Cruise Director - photo by Elizabeth McQuern
Cruise Director - photo by Elizabeth McQuern

Nina Metz at the Tribune reviewed Impress These Apes today:

This season has a cruise ship theme, and I realize writing about this show can sometimes look like an exercise in non sequiturs. Why apes? Why a cruise ship? Why the future?

I don’t know. But it works. All of it. Even in its shaggier moments. Every piece works, and I don’t know that I can say that about any other theatrical offering in town, comedy or not.

Why a cruise ship? Because Erica didn’t want me to cut my hair.

Over the first six seasons of the show we established a sort of informal rule for the host—it’s not a random character, but someone who could some other sort of show or event—like Game Show Host (Jared Logan), Beauty Pageant Host (Ken Barnard), and Air Hostess (Kristen Studard). Last season I hosted as Sports Show Host and as part creating the character I had a very specific look) in mind. I borrowed an awesome jacket from my friend Ryan, got a short haircut and shaved down to a mustache.

Impress These Apes Live Callbacks July 9, 2012
Sports Show Host, photo by Elizabeth McQuern

Well, over the last two years my beard has gotten pretty long and my hair is pretty shaggy. As we began talking about remounting the show for an eighth time I warned Erica that I was going to trim down to play Sports Show Host. I’m no Method actor, but I just couldn’t see that trim and proper character with this mess I’ve got going on now. “Well, OK, you can do whatever you want, but I like your beard and hair,” she said. Well dang, how can I disappoint my sweet wife?

The Lancasters - Photo by Oomphotography
Photo of the Lancasters by Oomphotography

So I started brainstorming ideas for hosts who would have long hair and a beard. Somebody who had been stranded on an island, for example. Anybody could be stranded on an island, but who would be most likely? Somebody from a boat. Pirate Host? Fisherman Host? What about from a cruise ship? We know people who have worked on cruise ships as the entertainment—Cruise Ship Variety Show Host! And then I remembered Love Boat—”and your Cruise Director Julie”.

And that would have been that except that when I shared my new host idea at our first season eight production meeting it hit a spark with everyone in the room. “We’ll do the whole show on a cruise!” someone exclaimed and we were off.

So that’s why a cruise ship: Erica likes her husband with a bit of hair. And I work with a great group of comedian/producers who see a small idea and take it to its illogical extremes. Seven weeks left!

Living on the Edge

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I have wide feet, which has limited the running shoes I can wear comfortably. Fortunately, I discovered, thanks to the Nike Outlet stores, that the Nike wide last fits me just fine. So when I was interested in moving to a lighter style of running shoe last year, I started looking at the Nike Free line. Unfortunately, those shoes are not available in wide in stores. But they are available in wide if you order them custom-made from the Nike store online, what they call their NikeID line. Now those shoes let you customize every single part of a shoe with distinctive colors and textures. But I was thinking ahead and figured that after I was done using them for running, I could retire my shoes to become daily wear and so I designed a pretty conservative pair:

Nike Free 2013

And then I trained for an Ironman with those shoes, ran an Ironman, trained for a marathon, and then ran that marathon. I pretty much ran those shoes into the ground.

So when the time came to order my next pair, I figured “why design a boring shoe, if all I’m ever going to do with it is run?” And so, after many screen shots emailed to Erica, here are my new shoes. I’m actually pretty proud that I managed to avoid coloring every single part of the shoe a different color. And that design on the laces and swoosh is called “Swedish Camo”. You’re welcome, world.

Nike Free 2014

Impress These Apes 2014

Tomorrow night (Monday, July 7) we sort-of start the Eighth season of Impress These Apes, Chicago’s favorite live, non-elimination talent competition hosted by hyper-intelligent apes from the future.

I say “sort-of” because tomorrow night’s show is the live “Callback Special”. We held auditions and about about fifty people tried out to be in the cast. We’ve called sixteen of them back and given them each a very specific challenge which they’ll perform on-stage in the hopes of being cast in the actual show. At the end of the night, we’ll reveal our cast of eight and then the actual eight week show will start the next week (July 14) and run for eight weeks with the apes and the new host and all. The apes won’t be at tomorrow night’s show, but instead we’ve got a very special guest host from Chicago’s television scene.

Impress These Apes
Tickets $10 ($12 for the rest of the run)
ComedySportz Chicago
929 W Belmont, Chicago

Movies 2014: 1-25

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The first 25 movies I watched in 2014, with short comments and arbitrary grades.

  • Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan - A
    We watched this as research for Erica’s direction of GTB’s Rack of Khan.
  • Drinking Buddies - A
    This is a very Chicago movie. Also, Jake Johnson’s character basically has my tattoo, so that was a little distracting to me. Word on the street is that his brother actually has it, and if so I’d love to interview him for CFT.
  • The Tents - A-
  • Been Rich All My Life - A
  • Ed Hardy: Tattoo the World - B+
  • Star Trek: First Contact - A-
    More research. Also, I guess I’d never actually seen this movie.
  • Now You See Me - C
    None of these words mean that things don’t have to make sense: theatrical magic, heist, thriller.
  • Heat - A
  • Seven Psychopaths - Eh, so meta
  • Moontide - B+
    There’s quite a bit about the making of this movie that is interesting from a cinema history perspective—partly directed by Fritz Lang, first American film with French star Jean Gabin, ‘drunken’ sequence designed by Salvador Dali—but as an actual film it’s a little slow and weak.
  • Inside Llewyn Davis - A
  • Old Boy (2003) - fuuuucked up
  • Old Boy (2013) - yep, fuuuuucked up
  • Olympus Has Fallen - C
    OK, the one funny thing in this movie was when the tense final scene comes down, not to miraculous bad-guy rebirth, but to our hero being able to type a “hashtag” (shift-3!)
  • White House Down - A
    I watched Olympus Has Fallen and this on the same day, and this is the fun action movie of the two. Die Hard in the White House.
  • Riddick - B+
    Dangit, I was real sad when that space-dog died.
  • Ender’s Game - B-
  • John Dies at the End - A
    A really good low-budget comedy-horror.
  • Hansel And Gretel Witch Hunters - C+
  • Super 8 - A+
  • Warm Bodies - A-
    Spoiler: “Love cures zombies!” Sappy but sweet.
  • Shut Up and Play the Hits - A
  • Frozen - A
    Erica and I were late to the game and figured we had to watch it just to find out what all our friends’ children were dressing up as. Turns out it’s a really good movie. Olaf!
  • The Grand Budapest Hotel - A
  • Paris is Burning - A

Neptune's Brood

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Neptune’s Brood is a sequel (or at least, set in the same universe) as Saturn’s Children—and expands the scope from the solar system to interstellar travel. The main plot point is bank fraud, and in typical Charlie Stross fashion, it’s a not a throw-away McGuffin, but rather a well thought-out dive into a possibility for a new kind of currency you’d use between stars and the kinds of criminals that would take advantage of flaws in that currency.

FuzzyCo grade: A-

Grandma's Marathon

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When I finished Ironman Wisconsin last year, I was in the best shape I’d ever been in my life. Somehow, in the back of my mind, every event I did after that was going to be a piece of cake. Grandma’s Marathon this last week disabused me of that notion.

I’ve wanted to do Grandma’s Marathon for a while—it’s up in Duluth, Minnesota, where a bunch of my college friends moved after school. And among marathons, it’s got some great qualities: it’s very flat, it’s a point-to-point, so you never see the same scenery twice, and it’s right along Lake Superior along the Scenic Highway 61.

Now, it’s not like I didn’t train. I ran all through the winter, using the trusty Hal Higdon training schedules, and moved up to the “Intermediate” level. I skipped or altered a few runs here or there, but never the long weekend runs. My time was a little more constrained with work than last year, but it didn’t seem too hard to get the runs in and each longer run felt hard but achievable. Shaun was training for another Ironman, so our schedules got out of sync a bit, but we still managed to get a run or two a week in together.

So, on Thursday Erica and I drove up to Duluth. My friends Amy Jo and Colleen kindly hosted us for the weekend and really took excellent care of us. They’re both moms and athletes and so they were constantly making sure that I was getting properly hydrated, staying on nutrition plan, and getting rested.

Friday we did the expo, where I was given my packet by a real-live Minnesota grandma (who asked if I was “ready to rumble”) and we stocked up on expo-berkack. You know, some head bands and chia-goos and a flip-belt thing for Erica. And then we did our best to not explore downtown Duluth, which was difficult because Canal Park is super cute.

The start of the marathon is 25 miles north of Duluth in the small town of Two Harbors, so early Saturday morning Erica and Amy Jo dropped me off at a shuttle bus stop in downtown Duluth. I rode in the back of a school bus next to a bike cop from St. Paul named Jason who was doing his first full marathon and we chatted for the half-hour ride. On arriving in Two Harbors we were greeted by Pierre the jaunty, pantless voyageur and dumped out into a drizzling rain in a auto dealer lot.

Pierre the Voyageur

I stood around for a while and then stood in a porta-potty line and then had moments to throw my semi-disposable sweater into a gear bag and toss it into the gear-bag-truck and then get into line at the very end of 6000 people. The start, like the majority of the race, takes over an entire two lane highway, but with that many people, that’s still a pretty long line.

