Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Comedy Death Ray This Week: All The Ham

If you were one of the billions of people not in attendance at the Los Angeles UCB Theatre this week, you missed one of the finest nights of comedy to grace any stage, anywhere, ever. Hot damn. It was also a night of Doug Benson's I Love Movies, which makes it even more awesome.

I Love Movies
Doug Benson's [Twitter] guests were Paul F. Tompkins [Twitter] and Brett Gelman [Twitter]. Games were played. Lottery commercials were discussed. Tom Lennon was mentioned as having canceled due to some movie project. This should be on his iTunes feed in a few days, most likely, so do be sure to check it out.

Comedy Death Ray
Kyle Kinane was not the host, as advertised, but rather Chris Fairbanks [Web]. Very funny. Most of his opening was seemingly him winging it, hysterical stuff, and he also let drop that he's recording a comedy album in San Francisco this week which we fully intend on picking up when the chance comes up. The comedy bounced around from all sorts of styles, so it's pretty much right up our alley. Because it was funny, which is what we go for.
  • First up: Paul F. Tompkins [Twitter]. When your opener is PFT, the show has to be awesome, and it was. Paul told tales of drunk, rude, and annoying Canadians while sharing road stories from the recent comedy festival in Vancouver. It's hard to tell how much of this was material or just sharing genuinely funny life experiences, but it sounds like he had a terrible audience that he screwed with the entire time. This is why Paul, formerly of Best Week Ever and numerous other projects, is one of the finest comics working today. We're big fans, and as I like to say, make sure you see him if the chance ever arrives. Seriously, if it's $40 a whack to see him, go do it.
  • Next up was Susan Burke [MySpace], who brought a number of great jokes focusing on things that, were we to describe them, we would crush the punchlines. So we won't. But do see her if you get the chance.
  • Jon Daly [Twitter] came out next doing another character bit, of which he is something of a genius. Why this man does not have a TV deal, I do not know. If you've heard of the rule of threes, he managed to take a Bill Cosby persona infomercial gag to the rule of 14s. I would describe it at length, but I don't know if you'll have the chance to see it and I'd hate to ruin it for you. It may be the single funniest thing of the evening, as it certainly seemed that the audience was laughing harder and longer than at any other bit we've seen in quite a while. To say he killed may be an understatement-- if the night was a competition, this man was the clear winner. All hail Jon Daly.
  • The great Patton Oswalt [MySpace]-- who from here on out must be referred to as great-- pulled out tons of new material in the wake of his recent CD release, which we reviewed here a while back. As one of the funniest (and therefore best) standups working today, Oswalt and Tompkins made this a real winning evening for their fans, and anyone that wandered in from off the streets. Topics included Halloween decorations (specifically, a tree), ham, a new baby, and more. Let us know if you hear these bits in rotation, all were really strong and it's a shame Patton doesn't release albums every few months so you can hear all of this material.
  • The audience was surprised to see another comic follow Oswalt, the unannounced Reggie Watts [Twitter]. It's difficult to describe-- sort of music, definitely comic, and the performer feels like the fusion of George Clinton and Bobby McFerrin. It's difficult to describe, but it was a brief, funny mix of voices, strangeness, singing, sound effects, and... well, maybe that wasn't so difficult. It was absolutely a treat to see and a nice way to end the show.
In short, or long, another great week without any real lagging.

Sunday, September 27, 2009

The Cleveland Show - first episode review

 The Cleveland Show, a spin-off of Family Guy takes Cleveland Brown and makes him the star. I know, it's as exciting as the previous sentence makes it out to be.

The story goes like this - Cleveland loses his house to Loretta in the divorce. He takes custody of Cleveland Jr. (now a fat teenager) and heads to California. On the way, he stops by his former hometown in Virginia, stops by his old High-School, and wouldn't ya know it, runs into his old high-school crush, Donna.

He stays for a while at her house, and gets her little child Rallo back into school and gets her daughter Roberta home on time from her date. So, of course Roberta gets back with her loser husband, Robert, until Cleveland stands up for himself. Cleveland and Donna get married and stay in Virginia. Thus the set-up for a series that will last either half a season or fifteen. You never know with television.

Oh, did I mention there was a family of anthropomorphic bears next door? HILARITY ENSUES!

I do have to wonder why this show was made. Perhaps it was a half-hearted attempt to aim at a black demographic? Could it be that they just wanted to see what else Family Guy fans would watch? Is it that Fox is looking for a suitable benign replacement for King of the Hill?

I half-think that Seth McFarlane did this on a dare, where someone said "I dare you to make a show based on your least-interesting Family Guy character!" and he said "You're on!"

Perhaps it's just that this show is like all spin-off sitcoms - something being sold to you based on the success of a previous product, changed slightly but is not something you need. It's like when you go to the store and get a big bag of chips and the clerk tells you "Would you like to get a bag of those chips in Jabanero Lime? It's free with your purchase." You consider it for a moment, but then realize, why the hell would I want that?

