I think the title says it all. You can still find them out there, in the wild, sneaking into song intros and mixtapes every once in awhile, but the golden age of the rap skit has long passed, and I think that’s a shame.

I will readily admit, the worst rap skits were filler, distractions from the music and interruptions of musical flow and progression. The best were the opposite. The best rap skits worked in concert with an artist or groups music to create a more complete album.

Maybe the role of rap skits has been filled by widespread social media. Now, you’re only ever a few clicks away from knowing what your favorite rapper is like outside their music, what they talk about with their friends, what they think is funny. Hell, DJ Khaled’s entire short-lived snapchat career was basically a rap skit broken up into ten-second segments. Maybe the rap skit died with real rap beef. No beef, no need to take mid-album shots at your rivals, a la The Madd Rapper. Maybe playlists and singles killed the rap skit. As albums-full, unified listening experiences-die a long slow death at the hands of sharable, streamable playlists, there might not even be a place for skits anymore.


I think Nas’s Illmatic loses something without “The Genesis.” Enter the 36 Chambers would be a completely different listening experience without “Wu-Tang: 7th Chamber” or the famous (infamous?) intro to “Method Man.” De La Soul’s 1989 debut 3 Feet High and Rising may not have left the indelible mark on hip-hop that it did without the weird, off-the-wall game show style skits throughout.

With how memetic pop culture has become in the last year or two, the rap skit could make a big comeback. If the internet can latch onto one good line or one good joke, they will beat it to death and a rapper can take that kind of publicity right to the bank. Childish Gambino released “Centipede” as an unannounced single not tied to any album. Half the song is a classic 90s type skit about selling drugs and making money, and that’s the half that the internet fixated on.

The video for Chance the Rapper’s song “NaNa” has a scene with him, Hannibal Buress, and Donald Glover sitting around eating pizza and riffing and you’re lying if you don’t want that audio in the middle of Chance’s next mixtape. There’s a reason Chance could host SNL this year without doubling as the musical guest.

And I guess that brings up an interesting point. Maybe rappers aren’t funny anymore. It could be true that they don’t have the charisma and flair for banter that groups used to. In the last six years, only two rappers have hosted SNL – Chance the Rapper this year, and Drake in 2016. It’s not the only measure of comedic chops out there, but there’s a correlation between live sketches and rap skits. So there’s a chance I’m off base here. The time of rap skits might truly be done.

I don’t think it is though. Rap music videos are maybe the most creative they’ve ever been, and they have a bigger audience than they’ve ever had. And many of these videos integrate rap skits, even if you wouldn’t necessarily think of them the same way you would if it was on an album. As parody concepts and higher concept narrative structures carve out a larger and larger space next to the “rap video stereotypes” of champagne and gold chains, the rap skit is slowly worming its way back into the public consciousness.

I’ll leave you with this: whatever your opinion on Lil Dicky is, “Professional Rapper feat. Snoop Dogg” has 68 million views on YouTube and that song has like two different skits built into it. Something about that is working, and it’s working well.




Barry: HBO’s Best Show in Years

barry-ka-1920 (1)

That’s right, we’re about to get a special brand of hot take-y up in this piece. I don’t mean HBO’s best comedy. It might be HBO’s best comedy of all time (hot take number two). Barry is a dark action comedy about a Midwestern hitman turned LA actor created by SNL alum Bill Hader and longtime HBO producer Alec Berg, and I want people to know my opinion is exactly what the headline says: Best. Show. In. Years.

When I say years, I mean four years. Specifically, 2014’s True Detective premiere. Season 1 of True Detective was a piece of art with compelling characters, irreverent humor, and tight action sequences. Everything on HBO since then has been an attempt to capture the phenomenon of that first season and the hype of early Game of Thrones. 2016’s Westworld came close, but apparently cowboy boobs are more niche than dragon boobs (hot take three) and it didn’t hit the public consciousness like Game of Thrones did, despite the Emmy nom.

