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February 6, 2007

In Case You Missed It—February 6, 2007

After a heavier article last week, today I want to review an artist and a movie that are both just pure, unabashed fun.

Ricki-Oh: The Story of Ricki (1992)

Ricki-Oh is one of those rare spectacular failures that should have known it would be impossible to take itself seriously, a movie in which someone’s face is cut off with a wood plane in the opening scene. The story centers around Ricki, a young kung fu master, who is put in prison and proceeds to punch, kick, and mutilate his way through the prison’s evil masters. These include, but are not limited to, a man who uses knitting needles for weapons, a man who can morph into a mix between the Hulk, Confucius, and Steve Buscemi, and a “man” so effeminate that I didn’t realize he was male until I researched the movie afterward.

Ricki is out to get revenge for the murder/suicide of his (really ugly) girlfriend by heroin dealers. Yet he’s so superhuman, you wonder why the movie isn’t over in the first five minutes. He has infiltrated the prison in order to find the secret source of the heroin, which turns out to be a carefully guarded poppy-seed farm inside the gates.

At the beginning, the movie seems to be progressing toward a boring yawn-fest of stock kung fu movies and some cheesy revenge plot. That is, until Ricki angers one of the local prison gangsters. The gang sends a towering, hulking man named Zorro to take care of Ricki. Zorro ambushes Ricki in the showers, and punches him into a wall. What I thought would be a tedious and vaguely homoerotic duel in the showers ends very quickly when Ricki, with a single blow, punches through Zorro’s abdomen and rips out his stomach. The rest of the movie progresses with increasingly ridiculous combinations of mutilation and gratuitous violence. The thing that makes Ricki-Oh worth bothering with is that through all this ridiculous violence, the movie is utterly serious. I’m not quite sure what sort of a statement Ricki-Oh was trying to make; perhaps it was something along the lines of Ricki’s final speech: “We’re human beings! Huuuman beeeings!” It of course fails to be anything other than cartoonish sadism, hilarious because it seems to be dead serious about its garbled and nonsensical message.

Unfortunately, you might have a little trouble finding a copy of Ricki-Oh. Because it’s so obscure and has become something of a cult hit, the last copy I saw went for about $30. But this blood-fest of hilariously cheesy violence is worth every penny, I guarantee.

Stephen Lynch

Hey. Hey you. Yeah, you, the 14-year-old fat girl rapping outside Aeropostale on a Sunday afternoon. Guess what? Dane Cook isn’t funny. I feel like this is an important thing to say before I introduce this next musician. Dane Cook is loud. Dane Cook makes many sudden boisterous movements while on stage. Well, so would someone with Down’s syndrome. I’m not saying Dane Cook is mentally handicapped, I’m just saying that I feel like an extra chromosome slipped into his genome and it’s definitely not the funny gene.

Dane Cook is indicative of what I feel is a growing trend in comedy: Style is gradually overtaking substance. It started with Jim Carrey’s funny-looking-but-not-actually-funny-shtick, and Dane Cook is the 21st Century embodiment of this amusing but completely soulless trend.

That said, let me tell you about Stephen Lynch. His comedy consists mainly of irreverent and often grotesque songs—in one he wishes for his ugly newborn to get SIDS—that are not only funny, but also legitimately good songs. Most people have heard at least a few. They include such beauties as “Grandfather Die,” “Kill a Kitten,” and “Superhero,” all well constructed songs with carefully placed jokes that are both hilarious and melodious. Stephen Lynch is something rarely seen in comedy today, a man who actually tells jokes. Lynch is a comedian whose act is really funny even when repeated by non-comedians. Try telling a Dane Cook joke without ending it with “Oh, well, it’s funnier when he does it.” But sing a few bars of a Stephen Lynch song to your friends and you quickly realize that Stephen Lynch is funny and talented while comedians like Dane Cook are just hollowed-out front men.

If you ever have a chance to see Stephen Lynch live, I highly recommend it. His songs are hilarious, but it’s really the off-the-cuff comedy between the songs that proves his comedic muscle. Put Stephen Lynch in front of an audience without his guitar and he’d still have viewers in stitches; put Dane Cook in front of a crowd of anything but 14-year-old MySpace whores and his whole act falls flat.