As You Wish: Inconceivable Tales from the Making of The Princess Bride by Cary Elwes with Joe Layden

21412202The first movie I can remember watching is The Princess Bride. I’m sure there were Disney movies before that, but this is the first movie I have a clear memory of watching. My family would always spend a week on the Outer Banks with another family (the parents were my parents best friends from college) and one evening, they put in the VHS tape of The Princess Bride. I know I didn’t get all the jokes, but it was fast and funny with all the things that Peter Falk describes at the beginning – “fencing, fighting, torture, revenge, giants, monsters, chases, escapes, true love, miracles…” I also, of course, had a huge crush on Westley!

That was the first of MANY, MANY viewings. So, when I saw that Cary Elwes was coming to the Castro Theatre in 2015 for a Quote-Along screening of the film, followed by a Q&A and book signing, I knew we had to be there. The screening itself was hilarious. It was so fun to be with 3000 other people who know all the words and enjoy being dorks about it. My dad even got an inflatable sword to wave about when they start fighting. The Q&A highlighted a few of the anecdotes from the book, but the best part was getting my copy of the book signed by the man himself. I can’t recall what I might have said (if anything at all), but I DO remember that his eyes were incredible! I was giddy the whole way home, having met my first crush and not embarrassing myself (for once).


Meeting Westley in person

Oh right, the book! I don’t know why it took me so long to actually finish this book as it’s a delightful read. Elwes is self-deprecating about his own part in things, while heaping glowing praise on his co-stars. It’s a lovefest all around, as his co-stars also contribute anecdotes related to each chapter. I loved the behind the scenes photos and all of his stories about Andre the Giant. I also hadn’t realized all the work that went into the sword fight as well as how extended it became at the last minute. Elwes is good-natured about how the movie is entwined with his legacy, which is always nice to read, since some actors get tetchy about associated with one role, no matter how long ago it was.

My only quibble with the book is that the anecdotes from his cast members are presented in boxes along with the main text, so it’s hard to figure out when the read them without losing the story that Elwes is telling. I’m sure there’s a good reason for the publisher doing this, but it was rather distracting. However, the book has further enhanced my enjoyment of the movie (which was on cable this week) as I watch for all the little things he mentioned. Knowing that he really was knocked unconscious after the Fire Swamp put that scene a whole new light! But I don’t want to give away anymore – you should really just read the book because it’s excellent, and then watch the movie because it’s excellent.

“Yes, you’re very smart. Shut up.”

SF Sketchfest: Day Nine – An Evening with Thomas Lennon, Robert Ben Garant and Kerri Kenney-Silver

I earned my Loyalty Passes (check in on Foursquare three times!) to Cobb’s Comedy Club with my last Sketchfest show for 2012, An Evening with Thomas Lennon, Robert Ben Garant and Kerri Kenney-Silver. My friend, A, got to attend her one and only Sketchfest show with me and we ended up getting the same seats in the front row we had last year when we saw Neil Patrick Harris in conversation with Brian Henson. Though I was not filled with the same childhood excitement as with the Muppets experience, it was still great to have prime seats for my last show of the year.

I ended up overestimating the crowd that would be waiting for this show (last year, every show at Cobb’s had a HUGE line way ahead of time), so forty-five minutes before doors, I was still the first person in line. While I waited for A, I played with my phone (SO much nicer to have a smartphone for just an occasion such as this). About quarter after six, I noticed a woman in skinny jeans and heels exit the club and realized that it was Kerri Kenney-Silver! She was joined by (I assume) her husband, and soon after Robert Ben Garant, Thomas Lennon (with his child) and Matt Mira and various spouses joined her. The woman behind me in line was less than cool about the sighting (never comment about a celebrity’s child – it will creep them out, no matter how complimentary you are being), but it was a nice perk to get to see them all head off to dinner before the show. Tom later tweeted that they went to Tommaso’s (note to self: if it’s good enough for Tom Lennon, you should try it!) I was also surprised to see Matt Mira was hosting, since I’d only seen/heard him with the Nerdist guys. But I know that he and Tom Lennon are good friends, so it did make sense. Good on him!

