Le cul entre les deux chaises

An American Spaniard in France or: How I Learned to Make an Ass of Myself in Three Cultures


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The best insult I’ve heard in ages

MuppetBabies-BabyAnimalIn his 2012 standup special “Dangerously Delicious,” Aziz Ansari of PARKS AND REC, tells a story about an exchange he had with a mean border control agent he came across in Toronto, Canada. Not nice things were said by both parties, but things really escalated when Ansari said* the greatest thing I’ve heard in a long time:

“Your English is slightly better than Animal from The Muppet Babies.”

As with many things, it’s the specificity that takes this from a schoolyard insult to a serious burn. According to the Muppet Wiki, Animal from THE MUPPET SHOW “speaks in a guttural shout, often repeating a few simple phrases¹,” which would be enough to belittle most people. But this poor woman was less articulate than that. Compare classic Animal with some of his younger work and see if you agree.

On a personal note, I hope you all appreciate this joke because after researching this post, my childhood was rocked by the information that Baby Animal, as he’s officially known, was initially voiced by Howie Mandel (who did Gizmo in GREMLINS) and then Dave Coulier (the annoying uncle on FULL HOUSE). I have seen behind the Muppet Babies curtain and can never go back.

I was laughing, now I'm not.

I was laughing, now I’m not.

*He surely didn’t say this and the comment was most likely an esprit de l’escalier thing but it’s still funny as hell. I am going to picture this the next time I deal with people whose speech I don’t understand.

Animal Muppet Babies


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The greatest thing about Paris

Everybody loves Paris for different reasons. I’d guess most people like the art or the food or the fashion. Some might opt for the light or the architecture or the general ambiance of romance or loucheness. What I really love about the city is the movie theaters.

If you’ve ever lived in a Real City, you might have experienced something like this.* Every week, there are dozens of old movies playing all over the city. (To be fair, they are mostly playing near la Sorbonne in the 5è and 6è, an area filled with students and expats, but not exclusively.) You can check out the list of only English language movies and see what you’re missing out on, but if you love all kinds of movies, there are too many wonderful places to sit and worship at the celluloid altar, though the cathedral of cinéma is a good place to start.

Some of my favorite moments from the past year include:

→ Seeing FIGHT CLUB on the big screen again and hearing French people love the idea of space monkeys too.
→ Watching GOODFELLAS and hearing a young couple gasp and poke each other as actors they recognized from THE SOPRANOS came onscreen.
→ Hearing people titter during VERTIGO, highlighting both how old-fashioned and how sexually perverted it was.
The time I saw BUTCH CASSIDY AND THE SUNDANCE KID and you could hear people smiling practically during the whole thing.

But the best moment for me (so far), a highlight of the last five years of my life really, was seeing GREMLINS on the big screen for the first time in my life at the end of December. If it’s been a while since you’ve seen it, you may need reminding that, along with DIE HARD and LETHAL WEAPON, GREMLINS is one of the great Christmas movies of all time.

Probably the only time I will ever take my phone out during a movie.

Probably the only time I will ever take my phone out during a movie.

He deserved what he got for being a bigot.

He deserved what he got for being a bigot.

It’s another one of those movies that I’ve seen a million times and I quote it all the time but seeing it projected bigger than I ever had made it so much funnier and scarier and more impressive. The effects, which were mostly practical / in-camera ones (not computer-generated) still looked great and were convincing as hell.

But the best part of this best moment was an older French guy who was guffawing at all the xenophobic comments Mr. Futterman (Dick Miller), the hero’s grumpy old neighbor, makes. I’ve always been a big fan of Mr. Futterman’s character but it was so great to hear the very people he was railing against laugh at him. It made me crazy happy to see that we, the foreigners Futterman hated so much, got to have the last laugh.

And that’s what Christmas is all about.

* The only Real Cities of my connaisance are New York and London. Not even Boston counts, as much as I love it, since the only good old movie houses were all by Harvard which is in Cambridge. I was a member of the Brattle Theatre (the cult of Humphrey Bogart was born there), so I still went over the Charles, but I didn’t like it.