THE CRITIC: A Little Deb Will Do You -S01E05- (1994)

There are a number of jokes that have been stuck in my head for years, but this one joke from the animated show THE CRITIC — a show created by some of the best writers and producers involved with the heyday of THE SIMPSONS — is one of my absolute favorites.

This is all you need to know going in: A young woman is being fitted for her debutante reveal. She is Margo, a liberally-minded teen who eschews this blue-blood practice she was born into but feels pressured to participate in. While being fitted for her reveal dress, the following exchange occurs between the dressmaker and herself.

“We dressmakers have a very strict code, so I need to know: Do you deserve to wear virginal white? Because if you don’t, you’ll have to wear an off-white, what we call a ‘hussy white’.

“So, which will it be? White-white?”

“…yes. Um, except for the gloves.”

I watched this episode when it first aired and was old enough to realize just how smutty the joke was and could not believe it slipped through broadcast standards & practices. I will not spell the joke out for you, as I give you enough credit to have a prurient imagination.

This joke has everything I could ever want: it’s far filthier than it initially sounds, it has a rare sense of specificity, it is loaded with cultural and sexual commentary, and the voice reading cleverly underplays all of the above. It is a brilliant twenty seconds of animated network television.

(If you don’t believe me, check out the YouTube comments on the link at the bottom, as I’m not the only one who fondly remembers this joke!)

I am in the thick of National Novel Writing Month and my novel this year is specifically focused on a bridal dressmaker and her clients. While this is a debutante reveal dress, it works in very much the same way as a bridal dress in that it is often meant to visually exemplify the best of you, as well as make the person wearing it feel imbued with the best of themselves.

I previously only thought about this joke once a month. Now I think about it every fucking day. (Don’t worry, I don’t even come close to involving any ‘hussy’ notions in said novel.)

(Eventually I’ll write a more involved post about THE CRITIC. For now? This will do.)

Unfortunately there’s no single clip available of it, but you can see it via tubi or on YouTube before a DCMA claim takes it down:


There are two things I will always post about here: 1) Harley Fuckin’ Quinn and 2) Motherfucking RATED Q screenings at Chicago’s Music Box Theatre. (The Q is for Queer, in case you were wondering.) Both bring me endless joy; I live for ‘em in the best way.

The most recent RATED Q screening featured their usual boisterous trifecta of drag performances that introduce and dovetail with the music and fashions of the the screened film, which this month was the original HAIRSPRAY, willed into the world by the patron saint of misfits and the disenfranchised, John Waters.

HAIRSPRAY’s premise is thin, but results in a hell of a lot of fun. It’s the early 60s and voluminous Tracy Turnblad is a teen who loves to dance to modern rock music, especially music from Black artists. She becomes a local star on Baltimore’s premiere TV dance show. (This was back in the day when half-hours of TV were dedicated solely to a host announcing song after song and you’d just watch youths dance to said song.) Tracy then uses her newfound fame to fight injustice against segregation. Matters escalate, backed by an amazing late 50s and early 60s soundtrack.

John Waters is a master of having his cake and eating it too. He loves pop culture, but also often hates what it represents — the homogenization, the alienation of anyone who isn’t white and straight — and he is an expert at weaponizing pop culture to expose cultural hypocrisy and societal injustice.

If you are only familiar with Waters’ more family-friendly films (HAIRSPRAY, CRY BABY, and SERIAL MOM you may not be aware that he’s also a brilliant purveyor of absolute filth, and he’s damn proud of it and rightly so. If you watch MULTIPLE MANICS or FEMALE TROUBLE or DESPERATE LIVING or especially PINK FLAMINGOS, there are moments in all of those films that will haunt you for the rest of your life, scenes that you will never be able to unsee, but also scenes that — even today — will gleefully prompt you to say: “Wait, you can get away with filming that?!”)

He’s one of the few auteurs in true command of his powers as a creative, as opposed to simply forcing his voice on others. He is often unfairly dismissed as camp (although I doubt he’d deny the label), but — depending on your definition — camp is often vacuous and the works live solely for themselves, as opposed to being created for others with something to say. Waters sincerely wants folks to rethink how they view culture and society, and HAIRSPRAY delivers that wholeheartedly in a slobs vs. snobs way that still feels vital 35 years later.

