Sunday, January 31, 2010

Weekly Comedy: Not Half Bad

Not a whole lot of stuff out this week but what is there is generally of high quality, which hey, let’s call that a win!


Zombieland – This wasn’t really marketed as a straight comedy per se but it absolutely is, and it’s one of the funniest films of 2009 (not to mention it features one of the best cameo appearances in, uh, forever). Zombies are kinda played out these days, but this movie feels fresh and doesn’t pander too much to the nerd audience. Definitely worth a rent.

Insert joke about Jesse Eisenberg amusement park movies here.


The Sarah Silverman Program Season 3 – After what feels like a multi-year hiatus, Sarah Silverman’s sitcom is back. According to the many, many, many podcast interviews I’ve heard with the show’s cast since they wrapped filming last year, this is the best season yet! Also, there is apparently more screen time for Brian Poshen and Steve Agee, which can only be a good thing. Check it out at 10:30pm Thursday on Comedy Central.

Important Things with Demitri Martin Season 2
– Have you ever wondered what it would be like if Mitch Hedburg hosted Chappelle’s Show? Now’s your chance!

Seriously though, Martin’s show is a little hit-and-miss but generally the first season was pretty funny and had plenty of good material in it, so here’s hoping season 2 at least maintains that level of quality. Premieres at 10pm Thursday on Comedy Central.


Larry the Cable Guy: Tailgate Party – If you actually know anyone who wants this, I pity you. My deepest sympathies.

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Comedy Death Ray This Week: Extra Awesome Edition

This was one of those shows you just wish you could see. In the Los Angeles Upright Citizens Brigade Theatre, those that braved the weather-- which wasn't that bad-- were treated to one heck of a great set.

The always delightful Chris Fairbanks held hosting duties, and did great. Really great. The musically inclined Baron Von (don't worry, we've never heard of him before either) extolled the virtues of a Christmas in Vegas when your mom and family live there, and April Richardson took a big ol' dump on Tori Amos, because, well, someone should. Jerry Minor appeared as his character "Cyber Thug," told some jokes, and sang along to a sideshow filled with raccoons-- some living, some roadkill, some taxidermy. Arguably, funnier than it sounded.

The two highlights of the night were sets by some of the best comics working today. Todd Glass killed with new material and some great stuff which you may have heard on the Comedy Death Ray Podcast last week. He also had some great sound effect/song bits which are best left seen rather than described, plus his crazy rantings from the audience tend to bring in a lot of laughs. If he comes to your town, and we've said this before, you simply must see him.

We put the same advice out to anyone given a shot to see Patton Oswalt who just flew in from Vancouver and let us all know about the trials of slowly getting old while first class is available on Alaska Airlines. Or rather, his brain slowly sabotaging himself. He also cribbed Todd Glass' CD, and did various bits on the fly with random tracks from the album to varying degrees of success. (That is to say, he didn't seem happy with it, but it was pretty damned funny.) Given the comedian's recent album, it's great to see this set of new (and possibly first-time-out) jokes, particularly with such a great group of people. And it was jam-packed too, so if you ever have the chance to come out to LA to see the show, you totally should.

Monday, January 25, 2010

PSA: Neil Hamburger's "Hot February Night" Available Again

If you missed the greatest comedy album we've heard in years, Neil Hamburger's Hot February Night, then we have some good news for you. The comic's web store has the disc up for sale for a mere $10, and let us assure you, it is worth it. Click here to check availability and click here for our review. This is not a paid plug, we just loves us this album.

Sunday, January 24, 2010

Weekly Comedy: Bad Things from Good People

It isn’t listed here, but just in case you’re not sick of Tracy Ullman’s shtick, her Showtime series is back this week for a third season chock full of high-pitched impressions and fat suits. So yeah, that’s also happening.


A Boatload of Rifftrax – A bunch of new Rifftrax DVDs are out this week, which include such gems from the public domain as Planet of Dinosaurs, Voodoo Man (featuring Bela Lugosi, who no one gives two fucks for) and yet another Plan 9 from Outer Space release, this time with the new “live” version from the theatrical events they held last year. There’s also a new DVD full of shorts, which are usually really good. In any case they’re all criminally cheap so there are worse ways to blow your money (although if there are honestly still people out there who want to sit through Plan 9 again regardless of new jokes, color me surprised).

Whitest Kids U Know Season 2 – The Whitest Kids U Know have had some absolutely stellar sketch material over the past few years, and if you completely ignore their theatrical disaster Miss March (which you should), they’re still one of the most promising new sketch comedy groups to emerge in recent memory.

That said, pretty much none of that great material can be found in Season 2, which is out on DVD this week. If you’re looking to get in to the Whitest Kids, who are worth getting in to, check out season one or season three and skip this one completely. You’ll be much happier for it.

