Brow Beat
Slate's Culture Blog

March 31 2015 8:02 AM

Which Animal-Shaped Marshmallow Is the Best? A Peeps Knockoff Taste Test

There are the Peeps diorama contests held annually by the St. Paul Pioneer PresstheWashington Post, and many others. There’s the director who’s optioned film and TV rights to Peeps. There’s the Peeps-flavored milk. But perhaps the surest sign that Peeps have become ingrained in our culture is that there are now multiple Peeps knockoffs: pastel-colored, sugar-crusted, animal-shaped marshmallows angling for space in your Easter basket.

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March 31 2015 3:31 AM

How Justin Bieber’s Roast, and Master Plan for Redemption, Backfired

By most accounts, the comedy roast was born at New York’s Friars Club, where, each year since 1949, members have gathered to skewer, satirize, mock, and otherwise insult their peers. Comedy Central broadcast these events from 1998 to 2002; after that, the channel started doing its own roasts, and its produced 13 of various quality since. The latest, which aired Monday night, was a surprisingly tame takedown of Justin Bieber.

That tameness isn’t too surprising, as in reality these specials are almost entirely run by the roastee, who gets to recruit the roasters, deem certain topics off-limits, and decide what jokes make it to broadcast. More than punishment or comeuppance or even comedy, these roasts are about promotion. They’re publicity stunts masquerading as punch lines, and no celebrity has come out of one looking worse in the public eye.

So you can see why Bieber wanted to be roasted. At worst, it’d be no different than the verbal beatings he gets daily on the Internet; at best, it’d be an endearing crucifixion. The haters could hate, and he could sit to the side, repentant and humbled and well-intentioned. After three years of zero musical output and countless tabloid scandals, perhaps a good burn or two would help pop’s prodigal son rise again.

Alas, no such luck.

March 30 2015 5:32 PM

Watch Gonzo from The Muppets Perform “The Humpty Dance”

Anyone who watched The Muppets knows Gonzo was a bit of a weirdo. But in this video from mashup artist Mylo the Cat (yes, the very same YouTuber that made the Muppets “rap” the Beastie Boys), Gonzo’s freak flag flies higher than ever as he performs Digital Underground’s “The Humpty Dance.”

Watch Gonzo rap about being a freak who likes his beats funky, and his oatmeal lumpy, if you dare.

March 30 2015 4:47 PM

What the Trevor Noah Doc You Laugh But It’s True Reveals About the Future Daily Show Host

The announcement of Trevor Noah’s ascendancy to Jon Stewart’s Daily Show throne has lots of people asking: Who is Trevor Noah? There’s no shortage of clips that show the South African comedian’s finely calibrated combination of showman’s charm and warm but incisive social commentary. But if you want to see where he comes from, the best way is the documentary You Laugh But It’s Truestreaming now on Netflix and (for $1.99) on Vimeo on Demand.

David Paul Meyer’s 2011 movie (filmed in 2009) shows Noah still in the early days of his comedy career. The doc follows the comic as he prepares for his first one-man show in Johannesburg. Twenty-five years old at the time, Noah had only been working the stand-up scene for two years. But it shows why he is such an appealing figure—both for his comedic abilities and for what he represents.

March 30 2015 2:41 PM

The Best Stand-Up of New Daily Show Host Trevor Noah

The New York Times reported this morning that South African comedian Trevor Noah will replace Jon Stewart as the new host of The Daily Show. This promotion from three-time correspondent might be unexpected, but if you know Noah’s stand-up it’s easy to see how he got the job. Noah has a knack for turning all varieties of human tendencies into hilarious and incisive social commentary. And he also brings an endearing optimism that makes it easy to laugh no matter how heavy his material gets. Below, we’ve gone through all of Noah’s stand-up that’s online and narrowed in on his best bits.

March 30 2015 10:02 AM

Even Christian Bookstores Have Had It With Fake Testimonials About Heaven

Last week, one of the largest chains of Christian bookstores announced that it will no longer carry “heaven visitation resources,” the deliciously batty genre that includes the best-sellers Heaven Is for Real and To Heaven and Back. LifeWay Christian Resources said in a statement that they stopped ordering “experiential testimonies about heaven” last summer, and have now removed remaining products from its stores and website. Theologically speaking it’s a sensible and belated move, one that has likely taken so long because of the immense amount of money these books bring in.

