Monday, October 16, 2017

Pheaturing Joe Negri

Hey, kids, welcome to the Phile for a Monday. How are you doing? It's Breast Cancer Awareness Month, kids. Please get a breast exam and pleas call me if you need a second opinion. Haha.
Alright, Al Michaels has been one of the most prominent voices in sports announcing for decades but yesterday, he learned a simple lesson. If you want to joke about Harvey Weinstein the same week that years and years of the Hollywood producer's alleged sexual assault and harassment came to light, it better be fucking hilarious... I mean you just shouldn't. "I mean let's face it, the Giants are coming off a worse week than Harvey Weinstein, and they're up 14 points!" said Michaels, to instantaneous fury from the Internet. After a commercial break, according to the "Washington Post," Michaels gave his apologies for the lapse in judgment."Sorry I made a reference earlier, I was trying to be a little flip about somebody obviously very much in the news all over the country, and it was not meant in that manner. So, my apologies, and, um, we'll just leave it at that." Of course, Michaels did have his Twitter defenders after the ad-lib went wrong. But like James Corden learned on Friday night, it's simply smarter to avoid any Weinstein jokes unless you've got something insightful and empathetic to say. Scratch that. Ha!
One of the toughest challenges in comedy is figuring out when it's right to make a joke about a tragedy, and when you should just shut up and listen. Oftentimes, the answer directly correlates with how well you empathize with the tragedy's victims. Basically, if you're going to joke about rape and sexual assault, the joke will be 800% more funny, effective and tasteful if you understand how serious and traumatic sexual abuse is. Otherwise, even the most well-intentioned joke feels like it's mocking victims of sexual assault. For example, on Friday night James Corden made jokes about Harvey Weinstein while hosting the AmfAR Gala to benefit AIDS research. To make matters worse, his hosting set didn't merely mention Weinstein in passing, but fully buckled in to roast the alleged abuser. The results, came off as deeply cringe inducing, to say the least. The British comic kicked off his set by greeting audience members with a reference to the abuse allegations against Weinstein. From there, he really dug in."This is a beautiful room. It’s a beautiful night here in L.A. So beautiful, Harvey Weinstein has already asked tonight up to his hotel to give him a massage. It has been weird this week though, watching Harvey Weinstein in hot water. Ask any of the women who watched him take a bath. Harvey Weinstein wanted to come tonight, but sadly he’ll settle for whatever potted plant is closest." Yikes. Unsurprisingly, people on Twitter felt Corden's jokes trivialized the seriousness of the Weinstein allegations. The actress Rose McGowan, who has been particularly outspoken in the past few weeks about Weinstein and Hollywood's sexual assault problem, minced no words when she expressed her disapproval of the hosting bit. McGowan certainly wasn't alone in her disgust towards the tone, content and timing of the Weinstein jokes. It wasn't just women on Twitter who disapproved of the bit, men spoke up in disapproval as well. In fact, a lot of Twitter users in England revealed a longstanding distaste for the comedian. Following the backlash, Corden posted an apology on Twitter. "To be clear, sexual assault is no laughing matter. I was not trying to make light of Harvey’s inexcusable behavior.​​, but to shame him, the abuser, not his victims. I am truly sorry for anyone offended, that was never my intention," Corden wrote. Hopefully, some of Corden's peers are paying attention, so we can avoid more bad "takes" on the Weinstein allegations.
The man most widely known as the publisher of "Hustler," Larry Flynt, posted a full page ad in the Sunday edition of "The Washington Post" offering $10 million dollars to anyone who can get Trump impeached. He's not kidding, either. The full page bold print ad features an eye-catching all caps header offering cash in exchange for dirt that could enable impeachment,

