Monday, August 31, 2009

This Week in Late Night: Toxic Links Edition

After the seemingly endless doldrums of August, pretty much everything is finally back on the air. Norm Macdonald is on Conan tonight, which is always, always a good thing. Mike Judge’s new comedy Extract premieres this weekend, so naturally there are a handful of promotional appearances for that.

Oh, and this is Week One of the Great Three Week Daily Show + Colbert Blackout. A nation mourns and finds something else on TV between 11 and 12pm.

Also, do not click on any of the links I’ve dropped in here. You will regret all of them. ALL OF THEM

9.1 Jeremy Piven
9.4 Neil Patrick Harris

8.31 Norm Macdonald

9.3 Ron Livingston


9.1 Patton Oswalt

8.31 Rex Lee, Josh Wolf, Gina Yashere, Chris Franjola
9.1 Jen Kirkman, Ben Gleib, John Caparulo
9.2 Heather McDonald, Jo Koy
9.3 Bryan Callen, Natasha Leggero

Friday, August 28, 2009

Road Trip Album Picks: Larry Wilmore's "I'd Rather We Got Casinos and Other Black Thoughts"

WHAT: Audiobook of famed writer, producer, Daily Show resident black expert
LABEL: Hyperion (2009)
GOOD IF YOU LIKE: Black comedy, but not that kind of black comedy
WHERE TO FIND IT: In stores, online/Audible, and in my case, the local library

If you've watched television in the past 20 years you have consumed the work of Larry Wilmore. He's produced The P.J.s. He wrote for The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air and Sister, Sister. Heck, he's even been on The Office in that legendary "Diversity Day" episode, and as a correspondent on The Daily Show. While that may seem like a strange opener, it's really a good way to describe this book/CD.

Through three discs, Wilmore presents his book to you and it's a great chunk of funny, if a little disjointed. Chapters include letters to the NAACP asking to replace "African-American" with "chocolate," a few trials and events which nerds would identify as self-insertion fanfic, and numerous satirical essays on what America needs to improve race relations. The best example of the latter can best be summed up by the track's title, "Bring Back The Shetland Negro," which delves into the likes of Webster, Arnold, and to a lesser extent, Urkel.

Considering Wilmore has a bit about how Black History Month is a couple of weeks too long, you might not be at all surprised to hear he explores the n-bomb, adds an Angry Black Church Guide, waxes on how "Brothers don't see UFOs," and has a fake radio show about giving your baby a "nizzname." I can best sum up the whole experience as a mashup of The Daily Show, what I presume an African-American Studies course to be like, and a dash more Jonathan Swift.

While extremely self-referential, it's really funny and you're probably going to laugh a lot, ethnicity be damned, unless you're basically out of touch with the fact that white people write like this and black people write like this or whatever. The audio CD comes on 3 discs and totals about 3.3 hours. Unlike Stephen Colbert's book, this doesn't feel like some artifact so much as it seems that it could really have benefited in front of being performed to a live audience. The entire one-man show is an excellent performance, and here's hoping Wilmore has more plans to do additional recorded works in the future.

Thursday, August 27, 2009

My Weakness is Strong

My Weakness is Strong
Patton Oswalt
Warner Bros. and Degenerate Records
Released August 25, 2009

If you like Patton, you will like this album. Overall, the material is very solid, all new, nothing repeated from previous albums and a very fun listen.

Patton settles down a bit with this one, with his life actually toning down a bit. Not so much raw hatred. It has Patton growing up a bit with him discussing becoming a father and having to give up drugs, and doing a media tour for the Pixar film Ratatouille and having to give up his hatred to be civil to children who might interview him on the Disney Channel or show up at his door dressed as Remy for Halloween.

For longtime fans, there are still many are many dark roads traveled in his comedy, so don't worry about that being lacking. For example, Patton talks about and how he went off his Prozac because of his belief the world will devolve into the world of the Road Warrior in thirty years and he didn't want to end up suddenly hitting bottom and ending up not caring about being the bumper ornament for the head wastelander.

There are, as usual some hilariously-recalled stories told by Patton, such as the story of him, his wife and a Realtor coming to look at a house only to find the owner in the middle of an orgy and a story of doing stand-up opening for a magician who does his entire act hate-fucking the audience over the loss of five dollars.

Patton also muses as only he can, with a theory that religion was invented by someone like himself to dodge getting killed by a giant man with a club in ancient times. He also tells a hilarious bit about how much everything has changed in only the past ten years, and therefore time travel is cheaper.

The album comes in an efficient cardstock case with beautiful art by Ivan Brunetti (known for the award-winning Schitzo comic) and two sleeves, one for the DVD and one for the CD. It is one important advantage the physical album has over the digital download.

The CD and DVD contain exactly the same show. The DVD is filmed at the Lisner Auditorium in Washington D.C. so if you want see the album and not just hear it, it is there for you. It is good to get some subtle visual comedy you would otherwise miss.

The DVD is also well-produced with disturbing animated art by Ivan Brunetti and piano music that sounds like Phillip Glass on horse tranquilizers. A nice step-up actually from a lot of comedy DVDs which in the past have looked like they were slapped together with iDVD.

The DVD also contains extras, such as a bad infomercial for the Patton Oswalt CD which contains cameos from such people as Paul F. Tompkins and Zach Galifianakis. There is also a strange series of parodies of Tommy Wiseau with Patton as Mr. Wiseau, hence the strange. There is an alternate opening to the comedy special which slams openings to comedy specials and a neat little photo slideshow with a series of pictures of items that remind you of jokes. It's hard to explain, but very neat.

So, this album is available pretty much everywhere right now at about $15 or less, so if you are a fan of Patton, you've probably already bought it.

Full outside cover:

Full inside cover:

DVD menu image:

Quite possibly the saddest DVD setup menu ever created:

Weekly Podcasts: Bobcat Edition

As we close out August, there's quite a bit to enjoy on your MP3 player this week. Here are our highlights.

