Friday, July 31, 2009

Comedy Is Dead Review: Funny People

Funny People is, above all things, a movie for comedians and the comedy nerds who love them and are fascinated by them. If you are either of those things, even the film’s 2.5 hour runtime will not phase you. In fact, it might not even feel like enough.

At its core, this film is a deeply personal exploration of the people and personalities that gravitate toward comedy as a career, with Adam Sandler’s character George Simmons (who is clearly designed to be a rough analogue for Sandler himself) as the almost numbingly selfish, self-hating, isolated epicenter of it all. It is often blisteringly hilarious, sometimes very touching, but mostly it’s just real and human and honest.

This film is a “comedy” only in the sense that it is about comedians and comic actors, who are all very funny in their day to day lives (some, naturally, more than others, which the film takes special care to point out), but overwhelmingly this is a very emotional film about a group of people who are, fundamentally, pretty fucked up emotionally, and that’s what drives them to do the very thing they live for. At times it feels like Judd Apatow has ripped his heart out and smeared it all over the screen; there’s that much emotional honesty in this thing.

The performances are all completely fantastic. It’s been mentioned dozens of times before, but this is the Adam Sandler of Punch Drunk Love rather than The Waterboy. He's playing “George Simmons”, the embittered, fabulously wealthy and utterly alone guy who stars in garbage exactly like The Waterboy (encapsulated here by a string of high-grossing, big-budget, totally shitty fake comedies like “Mer-Man” and “Re-Do”, films that do not represent who Simmons really is). Simmons finds out he’s terminally ill and decides to go back to standup comedy, and one night, after bombing horribly with a depressing set fueled by his sudden mortality, he hires Ira (played in three dimensions by a ratcheted-down Seth Rogen), a struggling standup comedian, to help him write material for the stage and be his personal assistant. The journey that follows – both physically and emotionally – is suitably described as “epic”, and not in the annoying internet sense of the word, but in the Laurence of Arabia sense.

All in all, it’s hard to describe Funny People as a ‘comedy’. It is, rather, a very funny drama about comedians. It’s also one of the most incredibly personal and utterly fascinating movies I’ve seen in a long time. For god’s sake, go see it.

Oh, and Maria Bamford and Brian Posehn are listed in the IMDB credits for this film but apparently didn't make the final cut. We hereby demand that Bamford and Posehn's scenes are included on the DVD, no matter how minor.

Road Trip Album Picks: Drunk Baby Project

WHAT: Comedy album from one of the Kids in the Hall
LABEL: Tront Communications
GOOD IF YOU LIKE: The Kids in the Hall
WHERE TO FIND IT: various places online for around $20

Bruce McCulloch was/is one of the Kids in the Hall and released Drunk Baby Project from 2002, is the second comedy album made by Bruce McCulloch, the first being Shame Based Man from 1995.

Since Bruce McCulloch isn't a stand-up comedian it is only natural that you aren't going to hear stand-up on this album. It is an album of primarily songs, though McCulloch isn't a singer either, so don't expect tunes to get your feet a-tappin'. The songs are more like monologues or sketches that Bruce monotones through to music.

There's a lot of darkness to this album, like a song about a depressed man "flying" over his girlfriend who is cheating on him, a song about a horrible blackout hangover, and how laugh tracks were only built for the benefit of lonely people, something aliens don't understand.

McCulloch also goes on to more upbeat songs about how the Bible is funnier than "a Far Side cartoon", a song about a struggling gay waiter, and a song about "he knows what the ladies like" and proceeds to describe the horrifyingly funny way he has sex with ladies.

Suffice it to write that this is not an album for your average person. You aren't going to cue this up for someone who thinks Jeff Dunham is hilarious. Or you might, just to see them horrified. If you are the type of person who liked Bruce on The Kids in the Hall and want to see that work only a lot darker, then this is the album for you.

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Review: Doug Benson's Unbalanced Load

Funnyman: Doug Benson
Album: Unbalanced Load
Label: Comedy Central Records
Format: CD (retail), various (iTunes)
Length: 55:30 minutes
Available: August 4, 2009
Price: $10-$13, depending on format

After being released into relative obscurity, Benson follows up Professional Humoredian with a wider release, Unbalanced Load. It's funny, and you will laugh, unless you aren't much of a fan of the English language in which case I suggest you find a comic that speaks whatever it is that you are. I listened to Unbalanced Load and enjoyed it immensely, and I also subjected a car full of people to it a few days later and they all loved it-- and I should note, they are not this blog's target demo.

Doug's a rare creature in that the comedian always sounds like he's having a fantastic time during a performance. As such, you're going to have a great time, too. As a performer there's no limit to the joy he seems to be having while telling you about pot, The Dark Knight, and VH-1's consistent line-up of programming.

Longtime fans may recognize a lot of his jokes from recent television appearances, the Comedy Death Ray double CD compilation, and his other performances. (That shows you're paying attention, good for you.) Thankfully, there's a lot of stuff you most likely have never heard, including a delightful bit involving the Hoover Dam and the best knock-knock jokes you could ever hope for. The "Segues" track is also brilliant, the kind of thing the 10-year-old in you would probably want to listen to repeatedly, memorize, and perform for others. Some of the material-- recorded 4/20/2009, har har-- is already a smidge dated. For example VH-1's Best Week Ever has been canceled, but the bit surrounding it has less to do with the show itself and more to do with car accidents.

As always, we'll skip the spoilers and say that this is one of the funniest albums we've heard recently. It's been a great year for comedy releases, and this may be one of the best things released to stores so far in 2009. In particular, if you're a closet fan of VH-1's Celebreality programming block, a lover of movies in general, or a person curious to hear how a comic deals with hecklers who shout out things like "you're gay."

