Filed Under Just For Laughs
For 16 years, Andy Kindler’s annual State of the Industry lambast has been the must-see credentialed event, the one time suits jockey for sitting room up front, as opposed to elbow room at a venue’s back bar. “Let’s meet up at State of the Industry,” is akin to the theater crowd’s “Let’s do lunch at Sardi’s”; stating as apparently Elon Gold did, “This is the only hour in my life that I laugh,” cements one’s status as one of the Cool Kids (assuming there even are cool kids in comedy).
The hour and a half address was self-aware and kvetching as usual, preceded this year by an excellent introduction courtesy of Marc Maron. “Like Andy, I have absolutely nothing left to lose,” he offered, then described how touring with with Kindler is like “traveling with the history of the Jewish people.”
Yet something felt off, and it wasn’t merely Kindler’s running gag about odd microphone placement. The television screens, the branded banners, the lights and the red carpet clearly indicate that SOTI is a fully-sanctioned, downright embraced ribbing, leaving zero illusion of true nose-thumbing. Feeling like you’re doing something wrong by being in the room is half the fun, and a fake brick wall sporting fake graffiti isn’t going to change that.
“It has to be industry-related, or something I saw on TV…I’m going to ridicule things I’m not that familiar with,” Kindler noted up front of his range of topics. With no Last Comic Standing to kick around, the laundry list included the ShamWow pitchman, TMZ, how “Montreal found a way to do less than they least they could do” with two non-adjacent economy seats, Carlos Mencia, Tyler Perry, Howie Mandel, various agencies, Kevin James, Dane Cook, Carrot Top, I’m a Celebrity…Get Me Out of Here!, Jay Leno, and, as ever, himself. However, his running commentary seemed harder hitting than his material, which often came across as just that…themed material. “Now this is just anger,” he admitted,” shaking his head at his notes. Yet it wasn’t the angry, Roast-oriented side of Kindler that most shone through. The best part of his humor has undoubtedly always been his self-effacing and hand-wringing. But with an ending like, “This could be my last year doing this speech. There’s a lot of things I could say right now…in lieu of crying. I get the feeling a lot of people come in here thinking something else is going to happen. Maybe I could get paid to stay home next year. Too real?”, the answer is a surprising “yes.”
Filed Under Just For Laughs
I had been cautioned before going into Ross Noble not to believe the hype, that, contrary to the official spiel, the wildly prolific cult Englishman’s act wasn’t all improvised.
Didn’t matter a bit. From start to finish, his one-man show was a densely packed display of energy, absurdism, audience interaction and controlled chaos. With his long hair, boy-band headset and surfer-dude-by-way-of-Monty-Python accent, Noble turned one table of devoted fanboys into a modest roomful of converts, just as he turned the presence of one audience member’s baked-good snack into a monstrous running gag involving the woman, her friend, her mother, the tacos on another table, his miraculous ability to “feed, like, 100 people with just some nachos” and his status as “some kinda Mexican Jesus.”
Some bits on Madonna, Boba Fett and a brass band providing a peculiar soundtrack to porn were obviously rehearsed, but then it was right back into 10 minutes on imagined tourist groups taking in the Musee JPR venue in all its questionable glory. After all, why bother with jokes when your stream of consciousness leads even you deep into an entertaining unknown?
Filed Under Just For Laughs
2009 marks the year the theoretic stand-up-and-comers gained entry to the same comedic playground as the big kids. Previously schlepped off to the cramped Kola Note, the New Faces sweating out a pair of industry-heavy showcases are housed in the Cabaret Theatre, now sharing lobby space with Musee JPR. For another interesting switcharoo, this year’s hosts Dan Levy and Sugar Sammy are much newer faces in their own right than last year’s Dana Gould and Greg Giraldo, or Tom Papa the year before.
A delayed flight caused me to miss the first half of New Faces 2, particularly regrettable since I was looking forward to revisiting the skewed world of Moshe Kasher, who killed at LA’s Candor Comedy last month and reminds me—a bit unfairly, I confess—of Brent Weinbach. But of the four sets I caught, Rory Scovel deserved the most credit for keeping things light and in the moment. With a thick beard and flannel shirt, his slacker-oriented material was no huge surprise, though lines like “I’ve been trying to quit smoking pot. It’s hard because they keep coming out with those damn 3-D movies,” and the ability to turn a bit about driving on shrooms into a Scientology dig proved there was more to him than mere drug humor. Renee Gauthier spent her time on Boyz II Men karaoke and a gratingly over-the-top dance sequence, while low-key Eric Krug didn’t fully connect until he broke out his idea for MTV pilot “Tupac or Anne Frank?” Dan Ahdoot closed the show strong, however, citing sign language as the most racist language of all and bringing both keen intelligence and personal experience to material that might otherwise be found on the Axis of Evil cutting-room floor. (Sample line: I’m Iranian and Jewish, one of those combinations that goes together like peanut butter and…cat.”)