Parker Lewis Can’t Lose season 2 – I find it completely amazing that enough people bought Parker Lewis Can’t Lose Season One on DVD to warrant the release of the second season.


I Hope They Serve Beer in Hell – This dubious “comedy”, based on a book by the odious Tucker Max, was unceremoniously dumped into theaters at some point last year. Here’s the premise: unbelievably misogynistic douchebag Tucker Max, who sleeps with a ton of women because he treats them like shit and they just can’t resist him, fucks up his life by being a complete asshole to everyone around him. He is then redeemed at the end by saying “I’m sorry guys, aren’t I a lovable rapscallion?”

The “comedy” in this movie is supposed to come from all the hyper-misogynistic dialogue about how all women are dumb skanky whorish sluts and aren’t really people and all that bullshit fratboy “humor” that isn’t funny if you’ve got more than two brain cells to rub together. Avoid this shit like the plague it is and if anyone tells you it’s an undiscovered gem you just have to see, stop being friends with them.

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Comedy Death Ray and I Love Movies This Week

Boy oh boy, did you miss a great night of comedy in Los Angeles! It may be cold and rainy, but the crowds certainly didn't seem to mind. First up, Doug Benson's I Love Movies podcast (which you will be able to hear on iTunes shortly) had special guests Sarah Silverman and Steve Agee, promoting the upcoming third season of The Sarah Silverman Program and doing their usual thing. You know, being funny. As always, the show was funny although significantly more... multi-directional than usual. Good times. It's still a crying shame this isn't videotaped and aired on TV.

Comedy Death Ray had a fantastic lineup where everybody seemed to have a really funny set. Hosted by Matt Ruby, the brisk show went through a lot of comics really fast. Gabe Liebman and Hannibal Buress should be both added to your "go see these guys" lists if you keep one. The latter is an SNL writer with some fantastic material that he's clearly not sharing with the show this season. (Good on him.) Matt Walsh came out as "Tony Stella," an anti-intellectual comic character with a bit on how one might be an egghead. Great stuff, although the audience didn't seem to be buying it.

Next up was Jeff Garlin (of Curb Your Enthusiasm fame) who riffed on important matters such as sparkly clean penises. There were other things as well, plus something to the effect of "you think I have an act? I just make this stuff up." Which, if true, means this person is far more gifted than any of us will ever hope to be. The reason we jumped at tickets this week was John Mulaney, whose album we looked at last year and who is also a writer on SNL. With tons of new (to us) material, as always, he was a lot of fun to watch. Headlining this week's show were the Sklar Brothers who, as far as we know, are the only funny folk working today with a bit about CJ from District 9. They just recorded a new Comedy Central special, and it's unknown to us if these bits will be in said show, but if they are you probably should make it a point to catch it whenever it airs. (Which, based on what we've seen as incubation times go, could be really late 2010.)

So there you have it! Another fantastic week to remind you of just how spoiled you are to be able to see this kind of comedy for $5 in Los Angeles.

Sunday, January 17, 2010

Hi-Def Comedy: This Is Spinal Tap (Blu-Ray, 2009)

WHAT: First (and only) Blu-Ray release of the movie
GOOD IF YOU LIKE: Comedy that ages well, Christopher Guest movies
WHERE TO FIND IT: Some smaller movie and record shops, online

The 1984 movie is, without a doubt, one of the most enduring comedies of the 1980s. If you've seen it, you'll no doubt admire how rewatchable it is, and how the bulk of the film has actually aged quite nicely. Thankfully, the very marketable movie has made the transition to Blu-Ray and the good news is that it looks just as good as it ever has. More or less.

In short: if you have never seen This Is Spinal Tap you are a bad person and may as well get this version to make amends. Comedy dorks will find a lot to like here, although it's not nearly as robust as the LaserDisc or Criterion DVD.

On DVD, this was a pretty popular release as the Criterion release turned out to be quite rare, and the later release was sold for bargain prices at big box stores everywhere. This release picks up the latter of the two DVDs and runs with it-- the various Criterion-only commentaries and scenes aren't all here, which is unfortunate, as they were quite amusing. A commentary is present, as are a number of features and deleted scenes which seem to be a mix of previous releases.

A suite of commercials for "Rock & Rolls" exist-- think Hot Pockets-- which are based off the scene in which they get lost backstage before a concert. While cute, these seem to have taken the place of any sort of theatrical trailer. Other existing extras come from the vault like "Catching Up with Marty DiBergi." It's a new (in 2000) interview with Rob Reiner's character from the movie, with lots of vintage footage of the band mixed in-- so deleted scene fans, you'll spot some new old stuff here. The vintage "Flower People" press conference is here, there's a Joe Franklin show interview, and a smattering of music videos. (Well, at least "Hell Hole" is a bit more than movie footage.)