Other Notes
- Unlike many other Comedy Central Records releases, there is no DVD or bonus physical material. So get the MP3 or the CD.
- You may have heard a couple of the jokes before on the CDR album, but probably not. If you haven't heard the Comedy Death Ray comp, go ahead and get that one after you hear this one.
- There are bonus tracks
- If you want a free sample of Doug grab his podcast, I Love Movies
- The CD comes in a cardboard fold-open sleeve, not a jewel case
- If you're the kind of person who freaks out about language and adulty stuff, a) stop reading this blog and b) consider buying a much less funny comedy album, because this one is awesome

Monday, July 27, 2009

This Week in Comedy: Scott Baio Edition

It’s a banner week for releases, mostly because of what’s happening on Friday, and of course the momentous, celebratory release of the final season of Charles in Charge! That’s right, you Baioholics out there, the hilarious and touching final episodes of that classic internationally beloved sitcom are finally being released in pristine condition on DVD! REJOICE! REJOICE!


Funny People – For comedy nerds, this is the biggest movie of the summer, bigger than anything featuring transforming racist robots or teenage wizards in love. Judd Apatow’s 2.5 hour dramedy features virtually every great comic talent out there, including Seth Rogen, Leslie Mann, Jason Schwartzman, Ken Jeong, Andy Dick, Norm Macdonald, Maria Bamford, Brian Posehn, and of course Aziz Ansari as his now-infamous RAAAAAANDY character. Obviously we cannot wait to see this thing and we’ll have a full review up Friday.


Miss March – If you’re looking for “saddest DVD release of the week”, this is probably it. Written by and starring Trevor Moore and Zach Cregger from the increasingly hilarious and under-appreciated sketch series The Whitest Kids U Know, Miss March is a major letdown and has nary a funny moment in it, with Moore in particular playing a very grating “zany” character that just doesn’t work. It was their first feature, however, and it’s our hope that this one misfire doesn’t prevent them from giving it another shot. Thankfully, another season of Whitest Kids is on the way – season three had some absolute gems in it – so we can all put Miss March behind us.

Bart Got A Room – A little-seen (and by that we mean "seen by virtually no one") “quirky indie high school comedy” featuring William H. Macy and Cheryl Hines. Notably, it’s also the first performance in a feature film by YouTube celebrity movie re-enactor Brandon Hardesty, who is impossible to not at least like a little bit. It’s on DVD now, and will probably be available streaming soon if you’re so inclined.

Jim Breuer: Let’s Clear the Air – Are you a big Jim Breuer fan? Do you have the John Belushi Animal House poster up on your dorm room wall? Does your desk chair smell of bong water? Perhaps you’ve got tickets to the next Dave Matthews Band concert? Maybe your Chapelle’s Show DVDs are getting a little scratched up? Well, then wipe the crumbs from your shirt and get your ass down to Best Buy to pick up Jim Breuer’s latest Comedy Central special on DVD!

Charles in Charge Season 5 – This is the release you’re most looking forward to. ADMIT IT.

This Week in Late Night (Plus Mid-Afternoon)

Our Weekly Comedy lists were getting too damn long, so we've spun off the Late Night listings into their own post. You can plan out your week of talk shows much easier this way!

This week, the Funny People promotional train keeps on rollin', so there are a ton of appearances by the film's cast. Also, Judd Apatow is on Inside the Actors Studio tonight, so keep an eye out for that on Bravo.

7.30 – Adam Sandler

7.28 – Steve Zahn, Jimmy Carr
7.29 – Rainn Wilson

7.28 – Johnny Galecki

7.29 – Leslie Mann
7.30 – Tim Meadows
7.31 – Adam Sandler

7.28 – Spinal Tap
7.30 – Judd Apatow

7.28 – Leslie Mann
7.29 – Jonah Hill
7.30 – Seth Rogen

Chelsea Handler
7.29 – Chris Kattan
7.30 – Greg Proops
7.31 – Jen Kirkman (repeat, but catch it if you missed it last week)


If you're out of work, you have time to catch all the banal daytime talk shows too! Here's what's up this week.

The View
7.30 – Judd Apatow, Seth Rogen

Regis & Kelly
7.28 – Jonah Hill
7.31 – Adam Sandler

Friday, July 24, 2009

Road Trip Album Picks: Dr. Demento's 20th Anniversary Collection

Mr. Show's Dr. RetardoWHAT: Collection of some of the best-known comedy and novelty songs of all time
LABEL: Rhino Records
GOOD IF YOU LIKE: Dr. Demento, classic comedy, pop culture nuggets
WHERE TO FIND IT: Widely available at better record stores

The subtitle of this album is "The Greatest Novelty Records of All Time," which is a fair description for this double-disc collection. I've had this in my possession for years, and looking at it then, a lot of it wasn't too funny. On the other hand, some of it was pretty spectacular. The word "Records" is really telling, because pretty much everything here was released during the era of vinyl and this collection dates back to 1991, when CDs were just starting to really replace tapes and licorice pizzas.

"Novelty" is another key word, because a lot of this isn't particularly funny, just required listening for young pop culture fanatics. Regardless of your opinion of the cultural value of the Rocky Horror Picture Show, you can't say that it isn't important to hear "The Time Warp" so you know what it is. The same can be said of "Surfin' Bird," which isn't a comedy track so much as it is something of a garage song that is, to say the least, likely to invite smiles.

Since some of the tracks date back over 50 years, odds are modern ears aren't going to take much delight in Spike Jones and his City Slickers or Ray Stevens due to a lack of context or the fact that they did not age well. On the other hand, the great "Weird Al" Yankovic, Frank Zappa, Tom Lehrer, and Steve Martin appear here, as does Shel Silverstein. Novelty nuggets like "Star Trekkin'" work great as a way to infuriate your fellow passengers, while "Fish Heads" may well be the greatest novelty record ever made. Take that as you will. "Monster Mash" and "Purple People Eater" can be found here too, making this the ultimate snapshot of the best the Dr. Demento radio program had to offer.