  • Last Saturday, the great I Love Movies podcast updated with Tom Arnold and Dax Shepard. If you only hear one collection of Tom Arnold stories this week, make it this one. (Seriously, it was great.)
  • Last week The Adam Carolla Podcast welcomed guest Bobcat Goldthwait. Not only does he talk up World's Greatest Dad, but you also get a glimpse into his stand-up career and his on-again, off-again persona with what he refers to as "the Grover voice." Well worth a listen. Also appearing on another installment, Chris Hardwick and Gary Dell'abatte of the Howard Stern radio program. A good week for comedy fans.
  • The August 25 installment of Fresh Air with Terry Gross has an interview with Mike Judge of King of the Hill, Office Space, and various other fame. The interview covers the September 13 finale of KOTH, confirmation of new episodes exclusive to syndication, and the upcoming film Extract. Very interesting stuff.

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Pilot Watch: Community with Joel McHale

WHAT: New NBC sitcom pilot with a hot comic on his way up and a formerly hot comic that's not so much on his way up.
WHO: Joel McHale, Chevy Chase, John Oliver, others you probably don't know yet
WHEN: This Fall at some point

SYNOPSIS: After years of toiling away on the E! network and appearing as your favorite Spider-Man 2 cameo, Joel McHale has finally appeared in a pilot which got picked up. In the laugh track-free Community, McHale plays a lawyer with a bogus law degree, and now he has to go back to college so he can go back to his lawyer-like ways. Along the way he meets people and finds a girl he'd like to bang. Will his attempt at making a fake Spanish study group get him some action, or will he be cock-blocked by Chevy Chase like so many before him?

SO HOW WAS IT: After hearing about the abortion that was the US I.T. Crowd pilot, it's great to see the host of E!'s The Soup get a chance at a starring role in a major network sitcom. While this one isn't a localization of a British show, it does feel like a TV version of a movie you've seen many, many times before.

The pilot itself looks like it has promise, but nothing really stands out-- McHale plays a greasy lawyer type which is a spin on the Dangerfield role in movies like Back to School, and The Daily Show's Oliver shines as the corrupt college official. Aside from the back-and-forth game of blackmail which drives the story forward, there's not much going on here other than brief character introductions on very few sets.

While it's difficult to fully judge a show based on its pilot, some recent greats like Newsradio and Arrested Development had top-notch first episodes that kicked open the door to wonderful characters right off the bat. This felt more like a movie that more or less resolved itself and didn't necessarily leave me wanting to spend more time with any of these people. Perhaps zany schemes and crazy capers await, but other than a "will they or won't they" romantic subplot there's not a lot to look forward to other than years of studying and hard work. In other words, exactly the kinds of things you aspire toward in a good comedy!

Comedy Death Ray This Week: Nealon!

To call the weekly Comedy Death Ray show a grab bag of entertainment is a little unfair to grab bags. It's so diverse in its flavors that it's not always easy to tell if what you saw was actually funny or something that went horribly wrong.

With that, here's what you missed on this particularly packed week!

  • This week's host was a tag team called The Fucks, a married couple character bit played by Brett Gelman and Jackie Clarke. A sharp, ultimately mean pair of characters makes for a great emcee pair, this was a great choice of host for the night and kicked things off nicely.
  • Conan O'Brien alum Andy Blitz played his usual off-kilter self, leading people in our party to assume he was high. This is indeed possible. But considering how funny he was with his material, which included some anti-jokes and great mic work, makes it seem that this probably went exactly as planned. If you enjoy the work of Neil Hamburger, you should enjoy his set if/when he comes to your town.
  • A trilogy of host segment sketches started with Ultimate Vampire vs. Ultimate Werewolf, which we elected not to jot the names down. And next we have...
  • New York transplant/visitor/something Andrea Rosen was pretty great-- decent set about pants, parents, and her brother was in the audience. Not bad. Worth seeing if you have the means, particularly on a bill you'd be going to anyway.
  • Special secret mystery guest Kevin Nealon had a bit that was as deadpan as you might expect and fairly unorganized, as is increasingly common with the big guest stars at CDR. There were some fumbles, but the guy still has it, whatever "it" is. While a little lumpy in the middle, he ended with some sort of a riff on improv and mad libs as he told a story which basically devolved into audience suggestions. One of our party paid much more to see Nealon previously and the guy puts on a great set, even if it may have been cobbled together earlier in the day. If you're not sure if it's worth going to see the former SNL "Weekend Update" anchor, rest assured it's probably worth it. Especially if it's unrehearsed.
  • Another host sketch was called "Thanksgiving Dinner," which involved Nick Kroll and Jon Daly doing vaudevillian one-liners as characters named "Turkey" and "Mashed Potatoes" until being heckled by and evicted from the stage by the hosts to the chant "Native American Genocide." I was impressed. After this and "Rich Dicks" it seems like someone should hand these guys a sketch show, it seems they have a lot of good ideas.
  • Paul Rust performed, poorly.
  • The final holiday-themed sketch was Paul Scheer as Christopher Columbus, spewing anti-native gags and actually having a brief set as the famed explorer. It's always a treat to see him show up, along with Nealon this was one of the best sets of the evening. Here's hoping for more like this in the future.
  • Finishing up the night was the always funny Andy Kindler who seemed to be going back and forth between having a good and a terrible set. He's clearly workshopping new material, but there's a fine line between "angry comic" and "contempt for the audience," and for this show it wasn't clear what he was going for. (The audience seemed to enjoy it, even if he didn't seem to be having a good time.)

Overall, probably not a good show for first-timers, but you got your $5 worth. Nealon's usually a much more expensive ticket, Kroll and Daly are excellent talents, Blitz was funny, Kindler was on edge, overall, it was a lot of fun for you comedy nerd/hipster types.

Except for Paul Rust.