When the race started, I caught up fairly quickly with the 5:30 pace group. I was hoping on doing a 5:15 marathon, but I wondered if I should just fall in with the pace group. Just then, the pace leader said “let’s get a song going” and started a cadence. I didn’t know if I could deal with 5 hours of that and so I sped up a little.

For the next few hours I kept to a 11:30ish pace and just watched the scenery roll by. As much as I could. The weather stayed drizzly, 55°, and super foggy. Most of the route was wooded and occasionally we could see the shore and 100 feet or so of water before the wall of fog.

Lake Superior in the fogI took this the next day, but like this.

As much as I thought I had a pace I could keep for the whole race, after 15 miles I started slowing down a bit. At 18 miles I came out of a porta-potty break (I was sticking to my hydration plan, but the cool weather meant I wasn’t sweating that much and had to pee several times) and found that I had just been passed by the 5:30 pace group. I caught up with them and resolved to stick with them for the rest of the race. Fortunately, there was only one more song over the next 8 miles and I really do owe Sharon, the pace leader, for being a really good motivator. I probably should have just stuck with the group the whole way.

Fuzzy and the 5:30 pace group

I got a brief lift at mile 20 as we entered Duluth and I saw Erica and the whole Swing-Kelly family cheering me on.

Adorable Child Makes Sign
Adorable Child Makes Sign

Adorable Child Holds Sign
Adorable Child Holds Sign

But then despite that and Sharon’s motivation, running was becoming more and more of an effort and I really hit a wall at 23 miles. I managed to grit through it, but as we approached the last mile I let the pace group get away from me and walked until I hit the last quarter mile and then ran it home. My final time ended up about six minutes slower than New Orleans. Not exactly what I was expecting.

So, marathons are hard.

I’ve got another one coming up this fall, after a few other big events, so we’ll see how much science I’m able to bring to my training.

More photos on Erica’s Flickr

Official results: 5:31:12
Pace: 12:39
Place: 5701 / 6211
Place in Sex: 3305 / 3494
Place in Division (M40-44): 435 / 464

Grandma's Marathon Runner Tracking

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I’m running Grandma’s* Marathon this weekend in Duluth, Minnesota. If you’d like to get text or email updates as I cross various check points along the route, you can sign up here. You need to sign up by Friday night at 8 pm, so don’t put it off if you want my feet to text you all day Saturday! You’ll search for me by name: Fuzzy Gerdes.

(On Saturday you can also follow along with a web-based tracker.)

* Named for a restaurant chain that sponsored the early races. It is not required to be a grandma to run.

Update: Oops - I had the link structure backwards for that link to the tracking page. Should work now!

A Day Out

My Flower

I haven’t changed jobs enough for it to be a tradition or anything, but I kind of like the idea of having at least one day off between jobs where you treat yourself to a tiny mini-vacation, even if that just means going down to the lakefront with your sweetheart.



Farewell, Old Friend

SuperSculpting 413

Back in 1991 or 1992*, when I lived in West Lafayette, IN, my friend Amy Jo’s roommate Greg was a hairstylist and he gave me a hairbrush—a Paul Mitchell SuperSculpting 413. At the time, I’m sure I said thank you, but I’m not sure I knew what a gift it was, because it turned out to be the best hairbrush ever. I mean, to look at it you wouldn’t think it’s anything special. It’s just a skinny hairbrush with some bristles set into a flexible pad. Except that I’ve never been able to find that exact combination. There are skinny brushes, but they all have their bristles affixed directly to the handle. There are brushes with that flexible pad, but they’re all wide.

I would notice the difference between my hairbrush and others when I was over at someone’s house or something, but it didn’t really matter, because I had mine.

Except that, of course, over time the flexible pad began to crack a little, which released some of the bristles. Others stayed affixed, but lost their tops. I think 10 years ago or so, I noticed that the brush was showing some signs of wear and made a few stabs at replacing it. I can’t remember what research I did, but I got it into my head that Paul Mitchell didn’t make it anymore and that it was irreplaceable.

Well, over the last few months, Erica’s mockery of my old hairbrush accelerated from periodic to frequent and it’s become obvious it would need to be replaced. I did some research on hair brushes in general and ran into the same dichotomy—I could have flexible or skinny, but not both. Until I thought to check on the brush name itself. Duh.

And of course Paul Mitchell still makes it—a little changed over the years*, but essentially the same brush. And there’s a salon six blocks from work that carries Paul Mitchell supplies and I rode my bike over today and got a replacement for eight whole dollars (plus tax). Actually, I got two, for sixteen, so I can take one on trips and not worry about losing the Best Brush Ever.

Paul Mitchell Sculpting Brush 413 old and new

* Haven’t we all?