Weekly Comedy: A Bunch of Stuff You Might Not Like

It’s another early Weekly Comedy! Ye Gods!

The big release this week is The Invention of Lying, which based on the trailers, looks pretty damn fantastic. Other than that, thanks to the overwhelming amount of decent comedy on TV right now (Curb Your Enthusiasm seems to be back to its usual quality and I was particularly impressed with Bored to Death and Community), even if the DVD + CD releases are light, there’s plenty out there to keep you busy. And by busy I mean sitting on your ass in front of the TV crassly judging performers and writers vastly more talented than you.


The Invention of Lying – Ricky Gervais’ hypothetical situation involves a world where it never occurred to anyone to speak anything other than the blunt, horrible truth about everything. So he starts lying and basically becomes a king among men, as is my understanding. Also starring Louis CK, so yeah, you pretty much have to go see this.


How I Met Your Mother Season 4 – This show isn’t particularly popular among comedy nerds – it is sometimes very cloying and overly sincere and is effectively a more clever and sarcastic version of Friends, but it does have a consistently funny internal sense of humor and some of the episodes are pretty great. It’s worth Netflixing for a boring Sunday if you’ve never seen it.

Away We Go – All of the marketing materials for this movie feature the title in a shaking, hand-drawn font and the film stars John Krasinski and Maya Rudolph, so expect there to be many hoodies worn and many Regina Spektor songs on the soundtrack. It got mixed-leaning-positive reviews when it came out, so again, maybe it’s boring Sunday material.


Titan Maximum – The latest from Robot Chicken creators Seth Green and Matt Senreich (with considerable input from Robot Chicken writer Tom Root), this new series is essentially an extended parody of Voltron and other series like it. It’s been said in interviews that the goal was to portray “what would actually happen if a bunch of whiny, emotionally broken teenagers controlled a giant godlike weapon of interstellar war”, which sounds pretty funny but based on the first two minutes it seems like an episode of Voltron where everyone swears. But hey, that’s just the first two minutes. Give the full pilot a look-see for yourself tonight at 11:30pm on Adult Swim.

The Cleveland Show – A Family Guy spinoff wherein Cleveland, the slow-talking black guy, moves out of Quahog to Virginia, meets his high school sweetheart with two kids of her own and gets married. Their neighbors are a family of bears. Sounds zany! This seems like either a mild disaster or just another version of Family Guy with the characters swapped around. It’s on tonight after The Simpsons.


Monsters Vs. Aliens - Dreamworks tried to sell this as an all-audiences comedy, but it's really just by-the-numbers, feels long even though it's pretty short, doesn't really have any laughs in it and isn't particularly clever or worthwhile. It's trying to be an out-and-out comedy but ultimately winds up being a generic kids' movie. Avoid it.

Friday, September 25, 2009

This Is Funny, Watch It

Featuring Todd Glass and Jimmy Dore.

Road Trip Album Picks: David Cross' "I Drink For a Reason" Audiobook CD

WHAT: Book read by the author, with special guests
LABEL: Hachette Audio, 2009
GOOD IF YOU LIKE: Comedy, David Cross' stand-up albums
WHERE TO FIND IT: Better book stores
LENGTH: 6.4 hours (6 CDs)

If you're too rude and lazy to read, or if you just really like spoken-word comedy releases, you should be glad that David Cross released "I Drink For a Reason" as a CD set as well as a printed book. If 6 hours of Cross seems like too much, he brings in special guests including Jon Benjamin, Kristin Schaal, and the band Les Savy Fav.

For you road-trippers, this is a fantastic driving companion. Each chapter is read with the tone you expect from the comic's stand-up albums, except it's missing the audience. Cross also constantly berates the listener for not having purchased the actual book version, referring to the listener as lazy, selfish, and rude. We do not dispute these claims.

The album adapts the book with numerous changes to better reflect the medium, constantly reminding you that this or that would be better on the printed page, which really adds to the whole presentation. Cross informs the listener which page they might be on, adds audio footnotes, and reminds you that the world you live in is full of awfulness and will likely never, ever become a wonderful place. (Again, this is a comedy.)

Fans of Mr. Show with Bob and David and Cross' earlier stand-up will find this to be a special treasure, loaded with venom at book signings, bloggers, and those too lazy to read. At roughly $30, comedy fans should find this a bargain. Odds are listening through it in its entirety once may be enough, but given that it's six hours long you'll probably be fine with that. David Cross the comedian and David Cross the author are two very similar creatures-- if you liked his previous comedy CDs, or you're already one of the author's devoted fans, this is an easy purchase.

If we had any gripes about the release, it would be that it's almost overstuffed. Audiobooks tend to be quite long, and this one is like listening to eight or nine stand-up albums in a row. It may be too much for you, but if hearing about scrapbooking conventions in Novi, MI doesn't do it for you the content may not be what you're after anyway.