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Weekly Comedy: The Patton Oswalt Blitzkrieg

It’s all Patton all the time this week, plus some pretty damn good DVD releases

(and one of questionable taste)

(OK maybe not questionable taste)

(I’m referring to Scrubs season 8)

(Scrubs is a blight on this Earth of ours)

(if you’re a big Scrubs fan kill yourself)

(okay maybe don’t kill yourself but you should reconsider the life you’re living, especially the part where you’re a big Scrubs fan)

(Scrubs is terrible)


Big Fan – Okay, so this isn’t really a comedy, but it’s the directoral debut of the guy who wrote The Wrestler and stars everyone’s favorite comic Patton Oswalt (who’s having the best week ever!) as an schlubby obsessive sportsfan who winds up in a pretty dark predicament. There is apparently some comedy in it but it’s mostly an exploration into the psyche of fanatical fans and even gets into some existentialism. Sounds hilarious!

But seriously it’s supposed to be excellent, so if you’re in one of the 2 cities it’s playing this weekend check it out. Otherwise, it’ll probably get a wide release next month.


Adventureland – One of the best movies of the year and a fine, fine dramedy in the fine, fine tradition of Freaks & Geeks. Great performances all around here, especially Martin Starr. If there were an Oscar for “Best Portrayal of an Adult Nerd Drifting through Life filled with Ennui”, Martin Starr would be a shoe-in. Also present are Bill Hader and Kristen Wiig, who are great in everything, including this. It’s at least a must-rent.

Sunshine Cleaning – A “black” comedy – meaning it deals with dark or disturbing themes, rather than being a Tyler Perry movie – featuring the ever-chipper Amy Adams and the delightful Emily Blunt, who run a business cleaning up crime scenes once the cops are done. I haven’t seen this yet but it’s at the top of my Netflix queue and had a ton of positive buzz coming out of Sundance.

Scrubs Season 8 – You know those Cottonelle toilet paper commercials with the talking Golden Retriever puppy? Zach Braff is the voice of that puppy, and he’s clearly trying really hard to sound “cute”. I hate Zach Braff – mostly for the odious Garden State – but the “cute voice” he’s doing for that puppy makes me hate him even more. And all of that is on top off the fact that I already hated Zach Braff because he’s in Scrubs, which is not a good or funny show.


Patton Oswalt: My Weakness is Strong – Obviously the blockbuster release this week. When you buy the CD you get the DVD of his Comedy Central special for free, which is a sweet deal considering it can be had for just 10 bones. Look for the full Comedy is Dead review this week!

Monday, August 24, 2009

This Week in Late Night: Tumbleweeds and Crickets Edition

The dog days of summer continue with yet another super-light week. At least Conan’s back on; Fallon and Ferguson both have another week off.

The highlight of the week is likely Robin Williams and Bobcat Goldthwait on Kimmel this Wednesday, promoting their awesome movie World’s Greatest Dad, which if you have not seen you must see.


8.25 Eugene Levy
8.26 Jim Parsons
8.28 Artie Lange


8.24 Bill Maher


8.26 Robin Williams, Bobcat Goldthwait
8.28 BJ Novak


8.24 Bryan Callen, Mo Mandel
8.25 Chris Franjola, Dan Levy
8.26 The Sklar Brothers, Gary Valentine
8.27 Kevin Nealon, Brad Wollack, Ross Matthews, Jeff Wild

Aaaaaand since it’s such a light week, you should be sure to amuse yourself with this particularly fantastic episode of Adult Swim’s Fat Guy Stuck In Internet, featuring Matt Besser and Timmy from Whitest Kids U Know.

Sunday, August 23, 2009

Mostly Unrelated Comedy Blurbs

Looking to kill some time? Here are some snippets which aren't quite big enough to warrant a full news post.

  • "Weird Al" Yankovic posted an unreleased snippet of Weezer's "Buddy Holly" on his Twitter feed. Vintage 1995! Listen here.
  • It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia will be having a direct-do-DVD Christmas special on November 17.
  • The Kids In The Hall reunited for a Canadian (no word on a US release) miniseries. It's a murder mystery called Death Comes To Town. Will it be funny? Or was that not the point?

Saturday, August 22, 2009

Rhys Darby: Imagine That!

WHAT: 1-hour special of Flight of the Conchords' Murray
WHEN: You probably missed it, and that's OK
GOOD IF: You are not below 40

Have you ever wondered what it might look like if New Zealand tried to make a comedy special with the look and feel of something that would air after a Gallagher special on early 1980s HBO? Well, someone made it for you.

Aired as an anchor in a Conchords-themed special on Comedy Central, Rhys Darby made this special which, as far as can be told, started life as a direct-to-DVD comedy special sold overseas, licensed for air in the USA. Most of the material seems almost warm and fuzzy, while not necessarily funny, with occasional outbursts of cursing. Which doesn't seem to go well together.

(The promo is a little misleading, as the Rhys Darby in the wrapper segments is much more likable than the one performing.)

The comic lacks a clear voice, this special seems like it saw production before Darby managed to put together a really solid chunk of material. The more savvy comedy fan may initially view the show as being a joke about some of the hacky material you've seen other comedians do 20 years ago, then you find out that this is the actual show. He's really making jokes about mimes, and inkblot tests, and sheep.

While repetition is important in comedy, the amount of unnecessary callbacks to his robot bit don't get funnier as the shows go on. He keeps doing them, and other little beeps and blips and helicopter impressions, but it's nothing you haven't seen before. There's a lack of wit which was replaced by a light version of the career of Michael "Police Academy" Winslow.

Considering the likes of Eugene Mirman and Arj Barker were excellent supporting players on Conchords and genuinely funny on their own, it's a shame that Darby didn't produce the same kind of special. Imagine That! proves surprisingly bland for a performer that just recently came out of a highly regarded paid cable TV series. If you really dig Murray on Flight of the Conchords, do yourself a favor: hold on to that memory, and just watch DVDs of the HBO show instead. You're welcome.

