old dream of the individualist... what does that have to offer? Perhaps I'm just jaded. I did plenty of lusting after the next piece of meat. Now, I can barely remember why. Getting loaded carries too big a price, and not as much payback as advertised.

The problem with the great ideal of self expression is that most of the selves aren't very interesting. Believe me, I've survived thousands of colorful characters in NYC, SF and Woodstock. It's always the same old story... self-destruction, betrayal, stale drama. They are just as canned as the robots of the office world. An interesting individual is as difficult to find in either universe.

Hate to throw cold water on the fun, but I'm not finding much that's interesting and unique out there. South Park and King of the Hill come to mind. Outrage, rivers of puke, carloads full of pussy... why bother?

Myrna was beyond all of them. The most unique individual, the most penetrating intellect I've ever encountered. It is a difficult thing to live with... this knowing that I will probably never meet another person who is her equal.

Posted by: Shouting Thomas on October 22, 2008 9:46 AM

Oh great, my teenager has tickets to see the Tiger Lillies, Spike.

Re Metalocalypse, may I say that I went out with one of that show's creators, and he was a great big baby.

Posted by: Sister Wolf on October 22, 2008 9:31 PM

Sister Wolf:

Now now, the greatest problem a mother would have with a teenage child listening to the Tiger Lillies is a small chance of them becoming a hipster and getting a useless degree in grad school. It could be worse. It could be that your teenager likes the horror that is modern teenybopper music (Oh, how I long for the days of Doo-wop).

Also, if you say you dated Brendan Small, I'm afraid I will have to scream/laugh. You would not believe how many hot nerd-girls want to be inside his pants.

Posted by: Spike Gomes on October 22, 2008 10:47 PM

Spike, I already have one hipster son with a useless grad school degree! I guess another one is okay. You're right, it could be much worse.

p.s. Not Brendan Small, the other one.

Posted by: Sister Wolf on October 27, 2008 2:14 AM

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