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The Real Reasons Kim Jong Un of North Korea Is Threatening War

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One of the biggest mysteries in the world these days is understanding the psyche of North Korean leader Kim Jong Un. Does he really want war with the U.S.? Is he merely angling for money and a better international bargaining position? Well, wonder no more. The real reasons are less complicated than you’d think.

THOUGHT DeNIRO DESERVED THE OSCAR FOR “SILVER LININGS PLAYBOOK”

RODMAN WON’T STOP CALLING

UPSET BY THOSE HORRIFYING COTTONELLE FRESH CARE COMMERICIALS

IF HE LAUNCHES NINE MISSILES, THE TENTH IS FREE

CHICKS DIG LUNATICS

DOESN’T WANT TO LOSE HIS BET WITH AHMADINEJAD

BAD CRUISE SHIP EXPERIENCE

HILLARY UNFRIENDED HIM ON FACEBOOK

JUST HEARD ABOUT NPR CANCELING “TALK OF THE NATION”

CRIBBAGE GAME WITH BIDEN GOT OUT OF HAND

HIS SMARTPHONE TOLD HIM TO DO IT

A long weekend at Disney World might solve the whole thing.

Best Veeps in Movies & TV

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A new season of HBO’s wacky, wonderful “Veep” is upon us, which is a golden opportunity to celebrate some great political second bananas from TV and movies. You might even recognize a couple of them from history class – and the evening news.

PAUL GIAMATTI IN “JOHN ADAMS”

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Our first example is our first vice president. Paul Giamatti gave a towering performance in the TV miniseries “John Adams” in 2008. It was no easy job, because Adams was a feisty, fussy character while also being an intellectual powerhouse and a true patriot. The section where Adams is vice president is wonderful, showing just how uncomfortable that position has been from the very beginning.

GLENN CLOSE IN “AIR FORCE ONE”

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Here’s a great popcorn movie in which the vice president is faced with something the Founding Fathers never envisioned: terrorists have kidnapped the president aboard his airplane IN MID-FLIGHT. Close does nice work showing us her character’s shock, confusion, hesitation and resolve.

TIM MATHESON IN “THE WEST WING”

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Aaron Sorkin has given so many actors a chance to show their dramatic range. In this case, Matheson, normally a comic actor with a light touch, got to be wonderfully complicated and prickly as President Bartlett’s VP on “The West Wing.” I think it’s the best work he’s done. Well, aside from “Animal House.”

BEN KINGSLEY IN “DAVE”

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No nuance here. In the comedy “Dave,” about a guy who happens to look exactly like the sitting president (Kevin Kline), Ben Kingsley is the straight-arrow vice president who has been shunted aside because he’s not corrupt.

POWERS BOOTHE IN “24”

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TV’s “24” offers us an array of complex vice presidents – many of them quite devious. My favorite of the bunch is Powers Boothe, who came on later in the series’ run. Boothe just has an incredible intensity.

JOAN ALLEN IN “THE CONTENDER”

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Technically, Joan Allen’s character was only in the running to become vice president in “The Contender.” Still, it was a role that indicated the symbolic importance of the office and also the thankless nature of it.

RICHARD DREYFUSS IN “W.”

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Say what you will about Vice President Dick Cheney, he never approached the position as symbolic. In “W.,” Richard Dreyfuss played Cheney as a politician with immense influence in the George W. Bush White House.

DAN ZISKIE IN “HOUSE OF CARDS”

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Sure, Ziskie’s VP is a fictional character, but he does bear some passing resemblance to a certain folksy, gaffe-prone vice president we all know. In “House of Cards,” the vice president becomes something of a pawn in an overall scheme by a Congressman yearning for more power.

JULIA LOUIS-DREYFUS IN “VEEP”

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She is simply brilliant in “Veep” as a vain, egotistical, paranoid vice president. Anyone who thinks they’ve seen all the tricks Ms. Louis-Dreyfus has to offer in “Seinfeld” needs to see this show. Here, she’s a classic fast-talker. She’s also hard-edged, foul-mouthed and completely in charge. I believe this performance puts her solidly in the handful of best comic actresses in TV history.

Hail to the Almost-Chief!