The cast is amazing. Divine, of course, and they do double-duty as both Tracy’s mother and the evil owner of the TV station. Ricki Lake is effortlessly likable as Tracy in her breakout role. Waters wrangled both comedic icon Jerry Stiller as Tracy’s father. Pop legends Debbie Harry and Ric Ocasek, as well as general icon Pia Zadora all have extremely memorable moments! And, of course, Mink Stole, often steals the spotlight.

However, I’d love to call attention to the production and set design, which are as equally rebellious as the script and casting. From the candy-colored sets to the faux-TV cameras used during dance tests, everyone was 100% aware that this was a heightened, but somewhat underground, reality. My favorite design decision though, is the facade of the apartment building that Tracy lives in, specifically the graffiti. It literally speaks volumes. Theatrical and dirty, but also visually striking in the way that only the way that graffiti — and film — can be. It’s an amazing feat.

While I’ve waxed on about how subversive HAIRSPRAY is, I need to underscore that this a fucking fun film. It is a film that will make you want to dance, a film that will make you grin, a film you will walk away from feeling satiated, a film that nestles in the uncanny valley of genre in that it leans on all of the expected plot and character beats, while exploiting them and being vibrantly transgressive at the same time. It is a film that only John Waters could will into the world.


I’ll note that this Rated Q screening suffered from what I call a Halloween hangover — the exuberance of October peaks, then November crashes the party and you have the realization that: “Fuck, now I have to start thinking about winter holidays and presents and travel and motherfucking Chicago winter”. I was so psyched to see this — so excited! — as it’s a John Waters film that’s wall-to-wall music and I expected a lot of folks singing along and shouting out lines (“I’m big, blonde and beautiful!”) but nope. It certainly didn’t help that I’ve been burning the candle at both ends as of late. That plus my Halloween hangover caused me to nod off halfway through the film instead of hooting and hollering and clapping, which boggles my mind, but it was a thing that happened. Nonetheless, even if I don’t have peak energy, I’ll be there for each and every screening because there’s nothing else like it.


This Sunday’s repost features John Water’s SERIAL MOM, a cutting satire of sympathy towards serial killers and celebrity culture. It also features an astounding cast who are all in on the joke and they lean so far in that you feel that the camera might tip over.

Given the terrible uptick of interest in awful true crime podcasts — don’t get me started — and Netflix sexy serial killer biopics, it was well-ahead of its time. While it has a lot to say about how outsiders view and celebrate dangerous murderers, it is hilarious and — as Waters always does — manages to balance levity with social messaging.

SAINTS ROW 3 / SAINTS ROW 4 (2011 / 2013)

Shortly after Rockstar Games’ open-world crime spree GRAND THEFT AUTO 3 took the world by storm, there were a lot of copycats. Volition Studio’s SAINTS ROW 1 & SAINTS ROW 2 certainly were two of them. The two games were grim and gritty crime-centric open-world games and I personally had no interest in playing them.

SAINTS ROW 3 changed all of that. While it retained the open-world driving-and-shooting staples, it dispensed with the grime and replaced it with levity and silliness and genuine camaraderie between characters. Additionally, it injected brightness and vivd colors, including the Saint’s signature purple.

It took me a while to get around to playing it simply because, well, it looked juvenile. I didn’t believe I wanted anything to do with a game that allowed you to bash thugs with giant dildos.

I admit: I was wrong. SAINTS ROW 3 was a genuine joy to play. It’s centered around a gang of misbehaving misfits as they try to make their mark on the world while having fun doing so, and each member has their own very distinct and expressive, vivid personalities. (They also swear a lot, which I can’t help but fucking relate to.)

There’s nothing more emblematic of this oddly heartfelt approach than — I shit you not — a sing-a-long to SUBLIME’s What I Got between yourself and Saint member Pierce as they drive towards a mission.

They’re terrible singers! (I’ll note: I imagine those behind the game directed them to do so because all of the voice actors here are amazing.) However they laugh and riff and are clearly having fun and it’s one of the few extremely joyful moments I’ve experienced in a video game. It is an effortless depiction of friendship, which is so goddamn rare in video games, and it comes out of left field, deep into the game and you do not expect it. It’s worth playing solely for that moment.

“I don’t get angry when my mom smokes pot
Hits the bottle and goes right to the rock
Fucking and fighting; it’s all the same
Living with Louie Dog’s the only way to stay sane
Let the lovin’, let the lovin’ come back to me.”

