Tuesday, August 12, 2014

In Loving Memory of Robin Williams

I am sure a lot of people are tired of hearing about the untimely death of actor and comedian Robin Williams. After all, you cannot browse the internet or turn on the TV without hearing his name. I understand anyone who is having this frustration because I have felt that way through many celebrity deaths. But the loss of Robin Williams feels different for me.

I am not going to pretend that I was Robin Williams’ biggest fan. I obviously wasn’t and haven’t followed his work much since I was a teenager. His humor, as genius as it was and is, did not exactly fall into the same category as my own. I really wish it did, because his humor and heart aspires to everything I wish I could be. I think that is a little bit of what every life he touched has felt, especially the creative.

Many are now saying, “Why is everyone so upset over the death of a celebrity when there are uproars in the St. Louis black community and war in the Middle-East?” I can explain why in one sentence: We knew Robin on a personal level, whether he knew us or not. It is like losing a loved one. Not only that, but it is like losing the life of one of the kindest, most loving, and of course, funniest human beings on Earth. He was family to most of us through his movies, TV shows, stand-up specials and most importantly his generosity to both friends and strangers. When we saw Robin’s smile we couldn’t help but smile ourselves. I don’t believe that his happiness was a put on. I know it was part of who he was. Making others happy made him happy, despite his depression, because that is just the type of person you could tell he was.

I have lived with depression since I was thirteen. I am not going to claim I know what Robin felt like but I do know exactly what depression feels like. It is a never-ending battle. Sometimes you just want to give up and other times you fight it for the loved ones around you. Robin fought it for as long as he could and felt it was time to finally be at peace. I obviously don’t encourage suicide by any means. All I am saying is that it is a lot harder than many people know. It is easy for someone to judge the depressed if they haven’t experienced full blown depression themselves. Through experience I can tell you it is nothing but complete ignorance. It is like telling a zebra to not have stripes. Depression becomes a part of who we are. Some of us try to hide it, but it is always there eating away at us. Any escape is only temporary, if at all, and Robin knew this.

My thoughts go out to his friends and family, and that includes all of us. He was a huge part of all of our lives for many, many years. We are all a giant family through him. Through the many laughs he has given us and most importantly the love.

You are finally at peace, Robin. And if there is a heaven, I’m certain it has never been funnier.

"Life isn't nearly as funny without you."

Tuesday, July 29, 2014

"Mitch and Tanner Save America!" Campaign

I have been working on an animated project with filmmakers Larry Longstreth and Dian Bachar over the past few months. We are looking for your help in turning it into an animated series. Please spread the word and donate your moneys so we can make this happen. You can find all the information by clicking below or on this link.

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

We Owe Everything to Monty Python

Monty Python recently bid farewell in its live (mostly) stage show Sunday night. It was a very emotional moment for me having grown up with the Pythons and becoming deeply inspired by their humor. I have stated before that the hardest I have ever laughed was at the beginning of "The Holy Grail" when Graham Chapman and Terry Gilliam gallop over a hill banging coconuts. At the time I did not realize how important that laugh would turn out to be. I was so hysterical I couldn't breathe. I kept rewinding it over and over, making everyone in the house watch. I know I will never laugh that hard again. But I owe everything to the Pythons for so many memorable experiences.

We all owe the Pythons a hell of a lot. Without them comedy as we know it would cease to be. There would be no Saturday Night Live, South Park, The Simpsons or Family Guy. Monty Python paved the way for all great humor. They had no boundaries and showed no remorse for anything they poked fun of. They perfected both smart and silly humor with a sense of grace. No idea was too absurd for the Pythons and their sketches are timeless works of art.

I wish to thank Eric Idle, John Cleese, Michael Palin, Terry Jones, Terry Gilliam, and of course, Graham Chapman for all the laughs they have not only given me, but countless people around the world. Your genius will continue to inspire comedy writers and actors for ages to come.