The advertisement also lays out six key reasons Flynt feels Trump is unfit for office, and why it's crucial to get him out as soon as possible. Once his grievances with Trump are laid out, Flynt turns the mic towards the reader, imploring anyone who might have dirt or a "smoking gun" that could get Trump impeached to come forward and claim $10 million. "Did he make some financial quid pro quo with the Russians? Has the business of the United States been compromised to protect the business of the Trump empire? We need to flush everything out into the open," the ad states. The ad ends with a toll-free number, an email address and the explicit promise that Flynt will fully reward anyone who comes forward. The hotline will be staffed between 8:30 a.m. and 6 p.m. PST, for the next two weeks. "I feel it is my patriotic duty, and the duty of all Americans, to dump Trump before it’s too late," Flynt wrote.
Last weekend, certain locations of McDonald's brought back their Szechuan sauce (which came out as a promotion for the Disney movie Mulan) after sci-fi cartoon "Rick and Morty" fans demanded it, based on an episode of the show. Unfortunately, things didn't go quite as planned, and most of the fans who wanted the McNuggets dipping sauce weren't able to get it. Lines were long, supply was low, and people ended up scalping packets of the sauce for as much as $700 on eBay, according to "EW." McDonald's apologized, but irate fans of the show really let them have it on Twitter. Well, buck up, campers, because it turns out that McDonald's IS bringing back the Szechuan sauce, and this time for more than a day. McDonald's issued a statement on Twitter saying, in part, Szechuan sauce is coming back once again this winter. And instead of being one-day-only and limited to certain restaurants, we’re bringing back more... a lot more... so that any fan who’s willing to do whatever it takes for Szechuan sauce will only have to ask for it at a nearby McDonald’s. I guess all that complaining paid off!
Halloween is just around the corner, and you know what that means... it is finally time to turn up your favorite spooky bop, "The Monster Mash." It's practically impossible not to put on your best spooky voice and sing along to this banger that is, no joke, scientifically proven to be the single best Halloween song in existence. But get this... you've never heard the actual "Monster Mash" song. Confused? Allow me to explain. The 1962 song "The Monster Mash" by Bobby Pickett is merely a song ABOUT a song called "The Monster Mash." The narrator is describing the scene as an observer, and therefore you never actually get to hear the music all those monsters and ghouls were jamming to. Now, I'm sure some of you are thinking that "The Monster Mash" was a dance and not a song at all. But a lyrical fact-check proved that untrue. So yeah, everything you know is a lie! But hey, don't let that stop you from doing the "Transylvania twist" at all the Halloween parties you attend.
Hey, do you like Bugles? I do, but prefer Pringles. Anyway, I do like Bugles' ad slogan...

The Giants finally won yesterday! Yay! I have an exclusive pic of Giants fans after the game ended...

Hahahahaha. I crack myself up. So, ever see those tip jars at restaurants? Some times businesses get really creative with them...

Why?! Ever go into a public restroom and see something you wish you hadn't? Like this...

What the hell? Hey, do you remember Mini Me from the Austin Powers movies? This is him now...

Do you feel old yet? Hahaha. That's so stupid. That's as stupid as...

Did you see the trailer for the new Star Wars movie? I learnt something from it... R2-D2 finally revealed himself as a diabolical arsonist.

So, it's Breast Cancer Awareness Month and through this month I am showing you pics of one of my favorite things... side boobs with tattoos.

You. Are. Welcome. Fellas... and ladies if you are into that sort of thing. So, Halloween is in fifteen days away and you might still be looking for a Halloween costume. Well, I can help... how about a sexy Russian?

I, for one, welcome our new Russian overlords. There's some costumes I am already tired of seeing already. Like a sexy Wonder Woman... Hey... there is nothing wrong with dressing sexy or with being Wonder Woman this Halloween. But let's be real... it's not exactly original. I get it! The movie was cool and Wonder Woman is a total BAMF... but the thought of crowds of Wonder Women hobbling around on a chilly autumn night in tiny body suits and 6 inch heels is enough to make me want to dress up as Ares. Alright, now from the home office in Port Jefferson, New York, here is...

Top Phive Things You Don't Want To Hear Coming From The Next Restroom Stall Again
5. This is gonna be a water landing worthy of Sully Sullenberger!
4. I don't remember eating that! Or that! Those, I remember!
3. U-oh... maybe sidesaddles wasn't such a good idea!
2. Another white linen suit, RUINED!
And the number one thing you don't wanna hear coming from the next restroom stall is...
1. Darling, you know I can't afford a motel room on my salary!

If you spot the Mindphuck let me know. Okay, so, my son and I were talking about when we used to watch "Sesame Street" when he was a kid. That show is slightly different now, and I'm glad it wasn;t like that years ago.

After his third failed attempt to spell his own name, Grover realizes that he should have waited at least until 1st grade before dropping out to sell cocaine.

Are you a lazy person? I bet you are not this lazy...

Hahaha. I might have or might not have done that exact thing when I lived at the house. Now I just put the trash on the hood of my car and drive it to the dumpster. Ugh. Donald Trump reportedly joked that Mike Pence wants to hang all gay people. Jesus fucking Christ.

