In the hierarchy of things considered hip and cutting edge, karaoke would probably rank just a few spots above Vanilla Ice and the Macarena. Once mentioned in the same breath as K-Tel records and Mr. Microphone, the Japanese-imported pastime is about to get the Hollywood treatment in not one but two high-profile films.
First up is "Duets," which gives karaoke the official stamp of in-crowd approval since it stars newly crowned Hollywood princess Gwyneth Paltrow. The recently wrapped pic, directed by the Oscar-winning beauty's much-thanked father, Bruce Paltrow ("St. Elsewhere"), centers on wannabe singers who hustle karaoke contests.
"Duets" isn't the only sing-along action in town. Ben Stiller is slated to star in the Tom Shadyac ("Patch Adams") comedy "Karaoke Knight" for Universal Pictures. The actor, whose portrayal of the agony of zip-locked franks and beans in "There's Something About Mary" was cruelly overlooked by the Academy, will stay away from bodily harm (and fluids) this time around by playing a singer with charisma to burn but a voice that wouldn't even get him on "The Gong Show." He finds renewed hope and success through the miracle of karaoke.
Stiller himself is no stranger to the karaoke culture. He directed
1996's "The Cable Guy," in which Jim Carrey, with typical
restraint, bounds through a psychotically hilarious karaoke version of
Jefferson Airplane's "Somebody to Love."
Adding to the vast wasteland that is Saturday night programming is USA's "Happy Hour," a chaotic, over-the-top game show hosted by Ahmet Zappa, with brother Dweezil along for comic relief. On the program, 10 (five men and five women) C-list celebrities (e.g. Park Overall, Garrett Morris) compete in several games, including a cringe-inducing version of dueling karaoke. Generation Y is also hot for karaoke, as evidenced by the many MTV programs currently featuring fans mangling popular songs.
By next fall, the world's scariest karaoke hits the small screen, as the
syndicated "Your Big Break" debuts. The variety-competition show, produced by
the indefatigable Dick Clark, gives ordinary (albeit outgoing) folks a chance
to get into costume and perform their best impression of their favorite
musical star for the amusement and ridicule of fellow couch potatoes.
So it looks like karaoke is here to stay, at least for a while. Our advice:
Brush up on your favorite songs and start singing in the shower -- you never
know when you're going to be on karaoke camera.