Cross fans: get it. Everyone else: get his other albums, become a Cross fan, and then get the book or this audio book. It's basically The David Cross Manifesto, but there's clearly a good market for this.

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Comedy Death Ray This Week: Pure Gould

After a show with one of the longest sets we've seen, this week's installment of Comedy Death Ray at LA's UCB Theatre was a great time with lots of acts. What did you miss?
  • Hosts B.J. Porter and Scott Aukerman, the co-founders of the show, mastered the ceremonies with all sorts of bits from going on about how they're going to tweet all their jokes to a delightful bit involving Aukerman as "Jerry Magazine," a waiter from P.F. Chang's who decided to do comedy. Well done.
  • Rory Scovel came back with all sorts of meta fun, opening the show nicely. (He was here a little while ago.) A good set.
  • The new Comedy World Champion Matt Besser kicked all sorts of butt with the best introduction we've ever seen at the show, involving stealing booze from the audience and making out with some chick on the stage, followed by several attempts to come up with world comedy records to break. These included tons of jokes in a minute, quickest joke, and apparently he's accepting more records to break via Twitter. Matt Besser should be one of your comedy idols if he isn't already from his Comedy Central series Upright Citizens Brigade... which is where the theater comes from.
  • Matt Dwyer's set was quite delightful, as this podcast host and comic seems to know his audience. Truly, the finest in rape jokes. See him if you can.
  • Next up was Matt McCarthy, who looks sort of like an alternate-universe Louis C.K. and like Mr. C.K., he's really freaking funny. We shan't spoil it. Seek him out, true believers.
  • The increasingly omnipresent Charlene Yi performed a brief set with a number of jokes, a radio show bit she did on CDR Radio last week, and a quick song. Good times.
  • Finally, one of the greatest voices in comedy has returned to bless us all! Yes that's right, Dana Gould. Babies! Dogs! Other stuffs! He released a new CD and DVD earlier this year, and tonight's set is mostly brand new material. As we seem increasingly fond of saying about people that didn't have a CD release party during CDR last week, you must absolutely make it a point to see Dana Gould if he comes to your town, and if not, check out his albums.

So, the show was in tip-top form with a whole heck of a lot of comedy in under two hours. If it's near your area, or you're in town on a trip, do consider checking it out, like apparently the mainstream press seems to want you to.

Monday, September 21, 2009

This Week in Late Night: Get Ready to Stifle your Vomit

So the fall TV season is in full swing and that means pretty much everyone is on; Letterman obviously scored the biggest guest of the week – he’s got the President on tonight (although if we’re going by girth, Leno has Rush Limbaugh on Thursday, if you want to tune in to what might be the least watchable hour of television ever broadcast)

(Seriously, Rush fucking Limbaugh on the Jay Leno Show? Can anyone name something worse than this?)

(Fucking Leno!)

Also, an update: we’re not listing Chelsea Handler’s comics anymore because it’s a rotating panel of comedians and every week it’s pretty much the same 20 people or so.

Anyway, let’s get to it.

9.24 Craig Ferguson

9.21 Ricky Gervais
9.22 Lisa Lampanelli
9.23 Martin Short
9.24 Joel McHale
9.25 Seth MacFarlane

9.24 Jason Schwartzman
9.25 Ted Danson

9.22 Seth Meyers
9.23 Amy Poehler
9.24 Anthony Anderson
9.25 Kevin Smith

9.22 Pee Wee Herman, Amy Poehler
9.23 Vince Vaughn

Sunday, September 20, 2009

Weekly Comedy: A Few Days Early

So last week there was no Weekly Comedy article, and it also happened to be one of the biggest release weeks in a long while (if you’re in to network sitcoms), and so to compensate, here’s Weekly Comedy a few days early. Happy now?


Observe and Report – This pitch-black and occasionally shocking comedy from Seth Rogen came out basically at the wrong time – only a few months after Midwesterners had decided thatPaul Blart: Mall Cop would be the only mall cop-themed comedy they’d be interested in seeing this year. Observe and Report is a really solid, really daring film that pushes black comedy to strange, disturbing new places. It’s definitely not for everyone, but if you’re the sort of person who can laugh at a situation no matter how utterly fucked up and broken it gets, you really shouldn’t miss this one.

30 Rock: Season Three – The third season of 30 Rock was really great and it’s out on DVD this week. This season featured Jack’s romance with Salma Hayek and the episode where Kenneth sees the world as populated by Muppets. You have no excuse to not buy this.

The Haunted World of El Superbeasto – Based on the comic book by Rob Zombie, this animated tale of a superhero luchadore who fights Nazis and shit seems like it’s tailor made for the comic book store clerk who’s also really into heavy metal. Featuring original songs by Hard ‘n Phirm and the voices of Brian Posehn and Paul Giamatti. I watched the clips on Amazon and it honestly didn’t look particularly funny; fans of Jon Krickfalusi might dig it, though. They’re definitely biting his style.

