Blog 37 – Irony

Irony screen shotI am, admittedly, a fan of the Pittsburgh Pirates, or otherwise known as the worst team of the 21st century in any of the major sports.  In the past few years I have become more of a disgruntled fan, in that I’ve given up any hope of success while the current ownership structure is in place.  It’d be nice if I could be proven wrong, but I wouldn’t count on the battlin’ Bucs to compete any time in the near or distant future when the Nuttings are more interested in making a tidy profit than putting a competitive team on the field, even though it’s possible to do both in today’s MLB.

The broadcasting crew for the Pirates is, I’d wager, pretty average, all things considered.  It’s got a nice mix of broadcasting professionals and former players, a necessity in today’s game, and though there’s nothing spectacular about any of them, I do have an affinity for Bob Walk and his call-it-as-I-see-it attitude and Greg Brown with his enthusiasm that can only come from years of practice (as no one could legitimately be excited by the Pirates of the past 20 years with few exceptions).

Steve Blass is a former player of some repute, having won the 1971 World Series along with other greats such as Clemente and Stargell.  He might be more well known for “Steve Blass Syndrome”, the phenomenon in which a pitcher can inexplicably no longer throw the ball over the plate, but he had some very fine years and, as I mentioned, he’s got a World Series ring, which is no easy feat.

All in all, I like Blass and his old-timey attitude toward the game, even if I don’t agree with all of his positions, and it’s easy to see that the decades of losing that have befallen this once historically successful franchise weigh on him more than many.

Something about Blass that has grated on me for years, however, is his constant misuse of the word “irony”.  Like many, Blass often confuses “irony” with “coincidence”.  Unlike many, Blass is a professional broadcaster and should know better.  If nothing else, someone who works for the broadcast production crew should point this out to him – incessantly, over and over again, until he understands.  Because it’s driving me crazy.

For example, let’s say that the team’s right fielder makes a spectacular, game changing, diving catch to end the 7th inning.  Highlight worthy!  Everyone’s talking about it the next day.  Well, it just so happens that the same player is the first to bat in the top of the 8th.  Without fail, Steve Blass will open up “Isn’t it ironic that the player to make such a big defensive play is the first one to the plate?” or some variation.  And of course, the answer is “no, Steve.  That’s not ironic at all.  That’s a coincidence.”  But for some reason, the play-by-play announcer will usually just respond with something like “Wow!” or “Steeeerike one!”

I open with this rather long story about the Pirates for two reasons.  First, I can complain about the Pirates – any aspect of the organization – with the best of them (don’t get me started on the draft).  Second, this is truly and honestly the birth of the 35th episode of Franks and Beans, “Irony”.

In short, I realize that a concept like irony can be difficult to grasp.  It’s an abstraction and there’s a lot of misinformation out there about the term.  But it’s not so difficult that one can’t simply look it up, or, now, watch an enthralling episode of Franks and Beans on THE VERY TOPIC!  An ironic situation is one that has two opposing meanings: one intended and one literal.  This grammatical faux pax will annoy me until I am dead and gone.

This episode has several different versions, all of which I love.  There’s the original, brief version (for those on the go), the commentary in which we both perform our best ode to Arnold Schwarzenegger and speak about only what is literally occurring in the episode, and the extended edition, in which we present two more situations that are not in the least bit ironic.

Our extended edition gives us more than just extra footage, however; it also provides our much beloved “beard arrow”, which is used in situations where beards need to be pointed out.  And there are many, many times in which this is the case.  So please, with our blessing, feel free to download this image of a beard arrow, carrying it with you, and use it whenever necessary.

Franks and Beans Beard ArrowThe Franks and Beans beard arrow might just resemble the famous Kennywood arrow, but not in any legally prohibitive way, trust us.  It is quite a sight, and it must have been put together with the utmost care, and not at the last minute, late at night on Adobe Illustrator.

All in all, this episode does a good job at satisfying the grammarian in me, even though the use and misuse of irony does not qualify as a grammatical choice per se.  The two areas spring from the same depths of my heart, though.  And I think that episode 35 has some good laughs in it, too, and if nothing else, we get to see that poor Jeff is homeless by the end, and social misfortune is just an endless spring of amusement, right?