And there are many deleted scenes, some of which were not on the previous special editions.

The one really strange thing about this Blu-Ray is the inclusion of a bonus DVD with new material-- a 2007 Live Earth concert with Rob Reiner and the group, plus a National Geographic interview with Nigel Tufnel, but focusing on Stonehenge. (Mostly the song.) Why this material was not included directly on the Blu-Ray itself, which has a number of low-resolution bonus features, is not known to us.

Is it worth the upgrade? Basically, yes-- we got a copy (new, sealed) off eBay for $15. That was worth it, but we're also still holding on to our Criterion DVD because it still has exclusive features.
Is it worth it as your only copy? Yes. The main reason to get this is for the film itself, the extras are nice but all the best stuff made the final cut.

(This is the "Cheese Rolling" trailer which is included in the SD aspect ratio on the Blu-Ray disc.)

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

The Late Shift 2010: Kimmel does Leno

Last night on ABC, we saw a delightful high-concept show from Jimmy Kimmel once again on his late-night gabfest Jimmy Kimmel Live. In the past he's had Quentin Tarantino as a guest director, and as late-night goes he's game for a lot. As you can see here.

Kimmel did the entire show in-character as Jay, with his bandleader Cleto playing the role of Kevin Eubanks. The band's cues were spot-on to the point of preposterous, once again proving that the rule of threes isn't enough-- sometimes you need the rule of fourteens.

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

The Late Shift 2010: The Coco Letters

The continued shake-up/feud/brouhaha over at NBC concerning its Late Night Schedule continues, and today there was a pretty fantastic statement appearing around the web, which says:

"...I cannot participate in what I honestly believe is [the Tonight Show's] destruction. Some people will make the argument that with DVRs and the Internet, a time slot doesn’t matter. But with the “Tonight Show,” I believe nothing could matter more."

In short, he won't take the 12:05 AM slot, which makes sense, as that's technically "The Tomorrow Show" and Tom Snyder already had that gig. Twitter and social media outlets erupted in support of Mr. O'Brien, and while you all know we're big fans, we can't help but wonder how many of these people actually watch the show given the reports of Tonight's ratings as of late.

But Wait, What About Jay?
Over on The Naughty But Nice Blog, Mr. Leno may also be considering departing NBC, which raises all sorts of questions. (For example, "is any of this true?") It's an exciting time for comedy gossip, is it not?

File Under Rumor Mill
Another rumor going around, one we have yet to find a credit for beyond it appearing on a single blog and being repeated, is that NBC is talking to possible "guest hosts" for The Tonight Show in the near-term, which is something we haven't seen since the Carson era.

Sunday, January 10, 2010

Weekly Comedy is Back!

Weekly Comedy hasn’t been around for a few weeks, but that’s because there really wasn’t anything out there to bother listing. This week is marginally better!


The Simpsons: Season 20 – Released in time for the “official 20th anniversary of The Simpsons”, this is the first season of the show available on bluray and the first to have been animated in anamorphic widescreen. It’s really too bad there isn’t a single decent episode on the set, because it’s season fucking twenty of a show everyone agrees stopped being funny 12 years ago. It also includes a “sneak peek” of the 20th Anniversary TV special, which will have aired before this set comes out. Lovely.

In The Loop – A supposedly excellent war satire featuring James Gandolfini. Worth checking out according to everyone with decent taste.

Last Action Hero (bluray) – Speaking of satire, this much-maligned and yet woefully underappreciated movie is out on bluray this week. Sure, the comedy’s a little on the nose, but this was much sharper and funnier than anyone really ever gave it credit for.


The Simpsons: 20th Anniversary Special In 3D! On Ice! – Morgan Spurlock talks about how great The Simpsons is for an hour. And here I thought The Simpsons Movie was supposed to be the official anniversary project and we wouldn’t have to really hear more about how influential the show has been. I was wrong!

Aziz Ansari: Intimate Moments for a Sensual Evening – Aziz’s new special airs Sunday, January 17th on Comedy Central, and then the DVD streets the following Tuesday. This will probably be a lot like Patton Oswalt’s last special, where the Comedy Central version was shortened and censored, so consider this a “preview” for when you buy the DVD.

John Oliver’s New York Standup Show – This new weekly standup series debuted last week to little fanfare, but it’s pretty good. The premiere episode featured Maria Bamford, Nick Kroll (in character) and Eugene Mirman. Sure, they were all doing album material any comedy nerd likely has memorized by now, but this is high quality standup, vastly superior to the other standup series Comedy Central airs. John Oliver’s a good host, too.


