Wednesday, December 30, 2009

News: The Jeff Dunham Show Not Picked Up

Numerous media outlets including the New York Times confirmed that Comedy Central's The Jeff Dunham Show has not been picked up for a second season, or as the kids say it, "shitcanned."

...not that any of our five readers watch the show that we know of anyway. The show, which had Comedy Central's highest premiere ratings in history, dropped off quickly and was also reportedly a very expensive show to produce. Hence, no more show. There will, of course, be additional TV specials and merchandise to ironically gift your relatives come the holidays, only for you to be shocked and saddened to discover they're actually quite happy with the gifts.

Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Review: The High Road with Doug Benson


WHAT: Two episodes of a series bundled as a special
GOOD IF YOU LIKE: The comedy and twitter stylings of Doug Benson
WHERE TO FIND IT: G4TV, airing seemingly at random

So the story behind The High Road with Doug Benson is that G4TV had been airing Benson's movie, Super High Me, nonstop for a few years and it generated decent ratings and feedback so they basically asked for more of that.

The High Road isn't really quite that; while Super High Me was a fairly focused documentary, this series just follows Benson and fellow (yet sober) comedian Graham Elwood on the road together. It's kind of an odd mashup of standup appearances and run-ins with the locals in the towns they're performing in, all punctuated by Benson's many tweets. As far as structure goes, it's kinda all over the place, but the whole thing is so laid back and easygoing it's difficult to fault it for lacking focus.

There have been many documentaries and miniseries about comedians on the road over the years -among them the now-classic Comedians of Comedy, the passable Vince Vaughn's Wild West Comedy Tour, Ray Romano's 95 Miles to Go and the odious Dane Cook's Tourgasm; the appeal of these things seems to boil down to how interesting, funny and likable the comedian(s) you're following are. Nobody likes Dane Cook, for example, because he seems like he's kind of an asshole, and his road documentary just fuels that notion. Ray Romano seems sort of oppressively normal and sedate, and so his (very boring) road movie reinforces that. With The High Road, Doug Benson's half-lidded, witty appeal is what carries the entire thing and prevents it from being dull or uninteresting. If you like Benson's personality - which you have ample access to thanks to his many podcast appearances, his I Love Movies show or even just following his Twitter account - then this will feel very familiar and pleasant. There's very little about it that seems forced or gimmicky; it is very basic in premise and execution. And that's fine. The utter lack of pretension or "intensity" makes it a lot more palatable than many of the other "comedians on the road" projects out there.

As this thing presently exists, it's 2 half-hour episodes of what is obviously intended to be a series, packaged together as one hourlong special. Notably they didn't edit out the "previously on" segment at the half-hour mark, and the second episode doesn't offer any sort of a "conclusion", you're just left waiting for more. Hopefully G4 will reach whatever ratings benchmark they're looking for with this and just air the rest of the episodes. The High Road isn't anything groundbreaking, but it is funny and entertaining and engaging in an easygoing way, and really that's all anyone could ever want.

Friday, December 25, 2009

Road Trip Album Picks: "R.O. Magic: The Best of R.O. Manse"

WHAT: Comedy album with music and sketches
LABEL: A Special Thing Records, 2008
GOOD IF YOU LIKE: 80s music, novelty albums, fighting
WHERE TO FIND IT: Online or bust
LENGTH: 63 minutes

The novelty record is experiencing something of a revival. Every few years "Weird Al" Yankovic puts out something new that burns up the charts, and the Conchords had a great run on TV. Rather than go with parodies, R.O. Manse has some sketches, some faux interviews, some songs, and more to make what basically amounts to a pretty great CD of character development. We learn who this guy is, we hear some highlights from his career, we meet his ex-wife... this is a fleshed-out guy.

With numerous special guests and all sorts of gags, this album is pretty all over the place. With 26 tracks spanning a variety of styles, there are a surprising number of great gags here-- the suite of 1980s movie theme songs, for example, are pretty fantastic. The album has a couple of songs which qualify as "hit singles" of sorts, awesome little ditties that work really well outside the context of the album. "Ladyboy" and "I Have a Synthesizer" are clearly the two shining stars of the album, were you to play them for a friend, the former of which is a surprisingly catchy song that-- unlike many novelty songs-- manages to play it straight. (As it were.)

If you can pick up a few tracks odds are you'll enjoy this-- it's a few steps beyond the recordings from various tunesmiths you'd here on Dr. Demento, and while pretty goofy, tracks like "Ladyboy" take comedy songwriting in a direction where it's funny without being overtly jokey-- that's quite a challenge. Well done! Pick this up if you're looking for comedy mixed with 1980s synthesized new wave songs, because it manages to pull it off nicely.

Thursday, December 24, 2009

Tonight Show Highlights: Dumbledore, Twitter Tracker

Because of the short week, or perhaps because of a sense of giving the audience what they want, The Tonight Show rolled out three of their most popular recurring bits this week. If you haven't been watching what Conan has been doing, here you are.

Twitter Tracker


Dumbledore Rides Again


Noches De Pasion con SeƱor O'Brien

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Happy Holidays from Comedy is Dead!

As a special gift for you this year, Comedy is Dead has received a sneak peak at the Big Dogs tee-shirt product catalog for 2010. Here's a look at next year's hottest Big Dogs shirt designs!





Now you can plan all your Big Dogs shopping needs in advance! Merry Christmas, and Happy New Year!

Thursday, December 17, 2009

Road Trip Album Picks: Bill Cosby's "Revenge"

WHAT: Cosby's fifth comedy album
LABEL: Warner Bros. Records, 1967
GOOD IF YOU LIKE: Bill Cosby
WHERE TO FIND IT: Your local library, some record stores
LENGTH: 42 minutes

If you're roughly 30 years old, odds are your parents raised you in a home with albums from Bill Cosby. My dad had several, but I didn't hear Revenge until just last month. It's a little looser than some of his other stuff and much more personal in the sense that it's about his person rather than Noah's Ark or bad drivers. Tales include "Revenge," a classic bit about saving a snowball for summer, and "Buck, Buck" which is seemingly the genesis of another famous character, namely Fat Albert.

In this disc you'll get all sorts of tales, and it's a little slower-- and naturally, significantly cleaner-- than the sort of things we usually cover in this column. Cosby, like Steve Martin or George Carlin, is one of the few comedians that works on some higher ethereal plane and his older albums, like this one, were a big part of the wave of fame he continues to ride to this very day. Sure, he's done great new stuff since then, but these things were bought and kept in homes in the pre-VCR era when records were the only way to play back your favorite people and shows for most people.

Cosby's voice carries well and it's a pretty great release overall. There's clearly a missing visual component which rears its head when you hear some of the laughter on the album, which was recorded at Harrah's nearly a million years ago ago, but it's worth hearing. It's worth picking up a Cosby album or two to see how the form evolved over the past half-century. A lot of things have changed, but the funniest stuff tends to resonate the longest.

Monday, December 14, 2009

Weekly Comedy - Ho, Ho Ho I'm Ha, Ha Hungry!


I think that's the worst title Weekly Comedy has ever had and probably ever will have.