Hot Fuzz & Shaun of the Dead (Bluray) – These were available on HD-DVD before, and are now out on Bluray. Both are excellent films (although perhaps over-quoted and over-referenced by the malignant geeks who do that sort of thing). If you’ve never seen these before, then feel the proper amount of shame.


Bored to Death – Debuting tonight on HBO, Bored to Death stars Jason Schwartzman as a struggling writer who decides to moonlight as a Private Dick. Also starring Zach Galifianakis and Ted Danson; it looks particularly low-key and mannered, and might be pretty damn good. Incidentally you can watch the entire pilot right now, right here.

Curb Your Enthusiasm Season 7 – The seventh season of Larry David’s misanthrope-athon begins tonight, and promises a Seinfeld “non-reunion”, which is pretty great, but that doesn’t happen until a couple episodes in. Frankly, the last few seasons of this show have been a little weak; especially season 5, although the end of Season 6 was really great. Here’s hoping they’re going to maintain that level of quality.


Ghosts of Girlfriends Past – Matthew McConaughey sure does bang a lot of chicks, and in this movie, it’s their turn for revenge! Shirts will be removed, wedding cakes destroyed, perhaps a dog will have a reaction shot, and in the end, McConaughey will turn out to be not as douchey as everyone thought. Until he resets his persona for the next movie where he’s a douchey ladies man who gets his comeuppance.

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Comedy Death Ray This Week: CD Release Edition

There's a fine line between comedy and tragedy, and at Comedy Death Ray this week it was clear that the frankly shocking variety of material being presented could go pretty much any possible way. For the sake of brevity, we're collapsing in the I Love Movies taping in here too, as it was a large evening of entertainment where comedy was not the only thing on the menu.

I Love Movies
The great Doug Benson kicked off the evening's entertainment with a recording of his twice-monthly podcast. The guests were CDR co-curator Scott Aukerman and Mr. Skin, of Mr. Skin fame. Benson and Aukerman peppered the show with jokes and puns of all sorts, cracking each other up and generally making light of what seemed to be a cross between an interesting feature on an Internet business phenomenon and an infomercial. If you heard the appearance of Mr. Skin on the Adam Carolla Podcast the other week, it's similar to that-- although it's worth noting that the two comedians bring a lot to the table so it's worth your while to listen to the new funny.

Comedy Death Ray: Brent Weinbach Release Party
There were no surprise comedians for CDR this week, but there was indeed a surprise guest. The show focused on the release of Brent Weinbach's new album, which was performed in its entirety live with a couple of technical foibles. His new album, The Night Shift, can be had on iTunes and sports a mix of music, comedy, and... well, pretty much those two things.
  • After being introduced by her brother, who pulled hosting duties as well, Laura Weinbach took to the stage. She played three songs, two with a gentleman with a violin. These were, as far as can be told, not comedy songs and generally put the brakes on what was advertised as an evening of comedy. She's very talented, it's just that this was the token "one of these things is not like the other."
  • Next up was the always delightful Todd Barry, a soft-spoken comic that's somewhat famous but not necessarily someone you'd recognize by name. He is most certainly a funny dude, always worth catching on a talk show appearance and tonight's set was a shining beacon of fun. He did a great amount of riffing on opening for the headliner, with sharp barbs about who's more famous than who. It may come off as sounding a little mean-spirited, but let me tell you, this was good times.
  • A star in our pantheon of comedy gods followed with the great Neil Hamburger, whose set riffed on some quasi-current events and T.G.I. Friday's. As always, the man's delivery is impeccable and our party was rolling in the aisles. Looking around the room, some people didn't seem to totally love it, but let us assure you that those people were wrong. It was a fantastic set and I wish I had an MP3 of it to share with you, or to re-listen to myself again. The last time I saw Mr. Hamburger was five years ago at a fundraiser in Phoenix and it was just as awesome tonight. Bonus points for coming up with new Michael Jackson material.
  • Finally, Brent Weinbach came on to perform roughly an hour-long set which was his entire album, The Night Shift. There were fake phone calls, straight comedy bits, a few characters, and for some reason, music that does not seem to be remotely comedic in nature. It's a little jarring at a comedy show as it comes off less like a traditional set of stand-up and more like a one-man show. Our party's reaction was mixed, but the audience seemed to like most of it, including Weinbach's conducting a fart orchestra as played by the audience. Depending on your funnybone, this could be the best thing you see all year or not. This was clearly more experimental than the usual comic/comic/comic sets we're used to, and the set was not entirely comic material.
There were a few walkouts over the course of the evening, but "few" is the key word. For all we know someone was having a baby. So there you have it! We loved Neil and Todd, and as always we suggest researching these performers and seeing if you might be missing out on something fantastic.

Monday, September 14, 2009

This Week in Late Night: The Beginning of the End

So this week NBC’s giant potentially disastrous experiment begins, with Jay Leno and his oh-so-mayonnaise brand of comedy premiering in a cozy 10pm nightly spot, competing with, oh, every major primetime drama that airs during the week and potentially sapping both viewers and guests away from Conan and Jimmy Fallon.