Poison tracks include:
  • Hello Muddah, Hello Fadduh!
  • Witch Doctor
  • Junk Food Junkie
  • The Battle of Kookamonga
There's little in the way of sketches here, but you'll find a lot of songs you or your parents found amusing at some point in their lives. "Beep Beep," "King Tut," and "Eat It" are all cultural treasures, but I can't guarantee that this two-hour collection of 36 tracks is going to bring a smile to your face unless you enjoy watching others suffer. And really, isn't that the half of the fun when it comes to road trips?

Oh, and I would also give this album my highest possible rating as a gift to any comedy-inclined tweens you may know. They will enjoy parts of it now, infuriate their friends and family with it, and outgrow it before they turn 25 so they can move on to better music and comedy. Really, you're doing them a huge favor.

Monday, July 20, 2009

GIANT-SIZE Weekly Comedy - San Diego Comic-Con Edition

So this week is San Diego Comic-con, when nerds, comedy nerds, and some nerdy comedians descend on the San Diego Convention Center for 5 solid days of being even geekier than usual. We’ve got a special edition Weekly Comedy to let you know what’s going on at Comic-Con that might interest the discerning comedy dork who wants to mix his interest in spandex-clad superheroes and Star Wars with his interest in decent comedy.



Robot Chicken and Titan Maximum: 3-4pm, Room 6A –Seth Green and the Robot Chicken crew shows up, presumably to chat about the new season (which starts this Sunday) and their new series Titan Maximum. Will there be clips? Yes, probably.

Kick-Ass: 5:45-6:30pm Hall H – We don’t know too much about this flick but apparently it’s kind of a dark action-comedy based on the comic by Mark Millar, involving superheroes. On the panel will be Role Models’ Christopher Mintz-Plasse, Clark Duke, who you may know from his web series Michael & Clark with Michael Cera. Might be worth checking out!

Drawn Together The Movie Roundtable: 7pm-8pm, Room 6BCF – Yeah apparently there’s a fucking MOVIE for Drawn Together coming out and it’ll probably be just like the mostly-unfunny and eye-rollingly “offensive” TV series, only longer. But it’s here if you want to wallow


The Big Bang Theory Screening and Panel: 1-2pm, Ballroom 20 – This room will probably fill up faster than any other sitcom panel at the convention because nerds love the shit out of this show and the entire cast will be in attendance. Presumably the screening is a season 3 episode, but who knows?

The Mighty Boosh: 4:45-5:45pm, Room 6A – The popular and extremely strange Britcom (which you can catch in reruns on Adult Swim or on DVD) from the folks behind The IT Crowd shows up for a little panel action.

Rifftrax Live: 7:15-8:15pm Room 6DE – Although you’ll have a chance to see a live Rifftrax event in theaters around the country later this year, if you show up early enough and manage to get in the room, Mike, Bill and Kevin will be here to offer up a live show with a new short.

Stan Helsing: 7:30-8:45pm Room 6BCF – Someone decided to exhume and animate the corpse of Leslie Nielsen, and he’s in this really not-at-all-funny-looking “spoof” about a monster hunter who’s tracking down famous movie monsters. There will probably be farts involved. Leslie will be at this panel, which is strange because he’s 124 years old and surely 7:30pm is way past his bedtime.



Family Guy + The Cleveland Show: 11:15-1pm, Ballroom 20 – Yeah yeah, bitch about Family Guy all you want, but for fans of the show the cast is here, and they’re going to presumably reveal just what the hell is going on with The Cleveland Show which still seems like a weird, potentially bad idea. We’ll just have to see.

Futurama: 1-1:45pm, Ballroom 20 – Stick around another hour and you’ll see the Futurama panel, which thanks to the recent news will probably be 100 percent bitching about Fox and fans angrily asking about the potential voice cast changes. Have fun!

Extract: 1:30-2:30pm, Hall H: Mike Judge’s new comedy has been getting some decent reviews, so check this out for a peek at it. Stars Jason Bateman, Kristin Wiig and Mila Kunis will be there, and they’re all funny, so it’ll probably be worth it even if the movie doesn’t tickle your fancy.

The Simpsons: 1:45-2:30pm, Ballroom 20 – Stick around for yet another hour to wade among the fading glory of The Simpsons. I guess they’re showing clips from the as-yet-unaired Treehouse of Horror XX, which sounds like a porno. One I do not want to think about.

Kevin Smith: 5:15-6:15 Hall H – Smith has a new buddy cop comedy coming up starring Tracy Morgan and Bruce Willis called A Couple of Dicks, which could be good (although after Zach and Miri it’s hard to trust Smith’s comic sensibilities). It’s a remote live event from New York, so expect lots of screen-watchin’.

The Venture Bros: 6-7:15pm, Room 6DE – Maybe it’s my ridiculous bias and giant Venture Bros fanboyism coming through here but this will probably be the coolest panel at Comic-Con. Just sayin’.


American Dad: 11:15-12:15pm, Ballroom 20 – You can either go to the American Dad panel on Sunday or go the fuck home and sleep off the convention. I know which one I’ll be doing.


Joel McHale at Humphrey’s Concerts by the Bay
: 7pm Friday Jul. 24 – It’s a comedy deathmatch showdown! Joel McHale takes the stage at Humphrey’s at 7pm, which is only an hour before…

Doug Benson and Brian Posehn at Gaslamp Theatre
: 8pm Friday Jul. 24 – You can’t possibly see both shows! We here at CID are big fans of all three comedians, but frankly, at the Benson & Posehn show you get two great comics and the tickets are only $25 a head, whereas McHale is charging $50. The choice is fairly obvious to us.


Robot Chicken: Star Wars Episode II The latest all-Star Wars episode from Robot Chicken was decent enough and if you buy the DVD you get priority entrance to the admittedly wacky bus tour the show’s crew is taking around America, which features rollerskating.

