Rom-Coms | The Golden Age

Hollywood has a bad reputation for churning out B-rom coms for Valentine's Day. This year, pour yourself a glass of Pinot, crack open a box of Russell Stover, and treat yourself to a classic throwback or two.

Any film buff will tell you that, over the years, the quality of the genre known as the "Romantic Comedy" has steadily declined. It's only recently that the film industry has made a comeback with gems like "To All the Boys I've Loved Before" or "Crazy Rich Asians."

Nevertheless, if you find yourself craving a rom-com this Valentine's Day and you're at a loss for what to watch, consider traveling back in time to the Golden Age of Hollywood, where everything currently considered "romantic cliche" was still unexplored territory.

Kay Francis, Miriam Hopkins, and Herbert Marshall

Trouble in Paradise (1932)

Starring: Miriam Hopkins, Herbert Marshall, Kay Francis

This rom-com heist from 1932 stars Hopkins and Marshall as two con artists in love, with Francis playing their latest target. While it's arguably more comedic than romantic, the film centers around a heist, tied together by Hopkins' sheer goofiness, Marshall's wit, and Francis' charm in an uproariously hilarious love triangle.

Clark Gable and Claudette Colbert

It Happened One Night (1934)

Starring: Claudette Colbert, Clark Gable

Rarely do romantic comedies win multiple Oscars anymore, but this one took home FIVE major Academy Awards; Colbert won Best Actress for her portrayal of an heiress-turned-runaway bride who seeks the aid of Gable's Peter Warne, a reporter who sees her escapade as the perfect fodder for his next story (the role won him Best Actor). The film also won Best Director, Best Adapted Screenplay, and Best Picture.

Cary Grant and Katherine Hepburn

Bringing Up Baby (1938)

Starring: Katharine Hepburn, Cary Grant

Grant stars as David Huxley, a paleontologist dealing with the pressures of the job and his upcoming marriage when he meets Hepburn's Susan Vance, the original "manic pixie dream girl." Their chance encounter leads to a series of hijinks involving a circus leopard, a wealthy donor, a hidden dinosaur bone, and an unexpected love connection.

James Stewart, Ruth Hussey, John Howard, Katherine Hepburn, and Cary Grant

The Philadelphia Story (1940)

Starring: Katharine Hepburn, Cary Grant, James Stewart

Hepburn stars as Tracy Lord, a judgmental socialite and divorcee who - in the chaos surrounding her wedding weekend - finds herself attracted to three different men: her wealthy fiance George, magazine reporter Mike, and ex-husband Dexter. When her mixed emotions threaten to throw her wedding off the rails, Tracy starts to understand the importance of offering a little grace before passing judgment.

James Stewart and Margaret Sullivan

The Shop Around The Corner (1940)

Starring: Margaret Sullivan, James Stewart

Margaret Sullivan and James Stewart play Klara and Alfred, two coworkers who constantly butt heads with each other, all the while not realizing they've been carrying on an anonymous romantic correspondence via letters for months. If the plot of this film sounds a little familiar, that's probably because it was the inspiration for Norah Ephron's "You've Got Mail."

Spencer Tracy and Katherine Hepburn

Woman of the Year (1942)

Starring: Katharine Hepburn, Spencer Tracy

In this tale of "opposites attract," international affairs journalist Tess and sports writer Sam fall in love against all odds and get married. However, they struggle with the demands of married life - particularly Tess - and argue over whether their careers or their marriage should take precedence. While it sounds somewhat dated, the ending has a surprisingly feminist reconciliation.

Jack Lemmon and Shirley MacLaine

The Apartment (1960)

Starring: Shirley MacLaine, Jack Lemmon

In yet another multi-Academy Award winner, Lemmon and MacLaine star as Bud - a low-level insurance agent - and Fran - the elevator operator in his building - trying to make more out of their stagnant jobs in New York City. Their lives intertwine when Bud lends his apartment to his boss for a fling in exchange for a promotion, only to discover that the mistress is Fran herself. As their paths continue to cross, Bud and Fran begin to question their current pursuit of happiness.

Peter O'Toole and Audrey Hepburn

How To Steal A Million (1966)

Starring: Audrey Hepburn, Peter O'Toole

Nicole - the sweet daughter of a successful art forger - finds herself in cahoots with a mysterious and handsome art thief named Simon after he tries to steal one of their paintings. Determined to protect her father, Nicole teams up with Simon to "reclaim" one of her father's fraudulent antiques from a Parisian museum before it can be tested for its authenticity.