And yet, I feel proud.

DVD

The Hangover – Did your friends and family love this movie, guffawing at every zany plot development and recurring joke while you sat in mild amusement and oddly disconnected silence? You’re not alone! Even though this movie employs the comedic talents of our favorite bearded comedian Zach Galifianakis, it’s pretty lukewarm. Apparently this is the most financially successful comedy of all time, which is.. well, alright, I guess. If it gets Galifianakis and Ed Helms more work (preferably in movies funnier than this one), then great.

It just wasn’t that funny, is all I’m saying.

Robot Chicken Season 4 – Here’s the formula: cartoon characters from the 80’s murder
eachother after making boner and/or retard jokes. And now there’s more of it. Rejoice.

The Goods – Live Hard, Sell Hard – There is no Bluray release for this movie and it was a Redbox exclusive for a while.

Redbox is the DVD vending machine you find out in front of grocery stores, gas stations and pawn shops. So that tells you most of what you need to know.

In all fairness this wasn’t that bad; it has its moments. It’s also pretty confused and doesn’t really seem to know what it’s trying to be. Rent at your own risk.

The Mel Brooks Collection (Bluray) - A whole shitload of Mel Brooks movies in a big Planet of the Apes-style hardcover book set, minus a few glaring omissions (most notably The Producers) but if you’re a Brooks fan this is a must-get. After all, Spaceballs wasn’t available in 1080p before now.

COMEDY SKIPPABLES

Did You Hear About The Morgans? – Why, yes I did! And I’ll be staying away from this toxic shit as a result!

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Road Trip Album Picks: Neil Hamburger's "50 States 50 Laughs"

WHAT: Another tour-only CD from America's Funnyman, no audience
LABEL: Million Dollar Performances, 2000
GOOD IF YOU LIKE: Early Neil Hamburger
WHERE TO FIND IT: Good freaking luck, on tour if he still has them
LENGTH: 27 minutes

It's no secret, we love Neil Hamburger-- especially his new stuff. His earlier recordings, like 50 States 50 Laughs, use his slightly less gruff earlier persona in which he's more of a sad sack than an increasingly spiteful comedian. The theme is a joke for each state, which sometimes works out as a pun, something about the local fare, or... well, we won't spoil it all for you.

"Have you ever looked in the trash can at a Long John Silvers? It's full of pieces of fish, each with exactly one bite taken out of it, and then all these napkins rolled up into little balls and in the center of each one is the corresponding piece of chewed-up fish!"

The entire album is particularly unique in that it's a stand-up album, more or less, recorded completely without an audience. This guarantees every joke sounds like it's being delivered to an unresponsive room, which actually makes it even funnier.

Like his other work, this album is brilliant-- but in increasingly unexpected ways. This is one of few albums which criticizes itself, and is built around a pretty clever idea. Due to how Hamburger's early voice projects, it may not be the best pick for your car rides as his low voice sometimes gets drowned out by the road sounds-- but that's really dependant on what you're driving. Either way, it's an album worth checking out simply because you've probably heard very little like it.

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

MST3K Hits Hulu

If you love Joel and the Bots, Hulu added five episodes of Mystery Science Theater 3000 today. Secret Agent Super Dragon, The Starfighters, Monster A-Go-Go, The Rebel Set, and The Giant Gila Monster are up for your enjoyment.

Thursday, December 3, 2009

Free Maria Bamford Christmas Special

We just downloaded (but not yet have started watching) Maria Bamford's One-Hour Homemade Christmas Stand-Up Special over on her web site.



There are pugs. There is a couch. Presumably, this will be awesome. We're quite impressed, a lot of comics are putting out some great YouTube videos but this is the first time I've seen a gigantic long special.

Road Trip Album Picks: Eugene Mirman's "God Is A Twelve-Year-Old Boy With Asperger's"

WHAT: Third proper album from comedian of comedy
LABEL: Sub Pop Records, 2009
GOOD IF YOU LIKE: Pretty much anything vaguely resembling alternative comedy
WHERE TO FIND IT: Tons of places, this got a wide release
LENGTH: 42 minutes

How Sub Pop got into comedy we'll never know, but it's good to see top-notch talent getting decent distribution for a change. Eugene Mirman's God Is A Twelve-Year-Old Boy With Asperger's (the title) comes from a tale on his book tour, specifically track #8. In it, you hear about a kid asking aloud why Eugene doesn't worship him as his God-- if you don't find that funny, well, stop reading now. The always funny, sometimes spiteful, but genuinely hilarious ramblings are just as good if not better than his previous albums.

The album's material gets increasingly personal, culminating in a bit on airplanes losing his luggage that crosses over from a mere joke to some higher level of performance art. Not only are we treated to transcripts of his calls, but we also find out that he wants his audience in on the act-- he printed up a bunch of postcards to send to the airline, enlisting his audience as troops on his quest against his lost pants and whatnot. Truly, this should be the stuff of tomorrow's comedy legends.

Like his other recordings, this is a great road trip album, and is also good pretty much any other time. If you haven't heard his material, this is a good of a place to start as any,

Also notable: His first two albums are "The Absurd Nightclub Comedy of Eugene Mirman" and "En Garde, Society". Eugene appears on "The Pennsylvania Macaroni Company" with Patton Oswalt, Brian Posehn, and Maria Bamford. The comic has a mini tour CD from the Comedians of Comedy as well, some of which seeped into his other releases-- so it's more of a collectible than it is a must-own disc of rarities. (But we'll look at it later.)

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

New Brian Posehn Album in 2010

From Henry Owings and the Chunklet Newsletter:

"NEW BRIAN POSEHN ALBUM!:
You got that right! And much like the most recent Patton Oswalt, yours truly was the producer. Brian's told me that it'll be out in February on Relapse with much promotion and touring to support it. I call him BROsehn. Get it? Because we're bros!"


There you go! So in the past year or so, all of the Comedians of Comedy made a new album except Zach Galifianakis.

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Neil Hamburger: The Plush Doll

Today Neil Hamburger announced that Neil Hamburger plush dolls now exist. They're pretty low-rent as toys go but nearly no comedians that don't have collars that are blue do much in the way of quasi-figural merchandise, making this particularly unique. America's funnyman is available for about $20. We approve.

If we could get a USB figure that spouts out jokes, that'd just be fantastic. We'd pay up for that.

Comedy Death Ray and I Love Movies This Week

Wow, was this a heck of an amazing show! You really missed out by not going. What's wrong with you? Both shows were at the Upright Citizens Brigade Theatre in Los Angeles.
I Love Movies

Doug Benson once again proves that he's being robbed by the fools running television for not having the foresight to give him his own show. This week his guests were "Weird Al" Yankovic and Chris Hardwick, and they were fantastic. As always, the show will be available via iTunes or whatever podcatching service you use in a few days, and this is one you won't want to miss. (Despite a tiny chunk of it being three men Twittering at once.)
Comedy Death Ray

A fantastic show. Hosted by Mike Kaplan, who we have not seen previously, but will now go out of our way to see. Excellent work. Also on deck:
  • Dave Anthony
  • Charlyne & Armen (seemingly improvised musical act/sniper spitting)
  • Rory Scovel (stand-up plus something involving clowns that courtesy prevents us from spoiling)
  • Zach Galifianakis (a few jokes, a whole lotta great crowd work)
  • Mindy Kaling and B.J. Novak (a conceptual piece about Tom Bergeron's kids)
  • Chris Hardwick
Hardwick brought a lot of brand new (to us) material, and never disappoints as a headliner. Mr. Galifianakis was fantastic to see, particularly because his ticket price probably just quintupled since the summer-- great stuff, very funny. We were expecting Hardwick to come out in a yarn beard in-character.

