Filed Under Awards
Carol Burnett will be this year's recipient for the Mark Twain prize for humor from the prestigious Kennedy Center. As the highest prize in comedy, the luminaries that Burnett will join are names like Carlin, Pryor, Winters, Cosby... although this year's prize breaks the recent trend of younger nominees like Tina Fey, Will Ferrell and Ellen Degeneres. But it still points to a trend of diversity with three of the past four winners being female. All in all, well-deserved.
It is a little bit of a mystery of who decides the Mark Twain Prize. And how do they decide?This story in Washington Post has an interesting look. First off, none of the folks on the selection committee are apparently in the comedy industry, which, if you're going to give out the prize, I actually don't have a problem with. This isn't a prize for comedians by comedians. It's a prize for comedians from the culture, which is mostly non-comedians (although judging from Twitter and Vine, this is less and less true.) And while the only absolute criteria seems to be breathing (which George Carlin promptly violated after winning the prize), the need to sell tickets and draw a rating are important. It's a rating on PBS, but still...
I should mention I am quoted at the end of the article questioning the need for comedy awards in the first place, filling the role of turd in the punch bowl.
The ceremony will take place on October 20th at the Kennedy Center and will be broadcast on PBS October 30.
Filed Under Stand-Up Comedy
Comedy Central didn't pick up the pilot Kyle Kinane made this summer, so he threw up on the web for you to see. It's Kyle Kinane's Going Nowhere - a comedic travelogue that's reminiscent of Dave Attell's Insomniac, not just because of its attaction to life's oddballs but because Kinane also likes to leave in the mistakes, reveling in pointing out the artifice of television. In the pilot, Kyle goes to San Francisco and meets up with a dominatrix, a big foot hunter and a wizard with a familiar with little respect for recently dry-cleaned robes.
As for why it didn't get picked up. Part of me thinks that Kyle's regular gig as Comedy Central's voice worked against him here. He provides his own narration here and it's pitch perfect. Though Comedy Central can be pretty lose, I have to imagine that they'd want to keep that voice as neutral as possible. Maybe it was a little hard to see how they could promote a new Jeff Dunham special with a voice heard discussing the subtleties of handkerchief code?
It's definitely fun stuff and worth twenty minutes of your time, even if you don't learn nuthin'.
The hardest thing about this year’s Comedy Awards to me is that at least two separate things loom so high over everything else that happened that I have a hard time seeing why others with win.
First, for movies… Bridesmaids. Which was not just funny but also an impressive portrait of a character who is profoundly sad because of the loss of her business and her romantic relationship. It’s got fantastic gross out scenes but is actually wildly funny at the same time that the characters have grounded and real feelings. I didn’t see everything nominated this year, but Bridesmaids was able to balance such hard comedy with a character’s emotional life is enough for me to suggest a sweep of most of the movie categories (save for Performance by Actor, heh).
The second, in TV and Stand-Up… Louis C.K. With “Louie”, C.K. always surprises. I never know what I’m going to see from week to week but I’m always delighted as it unfolds. And as a stand-up, C.K. has very few challengers… particularly with how he changed the game with his own self-released special on the web. Almost everything he was nominated for, save Comedy Actor, he feels like a lock to me. With him calling his win last year “the greatest moment of the shittiest night of my life”, I’m looking forward to seeing the visible discomfort at the adulation (as a comic should be).
I voted in this year’s Comedy Awards and though it might be obvious how I voted after what I said above, I’m not sure if I can tell you all my picks. But I’ll tell you my right/wrong ratio for the official categories at the end of the night.
6:46 OK, we’re starting soon… I did a little tweeting before it. Might do a little more when I got some acidic, non-pertinent snark. Read my tweets here.
6:52 Doug Herzog, Comedy Central President, is bravely doing warm-up… promising it all gets funnier afterwards. Doug is also detailing the The Comedy Fund, which is the foundation that helps comedians who are having major life transitions… (i.e. no health insurance and very sick among other bad things.) Perhaps a Sarah McLachlan-esque poignant montage of the faces of sad and confused comedians will come during the show? Fingers crossed!