The Mighty Boosh seasons 1-3 – All three seasons of this show which as mentioned before I know almost nothing about.

The Great Buck Howard – This little flick, not-so-subtly based on The Amazing Kreskin features a pretty great and really funny performance by John Malkovich; it was produced by Tom Hanks’ Playtone production company, and didn’t get much of a theatrical release, but it’s pretty funny and breezy and watchable. Give it a rent, you won’t regret it.

Visioneers – Zach Galifianakis stars in this little-seen dark satire about corporate America. Haven’t seen it yet but it’s a must-rent; apparently it’s a pretty solid, if strange, comedy.


7.22 – Tracy Morgan

7.20 – Adam Sandler
7.21 – Jonah Hill
7.23 – Zach Galifianakis
7.24 – Seth Rogen

7.20 – Margaret Cho
7.24 – Jim Breuer

7.20 – Will Arnett
7.21 – Michael Ian Black & Michael Showalter
7.22 – Mighty Boosh
7.23 – Kevin Nealon

7.21 Seth Green

This has been your official Longest Goddamn Weekly Comedy Update Ever.

Sunday, July 19, 2009

Movie You Can't See Yet: World's Greatest Dad

Release Date: August 21, 2009 (so says IMDB, you can buy tickets in some locations now), Xbox Live and VOD supposedly starts July 24
Director: Bobcat Goldthwait
Starring: Robin Williams, Geoffrey Pierson, and a bunch of people you may not recognize
Cameos: Plenty! Mr. Show fans pay special attention.

It's not often a movie comes out at the perfect time, but every few years you get a Wag the Dog or something else that works. World's Greatest Dad comes into the world fresh on a number of celebrity deaths, including the often joked-about but rarely discussed auto-erotic asphyxiation, which (spoiler alert) comes up in this feature. (There's your warning if you can't laugh at that sort of thing.) And seriously, do not continue if you consider the premise of the movie to be a spoiler.

With a genuinely fantastic performance by Robin Williams, the film is largely populated by unknowns and hard-working comedians whose faces you will no doubt recognize as being key players in projects from Goldthwait's past-- old friends and co-workers give fantastic performances that really fit the material well. Some of the students are a little goofy, but really, who wasn't in high school?

The movie's premise is a twist on the classic "loser gets fame" model, with the key difference here being that Williams is Lance Clayton, a teacher and failed writer. The class he teaches is in danger of being cut due to poor enrollment, his teenage son is a nightmare, and to make matters worse, he's finally about to give up. And then, his son dies while jerking off, and being a good dad he covers for him by writing a suicide note and hanging the body in the closet. Soon thereafter, the note gets out and suddenly everybody is interested in knowing more about the son in his suicide note-- a thoughtful, deep boy rather than the porn-obsessed adolescent that truly died doing what he loved.

There are so many levels of comeuppance and schadenfreude that you wonder exactly which event constitutes a victory. Recurring themes of death, like Lance's love of zombie films, help to paint this pitch-black comedy. Without spoiling too much of the plot, he uses his son's newfound fame as a springboard into the life he's pursued and failed to achieve for so long.

To nitpick, there's one element that seemed to be less than fully creative in this otherwise astonishing piece of film, and that's music. While people frequently use music to add emotion to a sequence, or to make something funnier, here the lyrics of the songs used often had a direct correlation to the on-screen events. Robin Williams smokes pot, and there's a song about smoking pot. A ghost montage has a song about being a ghost. I'm sure this technique probably helped to push the story along, but it didn't seem to fit with the otherwise very crafty and well-assembled picture. You'll laugh, you probably won't cry, so go see it in a theater. You're going to want to pay attention to this one, there's so much going on that it demands your full attention.

Saturday, July 18, 2009

Review: Borat (a movie I've never watched up until now, three years after its release)

In 2006, the movie Borat came out. I initially wanted to go see the movie, but after the first week of people everywhere saying "nice" in a foreign accent with a thumbs up I suddenly felt like I should never see the movie lest I catch whatever strange brain damage this movie caused.

Now with the recent release of Bruno by Sacha Baron Cohen, I thought maybe now would be a good time to go back and watch Borat for the first time as I wasn't being bombarded with idiots talking about "sexy time" over and over.

So, overall, this is a very funny movie with Sacha doing what he does best and fucks with people as an outrageous stereotype of a foreigner. I have to wonder, though, how many people in America who went to see this movie and then muttered "sexy time" really got the subtext of this movie. I know there was a lot of anger from the minister of Kazakhstan when this movie came out for how badly it portrayed Kazakhs, what with Borat being a man who has sex with relatives, defecates in public and thinks Jews are monsters that will poison him. However, Borat isn't real. The people he interacts with in the United States are real and make us look like xenophobic, racist, backwards people.

New Yorkers will threaten to beat up a guy trying to greet them by kissing, frat boys will declare that minorities have more rights than white people, a man who runs a gun store doesn't even bat an eye for a request for a gun to "shoot a Jew" and people in a Rodeo will cheer for support of the war on terror all the way up to suggestions of turning Iraq into a wasteland with George W. Bush drinking the blood of the enemies, but get irate when the national anthem is sung incorrectly.

It's frightening and hilarious because it simply focuses on real life which is often funnier than anything you can make up. I know that part of it flew over the heads of a lot of Americans who saw this, but for the rest of us it smacks us right on the head and makes us want to continue to weep into our liquor.

So yes, now that people are no longer annoyingly quote this movie, it's a good time to see it if you haven't. It's really funny and shows Americans for the retards we can be.

Cheap to buy almost anywhere on DVD for under $10 at the moment, it's a good recession entertainment buy, and I will recommend because I am their shameless whore.

Expect me to review Bruno in 2012.

