Filed Under Late Night
So I’m busy doing a revamp on the blog, and bam! big comedy news. Oh well, no rest for the wicked. And I don’t get to have any fun either.
Leno’s passing along the “Tonight Show” to Conan O’Brien in the year 2009. Already many are expressing theories involving Conan backstabbing Leno and strong-arming NBC management that should give Bill Carter plenty of material if he wants to write “Late Shift 2: Electric Boogaloo.” I don’t really have an opinion on such behind-the-scenes machinations, other than I’m inclined the think the best of both parties because if you look back at how NBC’s bungling destroyed personal friendships before, somebody had to give.
More interesting to me is how will Conan adjust his style in 2009. Some speculate lots of dumbing down and toothless comedy, citing how Leno eagerly embraced a base audience. I’m sure some modifications will occur… I just don’t think the Masturbating Bear will play at 11:30. But the Conan character Triumph has certainly broken into primetime, appearing on such middle-America fare as Last Comic Standing on Tuesday. Smart and irreverent comedy can play at 11:30. Just because the time slot appeared to swallow Leno whole doesn’t mean it’ll consume Conan.
Conan would probably do well to look at Carson, who appealed to the whole country while maintaining an edge of cool that only abandoned him after Arsenio Hall (remember him?) came on the scene. I’m not sure where the two intersect, Carson’s confidence and laid back persona couldn’t seem more opposite Conan’s nerdy energy. But Carson’s level of cool, like the rat pack, doesn’t exist anywhere anymore. Performers and audience are too self-conscious now to allow it, hence irony.
The boundaries of what you can and can’t say, even on the Tonight Show, have certainly broken down. And, FCC fines aside, I don’t see America stuffing that cat back in the box. Who knows what you can say on TV five years from now? Who knows if networks will still be relevant as cable gains more prominence? Maybe late night action will be concentrated on “Adult Swim” and “Daily Show” by then. Whatever TV comedy turns into, Conan’s five years of planning time might just be a blessing. He could very well need it.
Filed Under Animation
A short time ago, Todd of OddTodd.com announced that the Comedy Central version of his unemployed adventures would not see the light of day. He described himself as “OK” with the whole thing, since the show really wasn’t what he wanted nor what Comedy Central wanted. No hard feelings. So what happened?
OddTodd recently gave a more satirical Flash cartoon account of his development experiences which seems to put the blame on another producer who moved the show into a traditional sitcom style… wacky neighbors, angry landlord and all. The show that came out of the collaboration is stiltedly reenacted with a dumb laugh track inserted so you know where to groan. Todd states he didn’t even like his own show. But still no hard feelings at Hollywood execs, though the translation of “very promising” is rather amusing (“Pack your shit and go”).
Filed Under Late Night
One of the charms of Da Ali G Show is wondering how the hell they tricked luminaries like Boutros Boutros-Ghali into agreeing to an interview in the first place. If you like to treat your comedians like magicians, you probably shouldn’t read the piece Slate published detailing exactly that. Included in the report is a sample letter sent to one of the victims and links to two of the fake websites they use to make it all look legit. The article concludes with the observation that Ali G, the character, probably won’t be getting away with this for much longer. The producer see a lot more longevity in fashion-obsessed Bruno and Kazakhstani journalist Borat, which is no surprise, considering the targets of both are “real” people, who lack the encumbrances of handlers and press agents.
In some ways I hope the producers of Ali G would spend an episode detailing their machinations themselves. But, one of the best things about the Ali G show is that it doesn’t break that Ali G, Borat or Bruno are characters. Each character lives in its own reality… for Borat the graphics are done in Kazakhstanian and then English is overlayed on top of them. So they’re real not only to their targets, but also for the viewers. It’s a tone that I think is infinitely stronger for humor, but not so good once everyone gets in on the joke.
Filed Under Late Night
In the following transcript of an interview with Jon Stewart to promote America (the Book), Bill O’Reilly describes The Daily Show‘s audiences as stoned slackers, most of whom are intoxicated while watching. And worst of all, they’re voters! Check it.
Filed Under Stand-Up Comedy
Salon published an interesting pair of articles on comedy trailblazers. The first, uses the recent Lenny Bruce box set Let The Buyer Beware as an impetus to find ten comics today who not so much carry Bruce’s torch but use it to set fire to everything wrong on this planet. Just like Bruce would. Number one turns out to be Howard Stern, which by admission of the author seems a little off. His main rationale for selecting the “King of All Media” isn’t so much funny as Stern’s current fight with the FCC and Clear Channel. With Rick Shapiro, who’s perhaps more infamous for his flameouts than his act, being second, it’s a very Passion-of-the-Christ-kind of way of looking at Bruce’s work. If you’re a comedy nerd, don’t celebrate how Lenny died, celebrate how Lenny slayed audiences.
The second article talks about a young devout Muslim female comic named Shazia Mirza. Though she can be incredibly fearless (her 9/11 bit: “My name is Shazia Mirza—at least that’s what it says on my pilot’s license”), from what I’ve heard the rest of her act is pretty tame. Though a 28-year virgin, she’ll make the same kind of jokes common to female (and male) comics about how her assets don’t seem to attract the opposite sex. Yawn. It’s cross-connects my humor wires a little. In another article of Lenny Bruce, Bill Maher says “One generation plants the trees, another gets the shade.” Shazia is definitely a tree planter, but I suspect I’m going to enjoy the shade a lot more. But I’ll reserve judgment at least until I catch a full live set. Until then, I’m TiVoing the November 12 edition of Comedy Central’s World Stands Up, which will feature her. You can preview that set here. And you can find a pre-concerns-about-integrity 60 Minutes story on her here.
I normally can’t stand award shows… self-congratulatory excess is one of Hollywood’s worst traits, but awards for comedy writing went exactly where they should (and needed) to go. I’m hoping Arrested Development‘s Best Comedy Emmy annoints it as the next Seinfeld, with the subsequent ratings explosion to follow. And in some ways, I wonder if that’s exactly what the voters were thinking too. The show definitely deserves it, but as far as I can see, that doesn’t factor too much in voters’ decisions. Everyone imagined that Sex and the City would get it, as congratulations for such a great run (no matter how much limping to the finish line they did). But with so much concentration on how network TV comedy is over, giving an award to a comedy that was over or nearly over (in the case of Raymond) would have been acknowledging the genre’s best days were behind it. Even if this was a factor, Arrested was the best sitcom on TV last year. Period.
As for the best part of the show, the parody of the Swift Boat Veteran Ad written by the Daily Show writers was amazing. If you missed it, Wonkette has a transcript of it here. Congrats to the Daily Show and its writers (particularly buds Jason Ross and Rob Kutner) on their second Emmy. Also highly-deserved.