Filed Under Late Night
I’m sure you’ve already heard about the huzzahs for Jon Stewart’s confrontational appearance on “Crossfire” (transcript, video). People were a little surprised to see a serious Stewart challenging the premise of Crossfire and particularly Tucker Carlson (whom Stewart attempts to even avoid facing, if you watch the video). But I think Stewart is sick of the idea that his show, a comedy show, is seen by many as the only oasis from spin.
Tucker Carlson attempted to make Stewart address his softball questions to John Kerry, but Stewart’s job isn’t to interrogate Presidental candidates. He’s a comedian and, sure, often a satirist, but the viewing public shouldn’t need him to do the job of the actual press. The media claims that they aim for objectivity but it’s obviously both parties have learned ways to work around that. The media has yet to adapt to these new realities. And that’s what Jon Stewart’s been screaming about for months.
As the media has been taking “The Daily Show” more seriously, it’s been missing the message of the show. It’s not that this is how people get their news. It where people gets the perspective that news used to provide. Satire only starts becoming a viable option for information when the media fails in its job. Demanding Jon Stewart ask harder questions of our elected officials shows how far our media has slipped. He’s not a newsman. He’s a comedian. Once the press stops trying to be entertainment, reporters and pundits won’t have to worry about entertainers doing their jobs better.
Filed Under Print
Humorist and Author of the Harry Potter parody “Barry Trotter” Mike Gerber makes an interesting case for the singular voice of a humorist without interference from an editor. One statement I particularly like:
Any novel that’s the least bit pointed or ironic is christened “a satirical romp” or “a comic tour-de-force,” but when you put them up against The Daily Show, which makes you laugh more? And that’s the test of a humorous piece of writing—does it make you laugh?
The rarity of laugh-out-loud prose compared to the number of blurbs that suggest it is enough to make a reader suspect that literary critcs have a congenital funny bone deficiency. No wonder the Daily Show book “America” is number one… the literate are starved for laughs.
In some ways the question of how much latitude a creator needs to have in their work is important. I think one of the most important factors in creating something funny is having something to resist against… the more restrictions on a piece the funnier it gets. This goes for no-holds-barred humor that stretches society like National Lampoon, but also from humor that doesn’t aspire to be as caustic. A good editor of humor will help hold a writer to the comic boundaries setup at the begining of the piece. If the writer wavers, goes too far… a smart editor will recognize that and rein them in. I don’t think the editor should ever drill down so deep as to the mechanics of joke-telling (and if they did, why would they need the writer in the first place?). But they can help a writer keep honest with their premise.
Filed Under Funny 2.0
Came across this press release in my inbox today for “Expert Comedy Writing” software apparently used to by Drew Carey and Steve Oedekerk (so that’s how he got the idea to put talking thumbs inside pop culture parodies!). Apparently it works on helping you work out associations between ideas, which means it’s just a $200 notebook. An old-school spiral notebook would be just as effective… look at the results for Demetri Martin.
This curiously enough, made me think about whether we’ll ever get funny machines… Hal 9000 crossed with Hal Sparks. Though computers have logic and comedy has logic, the syllogism breaks down on computers and comedy. Simply because comedy has the kind of logic that isn’t. And yet is. To a computer everything is a number. Humans can’t tell what number something is, so right there, we get the possibility of comedic exaggeration. If a robot ever enjoys the idea of comedic exaggeration, it’ll be a light chuckle about crushing it’s 1,834,236th human skull.
You can tell I was a philosophy major, huh?
Filed Under Stand-Up Comedy
So first, NBC gives up the finale of “Last Comic Standing” to Comedy Central, but then they mute any ratings by announcing Alonzo Bodden won the contest, which kinda kills the suspense of a finale. Heck you can even watch Alonzo’s winning set on NBC “Last Comic” sitelet.
Well, Alonzo got $250 thousand anyway, so who cares about another hour of low-rated airtime? As he states in this interview, “I’ll take it.” And did NBC get the ratings it wanted. Ah, nope. According to Shecky Magazine, the two “Father of the Pride"s were fifth for the night. Though neither shows represent what I’d like network comedy to be, it’s hard to celebrate that both fail to attract audiences.
If you are really still interested, you can see the half-hour finale on Comedy Central this Saturday at 8 PM.
Filed Under Stand-Up Comedy
Been reading the obituaries for Rodney Dangerfield and was struck by how rare he was. As he stated in his LA Times obituary:
“I’m very lucky to have an image. Most comedians do not have an image. They do, ‘Did this ever happen to you?’ or they do satire. But there’s practically none around today with an image. (Jack) Benny had an image. (W.C.) Fields had an image. An image is tough to come by. It doesn’t just happen. And people try to create it and think, ‘What’s an image for me?’ But it has to happen from your soul, I guess. You have to feel it.”
Rodney’s image was of an iconic level: the tug on the “red tie” with the declarations of no respect. He manage to keep both contradicting balls of comedy - familiarity and surprise - up in the air for so long. We kinda knew what he was gonna say, but it always pulled the rug out from under us anyway. I don’t think anyone will have such a solid image again… so much stand-up is about being real, that filtering your jokes through a persona seems ridiculous. Yet Rodney’s persona was real… it was him… a downtown comic whose demeanor was Catskills. No wonder he was a bridge between generations of comedy and why many claim he was responsible for many careers including Sam Kinison, Roseanne Barr and Jerry Seinfeld.
Here’s a collection of interesting links/obits featuring Rodney and his comedy. Check ‘em out:
Filed Under Stand-Up Comedy
According to Jay Mohr‘s web site, NBC has dumped the final episode of Last Comic Standing which would crown the third season victor. The winner instead will be announced at some point during a Father of the Pride marathon. The rambling note on Jay Mohr’s homepage was riddled with misspellings (including ‘thge’), so I felt the need to check my TiVo and, yep, no Last Comic Standings are scheduled. NBC also confirms the announcement of the winner during Father here.
I don’t feel the loss of the last episode… it’s filler anyway, with the finalists performing yet again with standard reality recap footage intercut to prolong what takes ten seconds to do. I’ve never been enamored with Last Comic Standing... the show has never been about being funny, but instead about showcasing personalities (or whatever passes for that) just like all reality TV does. This last version of this show naturally failed, because it ran away from why people tune in in the first place. An all stand-up version gets rather old fast because we get to know these performers’ acts and style so well, there’s no more surprise. No more surprise = not funny. The immediate followup after season 2 certainly didn’t help matters.
Season 1 and 3 contestant Ralphie May also recently claimed the show has “jumped the shark” (groan), claiming that stand-up isn’t necessarily about getting laughs but about pushing boundaries. While Ralphie May has since claimed he was misquoted, the question of how you measure good comedy (laughs vs. art) is something I’m gonna try and take up at some point in the near future.
Updated: Apparently, NBC has taken down the previous statement on the Last Comic page, promising a winner to be announced on Tuesday. According to a story on realitynewsonline, Last Comic will get a half-hour show to annnouce a winner (which again, is probably enough… who wants to draw this out including, apparently, NBC).