Listen to me on KTRS/St. Louis every Friday, 3-6pm CT

Thursday, October 27, 2016

Irritating Poker Player Of The Year

For the first time in many years, I haven't watched any of ESPN's coverage of the World Series Of Poker, but several people have told me about one player who got a lot of attention at the event, so I checked out a few clips of him on YouTube.

His name is Will Kassouf, an Englishman who was heavily criticized by other players and commentators for two things: taking too long to play every hand (sometimes he wouldn't even look at his cards for 15 seconds) and talking incessantly to his opponents during a heads-up situation. He does this to get the other players rattled and affect their decision-making skills. As you can see in the clip above, his antics were well beyond the annoyance threshold.

Slow-playing is a major problem in poker tournaments (and occasionally in cash games). It's one thing to pause while thinking through what you're going to do next, but too many young players take more than a reasonable amount of time, and some of them (like Kassouf) do it way too often. I encountered a table full of young idiots like this in Las Vegas this summer, and it was a miserable experience. There's no reason to tank when you have jack-four offsuit. Just throw your cards in the muck and let's move on.

As for the non-stop verbal badgering, Kassouf never called opponents names, never dissed their skills out loud, but he talked so much it was more than a distraction -- it was an irritant -- and tournament officials should have put a stop to it much earlier than on day seven. You should be allowed to play your game, and if that involves some talk that might help you get a read on your opponent, go ahead, but there has to be a line.

Players like Kassouf are not only bad for the others at the table, but bad for the game of poker itself. Television has been a great boon to the popularity of the WSOP and other tournaments, but when they get to the live Main Event final table coverage this Sunday night, if viewers tune in and see a bunch of young guys sitting around and stalling the pace of play, if even the simplest decisions chew up airtime, they're going to tune away and never come back. Worse, they may decide not to go out and play live poker in cash games and tournaments, thus reducing the player pool for all of us.

Daniel Negreanu is one of the best minds in poker and one of its most successful players. He has ranted against slow-play for years, often calling the clock on someone who's taking too long. On the latest episode of his podcast, Daniel analyzed Will Kassouf's actions and distractions, explained why tournament officials handled him incorrectly, and even spoke to Justin Pechie, another player who had the displeasure of sitting at a table with Kassouf during the WSOP.

It's worth a listen -- made even better by the conversation that follows between Daniel and his old friend Jennifer Harman, a high-stakes poker pro, who explains how she's handled sexism in poker, the Full Tilt scandal, and how she got started playing the game. Really good stuff.

No Cubs For You

In 2004, when the Boston Red Sox beat the St. Louis Cardinals to win the World Series for the first time in 86 years, many Cardinals supporters stayed at Busch Stadium to applaud the Red Sox. It was noted by observers as one of the classiest displays of fan appreciation ever, a tip of the hat by the locals who know baseball history so well and respect the game so much.

With that in mind, I have asked several Cards fans this fall whether they feel the same way about the Chicago Cubs, who are trying to notch their first World Series title since 1908. The unanimous answer is no. Chicago's drought may be a decade longer than Boston's was, but St. Louis' love for the game is only exceeded by its hatred of the Cubs.

I'm not a baseball fan, so it doesn't matter to me who wins the Series, but I have two friends who were truly upset that the Cubs beat the Indians to tie it up at a game apiece last night. I asked if they ever thought they'd be rooting for Cleveland, and both said the only other time they'd done it was when they watched the movie "Major League."

Political Ad Of The Year

He's a Republican running for reelection to a local office in Texas...

Wednesday, October 26, 2016

Sam Bee vs. Catholic Hospitals

Loved this Samantha Bee piece on the evils of Catholic hospitals...

Random Thoughts

Good call by the Cleveland Indians to not have Charlie Sheen throw out the first pitch at a World Series game. Yes, he played Indians pitcher Ricky Vaughn in the "Major League" movies, but he's also a serial domestic abuser, and big time sports leagues have to start paying attention to that. That's why the NY Giants dropped kicker Josh Brown, despite the NFL having done such a horrible job in this regard over the last few years. Brown and Sheen and other men like them deserve derision, not applause.

I read a news item this morning saying that 10 million people have already voted, "so they can put this whole election experience behind them." Would that it were true. They're still exposed to all the nauseating campaign commercials running nonstop on TV and radio in battleground states like Missouri. There has to be a better way.

Another story making headlines this week is that premiums for Obamacare insurance are going up an average of 25%. That makes it sound like the government is raising prices, when in fact it's the insurance companies. This is what happens when you allow private for-profit corporations to continue ripping off the public when it comes to health insurance -- they did it before Obamacare, and they're still doing it, with higher premiums and deductibles.

