Monday, March 25, 2019

Pheaturing Johnny A.

Hey, kids, welcome to the Phile for a Monday. How are you? Yesterday, Donald Trump's Attorney General William Barr delivered a TL;DR of the much-anticipated Mueller report to Congress, and the president is pumped. We have yet to see what Special Counsel Robert S. Mueller III actually discovered in his 22-month descent into Trumplandia (IS THERE A PEE TAPE OR NOT?!), but Trump is claiming victory. The letter says, “The Special Counsel states that 'while this report does not conclude that the President committed a crime, it also does not exonerate him,'" but Trump has decided to ignore that part, and the media is going along for the ride. Barr's letter includes Barr's ruling that Trump didn't obstruct justice, and only four incomplete sentences of Mueller's words, so we still don't know exactly what Mueller had to say. White House Press Secretary and Evil Cabbage Patch Kid Sarah Huckabee Sanders is punting on whether the public will actually get to see the allegedly exonerating report. To many, it's not enough to simply read the Wikipedia summary of Mueller's findings... they want to read the damn thing themselves. If there's nothing to hide, what does the White House have to lose? The story ain't over, and it probably won't be until November 3rd, 2020.
The Mueller investigation into the Trump campaign's communications with Russia during the 2016 election was many things, and the invisible yet omnipresent Robert S. Mueller III really captured everyone's imaginations. He was hailed as a hero, messiah, and even a sex symbol. Brian and Ed Krassenstein, the Twitter-famous brothers who are always popping up in Trump's mentions, built their whole brand on cheering on Mueller as the One True Savior, and well, that was super naive. Attorney General William Barr released his summary of Mueller's findings, and he made the ruling himself that his boss didn't obstruct justice. Trump claims that he has been "exonerated" by his own political appointees, which is just as lame as bragging about being praised by your own employees. Looks like the only way to defeat Trump is going to be at the ballot box. Good thing there's an election coming up soon.
Remember Michael Avenatti, Stormy Daniels' ex-lawyer who helped expose a criminal conspiracy to get Trump elected, and then went all in on ambulance chasing by blowing up the Kavanaugh hearings and tried to pivot it into a run for president? Well, Avenatti showed the world just how presidential he is by getting indicted in a truly bonkers extortion case involving Nike. Avenatti rode Stormy Daniels' coattails to become a cable news staple. Seriously, he was somehow on every show on every network at the same time. According to The Washington Post, prosecutors are saying that he used his newfound fame to threaten Nike that he'd release damaging information about them if they didn't pay him and a client 20 million dollars. The language in the complaint is... colorful. The FBI recorded Michael Avenatti saying to Nike attorney, "Have you 'ever held the balls of the client in your hand where you could take five to six billion dollars market cap off of them?'" The lawyer is impressively bicoastal. Not only was he accused of extortion by the Southern District of New York, he also faces federal charges of wire fraud and bank fraud in the Central District of California!
It's no secret that CNN and Donald Trump have a tumultuous relationship. Trump calls CNN "fake news" and CNN calls Trump "bad at his job," and the vicious cycle goes on and on. This has been our daily reality for the past two years. On an unrelated note, I'm so tired! As one would imagine, news outlets have jumped onto the Mueller report as a major story this weekend. And of course, CNN has had some things to say about it. Most notably, CNN posted an article on the report with a very... strange subhead. Whoever wrote the tweet seems to have a knack for softcore erotica, because it read like a sexy romance novel your Aunt Jude would bring to the beach...

Everyone noticed how similar it was to a cheesy piece of fiction. Sorry, CNN, but you can't tweet something about Trump being "bathed in golden light" and not expect the internet to come for you.
Justin Bieber is many things. A singer. A dancer. A cult leader. And now, he has another accomplishment to add to his resumé: he's the destroyer of the 2 million-year-old Fjaðrárgljúfur. The Biebs filmed his 2015 video "I'll Show You" there, which showed Fjaðrárgljúfur to a few too many people. Icelandic officials are accusing Bieber for setting in motion the popular canyon's destruction, and too many people flocked to the fjord to get Instas following in his footsteps. Daniel Freyr Jonsson, head of the Environment Agency of Iceland (Umhverfis Stofnun) said that "the great increase in foot traffic began after Bieber came." According to the agency, there was "an increase of 50 percent to 80 percent between 2016, 2017 and 2018," and the foot traffic in the canyon have devastated the local vegetation. The Environment Agency has decided to close the trails until June 1st, hopefully giving the ecosystem an opportunity to recover from Bieber fever. I don't care what you say about Justin, he's a Foghat fan...

So, instead of doing this blog thing I should be listening to this album...

Ummm... maybe not. If you're thinking of cheating on your loved one you might think twice after seeing this...

Oh. Man. She spelt "bastard" wrong though. I was thinking about getting a tattoo but someone else had the same idea I had...

Hahaha. That's scary. The other day Trump whipped out a map to show that ISIS has been defeated. That wasn't the only thing he whipped out and showed off...

That's a nice sweet pic he's holding. And now for a new pheature called...

Today's word is...
A cook that leaves Arby's to work at McDonald's.

If you spot the Mindphuck let me know. Okay, so, a friend of the Phile has a story he'd like to share. He's a singer, patriot and renaissance man. You know what time it is...

Good evening, humans. Let me start by saying, I have no claims to any particular political affiliation. In fact, I find both parties to be largely made up of bullshit artists who are more concerned with tripping up the other side than they are pushing agendas that would actually benefit WE THE PEOPLE. That being said... My client the other day was a rather annoying woman I had to escort to a speech she was giving at a well known university in the New York area. As I drove this "limousine liberal" to her intended destination, I had to overhear her practice her speech in the back seat. Suffice to say, it was chock full of conjecture and opinions but no real facts. I listened as she pontificated and blamed the Republicans and the "Bush Regime" for all but the civil war and the extinction of the dinosaurs. As she wrapped up her rambling indictment of all things conservative, she asked me what I honestly thought of her speech. BIG mistake... I asked if she was certain that she wanted my honest opinion... she said she was. I then said the following, "I think it's sad that the best you could conjure up out of all your Harvard learning is a bunch of propaganda based in no real fact. It angers me that you'll set about poisoning young impressionable minds with such party line nonsense." She said, "You think it's lies?" "With all due respect, I think the only difference between your intended speech and a bucket of horse shit... is the bucket." She said, "A little harsh, don't you think?" "A... You asked... B... That's the greatest thing about America, my dear... even idiots like you and I are allowed to have an opinion." She said, "Hmmmmmm... and your name is?" "Jim Laird... and you wouldn't be the first client who called my boss trying to get me fired. Have a nice day."

She used to smell the flowers. Now she smells... something else.

I'm so excited about this! The 95th book to be pheatured in the Phile's Book Club is...

Michael Caine will be the guest on the Phile next Monday.

A young man called his mother and announced excitedly that he had just met the woman of his dreams. Now what should he do? His mother had an idea, "Why don't you send her flowers, and on the card invite her to your apartment for a home-cooked meal?" He thought this was a great strategy, and a week later, the woman came to dinner. His mother called the next day to see how things had gone. "I was totally humiliated," he moaned. "She insisted on washing the dishes." "What's wrong with that?" asked his mother. "We hadn't started eating yet."

Today's pheatured guest is an is an American musician, guitarist, and songwriter. His latest album "Driven" is available on iTunes, Amazon and Spotify. Please welcome to the Phile... Johnny A.

Me: Hey, Johnny, welcome to the Phile. How are you? 

Johnny: My pleasure, thanks for checking in.

Me: Where are you from, Johnny?

Johnny: Boston, Massachusetts.

Me: I thought so. You are about to so another solo tour, sir. What is that like?