Meanwhile, Veep has been HBO’s comedy darling since it premiered in 2012. It’s grabbed a nomination for best Comedy Series for each of its six seasons, and has taken the win the last three consecutive years. Veep is sharper and quicker than nearly any show out there, but its crass abrasiveness has kept in from being a cultural icon (hot take number four). America isn’t ready for premium cable comedy yet. They still want Young Sheldon and Last Man Standing.

Along comes Barry. If you haven’t watched it this is your moment to stop, take four hours, and watch every episode. I’m not planning on spoiling anything major when I talk about the show, but you should watch it anyway because you trust my taste and judgment. Seriously it’s only four hours. Eight episodes. Do it.

Did that convince you? If it did, awesome. If not, whatever. Keep reading. I’ve got some strong arguments coming up.

First of all, the show meets my primary benchmark for any comedy: is it funny? The answer is yes. I rank it as the third funniest show out right now, following NBC’s Brooklyn Nine-Nine and The Good Place (not the hottest take but i’ll count it, FIVE), but comparing the humor of Barry to either of those shows does it a disservice. The humor in Barry sneaks up on you. I would start laughing before I knew I was laughing, and before I even remembered I was watching a comedy. The jokes are incredibly organic to the realism of the show and its world. Almost every scene of Bill Hader as Barry acting like someone who has never acted had me in stitches. It’s simultaneously over-the-top and grounded in a way that a show with a different concept wouldn’t be able to be.

The show’s well-crafted jokes act as the perfect tension release for the show’s high drama. Don’t get me wrong. This is an 8-episode emotional roller coaster. Again, I’m not going to drop any spoilers on you, but you’re gonna get sad. You’re gonna get really sad and you’re going to like it. One of the benefits of a show so real and human is that it’s easy to buy into the journey Barry takes. Barry Berkman is a character who is sure of who he is and what he does, until he isn’t. The struggle of wanting to be someone new, of wondering if maybe you’re not your “best self” living your “best life”, is a relatable one. Maybe the grass IS always greener on the other side. You’ve had that moment. You’ve maybe even had the moments that follow where you live with one foot in both worlds, trying to keep what you have and get something new at the same time. If you’ve experienced this very common and human moment/emotion, you can relate to Barry even if you’ve never been a hitman or an actor or both.

If you need more of a reason to watch, consider that the show is beautifully acted and crafted. Hader shines as the titular Barry. Stephen Root’s performance as Monroe Fuches is a character so uniquely self-serving that over the course of the season you’re not sure whether you’re watching a hero, villain, or both. I’ve never seen a love interest so drastically unavailable as Sarah Goldberg’s Sally Reed. Glenn Fleshler and Anthony Carrigan play two of the best, most entertaining “villains” on TV right now. The cast performances are aided by stellar direction from Hader, Berg, Hiro Murai (Atlanta), and Maggie Carey (Silicon Valley, Brooklyn Nine-Nine). The show is as comfortable sitting in long, quiet shots as it is with firing through loud, frenetic action sequences. The episodes are tight, the pacing is a thrill ride, and some of the cliffhangers rival the Game of Thrones pilot.

HBO is going to keep making new seasons of Game of Thrones, Westworld, Veep, and Silicon Valley, but Barry is the show that got me waiting a week for TV again. 

This Can’t Be Good: The Asylum

the asylum

When you click on a column called “This Can’t Be Good” you know what you’re going to get. There are things I don’t like, and there are reasons I don’t like them. Also, in addition to legitimate criticism, I’m going to mock these terrible things to the point that it might actually seem mean.

But I’ve never explained why. I’ve never explained HOW. See, over the collective runtime of hundreds upon hundreds of films, I honed my ability to hate. It became practiced. It became an expertly wielded dagger point forged in the flames of stale acting and sub-standard cinematography. And these flowery as hell sentences prove it.