The evening was fantastic, the pacing was great, we're pretty sure you would enjoy it if you were there. Some kid in the front row was taping most of it so it wouldn't be a stunner to see this on the web some day, if we find out about it we'll link to it.

Monday, November 30, 2009

Book Review: Tracy Morgan's "I Am The New Black"

WHAT: Collection of stories in book form, very of-the-moment
GOOD IF YOU LIKED: Tracy Morgan's career thus far
WHERE TO FIND IT: Throw a rock, you'll find it
PUBLISHER: Spiegel & Grau, 224 pages
BY: Tracy Morgan with Anthony Bozza

I Am The New Black is, in effect, less an autobiography and more of an ongoing talk show transcript. Covering the comic's personal life and vast career, which includes SNL and 30 Rock, you get a really strong feeling of what Morgan's life is like. Basically, the story of his life is this: Come from nothing. Become something. Succeed wildly. Fail. Repeat.

The book's writing is very much in the voice of Morgan, with allusions to robots and other craziness, which really does prove that the writers on 30 Rock aren't kidding when they say they follow Tracy around for a day to come up with episode ideas. The man's a factory of strangeness, and is clearly some sort of manic genius.

At a very breezy 200+ pages with pictures and illustrations, the book goes by in a flash. It feels like it could almost have been posted via Twitter, in that there are a number of brief anecdotes that all go by quite quickly. Also like Twitter, this book is very now-- there are references to real-world events, which season of 30 Rock just finished, and so on, making this book already feel a little dated. You can pinpoint when certain sections were drafted, which is really all the more reason to read it now if you're going to at all.

There's not a lot here that feels like some amazing revelation-- if anything, it shows that his affable, eccentric persona on TV is pretty much spot-on. Stories about his days in sports, his upbringing, and why you need to move out of a bad neighborhood in the middle of the night after achieving success ring true, as do the many stories of his early TV gigs. Particularly engaging are the tales of his first attempts on the stage, succeeding one week and then bombing the next because he trotted out new, untested material that the audience didn't seem to go for.

Like many books about the business, there's a clear journey here, although it seems each chapter is pretty scattered. It starts off being about one thing, than jumps into his personal life or a friend or something else entirely. With the numerous references to his drinking and partying, plus the health-related danger of an alcohol monitoring bracelet, you're likely to learn some interesting trivia if nothing else. Assuming, of course, you don't have to wear one of the bracelets yourself.

If you need something to read on the plane, this is a great and fast read. Just be sure to read it sooner than later, as the narrative was clearly meant to be read during 2009. In 2010 it's going to feel like it came from a time capsule.

Sunday, November 29, 2009

Patton Oswalt vs. The Room

If you live in Los Angeles and/or live and breathe watching bad movies for fun, you are no doubt aware of Tommy Wiseau's The Room. Also, if you read this site, you are aware of Patton Oswalt. Words cannot express how fantastic this short video by Oswalt is, so just watch it-- and if you don't get it, ask your hipster movie fan friends to loan you their The Room DVD:

Weekly Comedy: Commander Wharf


Any week that includes both a new Mystery Science Theater release and a new CD from Paul F Tompkins is a good week. Period. No questions asked. Not even if that same week includes one of the most tiresome sequels in movie history. Nope. No-siree. Good week, right here. For serious, count your blessings.

DVD

Mystery Science Theater XVI – This limited edition set comes with a little bust of Tom Servo, who can accompany Crow T. Robot from the 20th Anniversary set. As usual, you get four episodes:

105: The Corpse Vanishes
501: Warrior of the Lost World
521: Santa Claus
701: Night of the Blood Beast

So that’s two Joels and two Mikes. I’m a Mike Nelson man myself, but the Joel episodes included here ain’t half bad. Plus you get two shorts and a bevy of extras included in the box. What’s not to love?

Better Off Ted Season One
– Some people love this show, most have never heard of it. Here’s the complete first season. Might be worth checking out if you have a spare afternoon and a couple empty slots in the ol’ Netflix queue.

Paper Heart
– Do you enjoy the awkward comedy stylings of Charlyne Yi? Here’s her faux-documentary about what love is wherein she and Michael Cera fall in love and pretend to flee from the camera crew. Yi and Cera actually did fall in love during the filming of this, and may have become America’s first couple to get married in hoodies and skinny jeans had they not broken up a few months later.

Pale Force – Jim Gaffigan’s animated shorts wherein he and Conan O’Brien are extremely pale superheroes. It’s a running gag from Late Night, wherein Gaffigan basically humiliates the Conan character over and over again. Can’t imagine this has a lot of rewatch value, but hey, here it is.

CD

Paul F. Tompkins: Freak Wharf
– NEW PAUL F TOMPKINS CD BUY BUY BUY BUY BUY

COMEDY SKIPPABLES

Night at the Museum: Battle of the Smithsonian
– Probably one of the most obnoxious sequels ever made. Lots of jokes for the cheap seats, Hank Azaria seems to voice every animated character AND gets to adlib as the lisping Egyptian villain for minutes at a time. This movie also wastes the comic talents of Jonah Hill and Bill Hader. There are some nifty moments at the beginning involving some living paintings, and Amy Adams looks pretty great in those aviator pants, but sweet jesus this movie is annoying from start to finish. See if you can make it all the way to the Einstein bobbleheads singing “That’s the way I like it”! If that doesn’t get you to shut it off, maybe the endless sequences involving Ben Stiller being slapped by monkeys will!

Friday, November 27, 2009

Stuff You Probably Missed: Fallon Edition Mark II

Every now and then we post some of the best bits from Late Night with Jimmy Fallon, which you are likely not watching. Which is a shame, because in the last 9 months Fallon's show has turned into a worthy successor to Late Night with Conan O'Brien.

Anyway, here are some of the best recent bits:





Seriously, it's good stuff.

Thursday, November 26, 2009

DVD Review: Andy Barker PI


WHAT: Short-lived 6-episode sitcom created by Conan O’Brien, starring Andy Richter and Tony Hale
LABEL: Shout! Factory, 2009
GOOD IF YOU LIKE: Late Night with Conan O'Brien, Arrested Development
WHERE TO FIND IT: Amazon. Retail stores seem to be shunning it.
LENGTH: 132 minutes

Andy Barker PI aired for only a couple of episodes in 2007 before quickly being cancelled by NBC; the remaining 3 or 4 episodes aired online only, and now we’ve got the whole shebang on DVD thanks to Shout! Factory, who seem increasingly dedicated to putting every great piece of television comedy on DVD.