Johnny: Actually what I'm doing with this solo thing which is branded as just me and my guitar is solo guitar, I don't have a band with me but I'm losing a lot more technology so that there's looping involved and time based effects that are involved. There's no prerecorded tracks, and no prerecorded samples. It's all loops. It's all live without a net.

Me: What kind of songs are you doing? Anything from your latest album "Driven"?

Johnny: It's pretty much a heavy emphasis on the British songbook off the 60s.

Me: You're such a great guitarist, sir. Who are your influences?

Johnny: Oh, my god, there's so many of them. Obviously paramount with all that is the Beatles. They were a very, very, very big influence on me. I got to see them when I was a kid. It was a wild experience. Any of the British Invasion stuff, and I was a big fan of the Everly Brothers, Beatles, Hollies, Stones, Animals... all of that stuff. Blues influences would be Little Willie John, Howlin' Wolf, Muddy Waters. I have a very eclectic musical kinda taste. They're all over the map from Everly Brothers to Jude Cole to Chris Whitley to John McLaughlin, Fripp, Chet Atkins, Les Paul. Jimi Hendrix and all the usual suspects but there'e definitely people in my iPod that people wouldn't consider me a fan of. People like Gerry Rafferty and things like that. I'm just a big fan of melody and arrangement and a well crafted song.

Me: What about the Beatles did you like the most? Everybody says practically they're influenced by the Beatles but I always wanted to know what was it about them?

Johnny: My initiation with the Beatles came out after I started playing music, because I was a drummer first. I was a drummer way before the British Invasion and was into people like Sandy Nelson and Gene Krupa and some of the surf bands and things like that. When the Beatles hit in '63 the one I was drawn to was John Lennon. Again it really wasn't because of the guitar playing, it was all about the melody, the emotion, the voice. Obviously his lyrical content was great but when I think of the music that hits me the deepest and the longest lasting it's really not about the guitar player. It's really about the melody and the song and arrangement and production. Yes, I like great guitar playing and I'm a fan of some great guitarists like Jeff Beck, Chet, Wes Montgomery, any of the greats. But I think I have to go back to say it's about the song.

Me: What about George Harrison as a guitar player?

Johnny: I think he was great, a really underestimated guitar player and he probably came into his own voice probably post-Beatles. That's when he developed his slide playing which is so lyrical and so vocal. People don't think of George Harrison like that but he's probably for my money one of the finest slide players. It's not a shredding type of slide, but it's definitely a vocal and a very emotive type of playing.

Me: So, I was so surprised to read that you were in the Yardbirds. I didn't know they were still a band. Were you a Yardbirds fan back in the day?

Johnny: Yeah, it's interesting, when I said my favorite band growing up all that time was the Beatles my second favorite band would have to be the Yardbirds. I have a lot of stylistically approaches because I grew up listening to different people, but I would have to say I contribute when I approach rock, or think rock blues, I have to sight the influence would be on the '65, '66 Yardbirds, which is the Jeff Beck era. He was in the band for only eighteen months I think. Which is amazing because if you look at their catalogue all the hits pretty came from Jeff Beck and he was only in there for a year and a half.

Me: How did you become a member of that band, sir?

Johnny: I was a big fan and stuff, and my first two records were released on Steve Vai's record label, Favored Nations, and were distributed by Sony. The Yardbirds had put out an album in about 2003 called "Birdland." They were playing in Boston at the House of Blues, which is where I'm from, I had a night off and just went down and introduced myself. I went down to the soundcheck, hung out and they asked me to sit in. I did and it was a very natural thing because I even though I never played much of his songs in any of my kid bands growing up I was extremely familiar with the catalogue. So I sat in and I think I did "Shapes of Things" or something like that. Then the label called me and asked me if I would fly down to New York and sit in with them at B.B. King's, which I did. It was great, we had a great time. So basically I got to know Chris and Jim McCarty and the other guys too. If they came through town and I wasn't on tour I'll go say hi and sit in. Then almost five years ago I had gotten a phone call asking if I could do a tour with them. Jim was putting together a different line up. I had declined because I had a west coast tour already booked with my band. I couldn't do it, my dates were right on top of their dates. That tour ended up getting canceled for some reason or other. I think they pegged Earl Slick to do the tour but something happened and the tour never went off. When they went to reschedule the tour again I got a phone call again to do it. I was in the middle of trying to put a midwest tour together for my act but it was only a couple of confirmed shows so I was able to call the couple of promoters and they were very gracious to let me out.

Me: Are you gonna be doing an album with the Yardbirds?

Johnny: Well, we were but that project got shelved. There was a lot going on. Jim had a book coming out and a solo album coming out, and it was Jimmy Page released that Yardbird '68 album so there was a lot of stuff happening. We had scheduled the album had we done it to come out really now, which is right on top of his book, right on top of his solo album. I just think that Jim had so much going on that the time is not right.

Me: My dad was Lonesome Dave from Foghat and I don't know if you know he played a guitar he designed, which is a one off called the Loentz and built by Gibson. I always thought it'll be cool if they came out with a Lonesome Dave signature guitar. You have a Gibson signature guitar, right? 

Johnny: Yeah, it's celebrating it's 16th anniversary this year.

Me: What does it feel like to have your own signature guitar?

Johnny: It blows my mind if I think about it absolutely. It's an incredible honor. It's an incredible achievement. It was really nothing I ever inspired to.

Me: How did the signature guitar happen?

Johnny: My initial relationship with Gibson's custom shop started in 1994 when I was working with Peter Wolf from the J. Geils Band, I picked up an endorsement with Gibson Custom. I hit to off with the guys there, my Wolf thing ended around 1998 or so about seven years and that's when I made my first solo album which is the "Someday Tuesday Morning" album. I initially put it out independently then it got picked up by Vai's label. It made a lot of noise, that record did very well. I had the number one single across the country, it sold over a hundred thousand copies, I was touring all the time. As you know it was instrumental music and was the tone of me, it was the voice of my guitar. On that record I used a bunch of different guitars, big hollow body guitars and were presenting issues live. Big hollow body guitars give out feedback so when I went down there they made me some historic '59 Les Pauls with a Bigsby tale piece. Bigsby was one of my things and they weren't making guitars with Bigsby's for anybody. In fact, I probably got the first three. I just stated using them then a couple of years later they asked me how I was digging the Les Pauls and I said it's very hard to find fault with that design. It's a try and true guitar, it's fantastic. I said I was really missing a little bit of my hollow tone live, it's kinda a thing I like. So they asked me if I had any ideas and if I'd be interested in developing a guitar with them. That's how it started.

Me: So, they approached you?

Johnny: Yeah, they wanted to do it. You don't schmooze into a deal like that because projects have to get prelim, green lighted way up the pole.

Me: How is it selling after all these years?

Johnny: It's the second best selling signature line. Epiphone just released a version in summer pf 2017is it's little more price conscious for people that couldn't afford the Gibson. Epiphone has done a fantastic job with the guitar.

Me: That's cool. Johnny, thanks so much for being on the Phile. I hope this was fun and I hope you'll come back soon.

Johnny: Okay, I will.

That about does it for this entry of the Phile. Thanks to my guests Laird Jim and of course Johnny A. The Phile will be back next Monday with Michael Caine as you know. Spread the word, not the turd. Don't let snakes and alligators bite you. Bye, love you, bye.

I don't want you, cook my bread, I don't want you, make my bed, I don't want your money too, I just want to make love to you. - Willie Dixon

Sunday, March 24, 2019

Pheaturing Michael Sweet From Stryper

Hey, kids, welcome to the Phile for a Sunday. How are you? If you've seen the new documentary Leaving Neverland, it tries to makes a pretty persuasive argument that Micheal Jackson was a pedophile who used his fame to sexually abuse young boys. Barbara Striesand was asked about this during an interview with The Times of London, and her responses left people astounded. Some highlights... "His sexual needs were his sexual needs, coming from whatever childhood he has or whatever DNA he has." "You can say ‘molested’, but those children, as you heard say, they were thrilled to be there. They both married and they both have children, so it didn’t kill them.”
I feel bad for the children. I feel bad for him. I blame, I guess, the parents, who would allow their children to sleep with him.” Backlash ensued. Some people thought the parents did deserve some or all of the blame. And one person had this idea...