Our No! ending even has a literary slant, with Larry, the fastest reader in history.

If anyone is reading this, please let me know if you find any grammatical errors in this post. It would be pretty ironic, as I just spent an hour accosting anyone who doesn’t use a literary term properly.

Blog 03 – The Change

Originally posted 11.02.08

I know that times are tough.  The economy is in the tank, the doldrums of winter are fast approaching, and chances are that you’re alone and nobody loves you.  Oh, and Franks and Beans has been conspicuously absent from your Internet-viewing lineup for what seems like years.  But you’re strong – you can take a little hardship.  Just like in Communist Russia, you’ll wait out this long dry spell, huddling under blankets in your small, one-room house with only your picture of Joseph Stalin to keep you company and offer what consolation he can.

Just like a squirrel scavenging over the icy tundra, you’ll gleefully take a quick snack if you can get it – in this case, the squirrel is you and the tasty acorn is an impromptu blog about our surprisingly well loved and remembered third episode, “The Change”.

This episode is something of an anomaly not in the fact that it tells basically one single joke or that it employs a relatively simple storytelling style, but in that I never expected the overwhelmingly positive response it got from anyone who decided to tell Larry or me their thoughts.  I can usually gauge the type of reaction a particular episode will get while we’re still shooting – it’s not that I don’t like “The Change” (I do, by the way), but to me the whole thing plays out in a very straightforward manner.  You probably get the joke after Larry gets out of his beloved Jeep and walks inside, and that’s…what?  Ten seconds into it?  Naturally, the timing of the joke plays a part in it – the long pause between Larry sitting down and me finally saying a line of dialogue is, I think, funnier than the actual dialogue, but what people seemed to enjoy more than anything was the fact that Larry had a different outfit on in basically every shot.

And really, I just don’t get it.  I mean, something like this might be cute to, say, someone’s aunt or people who enjoyed naming all of the animals running across the screen in “Jumanji”, but is there really any inherent humor in the fact that Larry is wearing something different?  It leads up to the joke, yes, but are the clothes by themselves funny?  I guess they are, because people loved that part of it.  And you know what?  If that’s what gets them to laugh at one of our episodes, then so be it.  I’m just happy that people had an opinion.

This episode also highlights Larry’s incessant need to add some aspect of product placement into random scenes of Franks and Beans.  Larry the person is a big fan of lots of different properties.  This influences Larry the character to toss aspect of those properties into episodes for everyone to see.  I can understand the urge – in the first episode I wore my Thing “You Rock!” shirt and in “Mustache” I can be seen holding an issue of the Fantastic Four comic, but Larry does it with much more gusto than I could hope to.  Larry’s Rocky shorts (I believe these came with a box set of DVDs) made me cringe when he showed up in them for one of the shots, but again, people loved the cameo.  Was it funny?  Apparently so!

What I found funniest about this episode – so funny that we took the concept and turned it into a whole episode – was the sight of Larry without a shirt on.  I don’t know what it is that I find so amusing…perhaps Larry’s nipples is what gets me chuckling?  But regardless, seeing Larry with his mail (yet another aspect that unexpectedly finds its way into subsequent episodes) and nothing else always makes me laugh.  The future episode I’m referring to is, of course, “iChat”, where I took the concept further to (as far as anyone can tell) complete nudity.

Keeping with the wardrobe theme, you may notice that I’m wearing my faithful Pirates hat while sitting quietly on the chair.  This was obviously before I had decided to wear the hat only on the episodes in which Larry and I speak directly to the camera, so this is a little piece of continuity that doesn’t necessarily line up with the rest of the show. (What the hell am I rambling on about?!)

To be honest, we tell a lot of jokes on Franks and Beans that are purely physical, and this episode is a good representation of that, from the shirtless Larry to the Rocky shorts to the strangely alluring Hawaiian shirt Larry sports on our “No!” ending.  For whatever reason, it seems to resonate with our audience on some level, and I’ll take that whenever I can get it.  For a 90-second episode, our third feature was, I think, pretty straightforward.