Harry Basil
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Harry Basil

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The best kept secret in music


"Comedian Harry Basil at Improv"

Movie world helps mold the comedy of Basil
By: JAMES CURRAN - Staff Writer | Wednesday, May 9, 2007 10:44 AM PDT ?‡

Post your Comments Increase Font Decrease Font email this story print this story Decades ago, two careers were launched simultaneously for a Super-8 camera-toting kid on the streets of Bergenfield, New Jersey.

"All of my friends were Jewish, so we made a Jewish James Bond," Harry Basil said. "We called it 'Matzahs Are Forever.'"

Film, comedy ---- and the funny side of motion pictures ---- all played a role in molding Basil, who will perform as the headlining act at Improv at Pechanga through Sunday.

Basil, said he will bring an energetic combination of impressions, audience participation and props in his performances. With an extensive resume in screenwriting and directing, he said his type of act is essential to counter the sedentary nature of working behind the camera.

"It's a very physical act, which is good because this is getting in shape for me," Basil said. "You start to put on weight with the movies and the food they give you."

Basil has been involved in some major releases, including a number of films with the legendary Rodney Dangerfield. Basil's also created low-budget independent films ---- including two that have yet to be released ---- and said he's under contract to help create a "National Lampoon" movie.

With depth to his filmmaking resume, it could be curious why Basil would return to the stage.

"I used to open for Rodney for years," Basil said. "He made movies and commercials, but he said there's nothing like the romance you have from the audience. You miss the attention. It's impossible to get other ways.

"My wife would tell me: 'You need to get on the road. You need to perform.' So I love it, man."

Basil's longtime affinity for motion pictures is the basis of his act. Theme music from a classic movie will suddenly burst over the loudspeakers, prompting Basil to re-create a scene with people in the audience.

There are props involved, but the presentation is unlike other comedians who use them. Should Basil do an impression of Rocky Balboa, for instance, the comic will need a walker for the aging boxer.

"There are some famous prop comedians ---- Carrot Top and Gallagher ---- but the difference is, the props I use aren't the joke in the act," Basil said. "I use them to enhance the movies that I'm spoofing, almost like vignettes. All of a sudden, the music is from 'Risky Business' and I'm dancing around in my underwear like Tom Cruise.

"It can go into 20 or 30 different movies and it's all spontaneous. ... The transitions are quick. They come when people least expect it."

Clearly, Basil's approach differs from his mentor. Dangerfield's famed "I get no respect at all" routines were in a steady setup-punchline formula. Yet, Basil did learn something from Dangerfield that helps him to this day: jam as many laugh-getters in your time as possible.

"Rodney used to say that you'd be given 2-3 minutes on 'The Tonight Show,' and he realized he had to stick as many jokes in that set as you can," Basil said. "Remember the old show 'Make Me Laugh'? They tried to bring that back and the comics just died out there because they were too busy trying to get people to know them.

"For me now, yes, it's a variety act. That's what you would call it."

Basil said in another respect, his standup career would be much further along if he heeded part of Dangerfield's approach.

"Rodney respected my talent because we wrote films together, but it wasn't his type of show," Basil said. "He said 'You kill, but you don't have an image. You need to have an image that everybody can relate to.'

"'Dice' Clay, Sam Kinison, Roseanne, Tim Allen ---- they had an image you could build a character around, even for TV. I'll never be that famous as a comedian. I realized that when I hooked up with Rodney, but I cared more about being behind the scenes."

Yet, Basil admired Dangerfield for his continued focus on honing his craft.

"Rodney would still go to The Laugh Factory and work," Basil said. "You'd never see (George) Carlin go into The Comedy Store to work on material, anymore. Because of that, if you speak to comedians and say name the five best comics, he'd be up there with (Richard) Pryor and (Bill) Cosby."

Basil toiled to be respected in two disciplines, then. In his filmmaking work, he's looking forward to the release of "Urban Decay," a zombie horror flick at stars Dean Cain, best known for the television series "Lois & Clark: The New Adventures of Superman."