7:16 And we’ve started… Andy Richter welcoming us “From the Comedy Award capital of the world!”
7:18 And we start with the award that will have the most obvious winner. Chris Rock on nominees for Stand-Up Specials: Three are funny. One used to be funny. One never was funny. Does he mean it? He does. Anyone care to guess which ones? Nominees: Louis C.K.: Live at the Beacon Theater, Norm Macdonald: Me Doing Standup, Patton Oswalt Finest Hour, Colin Quinn Long Story Short, Daniel Tosh: Happy Thoughts.
Winner: Louis C.K.... wearing a tie this year! He’s changed! Apologize to all the girls who cheered Daniel Tosh, says he wants to fuck him too. I’m 1 for 1 so far.
7:25 Will Arnett presenting the award for TV Writing. But first, let’s look at the schwag bag… which comes with a live turtle. Aww. Nominees: 30 Rock, Curb Your Enthusiasm, Louie, Modern Family, Parks and Recreation, Saturday Night Live
Winner: 30 Rock. Yeah, it’s still pretty amazing. But as good as the always surprising Louie? Not to me. 1 for 2.
7:31 Maya Rudolph talks about online shopping addiction, perhaps her online shopping addiction before introducing Best TV Performance by an Actor. Nominees: Alec Baldwin, 30 Rock; Ty Burrell; Modern Family; Louis C.K., Louie; Steve Carell, The Office; Larry David, Curb Your Enthusiasm.
Winner: Ty Burrell. With a very heartfelt speech. Definitely deserves it. And if I had any brains while filling out my form, I’d be 2 for 3. But I’m actually 1 for 3. Yikes…
7:37 Now, Best Film Performances by an Actress. Chris Parnell hasn’t seen any of these nominees, because he watches porn parodies exclusively. Nominees: Jennifer Aniston, Horrible Bosses; Cameron Diaz, Bad Teacher; Melissa McCarthy, Bridesmaids; Emma Stone, Crazy, Stupid, Love; Kristen Wiig, Bridesmaids
The clips of the actress will need to be bleeped. Them some filthy laddies.
Winner: Melissa McCarthy. I picked Kristen Wiig… I’m afraid I judged this beyond the comedic appeal, basing it on the big arc of the movie rather than the explosive appearance… So I’m 1 for 4. Maybe this comedy thing isn’t for me…
Melissa McCarthy wasn’t there to accept. But Norm McDonald did, or rather didn’t, bringing on a Native American in full headdress who, in a wonderful cringe-worthy way, spoke to the rape of the land and how they can’t join in the laughing. It’s a very dark bit and I was laughing hard… but it’s not for everybody. Plus: super old reference.
7:46 Tracy Morgan is giving up show business and joining the Secret Service. But first, the nominees for best Sketch Alternative series: Childrens Hospital; Louie; Portlandia; Saturday Night Live; Tosh.0
Winner: Louie....who points out he won an award from another black guy. Maybe I should have looked at who would give the awards before I picked. I’m 2 for 5. Also, wonders, like a lot in the press room, why Louie is considered a sketch show.
7:51 Tracy Morgan takes back quitting. Not interested in taking bullets, even for a black president apparently. Now, Club Comic. Nominees: Ted Alexandro; Hannibal Buress; Pete Holmes; Anthony Jeselnik; Moshe Kasher; John Mulaney; Kumail Nanjiani; Chelsea Peretti; Amy Schumer; Rory Scovel
Winner: Hannibal Buress Great choice. The one I should have picked. 2 for 6. Hannibal points out that none of the other nominees showed up, but he still deserves it because he’s the “dopest” out of all of ‘em. Also, the caucasians split the white vote. Then plugs his tour dates. (Which you can see here: Hannibal Buress Tour Dates)
7:57 Adam Scott with the nominees for Best Director of a Comedy Film: Woody Allen, Midnight in Paris; James Bobin, The Muppets; Paul Feig, Bridesmaids; Glenn Ficarra and John Requa, Crazy, Stupid, Love; Michel Hazanavicius, The Artist
Winner: Paul Feig... Paul decides to direct someone else to do his acceptance speech. He brings up Will Arnett rather than using Adam Scott, who’s on stage. “Just went a different way.” Arnett reads the speech, including a brilliant advance of Feig’s wife (with suggestive statuette gestures from Feig in the background). Feig’s wife can’t hold it together… a highlight of the show.