See, you don’t turn a weapon like that on an easy target. It’s not to be used chopping up low-hanging fruit. I’ve watched worse movies that the ones I’ve written about for this column. Way worse. Some real stinkers. I’m talking movies that don’t even belong in the same category with real movies. Movies that break the scale, specifically the bottom of it. We’re talking about a scale that tops out at maaaaaaybe 3.5. Maybe. If I’m feeling generous.

However, I would be remiss if I went any longer without mentioning these movies at all. And when I decided to do that, I discovered the existence of a particular movie studio responsible for some of the worst crimes against good cinematic taste: The Asylum.

If you knew the name before right now, you were already in too deep. You’d already unlocked this dark world and there’s nothing I can do to save you from it. For everyone else, let me give you a small sampling of their catalog, in the form of the list of films I watched for this piece.


Sharknado 2: The Second One

Sharknado 3: Oh Hell No!

Sharknado: The 4th Awakens

Sharknado 5: Global Swarming

Atlantic Rim

Oceans Rising

Little Dead Rotting Hood


Independents’ Day

So you see what we’re working with here, right? Nothing. Literally nothing of any value. The river trash of the cinematic form. And even saying “cinematic form” is using the loosest definition. The Sharknado franchise is barely more than a series of 90-minute long advertisements for Comcast Xfinity and against plastic surgery. These are films in only the most technical of definitions.

It’s easy to look at these films and say that The Asylum knows what they are. To say that their low-budget B-movie catalog, rife with parody titles, is a big joke that everyone at the company is in on. But I doubt if that’s true. Even if it is somehow a huge joke, one that I haven’t gotten over the course of nine movies, that’s not an excuse. It’s a bad joke. It’s the film equivalent of a dude screaming “it’s just a prank bro!” after he spits on a homeless guy. Maybe it’s that all these people don’t care what people think because they’re getting paid, but I can’t believe that’s true either. Literally everyone cares what people think. Human self-esteem is weird like that. I hope you like this article and I hope you like me. Please like me.

These movies are a physical, visceral level of bad that you can’t get from standard theater fare. We’re talking about eye-rolling, head-in-hands, throwing-your-phone-at-the-screen levels of cringeworthy. At several points during this movie marathon I had to just give up and pause the movie so I could bang my head on my desk a few times in utter disappointment. That’s not something that should happen during a movie. You should not feel that sort of abject horror during something that was designed to be fun. That’s a huge no-no, in my book. I don’t like spiraling into despondency mid-scene because I’ve just seen the lowest depths of human imagination. It’s not fun.

I mean, look. Maybe I’m taking this all too seriously. I might be just the dumb guy who needs the joke explained and then it’s not funny anymore. I acknowledge that possibility. But what part of the joke is it where they tell all the actors to forget how to act? That might be the punchline. And then the set-up is that the writers didn’t bother to do even a single edit of their terrible plotlines and worse dialogue. (A recurring tactic for stopping sharknados is to add more isotopes. That literally means nothing.) Oooh, and the tag is that the graphics department decided to just fuck shit up with clip art explosions and the ugliest computer generated creatures the world should have never seen. Yes, that’s it. Ah, humor. I love it.

The Asylum is a movie studio that seeks to answer the question, “how much money can we make if no one tries?” I don’t know what the answer is, but according to the Wikipedia page that I used to do all the outside research for this article, they’ve never lost money on a production. At first glance that seems crazy, especially if you’ve read any of the rest of this article, but Wikipedia also says that their movies usually have a budget of under a million dollars. When you look at that figure, you see how they always make money, and why it seems like every scene in all of their films reads like they used the first take. Their dialogue sounds like someone played Mad Libs with a chemistry textbook and assumed every word with more than two syllables meant something scientific. Every prop they use either came from a Home Depot or a Spirit Halloween store. The main antagonist in Zoombies is a medium-sized man in a bad gorilla costume. At one point in Sharknado 3 (maybe Sharknado 4, I don’t care enough to remember), they use football shoulder pads as an astronaut space suit. You’re asking yourself, “Why do they even need a spacesuit in any of those movies?” I can only assume it’s part of a concerted effort by The Asylum to melt my brain and prevent this article from being released. It almost worked. I am significantly dumber for having watched all these movies, but I soldier on.