"It's actually a pretty hip movie," Basil said. "There's a lot of hip-hop characters in it. Rappers get attacked in the studio. And the zombie is a homeless guy, so it actually has a political element to it."

Also, some comic relief is likely. Basil said despite the genre, laughter is needed to break the mood.

"It depends on the film," he said. "One I did has a lot of dark comedy in it. ... There's always laughs to be had in a movie."

And in Basil's case, laughs to be had at a movie's expense.

Harry Basil, Scott Kenndy and Frazier Smith

When: 8 p.m. shows through Sunday, also 10 p.m. shows Fridays and Saturdays; through Sunday

Where: Improv Comedy Club at Pechanga, Pechanga Resort & Casino, 45000 Pechanga Parkway, Temecula

Tickets: $21.95 (plus two-drink minimum)

- Temecula News

"Horror Director Harry Basil"

Sunday, December 10, 2006

Category: MySpace

September 7: First look at bloody FINGERPRINTS

Busy director Harry Basil, who already has the cult chiller SOUL'S MIDNIGHT and the zombie opus URBAN DECAY (see our last item here) in postproduction, gave Fango some early pics (above and below) and details on FINGERPRINTS, his supernatural opus currently undergoing additional photography to "bloody it up," according to Basil. "I brought in Vincent Gaustini [who provided DECAY's FX] to amp up the gore factor in eight scenes. Several studios have expressed interest in the film, but I felt it needed more blood!"

Written and produced by Brian and Jason Cleveland, with Gray Frederickson, Academy Award-winning veteran of the GODFATHER trilogy and APOCALYPSE NOW, serving as executive producer, FINGERPRINTS is based on a widely publicized urban legend that took place 50 years ago in a Texas town. After a school bus accident took the lives of several children, their spirits now appear to push vehicles from the train tracks (leaving their fingerprints in the process). The film stars Lou Diamond (THE FIRST POWER) Philips, Sally (THE HAUNTED) Kirkland, Geoffrey (THE DEVIL'S REJECTS) Lewis, Josh (LEECHES!) Henderson, Andrew Lawrence and Kristin (LAGUNA BEACH) Cavallari. Leah Pipes toplines as a troubled teenager who discovers the gruesome truth behind the local myth.

"The setting of our film, and the actual urban legend, is outside San Antonio, Texas," Basil says, "but we shot most of the film in Guthrie, OK. The old train depot in our film is an actual haunted location they refer to as 'Ghost Hookers from the 1800s'; there's a great Ed Wood movie title! Some of our other locations were also known to have ghosts. The Stone Lion Inn in Guthrie is haunted by [the spirit of] a little girl, just like in our story, and the house used for our heroine's place in Heritage Hills, OK, is inhabited by the original owner—an old woman who fell asleep in the bath and was scalded to death. The house is haunted by her naked pruney spirit! We shot a scene with a naked Kristen, where she's attacked by the killer in the [house's] bathtub. We didn't tell her until after we had wrapped that someone had died in that tub."

Morbid hijinx also took place on SOUL'S MIDNIGHT, which Image Entertainment releases next year. "FINGERPRINTS is my second film with Brian and Jason, and we are all huge fans of the genre, and love to try and incorporate actual legends and stories [into our films]," the director explains. "Same goes for locations and props. In SOUL'S MIDNIGHT, we used an actual 17th-century 'vampire killing kit' that the Clevelands bought on-line. We also used as a prop the ashes of my recently deceased father. [MIDNIGHT] actor Armand Assante uses the ashes to try and resurrect their messiah. I know that sounds sick, but my dad always wanted to be in the movies! He would have been especially happy to be in a scene with Armand." Visit FINGERPRINTS on-line at its MySpace page. —Sean Decker



Still working on that hot first release.



