Hulu Adds “Evening at the Improv”, See Emanuel Lewis Introduce Dana Gould

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?

Posted by Todd Jackson at 01:36 PM | Comments (0)

The Louis C.K. / Dane Cook Summit

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.

Posted by Todd Jackson at 07:10 PM | Comments (8)

Catch a Risen Star: Tips for Comedy Club Drop-Ins

Filed Under Live Events, Stand-Up Comedy

Wednesday I was lucky enough to be at the Comedy Cellar for not only a great lineup of comedians, but also to catch a couple of surprise drop-ins: Louis CK and Chris Rock. It’s not the first time I’ve caught an unannounced comedian added to the bill - I’ve also seen Jerry Seinfeld show up for a set at the Cellar.

After these shows, I realized I knew why the comedians showed up at the Cellar that night. And though you can’t be 100% sure you’ll see someone unexpected at a club (hence the definition of the word “unexpected”), here’s a couple of tips for attending a good show that might turn out even better.

  1. Upcoming Talk Show Appearance

    With a lot of comedians, their talk show appearances are essentially them doing their stand-up semi-conversationally with the host. Other guests, like actors, will let the host do the heavy lifting. Not typical with stand-ups. Chris Rock had a Letterman appearance coming up. Rock’s not actively touring right now, because he’s working on the Broadway play “The Motherfucker in the Hat.” So whatever bits he had, he was going to need to work them out at some point. Keep your eye on upcoming Late Night guests and look for big name stand-ups.
  2. Upcoming Live Shows / Tours

    When Jerry Seinfeld did a drop-in, he hadn’t been on tour for a while. Only a day or so later, though, he was going to perform at the Coliseum at Caesar’s Palace in Vegas. Not the best place to even out the kinks in material. If a comedian hasn’t been on tour for a while and then announces some theater dates, they might be dropping by the clubs days or weeks before hand.
  3. Twitter

    If I had looked at Twitter the day before, I might have noticed that Chris Rock did a drop-in at the Cellar on Tuesday. Lightning can strike twice, particularly if a comedian is working up to either of the bullet points above. So monitor your social media, particularly for the club itself.
  4. Odd Line-Up Changes

    The night I caught Seinfeld, I noticed that the lineup for the show had been changed to five comics instead of six, the Cellar’s typical number of comedians. An even bigger hint: Tom Papa, who regularly opens for Seinfeld, had been added to the bill. Sometime drop-ins are less spur of the moment and more planned. So look for oddities or sudden changes.
  5. Luck

    I have no idea why Louis CK was there. He’s shooting “Louie” right now, so maybe he’s working on some bits to thread between the stories of his show? Or if “Louie” is to be believed, his babysitter kicked him out of the house and he had nothing else better to do. But as far as I know, I was just lucky that night.

And here’s the final result of the drop-in I caught… Chris Rock on Letterman last night:

Posted by Todd Jackson at 11:22 AM | Comments (2)

Mike DeStefano Dead from Heart Attack, 196? -2011

Filed Under Stand-Up Comedy

Comedian Mike DeStefano died from a heart attack late yesterday. DeStefano’s comedic life was defined by fearlessly broaching the hardest and darkest parts of the rest of his life. The comedian was a former heroin addict and HIV positive. He lost his wife Franny to AIDS and then soon after, his father, with whom he had a tempestuous and complicated relationship.

Much of this was discussed in his recent one-man show “Drugs, Disease and Death: A Comedy” The show was produced by my friends at Cringe Humor, who became incredibly close with Mike. If there was anybody who was a reflection of what a Cringe comic is, DeStefano was it. He was a master of comedic alchemy - changing pain (lead) into humor (gold). For such miraculous events, gasps musts accompany the laughs.

“Drugs, Disease and Death” was a work in progress, but still a triumph for the comedian. The version I saw was one of the more joke-heavy versions of the show, but I was told the night before there were tears from Mike as he recited his story. Fully realized, balancing the emotion and humor, I have no doubt that it would be a comedic milestone for any who saw it. I’m blessed that I saw him and feel great sadness that so many others will not.