I don’t think I can stop these movies from being made. The Asylum has been doing this for going on 20 years now, and they show no sign of slowing down. All I can do is teach the public the warning signs: If a movie starts with “The Asylum Presents” turn it off and do something better for your brain, like huffing paint.

The Definitive and Correct Ranking of all Black Mirror Episodes


  19. Men Against Fire (Episode 305)

No amount of fancy effects will fool me into thinking that this episode is anything other than The 5th Wave. You haven’t read it or seen it, but I have done both and I can tell you in full confidence this is the same thing. Putting the Black Mirror title on a young adult novel doesn’t make me like it.

  1. Shut Up and Dance (Episode 303)

Bronn is in this episode. That’s it. That’s the high point. You spend the whole episode felling bad for a kid because he’s being punished for jerking off, and then at the very end, spoilers, he’s a pedophile. Gross and weird. Plus, putting outdated internet memes in anything makes it worse. So much worse.

  1. Arkangel (Episode 402)

Maybe I’m giving humanity too much credit, but I think that if you know the red stuff that comes out of people is blood, you’re not gonna forget just because it’s blurry. Don’t put experimental mind control implants in your children.

  1. Crocodile (Episode 403)

This is a weird episode because every other Black Mirror is about how everything you see is automatically sent to the cloud and we all have eye augments and brain computers but somehow none of that exists here. Also, it seems to imply that it’s sadder to kill a baby you didn’t have to, where I would argue you never have to kill a baby at all ever.

  1. The Waldo Moment (Episode 203)

Shockingly, electing politicians based on the fact that they’re unqualified and hate politics is a terrible idea. Wow. Who knew? This one ranks so low because British political parties have dumb names and the credits scene is nonsensical at best.  

  1. Be Right Back (Episode 201)

Did I need an hour program to learn that cloning your dead husband is maybe not emotionally healthy? This episode probably ranks number one if you want to have sex with Cleverbot, but otherwise it’s not very memorable.

  1. The National Anthem (Episode 101)

I honestly should have rated this episode higher because nothing is better than raving about how good and clever this show is and then the first one is about fucking a pig.

  1. The Entire History of You (Episode 103)

“Hey, CJ, you know that nightly moment where you stare at the ceiling and regret your interactions with people? What if your whole life was that but times a thousand? We just have to jam a camera into your eyeball!”

Thanks, but no thanks hellish nightmare demons. Hard pass.

  1. Nosedive (Episode 301)

I’m deeply horrified by the thought that somehow in the future society became okay with hearing stranger’s phones make noise constantly. Keep that shit on vibrate, weirdos. No one wants to hear the bleeps and bloops of your pleas for validation.

  1. Playtest (Episode 302)

If I were testing a new augmented reality horror game and it mined my brain for things that would deeply terrify me, the scariest thing it could possibly create would be an otherwise good episode of TV that was ruined by a gotcha punchline in the last 30 seconds. Horrifying.

  1. Metalhead (Episode 405)

This episode at #9 might just be the hottest take on this list unless you love The 5th Wave or want to bang out with a deep learning AI. Not a lot of people liked this episode (6.8 on IMDb, lowest of all episodes) but those people are wrong. It’s Black Mirror does Alfred Hitchcock meets The Shining (with just a touch of Hound of the Baskervilles) and it’s the truest “anthology’ entry in the series, PLEASE @ me.

  1. Fifteen Million Merits (Episode 102)

The clear lesson here is if you miss your shot with a girl you should definitely threaten to kill yourself. This always works and does not come off as desperate or unstable. Fact. This is one of the show’s better examples of world building in a vacuum, but honestly America’s Got Talent is played out NOW, so I can’t imagine how boring and vanilla it will be in the future.