Janet Varney (co-creator of SF Sketchfest and current girlfriend of Nerdist, Chris Hardwick) introduced the show by saying that these three had been long-time friends and supporters of the SF Sketchfest. Sketchfest has hosted a Viva Variety reunion, a Reno 911! reunion, etc and this year, they just wanted to have a conversation and keep them in the Sketchfest fold. The show was pretty simple in its execution and that was genius on Sketchfest’s part. Tom, Ben and Kerri brought DVDs of their (mostly) never before seen work – MTV sketches, unaired pilot for Viva Variety, unaired pilot/precursor for Reno 911! – and talked us through each one.

Matt Mira started as a moderator to set up clips, but Tom, Kerri and Ben didn’t really have a need for him. They prefaced every clip by telling us how bad it was (and some of it was bad), but mostly, it was just really funny/weird sketches and characters by these three comedians. The unaired pilot/precursor to Reno 911! was the greatest because it included Niecy Nash, Cedric Yarbrough and Carlos Alazraqui as well. It was MUCH more like COPS than the incarnation of Reno that we got to see, but a lot of the characters were already there.

I bought the tickets on a whim because I enjoyed Reno 911! and the three of them and I’m so glad I did! It was a hilarious show and so awesome to see that archive of exclusive footage!

SF Sketchfest: Day Four – A Tribute to UCB

After long, but fulfilling day on Saturday, I slept in on Sunday, waking to the sound of pouring rain outside my window. Our brief respite from the winter weather was over and it was back to business as usual for January in San Francisco. I decided to leave later than I had originally planned, which was a good decision, since when I arrived around 2:15p, I was still the first person in line at Cobb’s. Situating my umbrella to protect me from the drizzle, I popped my headphones on and listened to the Nerdist podcast with Ben Folds while I waited. I was cold, wet and more than a little hungry, but I knew that getting my choice of any seat in the house for this show was going to be more than worth it.

It was only about three years ago that I first discovered the Upright Citizens Brigade, thanks to a friend of mine to who took me to Manhattan to see ASSSSCAT3000 for my birthday. We waited in line for the free 9:30 show and Chevy Chase was the guest monologist. I fell in love with UCB, long-form improv and ASSSSCAT. And when I found out that this fantastic company had come from Amy Poehler and her co-hort? Even better!

Last year, I went to ASSSSCAT at SF Sketchfest, where the guest monologist was Joshua Malina. I tried to get tickets to this year’s ASSSSCAT, since Amy Poehler would be participating, but they sold out in about 3 minutes. I snatched up tickets to the tribute show instead and was delighted when it was announced that Andy Ritcher would be the host of the event.

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SF Sketchfest: Day Three: Part Three – Thrilling Adventure Hour

This ticket was an impulse buy a couple weeks before, after @SFSKetchfest hyped it with all the fabulous guest stars that would be appearing. Once they said “Chris Meloni,” I was hooked.

I wasn’t really sure what to expect, having never listened to the podcast, but like last year’s Paul F. Tompkins show, it featured actors I liked, so I was ready to go along with the ride.

The show started with Busy Philipps and one of the regulars, dressed as secretaries from the fifties, reading a commercial for the fake coffee, Workjuice Coffee, that “sponsors” the program. It was funny enough, but when Paul F. Tompkins came out as the KING of Workjuice Coffee and made them kneel before him, I lost it! This was going to be a great show!

The show was broken down into four smaller “adventures,” featuring recurring characters and the special guest stars. This particular show featured “Sparks Nevada, Marshall on Mars,” “The Adventures of Captain Laserbeam,” “The Cross-Time Adventures of Colonel Tick-Tock,” and “Beyond Belief.” I was delighted to see that the actors were dressed up, ladies in fifties/sixties dresses and gentlemen in suits.