Barbara responded to the backlash with this statement, “The stories these two young men shared were painful to hear, and I feel nothing but sympathy for them." I haven't seen the whole documentary but I am very cynical about the whole thing. I'm also trying to get an interview with the producers or someone associated with the the film. I'll let you know how that goes.
She's just being Miley. Miley Cyrus has been through a lot of transformations in her decade-plus in the public eye. From Hannah Montana to Naked McStoner, she's been experimenting with different identities, and her latest one is "Mr. T cosplayer." MiCy teased new music with pictures of her in a pool, and it's a change from her more recent, country-style tunes. Here's one of the pics...

She joins Ariana Grande, the Kardashians, and the governor of Virginia in pretending to be black for attention. People are pointing out the hypocrisy of Miley donning all those chains, considering the fact that she once said she left hip hop because it had become too materialistic. In 2017, she said of her rap phase, "It was too much ‘Lamborghini, got my Rolex, got a girl on my cock’... I am so not that." That's even more tone-deaf than your attempt to sing "Wrecking Ball" at karaoke. Miley definitely could have done a better job at not being transparent. She can't stop. She won't stop.
Within the first few months in office, congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez has already cemented herself as one of the best representatives to follow on Twitter. Whether she's laying out the issues with America's gun violence, summing up the Left's collective feelings about political moderates, or ripping into Fox News for yet another racist jab, Ocasio-Cortez's online presence manages to make politics both accessible and exciting to people who have long tuned out the talking heads. While Hillary Clinton's online presence has been relatively quiet since since the election, she's still piped up when it felt fitting. Once, to dole out a long overdue I told you so, another time, to call out Trump for stealing her campaign slogan. So, when Clinton logged on to respond to one of Ocasio-Cortez's recent tweet calling out Jared Kushner, it was an unexpected and perfectly timed cameo. Ocasio-Cortez tweeted out a recent video clip that showed the Democrat representative Ro Khanna calling out the irony of Jared Kushner using Whatsapp to contact foreign officials. The irony, of course, laid in the fact that Trump's election campaign fixated on Clinton's use of a private email server. Her caption satirized the chorus of people asking "but her emails." And Clinton herself apparently took note, because she chimed in to echo Ocasio-Cortez's sentiment. The exchange immediately lit the thread on fire with email-related GIFs and puns, and of course, impassioned arguments about policy. While this may be the first big Twitter exchange between the Ocasio-Cortez and Clinton, given just how much dirt is being dug up about the current administration, I doubt it'll be the last.
When she's not making fun of school shooting survivors, Fox News host Laura Ingraham is stirring up hatred for anyone who isn't a Trump-programmed Stepford Wife, specifically Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez. Ingraham and her guest's latest gripe with the congresswoman is how she has the gall... nay, the AUDACITY... to pronounce her own name properly, a form of "showboating" if there ever was one. She described the lawmaker as "the It Girl, and I mean girl in a very mature way," being sarcastic about her sarcasm. Ingy's guest, conservative lawyer and second civil war advocate Joe DiGenova, used an exaggerated accent and mispronounced Ocasio-Cortez's name. "She does the Latina thing where she does her, you know, 'Anastasio Ocasio-Cortez,'" he said, implying "the Latina thing" is bad. AOC chose not to let the network get away with racism, and called "The Ingraham Angle" out for an angle that is insulting and dangerous. AOC also pointed out that Ingraham's racism against people of color is also remarkably inconsistent. Many conservative pundits are so inherently outraged by the existence of people of color, they first take it out on the ethnic last names. Ocasio-Cortez (yes, that's her name) hypothesizes that Fox News likes to pick and choose which syllables to say as to inspire the maximum amount of "anxiety," and to Fox News, "anxiety" means racism. Her name is Congresswoman Ocasio-Cortez, and there's a million things she hasn't done, but just you wait, just you wait.
A woman in central China did not have the Chinese New Year of her dreams when a trip to meet her boyfriend's family brought about a devastating revelation: her lover isn't rich. The Daily Mail reports that a 37-year-old woman surnamed Yu wanted to break up with her cash-deficient boyfriend but worried he would become "clingy," so took the easy way out by faking her own death. "Come and save me, my ex-husband has kidnapped me, come quickly. I think I'm on the highway already," Yu told Yu then pretended to be her ex-husband and sent threatening message to the boyfriend, saying, "call the police and your wife is dead." Well, the BF called the police, and his wife was still alive, hanging out in a hotel room, watching TV. The non-kidnapped Yu reportedly believed that the poor, poor guy would have just given up. While her kidnapping was faked, Yu is now somebody else's ward, and has been detained by the police for ten days for "disrupting social order."
It's Sunday and I am sure some of you are going to church. Not me. But some church's sure have a sense of humor...

Epic subtweet. If I had a TARDIS I would go to May 6th, 1937 to the
Naval Air Station Lakehurst and see one of the most well known aerial disasters of the 20th century.

Nintey-seven people were on board the Hindenburg on its tragic, final voyage... only half of its actual capacity. Okay, maybe I wouldn't go there on that day. Speaking of time travel, say what you want about Michael Jackson, but I didn't know he traveled through time and met his younger selves...

I don't know about manscaping that much but maybe I'll get this done...

Maybe not. I don't have that much hair. They say if I go to Walmart I'll see some crazy sites. I didn't believe it until I saw this...

I wish I saw her face. Hahahaha. Maybe not actually. The other day in a show-and-tell outside the White House, President Donald Trump whipped out maps to tell the press that ISIS has been defeated. That would be awesome if true, but according to The New York Times, Trump is... wait for it... lying. Well, that map wasn't the only thing that Trump showed off...

Awe. That's sweet.

If you spot the Mindphuck let me know. Okay, so there's this magician who likes to come on and talk about his shows. I don't know why, his shows never work out well. Anyway, he did a show last night and I wondered how it went. So please welcome back to the Phile...

Me: Hey, David, welcome back. How is it going?

David: Okay I guess, Jason.

Me: So, what happened at your show last night?

David: Well, I tried hypnotism for the first time.

Me: You did? I always wanted to be hypnotized. How did it go?

David: Well, I brought a lady on stage and hypnotized and convinced that a handful of napkins were $100 bills. She was told that people would try to steal them, so she should hide them in the best place possible.

Me: That's good. Did it work?

David: Well, I expected to get a laugh with people stuffing them in their bra or underwear. Not this lady, though. She took her shirt off, exposed her breasts to a room full of about 100 people, tucked the napkins under her tits, then pulled her bra back down.

Me: Man! Ha! That's a trick alone.

David: And, Jason, she was cute.

Me: And you don't have a pic?

David: Ummmm... no. I was on stage.

Me: Good point. Ha! Good job, David. Come back again after your next show.

David: I sure will.

Me: David Coppafeel, the world's worst magician, kids. It's all about those fake fat stacks.

From duck face to welp face. Haha.

It's hard to forget that President Donald Trump has been accused of sexual misconduct, as he constantly reminds you with his judicial nominees and his endless parade of creepiness. At a signing ceremony for an executive order threatening to withhold federal funding from colleges if they don't let his friends speak, Trump greeted props... I mean students... with handshakes, except for a young blonde woman, whom he rubbed up against.

Trump's weird kiss will likely remind you of Joe Biden...

But it will also remind you of Donald Trump. Much like The Wizard of Oz and Pink Floyd's "The Dark Side of the Moon," the video syncs up perfectly with the "Grab Them By The Pussy" tape.

I'm sooo excited. The 95th book to be pheatured in the Phile's Book Club is...