There are a handful of reports out there from test show tapings and it all sounds like it’s going to be about as much fun as a stale loaf of Wonder bread, but we’ll be watching tonight to see just how blandtastic it is. At least Jerry Seinfeld is on.

To counter the Leno invasion, not only is Louis CK on Conan, this week is also the Glorious Return of Jon Stewart and Stephen Colbert, and to make it even sweeter, Stewart has Ricky Gervais on this Thursday. So maybe that’ll wash the Leno taste out of your mouth.

9.15 Ted Danson
9.17 Louis CK

9.15 Anna Faris, Alan Cumming
9.18 Danny DeVito

9.16 Ricky Gervais

9.15 ‘Special Appearance’ Joel McHale

9.14 Jerry Seinfeld
9.16 Robin Williams


9.17 Joel McHale
9.18 Kathy Griffin

9.18 Ricky Gervais

Friday, September 11, 2009

Road Trip Album Picks: "Invite Them Up"

WHAT: Collection of material from numerous comedians, curated by Eugene Mirman and Bobby Tisdale
LABEL: Comedy Central Records, 2005
WHERE TO FIND IT: Most better record stores, select big box electronic stores, iTunes

This was basically the New York equivalent of L.A.'s Comedy Death Ray. According to our notes, the show is on some sort of permanent hiatus, which is a fancy way of saying extinct. This 4-disc (3 CD + 1 DVD) set includes a fantastic selection of New York comics performing stand-up, songs, and sketches. At over 3 hours, the plastic artifact has a lot to offer and shows you where a lot of these comics were a few years ago and where they have gone since. And in some cases, still are. But we'll leave that for you to discover.

The sound quality is great, and the references are fresh enough to be funny. Sure, you're going to hear about The Sixth Sense, but it's a solid bit. In this collection, you'll discover Jon Glaser is a genius, Bobby Tisdale is an endless ball of comic energy, and that there need to be a lot more discs just like this one.

A recurring bit-- which is a pretty good idea-- is "30 Seconds of Stand-Up," which was performed at the live event and took more than 30 seconds. Because they had to introduce it and then send it off. It's a brilliant idea to get comics out there, and it's almost a shame that it wasn't adapted into a podcast or, say, a giant collection of a hundred tracks on an audio CD.

The comedy on this album is mostly of the alt comedy variety, which means if you may self-apply the term "comedy nerd" you'll totally love this collection. You get a lot for the asking price, which is typically below $15, and most of it is really funny. And if you don't like it, you can skip to the next one. I suggest you put this one in your collection if you ever do mix tapes for road trips, because you get just so gosh darn much stuff that you will have a whole new selection of stand-ups to go see. Since a lot of these comics have gone on to TV work, and others still tour, this is a great place to go just to get a better idea of who's worth going to see.

The collection comes packaged in a fold-out cardboard case.

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Comedy Death Ray This Week: Sketchy

It's rare that you see an event hosted by a team made of more people than are performing in the actual show, but Comedy Death Ray is nothing if not a show about breaking down boundaries. This week's show was shockingly tight and ended in about 90 minutes, and pulled off with the kind of precision that you really don't expect in a live performance. In short, you shoulda been there.
  • The show was hosted by Birthday Boys, a sketch group with a few taped and live bits. While many sketch groups have a weak bit, the entire set was awesome. Bits involved a spoof of Mr. Rogers, a top-notch sketch about wearing white after labor day, and a few others we won't spoil just yet. This is a talented bunch that probably needs a TV deal.
  • Leo Allen kicked off the stand-up with great bit after great bit. He killed. He killed so hard we neglected to jot down notes of what he killed with.
  • Pete Holmes continued the evening by picking up where Leo left off and stabbing people in the neck with more funny. The young comic had tons of great material and also like Leo, should be in your queue of people to see should the chance arise. Assuming the venue is good, that is.
  • The great and hopefully soon to be ubiquitous Eddie Pepitone also had a great set which ping ponged between what it means to be getting older-- he informed the audience that he is 50-- and the trappings of youth, specifically the pride of getting many responses on the Facebook. You may recognize him from Late Night with Conan O'Brien, Last Comic Standing, and The Sarah Silverman Program (as well as other places.) He's a great talent with an awesome set and you should absolutely go out of your way to see him perform if you haven't already.
  • The winner of the oddest set of the night is Howard Kremer, which managed to take the rule of threes, throw it out, and apply the rule of fourteens. By stretching a simple phrase-- "have a summer"-- into an entire set, Kremer went from being a one-note performer to greatness. Zig-zagging between subjects of outdoor leisure and things to do throughout the year left some of the audience bewildered-- or so the looks on their faces seemed to say-- while others were laughing to the point of what one can assume is pain.
  • Finally, the headlining Eugene Mirman kicked ass as he is known to do. Some of his bits (presumably) will be found on his new album, and we make this assumption because the title was invoked. If you know his style of comedy, odds are you already know you like him and have made some effort to see him perform. He's enjoyable as always and has a lot of fun little things to pull out and show the audience-- or hand out, in the case of some cards he got from Linens & Things. We'll be picking up his new CD when it hits, but until then, may we suggest you pick up his earlier work? The performer had a great set.