Friday, August 21, 2009

Road Trip Album Picks: Matt Braunger's "Soak Up The Night"

WHAT: Debut stand-up album from someone you probably never heard of
LABEL: Comedy Central Records (2009, Digital)
GOOD IF YOU LIKE: Brian Regan, if he cursed more and was angrier

While you may not have heard of Mr. Braunger-- an alumnus of Mad TV-- he's a pretty funny guy. Unfortunately, Comedy Central Records apparently did not think enough of him to put this album in retail bins, but you can download it through a variety of online digital content services.

A number of observational bits are mixed in with what probably would have made some great sketches, or to say the least, a wonderful bit on the long since canceled Dr. Katz: Professional Therapist. It's also worth noting that while he does have a bit called "George W. Bush's DUI," it has very little to do with our former president and pretty much everything to do with what it takes to get arrested in Texas. Which is a plus, given that telling W. jokes in 2009 are like shooting fish in a barrel. Does anyone want to hear another bad Bush impression? Probably not.

Bruanger has a good voice that should carry through your car on any trip, plus if you bring this along, you're likely to be able to expose your friends to something they haven't heard yet. I should also take care to point out that he managed to do a Jim Morrison bit that that didn't seem hacky, which is no small feat. Kudos are in order for taking a pop culture icon and doing something you haven't heard with him.

Choice quotes out of context:
"Old men that drink rusty nails want to die."
"I hunt and kill unicorns. For their candy-like meat."
"Fuck. You win again, Skeletor."
"An owl raised in captivity will never stop trying to attack you."

Warning/guarantee: a lot of this material is still in his live set. But if you've never seen him, obviously, this is 100% new to you.

Those looking for a free sample of his work, check out the podcast MATTs Radio which, at press time, seems to be on a little break.

Thursday, August 20, 2009

Weekly Podcasts: "August Is Boring, No?" Edition

So hey, nothing's exciting on TV or in the stores... so let's turn our directions to this week's highlights from the land of nice free podcasts, shall we?
  • Comedy Death Ray Radio brought in Bob Odenkirk, Andy Dick, and the slightly less chatty Chelsea Peretti talk about all sorts of nonsense and play "Would You Rather," which is great. Also, "Domo Arigato Mr. Roboto" was played in this podcast along with other sketches and songs from Odenkirk and Dick, so it's basically a good time. Except the audio quality after the first 20 minutes is excessively spotty this week... although we have been informed this has been fixed.
  • The Adam Carolla Podcast had Greg Fitzsimmons on Tuesday, in which you get to hear about a spat with Dave Navarro and how Adam Carolla ended up on the short-lived The Gong Show with Dave Attel. In the installment with Ron Livingston, you get to hear about the juicy origins of Swingers. Well, they're not all that juicy.
  • If you missed it, the I Love Movies podcast from two weeks ago is still quite awesome as is the entire archive. If you're looking to fill up the silences between meetings, check out the recent Patton Oswalt/Adam Carolla episode. Another new installment will go live this weekend.
  • Public Radio's The Sound of Young America had comedy by way of Rob Siegel, who spent a lot of time discussing comedy nerditry as well as Patton Oswalt's role in the new movie Big Fan. While not the funniest thing you'll hear this year, it's not often you hear people discussing the nuances of Oswalt unless he is in the room.
  • NPR's Fresh Air has a show from today with Patton Oswalt and Rob Siegel. We have yet to review this material, but hey, Patton.

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Weekly Comedy: Yet Another Slow Week

This is probably the slowest week for comedy in the history of slow weeks for comedy, of which there have been many this year. Maybe you should take this time to finally crack open that According to Jim: The Complete Series boxset your mother got you for Christmas last year.

One thing to keep in mind: Patton Oswalt’s new CD, My Weakness is Strong, has been inexplicably released on iTunes a full week early, so you can get it right now. We’re planning on waiting until the physical CD + DVD release next Tuesday to pick it up, and you can also catch the Comedy Central version of his new stand-up special on Sunday.


World’s Greatest Dad – This is finally seeing a limited release on Friday (very limited, mind you), and according to Comedy is Dead honcho Adam, it’s pretty damn good, so you should seek it out. Check out the trailer here, our review here, and an excellent video interview by David Poland with director Bob Goldthwait and star Robin Williams here.

Rifftrax Live: Plan 9 From Outer Space – Got 20 bucks? Have a Thursday evening to kill? The fine folks at Rifftrax (and some dudes from are putting on a “live” show on Thursday, which is being beamed into theaters across the country. It’s only live on the east coast and in central time, so if you’re in the west, it’s no more “live” than a DVD. They’re riffing on Plan 9 From Outer Space, which has been done before. But hey, if you’re a fan, this could be pretty cool. Keep in mind the steep admission and the fact that they use the relatively crappy digital projectors used to show ads before the movie, though.


The Simpsons Season 12 – Ugh, now we’re into the dregs.

What’s this? A bunch of terrible Simpsons episodes from the series’ low point? The Computer Wore Menace Shoes? Tennis the Menace? Day of the Jackanape?! They’re all here! …what do you think?

I think it’s lunchtime.


Sunday, August 16, 2009

This Week in Late Night: The Mike Meyers Apocalypse

The Inglorious Basterds promotional juggernaut is in full swing this week, which means most of that film’s gigantic cast is all over late night. Or they would be, if there were any talk shows this week that weren’t on hiatus. It also means Mike Meyers, inexplicably part of the cast, will be rearing his head on Letterman. If you’re in the audience for that taping, please be sure to bring a copy of The Love Guru with you and fling it at him as hard as you can.

So, since nearly everything is in repeats – Conan, Fallon, Ferguson, Kimmel (and The View) – and our listings are incredibly short, this week in addition to our short-ass listings, we’re also gonna have Jimmy Fallon Appreciation Station, wherein we’ll post a bunch of the surprisingly funny bits you probably didn’t catch because you don’t watch Fallon.