Michael Caine will be the guest on the Phile next Monday... a week from tomorrow. Bloody crazy, right? So, there's this inventor who likes to stop by the Phile and tell us some of the latest inventions he's working on. So far he had nothing but shitty ideas. He said he has some really, really good inventions this time so I invited him back. So, once again, here is...

Me: Hey, Mak, welcome back.

Mak: Thanks, Jason.

Me: So, what have you been working on?

Mak: How about a cell phone with access to your favorite social networking pages that you use to keep in touch with the same people on your cell phone?

Me: Ummm... doesn't that exist?

Mak: Hmmm... I don't know. I know what doesn't... until I came up with it... a warning alarm that tells you to "Stay Calm."

Me: That maybe is a good idea. I know some people who would like that. Any more?

Mak: Yeah, I have one more. A learning sign language book written in Braille.

Me: Ummmmm... I need to think about that one. Maybe. Thanks, Mak, keep working and come back soon.

Mak: I sure will, Jason. The sign language book will be a hit.

Me: Mak Asterborus, the world's greatest inventor, kids.

A guy is horny a hell... but broke. He goes to a whorehouse with $5.00, and begs the Madame to give him whatever she can for it. She says, "I'm sorry, but that will only cover the rent for ten minutes, and none of my hookers work for free!" The guy gets the room, but has nothing to fuck. He looks out on the ledge of the building and sees a pigeon. Quietly, he opens the window, grabs the poor bird and just fucks the living shit out of it. Satisfied, he goes home. Next week, he returns to the whorehouse, with his pay check. He says to the Madame, "I got lots of money now... give me a hooker!" The Madame replies, "All of them are busy now, why don't you go to the peep show and get yourself in the mood?" The guy does, and is enjoying the show, when he turns to the guy next to him and says, "Hey, these chicks really know what they're doing, huh?" The guy responds, "Yeah, but you should have been here last week, there was this guy fucking a pigeon!"

Today's guest is the co-founder, writer, lead guitarist, lead singer and front man of the Christian metal band Stryper. Stryper's latest album "God Damn Evil" is available on iTunes, Amazon and Spotify. Please welcome to the Phile... Michael Sweet.

Me: Hello, Michael, welcome to the Phile, sir. How are you?

Michael: I'm doing good, man. I liked how you called me "sir."

Me: Ha. You're welcome. You have a brand new album out, which you must be very happy about, right?

Michael: Yeah, I can't believe how fast time goes. Four months we started talking about it and then here we are.

Me: I read people are referring to the new album as controversial. What's so controversial about it and what do you think of that?

Michael: Surprisingly in a good way it's getting a lot of attention. I think we knew the controversial part of it would be the title. I don't know if it's as much as on the mainstream side but certainly on the Christian side of our fan base, which is a good amount. A lot of them are up in arms about the title because they think it's blasphemous, a swear and taking God's name in vein. It's none of the above. 

Me: I have to ask you about the title... I definitely can imagine a lot of Christian's getting upset about it. Where did the title come from?

Michael: My brother threw the title out a few years ago and we didn't go with it because we felt it wasn't the right time. Then we fast forwarded to 2017 and all the stuff we see, like the Las Vegas shooting with at that time was the most recent and it's just felt like, man, things seemed to be escalating in terms of the hype and level of evil we see on our news or Internet. We felt like it was a great time to release such an album with such a statement.

Me: Okay, so, I know people that get offended if I said "goddamn." So, you can't be surprised your Christian fans would get pissed off, Michael. What is the meaning of what you're saying with the title?

Michael: It's a pray request really. Us asking God to damn evil. Put away this evil that we see every day.

Me: Can you explain the cover with Moses coming through Wall Street? Who was responsible for that, were you guys?

Michael: We were. We gave some ideas what we wanted to do. It's supposed to be God, not Moses. It's okay, I get it, it looks like it could be Moses. Some people said it looks like it could be Zeus, somebody people said it could be... who's the God of the sea? Whoever the Greek God of the sea is. Some people said it looks like New York. It's not New York but it'a a big city. Times Square whatever city. God's coming back, basically slamming his staff down on the ground and saying, "I've had enough." Then you see alllll the things around that he had enough of, pornography, the love of money, the love of food, dollar tree and all. All this stuff going on that God must be sitting up there asking his head at because we seem to over indulge, we never have enough.

Me: I listened to the album and on the first song, "Take It to the Cross" there's a lot of screaming which I wasn't expecting, considering that was the first song I ever heard from you guys. That's not normal for you guys to have that heavy music, right?

Michael: Sure. We've been asked many times over the years by a number of fans to do something heavy that boarders on thrash. That was basically our answer to that. We wanted to do it and thought about doing it on the last album even. It was something that was really different for us. "Take It to the Cross" is the solution to that and for that.

Me: You have someone else singing with you, right? Who is that and what was the decision over it? 

Michael: When I wrote the song and wrote the chorus I was thinking of someone coming in and doing the death growl. We started reaching out to people and ended up discovering Matt Blanchard, my wife knows Matt very well. We went and YouTubed Matt and heard him and I thought wow, this is perfect. It's so happens he's a local guy and lives ten minutes from the studio where we record at. That worked out perfectly. He came in and fifteen minutes time banged it out and it sounds phenomenal. We were all high fiving each other and had a party in the studio. That was probably the most funnest song for us to record on the entire album.

Me: What have you heard from your fans about that song?

Michael: Some said it probably would be better without the high voice. We could of gone down that road. It's interesting, we did the low voice first, it was great but it was lacking some energy. So I added the high part and everyone was "oh, wow, yeah." It's hit or miss. That's the kind of some that's not going to have a middle ground. People are either love it or they're actually going to hate it.

Me: How are you guys going to do that song live?

Michael: We're not doing the growl. We did not track the growl and play to a track or anything. It'll be odd to have Oz standing up there faking it. We just don't do the low part, that's all. 

Me: Okay, so, I have to be honest, when I got the interview request to interview you I thought at first, "ugh, the Christian band." This might not be good. But I was told that I should just listen to the guitars on the album, not so much the lyrics. So... two of you play guitars... is there a formula you use to split up the guitar playing?

Michael: Not really, no. It's simple, once we start doing the songs and we start recording them, the keeper tracks, the songs really determine whose going to play it. Usually, most of the time, it's both of us. It's a back and forth solo or harmony solo, in that case it's probably seven or eight times out of ten. If there's a song that's real heavy or kind of crazy that might be an Oz solo. Or if it's a song that's more melodic mid-temp straight ahead kind of thing it might be my solo. Our styles are similar but they are different. I'm more a melodic player, I write my solo's more like a vocal almost. Oz gets a little more crazy with his stuff. Then when we play together we are very similar.

Me: Are you the main songwriter, Michael?

Michael: Yeah, I'm the primary writer. When I write the songs once it's in there it's in there. I'll teach the guys and they're writing stuff out and charting stuff out.

Me: Do you work out the solos or are they spontaneous?

Michael: Oz and I are the kid of guys that have to work out our solos, and want to work out our solos. This spontaneous stuff I can do that, and I have done that before for other people who had me play guitar solos on their songs. I just go into the studio and say "alright, roll." I don't prefer doing it that way because I like what comes out of me when I give a little more thought to it and put a little more time into it.

Me: Who are some of your favorite guitarists, Michael?

Michael: John Sykes, Michael Schenker, Randy Rhoads, they were all melodic players and their solos were so memorable. Especially Michael Schenker, man, he's probably my favorite of all time. 

Me: I had him on the Phile not long ago. When did you start playing guitar, Michael?