On election day, lots of people will want to share selfies with their ballots, but you should know that Illinois is one of 18 states where taking a selfie with your ballot is illegal (a felony!), while the law is unclear in Missouri and 12 other states. Vox has a complete list. If you vote in a booth with a curtain, and you turn the flash off, no one will be able to see you using your smartphone camera, but it's a lot harder for those of us who use touch screens or fill out the optical scan forms at a standing desk in the polling place. Of course, you're fine when you fill out your absentee ballot in private, but as soon as you post that photo on social media, your secret is out. Why is this important? I'd bet that the number of younger voters would increase if they knew they could share their ballot selfies without incriminating themselves.

Most Ironic News Story Of The Week

As reported by Adam Liptak of the NY Times:

Alarmed by Donald J. Trump’s record of filing lawsuits to punish and silence his critics, a committee of media lawyers at the American Bar Association commissioned a report on Mr. Trump’s litigation history. The report concluded that Mr. Trump was a “libel bully” who had filed many meritless suits attacking his opponents and had never won in court.

But the bar association refused to publish the report, citing “the risk of the A.B.A. being sued by Mr. Trump.”

Monday, October 24, 2016

Barry Crimmins, "Whatever Threatens You"

Barry Crimmins' name came up during my August conversation with Bobcat Goldthwait (which has become the most-downloaded audio on this site this year) because Bobcat directed a documentary, "Call Me Lucky," which revealed Barry's activism as a survivor of a pedophile priest. It also chronicled Barry's life as a standup comedian, which he's done for more than four decades.

When I lived in Hartford in the early eighties, I went to Boston fairly regularly, and saw Crimmins on stage often, along with Kevin Meaney, Steven Wright, Lenny Clarke, Denis Leary, Jimmy Tingle, and others who worked the comedy clubs in that era. Later, I had the pleasure of having many of them on my radio shows, and they always killed. I also remember a 1988 album of political comedy called "Strange Bedfellows" with sets from Crimmins, Tingle, Will Durst, and Randy Credico. It's long out of print, but they were all top-notch.

Now Barry has his first-ever TV special, thanks to Louis CK, who started doing comedy in Boston and looked up to Barry as one of the veterans who knew the scene because he ran a club in a Chinese restaurant called the Ding Ho, where he served as mentor to a generation of comedians. In an email Louis sent last night to promote Barry's special, he wrote:
Barry Crimmins was like the godfather of the whole thing. He was an intense, dark man with a full beard and glaring eyes. He was like a bear. Like a genius animal raised in the wilderness, who was educated at Oxford. He smoked cigars and drank beer and growled about Ronald Reagan. I was TERRIFIED of Barry when I was a new young comic. The general sense that was palpable when Barry was at a club, was that all these great comics looked to him. That he set the bar for creativity. There was a standard in Boston. You had to be original. You had to have an idea. You had to be creative. You had to write. That came from Barry Crimmins.

Because without Barry, as great as the comedy was in Boston, it largely followed the character of the city itself. There was a lusty, drunk, bitter energy to every show. A lot of comics would go on stage and tell stories about getting drunk and talk about the local sports teams and about getting laid. All worthy subjects. And the drunk crowds would laugh heartily, often shout back at the stage. There was a dangerous energy to every show and you always had a feeling that if you didn't get laughs, you might get the shit beat out of you after a show. Comedians even fought each other. It was a rowdy scene. But when Barry went on stage, people listened. Every comedian in the room would face the stage and watch him and listen. He was brilliant and compelling and he was "fuckin' Smaht". And he gave a bit of that to everyone else. He was also funny as hell. His jokes were sharp. He had a wicked fast ball, like Dennis Eckersly. He would explain the truth of a global situation and lay the groundwork through a quick education of the human condition and then ignite the atmosphere with a crackling joke. You'd laugh and say "Oh my god." As a new idea would explode in your mind along with the laugh from your body.

Later in life I became good friends with Steven Wright, who is also very close to Barry. Steven told me a lot about the Ding Ho, where he started. He told me how scared he was to be a comedian, at the same time as he wanted to be one. There was so much about it that ran against his personal nature (which is part of why he's great to watch) and how all the comedians at the Ding Ho, including Barry, taught him and encouraged him. My experience starting out was the same and that idea of teaching, mentoring and passing down a creative tradition, was fostered by Barry.
Louis goes on about being part of that scene, and his friendship with Kevin Meaney, who died Friday. He also explains why he agreed to direct Barry's special, "Whatever Threatens You," which is available for download from the Louis CK website for $5.