8.19 Mike Meyers
8.21 Patton Oswalt


8.17 David Cross


8.17 Jamie Klaer, John Caparulo
8.18 Josh Wolf, Heather McDonald, Michael Kosta
8.19 Jo Koy, Kevin Hart, Whitney Cummings
8.20 TJ Miller, George Wallace, Natasha Leggero
8.21 Brad Wollack, Tony Rock, Sarah Colonna


It’s still kind of vogue to hate on Jimmy Fallon, but as a regular viewer of his underrated late night show, I figured I’d share a handful of clips you’ve probably missed as a reminder that the show is really not as bad as your friends who don’t watch it but complain about it anyway are saying.

With that last clip I submit there is simply not enough Obama - Bubble Bobble humor on late night TV, and so I salute this show.

Friday, August 14, 2009

Road Trip Album Picks: Mitch Hedberg's "Strategic Grill Locations"

WHAT: Debut stand-up album from the late comic
LABEL: Comedy Central Records (2002), self-published CD (1999)
GOOD IF YOU LIKE: More jokes
WHERE TO FIND IT: Better record stores

"I'm against picketing, but I don't know how to show it."

Some albums lend themselves to road trips-- this is not one of them. Mitch's delivery on this, his first CD, is more reserved and mellow plus there's music from bass player Chuck Savage playing along with the jokes for some reason I don't quite get.

It's still obscenely funny and packed with one-liners like "I got an ant farm, them fellas don't grow shit" and "I got dressed up for the CD." That's just in the first track, the whole album is packed with 53 minutes of jokes. Considering there's a new one every few seconds, it shows just what an amazing talent this guy was.

This CD was actually quite difficult to get for a long time, and was still hard to find until after Hedberg passed away until around 2005.

It's much more subdued than his other two releases, and the overall quality of the sound seems a little on the cruddy side. The applause seems to be as loud or louder than Hedberg at times, which is of course not his fault. It just makes for difficult listening if the pavement sound is particularly high.

Thursday, August 13, 2009

Reno 911: A Comedy Is Dead

The great Thomas Lennon confirmed via Twitter:

Reno 911! was cancelled at 1:30 pm today. Won't be wearing the shorts again.

Spanning 88 episodes and a feature film, the series featured numerous players from The State as well as other familiar faces from the world of funny.

Also notable, it was one of those rare comedies that had a series of licensed Halloween costumes (pictured) made for it. It will be missed.

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Comedy Death Ray This Week: The Big Surprise Edition

While the show itself was a scheduled event, the UCB Theatre in Los Angeles was absolutely jam packed with surprises on Tuesday night. Some, like a bonus Comedy Death Ray headliner Louis C.K., were fantastic. Others, like a couple of particular notable quotables, held a certain sense of delight and irony that you would expect for a show at this venue. And then there were "The Jasmine Twins."

So how did we feel about this week's Russell Stover sampler box of the funny?

  • Host for the evening Chelsea Peretti did a spectacular job moving things along. I do not know Ms. Peretti nor have I seen her perform before, but I suggest you all put her down on your short list of people to go see if/when they are in a venue near you. Not only did she have plenty of great jabs at some of the ins and outs of being a comedian, but she is an expert in the use of index cards in crowd work.
  • First up was Jason Nash's performance, which was less about laughter and more about someone becoming more and more uncomfortable as the night went on. Lines clearly meant to elicit laughter were instead greeted with a few "awwww"s, pity generally not being the response comedians look for. The set could be best summed up in his own words, in a faux-conversation to his child, which I wrote down for you: "Daddy's crying because his act doesn't work in front of college kids." This line comes into play later.
  • The antics of The Jasmine Twins can best be summed up thusly: have you seen the 1982 SNL sketch where Julia Louis-Dreyfuss, as Marie Osmond, made out with Gary Kroeger's Donny Osmond? Then you've seen this.
  • After seeing Matt Braunger the other month, I was really happy to see him in fantastic form tonight. Lots of fantastic material, great delivery, the kind of stuff that's worth checking out. He also had a bit which while funny, was extra funny due to its placement in the evening's show. The joke's central premise? Never blame the audience. If a bit isn't funny, it's the comic's fault. I started trying not to giggle uncontrollably. My guess is that this wasn't an intentional jab at Nash, but if it was sign me up for Braunger's fan club.
  • Ed Helms is the dude from The Daily Show, The Office, and The Hangover. Rather than read a story from a cereal box like B.J. Novak a few weeks ago, Helms had numerous bits on how wildlife done him wrong and the horrors of sushi. Which sounds really broad but trust me, it was a funny set from someone I have never seen do stand-up before. Quite the treat, it was!
  • Billed as the headliner, but not, Sarah Silverman definitely used the night as a test bed for new material. Working from notes with what seemed to be minimal preparation, it was a very spontaneous evening, relying on the crowd to come up with questions to ask her so she could give funny answers. It was funny, it was awkward, it was the kind of thing you're really happy to see for five bucks. It's not every day you get to see one of today's top comics essentially goofing around on stage, and since you probably weren't at the show, well, you missed out.
  • The final act of the night was the legendary Louis C.K., unannounced and fantastic. You know he's fantastic because he can tell jokes about his kids' classmates' parents, and they're the funniest things you're going to hear all week. His airplane bits will crush and destroy your airplane bits. There's a reason this guy's tickets cost a whole bunch of money, and that's because he's awesome. If for some reason you've never heard of Louis C.K., add him to your list of people to go look up after you finish reading this sentence.
It was the most mixed night of Comedy Death Ray I've seen so far, but if you're going to see a couple of acts you didn't much care for, Braunger, Silverman, C.K., and Peretti more than made up for it.

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Weekly Comedy: Deserted Edition

It’s really light this week, which means a short update. You’ll just have to deal with it, I suppose. Maybe there are support groups for this sort of thing.