Michael: Back in the day, when I was fourteen, fifteen,  sixteen, seventeen, eighteen... I really started seeking out my guitar tone. That's my personality. I started playing when I was five, got real serious about it when I was twelve. When I first heard the first Boston album it really steered me to find my own tone. So I tried experimenting all different things. Later on in life when I was about 18-years-old I stumbled upon a lab series, L11 head in a pawn shop. I plugged it in and I loved it. I took it home, and I bought it for a couple hundred bucks. After a few days of experimenting I came out of the pre-amp out of that into a Marshall and that was the Stryper tone birth right there and then.

Me: I have no idea what that means. Hahahaha. So, whats next for the band?

Michael: Well, we're working on a documentary throughout last year and this year as well. We're also working on a acoustic album that we are about three quarters of the way finished. We've got to get Perry's bass on there and vocals and then mix it. We'll release that hopefully at the end of this year. I'm going to start work on a solo album and going to start work on an album with Joel Hoekstra. We're going to begin writing at the end of this year and into next year. We're really excited about that so there's a lot of stuff coming up, man.

Me: With the acoustic album, is it going to be new songs or reworks? Like Bon Jovi did with their acoustic album many years ago?

Michael: Reworks of the classics basically. It's an interesting way and an interesting translation of those songs acoustically. We do acoustic sets on occasion and they go over really well, and people love them so we thought why don't we do an acoustic album?

Me: Michael, thanks for being on the Phile. Come back again when your new music comes out if you like.

Michael: Thank you, my friend, it was a pleasure to be on the Phile. I'll be back here soon.

That about does it for this entry of the Phile. Thanks to my guest Michael Sweet. The Phile will be back tomorrow with musician Johnny A. Spread the word, not the turd. Don't let snakes and alligators bite you. Bye, love you, bye.

I don't want you, cook my bread, I don't want you, make my bed, I don't want your money too, I just want to make love to you. - Willie Dixon

Tuesday, March 19, 2019

Pheaturing Rob Burnett

What's up, kids? Welcome to the Phile for a Tuesday. How are you? Here's an inspirational quote to get you through the workday: "If you think your boss is stupid, remember: you wouldn't have a job if he was any smarter." -John Gotti. Thank goodness for dumb bosses and an hilariously awesome time-wasting blog like this one. Anything to keep us from doing any actual work today, am I right? There's no way to make the clock move any faster, but I can make you watch while you wait.
The college cheating scandal has filled the place in our hearts that has been left empty with the lack of a third Fyre Festival documentary. The tale of rich people finally facing crimes has the perfect origin story: a rich person trying to face less consequences for his crimes. The bust of the college cheating crime ring has a perfect origin story. The Wall Street Journal reports that the authorities first heard about this massive fraud operation from Morrie Tobin, a Los Angeles financier who was implicated in a different white-collar crime, and offered the tip about College Cheatgate in a plea for mercy. The bust of the college cheating crime ring has a perfect origin story. LinkedIn Tobin was cornered by the feds for his alleged involvement in a pump and dump scheme, which is that thing when finance guys submit false reports to artificially inflate the value of a stock and then selling it off to make bank. To try and get off easy for that crime, Tobin tipped the FBI off on the other one: the massive fraud operation that facilities rich kids paying bribes to get their kids into elite schools by pretending to be athletes (the "Aunt Becky") and/or cheat on the SAT (the "Huffman-Macy.") Tobin told the feds that Rudy Meredith, the recently indicted ex-Yale soccer coach, solicited a $450,000 bribe in exchange for getting Tobin's daughter into Yale as an "athletic recruit." He led the feds to William "Rick" Singer, the mastermind behind the whole operation, and it kicked off a ten-month investigation that ensnared such figures as Felicity Huffman and Aunt Becky. Tobin was not charged in Operation Varsity Blues, but is awaiting sentencing after taking a plea deal in his pump and dump case. After Tobin lead the feds the head of Aunt Becky, the judge is sure to.... have mercy.
The college cheating scandal is the best thing that has happened to lovers of schadenfreude since the Fyre Festival and the ripple effects keep on rippling. Both "Fuller House" and the Hallmark Channel... the more wholesome Lifetime of which Lori Loughlin is queen... have cut ties with the actress, as a federal indictment kind of spoils the family fun. "Garage Sale Mysteries" will never be the same. Fear not, "When Calls The Heart" fans: the "Heart" will go on, just without Aunt Becky. There are other characters, including... a Mountie? Loughlin's daughter, the not-so-studious influencer Olivia Jade, was on a literal yacht when the scandal broke. She has since lost her endorsement deals with major brands, and has been dropped by Sephora, which is like a death sentence for beauty vloggers. Oh, and she dropped out of school, but that makes the whole thing worth it, doesn't it? Who will be the next major scammer-daughter to fall? Please say Ivanka Trump.
Speaking of Ivanka Trump... Melania Trump is reportedly the only person who can save us from Ivanka. Welcome back to "The Real White Housewives of D.C.!"  The new book Kushner, Inc.: Greed, Ambition, Corruption by investigative journalist Vicky Ward blows the lid off the myth of Jared Kushner and Ivanka Trump by reporting that they are NOT the selfless civil servants nobody thought they were. The husband-and-wife team have gone from inheriting jobs at their respective fathers' real estate companies to overruling Department of Justice guidelines to set up shop in her father's White House, with daddy getting them security clearances like admission to an elite college. According to Ward, Jared and Ivanka aren't just using their semesters abroad in Washington to personally enrich themselves, but also that Ivanka earnestly believes that she's setting the stage to eventually become president herself. Kushner, Inc. writes that according to former Cabinet member Gary Cohn, Ivanka sees "her father’s reign in Washington, D.C.," as "the beginning of a great American dynasty." Ward also reports that everyone at the White House despises the couple, but the president can't bring himself to fire them. Ward appeared on "The Late Show" with Stephen Colbert to serve up some of the tea that Trump will inevitably tweet about, and revealed that the only person who has the balls to say no to the self-proclaimed princess is Queen Be Best. Ward said, "So here’s an interesting suggestion: Melania Trump... is the only person in my book who has ever successfully stood up to Ivanka Trump and won. I have a scene [during the transition in which] Ivanka Trump has told the world that she’s not going to be joining the White House. Absolute rubbish. Behind the scenes [she was] making all the plans. [She actually had] a “Trump family office” drawn up for the East Wing, which is normally the territory of the First Lady. When Melania Trump heard about this, she put a very quick end to Ivanka’s plans." Ward explained on Twitter that Jared and Ivanka aren't side characters in the story of the Trump administration's corruption... they are the story of the Trump administration's corruption. Melania Trump... welcome to the resistance.
Now for Ivanka's brother... People think Don Jr.'s angry tweet about "racist air" is dumb, even for him. As the nation continues to be enraptured by the college cheating scandal, another case study in how the rich and wealthy by their way into elite institutions has reminded everyone that American meritocracy is a myth. Yes, this is a loquacious (SAT word!) way of saying that Donald Trump Jr. tweeted again. The president's eldest son, despite having every door kept open for him with a wad of $100 bills, always whines on Twitter about how he's a victim of censorship and the Left.

Don Jr. seems to think that the consequences of pollution aren't brought upon by the infrastructure that creates it. He appears to be mocking the study for saying that air is a sentient being with racial biases, but instead of landing a punch on those dang scientists, he's outing himself as an idiot who doesn't understand what words mean. Had he read the article, he would have learned that scientists aren't accusing the air of being racist, but rather found that communities of color are often the ones who live near the power plant smokestacks. “Someone had to make the pen you bought at the store,” said study co-author Julian Marshall, an engineering professor at the University of Washington. “We wanted to look at where the pollution associated with making that pen is located. Is it close to where people live? And who lives there?” It is close to where people live, and it is often black and Hispanic families who live there. Little Miss Flint, an 11-year old activist from the city that still doesn't have clean water, implied that Don Jr. is so dumb, he isn't even worth explaining things to. If this tweet is any indication, Don Jr. didn't do so well on the reading comprehension section of the SAT. Since issuing this tweet, Don Jr. has moved on to more intellectual pursuits.