All in all this was probably one of the stronger weeks for the show-- everything moved like clockwork and everything seemed surprisingly polished for a show where the audience is generally treated to earlier drafts. Perhaps the first passes were just really good this time? Either way, it was a solid week and if you're in LA and missing out on these shows, perhaps it's time you go drop in and check one out. As always, it's five bucks.

Weekly Comedy: In 'n Out Edition

We’re running late today and it’s all DVDs this week anyway so let’s just get to it and get it over with, shall we?


The Office Season Five – Depending on your outlook on The Office, this is either something to get excited about or something to shrug at. While I’ll maintain that the quality of the show has remained fairly static (meaning good) it’s hard to ignore that it is starting to feel a bit stale. We’ll see how season six does this year.

Parks & Recreation Season One – An Office-alike that started out slow but eventually got pretty good toward the end of the season. You can shotgun the series in one sitting now thanks to the DVD. Also, anything that offers us more Aziz Ansari is a good thing.

Important Things with Demetri Martin – Demetri Martin’s mostly funny sketch-standup hybrid series is basically Chappelle’s Show for White Hipsters. He has some really funny material in here, though, so if you missed the run on Comedy Central, it’s worth a rent.

Monday, September 7, 2009

This Week in Late Night: The Final Moments Before the Lenopocalypse

Surprisingly, even though it’s Labor Day week, pretty much everything is on this week (although we are still Daily Show and Colbert-free, which continues to suck).

Next Monday brings the first installment of NBC’s dreaded Jay Leno Show, which threatens to rip the very fabric of Late Night apart, resulting in a singular anomaly that will swallow the entire talk show circuit whole, leaving only the drifting corpses of Ellen Degeneres and Kelly Ripa behind in its terrible wake. We can only hope some last-minute act of bravery on behalf of some selfless NBC executive will stop this impending apocalypse.

9.7 Tracy Morgan, Leslie Mann

9.8 Richard Lewis
9.11 Bill Hader

9.8 Neil Patrick Harris
9.11 Drew Carey, Mindy Kaling

9.11 Russell Brand

9.8 Jeff Ross
9.9 Kathy Griffin

9.7 Sarah Colonna
9.8 Josh Wolf, Renee Gauthier, Kevin Hart
9.9 John Caparulo, Donnell Rawlings, Arden Myrin
9.11 Brad Wollack, Loni Love, Scott Henry

Comedy Death Ray Movie Series: Pee-Wee's Big Adventure

So the folks behind Comedy Death Ray started a CDR film series at the Silent Movie Theater in Los Angeles over the summer. The premise is simple – a notable comedian presents one of his or her favorite comedies and a smattering of related material, with some live interview segments before and after. It happens once a month, and the ticket price is $14. I went on September 6th, when Paul F Tompkins was presenting Pee-Wee’s Big Adventure.

I’ll be straight here – Paul F Tompkins is one of my absolute favorite comics and Pee-Wee’s Big Adventure is one of my all-time favorite movies (as it should be one of yours unless you're some kind of soulless monster), so perhaps the deck was stacked for me at this particular event, but this whole thing is a great concept that is being executed beautifully.

First and foremost, the audience is immaculate. If you’ve ever been to one of those horrible midnight screenings they do at every struggling cineplex where they show the same 10 movies every Friday or Saturday at midnight – where they offer you the same tired-ass recycled cafeteria menu of overexposed 80’s movies like The Goonies, The Princess Bride, Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom and Back to the Future, complete with totally fucked up reels that usually break or burn during the show – then you know about the people that show up for those things. It’s a bunch of asshole college kids who are there to fuck around and be annoying and call attention to themselves in the douchiest possible manner. They are not there to enjoy the film at all nor do most of them give a shit about what’s on screen, they’re there to take celphone photos of themselves watching a movie and then talk to their friends later about how CRAZY it was that they took celphone photos of themselves watching a movie they didn’t pay any attention to.

The Comedy Death Ray series at the Silent Movie Theatre is the antithesis of that. What you have here is a nice 8pm screening time with an audience that’s there to enjoy both the film and the talent that’s there to present it. It’s respectful and refreshingly sincere; people were there to laugh and enjoy themselves, not to be snarky assholes or try and make it about them. This is a huge rarity among filmgoing audiences; a bunch of appreciative people who just want to have a good time and not be dicks about it. Not a single phone went off during the entire event, if you can believe it.