SAINTS ROW 4 takes the irreverence and bonding to a whole other level. The opening is one of the greatest in gaming history. It’s a gigantic silly spectacle that heavily leans on Michael Bay’s ARMAGEDDON, even down to weaving in AEROSMITHS’s I Don’t Want to Miss a Thing. Oh, and then you become the President of the United States and motherfucking Keith David is your VP.

It is absolutely bonkers and I love it.

“More fun. Less mercy killing.”

The entire sequence is worth watching, but if you want to skip to the extravagance, jump to 9:50.

If you’re wondering why you don’t see your character’s face or hear them speak in that scene, it’s because Volition wanted to launch you into the game without having to create your character first. It is worth noting that the SAINTS ROW games are exceptional about character creation, and still are one of the few games that allow you to define practically every representation you can think of, including trans and non-binary characters.

(Also, I love how svelte the undefined character is.)

It helps that at this point, SAINTS ROW 4 felt quite polished, instead of the somewhat rickety gameplay nature of the prior games. (Again, I’ll note: I did not play the first two and I have absolutely no interest in doing so, but they did have a reputation of feeling rather slapdash.)

Unfortunately, those two are the peak of the series. There was a SAINTS ROW 4 expansion — GAT OUT OF HELL — that took the NIGHTMARE ON ELM STREET and FRIDAY THE 13TH sequel approach of throwing everyone into Hell, which felt like a bridge too far but it is still entertaining and if you enjoyed SAINTS ROW 4, well, why the fuck not.

What followed was a hard reboot of the franchise with SAINTS ROW (2022), which sadly was not well-accepted by fans or critics and resulted in Volition being dissolved after 30 years of game development.

Despite Volition’s dissolution, SAINTS ROW 3 & 4 exemplifies the fucking sort of trashfire of a person I am, and I absolutely embrace that and love them for those experiences.

If you only have modern consoles, it’s pretty difficult to play SAINTS ROW 3, but SAINTS ROW 4 is readily available. If you can seek either of them out, they are worth your time.

conner4real – F**K OFF

POPSTAR: NEVER STOP NEVER STOPPING is — like JOSIE AND THE PUSSYCATS — a criminally underrated cult film about pop music and musicians. I could write forever about it, but instead, I stupidly want to focus on the deleted musical number FUCK OFF, which isn’t even in the film proper.

You might want to watch it first:

I have no idea why they filmed this. The lyrics alone — which apart from the FUCK OFF anthem also features the line ‘you think I look like a punk, when your face looks like an elephant’s c**t’ — automatically guarantees an NC-17 rating. (I especially appreciate the cut-away to a youth singing along to the lyric.) They spent a lot of money and a lot of time on this one weird number that — checks notes — well, it has almost nine million views, so maybe that’s why.

This song is wall-to-wall filth, pretending to be pre-teen-friendly, which is in-and-of-itself absolute perfection. I swear like a fucking sailor and even I was astounded by this song. (In a good way, though!)

Even better, it is visually perfect, featuring amazing choreography and eye-popping colors, crop-tops and Britney schoolgirl skirts and screaming audience members, all moving in-sync. It’s a perfect encapsulation of coming-of-age youth stadium shows.

My favorite incredibly stupid detail is the one audience member brandishing a GameBoy Color standing in as an iPhone.

It is a gloriously dumb-smart bit that was too good for the world, relegated to the bin of DVD extras, but is definitely worth your time if you have the stomach for it.

I hope you get butt-fucked in prison! Be good to each other — peace!


(Starz/VOD) SERIAL MOM is, admittedly, not the most popular John Waters film, but it is one of my favorites of his. (That said, I’m a bad cinephile and have never seen PINK FLAMINGOS, but oddly have seen everything else of his.) It heralds to a time during the 1990s when charisma and murder could get you anywhere, and Waters sensationalizes and satirizes that with a brilliant cast: a never better Kathleen Turner, Sam Waterston, a pre-HACKERS Matthew Lilliard, and Waters staple Ricki Lake.

It features the suburban candy-coating you expect from John Waters with a bitter, but welcome, aftertaste.


(adult swim/HBO MAX/VOD) Three housewives, each named Debra, get together for brunch and occasionally other activities in their vibrant suburban town of Lemoncurd. When together, they’re often passively-aggressively acting out against each other, indulging themselves in hedonistic activities, or partaking of bursts of violence, all while often adorned in white clothing and surrounded by similarly stark interior design.