The Ivy League's best and brightest, everybody. Go Quakers!
This isn't the first time J.K. Rowling is getting burned for adding details about the Harry Potter universe long after the books have been published. In a time when representation is a major priority in the entertainment industry, some people are grateful for Rowling's modern changes to Harry Potter and the Woke World of Wizarding, while others are roasting her for not featuring these details in the original text. Just because you're a genius of fantasy novels doesn't mean the rest of us lowly dummies can just intuit that Dumbledore kissed a boy and he liked it! While she has added plenty of insight into her subtle intentions for the characters and story over the years, the main detail fans are reacting to is Dumbledore's sexuality. Considering you've known about this fact for over twelve years (Rowling revealed Dumbledore's homosexuality in 2007) the detail has come back into focus with the new Fantastic Beasts: Crimes of Grindelwald movie. Honestly, young Dumbledore and young Grindelwald would've made a very hot couple so nobody is upset about that. It does seem, though, that these afterthoughts to her characters are her trying to play both sides. Others defended her wholeheartedly: Rowling's most recent update on Grindelwald and Dumbledore's love affair was on a feature for the Blu-ray DVD. But like, did Ron and Hermione have a threesome with Harry, or NOT?
I recently stayed in a hotel and glad I didn't have to deal with this hotel's nightmare of a password...

If I had a TARDIS I would probably end up dressing like the Queen's Royal Guard and passing out...

Ha! That should have been a Mindphuck. They tell me at Walmart I'd see some weird sights... I didn't believe it until I saw this...

Man, there should have been some satisfying clapbacks at Fox News in Internet history...

Oh Captain, My Captain. One of the best things about the Internet is you can see porn free and so easily. The problem is if you're at work or school you might get in trouble, so I came up with a solution.

You're welcome. Now from the home office in Port Jefferson, New York here is...

Top Phive Other New Details About The Harry Potter Universe J.K. Rowling Came Up With
5. The Whomping Willow was gay.
4. Voldemort was half lesbian.
3. Dumbledore had a Wizndr profile, which is the wizard version of Grindr.
2. Wingardium Leviosa was Hermione’s safe word.
And the number one new detail about the Potter universe Rowling came up with is...
1. Butterbeer is cum.

What the fuck?! If you spot the Mindphuck and I'm sure you will let me know. Ahem. Moving on... so, there's this guy who tells lies but is really bad at it. He wanted to come back on the Phile and tell us what happened recently. Please welcome back to the Phile...

Me: Hey, Chip, how's it going?

Chip: Not so great.

Me: What happened?

Chip: I told my new girlfriend I went to grad school and never graduated.

Me: That's good, right?

Chip: No. It's a giant lie. I just said it to impress her.

Me: Well, did you tell her the truth?

Chip: Only because my mother found out and told her.

Me: Well, at least the truth is out now, Chip.

Chip: Yeah. I am gonna go now. Thanks for listening, Jason.

Me: Yup. Chip Cooin, the world's worse liar, kids. Man, that was laaaammmeee.

I don’t know who’s more sad about this transformation: dad or his son. Here’s hoping that kid just hates Curious George! Okay, so, there's this sex therapist who comes on the Phile now and then and gives us some "advice." She's supposed to but it never turns out that way. Anyway, please welcome back to the Phile...

Me: Hello, Professor.

Liz: Hello, Jason.

Me: So, what's going on? Any advice you can give us?

Liz: Don't have sex before marriage. My old sex ed teacher said to me once he grew up on a farm and learned all he needed to know about sex was by watching the animals.

Me: Ummm... great. Let's do it like they do on the Discovery Channel.

Liz: Hahaha. Yeah.

Me: Good job, Professor. Professor Liz Chickasaw, kids.

Dick Dale 
May 4th, 1937 — March 16th, 2019
Surf's down.

Our president is at it again, not understanding how comedy works. Trump has been incredibly clear about his disdain for "Saturday Night Live" for awhile now on Twitter, but his most recent attack on the sketch show is truly unhinged. While it's true that comedians take every opportunity they can to roast people in positions of power and the president usually gets burned, Trump has to understand what makes him so easy to mock. He's a former reality TV star who grew up a millionaire and then put his name on a bunch of golden towers to make more millions. He's so much a caricature of a wealthy man who hates change and poor people that he's essentially a McDonald's-fueled Scrooge. Maybe Obama didn't have as many "one-sided" sketches because doing presidential things isn't as funny to put in a comedy as, I don't know, having an affair with a porn star? "SNL" didn't air an episode this week and instead ran a rerun of their Christmas episode that featured a sketch parody of It's a Wonderful Life. Trump, who claims to hate "SNL" but continues to watch it, tweeted this in response Sunday morning...

First of all, "not funny/no talent?" I'm dying to know who Trump thinks is the funniest and most talented comedian? Is it himself? Then, Trump really went for it...

If you're confused, yes he did just accuse "SNL" of colluding with Russia. Was that maybe just a joke from the man who said one of the most popular comedy shows in America is "not funny" with "no talent?" I hope so! What would a bunch of comedy writers gain from Russia? I have so many questions. Russia, can you answer on this?

This is soooo cool. The 95th book to be pheatured in the Phile's Book Club is...

Sir Michael Caine will be the guest on the Phile in a few weeks. Crazy, right? Now for some...

Phact 1. McDonald’s in New Zealand serves a Kiwiburger that tops a beef patty with a fried egg and a slice of beet.

Phile 2. When a poacher’s snare killed one of their own, two young gorillas teamed up to find and destroy traps in their Rwandan forest home.

Phact 3. More than 50% of sloth deaths occur on their once a week trip to the ground to dig a hole and defecate.

Phile 4. Kimilsungia flower, a symbol of the North Korean regime, is originated from Indonesia. In 1964 when the Leader of North Korea was visiting Indonesia, the President of Indonesia gave him the new type of orchid and named it after him.

Phact 5. Italian astronaut Luca Parmitano, during a 6-hour spacewalk on the International Space Station, nearly became the first man to drown in space when his helmet began to inexplicably fill with water due to a leak.

Today's guest is a producer, director and writer, best known for being the executive producer of "Late Show with David Letterman" and as the former president of Worldwide Pants. He is a five-time Emmy award winner, and has received 31 nominations. He recently wrote and directed wrote and directed The Fundamentals of Caring. The film was received warmly as the closing night film at the Sundance Film Festival and premiered on Netflix as a Netflix Original on June 24th, 2016. Please welcome to the Phile... Rob Burnett.

Me: Hello, Rob, welcome to the Phile, sir. How are you?

Rob: I'm good, just got back from Whole Foods.

Me: I love Whole Foods, or as I like to call it... Whole Wallet. Hahahaha. So, where are you from, Rob?

Rob: North Caldwell, New Jersey.

Me: When you were a kid did you want to be a writer? I always wanted to be some kind of writer myself.

Rob: I'm one of those people who had early knowledge, early passion and with that early anxiety of how to get from point A to point B. Yes, I always wanted to be in show business. Comedy I loved. My father was a dentist in New Jersey, I had no contacts whatsoever with show business, I had no idea how to get into it at all. But I had a strong desire honestly for as long as I could remember.

Me: How did you start your patch to becoming a writer then?

Rob: I went to Tufts University, but I really didn't know how that was going to get to where I needed to be. We had some amazing people when I was at Tufts, Hank Azaria was there, Oliver Platt was there, but I was never really involved in the theater. It's funny, in my senior year I did some writing in a playwriting class and I had to do a scene and get one of the actors to do the scene and Hank Azaria who was some guy I didn't know, he did my scene and it was phenomenal. I thought I was a genius, but it turned out he was actually. Whatever I write and what Hank Azaria does it fantastic. That was my only step towards show business in college, and then I made the movie and decided I have to go to Los Angeles. I graduated from Tufts, I loaded up my car with all my worldly processions and drove my aging Malibu Chevrolet to Los Angeles and said, "Here I am. Let's go."