New Rules for Baseball

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Every time you turn around, there are new rules being put into place in major sports. Sometimes it’s out of concern for players’ safety. Often, it’s intended to make a sport more exciting. Now that baseball has returned, let’s hope our national penchant for rules doesn’t overly alter our national pastime. It could get ugly.

INFIELD TWEET RULE: YOU LOSE A BASE RUNNER EVERY TIME A PLAYER MAKES AN OFFENSIVE COMMENT ON TWITTER

VENDORS FORCED TO SELL KALE CHIPS INSTEAD OF PEANUTS

NATE SILVER CALLS ALL BALLS AND STRIKES

BATTING TITLE WINNERS MUST APPEAR ON “DANCING WITH THE STARS”

FANS GET TO MAKE ONE PITCHING CHANGE PER GAME USING A SPECIAL SMARTPHONE APP, “PITCHIFY”

SEVENTH INNING ZUMBA

ON-DECK CIRCLE NOW A TRIANGLE

BASE STEALERS HAVE TO ACTUALLY CARRY THOSE BASES AROUND THE INFIELD

FIRST PLAYER TO COMMIT AN ERROR HAS TO WEAR A “CAT IN THE HAT” HAT FOR THE REST OF THE GAME

FANS MUST WEAR PERIOD CLOTHING TO GAMES INVOLVING THROWBACK UNIFORMS

Play ball!

Mad Men Forever

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TV’s “Mad Men” returns on Sunday, and I, for one, am psyched. So much so, that I’m envisioning what it would be like to see these characters continue into the 1970s, and beyond.

1970: DON DUSTS OFF HIS OLD, “I’D LIKE TO BUY THE WORLD A SMOKE” CAMPAIGN, REWORKS IT, AND SELLS IT TO COCA-COLA

1971: JOAN BURNS HER BRA AT A PROTEST IN TIMES SQUARE; ROGER TAKES THE DAY OFF TO ATTEND

1973: BERT RESIGNS HIS PARTNERSHIP TO TAKE A POST AS IMAGE CONSULTANT TO RICHARD NIXON AS THE WATERGATE SCANDAL UNFOLDS; HE ADVISES NIXON TO “ACT LIKE AN ADULT”

1974: ROGER ROBS A BANK WITH PATTY HEARST

1977: HARRY BUYS A LEISURE SUIT; JOAN FIRES HIM ON THE SPOT

1981: PETE LANDS THE DELOREAN MOTORS ACCOUNT

1983: PEGGY PERSUADES BILL GATES TO REBRAND HIS “INDIVIDUAL COMPUTING DEVICES” AS “PERSONAL COMPUTERS”

1984: BETTY DIVORCES HENRY FRANCIS AND MARRIES GLEN, WHO NOW OWNS A CHAIN OF WATERBED DEALERSHIPS

1988: ROGER RETIRES AND SAILS AROUND THE WORLD ON HIS YACHT, THE REGINA

1993: KENNY WRITES A BEST-SELLING MEMOIR, “IMPERFECT PITCH”

1998: DON’S FINAL CAMPAIGN, FOR VIAGRA, WINS NATIONAL AWARDS

2000: PETE LANDS THE ENRON ACCOUNT

2001: JOAN ACCEPTS A JOB AS SENIOR ADVISOR TO U.S. SEN. HILLARY CLINTON

2005: SALLY, A SUCCESSFUL VENTURE CAPITALIST, STARTS A FUND FOR RETURNING IRAQ WAR VETERANS; SHE CALLS IT THE “DICK WHITMAN FOUNDATION”

2009: PETE LANDS THE BRITISH PETROLEUM ACCOUNT

2013: DON IS VOTED SEXIEST OCTOGENARIAN OF CORAL VISTA ESTATES

How do you see it playing out?

First Signs of Spring 2013

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This time of year, we’re pretty much transfixed by the transformation of the landscape from a winter tundra to something more … pleasant. But the telltale signs seem to change periodically, don’t they? Here are some new ones to watch for this week.