Friday, July 17, 2009

Road Trip Album Picks: Doug Benson's "Professional Humoredian"

WHAT: Stand-up album from one of Twitter's favorite sons, host of the "I Love Movies" podcast, the dude from the movie Super High Me, and VH-1/G4 gadfly
LABEL: A Special Thing Records
WHERE TO FIND IT: Pretty much nowhere, so try iTunes or the label (mail order)

Here's an album from someone you'll probably love on a label that's so obscure you can keep your comedy snob cred even after someone else tells you about it. How's that for awesome?

Doug Benson is generally known as a pot comic which is actually pretty unfair. Sure, his star shot up thanks to the Marijuanalogues, a live show that's... well, you can figure it out. This is a great place to start following his career, particularly because he's a prolific guy. Between his podcast and TV specials, you might hear references to these jokes again and again. As such, starting here will probably make you feel better about buying this album, rather than recognizing bits of it from his many hours of free funny.

This album is absolutely worth listening to if you can find it. Benson's next release will be on Comedy Central Records, which means you might find it in stores unless they pull another digital-only release out of their backsides.

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Comedy Death Ray This Week

I just came back from this week's Comedy Death Ray at the Upright Citizens Brigade Theatre in Los Angeles, and it was a heck of a great show. Here's this week's menu.

Host: Ben Kronberg
From Colorado, he brought a mix of anti-comedy and actual comedy. Also, he wore short shorts and his underpants peeked out from underneath. I've never seen him perform before, but if you have a chance to hear his rapping, I suggest you take it. His bits ranged from winners to quasi-bombs, but it was largely excellent, as was the whole show. He's a snappy emcee, so kudos on the good pick.

  • Tom McCaffrey had a great set. Unfortunately, he reused some of the jokes on the Invite Them Up CD, which is sorta like a New York CDR. As one of "Rich Dicks," the video screened previously, he has a great voice and a good set.
  • Adam Cayton-Holland also made the trip from Colorado, and had a spectacular set. Again, if you have the chance to see him, do so. A+ for Brown vs. Board of Education and Poe references.
  • Greg Behrendt you may know from his short-lived talk show or the media spawned from the line "he's just not that into you." The bulk of the set had to do with the Fleshlight, which you either already know what it is or you can go look it up and see why I won't discuss it here.
  • Doug Benson showed up with a surprise appearance. Highlights: clips from a new G4 special, announcement of a CD release party, and highlights from Dane Cook's Twitter feed. It was awesome.
  • Rory Scovel was bearded, funny, likable. Worth seeing.
  • B.J. Novak of The Office fame came out and read the story on the back of a "Honey Bunches of Oats" box. He was also very, very sweaty.
  • Chris Hardwick rounded out the set. It was great. It's not often you hear a comic open up with something on Dementor sex and work in stuff about Lincoln being gay conspiracies near the end, but that's why Mr. Hardwick is the headliner. If you listen to the Sound of Young America podcast, you may have heard some of this material, which was all really top-notch stuff.
Sorry that isn't too in-depth but I don't want to spoil the jokes or stay up all night. I still got some stuff to work on, so sleep tight knowing you missed a fantastic show down near Hollywood tonight.

Messing With A Friend

Susan Messing is one of those people who is famous in Chicago, but outside of Chicago you probably have never heard of her. No, she wasn't on Will and Grace. The only notable recent thing you may have seen her in is the stripper in traction in Let's Go To Prison. No, wait, nobody saw that movie. Nevermind.

It's a shame. It's a really, really big shame that more people don't know of her, because she's fucking awesome. She's a quick wit, deft with characters, and even at 45, cute as a button.

If you're in Chicago, one of the places you can see her do her thing is The Annoyance Theater, where her show Messing With A Friend (get it? her last name is a verb!) is coming up on it's third year.

The premise is simple, as Susan usually introduces it: "I'm going to get a suggestion and then me and my friend are going to fuck around." By "fuck around" she means doing some improvised comedy scenes with a guest which changes weekly. Sometimes the guests are semi-famous like "That guy from SNL" and "I think that guy was on...what was that shitty sketch comedy show that I am glad is off the air? Oh yeah! Mad TV."

Most of the time she brings some of the most talented people around Chicago that you have never heard of to perform with her. Even then, Susan usually outperforms them. She is a lady who is not afraid to do anything, whether it be to swear up a storm, or sit on an audience member's lap, or chew their gum, or comment in character that she has to pee, then actually go to the bathroom for five minutes. It's kind of like having an Super-Plus Amy Sedaris perform for you.

If you are in the Chicago area and don't have anything to do on a Thursday night, I recommend stopping by this show. It is only five dollars, which allows you extra spending money for drinks at the bar.

Monday, July 13, 2009

This Week In Mildly Pleasant Comedy

Not a whole lot happening this week, probably thanks to Harry Potter and the Only Movie Anyone’s Going To Talk About For the Next 2 Weeks.


Black Dynamite – The trailer for this over-the-top blaxsploitation “spoof” got a lot of buzz some 6 months ago, but all the early screenings produced were a bunch of so-so reviews, most of them indicating that the film was a one-joke wonder that went on way too long. Maybe it’ll make for a decent rental.

500 Days of Summer – The reigning king and queen of Indie Quirk, Joseph Gordon-Levitt and Zooey Deschanel, star in this well-reviewed relationship comedy (the creators are very clear that it is “not a romance”, and indeed seems to be more of a comedy about a failed relationship than something you’d see Sandra Bullock drop a wedding cake in). There are musical numbers and a lot of 4th-wall-breaking meta gags; opens limited this week and will go wide over the course of the rest of the month. Probably funnier and more nourishing than any of the standard-issue rom-coms in theaters now.