Me: Once you go to L.A. what did you do?

Rob: I'm so glad you asked this question. I show up, not knowing anybody there. The first night I stayed in a Travel Lodge next to a 7-11.

Me: When did you start to write and what were you writing?

Rob: I started to write newspaper articles. I decided to come back home to New Jersey and I thought as long as I'm going to pursue this writing career so I got a job at a regional newspaper at the time was called The Herald News. I think now its called The North Jersey News. I was an editorial assistant at this newspaper, and I wrote in my spare time and that lasted for some months. I quickly decided that this was not the kind of writing I was interested in.

Me: You have worked with David Letterman for a lot of years on his shows, Rob. How did you first start to work for him and get to know him?

Rob: I was at a low point in my life I broke my ankle playing basketball with my friends, the paper was sold and I was sort of laid off. I was in my bedroom, laid back in my parents house with really no prospects whatsoever and as a young man trying to decide how I was going to make my way in this world. I was sitting there and I decided I love "The David Letterman Show" I'm going to send in a writing submission and see if I can become a writer on "The David Letterman Show." So I did, I put together a writing submission, I sent it in and amazingly a man named Steve O'Donnell, who was the head writer called me on the phone which was just mind boggling to imagine. He said, "We got your writing submission but we don't have any writing jobs but there are internships." I applied for an internship and got it.

Me: So, what was it like when you first went to work for Letterman as an intern?

Rob: I worked in the talent department which was the department that booked the guests. I was essentially a secretary, answering phones, it was all low level stuff. What was really interesting for me was that up to this point in my life I think I always managed to do enough to get by. I had the wits about me to get into Tufts University and all that. I don't think I really excelled in anything but when I got to "The David Letterman Show," the minute I walked through those doors something clicked in my brain, I just thought I cannot believe I am in this place, this is where I love, I need, I belong to be. So I literally was the first one in that office and the last one to leave every day. No task was to small. Again not accomplishing anything amazing but I just did everything with intense seriousness as if my life depended on it. And then obviously I got extremely lucky because in the talent assistant which was the lowest position, this woman got promoted and I was literally sitting at his desk and I got hired on staff. It was a joke around the office how quick I was hired, but again it was another example of dumb luck in my favor.

Me: So your first job there was a talent assistant? What did you do after that?

Rob: Yeah, my first job was a talent assistant just doing some very basic things and then one of the writers, a guy named Larry Jacobson, I told him I had desired of becoming a writer and he hooked me up with a comedian named Wil Shriner and I would write jokes and send them to Wil and if Wil used one of my jokes he would send me twenty-five dollars, which I found thrilling quite frankly. In fact thr first joke I ever got on television was not on "The David Letterman Show" but on "The Tonight Show With Johnny Carson." Wil Shriner was the guest on the show, I've written a joke, Wil goes and sits next to Johnny, Wil does the joke and Johnny says politely, "That's funny." This moment is probably the highlight of my life. I high fives with my roommate that Johnny thought I was funny. I grew up watching that show and to hear Wil say something that I came up with on that set and have Johnny reply to him turned my body inside out. It's crazy.

Me: Hahahaha. That's great. Wil was a guest on the Phile last year. So, how did you become a writer for Letterman?

Rob: I continued to write jokes for Shriner and at some point I actually set up a meeting with Dave himself and just said, "You know I have been writing jokes for Wil Shriner I hope that's okay." I wanted to make sure I wasn't doing anything wrong in doing that. And to my surprise and delight Dave said, "No, that's fine, but if you want to submit jokes to me please do." Which was incredible. So I began to submit monologue jokes while I was not a writer on the show I would slip some monologue jokes in which was not an overall suit of mine in retrospective. Nonetheless the door creaked open and I wrote a few jokes and I got a few on. Then finally at that time in the show the writing staff was immovable. They were the same writing staff for about six years, no one left. Then finally someone left and it was finny, there was all these writing submissions, and I was told it came down to three finalists. One was a kid from Oklahoma, I was the second and the third was Conan O'Brian. Conan I think is still upset to this day. It's funny, but I think things worked out just fine for him, him having turned out to be one of the funniest men on the planet. I did get the next working job, they said they did like my submissions, they kind of indicated to me I would get the next opening which I then did which was about three years after.

Me: That's so cool. So, how did you become a head writer?

Rob: It was a surprise and a shock to me. I was twenty-five when I became a writer on the show in February '88 and then what happened was we did these remotes where every Monday, this was back with "Late Night" on NBC, Monday's we would go out with a camera crew and shoot those pieces, then we would edit those all week and show them on Friday. At one point Dave decided that one of the writers should be in charge of those pieces so I became in charge of those pieces beefier I became the head writer. Those remotes were the thing that was probably the most natural for me. I just found them exhilarating I guess. To go out with a camera crew with the funniest guy in the world and shoot stuff then get to edit it and make the best three and half piece I can make. That's just seemed like comedy heaven. Then after a year I think I had a fair amount of success doing that time. Then Steve O'Donnell who was the head writer for about eight years, just got to the point where he needed to try something else, he called me in on a Thursday and said I was going to be the head writer on Monday. I had no idea what I was in for, in fact I showed up on Monday and honestly I had no idea what the head writer did basically. The way the show was structured the head writer was kind of doing his own thing. I didn't know and I had to quickly learn what that job was. It was difficult and intimating. I was never at the beginning of my time NOT being very successful. I was in a room with great comedy writers and suddenly I'm the one who has to be the judge and jury of ideas. It was difficult until I decided I just had to step up and do my thing or else I was going to fail.

Me: So, how does it work being a head writer? You have the final say with what to take to Dave? 

Rob: Yeah, that's pretty much it. I looked at a lot of material, I rewrote a lot of material, I wrote a lot of material myself. I drove the ship in a big way. It is the most creative position on the show and I think. I was there deciding we need more of this and less of that. I had a lot of control of what was being generated and I bought it to him and I learned quickly if I'm bringing the ship in the right direction.

Me: Didn't Dave's ex-girlfriend Merrill Markoe worked on the show as a head writer? Did you meet her? What was she like?

Rob: Yeah, I never worked directly with Merrill. I was starting there as she was going to leave. She was nice enough to say hi to a low level person in the hallway but she was an unbelievably funny person.

Me: So what was Dave like to work for?

Rob: Dave was hard on me when I first started. His confidence probably wasn't on me rightfully so. I was very tentative, there was a day that comes to mind... we were at rehearsal and Dave was on a schedule that just clicked along no matter what was going on. At that time we would rehearse 2:30 to 4, then Dave would leave rehearsal to prepare for the 5:30 taping. There was one day I remember, I can't exactly place when, it was probably a couple of months in of my head writer tenure, and we had two ideas and he hadn't approved either. We left rehearsing and it was a bit of a mess. The whole crew, the producer, the director, and me didn't know what was going to happen knowing we were going to record the show in an hour and a half. I went upstairs and I went into Dave's office and I asked him, "So what shall we be doing?" He turned to me and he looked at me very sternly and said, "This is supposed to work the other way around." And he turned and walked away. This was a big moment for me because I realized he's right, I'm the head writer I'm supposed to be telling HIM what we're doing, not asking him what we're doing. This was a turning point for me and I had decided that if I'm going to fail then I'm going to fail. From that moment it was me saying, "Look, this is what we're going to be doing." Pretty soon after Dave and I became a pretty strong working relationship. It was a really nice partnership at that point.

Me: What was it like going from NBC to CBS? A lot of changes, right?