Oh, I’m 3 for 7. Woo!
8:06 A tribute to SNL’s Weekend Update… with Colin Quinn, Chevy Chase and Norm MacDonald all at the desk. Chevy Chase kind of rants about how it all begin and pretends(?) that he doesn’t know the current host of the segment. “Oh yes, Seth Myers… with the big smile.” Colin reads his speech he would have read if he won for stand-up special. Norm mentions that he was told not to prepare anything. Little Feather shows up talking about Wounded Knee again. There’s an attempt by Chase to get Jon Stewart on stage to arm wrestle. Norm points out that without Chase, nobody else would have got to do it. And then, mentions how the segment was good at taking down those full of themselves… sort of sounding like a slam on Chase…
It’s a bizarre, surreal segment, almost trainwrecky… They cut to Tina Fey and Amy Poehler at one point pretending to sleep. It’ll be interesting to see what of the intro makes it to air. Then clip package… of all the moments you love. No musical guest this year. So this instead…
8:34 After a lull, Key and Peele bring us back with Obama and his anger translator. Anger translator making a big deal about how he needs million cause he running against a millionaire. Plus, where’s all the black people at?
8:38 Between Two Ferns segment with Zach Galifianakis previewing the special that will air before the Comedy Awards. Galifianakis asks Richard Branson about working with “Hot AIr Baboons.”
8:41 Key and Peele in the press room are planning a web series to be responsive during the election with a prepared set for Obama and Luther. They can shoot and get it up hopefully same day. Almost like a war room, but funny.
Also, the cast of Happy Endings giving award for best viral original… which I didn’t vote on.
8:46 Rob Riggle claims he’s totally prepared. And will stop anybody who rushing the stage. Looking at you, Wiig. Nominees for Comedy Series: 30 Rock, Curb Your Enthusiasm, Happy Endings, Modern Family, Parks and Recreation
Winner: Parks & Recreations That makes me 4 for 8. So deserved… “Excited to join the ranks of the one show that has won this award.” Then they thank all the husband and wives and “everyone who is a nice person.”
8:52 Rob Riggle introduces nominees for Animated Comedy Series: Archer; Family Guy; The Life & Times of Tim; The Simpsons; South Park
Winner: Archer 5 for 9! One of the co-creators slipped while getting the award… ouch. (in the Press room he joked that Riggle tazed him, but he apparently to have enjoyed the drink) “Jessica Walter couldn’t be here. H Jon Benjamin simply won’t be here.”
8:58 Patton Oswalt introduces Robin Williams winning the Stand-Up Icon Award. Williams riffs off the awards shape… and mentions that he never worked previous winner Eddie Murphy. Points out he started with only getting three minutes at an open mic and then. Lucky… just like a leprechaun… save he snorted his pot of gold. Praise for current comedy: Patton Oswalt, Louis C.K., Chris Rock and shouts out to: Jonathan Winters (“the Buddha of Santa Barbara”), Mort Sahl and Sid Ceasar.
9:10 Ed Helms introduces nominees for Late Night: The Colbert Report; The Daily Show with Jon Stewart; Late Night with Jimmy Fallon; Late Show with David Letterman; Real Time with Bill Maher
Winner: The Daily Show Richter says it all “What a shocker. It’s the god damn Daily Show again.” Why didn’t I pick it? 5 for 10. All the correspondents accept while mentioning their crazy agendas…
9:16 Robin Williams in the press room, mentions that doing the Comedy Cellar is like playing “Lenny Bruce, the home game.”