The show itself was created by Conan O’Brien and Jonathan Groff, and the premise is pretty simple: guileless, straight-laced accountant Andy Barker find himself unwittingly thrust into the gritty world of Private Dick-ism when a femme fatale shows up in his CPA office, mistaking Andy for crusty old PI Lew Staziak (who is probably the funniest character in the show, played by the late Harve Presnell). Since his accountant business is struggling, he finds himself taking more and more detective work to pay the bills. Along for the ride is video store clerk-slash-eccentric nerd Simon (Tony Hale, best known as Buster in Arrested Development) and kebab shop owner Wally (Marshall Manesh, reliable sitcom character actor).

The show is, for lack of a better phrase, really damn good. Every episode – probably due to the show’s short life – is incredibly solid from start to finish, and rare is the gag that falls short. The cast gels immediately, and every one of the supporting characters gets time to shine. The show’s sense of humor is clearly very informed by Conan O’Brien, which means there are a whole lot of jokes about old people and a lot of subdued absurdism. Tone-wise it’s very much like the comedy bits on Late Night and Conan’s version of the Tonight Show.

In typical Shout! Factory fashion, the DVD set is loaded with about as much extra material as you could possibly expect from a 6-episode cancelled sitcom. There are two documentaries – one focusing on the show’s writing staff, and the other a complete history of the series. There are commentaries on every episode – the pilot commentary features Conan himself – and a gag reel. It’s really all anyone could ask for.

Andy Barker PI, like so many solid, funny sitcoms for smart people with good senses of humor, was probably never meant to last in a TV landscape that nurtures the likes of Jenna Elfman, but it’s great to have it archived on DVD. Now it’s up to you to see if you have the Mike ‘n Ikes to pick it up.

The Bammer Hits Target

In what may be the most perfect or most twisted ad campaign of the year, Target stores have recruited the fantastic Maria Bamford to do a series of TV spots for the retail giant. Here's one of them.



And here's another one.



So it's not just your imagination, you really are seeing her on TV. After the Target Devo spots it seems they've got some subversive advertising people. Now, does this mean Target will start stocking her albums? We hope so.

Road Trip Album Picks: Dana Gould's "Let Me Put My Thoughts In You"

WHAT: The second album from one of the best comics you probably don't know yet, former Simpsons scribe, the voice of Gex
LABEL: Shout! Factory, 2009
GOOD IF YOU LIKE: Likeable, awkward funny dudes
WHERE TO FIND IT: iTunes, Amazon, some record shops
LENGTH: 39 minutes

Dana Gould has been around for a while, and is one of the comedians that managed to stick in my head nearly 20 years after first seeing him on the Sunday Comics TV show. He went to do writing for The Simpsons and has returned to stand-up comedy in a big way, with Let Me Put My Thoughts In You on CD and, of course, DVD. (We're bigger fans of the CDs, call us old-fashioned.)

If you have not had the luxury of hearing a Dana Gould album allow me to save you a few minutes and just tell you to go get it. Like Doug Benson Paul F. Tompkins, Gould should be on your "just go see/hear everything they do" list. You'll probably be glad you heard routines like "Timely Son of Sam Bit" which involves what the dog in the case probably would have actually said, "Pickup Lines & Ice Cream" which nicely sets the tone of dealing with people you'll never agree with, and "Creative Racism..." to describe it would be to ruin your laughs.

Gould has a fantastic approach to comedy and nearly everything he's done should be handed down to new generations of comedy nerds until the references become so dated you'll need a college professor to explain them to you. (But we should be good for a few more decades here.) This is a great pick for your next extended drive, if you have a way of getting it before you return from Thanksgiving travels, you should.

Monday, November 23, 2009

Book Review: Chunklet's The Rock Bible

WHAT: Collection of jokes and anecdotes to challenge your taste in music
GOOD IF YOU LIKED: Les Savy Fav, the greater works of Steve Albini, and rock in general
WHERE TO FIND IT: Better record stores, online book stores, Chunklet's web store
BY: Henry Owings, Patton Oswalt, Brian Teasley, Andrew Earles, many others

It's often been said the musicians want to be comedians, and comedians want to be musicians. The Rock Bible bridges this gap with an excellent piece of work aimed at a very specific kind of person who may not be you. This collection of jokes and essays takes the form of the Bible in its structure, with the required amount of sneering and accuracy that hits the nail on the head. Truly, it is funny because it's true... and born from Chunklet, arguably the finest publication on paper today.

"If you want to die while in a famous rock band, there are four options. 1. Suicide. 2. Car or plane crash. 3. Drug overdose. 4. Murdered by a crazy relative. Just pick one and stick with it."

The one problem about the book is that it seems to be a very funny collection written mostly with people that are cooler than you/me in mind. If you see a lot of shows or play in a band yourself, there's a good chance that this book may mirror experiences in your own life. For the squares, there's a lot of great advice as to how not be a putz at a rock show-- which may seem obvious, and it really should be. There's also a bunch of stories, in-jokes, and lists of things which are or are not acceptable in rock today. This may sound like a snobby pursuit, and it probably is, but it's damned funny.

If you like music a lot-- specifically forms of rock from its roots to today-- odds are you'll enjoy this a great deal. If you're in college and have this on a table during a party, it's going to get stolen. That's how good it is. If you've got a music fan in your life, or you are one, get it. Read it. You'll love it. It's virtually the ideal bathroom book.

Sunday, November 22, 2009

Weekly Comedy: It's A Shit, Shit, Shit, Shit Week


Holy hell, what did we do to deserve this?

So the feature-packed edition of one of the best comedy-nerd movies ever made comes out earlier than expected, and because the universe hates us all, there is also a mountain of unbelievable shit released in the same week.

This is the price we pay.

DVD

Funny People – A complex, surprisingly compelling and really unique drama-that-happened-to-also-be-really-funny about comedians that was misunderstood by a lot of people (and was, admittedly, flawed when it came to pacing). Absolutely the must-buy release of the week, if only for the ridiculous wealth of supplemental material included here.

It is also the lone bright spot this week. Fuck. FUCK.
COMEDY TOXIC WASTE

Old Dogs – I’m not sure if this is a sequel to the bullshit that was Wild Hogs but they’re sorta-kinda marketing it that way. Seth Green is in it for some reason. Seems to be geared toward the same middle-aged white guys who chortle their way through Two and a Half Men every week and beat off to The Real Housewives of Orange County.

Four Christmases – One of the most criminally unfunny holiday comedies ever. After this abortion and Couples Retreat, someone needs to go slap Vince Vaughn, Jon Favreau and Peter Billingsley and tell them to please stop just making lame-ass easy comedies designed to appeal to the Sunday night Olive Garden crowd. These people were responsible for Swingers and Made, they can do a lot better than this safe, trite garbage.