A lengthy October piece in the "New Yorker" called "The Danger of President Pence" has gone viral for a single quote attributed to President Trump. You can imagine that people have strong opinions about the exchange, relayed to a reporter by "a staff member from Trump's campaign." He said that, when people met with Trump after stopping by Pence’s office, Trump would ask them, “Did Mike make you pray?” Two sources also recalled Trump needling Pence about his views on abortion and homosexuality. During a meeting with a legal scholar, Trump belittled Pence’s determination to overturn Roe v. Wade. The legal scholar had said that, if the Supreme Court did so, many states would likely legalize abortion on their own. “You see?” Trump asked Pence. “You’ve wasted all this time and energy on it, and it’s not going to end abortion anyway.” When the conversation turned to gay rights, Trump motioned toward Pence and joked, “Don’t ask that guy... he wants to hang them all!” In one paragraph, we see that Trump mocks Mike Pence, catnip for anyone who hates the administration... but that he does so with such flippant disregard for a vulnerable community that it negates any goodwill you might instinctively award him. After all, the guy who Trump says "wants to hang them all" is also the guy Trump chose to succeed him. No matter how you spin it, the fact that an exchange like this could happen at any moment in the Oval Office is, to put it mildly, terrifying. Then you remember the title of the "New Yorker" piece is "The Danger of President Pence" and it dawns on you that while one of these guy's is the president, the other is a heartbeat/impeachment away. What a choice. The piece... which paints Pence as the more competent of the two psychopaths... goes on to say that while the White House has had "other evangelical Christians" there before, "Pence's fundamentalism exceeds theirs." This is a guy who wants evolution taught as a "theory." A guy who's been repeatedly linked to gay conversion therapy. A guy who doesn't trust himself to be alone with any woman other than his wife. So, yeah.

This is really, really cool... the 68th book to be pheatured in the Phile's Book Club is...

The one and only Robbie Robertson will be a guest on the Phile in a few weeks. So freaking cool!

A man came home to find his house in flames. In a panic, he rushed to his neighbor's house to use the phone to call 911. He dialed and the dispatcher quickly answered. "Help!" he said to the dispatcher. "My house is on fire!" "Okay sir, we can help. How do we get there?" the dispather calmly asked. "What? Don't you still have those big red trucks?"

Today's guest is a jazz guitarist whose CD "Uptown Elegance" is available on iTunes. Also, for years he was known as Handyman Joe on "Mister Rogers' Neighborhood." Please welcome to the Phile... Joe Negri.

Me: Hey, there, Joe. Welcome to the Phile. How are you doing, sir?

Joe: I'm okay, Jason.

Me: You've been a musician and an educator for a long time, Joe. What came first, musician or educator?

Joe: About forty years but I have been in show business since I was a kid. I really started when I was very small, about three or four years old I was appearing on children's radio shows. They were called "The Uncles Shows." Uncle Harry and Uncle Harry. There was all kids back then and I did them. They had Jackie Cooper and Shirley Temple and people like that. It was the Depression so people were hoping their kids would make it to California and make it to Hollywood. I kept performing when I was in my early teens and I had a serious voice change and I didn't particularly want to sing anymore as my voice was cracking. I kind of cooled it for year or two but then I got seriously into guitar. I use to accompany myself on guitar but mainly for singing. When I got serious on guitar my dad took me to a rather good local teacher. His name was Dick Lawrence. He instroduced me to some early pioneers of the jazz guitar. You know, people like Eddie Lang and Carl Kress, Django Reinhardt. I personally discovered Charlie Christian and Charlie was a fellow out of Oklahoma that joined the Benny Goodman band and did a lot of wonderful recordings with the Benny Goodman Sextuplet. Gene Cooper was in that group. A lot of wonderful guys. Charlie died very young from turboclious. He wasn't even 26 I don't think. He also had a little hand in starting the be-bop trend. He was a very big influence to me and was seriously into music. From my early show biz days I became a full fledge musician.

Me: Did you go to school to study music, Joe?

Joe: I went to Carnegie Mellon to study composition because at the time I don't know if you were aware of it, Jason, but they didn't recognize guitar at the colleges. So I had to go in there as a composition major. Johnny Costa from "Mister Rogers' Neighborhood" was a friend of mine and we were both WWII vets and Johnny had gone into Carnegie Mellon two years before me. He highly recommended it so I kind of went in and they accepted me a composition major. While I was there about 2 years in I got the call to start on this local television show and I remember going to the comp teacher and saying, "Jeez, I don't know what to do." He said, "What do you want to do with your life?" And I said, "I just want to be a musician." He said, "Then go ahead." So I took the gig on the TV show which was the start of it.

Me: When you started on TV what kinda stuff were you doing?

Joe: You are not going to believe it. They were like a Bob Hope and Crosby duo. One was a comedy guy and the other sang and played a little piano. I had the trio that backed them up and was featured on a number or two in a half hour show. So from there about year or two later they offered me a job on an afternoon kind of like a talk show like a Johnny Carson show with guests and then led me getting a staff job at the ABC station here in Pittsburgh which was called WTAE. I was doing shows at the station backing up the children's program. I don't know if you remember but back in the 50s or early 60s there was a lot of afternoon children's shows. You probably grew up in the 70s though. Anyway, we had one here called "Adventure Time" I used to host. The Boy Scouts and Girl Scouts would be guests and then there'd be cartoons and stuff. 