The State – MTV’s very first sketch comedy show is finally out on DVD… minus any of the original music. Still, for hardcore fans looking to replace their worn out VHS tapes, this set should provide some relief. I always felt The State was sort of the not-as-funny basic cable version of Mr. Show, but they had some decent bits in there. Most of the alums from this series r (the two most visible graduates being Tom Lennon and Michael Ian Black) went on to do stuff like Stella, Reno 911 and Wet Hot American Summer. If you’ve never seen the series, it’s definitely worth checking out at least on Netflix as a notable chunk of 90’s sketch comedy history.


Michael & Michael Have Issues – Speaking of The State, the reliably funny Michael Ian Black and his cohort from Stella and a bunch of other projects, Michael Showalter, have a new sketch comedy show premiering at in the post-South Park 10:30pm Wednesday slot on Comedy Central. The concept is basically a sketch comedy show inside a show about a fictional sketch comedy show, which is sounds complicated until you realize it’s the same basic concept behind The Muppet Show. All of the clips on the show’s website are pretty darn funny; looking forward to this one. Here’s hoping Comedy Central decides to keep it on for more than 8 episodes.


7.15 – Dana Carvey: Ever since The Master of Disguise and that utterly foul HBO special he inflicted on the world last year, Dana Carvey has become Komedy Kryptonite. Tune in on Wednesday to hear his unfunny Arnold Schwartzenegger impression on Conan! Or maybe he’ll bust out his tired-ass George HW Bush routine! Either way, you won’t laugh!

7.17 – Seth Green: Eternally busy Robot Chicken overlord Seth Green stops by, presumably to promote the show, his upcoming new animated project Titan Maximum, and his various Comic-Con appearances next week.


7.16 – Bill Engvall: For those of you let down by the lack of Jeff Dunham appearances this week, Bill Engvall is on Fallon. Surely his hilarious country-fried comedy stylings will tide you over.


Van Wilder: Freshman Year – The unending juggernaut of shitty direct-to-video college comedies bearing the “National Lampoon” name rolls on this week, still abiding by the unwritten law that if you’re designing the cover for a direct-to-video comedy then the cover ABSOLUTELY MUST feature the movie’s cast flanked by a pair of female legs. This is the second (third?) Van Wilder sequel, which surely nobody asked for. How many times can you watch a smuggy smirky guy outwit the stuffed-shirt dean and bed the Hot Chick With A Conscience while simultaneously foiling Chug-A-Lug House and stumbling into a sorority panty raid? I guess National Lampoon thinks the answer is three! Although it’s zero, if you have any sense of taste or reason at all!

Friday, July 10, 2009

Comedy Is Dead Review: BRUNO

When it was announced last year that Sacha Baron Cohen had planned to follow up on his monstrously popular Borat movie with a similar film starring Bruno, his hyper-gay Austrian TV host character from Da Ali G Show, most discerning folks were cautious. On one hand, like Borat, the original segments from the TV series featuring Bruno were hilarious and shocking and did what great comedy often sets out to do, which is to expose something fundamental about humanity.

On the other hand, the Borat movie was about a half hour too long and did one of the worst things that great comedy never sets out to do: launch annoying catchphrases and a voice your coworkers think they can “do”.

Fortunately for all of us, The Bruno film features no real catchphrases of note and you probably won’t hear people straining to imitate Baron Cohen’s German accent. The bad news? It’s still about a half hour too long, and doesn’t seem to have a reason to exist.

See, the central conceit of Baron Cohen’s films is that the character he’s playing is a ludicrous stereotype, a sort of golem molded from the worst nightmares of your average American Neoconservative – here, a shallow, fame-obsessed flaming gay dude with ridiculous fashion sense and a supermodel’s pout. These characters are supposed to encourage reactions from people that show just how bigoted and intolerant they really are underneath the razor-thin layer of Generic American Niceness that permeates society. In Borat, it mostly worked; that film had a number of incredibly funny and shocking sequences that cleverly exposed just how many Americans really feel about brown-skinned foreigners, and came out at a time when such revelations felt fresh, especially given the political and social climate at the time.

Bruno, on the other hand, feels like a joke you’ve been told a hundred times before you even enter the theater; the first half or so satirizes shallow celebrity culture, and the second half focuses on reactions to Bruno’s gayness by the American south. You already know how both of these scenarios are going to play out; people in Los Angeles are going to be mind-blowingly dumb and shallow, and the southerners are going to be a bunch of easily-spooked bigoted homophobic assholes who just can’t handle Bruno. If you’ve seen the trailer, then you’ve basically seen the film, minus all the pornographic sight gags.

The biggest problem, however, is how staged the entire thing feels. There are a few sequences where the scenarios and reactions feel legitimate, but the polished visuals and scene construction are just way too perfect to deliver the kind of “guerilla-social-commentary-via-pranking-rubes” vibe that was present in the TV series and throughout most of the first film. In Bruno, it feels like way too many people are in on the joke and are playing along, and that’s just not as much fun.

That’s not to say the film doesn’t have more than a few funny moments. One sequence in particular involves Bruno interviewing stage moms to find babies to pose with his new adopted African baby in a series of scandalous photos, and the situations they agree to put their children in are terrifying and uncomfortably hilarious. It’s one of the only places where the film feels “real” and gets close to finding the same shock and edge and danger that Borat had. Mostly, Bruno is just crude, telling you things you already know, every now and then offering a laugh. By the time you’re watching Bruno and his assistant strip eachother down and make out in an octagonal cage while a crowd of angry duped rednecks throw beers at them, you may find yourself asking what the point of all this is.

Road Trip Album Picks: John Mulaney's "The Top Part"

WHAT: Stand-up album from this guy you've never heard of
LABEL: Comedy Central Records
GOOD IF YOU LIKE: Oswalt, Mirman, etc.
WHERE TO FIND IT: Anywhere-- Best Buy, Fry's Electronics, whatever

I stumbled on this one because the young John Mulaney appeared on a podcast I enjoy. Otherwise I'd never know who this guy was. He was promoting the CD and his Comedy Central special, which apparently was a wise move because I ran out and bought this on sight.