Bill Engvall: Aged and Confused – Hey look it’s a new Bill Engvall special. Perhaps he will make jokes about his wife being a nag or his kids being a pain in the ass or how he just wants to crack a beer and watch some football. WHO KNOWS WHAT UNPREDICTABLE COMEDY GOLD HE HAS IN STORE

Larry the Cable Guy’s Hula-Palooza Christmas Luau

Larry the Cable Guy’s Hula-Palooza Christmas Luau

Larry the Cable Guy’s Hula-Palooza Christmas Luau

LARRY THE FUCKING CABLE GUY'S HULA-PALOOZA CHRISTMAS FUCKING LUAU


FFFFUUUUUUUCCCCKKKKKKKK

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Road Trip Album Picks: Mike Birbiglia's "Two Drink Mike"

WHAT: The second album from the comedian and This American Life contributor
LABEL: Comedy Central Records, 2006
GOOD IF YOU LIKE: Likeable, awkward funny dudes
WHERE TO FIND IT: iTunes, Amazon, some record shops
LENGTH: 60 minutes

You may know Mike Birbiglia from his many comedy specials or from his numerous appearances on PRI's This American Life, often discussing his terrifying bout with sleepwalking. Which involves window-jumping and bleeding unintentionally. This resulted in a one-man show called "Sleepwalk With Me", where he relates his horrifying medical condition for your amusement. This is a man who truly knows how to make art out of misery and do a great job.

Birbiglia's persona on Two Drink Mike is that of a likeable, somewhat troubled guy. His comedy is mostly completely clean, going so far as to bleep a couple of curses on his albums over the years. (This is a stark contrast to, say, the entire recorded comedy album industry.)

Most of the stuff we review here is comedy for generally die-hard comedy fans, and Birbiglia is comedy for die-hard comedy fans and their parents. It's not easy to make a totally clean album with both jokes about rape and how much fun you become after a lot of drinks, but this is it.

It almost sounds like a slam to call the album nice or good-natured, but it really is both funny and very inoffensive. There's a routine on the phrase "No, But I Heard About It" that tells you everything you need to know about this comic, which is that he's funny and wants to be liked. You can totally hand this to mom and/or dad as the anti-Jeff Dunham and odds are they'll really enjoy it, and you don't have to hang your head in shame if you're not into comedians with acts that come on sticks. (No offense if you're a Dunham fan. Well, maybe a little offense.)

The album provides an ideal driving companion, as Birbiglia's voice carries despite not exactly being the highest-energy guy. You'll laugh a lot, most likely, so give this one a whirl over the coming Thanksgiving holiday. It should make the travel go down slightly easier.

A note if you're looking to buy this: it's on CD, and on multiple digital formats. Amazon sells an "Audible" version for $12 and a standard MP3 version for $10. It's the same thing, so buyer be aware!

Monday, November 16, 2009

Review: Bear Down Podcast


Do you like Chicago Bears football and UCB Theater?  Well, not surprisingly, the podcast world has you covered.

The podcast runs weekly and features Matt Walsh of Upright Citizen's Brigade fame, screenwriter Scot Armstrong (he wrote Old School and a variety of other films) talking about the Chicago Bears football team, along with some friends of theirs who are Chicago bears fans.

This podcast is about 75% football, occasionally diverting into football-related topics, which is entertaining for the rest of us who don't follow football at all.

One example of these discussions would be which football team mascot would win in a fight were they to be real; for instance, could a bear actually fight a jet travelling 200 miles an hour?  One theory - the bear could gnaw on the wheels during takeoff.

Also, stories about Evel Knievel punching out a golfer, only to be restrained by Joe Namath? Done. 

I should point out that the football discussion is genuine, with Walsh and the rest really discussing the minutia of the game, from plays, to players to coaches, and a bunch of other things I do not understand because I do not follow football.

They still make it interesting for the non-fan, though, which counts.  For the comedy/Chicago Bears fan, this will probably be ideal, and perhaps group therapy for this season for how badly the Bears seem to be doing right now.

website: http://www.beardownpodcast.com/

Sunday, November 15, 2009

Weekly Comedy: Equal Parts Crap to Good


Whoa, sorry we missed Weekly Comedy last week! Luckily nothing of interest came out. This week there’s a ton of stuff out and like half of it is total garbage! Hooray!

DVD

It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia: A Very Sunny Christmas – The straight-to-DVD Sunny Christmas special is out this week, and if you’re a fan, it’s a must-get. This will likely air on FX at some point, probably uncensored, but there are plenty of extras on this disc.

Galaxy Quest (bluray) – This movie was surprisingly funny when it came out and it’s held up pretty well over the years (and has somehow escaped the curse of geeks over-quoting and referencing it, thereby ruining it for everyone). It’ll also probably hit bargain prices pretty soon so holding out for a sale might be a good idea.

Bruno – Sacha Baron Cohen’s disappointing follow-up to Borat is out on DVD, just in time to let down your comedy-loving friends for Christmas! The disc is pretty loaded with extra content, and it’s probably worth a rent for the curious, but it’s hard not to remember how underwhelming this thing was.

The Kevin Smith Collection: Clerks, Chasing Amy, Jay & Silent Bob Strike Back – Everyone generally outgrows Kevin Smith movies once they graduate college, but if you’re one of the few left who can still honestly laugh at any of the dialogue in Clerks (or can sit through even a half hour of the odious Jay & Silent Bob Strike Back), this box set is for you!

Don’t get me wrong – Kevin Smith is still a funny guy, his podcast is great and it’s nice to see him moving on to direct films he didn’t write – but his “Askewniverse” comedies really haven’t aged well. Rent ‘em on Bluray and see if you agree.

COMEDY TOXIC WASTE

Oh man there sure is a lot of horrible crap out this week!

Dane Cook: Isolated Incident – It’s the comedian everyone loves to hate, with a new awful special that won’t change anyone’s mind! It’s the DVD destined to be stained with bongwater and buried under a pile of old Xbox games in the corner of some shitty dorm room!

Scrubs: Season 8 – FUCK YOU SCRUBS

Drawn Together: The Complete Series – Every single unfunny episode of this unfunny show in one big unfunny box set. The perfect gift for your friends who like bad comedy or someone you hate.

Friday, November 6, 2009

Road Trip Album Picks: "Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy: Primary Phase"

WHAT: The first-ever anything in the popular Douglas Adams franchise
LABEL: BBC, 1978
GOOD IF YOU LIKE: Monty Python, science fiction, non-standup comedy albums
WHERE TO FIND IT: iTunes, BBC, better book stores
LENGTH: 4 hours, give or take

Depending on how much research you've done, you may be surprised that The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy started as a BBC radio program, and not as a novel or a TV miniseries. A generation of kids has been handed these by their dads, and a bunch of people have discovered it on their own-- but the radio show is where it all got started, and it's one of very few comedy/sci-fi radio shows out there to be made with any real significance.

If you're on the internet, odds are you've heard some dork come at you with the number 42. This is where that came from. The six-episode series is very similar to the book and TV show as far as plot is concerned, and many of the actors on this radio drama would go on to be stars of the television series. (Peter Jones, Simon Jones, Mark Wing-Davey, for example.) But enough of that-- is this thing worth listening to?

