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March 15, 2007 - Image 9

Resource type:
The Michigan Daily, 2007-03-15

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take me
There are two movies set
for release this winter (one
out now, one forthcoming)
that piqued my interest. The first
is about a con-
spiracy theorist
who believes
the mysteries
of life can he
explained by
the number 23. "
The second is a
story of a man
who loses his PAUL
family in the TASSI
Sept. 11 attacks
and must now
rely on his col-
lege roommate to help him grieve
(or, rather, not to grieve).
What's the common denomina-
tor? "The Number 23" stars Jim
Carrey, the man who crawled out
of a rhino's ass in "Ace Venture:
When Nature Calls," while the
starring role in "Reign Over Me"
is filled by Adam Sandler, who
headbutted Bob Barker in "Happy
Sometimes such actors want
to shatter perceptions of them-
selves by branching out into a
role completely different than
what you've come to expect from
them. Jim Carey has already
failed ("The Majestic") and suc-
ceeded ("Eternal Sunshine of the
Spotless Mind") in his dramatic
attempts thus far, and his perfor-
mance in "23" has met with mixed
reviews at best. This is Sandler's
first attempt since "Punch Drunk
Love" to be in a film where abso-
lutely no one gets hit in the balls,
so "Reign" looks to be a welcome
change, at least in theory.
In truth there is any number
of actors just begging that you
not laugh when they appear in a
movie, each with varying degrees
of success. We've seen that Ryan
Reynolds wants to be America's
next action hero with roles in
"Blade: Trinity" and "Smokin'
Aces." He's not bad, but after
every line he says, I'm still wait-
ing for him to add "write that
down," because no matter how
hard he tries, he'll always be Van
Wilder to me. Ashton Kutcher
tried desperately to emulate a
young Tom Cruise in "Top Gun"
when he starred in "The Guard-
ian" last fall, but he should clearly
stick to producing "Beauty and
the Geek" and regretting his life
choices as he watches his wife's
hotness slowly slip away.
The need to be taken seriously
has officially become an epidemic
if we are to take recent trail-
ers at face value, including one
showing Dane Cook in a role as a
blackmailing photographer in the
upcoming Kevin Costner thriller
"Mr. Brooks." That's correct: The
man who brought phone sex to
the Burger King drive-thru is in
a serious cinematic adventure of
his very own. I imagine watch-
ing Dane Cook attempt the role
of a dramatic actor is going to be
something like watching a snake
that dreams of tap dancing. It
just doesn't seem like it's going to
work out.
But sometimes
this need for a per-
"breakout" role
manifests itself

in exceptionally
strange ways. By now
you've all seen the pub-
licity photos of Daniel
Radcliffe, or as you know him,
Harry Potter, where he appears
naked, hairy and longingly
embracing a horse. He's taken
it upon himself to star in a play
See TASSI, page 4B

The psychology of


- Tr
-, -
=~t'",: 3al g f 1 zs . :
__ . ..."...:. The New Yorker's crtoon editor
-- ' knows more about humor than you

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thought possible

By Andrew Sargus Klein I Managing Arts Editor

Institute of Humanities is lined
The first room on your left at the
at eye-level with 68 single-panel
cartoons. Their compositions are
visually unassuming, being the
simple, colorless line drawings of a certain
magazine's signature style. Bourgeois couples
and well-fed CEOs squabble in various board-
rooms, bars and urbane living rooms, each
little scene wryly grounded by a punchline
that's either inoffensively snide or sharply aca-
Across the hall from the exhibit room is a
tiny office quietly overflowing with faxes of
cartoons, stacks of folders and boxes. Some-
where, there's a phone and a computer. The
only color in the room comes from three
multi-colored juggling balls moving in fren-
zied, concentric arcs. I thought I had the
wrong office.
Bob Mankoff, a 30-year contributor to
The New Yorker and its current cartoon
editor, deserves some down time. He's
in constant motion, juggling as many
as 600 to 1,000 cartoons a week for The
New Yorker while giving lectures and
teaching an honors mini-course at the
University, "The Art and Science of
Humor: Theory and practice, practice,
practice," which began last week.
At first glance Mankoff is everything
you'd think The New Yorker cartoon
critic would be: liberal gravitas;
easy, know-it-all humor; well-
cut blazer with jeans and nice
Elisabeth Paymal, curator
and designer for the Institute
for the Humanities, described
him*as a "cultural shock for
Mankoff described Meijer
as "bigger than Rhode Island."'
His persona is certainly char-
acteristic of many things New
York, but Mankoff is extremely
aware of humor's psychological
processes and what triggers them.
"Humor is entering a play state, a
safe area, where you're insulated from
the outside world," he said. "That's why we
can enjoy aggressive humor, sexual humor
- things that if they occurred in real life we