Obviously, you get more than just the film, too; at this particular event, host Scott Aukerman interviewed Tompkins about why he chose this film, what it meant to him and how it’s impacted his career (although it was much funnier than that sounds). Tompkins then presented some classic Letterman Pee-Wee bits from the 80s, and then went straight into the film. The reel was a little beat-up, but in surprisingly good condition, and it’s clear the projectionist there really knows what he’s doing because it looked fantastic.

After the film there was another brief chat with Tompkins about just how well the film has aged and how amazing it is that it ever got made in the first place.

All in all, this is a great film series that is obviously bringing in the right crowd and is a great way to spend a Sunday evening. They schedule these things months in advance so check the schedule and pick a movie you’ve either never seen before or love to death. Either way you’ll enjoy yourself.

Some tips and recommendations:

The theater is a restored Los Angeles landmark without stadium seating, so if you aren’t a tall person, sit on the aisle seats and prepare to tilt if you want an unobstructed view of the screen.

You absolutely will have difficulty finding parking as it’s located in Fairfax Village, and the entire surrounding neighborhood is a maddening labyrinth of clandestine residential parking signs that resemble old Ziggy cartoons in which Ziggy is instructed to “keep left” and also “keep right” at the same time. I can’t tell you where to park because right now I’m still trying to figure out how I managed to get a parking spot without having to fight the Minotaur, beast of legend.

Next month the featured film is Top Secret! and the curator is Weird Al Yankovic. Click here for tickets. Show up if you like the film, the curator, or have never seen either.

Friday, September 4, 2009

Road Trip Album Picks: Todd Glass' "Vintage Todd Glass and Other Crap"

WHAT: Collection of random material from a really funny comic/podcaster
LABEL: Self-published, mid-2000s
GOOD IF YOU LIKE: Comedy and Everything Else podcast
WHERE TO FIND IT: Second-hand CD shops. At this time ToddGlass.com is out of stock of it and the site does not presently reflect this. (We asked.)

"Hi, this is Todd Glass, thanks for buying my CD. Fifteen bucks, what a ripoff." How's that for the start of track 1? With a name like Vintage Todd Glass and Other Crap, it sounds like you're going to be getting a grab bag of stand-up, novelty songs, and what seems to be a virtual resume of a future radio personality, or rather, a Podcaster. The album starts off basically berating you if you don't like the CD, and there's a little more of that as the album goes along. To have the product criticize the audience is certainly a fun twist.

Kicking off with a number of jokes recorded in clubs, it seems that the producers hand-picked various bits which went well and fade each one in and out as they go. It's very different from most comedy CDs, which tend to be a complete performance or are bits edited to be a full hour of comedy culled from one or two performances. The first several are great. Heck, most of it is pretty funny, as is Glass, but it's just so strange to see an album that includes a multiple course meal of comedy-- it goes from stand-up to jingles and songs.

Five tracks in the middle, which comprise a "Mad About Nothing" set, seem like they were cultivated as radio spots or something you send a club promoter as a sample of what Glass' style is like. They're great, but it seems odd to include on an album like this, which was originally sold by the comic via mail order/the web.

"If four out of five people suffer from diarrhea, does that mean one guy enjoys it?"

Glass' podcast, Comedy and Everything Else, is really the logical evolution of this album. While a skilled performer and funny guy, it's clear that this guy wants to make sure you're having a good time. As such, it's good he got to scratch that itch, because this doesn't seem like a CD that would be something for frequent listening so much as it is something you pull out on a road trip or hand to your friends if they ask you who Todd Glass is.

The track "Blackout Jokes" sums up the album well-- Glass goes on about how this is a stupid, silly album and if you haven't shut it off yet that's your problem. Bravo, sir. It seems that the only way to get this right now is to find someone to loan you their copy, or if you're willing to pay through the nose on Amazon ($30 and up at press time.) Good luck finding a copy-- if you can get one cheap ($10 or less), and you're already a fan of his material, this is definitely worth a listen.

Oh-- and the packaging is pretty funny, too. On the back he calls out numerous radio stations as it reads: "Special thanks to the following radio stations for their support and air play. Some have not even played the CD yet but once they see this they might eel like they have to." Brilliant.

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

Beavis and Butt-Head Do Movie Criticism

...sort of. Mike Judge dusted off his two most famous animated creations to promote Extract, in theaters this Friday.

This may be the most effective trailer ever seen. Now that Don LaFontaine is dead, it's hard to think of a better duo for movie promotion.