Ultimately, yes. This is a pop cultural milestone well worth searching out, mostly because the author Douglas Adams hung out with the boys from Monty Python and this feels like something of a spiritual successor to that form of humor. The episodes are extremely frantic, jumping between the main story and whatever strange tangents the author comes up with, be it the ins and outs of designer planets, the banality of the "B Ark," or even the notion of infinite improbability.

It's possible you're already sick of Marvin the Paranoid Android or jokes concerning the ultimate question of life, the universe, and everything... but if these are new to you, you positively need to check out this show. (And be sure to get the BBC Radio Drama, and not the audiobook. The extra actors make for great entertainment.)

Additional phases of the radio series were produced after this one, coinciding with the first five books of the series. (To date, they haven't done one for And Another Thing. The first two were made in 1978 and 1979, with the others coming in 2004 and 2005.

This series should be some sort of standard issue for young nerds of all sorts-- comedy nerds, sci-fi nerds, and so on. It's clever, fun, and goes by far too quickly. (It does get a little less fun by the fourth phase, where they adapt So Long and Thanks for All The Fish.)

Monday, November 2, 2009

Album Announcement: Paul F. Tompkins' "Freak Wharf"

AST Records confirmed the new PFT album will be out December 1, 2009. AST's releases are widely available online via their own record label or via digital distribution, but finding them at retail is, of course, somewhat difficult.

The label has a news post on this new release, which we expect to be nothing short of awesome. (After all, the man can do no wrong.) Pre-orders to start soonish. We cannot wait.

Sunday, November 1, 2009

Weekly Comedy: Wasteland Edition


There’s pretty much nothing out this week, comedy-wise; it’s pretty bleak out there. Rather than focus on the comedy wasteland that is traditional media, we’re also offering a guide to the best comedy web series that you probably either haven’t heard of or keep putting off. Handy!

IN THEATERS

The Men Who Stare At Goats – World’s most beloved man George Clooney and world’s saddest Star Wars Career Syndrome sufferer Ewan McGregor star in this “war comedy” about a field reporter who discovers a military program in Iraq that centers around psychic soldiers. Trailer looks decent; maybe a little reminiscent, tone-wise, of Three Kings. Probably worth checking out.

DVD

Eddie Izzard: Live From Wembley – Eddie Izzard’s new special. You should know by now
whether or not you’re interested in seeing this.

WEB SERIES YOU MAY HAVE MISSED

Since there’s so little out this week, here’s a quick guide to some of the better web comedy series out there. Something's gotta fill that void.

Childrens’ Hospital – This is probably the strongest web series out there; Rob Corddry’s very funny and sometimes shocking satire of medical dramas, set in a childrens’ hospital for maximum inappropriate comedy potential. If you haven’t seen this – or heard of it but never got around to it – be sure to check it out. Hopefully one day they’ll release a DVD.

Clark and Michael – Hyper-awkward buddy comedy featuring everyone’s favorite nervous nerd Michael Cera and Clark Duke, who is probably best known these days for playing lapsed conservative Christian Dale on Greek. The show is a little too mannered, but there’s plenty of good stuff in here.

Back on Topps – More than a little sports-centric but still pretty funny, this series – written by and starring the Sklar Brothers – follows the “new owners” of the Topps trading card company. Matt Besser shows up, too.

Friday, October 30, 2009

Review: The Simpsons: An Uncensored, Unauthorized History

WHAT: An unofficial oral history of The Simpsons, with interviews from ex-staff, by journalist John Ortved.

GOOD IF YOU LIKED: ‘Live from New York’, which is the same basic thing for SNL.

WHERE TO FIND IT: Major bookstores, Amazon

The Simpsons: An Uncensored, Unauthorized History is basically a series of interviews with ex-staff who were willing to dish about the show’s 21-year history, without the first-hand participation from any of the series’ major players. Sure, there are excerpts from interviews other people did with Matt Groening, James L. Brooks, Sam Simon and Mike Scully, but none were conducted for this book specifically, which of course is immediately suspect.

Then again, in the (vastly superior) Live from New York, there were no direct interviews with Lorne Michaels, either, so it’s easy to just forget all that and dig in. This book is, firstly, really fascinating stuff. Although a little too much time is spent in the show’s early days (probably due to the fact that the author’s stated thesis is that The Simpsons did not “spring forth whole from Groening’s brain” but instead was a massive collaboration and was probably built more by raging eccentric Sam Simon and his writing staff than Groening himself) but the interviews with the staff members they could get to talk are excellent. For the first two-thirds or so of this thing, it’s an engrossing look at what is probably the most influential sitcom of the last 30 years or so, and there are plenty of revelations to be had, including:

  • Matt Groening was always way more interested in approving licensed Simpsons merchandise than working on the show itself
  • Conan O’Brien had to fight Groening to get the Leonard Nimoy ‘beam out’ gag at the end of Marge Vs. The Monorail because Groening was still completely opposed to any gags that felt “too cartoony”
  • Sam Simon is likely directly responsible for the show being what it is
  • Pretty much everyone except Al Jean will admit the show has sucked pretty hard for the last 10 years and bears little resemblance to the show’s golden years
  • The Simpsons has generated over 3 billion dollars for News Corp.

However, in the last third, the author basically throws out any attempt at objectivity and starts injecting his often surprisingly blunt personal opinions into the non-interview bits. The endless comparisons to South Park and Family Guy are particularly pointed and it’s like he’s trying to compose a theory that one of them is the successor to The Simpsons but never really comes to a conclusion. He also spends a weird amount of time bashing The Simpsons Movie, which most fans (and critics) who grew up on the show in the 1990s felt was close enough to a long and generally good episode of the series. But it wasn’t good enough for John Ortved, I guess. Basically the last few chapters feel like someone’s disorganized blog post rather than a proper oral history, but it’s still amusing and interesting enough to keep going. Worth picking up if you find it cheap.


Thursday, October 29, 2009

Road Trip Halloween Party Album Picks: "Eban Schletter's Witching Hour"

WHAT: Spooky music from the guy who did a lot of Mr. Show's score with some funny lyrics, but largely instrumental
NOTABLE GUESTS: Jill Sobule, Dave Allen, Paul F. Tompkins, Dave Foley, Scott Aukerman, Tom Kenny, Samm Levine
LABEL: Oglio Records, 2008
GOOD IF YOU LIKE: Mr. Show's soundtrack and/or Halloween CDs
WHERE TO FIND IT: Some record stores, Best Buy has it for $7.99
LENGTH: 1 hour, 32 seconds

If you listen to the Comedy Death Ray Radio show/podcast, you no doubt recently heard a spot promoting Eban Schletter's Witching Hour with Paul F. Tompkins. As I'm a sucker for PFT and anything he touches, I had to go track this one down. So who is this guy? It turns out that Eban Schletter is not some spooky character like the Cryptkeeper or Colonel Sanders, but is in fact an actual person responsible for composing numerous soundtracks.