Each of the segments was fun, but I really enjoyed “Beyond Belief,” even though Chris Meloni wasn’t in it. I know, it shocked me too! Paget Brewster and Paul F. Tompkins were superb as Sadie and Frank Doyle, as was Paget’s dress. Plus Joshua Malina and Samm Levine were awesome genies.

Chris Meloni was featured in the second segment with Captain Laserbeam. I was disappointed to see that he had just put a garish black, Ed Hardy-ish zip-up hoodie over his Wet Hot costume of jeans and t-shirt. Not sure if that was a character choice for him, or he simply forget to pack a suit for the trip, but I was sad I wouldn’t get to see Meloni in a suit after all. He stumbled a little over the lines, trying to read too fast, but they had given him these LONG speeches to read, so it seemed understandable. His character seemed to be the underwater equivalent of Captain Laserbeam, who is a little peeved that Captain Laserbeam came underwater to take of the Fishwife and Octopus Man without letting him know. Whether that was supposed to be a nod to Stabler’s penchant for getting pissy when others tried to usurp SVU’s jurisdiction, I don’t know, but it was a nice little in joke for me. He also employed a bit of a Steven Tyler stance with the microphone, one foot up next to the stand base and the other sprawled behind him, holding his script in front of him. This, combined with his attire, definitely made him stand out from the crowd. I was also a little disappointed that he only appeared in that one segment as some of the other guests appeared in multiple ones, but it was nice to see him twice in one night.

Joshua Malina was delightful in all of his segments, from his Martian bartender that didn’t want trouble to his fabulous Oscar Wilde impersonation, I was dying. He never fails to impress whenever I’ve seen him on stage and it just makes me like him more. Busy Philipps was also killing it with her different voices. I’m still trying to pinpoint the inspiration for her villainess voice in the “Tick Tock” segment, but I’m pretty sure it’s from a Disney movie. Kevin Pollak was a great surprise in the last segment, though like Meloni, I wish I could have seen more from him. Andy Ritcher and Colin Hanks were HILARIOUS in the first sketch as Los Banditios Mutantes! I would watch an entire sketch about just them and their adventures.

All too soon it was time for curtain calls. Colin Hanks won the crowd over BIG time when he used his to whip out a 49ers hat from his back pocket to put on. There was a final song that the whole cast sang, but I could see Meloni mostly just standing there and/or laughing. Methinks he may be tonedeaf. He was pretty far back from the microphones. 🙂

Suffice to say, I’m definitely a convert to this little show and I’m downloading the podcasts when I get home!

SF Sketchfest: Day Three: Part Two – Wet Hot American Summer

Each year, SF Sketchfest releases their schedule of three weeks of amazing performances two days before tickets go on sale in December. I’m always in the middle of Christmas shopping and at a low point in my bank account. But there’s always one show that is my #1 pick, no matter how much tickets cost or what I have to do to get them. This year, it was Wet Hot American Summer, The Live Radio Play.

Hottest ticket in town!

This performance featured Michael Ian Black, Joe Lo Truglio, Ken Marino, Christopher Meloni, Marguerite Moreau, Amy Poehler, Paul Rudd, Molly Shannon, Michael Showalter, David Wain from the original cast as well as awesome additional like Colin Hanks, Bobcat Goldthwait, Busy Philipps, David Cross, Bruce McCullough, Andy Ritcher, Samm Levine, John Hodgman, Joshua Malina, Gillian Jacobs and many more less famous (to me) faces. David Wain read the names of all the participants at the end but the cheering was too loud to really hear anything. Luckily, SF Sketchfest posted the entire cast this morning on Facebook, so I now have a nice reference list.

I watched the movie for the first time on Netflix over the last holiday weekend. It had been in my MUST SEE queue, as a Christopher Meloni fan, but having purchased tickets to this show, I knew I needed to see the real thing before watching the stage version. I fell in LOVE with the movie and the live radio play was everything I wanted it to be and more!

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