Ed Helms presents Directing for Comedy Series. Nominees: The Colbert Report; The Daily Show with Jon Stewart; Late Night with Jimmy Fallon; Late Show with David Letterman; Real Time with Bill Maher
Winner: Louie. 6 for 11. Louie thanks his kids. Not by name. “because of the Internet.” And his kid’s mom. Which is classy and nice of him.
9:20 Comedy Screenplay. Nominees: 50/50; Bridesmaids; Crazy, Stupid, Love; Horrible Bosses; Midnight in Paris
Winner: Bridesmaids A great speech about friendship from Kristen Wiig and Mumolo which degenerates into a physical fight over who gets to take the award… I’m 7 for 12 now!
9:22 Chevy Chase gives a Best Friend Award to Joel McHale, which is a hug. Nominees for Stand-Up Tour: Dave Attell; Lewis Black; Louis C.K.; Kevin Hart; Jerry Seinfeld
Winner: Louis C.K. “This is stupid now. I hate this. Everything if you keep doing it starts to suck.” Then he walks off the stage. Brilliant. 8 for 13.
9:28 Louis C.K. in the press room on why he went to the web: Cites the small market for ‘em. “Nobody cares if you do a stand-up special. They say, yeah we’ll take it.”
9:30 Nominees for TV Comedy Actress: Zooey Deschanel, New Girl; Tina Fey, 30 Rock; Amy Poehler, Parks and Recreation; Kristen Wiig, Saturday Night Live; Sofia Vergara, Modern Family
Winner: Amy Poehler First thing she’s ever won besides Stoner of the Year. Then very sincere that the job is her award and about her love for the comedy community, especially the Upright Citizens Brigade Theater. Poehler doesn’t seem to far from Leslie Knope
And oh, 9 for 14… not too bad.
9:36 Jim Carrey says “Hello, room full of people with sick moms.” A little upset that he’s not nominated for Mr. Popper’s Penguins. Not personal. Here’s all the animal-hating nominees for Best Comedy Movie.
Winner: Bridesmaids Feig is accepting. Feig says one thing he wanted to ask the women, “Can I see your boobs?” Ugh. Sort of a false note.
9:45 Robert DeNiro honoring Don Rickles for the Johnny Carson Award… Mentions that after he worked with Don, Scorcese has worked with Leonardo DiCaprio for five films and DeNiro zip. Introduces Jon Stewart… mentions seeing RIckles in 1982 at Carnegie Hall. Stewart went backstage at the show. RIckles said to Jon, “Stewart, smart? Now they won’t know you’re a Jew.”
Jon reveres Rickles for turning the equation around on the audience, essentially asking what’s so special about you that I have to please you. Stewart points out it’s appropriate for Rickles to get Carson award since nobody made Johnny laugh harder.
Rickles is like Louis C.K. at first. “I wanna go home.” Rickles praises Carson, saying he had a magic to make you look good. Praise for all the late night hosts, especially Stewart for his grace… Very heartfelt speech. You’ll see a lot of the “Mr. Warmth” tonight… but ... “I see a lot of people in the audience and I realize I’m the biggest name here.”
As always, that last moment in front of the Johnny Carson’s Curtain make the night for me… validating why there’s a Comedy Awards.
Filed Under Stand-Up Comedy
After suffering from a debilitating stroke last month, Patrice O’Neal has died. He was 41 years old.
The first time I saw O’Neal, I had that moment where I would feel myself leaning forward in my seat, fascinated at the brilliant mind at work. Definitely raw and uncompromising, but you underestimated him to think he was dirty for dirty’s sake. Particularly with his size and appearance, a lot of audiences would misjudge him, to their own peril if he discovered it while engaging with you on stage.