Thursday, July 17, 2014

Ryan Gets Out There with Paul McCartney in Kansas City (Again)

Monday morning I woke up from a dream where I met Sir Paul McCartney. I remembered he was putting on a concert in Kansas City two days later. I had no intention on going to the concert since I saw him in 2012 and I have very little money. I thought it might be fun to do what all the Beatle-Mania fans did in the 1960’s and try to get his autograph at the hotel he was staying. I knew it was a gamble because there was no way to be certain where he was staying. I did not want to drive four hours to Kansas City and back without at least seeing him. But I decided to risk my “precious” time.

When I got to the hotel it was pretty dead. Only two other fans walked around trying to get a glimpse of him, and they left right away. I accidentally ventured on to private property that was not affiliated with the hotel and they told me to leave. I was bummed out and didn’t know what to do. I figured I drove all that way for nothing. Of course, later on I found out Paul was actually in that very hotel at the same time that I was. He had a disguised tour bus parked along side the valet.

After texting several people I decided I would go check out the venue he was performing at later that night, the Sprint Center. When I got there I was surprised to see fans standing around Paul McCartney’s vehicle entrance. I figured security wouldn’t even allow that. I asked some guy what the hell was going on and he said they were waiting for Paul to drive through the entrance. We ended up waiting about four and a half hours (or so) standing in the sun. As with any crowd I have ever been in, I eventually got pushed into kind of a shitty spot. But it could have been worse.

When Paul finally arrived, waving out the window of a car just a few feet away, I was too concerned with getting an autograph to record a decent video. I knew an autograph was unlikely but my hopes were still high. It is kind of sad but oh well. Deal with it. I stood there for several hours to get a one-second view of Paul McCartney. And it was worth it.

I overheard someone say the concert wasn’t sold out so I decided to see if there were any tickets left. They had cheap seats in a shitty spot where Paul was facing away from us ninety-nine percent of the time. It was still worth it.

I think his Kansas City concert was even better than his St. Louis one in 2012, partially because the audience didn’t suck as bad. After all, St. Louis does suck a fat one. I expected him to sing all the same songs he did the first time I saw him. To my surprise he played mostly different ones; several from his “New” album. I hadn’t seen him perform the new songs in person so it was pretty exciting for me. Of course, he used a lot of his same stories and dialog from his recent live shows. It is kind of endearing though, like you're listening to Grandpa tell tales from WWII. But he did throw some good improv in as well. At one point he pissed off the audience by mentioning the Kansas City Chiefs. Apparently Kansas City does not like the Chiefs and they got booed (sports fans, bleh). But it didn’t stop Paul from bringing it up again later in the show.

As I said, my seats were pretty shitty since he was facing away from me. But I was still pretty close. Close enough to feel the heat from the fire effects in his performance of “Live and Let Die”. I felt more involved in what was going on this time around. And luckily I had an empty seat to each side of me. No fatties squishing me for once.

Paul did his usual tributes to John Lennon and George Harrison. But since most of the music was different it didn’t feel like the same exact show. At one point while singing “Blackbird” and “Here Today” the stage was lifted in to the sky. It was pretty emotional. I admit I got teary eyed a few times. Paul just has the gift of making people emotional with his magnificent music. His music has become religious for me because it is so powerful. Not only is he the most talented person on the planet but he also has the most interesting world-changing history. I think those two things are what sparked my love for Paul and The Beatles. It was the perfect combination, along with the fab friendships we all wish we could have.

And though I did not get my “Sgt. Pepper” album signed by Paul, it was still comforting to have my very first Beatles record beside me the entire trip.

Paul McCartney in Kansas City 2014 Photos

Paul McCartney in Kansas City 2014 Videos

Sunday, April 27, 2014

Liverpool Legends in Godfrey, Illinois

I sat front row at the Liverpool Legends concert last night, a Beatles tribute band managed by George Harrison's sister Louise Harrison. I am certain they are the best Beatles cover band in the world and I would definitely go see them again. Not only do they perform Beatles songs, but they have got each members' personality down flat. If you are a Beatles fan you do not want to miss out on any opportunity to see them.

Highlights included meeting Louise Harrison, "A Day in the Life", "Hey Jude" with Louise Harrison on stage, Louise stating that the "Paul Is Really Dead" conspiracy is "complete nonsense", "John Lennon" posing for a picture on stage for me, "John" telling me I reminded him of his son Sean, and of course getting autographs.