If you're like most people, you've never heard of Mulaney. I think his highest-profile TV appearances were the aforementioned Comedy Central Presents special or his short quips on the final Best Week Ever with Paul F. Tompkins, but now you can be awesome by getting this CD and making others listen to it in the car when you go somewhere. The most amazing thing about this release is that it's not only hysterical, but it's clean. Not a lot of comedy albums see release without a "Parental Advisory" sticker unless it's on a tiny label which doesn't bother which such things.

Highlights include: "Blacking Out And Making Money," which really sets the tone of his style, and "The Salt And Pepper Diner," which is something you should have around if you want your girl/boy to love you for your taste in humor. Tom Jones on the jukebox + quarters = yes. It's hard to find something genuinely awesome in major retailers' comedy sections, but this is one of those diamonds in the rough. It's a hair over 48 minutes long and about $10, which is quite a deal.

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

Shattered Glass

To promote his new album Thin Pig (which released digitally on iTunes and Amazon yesterday), Todd Glass has released this clip of him terrorizing the offices of his PR company for not promoting the release. There are few people who do hilarious unbridled violent rage as well as Glass, and this clip only further proves that (extremely NSFW dialogue).

You can get the album and preview a few clips right here.

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

Unwanted Thoughts Syndrome

Who: Maria Bamford
Label: Comedy Central Records
Released: April 21, 2009

This album contains less gems than Bamford's previous work. It's probably the weakest of her three albusms, but is still a good listen if you like her. If you have never listened to her, you might want to listen to her previous album, How To Win!

There are less personal stories from Maria in this one, less talking about the horrible temp jobs she's had or stories about the behavior of her parents, but there is still plenty of good stuff in it.

Highlights include her calling her Mom as the baby Jesus, doing a bit in which she plays a shallow stereotype of a mainstream female comic, and an act-out of a seminar on pug safety she attended in which horrible deaths of pugs are described.

It is recommended you purchase the physical copy of this album as it comes not only with a CD of the stand-up material, but a DVD containing all the episodes of the Maria Bamford Show as broadcast on If you haven't seen it, it is a simple low-budget show in which Maria plays all the characters except her pug, which is played by her pug.

Overall, it's a good album, funnier than most of the stuff out there, and comes with a DVD which is a good deal for the money.

Monday, July 6, 2009

A Surprisingly Dense Week in Comedy


Bruno – It’s almost impossible to tell if this thing is going to be funny or not. The trailers are kinda weak and Cohen’s in-character promotional appearances have been pretty flat, consisting mostly of him doing the voice, wearing revealing clothing and referring to his balls using various Austrian-sounding words. Not only that, but everyone in America is pretty well aware that there are a lot of ridiculous hateful homophobes who live here and an entire “documentary” (early reviews suggest that big chunks of the movie feel very staged) pointing that out using an obnoxious famewhore as the central character just doesn’t sound so great.

Regardless, expect our full review on Friday.

I Love You, Beth Cooper Heroes’ Hayden Panettiere stars in this “shocking” teen comedy that for some reason they’re opening opposite another “shocking” comedy that has appeal to teenagers. It was directed by Chris Colombus, who you may remember as the director of such classics as Home Alone II: Lost in New York, Harry Potter and the First Two Shitty Adaptations, and Rent: The Unbearable Experience. So yeah.

Humpday – One of the best reviewed film festival movies this year, Humpday is opening on one or two screens this weekend; basically, two dudes at a party get involved in a drunken game of one-upsmanship and wind up agreeing to be in a porn together. Pretty simple premise, and apparently the film is really funny. When it opens wide in a few weeks I’ll check it out.


Todd Glass: Thin Pig – According to iTunes, Todd Glass’s new album comes out on Tuesday, July 7th. Apparently there is no physical release, so if you want it, you’ve gotta get it digitally. Glass is a favorite around here, mostly due to his involvement on the not-to-be-missed Comedy and Everything Else podcast, but his standup is pretty great too, so consider this your Must Purchase of the week.

Here’s a quick sample of Glass’s material (NSFW):


Mystery Science Theater 3000 XV – Nothing in this latest set will set the world on fire; In fact, some of these are downright bad episodes, like The Robot vs. The Aztec Mummy, which is one of the worst season one episodes. Also included are The Girl in Lovers Lane, Zombie Nightmare, and the highlight of the set, Racket Girls (with the short Are You Ready for Marriage?). Worth picking up for the last two, but the first two should’ve probably been included in other sets as "the bad one" with three other, better episodes.

Reno 911 Season 6 – The one guy who watches Reno 911 and still finds it hilarious after 7 years or so is fuckin’ thrilled that this is coming out tomorrow. The rest of us will continue the relationship we’ve had with Reno 911 over the years, which consists primarily of remarking on how many used copies there seem to be at every media store in the country.

Grumpy Old Men (Bluray) – Here’s a brilliant idea: let’s release a movie that only appeals to old people on a medium old people do not know exists.

Kath & Kim Season One – Whereas Reno 911 has probably at least one person looking forward to the release of a new season box set tomorrow, it can be said with absolute certainty that the number of people looking forward to the release of the widely hated and generally unwatchable sitcom Kath & Kim Season One is somehow mathematically less than zero.

Young and Handsome: A Night with Jeff Garlin – Shout! Factory is releasing Jeff Garlin’s first hourlong stand-up special on DVD. Based on the clips on Amazon, he’s doing some fairly stale material (sample: “My wife is a hardass! I sure am fat! Man, I hate mowing the lawn!”) but Garlin is a reliably funny guy on Curb Your Enthusiasm and his little-seen movie, I Want Someone to Eat Cheese With, was decent, so maybe the clips are misleading. Consider it a rental.


The Great Late Night Drought of ’09 is finally over and most everything is back on save for Fallon. Our nights are no longer sad and empty.