This is something to throw on at parties or, if you were a bit of a dork for this sort of thing, a decent enough listen. Most of the songs fade into the background nicely and seem to borrow from cartoon soundtracks and surf music, which is where you want to be. It's not like the Cryptkeeper Christmas CD in the sense that this isn't likely to ever make it on any torture tape mixes-- it's just decent and for the most part, pleasant enough to add some noise to an otherwise quiet evening. A spooky story by Dave Foley is indeed delightfully spooky, and the songs range from mostly somber to a more upbeat number with Scott Aukerman. In short, nothing to be ashamed of.

If you're looking for a collection of goofy novelty songs this isn't it. If you keep the Nightmare Before Christmas soundtrack or Haunted House sound CDs on a loop this time of year at get-togethers, this is probably a better alternative.

...so to answer your question, no, this isn't good for road trips.

Monday, October 26, 2009

Sitcom Report Card: Fall 2009

Sitcoms are often called the lowest form of comedy, simplistic repetitive garbage designed to amuse the drooling plebs among us while the world melts into a steaming heap of shit outside.

Okay, so maybe they haven't been called that, but some of them certainly are. There are a boatload of sitcoms on the air this season, and since we have a terrifying television addiction and the urgent need to cast judgment on everything we see, here's a report on what's worth your precious DVR space and what you can brutally mock others for openly enjoying.

Note: calling HBO series like Curb Your Enthusiasm and Bored to Death "sitcoms" seems kind of wrong, so they're not included here, but you should be watching them, as they are excellent and completely worth your time.

THE HIGHS

Community – Easily the best new series this season, Community is really refreshing after a mountain of Office-alikes that directly copied the single-camera documentary-style, relying way too heavily on cringing awkwardness rather than just being funny. Community, on the other hand, is sharp, sarcastic, mean-spirited, biting and meta (without being too cute about it). It takes the best elements of the single-camera style (meaning no laugh track) and has a pretty great cast lead by Joel McHale. Hard to say if this will still be as good as it is now 2 or 3 seasons in, but for now, it’s great stuff.
GRADE: A

30 Rock – Nobody needs to be told that 30 Rock is the best sitcom on the air and one of the best shows on TV period. Perhaps the mountain of Emmys will convince anyone who isn’t already watching this.
GRADE: A+

It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia– Several years after this modern-era "Three Stooges"/"Marx Brothers" started airing on FX, it remains funny. Sunny's manic energy has spilled out and is slowly eroding at the fourth wall in episodes like "The World Series Defense," in which the cast invents horrifying revelations under a hotel to keep the audience and judge interested in a story which basically goes nowhere. Most of the episodes can be watched in any order, which is rare in TV these days, so if you haven't started watching yet this is as good of a place as any. Also: Riot Punch, Box of Hornets.
GRADE: A-

Parks & Recreation – This started out as “Hey, you kids like The Office, here’s The Government Office!” and has slowly become a solid, funny show in its own right. It’s all in the characters – the cast is diverse enough to where all comparisons to The Office are purely surface-level. Aziz Ansari is particularly good, and the lead character isn’t grating or annoyingly stupid and awkward. It really has developed into its own thing, and it only seems to be getting better in the second season; there hasn’t been a bad episode yet.

Also Louis CK has a recurring role. Which really would elevate pretty much anything to "great" status.

Well, except for that Jenna Elfman shit on CBS.
GRADE: A-

THE LOWS

Almost Everything on CBS – CBS continues to be the Old People Network, as is evidenced by their sitcom lineup (with two exceptions). Look at this shit – Gary Unmarried, Two and a Half Men and The New Adventures of Old Christine all on the same channel. Most of these shows seem to have been designed specifically to be inoffensive enough so your parents can fall asleep during them without being rudely awoken by something funny happening. They are painfully generic and patently unfunny to their very core.

To add insult to injury, CBS actually cast professional comedy repellant Jenna Elfman in Accidentally on Purpose, which is literally just Knocked Up: The Sitcom. It’s fucking terrible. All this shit gets an F, avoid it.

Modern Family – It’s hard to put this in this category because it’s so completely unremarkable, but ultimately, this show falls short. It’s yet another documentary-style sitcom, this time about an extended family split into three chunks – divorcee grampa with young latina wife, standard family with standard kids, and then gay couple with adopted baby. It’s trying to be sort of an unflinching look at family life, but it’s just too safe and isn’t particularly funny or clever or really anything.
GRADE: D

THE CREAMY MIDDLES

The Big Bang Theory – Odds are every generic self-proclaimed “nerd” you know goes on and on about how funny this show is, and it does have plenty of moments and some good characters, but this is as standard as sitcom fare gets. Oddballs living across the hall from stereotypical “normal” hot girl, who’da thunk their worlds would collide? It’s chock full of dork-pandering jokes (comic book references, science jokes, you name it, it’s in here) and the laugh track is hyperactive, but it has gotten better over the years and in its’ third season it’s still genuinely amusing often enough to warrant renting the DVDs when you’re bored or hung over.
GRADE: B-

How I Met Your Mother – Now in its fifth season, How I Met Your Mother is basically Friends with a better cast and much better writing. It is unabashedly a show about generic white people for generic white people, but it has its own absurdist sense of humor and some seriously good running gags. While on its surface the show looks and feels like it belongs lumped in with the Two and a Half Mens of the world, the writing elevates it beyond that. If you do decide to pick this one up, rent the first season and shotgun it in a marathon session; otherwise you’ll be turned off by the first few bland episodes and will never really get why the show has a small but dedicated comedy nerd following.
GRADE: B

The Office – This show is still on and is now more than a hundred episodes longer than the original series, and it’s still funny from time to time but it’s also getting pretty tired. The “wedding” episode was old-school sitcom smarm at its smarmiest, and the whole “Jim and Michael are both the boss now!” thing doesn’t seem like it’s going anywhere. Still, the show has Kevin. Which is enough for a mild, continued recommendation.

That said it's time for them to own up to the show's premise and let us know which season they're finally going to stop filming and release the documentary, which is really the only big plot point left that seems like it has any juice in it.
GRADE: C+

Sunday, October 25, 2009

Weekly Comedy: Leslie Nielsen Rises from the Grave


Not a whole lot out this week, unless you’re really excited about yet another Ice Age movie. Which you really shouldn’t be. At all.

DVD

Monty Python: Almost The Truth – Easily the highlight this week, IFC’s 6-part in-depth and surprisingly candid documentary featuring all of the remaining Pythons (although it is a little strange to continue referring to them as “the remaining Pythons” considering only one of them is dead and according to this doc, it’s a shock he lived as long as he did). Interviews with a huge range of comics and comic actors are included; everyone from Simon Pegg to Russell Brand to Ricky Gervais to… OK so it’s mostly British comics but still, pretty fascinating stuff. Definitely worth a rental, or catch it in reruns on IFC.

Whatever Works – Woody Allen’s latest attempt to wring comedy out of a creepy May – December romance, featuring Larry David doing his best Larry David impression. Sounds like fun, right? This thing got pretty mixed reviews, but many said it was the best thing Allen’s done since Match Point, so who knows. Oh, and for the record, the poster for this is awful.