JUSTIN BIEBER IS GOING SHIRTLESS AT GARDEN CENTERS

NEW COAT OF PAINT FOR NORTH KOREAN MISSILE SILOS

BIDEN’S WEARING FLIP-FLOPS

THE NEW POPE IS WASHING THE FEET OF BASEBALL PLAYERS

SWITCHING OVER FROM MASSIVE SNOWSTORMS TO MASSIVE FLOODING

CROCUSES ARE POPPING UP ON SCREEN SAVERS

THAT THING ON DONALD TRUMP’S HEAD HAS SPROUTED LEAVES

SUPREME COURT JUSTICES TRADE THEIR ROBES FOR HAWAIIAN SHIRTS

ROBINS ARE BUILDING NESTS IN HIPSTERS’ BEARDS

THAT CREEPY ABILIFY BATHROBE IS FOLLOWING PEOPLE AROUND IN SUNGLASSES

Think warm, people. Think warm.

A Gallery of Cinematic Hats

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Much is made of computer animation and other technology in movies and TV, but I think one of the best special effects goes on top of an actor’s head. It shapes our whole attitude about a character, without so much as a transposed pixel. Here, without commentary, are some of my favorites.

HARRISON FORD AS INDIANA JONES

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CHARLIE CHAPLIN AS THE LITTLE TRAMP

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THE LADIES OF “DOWNTON ABBEY”

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CLINT EASTWOOD AS THE MAN WITH NO NAME

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SALLY FIELD AS “THE FLYING NUN”

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JON HAMM AS DON DRAPER

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THE CAT IN THE HAT

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CARMEN MIRANDA

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JIMMIE WALKER AS J.J. EVANS

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ALAN HALE JR. AS THE SKIPPER

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MAURICE CHEVALIER

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JOHN WAYNE

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MARY TYLER MOORE AS MARY RICHARDS

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BASIL RATHBONE AS SHERLOCK HOLMES

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MIKE NESMITH IN “THE MONKEES”

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FESS PARKER AS DANIEL BOONE

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DANIEL DAY-LEWIS AS ABRAHAM LINCOLN

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THE SORTING HAT FROM “HARRY POTTER”

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ART CARNEY AS ED NORTON

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B.D. IN “DOONESBURY”

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MINNIE PEARL

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LARRY HAGMAN AS J.R. EWING

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JOHNNY DEPP AS THE MAD HATTER

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BUDDY EBSEN AS JED CLAMPETT

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ARETHA FRANKLIN AT THE PRESIDENTIAL INAUGURATION

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LIDSVILLE TV SERIES

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GENE HACKMAN AS POPEYE DOYLE

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ERROL FLYNN AS ROBIN HOOD

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HUMPHREY BOGART AS SAM SPADE

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MARGARET HAMILTON AS THE WICKED WITCH OF THE WEST

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That’s a LOT of hats! But even so, feel free to suggest a few more!

Inappropriate Easter Slogans

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I like to think most of us can appreciate a clever ad campaign, no matter what the subject matter might be. That being said, I also think it’s a good idea to tread lightly where Easter is concerned. Otherwise, you’re going to encounter something like this …

He Is Risen, And So Will Your Portfolio – (stock broker)

Even A Last Supper Needs Some Zing – (gourmet grocery store)

Come For the Passion. Stay For The Pasta. – (Italian restaurant)

Let Us Resurrect A Younger Looking You – (plastic surgeon)

Peas Be With You – (farmer’s market)

He’ll Save Your Soul, We’ll Save Your Molars – (dentist)

Wokking On Water Since 1978 – (Chinese restaurant)

Check Us Out On Sunday. We’re Divine, Too. – (chocolatier)

T.G.I. Good Friday’s – (chain restaurant)

See what I mean?

Memorable Moments in Lip Syncing

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Lip syncing gets a bad rap, but it’s not always deserved. Over the years, many directors, actors and comedians have used it as a device that amplifies the emotion of a particular character or scene. There’s no logical reason for it to work – but it does. Consider these examples of good (and bad) lip syncing, and see if you don’t agree.

ASHLEY SIMPSON ON “SATURDAY NIGHT LIVE”

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We’ll start with an infamous example from 2004. Simpson was the musical guest on SNL one night, and at the beginning of her second performance a vocal track of the previous song began to play loudly. Clearly flustered, Simpson did an odd little dance for a few seconds, then she fled the stage. She later said she used a vocal “guide” track to help her sing because she had severe acid reflux. That’s why I take Pepcid.

