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Chris Rock

A section of Chris Rock's audience, O2 Arena, Saturday May 24th 2008. (Security were smacking the cameras out of the hands of anyone who took pictures during the show, which is why you're not getting a picture of Chris himself here.) Comedy is the new rock 'n' roll: that's what they were saying fifteen or so years ago. Nowadays, given that this site's Music section has twenty-three entries in it, and its Comedy section has two, I suspect that's no longer the case. But back then, it was a phrase that was being used to justify the invention of stadium comedy. In the UK it started with Rob Newman and David Baddiel, who decided to cap a couple of years of TV fame with a 12,000 seater gig at Wembley Arena. Not many people tried to follow in their footsteps after that: the closest anyone got was Lee Evans, whose 2005 Manchester gig was officially ratified by Guinness as the biggest comedy show in the country, with an audience of just over 10,000.

It's a record that was comprehensively twatted by Chris Rock this week, as he played two shows at the O2 Arena in London to an audience of around 16,000 each. Thanks to the last-minute availability of tickets for the second show, I can speak from experience as to how well stand-up comedy holds up in a building the size of, as they used to say in the O2's previous lifetime, thirteen Albert Halls.

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Premier Inn

NB: bathrobe and rubber duck not suppliedYou've probably noticed that The Belated Birthday Girl and I have done the odd swanky hotel or two in our time. Hotel Una in Brighton: the Royalton in New York: the Excelsior in Hong Kong: Pousada de Sao Tiago in Macau: Hotel Fox in Copenhagen: the various designer palaces we visited during Europe By Train last year: and a whole string of gaffs from the minshuku to the monumental in Japan, with hopefully more to follow soon. Some of these have cost a few bob, true, but they've been worth it.

When I'm on business, though - particularly over the last couple of years, when I've moved from working for a global company to more or less working for myself - well, I don't have as much cash to throw around. Which is when my requirements for a hotel get scaled back considerably.

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The Best Polish Songs... Ever!

Selling Poland By The PoundIt's 2008 in England, and Poles are swarming into our country to steal our jobs and eat our babies. At least, that's what the Daily Mail would have you believe. Obviously, I think that's bollocks. I grew up in a predominantly Catholic community in the seventies, and there were several Polish families in there, so this is nothing new to me. (In fact, I've just Googled my school pal Stefan from 30 years ago, and it looks like he's still in town.) All that's changed are the numbers, and quite frankly it's interesting to watch the demographics of your country changing over time.

It's the little things, isn't it? Like noticing how the corner shops are stocking more products like Lech beer, the only alcoholic beverage to include one of its own side effects in its name. Or reading in The Guardian that EMI Records are making the latest in their The Best... Ever! series a 4 CD compilation of Polish hits. According to the report, "the record company hopes to appeal not only to the UK's booming Polish population, but also to British music fans who could listen to the CD and discover, says Kasia Krasuska of EMI Poland, 'that we are a very colourful and open-minded people'."

Well, count me in on that latter category. And after all, it's got to be an improvement on this site's last attempt at engaging with Polish culture.

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Mystery Science Theater 3000: The Movie

Mike Nelson and his robot pals The reasons for the experiment have become more and more confused as time has passed. Which is probably why they had to summarise them in a song at the start of every episode. But they go something like this: a family of mad scientists - initially Dr Clayton Forrester (Trace Beaulieu), latterly his mother Pearl (Mary Jo Pehl) - have sent a guy into space - initially Joel (Joel Hodgson), latterly Mike (Michael J. Nelson) - in order to drive him nuts by forcing him to watch bad movies. Joel/Mike's survival mechanism is to watch the movies with his two robot buddies - Crow T. Robot (Trace Beaulieu again) and Tom Servo (Kevin Murphy) - and yell crap at the screen all the way through them.

This was the premise for Mystery Science Theater 3000, a TV series that ran between 1988 and 1999  on a collection of basic cable networks in the US.  Even if you've never heard of it before, you'd imagine that it'd probably be the sort of thing that would pick up an enormous cult following, and you'd be right. Which is why for several years now, fans have been paying upwards of $100 for copies of the long out-of-print DVD of Mystery Science Theater 3000: The Movie, a cinema spinoff from the TV show.

They may be delighted to discover that the DVD's just been re-released at a normal price. Or they may not. It depends.

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REPOST: Akira Kurosawa

It don't mean a thing if you ain't got that swing: Takashi Shimura in Ikiru Originally posted on The Unpleasant Lair Of Spank The Monkey 15/03/2002.

The tenth anniversary of Akira Kurosawa's death is fast approaching, and there are a number of events on the way to commemorate that. Here in ThatLondon, the Barbican is holding one of their Directorspective seasons on Sundays between May 4th and June 1st 2008, featuring Rashomon, Throne Of Blood, Seven Samurai, Dersu Uzala and Kagemusha. In July, BFI Southbank will be showing a collection of classic Japanese films by Kurosawa and others, whose centrepiece will be a revival of Ikiru.

Meanwhile, as our temporary Japanese correspondent can testify, Kurosawa's death is also being marked in his home country. NHK TV are showing an extended Kurosawa season over the next few months, while The Last Princess (a new remake of The Hidden Fortress) opens in Japanese cinemas on May 10th.

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Simian Substitute Site for May 2008: The Little Chimp Society

The Little Chimp SocietyWell, the 'no reprint' policy won't last much longer - probably a day or two maximum, if I'm honest - but there should also be a reasonable amount of new material to look forward to this month. One travel piece, working to a slightly lower budget than usual: one DVD review, to celebrate a very belated movie re-release: one analysis of the latest in cult TV, as promised last month: and one Polish music roundup that everyone assumes I'm joking about. All coming up in the next 31 days, hopefully.

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