Adult Swim in a Box – This is a pretty odd box set; kind of a “best of” Adult Swim seasons (ironically missing Venture Bros., the best show on the network). You get: Aqua Teen Hunger Force season 2, Space Ghost Coast to Coast season 3, Moral Orel season 1, Robot Chicken season 2, Metalocalypse season 1, and Sealab season 2. It’s kind of a motley collection of episodes, but I suppose someone at Williams Street just cherry-picked what they thought were the best seasons they had. Probably makes a good gift for.. uh… someone who loves absurdist humor but somehow doesn’t own or hasn’t seen any of these.

Stan Helsing – Someone exhumed the corpse of Leslie Nielsen for this tired, sad-looking horror spoof about a video clerk who does battle with parody versions of famous movie monsters (Freddy, Chucky, maybe some Critters or Ghoulies show up, who gives a shit). This thing went straight to video, so yeah, now you know.


Thursday, October 22, 2009

Road Trip Album Picks: "NPR Funniest Driveway Moments"

WHAT: Collection of interviews with comedians and amusing interviews from NPR
LABEL: HighBridge Company, 2008
GOOD IF YOU LIKE: NPR, but don't listen to it much, and comedy new or old
WHERE TO FIND IT: Your library, book stores, online
LENGTH: 2 hours, 10 minutes

Depending on your entertainment affiliations, you may listen to either a massive amount of NPR or none at all. As I listen to a lot, much of NPR Funniest Driveway Moments had already graced my iPod through podcasts of shows like Wait Wait Don't Tell Me and others. If you permanently have your tuner set to your local NPR affiliate, odds are you've heard many of these, and the bulk of the collection is pretty timely. Some of these segments were older, some are newer, and there's a really good mix of the new generation of comedians with some of the older ones, plus a segment with Richard Pryor that sort of sticks out because he's not really involved as such. Also sticking out is a bit with Justice Stephen Breyer, who is not a comedian so much as a member of the judiciary. It's not so much a comedy thing, it certainly qualifies as amusing but it also doesn't fit here particularly well.

Since this is a collection of radio broadcasts with new segments introducing them, what you have here is essentially a perfect driving companion for fans of comedy. It isn't always funny so much as it is informative, but there's quite a bit to enjoy here if you're already a fan of the personalities on the discs, like Demetri Martin or Phyllis Diller or Sarah Silverman. Or Dame Edna. (Which we are not.) If you already have it in for these people, clearly, skip that segment-- but the whole collection is great. It's a delight to hear Steve Martin's early stories about making two cents at Disneyland, or how Mel Brooks used to play music with comedians before getting involved with Your Show of Shows.

Unlike most things I post here, this is one of very few family-friendly collections in the sense that if you're reading this, odds are you could pass it along to your parents and they probably wouldn't have a problem with it unless Lily Tomlin really pissed them off for some reason. Besides, they're going to need an introduction to Larry David, and this collection has all that and more. Heck, it's worth hearing just to hear another interview with LD, so be sure to track this one down for your next road trip. Just do it soon as it's starting to feel a little dated as some comedians go on to new things or, in some cases, retire from the business.

Monday, October 19, 2009

Pip pip cheerio bob's your uncle Weekly Comedy!


Hey, there’s actually a lot of stuff out this week! Glory be! Depending on your taste!

DVD

It’s Garry Shandling’s Show: The Complete Series – Garry Shandling’s beloved fourth-wall-breaking surrealist sitcom on Showtime is now finally available as a single box set containing the entire series from Shout! Factory, the fine people who are apparently responsible for bringing everything that was ever awesome to DVD. If you’ve never seen it, now’s your chance, and it’s also your chance to start pestering them to pick up the Larry Sanders series.

Fawlty Towers: The Complete Collection Remastered – One of the only classic Britcoms most people seem to appreciate, now remastered and available in one cheap boxset. Considering all previous releases of Fawlty Towers have looked like they were “remastered” by someone’s anus thanks to the BBC’s firm policy of not taking care of their television archives, this set promises to look decent. Here’s hoping.

Black Adder: The Complete Collection Remastered – It must be British comedy week! Either that or we’re getting close to Christmas, and what better gift for your PBS-loving dad than 895 minutes of Rowan Atkinson. Perhaps next week we’ll get a complete remastered collection of Are You Being Served!

Smothers Brothers: Best of Season 2 – There must be no market for complete season releases of the Smothers Brothers, so here’s the “good stuff”. Not sure how well this act has aged, but again, this is “Christmas presents for your parents” week, it seems.

SNL: Best of Amy Poehler – Hope you like Hillary Clinton impressions! Actually, I'm a fan of Poehler, but if you're not creeped out a little by that hellaciously over-photoshopped pic of her on the cover of this DVD, something's wrong with you.

Greg Giraldo: Midlife Vices – Greg Giraldo’s sorta-OK Comedy Central special. Worth a rent if you’re a fan but it isn’t really Giraldo’s greatest material ever.

TV

This happened on Sunday, but don't forget The Venture Bros. is back on, and it is glorious. You can watch the Season 4 premiere right here.

Comedy Challenge: Secret Girlfriend



Now and then, I will be challenged to view something that our world puts out that is presented as funny, but is most likely horrifically unfunny, and live to write about it.

Secret Girlfriend
now playing on Comedy Central


Here now is a show that you won't like even if it is the sort of thing you like.

Secret Girlfriend on Comedy Central has a concept of this: you, the viewer, are presented as a character in the show in which your two loser friends  (Sam and Phil) help you try to get away from your current girlfriend and on to a girlfriend on the side.

This was originally a show on the Internet (from Atomic Wedgie TV) and it certainly shows it, with the episodes consisting of two 15-minute episodes within and probably the lowest production value of any show on Comedy Central.

So, where does the humor in this show come in?  It makes attempts with your loser friends being dumb and doing dumb things but they aren't "funny" dumb, just "dumb" dumb. For instance, in one episode, Sam, never having a wet dream in his life but wanting to have one, decides the best course of action would be not to masturbate or Interact with women so he can have a wet dream.  He eventually has a wet dream, and of course, it's at a party, which everyone films with their phones.  Fat guy having a wet dream.  There's your comedy.

For women, certainly this is not a show for you.  Even if you are a lesbian.  The women are portrayed as all hot and dumb as a lukewarm glass of tap water.  Women are shown as easily wooed by men with cute dogs or strip naked to signs that say "Nude Beach" hastily tacked up to public pools and so on and so forth.  If you have a boyfriend and see him watching this, watch it with him, and see how quickly you start hitting him.

For men, I don't know if this is a show for you.  Clearly it's aiming for someone who liked The Man Show, but that show had at slightly more nuance and much greater production values.  This doesn't have anything appealing for such types except half-naked women.  In this day in age, when you can go on the Internet and the other half of the naked women, putting things here and there, why watch something that is not the full experience? This show features no nipples and even the swearing is bleeped out, so why bother?

Overall, it's a show that is insulting to women, not satisfying to women who might like a show that is insulting to women, and perhaps an ominous portent for future comedy program in a recession, where the cheapest is appealing, even if it isn't funny.