Tag Archives: comedy

The Classics, Renewed

Do you re-read books, or do you prefer to find new ways to enjoy your favourite stories?

There was one family vacation where I read the third Harry Potter book, Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban, 8 times within one week.  I had only brought two books, which was my first mistake, and the other was a murder mystery, disqualified because I had already figured out whodunit, which was my second. By the end of the week, I was quoting passages from specific pages that I had memorized, and I had grown thoroughly sick of the book! But when J.K. Rowling released the next volume in the series, I read it right away – and have with every book she’s released about Harry and his friends since, including The Cursed Child. 21 years after Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone was first published, we still want to revisit those characters and that setting. Luckily, the books are still popular enough to warrant Rowling producing more content within the Harry Potter universe – but what do you do about other books that you’ve loved, with authors who are long gone?

With some, you can watch the movie and film adaptations: Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice was first adapted for the screen in 1938 as a television movie, then in 1940 as a film, as a TV miniseries in 1952, 1958, 1967, 1980, and 1995, and then again in 2005 as the film starring Keira Knightley as Elizabeth Bennet. This isn’t even counting the productions inspired by the plot and characters – Bride and Prejudice, the 2004 Bollywood musical version (which is very fun), the Lizzie Bennet Diaries, or Pride and Prejudice and Zombies. If Pride and Prejudice is your favourite, you have a plethora of ways that you can revisit the story. But enough: this is not a blog titled Adaptations of Pride and Prejudice, an Incomplete List.

texts My current favourite way to return to a story I have loved is through Daniel Mallory Ortberg’s Texts from Jane Eyre: And Other Conversations with Your Favorite Literary Characters. In it, Ortberg transforms each of the chosen classic (or contemporary!) tales, ranging from the Greek myths and Beowulf to The Hunger Games and Harry Potter, into a text message dialogue between two characters, and they are hilariously done. Check out this excerpt from the conversation between Odysseus and Circe as an example:




(Ortberg 14-16)

If you like comics and quick summations of stories, Henrik Lange’s 90 Classic Books for People in a Hurry might be just up your alley! Alternatively, maybe you want to take a bit more time with a book you’ve loved before: consider a graphic novel adaptation! Our collection has options ranging from Artemis Fowl to Shakespeare’s The Tempest. There’s something to suit everyone – including Pride and Prejudice and Zombies.

Happy reading!


Late Night Memories

It’s been almost two years since David Letterman retired from television, and I still miss him.

I remember sneaking out of bed when I was in elementary school to watch Dave toss pencils through a window with my parents. There was something about his goofy brand of humour that connected with me, and throughout jr high I would tape his show and use it as incentive to get through my homework when I got home the next day.

I know: I was a weird kid.

Throughout high school, university and beyond, I always looked forward to checking in with Dave. No matter what kind of day you’ve had, you could rely on laughing about something dumb in the monologue, or some  banter between him and his career-long band leader, Paul Shaffer. And if it wasn’t the banter, there was always something fun happening, whether they were dropping stuff off the roof of the Ed Sullivan theatre, or the classic bit about trying to see how many Spidermen they could fit into a Jamba Juice. You could always rely on the nightly “Top Ten Lists” or the more esoteric “Will it Float?” or “Is it Anything?” segments for a sure laugh. About 10 years ago I was on a trip in New York City, and even though we saw a bunch of cool stuff, the biggest highlight for me was getting to sit in on a taping of The Late Show.

I guess you can say I was a life-long fan.

So, you can guess I’m pretty excited to read this new biography on Dave called Letterman, The Last Giant of Late Night by Jason Zinoman. It is touted to be “the definitive story of the life and artistic legacy of David Letterman”, so I can’t wait to get into it.

Letterman The Last Giant of Late Night

Paul Shaffer wrote a book a few years ago called We’ll be here for the rest of our lives, and I had high hopes for it. I’m not sure what I was expecting, exactly, but maybe some insight into the “behind the scenes” world of this television icon and the many guests he’s had on his shows over the years, starting at NBC in 1982 and moving to CBS in 1993. The result, however, was a little underwhelming. I had the feeling that Paul Shaffer didn’t want to offend anybody, and so his memoir came off as a luke-warm retread that never really said anything interesting.


For those who want a little perspective on the so called “Late Night Wars” between Dave and Jay Leno over at The Tonight Show, Bill Carter’s book, The War for Late Night: When Leno went early and television went crazy is worth a look. It also covers Conan O’Brien’s short-lived stint as the host of The Tonight Show. Remember that?


Even though I haven’t connected with anyone on “late night” the way I did with Dave, there are a couple of other “late night” hosts that have written books.

Trevor Noah, the new host of The Daily Show, has written an engaging memoir of growing up mixed race in the dying days of South Africa’s apartheid era. (Born in 1984, Noah was 6 when Nelson Mandela was released from prison). Even if you don’t watch The Daily Show, I think you’ll find Noah’s story riveting. It’s called Born a Crime: Stories from a South African Childhood.