The Goods: Live Hard, Sell Hard – The latest Adam McKay comedy starring Jeremy Piven playing a variation on Ari Gold, which is what Piven does best. There’s also apparently a decent-sized role for Ken Jeong and a ton of other beloved regulars like David Koechner, Jack McBrayer, Ed Helms, Rob Riggle and so forth. Plot’s simple; crack team of dubious car salesmen have 24 hours to clear an entire dealership out. Hijinks presumably ensue. Look for the full Comedy Is Dead review on Friday.


I Love You, Man – A perfectly likable bromance comedy with the trusted Paul Rudd and Jason Segel. This movie is so laid-back and unaffected you might nod off, but it’s an overall pleasant experience with plenty of solid laughs and good performances. Jon Favreau is in full-on asshole mode in this, which is always a pleasure to see since he rarely does that character. Definitely worth a rent, or a purchase if you’re among the Apatow-faithful.

Comedy Toxic Waste of the Week

Road Trip: Beer Pong – I’m not even going to bother going on and on about this, except to say that I’m pretty sure there’s a piece of Mac software that writes these things itself.

Monday, August 10, 2009

Maria Bamford Meet-Up

The Lakeshore Theater in Chicago recently had a meet-up in which all the local comedians were asked to come on down to the theater and talk with Maria Bamford in a very informal manner.

About thirty comics, writers, or friends of either showed up to the event. The meet-up, at Maria's insistence involved everyone going around the room, introducing themselves like they were in AA, and then giving a brief background on who they were (comic, writer, other) and what they needed most to work on. Then Maria had everyone come up to the stage, where a mic was on and do one small bit that they were working on.

Maria herself did a joke or two about her boyfriend who happened to be there.

I should note it wasn't a lecture, it wasn't Maria giving pointers or tips about how to improve this or that, it was more a formal chat about what people were doing and where they were with their art. Also Maria noted in a very serious way that the road lonely, but moreso, she just felt it was good to meet people and find out what people are working on. She said it was more "selfish" than anything as she got more out of it than the people who were there, but that certainly did not seem to be the case.

The only advice she actually had to give was something she learned from Emo Philips about doing comedy: "You start off, you do stand up, people come and watch you, then more people come and watch you, and more people come and watch you. That's it."

I should point out that being that most of the people there were comedians, there was a lot of talk about working on overcoming fear, anxiety, OCD, depression, and trying to overcome the fear of being in public with other people. So, in a way it was almost like group therapy. In a good way. It was the feel-good Chicago comedian event of the summer.

After it was all done, Maria said her goodbyes, posed for a few pictures, and headed off for what must have been a needed rest before her nightly sets. Many thanks to the Lakeshore Theater for hosting this very nice event.

Sunday, August 9, 2009

This Week in Late Night: There Is No God Edition

ALERT! Robin Williams is on Conan this week! And Carrot Top is on Ferguson!!!

Set your DVRs and cross your fingers that he’ll follow his cowboy voice with his gay voice and then shift into his Indian convenience store clerk voice! SO WACKY!

Then set your funny bone to “stunned” when Carrot Top takes the stage on Craig Ferguson!!
Will there be props? YES! Will there be creepy over-developed muscles? HECK YES!!

Seriously though it’s a pretty light week for late night. Letterman’s off, as is Kimmel.

8.12 BJ Novak
8.13 ROBIN WILLIAMS!! The moment you’ve been waiting for!!
8.14 Demetri Martin

8.10 C-C-C-CARROT TOP!!!

8.13 Seth Green, Avenue Q
8.14 Neal Brennan

Tavis Smiley (this is on PBS, just in case you’ve never heard of it, and you haven’t)
8.10 Jay Leno

Chelsea Lately
8.10 Jen Kirkman
8.11 Tony Rock
8.12 Chris Franjola
8.13 Arden Miryn, Matt Braunger

Review: Michael & Michael Have Issues

Michael & Michael Have Issues is the latest project from Michael Ian Black and Michael Showalter, formerly of The State, Stella, Wet Hot American Summer and a billion other projects you’ve probably heard of. It’s an odd mashup; part sketch show, part meta sitcom, and it’s hard to tell if it really works or not.

The premise is that Black and Showalter have their own standard-issue sketch comedy show, and about 2/3rds of each episode is basically a sitcom that takes place behind the scenes of their fake sketch show. Black and Showalter play “themselves” as the two worst bosses in the world. Black plays a totally unlikable self-obsessed, petty asshole, and Showalter is kind of a smarmy self-obsessed petty asshole, and the gag is that when they’re not busy being awful while ripping eachother down and fighting constantly, they’re being awful while running down the staff and making their lives miserable.

Interrupting that are the sketches that are supposed to comprise the show they’re working on, and notably, these are the only segments with a laugh track. They’re pretty hit-and-miss but the hits are funny and the misses are never offensively bad. They’re definitely not the focus of the series, though, and often they don’t seem to have endings (a’la most SNL sketches and a lot of other sketch comedy so that’s not a dealbreaker). A handful of them do appear to be satirizing bad sketch comedy, but the tone of the show is all over the place, so it’s hard to tell.

But the selling point here is clearly intended to be the sitcom stuff, and while it’s important to point out that it’s not an entirely laugh-free experience, Black and Showalter have committed to the “these two guys are the most unbelievable assholes on the planet” thing so much that it’s hard to find what they’re doing funny rather than just kind of annoying and terrible. Once they settle into a rhythm, you know what’s next – Black will always do the most selfish thing possible in any given situation, and Showalter will always lie to someone’s face and backstab them later. They’re passive-aggressively mean to one another until one of them snaps and starts yelling and then the other one starts yelling and maybe there’s a fistfight or something. Both of them are absolutely spot-on perfect playing these characters, but they might be too good at it.

"Comedy of the Cringe-Inducingly Awkward" has become increasingly popular over the last few years, with the rise of shows like Curb Your Enthusiasm and The Office, but the secret behind those shows is that you don’t outright hate the lead character in spite of how awkward and ridiculous they are; they have some redeeming moments. Michael and Michael Have Issues pushes that character type to its absolute limit, and while sometimes it produces some funny moments, overall it’s more ‘unpleasant’ than ‘great comedy’. Black and Showalter are two very funny guys who have produced a lot of great material over the years, so if this is an attempt at pushing the envelope to dangerous new places, then more power to ‘em. It just happens to be more cringe than laugh. Which might be the point. It's tough to say.