I just paid for, downloaded, and watched Barry's special, and I'm glad I did. He touches briefly on his own life, but dedicates most of it to this year's presidential election (he's no fan of either candidate) and the general political environment in America today. He's still as sharp and angry and incisive and funny as ever. I strongly recommend it.

Movie Review: Keeping Up With The Joneses

Gal Godot and Isla Fisher are two very beautiful women. Jon Hamm and Zach Galifianakis are one very beautiful man.

The four of them star in “Keeping Up With The Joneses.” Zach and Isla are Jeff and Karen, a human resources manager and an interior designer. Jon and Gal are their new neighbors, Tim and Natalie, a travel writer and a food blogger. Jeff bonds with Tim and develops a man crush, but Karen suspects they’re not what they say they are, and she’s right. They're spies, but who are they spying on?

I won’t give much away other than Hamm is at his funniest when he’s playing it completely straight, Galifiniakis plays his character much more pulled-in than his usual over-the-top scenery chewing, and Fisher and Godot are both really good, especially in a scene in the changing room of a lingerie store.

There’s also a well done car chase, a goofy bad guy played perfectly by Patton Oswalt, and solid supporting work by Matt Walsh and Kevin Dunn.

"Keeping Up With The Joneses" is nothing great, but it’s okay as escapist entertainment. I give it a 6 out of 10. And I won't be surprised when they make a sequel.

Saturday, October 22, 2016

Adam Conover, "Adam Ruins Everything"

I have become a big fan of "Adam Ruins Everything," the TruTV series hosted by Adam Conover. As a skeptic, I'm happy to have another show in the tradition of Penn and Teller's "Bullshit" and Adam Savage and Jamie Hyneman's "Mythbusters." On his show, Adam debunks nonsense about everyday issues like weddings, job salaries, voting, football, malls, eyeglasses, and housing.

I missed its first season, but have caught up by binge-watching all the repeats, and am looking forward to its second season, which begins on November 15th (but set your DVR for his Election Special, October 25th). When I finally got Adam on my show, we talked about:
  • how this election year may seem to be the strangest ever, but there are plenty of stories from past presidential elections to rival it;
  • how he's had some of my heroes as guests, including Elizabeth Loftus (on the unreliability of eyewitness testimony) and Bruce Schneier (on the TSA's "security theater");
  • which segment of his show has gotten the biggest reception from viewers;
  • which topics he'll tackle in the new season.
Listen, then click here to subscribe to these podcasts via iTunes!

You can catch "Adam Ruins Everything" Tuesdays at 9pm CT on TruTV, with each episode repeated during the week. You can find old episodes on the show's website and clips on YouTube. There's also an "Adam Ruins Everything" podcast.

Showbiz Show 10/21/16

This week on the showbiz segment of my show, Colin Jeffrey and I reviewed "Jack Reacher: Never Go Back" and "Keeping Up With The Joneses." We also discussed "Weiner" debuting on Showtime, an actress from "The Accountant" to keep your eye on, and casting for the upcoming young Han Solo movie.

Listen, then click here to subscribe to these podcasts via iTunes!

Harris Challenge 10/21/16

On this edition of my Harris Challenge -- the most fun you can have with your radio on -- you can try to answer trivia about Forbes' Highest Paid Comedians, Girls On The Screen, and You Know The Music But Do You Know The Names? Listen and play along, then click here to subscribe to these podcasts via iTunes!

Want more Harris Challenges? Click here.

Knuckleheads In The News® 10/21/16

On this edition of Knuckleheads In The News® I have stories about fake death threats, freezers full of dead cats, and buying beer with a Blockbuster card. Listen, then click here to subscribe to these podcasts via iTunes!

Want more Knuckleheads In The News®Click here.

Friday, October 21, 2016

KTRS Friday

I'll be back on my 3-6pm CT show at KTRS today. In the first hour, I'll talk with Adam Conover, star of the TruTV series "Adam Ruins Everything." In the second hour, Colin Jeffrey and I will review "Jack Reacher: Never Go Back," "Keeping Up With The Joneses," and other movie/showbiz stuff. Plus, you'll get another opportunity to play my Harris Challenge, and I'l have a brand new batch of Knuckleheads In The News®. Listen over the air, via the station's free smartphone app or via

Picture Of The Day

Mark Cuban offers a new service, just in case Trump becomes president...