Some people “go to the movies”… Some people even “work at the movies”… HARRY BASIL “lives the movies”. He’s a human movie trailer, taking his audience on a wild romp through current and classic MOVIES, with a trunk of outrageous props and costumes that could fill a sound stage. Harry recreates, and spoofs, memorable moments from your favorite hit movies. He’s more than an impressionist, as he physically and vocally takes on a wide variety of unforgettable actors and movie characters, pulling unsuspecting audience members up on stage to act as his costars.

Harry moved out to Hollywood from New Jersey and created his comedy act at the world famous Improv and Comedy Store, where he was spotted and hand picked by Rodney Dangerfield for the "9th Annual HBO Young Comedian's special". A close friendship developed between Harry and Rodney and Harry became Rodney's exclusive opening act for 17 years.

Harry’s love for the movies really paid off when he co-wrote and co-produced three of Rodney Dangerfield’s movies. The cross-dressing soccer comedy, ”Ladybugs” for Paramount Pictures, "Meet Wally Sparks” for Trimark, and “My Five Wives” co-starring Andrew Dice Clay and SNL’s Molly Shannon, for Artisan .

In 2001 he made his feature directing debut with, "The 4th Tenor", a romantic opera comedy, starring Rodney Dangerfield, Charlie Fliesher and Dom Ierra, released by Warner Bros. He followed that in 2002 with, "Back by Midnight", a prison comedy starring Randy Quaid, Kirstie Alley, Harland Williams, Dangerfield, and a whole cast of colorful comedians. In 2003 Warner Brothers and Franchise Pictures hired Harry to write and direct the family comedy “Funky Monkey” (aka “Hairy Tale”) released in Sept. 2004. The film stars Matthew Modine, Jeffery Tambor, Gilbert Gottfried, Tommy Davidson, and a Chimpanzee skilled in karate. Harry directed “CLOUD 9” a sexy beach volley ball comedy written and produced by Al Ruddy, Oscar winning producer of the Godfather and Million Dollar Baby. The film stars, Burt Reynolds, D.L. Hugley and Gabrielle Reese. Harry is also Executive producer and co-writer of “Funny Money” a wild farce starring Chevy Chase, Penelope Ann Miller, Armand Assante, Chris Mc Donald and Robert Loggia. The film had it’s world premiere at the “Aspen Comedy Arts Festival”.

Closing out 2006, Harry directed, “Soul’s Midnight”, a modern day, gothic vampire tale starring Armand Assante, produced by Oscar winning producer Gray Frederickson, (“Godfather 2”, “Apocalypse” Now) It was Harry’s first foray into the horror genre, which he continued with the teen supernatural thriller, “Fingerprints” produced by Brother’s Cleveland/Graymark Pictures. The film stars Leah Pipes, (Disney’s Pixel Perfect) Kristen Cavalari (Laguna Beach) Josh Henderson (Over There) Andrew Lawrence, Lou Diamond Phillips, and Sally Kirkland. The film is generating great buzz and recently won Best Feature at The New York Horror Film Festival.

Acting is also another of Harry’s achievements. Since moving to Hollywood Harry has appeared in several films and television shows. He landed a feature role in Francis Ford Coppola’s 1950’s period romantic comedy “Peggy Sue Got Married” starring Kathleen Turner and Nicolas Cage. Harry was cast as a member of Nicolas Cage’s singing group along side fellow comedian Jim Carrey. He also appeared opposite Demi More in the sci-fi cult film, “The Seventh Sign”, and wrote himself small parts in “Ladybugs” and “Meet Wally Sparks”.

In the mid 90's, after only several years in the business, then NBC chief Brandon Tartikoff signed Harry to a network development deal. Out of that came several TV pilots, one a spin off from the hit series "Family Ties”. Harry has been a frequent favorite on many of the standup comedy shows. He’s appeared on, “Evening at the Improv”, “Carolines Comedy Hour”,Comedy Central, MTV, Showtime and HBO.
You can also check out clips to my comedy show and trailers to the films I directed at www.myspace.com/harrybasil
or Harry Basil on youtube