Me: When you went into TV was it to play music or be on TV, Joe?

Joe: It was a means to make a decent living. That was appealing to me because in the evenings I was still going out and playing jazz gigs. Jamming and doing stuff like that. When I became teaching I guess I began to take up a few guitar students. It was also that time that I met Fred Rogers. He called me one day and said, "Hey, Joe, I'm going to start a new show. Would you like to play the handyman on the show?"

Me: So, why do you think he asked you to be a handyman, Joe?

Joe: I don't know. I said you got to be kidding me. You're asking the wrong man to be the handyman. He said you'll be terrific, then we started that show.

Me: Okay, so, what did you think of Fred Rogers back then? Did you ever think his show would be so legendary?

Joe: I was very impressed by him. He was the head writer and did all that. I don't think Fred knew where we were going. Little by little the show picked up on the public broadcasting network and one day he said you're not going to believe this but they are going to begin to broadcast our show overseas to the armed services. We went to Europe and they say us in the Phiilipines. It was the time when our competitors was "Sesame Street." Fred was always critical of "Sesame Street."

Me: Okay, so, people made fun of "Mister Rogers' Neighborhood" show for years. Did you guys take it seriously or was it a joke to you behind the scenes?

Joe: I don't think we were passionately involved with the children's thing although we were all aware what his purpose was. He worked with the educators of Pittsburgh University and they would look over his scripts and make suggestions to him so they were very much involved with the education of kids. He was also a minister so he was a well rounded guy. He was a lot of fun and he could be humorous. When we would finish watching the tapes for the day he would go to the piano and he would play that theme from the movie... that's all folks. He would break us up. He was very demanding. He wrote his scripts and he wanted them to the letter. You couldn't go in there and ad lib, you had to do what he wrote.

Me: Alright. I have never watched the show so really know nothing about it. I know there was a puppet king of some sort and a train and he took off his sweater and shoes in the beginning of the show. What exactly was your role in the show, Joe?

Joe: I would occasionally go into the recording studio with the combo for post and stuff like that. The only time I really got to play we would being guests into Negri's Music Shop.

Me: Ahhh. Okay. So, you had guests on the show then? Did you have famous people guest on the show? If so, any favorites? Any good stories?

Joe: One of the best was Yo-Yo Ma, he was just cool. I was kind of edgy to play with him. He wanted to something classical so he took something Fred wrote called "Tree, Tree, Tree" and we played it and it was absolutely spectacular. It was beautiful. It was just simple and nice and ideal. It couldn't be better.

Me: I have a screen shot from that moment, Joe...

Me: So, was being on "Mister Rogers' Neighborhood" your full time job?

Joe: No, no, no. I was still working at TAE. Then when TAE dropped me in the late 80s that's when I really got into education and started testing at Carnegie Mellon and Duquesne. I'm still there but I'm not at Carnegie Mellon anymore, Jason. They have decided to drop their jazz program.

Me: Okay, so, I have a question that you might not want to answer... but I will ask it. Haha. I hope this is not stepping out of line but "Mister Rogers' Neighborhood" is still shown to this day on PBS and I'm sure other stations, so, do you get royalties for that, Joe?

Joe: Yes, we do. But just to put it simply there's so problems with the royalties. For some reason we got them early and then they stopped. We have been in touch with the Sag-Aftra union. I brought you up to date. I'm still playing guitar and still writing.

Me: That's great. Real quick, I have to ask you about your recording career and CDs. How did you come to work with Michael Feinstein?

Joe: Oh, he called me. I used to work with him with the Pittsburgh Symphony for parks concert and he and I hit of off well so he called me to do it so we went up to New York and did that album. Listen, there are somethings up on YouTube that my granddaughter did if me playing solos. You need to check them out.

Me: I definitely will and I'll post the links here so my readers can check them out as well. Thanks, Joe, for being on the Phile. Now I wanna go watch an episode or two of "Mister Rogers' Neighborhood."

Joe: Good, it is wonderful that I can get across to you. Wonderful to talk to you, Jason.

Me: Thank you, Joe. Take care.

Hmmm. That about does it for this entry of the Phile. Thanks to my guest Joe Negri. I hope he had fun being here on the Phile. You can check his videos on YouTube at The Phile will be back on Thursday with New Mexican singer Beto Hale. So, spread the word, not the turd. Don't let snakes and alligators bite you. Bye, love you, bye.

Not if it pleases me. No, you can't stop me, not if it pleases me. - Graham Parker

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