DEAN STOCKWELL IN “BLUE VELVET”

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Everything you need to know about “Blue Velvet” is right here in this scene, in which Dean Stockwell, cigarette holder and all, mouths the words to Roy Orbison’s “In Dreams.” It’s weird, mesmerizing, frightening and inviting.

JEAN HAGEN IN “SINGIN’ IN THE RAIN”

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Who can forget the climax of “Singin’ in the Rain,” where evil Lina Lamont (Hagen) forces Kathy Selden (Debbie Reynolds) to sing for her from behind a curtain at the premiere of her new movie? It’s one of the great moments in movie history – especially when Lina gets caught.

THE CAST OF “THE COSBY SHOW”

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Everyone knows this scene and for good reason. It has an enduring sweetness that speaks volumes about those moments when family life is transcendent. The entire Huxtable clan gets together on a lip sync version of “Night Time is the Right Time,” by Ray Charles. Each person gets his or her moment in the spotlight and each one is happy to be part of the whole. And then, of course, you get Bill Cosby’s perfectly timed facial contortions. Well done!

MATTHEW BRODERICK IN “FERRIS BUELLER’S DAY OFF”

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There is no better expression of self-aware, youthful cool, than this scene in which Ferris takes over a parade in downtown Chicago. Of course, a huge amount of credit also goes to the juxtaposition of the two songs, “Danke Schoen” and “Twist and Shout.”

BEYONCE AT THE INAUGURATION

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Let me just say I’m a big admirer of Beyonce as a performing artist. However, I’m also something of a purist when it comes to the presidential inauguration. I’d rather have heard a sour note or two of the national anthem in a live performance than a lip sync rendition. But that’s me.

ANDY KAUFMAN ON “SATURDAY NIGHT LIVE”

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Kaufman was sort of the King of Comedic Absurdity in the 1970s and 1980s. A key, early example was his lip syncing take on the theme to “Mighty Mouse.” It was too strange for words, but it was funny, as well. Definitely one of the best moments of the early years of SNL.

JON CRYER IN “PRETTY IN PINK”

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You have to give the young Jon Cryer a lot of credit for absolutely putting it all out there in “Pretty in Pink.” His character, Duckie, is just trying to be noticed – leading him to a heartfelt, over-the-top rendition of “Try A Little Tenderness.” Lip synced, of course.

ALLISON JANNEY IN “THE WEST WING”

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If you’re not familiar with Janney’s lip sync version of “The Jackal,” then I suggest you click over to Netflix and toggle down to Season One of “The West Wing.” It comes out of left field, but anyone who spends a lot of time with co-workers understands that it’s just the sort of nutty thing that people do when they unwind.

Any more lip syncing highlights? Add them to The List!

And one more thing…

Terrible March Madness Team Names

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Oh, March Madness, how I have missed you. The buzzer beaters, the crazy coaches, the incomprehensible bracketology! It’s all glorious, including the dizzying array of dorky team names. But it could be dorkier still, as you will see. Here are some woeful team names you won’t have to memorize as the NCAA basketball tournament gets under way.

THE FIGHTING AMISH

THE DIFFIDENT HOUSE CATS

THE LOLLYGAGGERS

THE RUNNIN’ NECK SORES

THE IRRITATING RINGTONES

THE ANGRY OLIVES

THE CODGERS

THE SLEEPLESS KNIGHTS

THE RED HERRINGS

THE HUSTLING DUSTBUNNIES

THE GLARING OMISSIONS

THE CHARLATANS

THE MIGHTY GAZETTEERS

THE DASHING DIMWITS

THE FEISTY I.T. GUYS

THE PURPLE PUSHOVERS

THE FECKLESS HECKLERS

THE NERVOUS NELLIES

Here’s hoping your favorite team cuts down the net.

You Lookin’ at Me? Breaking the Fourth Wall

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There’s no better way to add some zing to a TV show or movie than to have a character suddenly turn and talk to the audience. Sure, it’s cheating. But if the character happens to have some charisma, it’s also fun. Here’s a toast to the best instances of breaking down that fourth wall.