The show’s website is here and new episodes are running at 10:30pm Wednesdays on Comedy Central. It’s worth checking out if you’re a fan of the leads and if you’re interested in something that may well be experimental rather than simply funny.

Saturday, August 8, 2009

The State: Comedy for Gracious Living

So, you may be aware of The State. In a recent development for this year, the unreleased comedy album of the The State has been released into the Internet, Comedy for Gracious Living.

There are a variety of different reasons for this album not being released depending on what you read, from the album being too surreal, to the album being too vulgar, to a general lack of interest on the part of Warner Brothers to release it after recording it.

From listening to this, I can say that it is indeed surreal and vulgar but certainly interesting, and surely something a fan of The State will want to listen to.

Surreal, you got songs about cash registers that tell your life story but are difficult to read with a welder's helmet on as per doctor's orders. Like that.

Vulgar, you got a discussion over whether to eat a bowl of French Onion soup or a bowl of shit, a man shouting at furious length about male teenage butts, and a casual discussion over the repeated baking of a penis into zucchini bread. So, basically everything they couldn't get away with on MTV.

It's really too bad that this album wasn't released as it should have been in 1995, as it surely would have sold a good amount of copies. It's certainly like having another episode of The State available for listening, which is part of the downside. Some bits are really crappy, where you can tell they were just fucking around. Some are genius. My personal favorite is "Doctor Shrinkyballs" which is a recreation of an old-time radio play in which a Mad Scientist has developed a way to shrink balls.

So yes, this album is exactly like another episode of The State.

The other downsides are that there's a little warbling on some tracks of the recording which sounds like tape running a little slack. Also, if you're playing this for someone who has never seen The State before, it may not be a good starter. They may be offended. They may not talk to you again.

For the rest of us, thank goodness there is the Internet for such things as this to be released by clearly someone affiliated with The State who does not want to be identified for legal reasons.

Friday, August 7, 2009

Road Trip Album Picks: Dave Attel's "Skanks for the Memories"

WHAT: Stand-up album from America's drinking buddy
LABEL: Comedy Central Records
GOOD IF YOU LIKE: Dirty jokes, the Insomniac program from American television,
WHERE TO FIND IT: Most record stores

Do you admire such comic elements as subtlety and deft wordplay? This is not the album for you. Dave Attel's Skanks for the Memories is blue, but not so much "sad" blue as "dick joke" blue. "Waaaah, I want some pussy" pretty much sums up what you're going to get on this, his debut and seemingly only release.

You may have enjoyed Attel's show Insomniac or perhaps you saw him on his comedy special which helped give Dane Cook a little more TV time, but don't hold that against him. If you go down his track list, it seems like a what's-what of done-to-death comedy. Attel proves that just because you might say you're sick of jokes about airline security, midgets, the Amish, and Eskimos, it seems you are, in fact, not. "Give it to me, you Abe Lincoln-looking motherfucker." Classy.

If there's a more perfect album to throw on for some dude and his buddies on a road trip, I haven't heard it. If you missed out on it when it hit a few years ago, it's still genuinely funny. I listened to it on the drive home one day and kept cracking up, which is pretty much my benchmark for the funny. Will you laugh when you're alone? Then you've got something good.

Thursday, August 6, 2009

Louis C.K. Is Having The Best Week Ever

Comic and pie enthusiast Louis C.K. is something of an underrated genius, having written for Conan O'Brien, Chris Rock, and of course, himself. Variety has just announced a pilot from the comic, titled "Louie," shortly after NBC announced he has been cast as a love interest for Amy Poehler on Parks and Recreation. This new FX show is reportedly a companion to the hard-to-companionize It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia.

C.K.'s previous work, Lucky Louie, was an HBO series that aired a couple of years ago. Stylistically, it felt like a 1990s Fox sitcom. Really funny stuff, if you have the means to catch it we suggest that you do so.

(Image stolen from his web site.)

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

Comedy Death Ray This Week: A Doug Benson Interruption CD Recording

At the UCB Theatre in LA this week, Comedy Death Ray deviated from its usual format. Rather than a normal Comedy Death Ray (a series of comedians perform with a host), this week's was the second part to an ongoing recording of a "The Doug Benson Interruption" CD to be released on A Special Thing Records in the future. So unlike most Comedy Death Ray shows, you may actually be able to hear this one. It's worth noting that the evening lasted about two hours, and since this was the second recording of comics for the album, odds are it's going to get trimmed down. (Unless someone's really cool and makes it a mega-MP3 download or a quad-CD set.)

So which famous or soon-to-be-famous faces did you miss by not going this week?

  • Doug Benson was host and master of the mostly not-fawkward show. As usual, he had fresh material and kept the show moving despite the ever-looming deadlines. Since this was part of his big CD release party, he seemed to be high on his new album and everybody seemed to have a great time watching him interrupt other comics perform for the CD. It's a really amazing format, so many comics have to rewrite their material to awkwardly fit the talk show couch format and this lets a host interact with the comedian in a much more natural (and funny) way. This would be a good format for a TV show, if any network still airs stand-up these days.
  • Paul Scheer of Human Giant and 30 Rock had a marvelous set focusing largely on the recent Comic-Con International in San Diego. I've never had the fortune of seeing Scheer perform before, and he did a wonderful job letting us know about all the free crap he picked up at the show, which, as someone who does exactly that, I can assure you is a marvelous bit.
  • From Last Comic Standing is Amy Schumer. She ranked slightly higher than Doug Benson on the season they appeared on the show, and she worked her way into a bit about her time at the Special Olympics after a night of partying that, if given the chance, you need to hear. (So if it makes the cut on the CD, we'll remind you to buy it.)
  • Curator of Comedy Death Ray (and CDR Radio), former Mr. Show performer, and I presume some sort of future talk show host Scott Aukerman brought us a great set with even more top-notch Comic-Con material and much, much more.
  • The infamous Andy Dick showed up without a set so much as a segment which was a good mix of comedy, an interview, and a prank call to Dr. Drew, which is really a sort of amusing comic trifecta. He also introduced us to his ankle bracelet, and apparently he had a whole setlist which he didn't get to tackle yet. And he's been sober for over a year, if you were curious.
  • The always wonderful Chris Hardwick finished off the set and he was clearly hurried along as the previous sets ran over. Despite having performed at the same venue mere weeks ago, he had completely different material which slowly burned into more of a fight on if his set should end or if there's time for one more bit. Awesome. You never fail to entertain, former host of Shipmates.