  1. White Bear (Episode 202)

I like to think of White Bear as the British equivalent of Hamilton. Like, it’s impossible to get tickets but anyone who sees it can’t stop raving about how great it is. College theatre kids are trying to license it. People are desperately looking for a high-quality YouTube version. Just that theirs is about psychologically torturing a woman everyday for the rest of her life instead of historical raps.

  1. USS Callister (Episode 401)

A good rule of thumb is that if something cool exists in this world, the people who like that thing will ruin it for people. It’s an almost universal phenomenon. An example, from this episode: free will is pretty cool. Knock-off Matt Damon was having none of that shit at all. Side note, for those keeping track at home: this is the highest ranked episode with a child murder in it (out of 4). Please also note that this was not a ranking criteria for this list.

  1. Hang the DJ (Episode 404)

Perhaps even more hellish than the thought of my digital soul trapped in a Star Trek knock-off is the thought of my digital soul being forced to date, forever. It’s actually ranked lower than it could have been, since I found out the title is a reference to a Smiths song and not an indication that being a DJ is illegal in the future. 

  1. Hated in the Nation (Episode 306)

This episode takes the shockingly controversial stance that, wow, maybe social media can be bad? Social media bad? Social? Media? Bad? Bees? Despite the stale take, the episode shines thanks to a strong overall premise and non-linear storytelling conceit. Please share this on all your social media platforms.

  1. Black Museum (Episode 406)

I initially dismissed this episode as a retread. But comments on the form ignore the themes of traditional Americana fundamentally at odds with the black experience and the still prevalent commodification of minorities. However, I’m not qualified to talk about any of that. Like, at all. Not my lane. But hey, that part with the teddy bear was like Piccolo fused with Nail in DBZ, right? Right? Anyone?

  1. San Junipero (Episode 304)

It would have been way better for this article clickbait-wise if I didn’t like this episode. But honestly, isn’t “old people living out their glory days digitally” essentially the same thing as “starting a website with your best buds because you peaked in college”? We’re the San Junipero of content.

  1. White Christmas (Special)

This is bar none the best Black Mirror episode. Honestly it’s not close. And it’s so sad! Jon Hamm’s character is really sad because he barely gets to mention all the ladies he bangs, and Rafe Spall’s character is sad because he looks weird with facial hair. The two main twists of the episode are that most episodes of this “anthology” series after this one use the same premise as White Christmas, and that they went with child manslaughter instead of the usual child murder. What a switchup!

This Can’t Be Good: Cube Zero

Photo: © Lions Gate

There’s a 95% chance your Netflix recommendations aren’t as screwed up as mine are. I’ll watch anything and I rate nothing. So Netflix’s algorithm, poor thing, has no idea what I like and what I hate.

It hasn’t figured out that I think the Cube franchise is awful.

With no indications that my viewings of Cube and Cube 2: Hypercube were exercises in self-hate and masochism, Netflix gleefully recommended the prequel, Cube Zero. And because my life has no meaning outside the consumption of media, I watched it.

Cube Zero is an almost entirely futile attempt to add to the story of the CCU (Cube Cinematic Universe). Most prequels take details from other films in the series and sort of…reverse engineer them into a new story that expands upon the unexplained while linking “past” to “present”. Cube Zero gathers these details into a pile and lights them on fire. It’s like if Monsters University made Sully red and gave Mike two eyes or The Godfather Part II made everyone French.

One of the reasons this article is about Cube Zero and not one of the other movies is that the prequel film almost works if you watch it first despite it being released last. It still doesn’t work, thanks to average-at-best acting, weird editing decisions, and a whole lot of details that build to nothing (not even the rest of the Cube Cinematic universe).

The other reason that maybe if you know that the Cube Cinematic Universe never improves you won’t be compelled to watch every movie in the series. Learn from my mistakes. Save yourself.