IT’S GARRY SHANDLING’S SHOW

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In his innovative 1980s comedy series, Garry Shandling made breaking the fourth wall the centerpiece of the whole show. He’d ask the audience questions and solicit their advice. The other characters on the show also were in on the trick. Garry treated the sitcom as the artificial absurdity that it is, but always with his trademark light touch. Even his theme song, “This is the Theme to Garry’s Show,” acknowledged the audience.

HIGH FIDELITY

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This was one of John Cusack’s best roles, and it worked precisely because of his interaction with viewers. Every eye roll, aside and bit of rage revealed that this guy wasn’t just a sarcastic slacker. He had depth.

THE BERNIE MAC SHOW

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Bernie Mac didn’t just talk to his sitcom viewers, whom he simply called, “America.” He cajoled them. He persuaded them. It allowed him to be as gruff as he wanted to be in the rest of his scenes. We still knew he was a pushover.

GROUCHO MARX, IN EVERYTHING

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Quite possibly the most devastating comedian who ever lived. Groucho was a verbal master, slicing up his conversational victims with glee. He had so many great lines, there were always extras to be tossed right at the camera. Here’s one from “Animal Crackers”: “This would be a better world for children if the parents had to eat the spinach.”

FERRIS BUELLER’S DAY OFF

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“Ferris Bueller” is a cultural touchstone of the 1980s – something it owes to both Matthew Broderick and the way he made his case directly to moviegoers. It was like having lunch at the cool kids’ table, all day long.

HOUSE OF CARDS

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The current king of this category is Kevin Spacey in “House of Cards,” hands-down. He absolutely commands the TV screen, spinning his intricate web of politics and power. When he turns to the camera, you know you’re about to hear something hideous AND hilarious.

ANNIE HALL

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In “Annie Hall,” you have Woody Allen at the top of his game. At various points, chosen very shrewdly, he tells the audience what he thinks about relationships, therapy and the work of Marshall McLuhan.

MOONLIGHTING

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“Moonlighting,” the popular TV romantic comedy of the 1980s, spent almost as much time beyond the fourth wall as it did in its own world. Cybill Shepherd and Bruce Willis were naturals at it. I loved when they took a few moments to answer their viewer mail.

30 ROCK

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Tina Fey and Co. broke the fourth wall a bunch of times, but one particular instance was sublime. It’s from the Season Four premiere, when the show aired just before Jay Leno’s ill-fated 10 p.m. variety show. Liz Lemon and Jack Donaghy are watching a crass promo for “Tennis Night in America,” when Donaghy says, “There’s nothing wrong with being fun and popular and just giving people what they want.” Then he stares into the camera and purrs, “Ladies and gentlemen, Jay Leno.”

SLEEPWALK WITH ME

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Mike Birbiglia perfectly blends his comic persona with the needs of a feature film by personally narrating key portions of “Sleepwalk With Me,” which is based on his own life. One of his best quips is, “I know! I’m in the future also!”

MALCOLM IN THE MIDDLE

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Young Malcolm, the genius child in a family of nutjobs, constantly sought comfort by talking with his TV fans. It was a way of saying, “Is it just me, or are these people crazy?”

JFK

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This example is brief, but powerful. It comes at the end of the film, as Kevin Costner’s prosecutor character tries to make a jury believe there was a hidden conspiracy at work in the Kennedy assassination. With one final move of the camera, the audience suddenly becomes Costner’s jury.

THE TWILIGHT ZONE

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Perhaps this isn’t appropriate, since I’m not including other TV hosts on the List. Oh, hell. I simply have to mention the great Rod Serling. He wasn’t just a host – he was our guide, giving us fair warning about the weird stuff heading our way.

ALFIE

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For me, there’s never been a better fourth wall breakdown than Michael Caine in “Alfie.” With his cold stare and heavy eyelids, Caine is a predator in search of sexual conquest. His confessions to the camera show us his cruelty, his self-delusions and his failure as a human being. It’s brilliant.

Of course, this is a mere sampling of great examples. You also have “Airplane,” “Animal House” and so many others. What are your favorites?