Sunday, October 21, 2007

Humor is where you find it

Bringing the funny is fickle.

For me, this line from Alessandra Stanley's Mad Men review in the Times the other day falls with a big thud because it just tries too hard:
"Mad Men," a drama about the advertising business in 1960, is a period piece in the style of "Masterpiece Theater," only the pivotal setting isn't a genteel drawing room in the heyday of the British Empire; it's the booze-spiked office water cooler at the beginning of the end of the American Century. (Not "Brideshead Revisited," but "Brylcreem Revisited.")

It's like she's saying to her readers: "Get it? Huh? Get it?" Not that it would have been a great gag anyway, but she might have gotten a smile out of me if she'd simply written, "... at the end of the American Century. Think 'Brylcreem Revisited.'"

Likewise, I couldn't even read the first few paragraphs of today's Maureen Dowd column without my eyes glazing over. Truly: Ugh.

On the other hand, the Times's perfume reviews? Comedy gold!:
Use civet or a synthetic facsimile up front, and you get Yves Saint Laurent’s Kouros. ... The problem is that this strength, clarity, persistence and depth are applied to the hot, ripe smell of a French trucker’s Jockey shorts after a muggy day on the A51. Which illustrates the difference between being great and being wearable. This perfume is fecal. Technical excellence must count: thus two stars, for solid construction. But an era’s aesthetic must count as well, and despite its molecular wizardry, Kouros is as wearable in the 21st century as 19th-century spats. ...

Civet can also act as a support for another material. In the case of Rose Poivrée (introduced in 2000), that would be rose absolute, never a lovely scent and certainly not by today’s standards. ... Here, Jean-Claude Ellena uses civet to amend rose absolute, and the overall effect is akin to breathing in the warm, slightly fetid breath of some immense, fur-covered animal. It is that moment in an Indian spice market when a surge of sweltering, humid air, as if from the lungs of some morose god, drowns you in spice and car exhaust. But if you have the skin for it, this perfume is mesmerizing, even today.

But that's just the setup. Then comes the punchline: The perfume that smells like a furry animal's fetid breath, morose god exhalations, and car exhaust gets five out of five stars. And to smell that way will set you back about $140 for three ounces.

Now, that, ladies and gentlemen of the comedy jury, is funny!

PS: Oh, that and the fact that "civet" is the secretion of the civet cat's anal gland.


Dave said...

Is it good or bad that I, after reading the first quote, scrolled through the second to get to the punch line?

punkinsmom said...

"But if you have the skin for it, this perfume is mesmerizing...."

Good to know that some people have the skin to pull of scenting it with the secretions of a civet cat's anal gland.

MsYvone said...

All I can think of is that cologne from the movie "Anchorman", SEX PANTHER.

TwoBusy said...

I always thought the line, "It's made from real panthers!" was funny, but now I realize there may have been real perfume science behind it.

Education is sneaky sometimes.

Jim Donahue said...

Oh, there's lots more gross stuff in perfumes. My sister used to be in the retail end of the biz and filled me in.

Ambergris used to be a very common ingredient.

From the Wikepedia entry: "Ambergris occurs as a biliary secretion of the intestines of the sperm whale, and can be found floating upon the sea, or in the sand near the coast. Because giant squids' beaks have been found embedded within lumps of ambergris, scientists have theorized that the whale's intestine produces the substance as a means of facilitating the passage of hard, sharp objects that the whale might have inadvertently eaten."