Thursday, December 18, 2008

DEAF COMEDY JAMZ: Retro Retro by Chip Chantry

Duke Ellington famously said, "It don't mean a thing if it ain't got that swing".

That phrase has never been more appropriate in this country than it is right now.

At least for one man.

"It's so money!" proclaims 31-year old insurance adjuster Steve Gruben, referring to the 1998 Big Bad Voodoo Daddy hit "You and Me and the Bottle Makes Three Tonight (Baby)".

Listen to "You and Me and the Bottle Makes Three Tonight (Baby)":

A decade ago, before 9/11, before Columbine, Hurricane Katrina, or According to Jim, our nation went through a delightful era known by many as the "retro swing" fad. As a backlash to grunge music, and supported by the cult film Swingers, swing music, first popular in the early 20th-century, made a brief comeback. Bands such as Big Bad Voodoo Daddy, and fellow swingsters Cherry Poppin' Dadddies had radio hits with songs that were pleasant enough for your grandmother, but hip enough for your frat brothers.

Listen to "Zoot Suit Riot":

"This music is so money- I mean, I played trombone in the jazz band in middle school, and always thought it would be so money if this music came back in style. And now it finally has!", beams Gruben, a plump, baby-faced fireplug of a man.

To many, including Gruben's friends and coworkers, the retro swing movement was a passing fad for about six months in 1998. Apparently, the then-21-year-old junior at Widener University completely missed out on the swing music craze, and is only discovering it now.

"Steve was pretty messed up in '98. His girlfriend from home dumped him for a guy who worked at Best Buy. She was kind of a bitch, but she was hot, and her dad owned a Little Caesars," explained Gruben's fraternity brother Jason Layman.

After the bad break up, Gruben did not get out much for a few months. "He stayed in his dorm, drank vodka and Tang, and watched 'Reservoir Dogs' over and over. I think he missed the whole swing deal. I mean, it was only a couple weeks long, right?"

Now, ten years later, this stout little fellow has turned in his fraternity sweatshirt for a zoot suit. FIVE zoot suits, in fact. "You can't believe the deal I got on these," states Gruben. "And I look SO MONEY, BABY!"

How did a pudgy pencil-pusher like Gruben stumble upon this passing fad a half-generation later?

"I took him to see 'Four Christmases' with Vince Vaughn and John F-something," explains Andrea Balker, Gruben's homely, unkempt, friend-with-benefits. "He thought it was the greatest movie ever. He wanted to know if those two guys ever teamed up before. Then he rented Swingers on NetFlix. He's had it for like a month."

"Swingers is SO MONEY, BABY!" spouts Gruben. "That scene when he meets the hot chick from Bowfinger [Heather Graham] is so fuckin' money! I signed up for swing dancing classes the next day. I wanted to be just like my boy Double-Down!"

Listen to "Dr. Bones":

Since that ship sailed during the Clinton administration, most swing clubs have closed up shop, and the clientele at swing lessons are generally retired couples and boys practicing for their bar mitzvahs.

That hasn't dampened Gruben's spirits. Every month, he hosts a poorly-attended swing night in his mother's basement. "He gets all dolled up anyway," admits Layman. "And it's not a good look for him. He looks like a fat boy dressed as a gangster for Halloween. And he SWEATS! And I think he dances all by himself, when no one's there. I can't decide if it's annoying or just sad."

Though his friends hope that this phase will pass as fast for him as it did for the rest of the country a decade ago, Gruben remains enthusiastic. "Pickin' between Big Bad Voodoo Daddy and Cherry Poppin' Daddies is, like, impossible. There's both SO MONEY!"

"He hasn't even found out about The Brian Setzer Orchestra yet," laments Layman. "With his asthma, I don't think he could take it."

Listen to "Go Daddy-O":

Chip Chantry will be performing with Kent Haines and Tom Rhodes on New Years' Eve at the Helium Comedy Club.

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Anonymous said...

This is awesome, Chip.

I once took a girl on a date to a SQUIRREL NUT ZIPPERS concert at The Troc. It ended poorly.

Dave T said...

and her dad owned a Little Caesars = brilliant.

Anonymous said...

I once took a squirrel on a date to a GIRL NUT ZIPPERS concert at The Troc. It was the most magical night of my life.

Pruneface said...

Why didn't you mention Squirrel Nut Zippers? Honestly, I think they transcended the fad better than most.