What always struck me was how Patrice O’Neal turned stand-up into a conversation. Talking to the audience, determining their thoughts and then pointing out the comic logic of their own making. The best example, I can think of is in O’Neal’s HBO One Night Stand. After some raw talk about women and sex, O’Neal challenged the women in the audience to tell him how they’d keep their man if they’d lost their pussy. After hearing a litany of other sexual acts from women in the audience, he points out that how is he such a bad guy when every women who answered just “classified yourselves as a series of holes.” The filthiest use of the Socratic Method I can think of.
Here’s another example, where he feigns ignorance for a second to show rather than tell his potentially controversial. There’s no worries about bringing the audience along with him here. They’re already there. He’s just pointing it out.
Filed Under Stand-Up Comedy
A&E’s Evening at the Improv is commonly pined as a marker for the beginning of the end of the comedy boom. Not necessarily bad in and of itself, but as the start of ubiquity — a parade of comedians who were as indistinguishable as the brick walls they stood in front of.
I can’t recall ever seeing a full episode, just a few clips on the internet. But now, Hulu has put up 52 episodes of the series with possibly more to come, judging from how it’s pulling currently from the middle of the show’s run.
What’s fascinating about Evening at the Improv is how executives thought they had to package this “new” thing called stand-up… specifically using guest hosts who often aren’t stand-ups. Stand-up must have been seen as less than a sure thing. Why else would you try and goose viewership with a parade of 80s names who’ve never done it?
It leads to some hysterical incongruities. Below, Emanuel Lewis awkwardly introduces Dana Gould, who later became a pioneer in performing comedy away from comedy clubs. Gould’s routine — which even then is pointing at the artifice of stand-up and shows like Evening at the Improv — elicits a cut to Lewis again at some wonderfully dark material (around 18:50 below)...
Yep, lets put the camera on the child after that joke. Good idea.
Digging in from what’s currently up on Hulu, you’ll find some big names like Adam Sandler, Tim Allen, George Lopez and Jeff Dunham but also some interesting rarities. Like a routine from Bridesmaids director Paul Feig, who starts off with an intentional stinker:
It’s probably a slippery slope to draw a line from that joke to Feig’s work on “Freaks and Geeks”, but here I am, doing just that.
Also on Paul Feig’s show: Jeff Garlin and Colin Quinn. Hosted by “Body by Jake.”
There’s so much more to dig into here. This was the apex of the first boom. We’re in the middle of a second stand-up boom, maybe even at an apex. Some lessons perhaps?
Filed Under Stand-Up Comedy
So this is almost nigh…
I’ve seen speculation that this meetup will address the joke stealing controversy, but I’m not so sure. Louie can be such an odd, surreal show that this moment could be about almost anything else. It could be at worst like the Letterman/Leno Super Bowl commercial… an opportunity for a good joke that neither comic can pass up. Louis C.K. has recently expressed mixed feelings about the accusations, so even doing the show is a little bit of an absolution for Cook.
I’ll be watching like all of you to find out.
Update: And I was completely wrong.
What’s really great about this episode is that it makes Dane Cook the aggrieved party – hardly what anyone expected. You’re put inside Cook’s mind as a person who knows his innocence and finds the stellar success he achieved in 2006 used, in part, to convict him. Both comics make great points here… C.K. asserting that Cook may have unconsciously absorbed his material in the constant need for fuel that a career like Cook’s requires. Cook pointing out that C.K. allowed him to be taken down without full-throatily making the accusations himself. (Whatever you say about Joe Rogan, he’s had the nerve to accuse Carlos Mencia publicly from the beginning, letting everyone know where he stands.)
Cook, near the end, points out how universal it is to have an itchy asshole. And Louis C.K.‘s brilliant joke that follows is wonderful. But C.K.‘s suggestion of how to avoid an itchy asshole is just as much an acknowledgement of how common an itchy asshole is in the human experience. A neat little way for C.K. to absolve Cook for at least one of the jokes, even if there’s no way either could entirely see eye to eye on the other two jokes.