Sean P Carlin

Writer of things that go bump in the night

Tag: Spinal Tap

Short and Sweet: Talking Spinal Tap for Two-Plus Hours

For those who can’t get enough of my inexcusably verbose essays on pop-cultural arcana, you’re in for a special treat:  Now you can listen to me wax esoteric for four half-hour segments!

I recently sat in on the podcast Spinal Tap Minute, moderated by Heidi Bennett and Sean German, which deconstructs Rob Reiner’s classic 1984 comedy This Is Spinal Tap minute by minute.  Coincidentally, I’ve written previously about Spinal Tap on this blog, demonstrating how the band seamlessly emerged from the contained narrative framework of the movie—in the absence of precedent for such a fourth-wall traversal—to evolve into the longest-running instance of reality-blurring performance art in the history of contemporary pop culture.  (And the joke is still ongoing:  Harry Shearer is currently prepping the Derek Smalls solo album Smalls Change.)  Tap’s influence on comedic storytelling—from the “mockumentary” format so prevalent in our sitcoms (The Office, Parks and Recreation, Modern Family) to the fictional-character-who-walks-among-us pasquinade of The Colbert Report—can’t fully be quantified.

Michael McKean (as David St. Hubbins), Harry Shearer (as Derek Smalls), and Christopher Guest (as Nigel Tufnel)

But it can be more deeply appreciated, and that’s what I attempted to bring to the table during the four episodes to which I contributed.  These are my first-ever podcasts, so your feedback—should you take the time to listen—would be most welcome.  (Who’s gonna be the first to offer up that dreaded two-word review:  “shit sandwich”?)  Here’s a content rundown (with links to each episode):

Continue reading

Final Repor(t) Card: A Character Assessment of “Stephen Colbert”

Stephen Colbert:  Great performance artist… or the greatest performance artist?

I ask that as someone who saw Spinal Tap play Carnegie Hall.  (Seriously.)  After popularizing the “mockumentary” format in 1984 with This Is Spinal Tap (and I don’t think anyone since has done it better, even in light of how fashionable the aesthetic has become among contemporary network sitcoms like Modern Family and Parks and Recreation), a strange thing happened:  fictitious bandmates Nigel Tufnel (Christopher Guest), David St. Hubbins (Michael McKean), and Derek Smalls (Harry Shearer) emerged from the movie’s contained narrative to play live concerts and sit down for talk-show interviews; they became altogether separate entertainers (and entities) from the actors who portrayed them (the wigs and British accents contributed to the seamless illusion), seldom speaking out of character (even on the DVD commentary track!), and the history of the group so painstakingly “documented” in This Is Spinal Tap came to serve as the band’s accepted background as they went on to forge, over the next several decades, a genuine history here in the real world, which includes the release of actual albums (1992’s Break Like the Wind and 2009’s Back from the Dead, the latter of which lost the Grammy Award for Best Comedy Album to—wait for it—A Colbert Christmas:  The Greatest Gift of All!) to supplement their apocryphal discography.

Continue reading

© 2017 Sean P Carlin

Theme by Anders NorenUp ↑