Friday, October 17, 2008

The 10 Most Underrated Bits of Culture Currently Happening

So, a while ago, I got livid about bands I think are overrated, and I thought about possibly doing a similar list of underrated things.  But honestly, it's really hard to find things that are genuinely great that have been consistently disliked by critics.  So, what I decided was that for a list of underrated things, I would look more towards stuff that just doesn't have the audience that it deserves.  Because I could call Tom Waits "underrated" for not moving as many units as Oasis, but it still wouldn't change the fact that he's got a niche and thousands of people who adore him.  Consider this a list of things you may not have tried yet and should.  Oh, and it's harder to come up with these, so it's just cultural in general and only ten items.  Help all of them find a bigger audience!

(Oh, and one final note: because it's about exposure, I'm obviously excluding cultural backlash.  If I were to make a list of bands who deserved their hype and didn't deserve the backlash--AND MAYBE ONE DAY I WILL--Vampire Weekend will be #2 and Bright Eyes will be #1)

As well as starring in an underrated sitcom (Black Books) several years ago, this guy is probably the best stand-up comedian that I consistently get "never heard of him" from other people.  He's an import (Ireland), but he ought to be a big name import like Eddie Izzard (to whom his stand-up is possibly most easily compared) or Ricky Gervais.  Here you go: get started on him with this.  It's the start of his best special, which is in ten parts on YouTube:

I'm not going to go too far into this, because I plan on doing a list soon of "reasons I believe in SNL this year," but they've been producing a solid 2-3 memorably funny sketches per week, which is about as good as SNL has ever done at its best.  Kristin Wiig is amazing.  And they're doing great topical stuff that isn't even entirely impression-based!

Yeah, if you read this blog, you already know how obsessed we are with Dinosaur Comics, but since it's seriously one of the funniest things being made right now, it must be emphasized.  Right now, the sites I visit daily are,, and THEN  Okay, also, but that's mostly just a right now thing that I'm visiting it daily.

You know when really adolescent, high school-y lyrics work, the way it does in Big Star's "Thirteen" or The White Stripes' "I Can Tell that We Are Going to Be Friends," and it's friggin' awesome?  Do you want to listen to a singer who pulls that off on basically every single song, one after the other, and they're all catchy as hell?  Yes, I agree with you on this one, you do want to listen to Tony Gong.

I already waxed poetic about this show in my review of it for the Bwog, which is here.  Anyway, they want sponsorship to make a second season, and good Lord do I want them to somehow do it.  MAKE IT HAPPEN, AMERICA.

This is the best sketch show on TV right now.  And it does have real competition, at least if you take my claim at #9 seriously.  But it's damn tough to beat concentrated brilliance like this:

This exceeded all my expectations.  It's consistently funny, well put-together, and punchy without getting cheap.  Some idiot reviewing this show had the gall to call the comedians in it "second tier."  Second tier?  In what crazy universe are Patton Oswalt, Paul F. Tompkins, Greg Giraldo, and Andy Kindler second-tier?  Oh, right, I remember, in the universe of people who have only heard of three stand-up comedians and two of them are Dane Cook (I don't know what that means either).  Anyway, this show is really solid, and I want to see it continue.

The obvious reference point here is that she sounds like a female version of Tom Waits, but it's not just that.  Listen more closely and you'll hear other influences, like Fiona Apple, Nick Cave, and musical theater.  Her Weather's Coming... might be the best album released so far in 2008, or at least a heavy contender.  And I haven't read a professional review of it yet.

This is the third-best sitcom on TV right now--after The Office and 30 Rock (and yes I have seen Sunny or whatever other show you would put here)--but most people to whom I mention it either haven't heard of it or mentally group it in with terrible schlock  like Two and a Half Men.  Yeah, it's a multi-camera sitcom, but multi-camera isn't actually a worse format than single-camera, just a different one.  And when it's done right, like it is here, it's glorious.  Mother is probably the closest successor currently on television to both Seinfeld (in the way that it deconstructs the minutiae of human interaction) and Arrested Development (in its slavish devotion to intertextuality, consistency, and legacy).  All that, plus you have two of the best characters on TV in Jason Segell's Marshall and Neil Patrick Hariss's Barney.  FIND AN AUDIENCE, HOW I MET YOUR MOTHER!

Think of what Uncle Tupelo or Whiskeytown would sound like if they were inspired less by country-rock like Gram Parsons and Cash/Carter country, and more by Fleetwood Mac-ish folk rolk and Dolly Parton-esque bluegrass.  That is, if country-rock birthed alt-country, this is more like alt-folk.  They're heavy on guitar and banjo (in a folk/bluegrass way, not a country way), but what really distinguishes The Kitchen Cabinet is their care and commitment to melody.  Splitting frontwoman duties are Ashraya, whose voice reminds me of Joni Mitchell's in the best ways, and Anna, whose darker, lower voice meshes great with Ash's when they sing together.  Check 'em out.


Luke said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Luke said...

Paul F. Tompkins is one of the most underrated comedians of the moment. I've seen a few episodes of that show and it is consistently funny. Another comedian you should know about is Louis C.K., who is a little bit more on the crude side, but his style is more laid-back than most "popular" comedians, and his delivery is perfect. He has a new stand-up special on Showtime - he should make the list.

Also, I've never seen Dylan Moran outside of Black Books - I'll have to check out his stand-up.

Rob said...

Louis C.K. is great, but I think he's well-known enough not to be on here. (I know that's a subjective call, but most of my friends are familiar with his stand-up, so I'm going on that.)

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