Later at New Faces 1, first-up Myq Kaplan stole the show early with fast-paced language-play that tackled religion, technology, the dubious legacy of Final Destination and begged for repeat listens. Andy Ritchie had the best lines of the night, quoting a PT Cruiser ad man as asking, “Hey, what if Dick Tracy was a single mom?” and bemoaning of a faulty showerhead, “Every time I want to get clean, I feel like a Civil Rights activist.” To a demonstrator who had once gotten the business end of a firehose, “Yeah, but not every day, first thing in the morning!” Closer and one of Variety‘s 2009 10 Comics to Watch Kumail Nanjiani covered mostly “cheese” (aka heroin) and the Cyclone roller coaster, but his huge likability factor and flair for theatricality sold every moment.
Unfortunately, Alex Kohl’s overly-confident hipsterisms were best saved for PBR keggers; Mike Bridenstine started strong with a withering impression of a certain Zanies owner but lost the crowd with his repeated “Bam! Yer pregant!” fake catchphrase; Chris D’Elia’s impressions of African-Americans, Germans and ex-girlfriends would play best at a ComedySportz; and Last Comic Standing vet Mary Mack’s loopy act was, er, inspired by Maria Bamford’s yet again, only this time in front of an unwitting international crowd.
Filed Under Just For Laughs
No sooner has the US industry-heavy portion of Just For Laughs gotten underway than it experiences its first casualties. The Comedy Conference’s kickoff event, the 10 a.m. Thursday-morning Keynote Address, got the axe, though The Colbert Report head writer Barry Julien’s addition to the “Late Night: In the Writer’s Room” panel managed to swing the scales back a bit. In the past, “The Green Room with Paul Provenza” enjoyed a healthy three-evening midnight run. This year, only two 1 a.m. shows were scheduled, but Thursday’s offering was removed from the schedule Wednesday night; Friday’s show yanked the following morning. And on the Gala front, Wednesday Britcom host John Cleese was replaced by Lewis Black (the Monty Python star has rescheduled for Sunday) after Cleese was diagnosed with an inflamed prostrate gland. Perhaps he pulled something practicing his silly walks?
Filed Under Stand-Up Comedy
One of Steve Martin’s early specials has made it to the web and it gives what is now a pretty rare look at his stand-up. If you were around at the time, your main image of Martin’s stand-up career is his performances for thousands in arenas. Well in the special “Steve Martin’s The Funnier Side of Eastern Canada”, there’s a segment of Martin performing a more intimate venue. You can see it in this clip, which starts at around 3 minutes in.
Wow, can you hear that? Unsweetened, distinct laughter on TV. Those were the days.
If you want to see the whole thing, I’ve put it together as a playlist that you can watch after the jump.
Filed Under Sketch Comedy
Long-awaited by some, including myself, The State finally made it to DVD just yesteday. I can finally throw away the only previous home-video release of The State, the videocassette of “Skits and Stickers”
I haven’t had a chance to pour through the DVD yet, as I just got it. But the sheer amount of material available, including some never before sketches with commentary that hopefully detail a bit of why they were cut, are pretty much all we’ve been asking for for as long as I can remember. If I took this look to do it right, I’m glad they took their time.
Here’s one of my favorite sketches, the State performing a broadcast-television-friendly version of the non-existent play “Tenement.” I think I’ve worn out this particular part of the tape on the aforementioned video cassette:
Oh, the commitment to the raw humanity of William McGuire’s work. If you love this sketch too, MTV has a very nice viral marketing widget that you can use to share it or 26 other sketches (including Porcupine Racetrack) on the Facespace or your Mybook.
Judd Apatow’s upcoming film “Funny People” has a huge viral media blast going on, with a lot of it centered around Aziz Ansari‘s character in the film Raaaaaaaandy, who I always assumed was going to be a lot of what’s wrong with modern stand-up. The latest piece is this faux documentary of the character by Ansari and Jason Woliner, the director and 4th member of Human Giant. Let’s watch, unless you’re at work, because there’s some borderline NSFW stuff here:
Maybe it’s because I know Ansari’s own performing style well or I’m used alt comedians doing incredibly annoying characters as a bit, but I don’t see Raaaaaaaandy the way I’ve assumed I’m supposed to see him. So I don’t really think this is targeting any particular stand-up at all. Because the difficult thing about terrible comedy is that the characters, just like the perpetrators of bad comedy in real life, have to be absolutely sincere that what they do is funny. But, as Raaaaaaaandy might say, this video winks at me like a muthafucka. And Ansari’s just so naturally funny, he actually makes Raaaaaaaandy look like he has some nascent skills.
In the context of the film itself, this may very well play differently. And this isn’t to say, I’m not laughing my dick off at this. Because I am. Particularly at DJ Ol’ Youngin, who does come off completely committed to his shit here. Maybe it’s because I don’t know him outside of this vid is why I absolutely buy it.
The most annoying to me about Raaaaaaaandy is his name and how he spells the damn thing. It should be Rannnnnnnndy. 8ns not 8as!