7/7: Sacha Baron Cohen, Joel McHale – Sit through Sacha Baron Cohen ripping his pants off and saying “ishm” over and over again while waiting for McHale to come out and promote his new sitcom.

7/10: Rainn Wilson, Larry Miller – Rainn Wilson is promoting a bunch of different projects, and Larry Miller is probably going to talk about his new show on ABC Family, which is an hourlong dramedy based on the movie 10 Things I Hate About You, which I haven’t seen but I guarantee you he plays a prickly teacher of some variety.


7/8 Bob Newhart, Al Madrigal – I’m pretty sure Conan invited Bob Newhart on just to make it all the clearer that Al Madrigal is a hack.


7/8 Michael Ian Black

7/10 Ray Romano

Also, Margaret Cho is on The View on 7/9, if you’re interested in having your penis detach itself from your body and start a protest line outside your apartment.


For Los Angeles area comedy nerds, I Love Movies with Doug Benson is taping tomorrow before Comedy Death Ray at the Upright Citizens Brigade theater. CDR has folks like Demetri Martin & Paul Scheer, plus love-him-or-hate-him Daily Show correspondent Wyatt Cenac. Presale tickets are sold out but there is a standby line so there’s still hope.

Friday, July 3, 2009

Road Trip Album Picks: Dr. Demento's Basement Tapes #1

WHAT: A collection of novelty songs originally released in 1992
LABEL: Demento Society
GOOD IF YOU LIKE: Things that weren't funny 17 years ago either
WHERE TO FIND IT: eBay, the places you get music and don't pay for it-- this is now an out-of-production collectible

Nothing says "fuck you" like picking an album for a long drive that even you won't like. If Lou Reed's "Metal Machine Music" is out of reach, and you're carting around a bunch of ingrates who didn't pitch in for gas, I suggest you track down the 26 tracks of misery collectively known as Dr. Demento's Basement Tapes #1. I owned this for several years because I listened to his show as a kid and joined the fan club, and then sold them all within the past year because there's nobody I associate with deserving of what can only be loosely termed "entertainment" of this nature.

Songs featured-- I hesitate to say "highlights"-- include:
  • "It's Alive", a failed sequel to Monster Mash involving rapping
  • "Ballad of Woody and Mia", needs no description but it dates the collection nicely
  • "They Don't Wear Pants in the Southern Part of France", also needs no description
  • "Baby I'm Dead", an Elvis style-parody with one joke spread over 3 minutes
  • "Take Me Out To The Ball Game", again, what more do you need to know?

    While the "Basement Tapes" series would go on to be of interest to fans of "Weird Al" Yankovic for the inclusion of unreleased songs and demos-- which were actually "rare tracks" pre-Internet-- this album doesn't have any of that. The Dr. Demento Show mixed the world's most famous comedians alongside submissions he got in the mail to produce one of the most eclectic and popular syndicated radio programs of the late 20th Century. The Dr. Demento retail collections better reflect the mix you'd find on his shows. This is basically the mail stuff.

    If you have a car full of picky comedy fans, nothing says pre-made torture mix tape like Dr. Demento's Basement Tapes #1. And for particularly long trips, there are severalvolumes from which to choose.
  • Thursday, July 2, 2009

    Aziz Ansari's Comedy Central Special Taping

    We just came back from the taping of Aziz Ansari's new Comedy Central special. If you aren't sure who Aziz is, you might recognize him as part of Human Giant, an actor on NBC's Parks & Recreation, or one of the many voices on the "Invite Them Up!" CD collection.

    It was pretty long, so we're not entirely sure if it will be a "Comedy Central Presents" or a longer show. The taping was at the Brentwood Theater, and it was like a three-act play minus the play part. I'm happy to say a good time was had by all, and the special is going to be one I suggest you watch when it airs... in the future.

    Opener: Matt Braunger
    This segment was not recorder. I've never heard of the guy before, but he did manage to warm up the crowd nicely. Taco Bell and shit jokes have a way of doing that. His web site has not been updated in a very long time. Nothing I'd say you had to check out.

    Main: Aziz Ansari
    A hair under an hour's worth of material, some I hear before, some was new to me. The audience loved it, and so did I. I don't want to give away anything too much, but it's really impressive to see such a diverse field of references in a single act. You'll see sheet thread-count issues, Kanye West, and child molestation joke flash before your eyes. If you generally dig the content posted here, be sure you watch this.

    Closer: Raaaaaaaandy
    Aziz' new character from the film Funny People, which I mentioned seeing briefly at Comedy Death Ray last week. The material is similar, if not identical, to what was shown at the UCB Theatre, although it is really funny to see this amazing synthesis of nearly everything wrong with comedy in a single, short set. As a bonus he performed a "remix" of a joke where all the sex jokes were turned to pizza references. If you're a dork for comedy, you'll get it and love it. If you're a mouth-breather, you might enjoy it as is. And if you're neither, you might not be sure if you're allowed to like it or not. You'll probably love it until people start quoting it back to you. Oh, and he brought his DJ pal too. It's a good send-up of modern comedy mega-acts.

    Wednesday, July 1, 2009

    Mollie Sugden, BBC's Mrs. Noah and Mrs. Slocombe, Dead at 86

    While not the kind of thing we usually cover here, I did watch a number of Mollie Sudgen's shows as a kid. I assume you did too. One of my neighbors was a big Are You Being Served? fan so I tuned in from time to time, and I caught the entire 6-episode run of Come Back Mrs. Noah, an apparently now reviled show in which a housewife wins a cooking contest and accidentally gets blasted off into space.

    It's nothing if not creative. There aren't many sci-fi comedies, outside of Red Dwarf and King of Queens* few have any sort of success. Anyway, if you were also one of those kids who watched these show and haven't thought twice about them in the past 15 years, you may now mourn the passing of a hard-working entertainer.