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Shorting out

>> Eat My Shorts and its Twisted sister return to Just for Laughs
By RUPERT BOTTENBERG

Fidgeters and channel surfers, rejoice! You too, attention-deficit types! Once again this year, Just for Laughs is rolling out the bite-sized entertainment of Eat My Shorts and Eat My Twisted Shorts. The sister programs are a jumble, nay, a hodge-podge of comedy shorts rarely breaking the five-minute mark (although several of the best pieces run close to 15). Beyond the time limitations and requisite laff factor, most anything goes here–mock docs, surreal digital animation, old-school cartoons, pop culture parodies, shaggy dog tales and what-all the hell else.

This is, of course, the miniature fest-within-a-fest, which, in previous years, brought to light South Park, Jason “Son of Ivan” Reitman, Doug Lawrence (whose Hairballs has been picked up as an MTV series) and Redux Riding Hood, some new-school Disney business that the mouseketeers would have otherwise shelved (they got an Oscar nomination for their trouble).

CONSPIRACIES AND RIOTS

An indication of the increasing attention that Eat My Shorts is getting is the sheer volume of submissions pouring in from around the world, making this year’s selection process the longest haul yet for its programmers. Their cathode overload, your bounty.

Moreover, Eat My Shorts now boasts spill-over bills in the form of one-off tributes to Robert Smigel and Albert Nerenberg.

Smigel’s the guy who does those fucked-up little cartoons for Saturday Night Live, like The Ambiguously Gay Duo. One number from SNL is Conspiracy Rock, which shook the hornet’s nest by accusing the mother company NBC of distorting and concealing essential news. That’ll be on the bill, as will the pilot for Lookwell, a live-action series starring Adam “Batman” West, which Smigel co-wrote with Conan O’Brien.

Albert Nerenberg’s is a name Montrealers will recognize from his Okanada and Riot Night in Canada efforts, activities which confirmed him as a daring media figure not afraid to dig under the news (and under the barbed wire if so required) and even work with the news as it happens. Case in point is his new one It’s a Riot, currently packing T.O.’s Bloor Cinema, which sees Nerenberg and his posse flexing their improv-comedy muscles while smack in the middle of the summit riots up QC way. It’ll screen along with the cream of the Trailervision crop (Nerenberg’s digs at the Hollywood machine).

MACCHIO’S MULLET

Nerenberg’s Trailervision bits also make their way into the main Eat My Shorts programming–check the bogus, froggy existential angst of Pourquoi Pas?, which kicks off the Twisted bill. Following that are some neat but offensive cartoons, including an excruciating satire of the spaghetti western in A Lazy Sunday Afternoon, from Germany’s Bert Gottschalk, and three–count ’em, three–animated gags from the distinct hand of Bill (The Tune) Plympton. Then there’s Terrible Cosmic Death, an animated force unto its own. Stand by for Evil as President Steve Elvis America, his sidekick Robobobo and Suki Kung Fu Go-Go Morningstar Perfect Assassin take on Professor Evil Maniac in outer space. An ultra-stylish media barrage from the MK-12 Collective, this volatile number is primed to blow up huge.

On the live-action front, Eat My Twisted Shorts presents The Office Party, a longer piece by Chiara Edmands that takes aim at the ’80s. Jon Stewart’s on board here, as is Carol Kane (macking a retard, no less) and Ralph Macchio bearing a leftover mullet. Gross! The bill closes on Tokyo Breakfast, a fake pilot for a Japanese sitcom that has a salaryman and his brood addressing each other in second-hand Ebonics (“Wass ahp, my nee-gah!”). Oof.

AW, SLUGGO!

The nice, polite Eat My Shorts is no slouch either. Digital Harvey, from Federico Hatoum, has a pair of well-intentioned but clueless F/X geeks violating Capra’s classic by inserting a CGI bunny–a sweet dig at those philistines who don’t “get” older culture. White Face, meanwhile, presents clowns as a race in themselves, and as such takes vicious stabs at slurs, stereotypes, cultural appropriation, “the old country” and all that other ethnic stuff. Then there’s Dual Citizen, which pits a wussy but flag-proud Canadian retiree against his fat-head yank neighbours as the fourth of July descends on their Florida hamlet. You really have to be from here to get the final punchline.

Closing the Eat My Shorts program is 2013: A Bill Odyssey. Yeah, that’s right, Walter William’s plasticene abuse magnet Mr. Bill is off on his greatest adventure yet–a voyage through outer space! Which is naturally an excuse for all kinds of horrible deaths for clay-boy. Oh, nooooooooo! :

Eat My Shorts screens at 4pm daily from July 12-16, and 8:30pm from July 18-22. Eat My Twisted Shorts screens at 10pm nightly from July 12-22, and at 5:30pm, July 12-17. The Nerenberg tribute is on Friday, July 20, 11:30pm, and the Smigel tribute is on Saturday, July 21, 2:30pm. All are at the NFB Cinema