The obvious quandary for Christian publishers and booksellers is that these books are as profitable as they are problematic. LifeWay’s decision was made public last week in response to an inquiry from Baptist Press about the 2004 book 90 Minutes in Heaven, the account of a Baptist pastor who says he visited heaven after being in a car accident. That book is said to have sold 6.5 million copies, and a movie version starring Hayden Christensen and Kate Bosworth is due out this fall. (Wild guess: It’ll be 90 minutes in hell.) The movie version of Heaven Is for Real made $100 million last year at the box office. In fact, the Association of American Publishers estimates that religious presses made $400 million in revenue in the first nine months of 2014.

March 30 2015 9:34 AM

Meet the New Host of the Daily Show

Jon Stewart’s replacement on The Daily Show will be Trevor Noah, the New York Times reported this morning. For many, the choice will come as a surprise, or at least a bit of a mystery: The 31-year-old comedian has made only three appearances on the show.

Instead, the comedian has made his name in large part outside of the United States. He has hosted several shows in his native South Africa, where he was born to a black South African woman and a white Swiss man, whose relationship was illegal under Apartheid. When the New York Times spoke to him, he was on a comedy tour in Dubai. He speaks six languages.

March 30 2015 9:02 AM

How It Follows Turns a Retrograde Premise Into the Realest, Scariest Teen Horror in Years

Spoilers ahead.

The first thing you’ll want to do you after you see It Follows is to tell other people to watch it immediately. The movie, which has quietly become a horror event, is so clever, and so genuinely scary, that it demands to be experienced with others.

But there’s a problem. When you recommend it, people will ask what it’s about—and on its own, the premise sounds absurdly retrograde. The film centers on Jay (Maika Monroe, reprising final girl duties after The Guest), who drifts through manicured Detroit suburbs in an uncertain adolescent haze. She’s seeing a boy, who seems sweet, if a little peculiar: At one point, on a date in a historic movie house, he suddenly asks to leave after pointing out a woman in a yellow dress, refusing to say why. Still, Jay is smitten, and she sleeps with him in his car in an abandoned parking structure. It’s more romantic than it sounds—at least until she wakes up tied to a wheelchair while her suitor goes on a paranoid-sounding rant about something following him. He passed it on to her when they had sex, he explains, and now she has to pass it on to someone else—or it will come for her.

March 30 2015 8:32 AM

Spoiler Special: White God

On the Spoiler Special podcast, Slate critics discuss movies, the occasional TV show, and, once in a blue moon, another podcast, in full, spoiler-filled detail. Below, Slate movie critic Dana Stevens and Slate senior editor Forrest Wickman discuss White God, the new movie about a Rise of the Planet of the Apes-style uprising with dogs. What do we make of the movie’s animal rights message? How successful is the canine acting and the movie’s creation of a canine hero? And what, exactly, is the meaning of the ending?

March 30 2015 8:02 AM

Errol Morris on His Early Films, and What He Thinks of The Jinx

This article originally appeared in Vulture.

This month sees the release of wonderful new Criterion editions of three of the greatest documentaries of all time: Errol Morris’s first three films, Gates of HeavenVernon, Florida, and The Thin Blue Line. Re-watching these films, it’s at times odd to think that the same man made them: Gates of Heaven is the deadpan, deliberate tale of pet cemeteries in California; Vernon, Florida is a weirdly meditative, austere portrait of the offbeat personalities in a rural southern town. And The Thin Blue Line, one of the most influential documentaries of all time, is a gripping investigation into a cop killing in Texas—complete with an evocatively tense Philip Glass score, stylized cinematography, and detailed, cinematic slow-motion reenactments. (The film was famously instrumental in the eventual release of Randall Dale Adams, who had been wrongfully convicted of the murder and condemned to die in the electric chair.) But look closely and you’ll see that the films share a remarkable sense of candor, of empathy, and a fascination with offbeat yet very human characters. That fascination with people, combined with an investigative spirit, has served Morris well over the years, as he has become one of the foremost filmmakers in the world—with films like A Brief History of TimeFast, Cheap & Out of Control, and The Fog of War among his many credits. He spoke with us recently about his early films, his interviewing style, and some of the potentially ethical issues around getting involved with a true crime tale. And yes, we did ask him about The Jinx.

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