I’m going to share the following clip of Mike, even though it’s not representative of how funny the man was. But it’s probably the best reflection of him as a man. It’s rare in life to know the best thing you ever done. Mike did. It’s called “Franny’s Last Ride” and it’s from The Moth. (Updated video from the official Moth YouTube Channel. And as Sean McCarthy points out, this is from HBO’s Aspen Comedy Festival.)

Update: CringeHumor is planning on showing footage they shot from “Drugs, Disease and Death” for an upcoming show at the Barrow Street Theater. Proceeds will go to the Narcotics Anonymous charities that DeStefano worked with. Originally, DeStefano was supposed to do his one-man show “A Cherry Tree in the Bronx” at Barrow Street on Wednesday, March 9th.

Posted by Todd Jackson at 12:16 PM | Comments (8)

Tina Fey’s “Bossypants” - What’s Wrong with this Picture?

Filed Under Print

A nice find from The Awl, which has the cover for “Bossypants”, Tina Fey’s upcoming book for Little, Brown. It’s being shown off at the Frankfurt Book Fair. “30 Rock” can be wonderfully silly in the big ways a sitcom needs to be, but I like the subtlety of this piece of silliness. And yet, it’s still fairly easy to spot. Check it:

“Bossypants” isn’t expected on shelves (or your Kindle or iPad for that matter) until April of 2011.

Posted by Todd Jackson at 09:06 PM | Comments (4)

Greg Giraldo Dead at 44

Filed Under Stand-Up Comedy

There’s no way of making sense of this, but Greg Giraldo is dead at the age of 44. His death comes just five days after he was found unconscious in his New Jersey hotel room, reportedly due to a overdose of prescription medication. Friend and fellow comedian Jim Norton was the first to relay the news through his twitter account.

The man made a lot of people laugh hard, me included. This is one of the bits that always got me, no matter how many times I heard it. It’s called “Death by Chocolate” and it starts about two minutes into this clip.

Condolences can be left on Greg’s Facebook page

Posted by Todd Jackson at 03:37 PM | Comments (10)

Donald Glover: Gross

Filed Under Just For Laughs, Stand-Up Comedy

Donald Glover opens his show with a warning: he’s not so good of a comedian that you should stick around if you vomit on yourselves, which apparently happened with one woman at a gig. He certainly wouldn’t stay, even if it was a Zombie Bernie Mac show at the Apollo.

Glover is definitely funny enough to stick around for in all kinds of uncomfortable states, but despite the title of his show, I couldn’t think of why anybody would vomit on themselves. Maybe my tolerance for body gags is far higher than the aforementioned woman, but I don’t think Glover is delivering grown-up Garbage Pail Kids jokes on stage.

This is some great shit about shit in Glover’s show. A female friend of Glover’s tells him she’d shit on anyone attempting to rape her, sparking some amazement from Glover that she can do that on command. Glover claims him and his asshole are always on their third date (“I’m not ready…”). And the show closes with a story about how he and his foster siblings would deal with their time at Home Depot (“Auchwitz for Children” Glover claims.). It involves the toilet section of the store. Saying more would spoil it.

As Glover points out, the N-word isn’t a big part of his life. Race is not something that he’s immune too, which become obvious as he relates the groundswell internet campaign for him to play Peter Parker in the next Spider-Man movie. A consistent reference point for those who opposed him as the webslinger seemed to be Shaft and actors like Michael Cera playing theblaxploitation anti-hero (Glover appropriately points out that this casting would too be awesome). Fanboys seemed to assume that Shaft would be an equivalent sacrilege for Glover, who sincerely loves Spider-Man as much as they do.

Glover does cover race a bit in his act, but the targets of racist words aren’t him or other blacks. They’re inanimate objects, like his seatbelt or slightly more animated objects, like Denise Richards. The distinction between whites and blacks are still there, but Glover grew up with enough colorblind friends that can’t see why he can’t play pranks on random white women.

It’s not post-racial. We’ll never be post-racial. As Glover prescribes, we all need to start using the N-word for everything. Once everything can be called that, once everything is dragged to that bottom, it’ll be meaningless. But as Glover warns, “We’re going to lose some of you white people in the process.”

Posted by Todd Jackson at 03:35 PM | Comments (6)
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