Another late night host with connections to The Daily Show is Samantha Bee. She is the only Canadian in the late night world, and more importantly: the only woman. She began her career as a correspondent for The Daily Show and cites David Letterman as one of her comedic influences. In 2016, she launched her own late night satire show, Full Frontal with Samantha Bee, which is now in its second season. She recently hosted an alternative “White House Correspondents Dinner” which attracted a crowd of 2600 people. In 2010 she published a book of humorous essays called I know I am, but what are you? which gives you a good overview of the unique way Samantha Bee sees the world.


We may never see another late night host like David Letterman, but I’m sure that his legacy is secured in knowing that many up-and-coming comedians still hold Dave up as the gold standard for late night humour, and his presence will be felt for many years to come.


The Fringe: a little bit of something for everyone

It’s summer again, and that means it’s time for all those amazing festivals that we try to jam into the 3 months before the Winnipeg weather turns cold again.

FringeFrom July 17-28, the festival of choice is the Winnipeg Fringe Festival, a sure delight for the whole family because it offers something for all tastes and personalities. If your preference is for air conditioning and dark, spotlit stage productions, then head inside to watch talented Winnipeg actors and actresses or fascinating international artists perform live. If your preference is more towards siting outside with a cold beverage and watching one of the many free acts from juggling to magic, the Winnipeg fringe festival has you covered there as well. You can take in all kinds of original acts for a very reasonable price, regardless of whether you prefer watching improv, drama, dancing or stand-up comedy. 

Some of the shows in this year’s fringe festival will deliver a real eye-opening experience (I’m hoping my own play, the one-man comedy show Aspergers: a tale of a social misfit (venue 3) which looks at this unique minority group and all the social challenges that they face, will fall into this category). 

As any fringe company working on a tight budget will tell you, one way to find a great play to put on is to check it out first for free at the public library. To get you in the mood and get your blood flowing as you get ready to take in as many shows as possible, check out some of the original plays and/or sources of inspiration used by Fringe groups this year:

  • Published Playwrights.  It can be difficult to make a living as a playwright in Canada, but some do manage! If you peruse the 819-region of our library’s “non-fiction” shelves (also known as the Canadian Drama range of the Dewey system), you’ll find plays like 7 stories7 Stories by Morris Panych (venue 12) and the works of George F. Walker (Adult Entertainment, venue 3) and Daniel MacIvor (Here Lies Henry, venue 15) (caveat:  we don’t seem to have either of those two titles, but we do have numerous other listings by those same playwrights – be sure to check them out if you’re looking for inspiration for 2014!). Nearby in the 812: American Drama section you’ll also find Thom Pain (based on nothing) by Will Eno (venue 11).
  • Free Classics. Before checking out the revised works of plays by great playwrights such as Shakespeare and Chekhov, why not read the original? Two Fringe companies are doing versions of Shakespeare this year (As You Like It (venue 19) & Hamlet (venue 25))…we of course have dozens of versions of Shakespeare’s works in our collections – original plays, movie adaptations, graphic novel adaptations, sound recordings of dramatizations, etc., etc… One thing that may not be commonly known is that anyone can own a free copy of Shakespeare’s plays, simply by downloading a copy from Project Gutenberg. Because of their age, all of Shakespeare’s works are in the public domain, which means they’re owned “by everyone.” You can find copies of As You Like It and Hamlet by searching our Public Domain collection in eLibraries Manitoba (once downloaded, the files are yours to keep forever!).
    Anton Chekhov’s works  (adapted for Quickies With Chekhov, venue 21) are also available for free download from Public Domain collections. My recommendation is The Seagull: this play dramatizes the romantic and artistic conflicts between four characters; the famous middlebrow story writer Boris Trigorin, the ingenue Nina, the fading actress Irina Arkadina, and her son the symbolist playwright Konstantin Tréplev.
  • Bizzarre histories. 0312144865Ed Cuddy, fringe actor slash admin coordinator of support services here at WPL, shared the inspiration for Macabre Tales of Horror and Macabreness 3D (venue 6): the censorship saga of the old EC Comics, which were popular in the 1940s and 50s until the implementation of the Comics Code Authority made it illegal to publish comics books with the words “”horror” or “terror” or “weird” on covers. The stories lived on in the pages of Mad Magazine, but the original Tales from the Crypt, The Vault of Horror, Two-Fisted Tales and Weird Science fell, well, back into the crypt. If you love Macabre Tales and are looking to read on in the same style, try Tales From the Crypt: the Official Archives or Tales of Terror!: the EC Companion, or one of the new Tales from the Crypt comics found in our children’s/youth graphic novels areas.

And if you need a break from fringing, remember that the Millennium library is nearby with access to computers (and air conditioning!) so that you can plan out a strategy for making all those fringe festival shows you don’t want to miss out on (and of course, once you’ve made up your strategy, print out your new jam-packed schedules on our handy printers!). This is definitely going to be a great summer and a great festival, I hope you are looking forward to it as much as I am!