Comedy Death Ray This Week: Too Much Funny

With a really strong roster, this week's Comedy Death Ray was truly one of the season's best. Just hours ago, the UCB Theatre in Hollywood was buzzing with some truly great acts, including...
  • Host Hari Kondabolu kicked off the set with a fantastic routine that puts him in our "watch this guy" list. This particularly sharp set skewered race and other fun issues, race being a running theme throughout the evening. Be sure to catch Hari if he comes to your town.
  • The always awesome Chris Hardwick returned with a mostly new set, filled primarily with gooey new material and a few bits from his CDR performances earlier in the summer, but refined with the kind of deliciousness you should expect from the host of G4's Web Soup. Aside form a sack of new material, he brought along a fake beard and did one of the best impressions of another famous comic we've ever seen. We'd go into more detail but we'd like to preserve the surprise should you see it. (Remind us in six months if you're still curious.)
  • We saw Ali Wong perform and this San Francisco resident did indeed have plenty of great material. She was a sea of blue in a fairly dry evening of comedy, giving a stark contrast to the other performers of the evening.
  • The new Between Two Ferns debuted, and we were informed this was a rough cut. The Zach Galifianakis quasi-talk show featured Charlize Theron, or to you comedy fans, "Mr. F." It will likely be up on Funny or Die or other video sites shortly, at which point you should watch it repeatedly.
  • The great Nick Kroll has brought various character-based acts to Comedy Death Ray quite regularly, but tonight was the first time we were lucky enough to see him perform his stand-up act. He had a ton of material to test on the crowd, which ate it up. Anyone that can bag on a room for knowing who Ira Glass is may truly be a comic for all seasons.
  • Doubling up with The Sklar Brothers, a duo you may know from sports programs (unlikely for our readership) or their appearance on It's Always Sunny. Watching two comics perform with essentially one mind is either some fantastical Wonder Twin power or evidence of what must be grueling practice, we expect some of each. A particularly strong aspect of their act is the ability to make use of the second person on stage. Neither is "the straight man," but they switch effortlessly between one another to deliver the funny. Normally when a comedian tells a story with multiple parts, the comic has to change his voice or face another direction to indicate a shift in character. The Sklars don't need to do this, so the transition from a stand-up set to what amounts to a mini sketch is pretty seamless.
  • The night was rounded out by Aziz Ansari, who had a ton of new material to try out since his TV special taping and tour. What's more, he even had a book of more new stuff which an audience member asked what it was during a Q&A session, despite Ansari referencing it throughout the evening. It was clear he had the audience in his front pocket with tons of material ranging from DJs ruining new songs on the radio to some stupid thing an audience member said at a recent show. It's also funny to hear a comic deconstruct their own act, as Ansari did complaining that his cousin isn't doing anything stupid lately which generally generates about 10 minutes of material. Trust us, it's funny.
All in all, a solid show with a few nice surprises. We were a little surprised to see the night start off with Hardwick, being one of the strongest performers in the Comedy Death Ray pantheon of comedians, but clearly someone had to go first. Combined with I Love Movies, it was another great night of comedy and if you're in L.A., it's worth your while to check it out before it becomes overexposed to the point where you can't get in.

I Love Movies: A Podcast: A Taping: SSP Edition

This week: Doug Benson welcomed Sarah Silverman and Brian Posehn of The Sarah Silverman Program to his podcast taping. The three originated the famous Leonard Maltin Game, which was on deck as well as a spirited discussion of the summer movie season. The entire thing should be on iTunes shortly.

Oh, and it was awesome. We won't spoil it for you but will say that if you don't already subscribe to the podcast, consider doing so.

Also, Doug confirmed the show they taped in New York with Matt Besser, Matt Walsh, and Horation Sanz will be up on A Special Thing shortly-- but not on iTunes, as the sound quality reportedly blows. Heads-up, comedy fans!

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

Weekly Comedy: The Sheen is Off

So, it’s another light week for comedy, unless you’re a huge fan of The Girl Next Door and just couldn’t wait to get your hands on the bluray version, with all 1080 of its Ps.

It is however a week exceptionally high on crappy DVD releases, so there’s that. A silver lining to every cloud!


Extract – The latest comedy from Mike Judge, whose last film, Idiocracy, was unceremoniously dumped into a handful of theaters with literally no P&A and thus became something of a cult hit; if you turn on Comedy Central and it’s the middle of the day, Idiocracy is probably on. That said, they’re actually giving Extract (which is being advertised as another workplace comedy a’la Office Space) a decent marketing push and most of the early reviews have been pretty positive, so it’s probably worth checking out this weekend, as there is literally nothing else to do. Expect a full Comedy is Dead review on Friday.


Unwigged & Unplugged – This is a live concert DVD featuring Michael McKean, Christopher Guest and Harry Shearer, performing as themselves; basically they do a bunch of songs from Spinal Tap and A Mighty Wind and presumably banter in between. Apparently this is just something they felt like doing, and also something someone just felt like putting on DVD. It’s also the only thing out on DVD this week that has a shot at being good.

Terry Fator: Live from Las Vegas – Hacktastic Jeff Dunham-alike ventriloquist comedian Terry Fator has his Las Vegas routine out on DVD and bluray. Nothing’s funnier than puppet comedy for Midwesterners, right??

Two and a Half Men: The Complete Sixth Season – This season of Two and a Half Men won the Emmy last year for Outstanding Mediocre Comedy Series Your Dad Falls Asleep To.