We're not sure what will make the cut for the disc(s?), but one recurring theme was that people kept getting up, walking around, and distracting the comedians who addressed the audience but those watching the show didn't have the courtesy to acknowledge the performers. Are UCB patrons now officially too cool to participate in crowd work? It looks like it. As always, we're less about spoiling the whole show and more about making you mad that you weren't there. It was fantastic and it's your own damn fault that you missed it, so be sure to go next time.

I Love Movies: A Podcast: A Taping: A Report

Note: the podcast described here is not yet available at press time. If you are from the future, however, you can ignore this disclaimer.

Hey kids, have you ever heard the I Love Movies podcast? It's the one with Doug Benson, various celebrities or funny folk, and a live studio audience, taped at Los Angeles' Upright Citizens Brigade Theatre, and oh yes-- it's totally free, assuming you're already in the Los Angeles area.

Tonight I had the fortune of finally getting to see a live recording, and it's just as delightful as the audio version, but now you get to get out of the house. Tonight's (yesterday's) guests were Adam Carolla (of the podcast and Loveline fame) and Patton Oswalt, who is Dionysus in our pantheon of comedy gods. Since you can hear the show for free we won't spoil it, but here are some useful tidbits for you if you ever plan on seeing a taping. (I guessed the first Leonard Maltin movie in 0 names so I feel like a genius now.)

- The show is totally free
- Doors open around 7:30 PM
- There were open seats after the show started, and yes, they let people come in during the middle of the show
- There are typically two shows a month
- If you're as cheap as I am you can drive up a few blocks and get a free parking spot (TAKE THAT VALET)

So if you're afraid that the show might be packed, at least this one wasn't. What kind of allergy people have to free entertainment, I am not sure. It's totally worth your time to go, even though the podcast is available, mostly so you can see the rickety-ass table and the collection of chairs and audio equipment which shows that every dime of ticket sales is going directly into the show's production.

But it's damn funny and getting to see Adam Carolla, Patton Oswalt, and Doug Benson talk about movies is a head-explode moment. The only thing that could have been cooler might have involved Neil Hamburger at a Doug Benson Interruption, and you know I'm crossing my fingers for that to happen.

Monday, August 3, 2009

Awesome Weekly Comedy, Great Job!

Hey kids, you know what time it is! Time to run down this week’s notable comedy releases in the vast ocean of media!

Oh, and as a side note, just in case you didn’t already hate the guy enough, Jeff Dunham is apparently a total dickbag in addition to being tremendously unfunny. He’s also getting his own show on Comedy Central. Feel free to weep openly.


Cold Souls – This is an independent (and apparently pitch-black) comedy starring Paul Giamatti set in a future where souls can be extracted from the body, and then bought, sold or traded. It’s only opening on a few screens and you probably won’t get a chance to check it out until it hits DVD, but Giamatti does neurotic pretty well and the premise sounds solid. Might be worth a look.


Flight of the Conchords Season Two
– Indie darlings Flight of the Conchords are back with the second season of their HBO comedy series on DVD. Overall the second season was a little more consistent than the first one; after all, it brought us the glorious number Too Many Dicks on the Dancefloor* and had just the right amount of Murray as opposed to the drowning-in-Murray first season. You can probably find this for under $20, so go nuts.

Tim and Eric Awesome Show, Great Job! Season Three – I wasn’t aware Tim and Eric had already cleared through a third season, but here it is on DVD!

My Cousin Vinny (Bluray)
– Hey, what do you get when you buy two copies of My Cousin Vinny on Bluray and then play them on two 10-inch laptop screens? TWO MINIATURE JOE PESCIS

Big Trouble in Little China (Bluray)
– One of the greatest action-comedy movies from the 1980s is finally available in 1080p. Not a whole lot of comedies from the 80’s have aged well, but John Carpenter’s classic still holds up and is still pretty damn funny in a few places.

John Heffron: Middle Class Funny
– Apparently this dude won Last Comic Standing (which is generally not a good sign that he’s actually funny) and now has this special out on DVD. I looked up some of his clips on YouTube and it’s all pretty pedestrian material, most of it being ground I’ve heard covered by other, better comics. Probably not worth your time unless you’re John Heffron’s mother or girlfriend.


Doug Benson: Unbalanced Load
– This is the must-get item of the week, naturally. It's available both as a physical CD and a digital download at the usual places. Check out Adam’s review here.

*Before you go, make sure you know the dancefloor bro-ho ratio.

This Week in Late Night: Piven Edition

The Funny People junket train finally ends this week, which means we’ll get the last talk show appearances by the Apatow crew until the next movie rolls around. The Goods comes out next week though, which means between this week and next we’re going to probably see a whole lot of Jeremy Piven.

8.4 Jeremy Piven
8.6 Ed Helms

8.7 Don Rickles

8.3 Marlon Wayans, Judd Apatow
8.5 Chris Kattan
8.6 Jeremy Piven, Greg Giraldo
8.7 Ken Jeong

8.6 Doug Benson

8.3 The Sklar Brothers
8.4 John Caparulo
8.5 Chris Hardwick