These are the antics of adult swim‘s- THREE BUSY DEBRAS, aired in a half-hour block featuring two ten minute tales to bewilder and amuse. While THREE BUSY DEBRAS, the vision of Sandy Honig, Mitra Jouhari and Alyssa Stonoha, clearly comes from their improvisational roots, it feels like it has a self-imposed set of absurdist rules that gives the show a more mythic air.

Its reliance on often immature behavior, neediness, and willful oblivion to the wants of the more grounded folks around them reminds me of the extraordinarily silly character comedy STELLA, although unlike STELLA — which was delightfully nihilistic with its messaging — THREE BUSY DEBRAS is often unabashedly feminist, albeit often rendered through a very skewed sense of humor. For example, one episode in the second, current season, details several stories of Lemoncurd women in history, including the advent of ‘smoky eye’ when a woman in ‘one billion BCE’ (Before the Curded Era) garners two black eyes when she trips and falls face-first on a stone-built fire. The second tale in that episode celebrates Susan B. Shoppin’, who ‘bravely’ fought for the right of the women of Lemoncurd to be refused the right to vote.

The second season of THREE BUSY DEBRAS concludes this Sunday (May 22nd) at 10pm EST on adult swim/Cartoon Network, just enough time to catch up from beginning. However, if you’re pressed for time, I suggest jumping into the second season, as it feels sharper and wilder and well-honed. Or you can just watch at your leisure via HBO MAX, whichever suits your needs.

SEARCH PARTY (2016-2021)

(HBO MAX/hoopla) SEARCH PARTY would have been a memorable cult TV show even if it were a one season-and-done and, while I was a bit gobsmacked to see that it was renewed not twice, not three times, but four! — I had no idea how this show could sustain itself for a second season, much less five — it’s always had a very singular dry, but confident and clever, comedic voice.

The first season introduces us to a group of self-centered, off-putting millennials tearing themselves away from their guac-and-toast brunch to solve the mystery of a missing acquaintance they barely know, and matters go amazingly awry.

I can’t quite describe the following seasons without diving into spoilers regarding the end of the first season, but each season tackles a different sort of genre: the second turns into a crime thriller, the third a legal procedural, the fourth centers around a kidnapping, and the fifth jumps into the a cultish future before going full horror.

If you’re having a hard time wrapping your mind as to how all that works without it becoming some sort of Ryan Murphy-ish anthology series, I don’t blame you. On paper, it sounds absolutely bonkers and, in reality, it’s a high-wire balancing act without a net that they manage to walk without barely a wobble.

It’s the rare show that gets to have its cake and eat it too: the actors (including Alia Shawkat as Dory, the propulsive element of the group) imbue the characters with a certain quizzical ennui that is irrestable, so you both love and hate them. You get to see them reckon with their selfish attitudes, but also empathize with them. Add to that some whipsmart dialogue, vibrant cinematography, a haunting electro score, and a litany of fantastic cameos from actors you’d never expect to see on a TBS show* (including Michaela Watkins, Ann Dowd, and one of Louie Anderson’s final performances which, unsurprisingly, is amazing), and you have an idiosyncratic show for the ages (or at least for ages 25-40).

For those brave enough to endure a trailer for the first two seasons (and the second season spoilers are very vague):

  • It’s worth noting that the last two seasons were HBO MAX-exclusives.

GET A LIFE (1990)

(DVD/YouTube) GET A LIFE was a transcendently stupid TV show starring Chris Elliott as Chris Peterson, a naive 30-year-old man-child living with his parents, who happens to fall into a number of absurd comic situations that grow more and more surreal as the show progresses. It was the brainchild of Chris Elliott (who, at that time, was mostly known for small bits on LATE NIGHT WITH DAVID LETTERMAN), David Mirkin (best known for his work on some of the best seasons of THE SIMPSONS), and Adam Resnick. (Resnick was a big 90s SNL writer, but also co-wrote and directed the cult-favorite but critically-reviled CABIN BOY which also starred Chris Elliott and has a brief appearance by David “Wouldja like to buy a monkey?!” Letterman. Having attended a CABIN BOY screening with a post-film Q&A with Resnick, I can tell you that he -hates- talking about that film and I do not know why he agreed to do a Q&A.) Notable writers include Charlie Kaufman (BEING JOHN MALKOVICH) and Bob Odenkirk (MR. SHOW, BETTER CALL SAUL), so you know it’s going to be absurd.