Big Fan – Patton Oswalt’s dramatic debut is out on DVD this week (no bluray edition, sadly), and since you missed it when it was in theaters (okay, when it was in 3 theaters in LA and New York), now’s your chance to see it. It’s a great film – a 1970s style dark character piece – and a really brilliant performance from Oswalt. See this.

Friday, January 8, 2010

Review: Youth in Revolt

So the trailers for Youth in Revolt really didn't look all that appealing; Michael Cera playing "Michael Cera" in yet another Superbad-esque edgy teen comedy.

As it turns out, Youth in Revolt is really nothing like that at all. In fact, given the amount of footage in the trailers that isn't in the film, it's no surprise; selling this film for what it is to its intended audience might not've worked. This is a very literary, deliberately-paced and surprisingly unique comedy from first-time director Miguel Arteta. It's tough to figure out what to compare it to, really.

The film follows Nick Twisp, a nerd in the classical sense - he watches obscure foreign films, reads a lot of books, listens to Frank Sinatra on vinyl and is an aspiring novelist (of course). Naturally he is also desperate to lose his virginity, and so meets a rebellious girl name Sheeni who is trapped in a trailer park with her extremely religious family. Nick's personality is just too shy and quiet to truly attract Sheeni's affections, and so he develops a secondary persona named Francois Dillinger, who wears a pencil-thin French moustache, smokes, and is basically a complete sociopath. As you may have guessed, hijinks ensue.

But while in the hands of another director - or perhaps with a less excessively mannered screenplay - this could've been yet another tiresome crude teenage sex comedy. Instead, Youth in Revolt feels a lot like reading an intelligent comic novel; most of that is due to the dialogue, which is written exactly as though you were reading a book rather than listening to people talk. Here's an example:

Sheeni: "I'd invite you to go hiking with me, but you have no hiking boots or supplies or a compass..."

Twisp: "Oh, that's okay; I do all of my hiking freeform. I'm like John Muir in that I enter the wilderness with only my journal and a childlike sense of wonder."

Normally dialogue that obviously "written" would be both obnoxious and far too preciously pretentious to be funny, but the magic here is all in the delivery - Michael Cera is note-perfect in this role, and the uniformly excellent supporting cast (Cera is backed up by folks like Zach Galifianakis, Steve Buscemi and Fred Willard) is no slouch either. As a result, and perhaps most importantly, Youth in Revolt is hilarious.

In fact, even if you're sick of Michael Cera's shy-awkward-teenager routine (which still feels diluted enough here to not be quite as much of a distraction as it's been in the past), this film proves that he definitely has acting chops. The Francois Dillinger character is really, really funny; Cera delivers all his lines with a low-pitched sense of nihilistic purpose. It's a home run, and the movie's biggest failing is that there simply isn't enough Francois. I'd watch an entire movie with this character as the star. Here's hoping there are more filmmakers out there willing to give Cera some real character work. He is clearly capable of more than looking uncomfortable while wearing a hoodie.

So ignore the trailers and check this out. It is unlike any other mainstream comedy from the past few years. Attempts to compare it to anything else fall short; there are some obvious influences, notably Wes Anderson, Freaks & Geeks (which the director worked on) and perhaps Ghost World, but Youth in Revolt really is its own thing. It'll be very interesting to see what the director does next.

Thursday, January 7, 2010

The Late Shift 2010: NBC Shuffles Late Night?

A big bomb hit the web today with rumors of a big shakeup on NBC's late night roster. Would Leno be dropped, or replace Conan? Well, apparently one great thing about the internet is that rumors travel fast and NBC was quick to dispel the disinformation. That is, if the New York Times is on your list of reliable sources. Here's the scoop, and it's weird.

Leno at 10:00 PM
Conan at 11:35 PM
Fallon at 12:35 AM
Carson Daly at 1:05 AM

Leno at 11:35 PM
Conan at 12:05 AM
Fallon at 1:05 AM
Carson Daly...???

So basically, Leno gets his old slot back, Conan goes on later than now (but earlier than before), and Fallon and Carson Daly get pretty hosed. Will America stand for what might be about a sold hour of monologue and desk jokes each night?

Monday, January 4, 2010

New RiffTrax DVDs Coming

If you're as much a fan of physical media as we are, you'll be happy to know that Bill Corbett, Mike Nelson, and Kevin Murphy are releasing another batch of RiffTrax DVDs on January 26, 2010. These include:
  • RiffTrax Live: Plan 9 From Outer Space
  • Planet of the Dinosaurs
  • Voodoo Man
  • Shorts-tacular Shorts-stravaganza
  • Wide World of Shorts
Each is going to be about $10-$15, and most likely will not be available at a store near you. We suggest going online for these. It's worth noting a non-live Plan 9 DVD is on the market already, however this "live" one has added extras and, we assume, different jokes.