Rob Gleeson

rob gleeson

Network television viewers might be acquainted with Rob Gleeson as a charming second-banana in various national commercials. Aficionados of the Los Angeles improv-comedy scene know him as a charming leading-man in various stand-up and storytelling shows. Raised in suburban Milwaukee, Wisconsin, minutes from the Konik childhood homestead, Gleeson’s energy and visage are Midwestern unthreatening, which serves him well when shilling for corporations. But his astonishing improvisational chops are what’s got us excited. A recent epic appearance on “The Todd Glass Show” podcast with fellow comic Ian Karmel demonstrated that Gleeson has the ears and wit to create humor out of virtually nothing. You’ve seen him, whether you meant to or not. Now, listen and smile.

Daniel Koren’s “The Most Important Thing”

the most important thing

When a performance is difficult to explain yet utterly cogent to live audiences, something suspiciously like art is probably happening. In the case of composer Daniel Koren’s “The Most Important Thing,” a mélange of music, video, dance, and comedy, the results are wildly entertaining, formally provocative, and resolutely their own thing. That’s not easy in a culture built on reiteration. But the Israeli-born, Berklee-educated, Brooklyn-based Koren appears to have an essential quality intrinsic to liberated creators: fearlessness. Disembodied heads singing in harmony; tiny hands clapping and snapping; nonsense syllables conglomerated into a symphony — “The Most Important Thing” is subversive, surreal, and, if you’re hip, unmissable.

Samsara

samsara

The intent of the documentary “Samsara” is to “illuminates the links between humanity and the rest of the nature, showing how our life cycle mirrors the rhythm of the planet.” Birth, life death: and repeat. The director and cinematographer Ron Fricke, working in ravishing 70mm film, guides us through the journey with no words, no dialogue, no voiceover, only exquisite music and imagery of heartbreaking beauty and transcendence. But “Samsara” is not merely a collection of pretty pictures. Fricke successfully manages to explore profound ideas solely through imagery. The film contains visual puns and several strongly sequenced “narrative” threads, particularly our human connection to other animal species. The result is one of the most transcendent works of art we’ve ever experienced.

Rick Glassman

rick glassman, comedian and green screen actor

Soon America is going to be confronted with the peculiar talent of Rick Glassman, comedian and accomplished green screen thespian, when he joins three other comedians on an NBC sitcom called “Undateable.” The show debuts in April. In the interim, connosuiers of comic genius can experience him and his cohorts — Chris D’elia, Brent Morin, and the sensational Ron Funches — in person. They’ll be touring most of the major markets to build interest in their TV show. But if Glassman is involved you can expect meta-comedy of Andy Kaufmann-esque imagination. Some people find that kind of thing funny.

 

Feynman’s Rainbow

Feynman's Rainbow cover

String Theory has helped teach humankind that more is possible — and probable — than most of us are capable of imagining. Crazy stuff. Like, theoretical physicists with a sense of humor and a talent for writing. Leonard Mlodinow’s “Feynman’s Rainbow,” a breezy memoir about his days as a young scientist at Caltech, is a kind of miracle. The book is about searching for some of the most profound truths in the universe, yet it’s as light and anecdotal as a dish-all about NYU Drama. If you dig eccentric geniuses at work on the mysteries of the cosmos, this is your beach read.

 

Pep Talks

pep talks

These days every other person with a computer and a microphone hosts her very own podcast. Some are worth listening to, and some, like “Pep Talks,” require regular monitoring. Something brilliant and funny and true might be said, and you don’t want to miss it. The show, on the All Things Comedy network, is the creation of The Bitter Buddha, Eddie Pepitone. Like the beloved comedian, the podcast is slightly disheveled, scatterbrained, and altogether loveable. It’s Eddie. If you like hearing him talk about basically anything — and we do — the hour-or-so of each “Pep Talks” episode is like an intimate visit you might have in person, if you’re into beautifully conscious truthtellers.

Storyboard P

Storyboard P

The Brooklyn-based dancer Storyboard P is a master of “flex,” a style of movement that incorporates everything that’s been developed on the street — “breaking,” “popping,” “posing” — and many things that have not yet been dreamt of in other dancer’s philosophies. Storyboard seems to levitate as he glides and bends and contorts, confounding gravity and delighting amazed onlookers. But he’s more than fancy moves. The man is an artist, touched by the sublime. Watch him. Smile. And float along in harmony, dancing to your own happy choreography.

Tierney Sutton’s “After Blue”

tierney sutton after blue

When one of the world’s greatest jazz singers, Tierney Sutton, interprets one of the world’s greatest songwriters, Joni Mitchell, the result, in the case of Sutton’s new “After Blue,” is a startlingly sublime work of art. Recording for the first time in a decade without her Tierney Sutton Band mates Christian Jacob and Ray Brinker (the extravagantly musical Kevin Axt appears), Sutton’s clarion voice receives stellar accompaniment from the Turtle Island String Quartet, Peter Erskine, Larry Goldings, and other heavy dudes. Al Jarreau duets — and trades scat licks with her. Hubert Laws blows. It’s that kind of album. And it has most of the Joni songs you’d hope to hear, all of them sung so beautifully, so knowingly.

Ron Funches

ron-funches-headshot_1

Some cats and kittens have it, “it” being that hard-to-define yet easy-to-recognize certain something. They’re touched. Blessed. Gifted. SoCal-based actor and comedian Ron Funches is one of this strange and wonderful breed. Large, adorable, and stoner-friendly, Funches’ drawling delivery and chillaxed energy is charming. But not monotonous. Funches peppers the mellowness with unexpected bursts of intensity and rage, as in when he demonstrates the only appropriate time to call someone a nigga. He’s on TV a lot now. See him live for the real deal.

Laurence Hobgood’s “Christmas”

LH Xmas

We’re on the record: the world needs another Christmas music collection about as much as another porno clip. We’ve got plenty. What more needs to be added, what else can be said on the subject of Christmas songs that hasn’t already been said wonderfully well by hundreds — thousands? — of others? Pianist-arranger-composer Laurence Hobgood, until recently the celebrated collaborator of jazz vocalist Kurt Elling, thinks differently. After hearing his new collection “Christmas,” we’re glad he does. “The Twelve Days of Christmas” in twelve keys. A symphonically dense “Dance of the Sugar Plum Fairies” that sounds like Tchaikovsky on ‘shrooms. Joni Mitchell’s “River” — with Mr. Elling making a valedictory appearance. This is unlike all the Christmas albums that have come before it. No reiterations, many inventions.