Audrey Hepburn and George Peppard

Breakfast At Tiffany's (1961)

Starring: Audrey Hepburn, George Peppard

There is a reason why Audrey starred in so many rom-coms in her day; her undeniable, relentless charm makes her the perfect Holly Golightly, and the perfect foil for Peppard's sullen and serious Paul Varjak. Holly's society-chasing, husband-hunting lifestyle shocks and charms Paul, a struggling writer. The unlikely duo finds that they bring out the best in each other, as Holly forces Paul to enjoy the silly things in life while Paul forces her to pull her head from the clouds every now and again.

Charade (1963)

Starring: Audrey Hepburn, Cary Grant

The chemistry is hot between translator and fabulous widow Regina Lampert and the mysterious-yet-suspicious Peter Joshua. After the sudden death of her wealthy husband and the disappearance of a large chunk of his fortune, Regina enlists Peter's help in eluding her late husband's former partners-in-crime, while struggling with her mistrust of Peter. While the film certainly has edge-of-your-seat action, the banter between Hepburn and Grant keeps it from turning into a gritty mystery.

Katie Skiff is a writer, comedian, and actor based out of Brooklyn, NY. You can check her out on Twitter for bad jokes and on Instagram for gratuitous photos of her cat, Spinach.

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An Inconvenient Talk Show | Election Night

This monthly talk show - featuring Rollie Williams as "Al Gore" - highlights the importance of paying attention to climate change and global warming, with a comedic twist. Their next show takes place on Tuesday, December 4th at 8:00 PM at the Knitting Factory in Brooklyn.

Shows like "An Inconvenient Talk Show" are the black sheep of the New York comedy scene, which is known for its unapologetic and groundbreaking stand-up, topical sketches, and its weird but enduring love affair with improv. Having seen nothing like this before, I had my reservations. Initially, the seriousness of the subject matter worried me; would it give the audience a good laugh, or leave us under a dark cloud of despair? However, when I plopped myself at a table close to the Caveat stage and saw it set with a simple desk, a modest stack of Al Gore books, a globe, and - best of all - an inflatable dolphin suspended from the ceiling, I knew we were in for a treat.

Al Gore (portrayed by Rollie Williams) with Fargo the Dolphin (voiced by Andrew Coalson)photo credit: Carly Hoogendyk

Once a month, writer and host Rollie Williams (Funny Or Die, Inverse) takes the stage in full "Al Gore" regalia, in an effort to spread the message of global warming (and this time in particular, the message of the importance of voting). His comedic hosting is the spoonful of sugar that makes this medicine go down; the success of Williams' portrayal comes from his gentle, well-meaning parody of Gore, one that teases his eccentricities while honoring his passion for the planet's future well-being. That being said, this version of the ex-vice president has his over-the-top moments. At the start of the show, Williams' Gore experiences an intense inner monologue complete with Year 2000 election PTSD, which hooks the audience from the get-go. Yet in spite of the many silly sides of Gore that Williams exposed us to that night, they only serve as a vessel, carrying the driving purpose of the show: educating the audience about the seriousness of climate change, and the impact that simply voting conscientiously can have on our environment in the long run.

Tim Barnes and Al Gore share a nice momentphoto credit: Carly Hoogendyk

One of the highlights involved Tim Barnes (Comedy Central), self-proclaimed "sphere expert," and Al Gore explaining the significance (and likelihood) of the Carbon Tax. It's not a topic one would typically find funny at face value, but discussed with the enthusiasm and candor of two buds who just really don't want to see the world burn up, I felt like a kid watching Bill Nye and being tricked into paying attention to science all over again.

Chris Burns and Kelley Quinn talk about (lack of) sexphoto credit: Carly Hoogendyk

Chris Burns (Difficult People) and Kelley Quinn (Viceland) brought their own brand of goofiness, first as an Oil Tycoon and his wife, and later as an abstinence-only couple (because babies are bad for the environment, of course). While the latter bit felt like a stretch in terms of keeping with the election theme, the oil tycoons eerily mirrored the ultra-right-wing, logic-lacking dialogue that we hear so much of today; as they stated with conviction, oil spills kill sharks before they can kill us, and who can argue with logic like that?

Arielle Duhaime-Rossphoto credit: Carly Hoogendyk

The final guest, climate change journalist Arielle Duhaime-Ross (VICE) brought us back to reality, elaborating on the immediate seriousness of global warming, but not without a glimmer of hope. After all, in spite of the wackiness of this show, the point has always been to educate and to call people to action, and while Duhaime-Ross has seen some pretty discouraging things in her travels, she provided the necessary reminder that it's not too late to make a difference.

The show wisely ended on a perfect high note, as a time-traveling, pre-2000 election Gore burst onto the stage to remind us of our nostalgia for political optimism and discontinued 90's snacks, wrapping up the show with a beautiful, goofy bow. If it sounds insane, that's because it is, but just insane enough to grab your attention.