Rob: Well, it was hard and a gift at the same time because we did Studio 6A in Rockefeller Plaza for a lot of years. So the idea of being at a new place with new possibilities, that was really exciting. It was definitely different, and the biggest difference is the size of the theater. Studio 6A had about 116 seats or so and the Ed Sullivan Theater fitted 461. It's a bigger space and the requirements are bigger. The move from 12:30 to 11:30 was also a huge deal. One of the big advantages of the Ed Sullivan Theater, and I think Hal Gurnee gets a lot of credit for that location, was that we were on street level. So those side doors, which we used to call the Bill Murray doors because on the first show Bill Murray came out through those doors, inside we were doing a TV show then you open up those doors and there's 53rd Street. There's Rupert at the deli, there's Mujibur and Siraju the guys who worked at the gift shop and New York City was right out there so there was a lot of brand new possibilities for a lot of us.

Me: Were you involved with Letterman when he hosted the Academy Awards? I have to say I thought he did a great job.

Rob: I was not involved with "do you want to buy a monkey?" I wrote the Uma Oprah joke. I've been asked to leave show business but I refused. It's funny how that came about, to be honest with you it was right before the show he was looking at the monologue and he was a little insecure about things. The actual joke was "Uma, Oprah, Oprah, Uma, have you two met Keanu?" It was a stupid joke, just something for Dave to do and it actually got a laugh the first time. Then Dave kept on going back to it some the problems for him was he couldn't Oprah and Uma, he didn't know where they were so that threw him a little bit. It is what it is and I thought Dave did a really nice job hosting the show. There was a lot going on there, the fact that he was a TV guy, an outsider making fun of people that possibly they weren't ready for in that night. I think the expectations were so incredibly high anything less than a grand slam home run created this super negative response. I take as much responsibility as anybody else. It is what it was.

Me: You created the TV shows "Bonnie" and "Ed," which was one of my favorite shows back in the day. When did you realize you wanted to get into that kind of comedy?

Rob: Well, I did a lot for "The Late Show" at that point and I wanted to write different things. I met Bonnie, we hit it off, and I moved to California briefly to do the Bonnie Hunt show which was in 1995. That unfortunately did not work, I came back to the show then when I came back I actually talked to Jon Beckerman who was one of the writers there and who I've written a lot of stuff with and I said, "We should write a show together." I started writing "Ed" which was somewhere around 1995. I wrote "Ed" as a half hour single camera then CBS was going to do it and HBO was our production partner. In 1996 Robert Morton the executive producer of "The Late Show" left and I was asked to come back as the executive producer. So we put "Ed" on hold and I asked Jon to be the head writer of the show and he and I kind of worked together, The show was having a rough time around that period. It was 1995 when Leno passed us in the ratings and the show was in a little bit of a rough spot. We dedicated ourselves to the show and put "Ed" aside. Then the show righted itself, we never really caught up to Leno in the rating but we did go off and win four or five Emmys in a row which was nice. Then finally a couple of years later Jon and I went off and did the pilot of "Ed" first for CBS who passed on it, we got it back, and a year later we did it for NBC and it was now an hour show and it ended up getting on the air in 2000.

Me: When you won your first Emmy what was that like, Rob?

Rob: Oh, it was a complete and utter shock because by this point everyone who was nominated for an Emmy always said they never expected to win. The truth is we go there hoping to win no matter what anyone tells us. In our case we have been nominated for Emmys, I think I have thirty plus Emmy nominations, we would go every year and we would lose. Not just once but twice and a third time. I remember distinctly being there having been ready to speak if we won for writing as head writer and ready to having to speak if we won for show. We had never won and this was going back to the 80s. In fact during the commercial break the first year that we won I thought of a joke acceptance speech. I was so convinced that we wouldn't win so I went to find Ray Romano because I thought Ray might win and this will be a good joke for Ray. So I went to look for Ray and couldn't find him in time so I came back to my seat and we won the Emmy. We were like how did this happen? We did this for thirty years and it didn't happen. I remember walking up to the stage and all I'm thinking is I had something in my head that I was vaguely prepared for many, many years and now I have something in my head that I thought of fifteen seconds ago. I went with the one I thought of fifteen seconds ago and I will tell you factually as a man who watched comedy and gauges audience reactions this joke killed in the room. I remember the experience really well. The joke was, and its really a joke that was meant for the room, it was a silly little joke that said, "I think I may have kissed a seat filler." Then the little tag was, "Sorry, sir."

Me: Haha. Where do you keep the Emmys?

Rob: In Florida with my father in a trophy case centrally featured in his room. They mean more to him then they could ever possibly mean to me. So for that reason I feel very lucky to have them.

Me: Awe. So, as I said I loved the show "Ed." I was upset when it got canceled. What was your feeling about that? Were you pissed?

Rob: We had done 83 episodes and we were on for four years. By the end of "Ed" things were getting a little big ragged. I was required to go back to "The Late Show" in the fourth season of "Ed" so Jon and I were trying to run "Ed" from the Ed Sullivan Theater which was virtually impossible. I felt that the quality of the show started to give and I felt that I wasn't living up to my responsibility to the great actors we had... Tom Cavanagh, Julie Bowen and on and on. This was a difficult time for me. When they decided to take the show off the air I was grateful there was a plan. They told us they were going to take it off the air so I thought it was time, I was not devastated. We had done really nice work, I was proud of the show and shows are not meant to go on forever. I thought we kind of told our story.

Me: You directed a movie called The Fundamentals of Caring. What made you go and direct a movie?

Rob: I wrote so many jokes for the Letterman show which was great as I kept on doing it and doing it and it's thrilling in that old show business way. I was in the Ed Sullivan Theater and there was costumes and celebrities and everyone is running around and we're putting on a show. It was great but at the same time it was very disposable by definition. The analogy I use is we were mining for tissues. I go deep in the mine and at the end there's a tissue I could wipe my nose with and throw it out and then I have to start again. There is joy and greatness in that believe me but it's not easy. To move to "Ed" for me was oh, there's something here that's a little more lasting in a certain way. "The Late Show" in entities is a bigger thing than "Ed" was or ever will be and yet there's episodes of "Ed" that I could put in and show my kids that will move them. It's hard for me to show them old remotes from "The Late Show," some of them hold up, but it's a different thing. So with movies I think it's an extension of that. I hope to do hopefully stuff that will last longer, that I can look back on, stuff that exists. I feel happy and lucky about The Fundamentals of Caring is there it is, I have this thing. People say, "Hey, what do you do?" I say I directed a movie and they go and watch it and come back and tell me they love it even though they might not have. People lie, it's show business, that's how people are. I just try and enjoy making a longer thing.

Me: You showed the film at Sundance, right? What was that like?

Rob: It was miraculous. We were the closing night film at Sundance, we sold the movie to Netflix three days before Sundance and I was walking around the Sundance Film Festival. We just wrapped up the Letterman show and that part of my career, and a few days later I was at Sundance as a director of a film and the film is playing at the Echo Theater to twelve hundred people, the I was able to have one of the highlights of my career that moment, I was just so grateful for that.

Me: So, what are your plans next, Rob?

Rob: The short answer is I'd like to continue to do movies. Maybe I'll get back into some streaming television type thing but at the moment I have my personal life. I have my two girls, I have a house now. One of them by the way works for the Jimmy Fallon show which is just adorable for me. She's literally walking the same halls I was when I was her age. She's doing her thing there which is great. I do have a son who is a junior in high school who I just adore.

Me: That's great. Rob, thanks so much for being on the Phile. It's so cool you're here. Please come back again.

Rob: Thank you, Jason.

That about does it for this entry of the Phile. Thanks to Rob Burnett for a great interview. Maybe one day I'll have Letterman on the Phile. Anyway, the Phile will be back next Sunday with Michael Sweet from Stryper. Spread the word, not the turd. Don't let snakes and alligators bite you. Bye, love you, bye.

I don't want you, cook my bread, I don't want you, make my bed, I don't want your money too, I just want to make love to you. - Willie Dixon