would find disgusting and repellent."
He likened humor to horror movies, in that
once you're insulated by the stimuli of peo-
ple getting brutally murdered, the questions
"Are you afraid?" and "Aren't you offended?"
don't matter anymore. The situation takes on
its own language, outside of the real world.
Let's say two groups of people are told a
joke that goes something like this: A doctor
tells his patient "You're going to be awake
during the entire operation; the anesthesi-
ologist is on vacation."
The first group laughs at the harmless joke.
Everything is fine.
The second group of people is told the rea-
son they're laughing is because, psychologi-
cally, the joke releases aggressive impulses.
"Now, their conscience is tweaked a little
bit," Mankoff said. "They think: I don't like
aggressive impulses, that's not a good thing,
I'm a nice person.' Now that group, when
they look at the cartoon, won't laugh as much.
They're repressing -like political correct-
ness - they're repressing because they feel
guilty for their aggression."
Another example: a gallows with a wheel-
chair ramp. "Now, you're going to laugh at
that," Mankoff said. "But if you've read sto-
ries about the handicapped, all of"a sudden
I activate that scheme in your brain; the
importance that the handicapped should
be treated correctly. Then the political cor-
rectness dampens that, then the real world
intrudes on this fantasy world."
Perhaps it's that intrusion which gives
Mankoff's humor a definitive ring. If based
solely in the fantasy world of humor - the
notionthat anything goes, thatwe're protect-
ed from offense because humor is harmless
- then the punchline runs the risk of losing
its relevance.
By bringing in the real world - a wheel-
chair ramp on a gallows, an ad for Viagra on
an erect skyscraper, a lawyer casually claim-
ing he can sue God - Mankoff's humor defies
easy categorization. One cartoon has a CEO
type seated at a desk while a suited figure
See MANKOFF, page 3B


March 15 to 18
The Daily Arts
guide to the best
upcoming events
-it's everywhere
you should be this
week and why.

After a highly contested cut in
fundingfortheAnnArbor Film Fes-
tival on the basis of last year's "por-
nographic" material, the event has
made an impressive rebound and
will celebrate its 45th anniversary
this year, beginning next Tuesday.
Get tickets this weekend: They can
be purchased at The Michigan The-
ater, or online at ticketweb.com. $9
to $12 for a day's pass to a particu-
lar grouping of films.

Jim Leija's "Sins, With all my
Heart" is billed as "a semi-auto-
biographical romp through the
fantastical landscapes of suburban
Catholicism and urban gay night-
life," and with a descriptor like that
you know this performance tomor-
row will be something different.
The first-person narrative marks the
completion of Leija's School of Art
and Design MFA and takes place at
the Duderstadt Center at 8 p.m.

Hollywood screenwriter Todd
comedic heavyweights, including
"Borat," "Old School," "Road Trip"
and "Starsky & Hutch." Presented
by the James Gindin Visiting Artists
series and the Department of Screen
Arts & Cultures, Phillips will lecture
tonight in the chemistry building
(1300 Chem). His next film intheaters
willbe "Old School Dos." The event is
free and it begins at 7:30 p.m.

Classic teen-pop singer and song-
writer Lesley Gore (best known for
"It's My Party" and "You Don't Own
Me") will play The Ark Sunday night.
She first gained popularity for her
Quincy Jones-produced pop hits in
the '60s and is still writing and per-
forming 40 years later. Now you can
catch some of her originals on her
new album Ever Since along with old
favorites, in Ann Arbor. Tickets are
$35 and doors open at 7:30 p.m.

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