Past Al Gore learns the results of the 2000 electionphoto credit: Carly Hoogendyk

All proceeds for the upcoming holiday show on December 4th will benefit WEACT For Environmental Justice, a nonprofit that encourages climate change activism on a local level.

Get tickets for An Inconvenient Holiday Special (December 4th) HERE!

Katie Skiff is a writer, comedian, and actor based out of Brooklyn, NY. You can check her out on Twitter for bad jokes and on Instagram for gratuitous photos of her cat, Spinach.

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Inside the Barbershop | A Night of Comedy

Self-Hailed as "The Hottest Weekly Comedy Show in the East Village," "Greatest Show Ever" Goes on Every Friday at 8:00 and 10:15 PM at Original Barbershop, 174 East Second Street, Lower East Side

There's a crowd forming outside "Original Barbershop" every Friday night, and for good reason.

Although the first show hasn't let out yet, over a dozen young professionals gather outside the dimly-lit, vintage-style barber shop in anticipation for the second show. Given the prime time and location for going out – 10:00 PM on a Friday, smack in the middle of the East Village – the fact that this show is such a popular choice speaks volumes about its draw.

Before the last of the 8 PM crowd even trickles out, the impatient bystanders try to push their way in to grab a seat on a rickety chair, a sunken bench dragged in from the sidewalk, a counter-top, anything that works. A few lights, a solitary microphone, and rearranged chairs transform the barbershop into a intimate, cozy performance space. I can't help but feel out of place in an audience that looks like I walked into the cast party of every CW show ever made; this does not look like the comedy scene that I am accustomed to, and yet "Greatest Show Ever" has much to brag about.

NYC stand up comedy is legendary in general:

But Greatest Show Ever is building something truly special, with comedians like Judah Friedlander (30 Rock) and Roy Wood Jr. (The Daily Show).


A crowd forms outside before the 10:15 showPhoto by Mike Lavin

The true gem of this show is producer and host Lev Fer's ability to pull together a stellar group of performers. I have rarely been to a show that highlighted so much diversity without having a specific "diversity" theme – diversity in background, content, and performance style. Molly Austin took us back to the embarrassment of childhood with a spur-of-the-moment tale about a distinctly embarrassing dental mishap, which she delivered perfectly with a blend of awkward-coy.

Jared Waters brought such warmth and reality to his stories about being the only black teacher at a Jewish Prep School; his fondness for his wife and his prank-prone students can't help but shine through. We got the Irish immigrant's perspective of America from Sean Finnerty, complete with a very strict lecture on the legal difference between loitering and prowling.

Jamar NeighborsPhoto by Mike Lavin

Ashley Hesseltine breathed new life to jokes about basic white womanhood; she could've easily given us ten minutes of "wine and bad boyfriends, amirite LADIES?", and instead she gave us vulnerability and raw honesty (who among us DOESN'T relate to stalking the ex that they dumped?). Jamar Neighbors ( Keanu, Jeff Ross Presents Roast Battle) takes home the gold in terms of showmanship; his physicality (at one point an updated homage to Monty Python's "Ministry of Silly Walks") made him a standout performer, challenging the reserved poise of the audience with his wild command of the stage.

Host and Co-Producer Lev FerPhoto by Mike Lavin

Fer, as host, has the necessary gift of improvisation; the middle of his opening set was interrupted when the barbershop phone rang loudly next to the stage – it was an audience member from the previous show, wondering if he could stop and look for her keys. A hilarious three minutes or so of riffing ensued before he hung up on her. To this day, who knows what became of her keys?

The show's co-producer, Ronnie Lordi, closed out the night with a solid set – if West Virginia was on my list of honeymoon destinations, I would've crossed it off immediately after hearing his wild bachelor party tale. Fer and Lordi clearly exhibit a knack for crowd work, and an even greater talent for producing.

Co-producer Ronnie LordiPhoto by Mike Lavin

If anything needs to change, it's this: if most of the shows are as successful as the one I saw, then it's time for "GSE" to expand. Admittedly, the atmosphere of a small vintage barber shop in the East Village offers a uniquely charming "comedy pop-up" experience that larger comedy clubs cannot offer. However, performers like these deserve a larger audience, and a larger audience deserves to see them, preferably seated in real chairs, ones that don't feel like they could give at any second. That being said, should Fer and Lordi opt to keep their current location, I will wholeheartedly testify that the jokes outweigh everything else.

Katie Skiff is a writer, comedian, and actor based out of Brooklyn, NY. You can check her out on Twitter for bad jokes and on Instagram for gratuitous photos of her cat, Spinach.

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