It was definitely absurd. The first season was slightly more off-kilter than full-blown bonkers — it focused more on the sitcom family elements (which included Chris Elliott’s real-life father and classic comedian Bob Elliott as Peterson’s father). The second season was completely unhinged, mostly because they knew they would never get renewed for a third.

It was a severe primetime network oddity in the early nineties and, as a young teen watching my friend’s weekly VHS recordings of the show, it was a mind-blowing experience: Chris Peterson would frequently be killed off in episodes. There’s a Jack and the Giant Beanstalk ep. There’s an E.T.-ish episode that featured a disgusting alien named SPEWEY that, as you might guess, repeatedly vomits. It’s proto-alternative TV comedy.

One of the most influential episodes may be “The Prettiest Week of My Life” (S01E02, surprisingly early in the show) where Chris decides to become a male model via the ‘Handsome Boy School of Modeling’. If you’re familiar with music producer Dan the Automator, you’re familiar with this episode, as he created an entire project named HANDSOME BOY MODELING SCHOOL, then went on to heavily sample “The Prettiest Week of My Life” in songs like ‘Look at This Face (Oh My God They’re Gorgeous)’ and ‘Modeling Sucks’:

(When I used to DJ, I’d try to work in ‘Modeling Sucks’ whenever I could.)

What’s even more amazing is: they managed to get R.E.M.’s STAND for the theme song. Sadly, that’s probably why you can’t legally stream it anywhere now. (If you want to check out the series, there are a number of bootleg eps on YouTube, but please: if you enjoy it, throw some money towards SHOUT! Factory’s DVD set. It’s a great set, and they do fantastic work.)

The show isn’t for everyone, but it was a foundational show for me.


(VOD) I didn’t so much seek out THE WORLD’S GREATEST SINNER as had it forced upon me. When I moved to Chicago, one of the first video stores I walked into was BLAST OFF VIDEO, centered in Lakeview. (If you’re unfamiliar with Chicago, Lakeview contains Wrigleyville, home of the Cubs.) It was a tiny cult video store — an off-shoot of an Atlanta-based video store of the same name — whose front window was covered with spliced BLOCKBUSTER membership cards. (They’d give you several free rentals if you’d hand yours over. Unsurprisingly, you’d also find my card plastered to the glass.)

The shop was helmed by a man named Sam, who didn’t mind me shooting the shit with him for an hour or so twice a week. Sam was far more knowledgable about foreign and cult films than I was, and I’d listen to him rant about how RESERVOIR DOGS was a rip-off of CITY ON FIRE (which isn’t too far off the mark, although I wouldn’t say ‘rip-off’) or how Robert Mitchum really directed NIGHT OF THE HUNTER (which, probably). One of the first films he recommended to me was THE WORLD’S GREATEST SINNER.

Some might summarize THE WORLD’S GREATEST SINNER as a (very) low-rent version of Billy Wilder’s A FACE IN THE CROWD, but that’s selling it short. Timothy Carey (best known for appearing in THE KILLING), who wrote, directed, and acted in this passion project, made something uniquely his own. SINNER is extremely rough around the edges — they clearly only had one take for most scenes, lines often don’t land the way they should, it’s full of abrupt and halting edits, and it’s shot like a student film. However, all of that works in its favor. There’s a crazy alchemy to all of it that dovetails with the theme of a salaryman-turned-politician trying to ingratiate himself to the populace while questioning his faith and purpose in the process, all backed by a Frank Zappa soundtrack. It’s a whirlwind of a work, and one that Sam vociferously believed in.

Sadly, BLAST OFF VIDEO is no longer. They were priced out of Lakeview years ago and moved well outside of my radius, then they closed up shop in Chicago all together. However, when I was recently searching for them to see if their Atlanta store happened to be around, I stumbled upon a Chicago Tribune article about the shop, and in it they note how Sam finagled their copy of THE WORLD’S GREATEST SINNER “by tracking down the director’s son and asking him for a tape”. Godspeed, Sam, wherever you are.

“I don’t even care if they reject my book. I’ll do another book, and another one! And besides, a guy can always become a comedian, right?”