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.
Filed Under Sketch Comedy
Not really a Nickelodeon viewer. I’m way out of the demographic and when I was in the demographic, my parents thought cable was a waste of money. So I’m almost a year behind Nick’s discovery of the “Funniest Kid in America.” Her name is Christina Kirkman, and at least one journalist is impressed with her satirical chops. Thanks to the votes of Nick-addicted youth, she won a gig as a cast member of the kinda juvenile SNL All That (I mean juvenile in a good way, unless you think juvenile SNL is an oxymoron in the first place).
Number one cool thing about her, she’s a girl. I think one of the reasons why female comedians have a hard time is that women aren’t encouraged to be funny when they’re younger. So bully for you kids of America. I found what I suppose was her winning video. It’s rather like watching a proto-Robin-Williams on a sugar rush rather than a coke binge. Didn’t catch many words, but watching Christina switch characters was a little impressive and a bit exhausting. (Like I said, not the demo.)
The scary thing: comedian used to be one of those things you fell into after you realized you weren’t good at anything else. Between Christina and a 15-year-old in my UCB improv class, I’ve started to think that’s not true anymore. I ain’t a geeza, but I’m preparing some flashcards of set-ups and punchlines for Toddi or Todd Jr. just in case.
Filed Under Humor Magazine
If you live in New York, check out the latest issue of the humor mag Jest, which features a humor piece by yours truly entitled “Sleeper Cell.” I won’t say too much so I don’t give away the joke. But if you’re wondering why we weren’t attacked again on September 11, it’s because we owe a great debt to Alan Ball. God bless you and that depressed Fisher family. If you think you could be a better terrorist, the issue also features an Al Qaeda recruitment brochure by my good buddy Rob Bates. You can find Jest downtown at all kinds of places where you find your free weeklies, but if you want specifics, check the Jest site.
Filed Under Sitcom
A mediabistro article invites you to join critics as they remember the worst TV pilots they ever saw. Lots o’ sitcoms get the shout out including, the current Center of the Universe, the never-aired Grubbs and the cited-as-perennial-target Desmond Pfeiffer. Anyone wonder now why the sitcom is dead?
Filed Under Movies
Jim Carrey’s getting the AFI Star Award at this year’s Aspen Comedy Festival. Yawn. Considering the state of film comedy, I’m surprised Jim Carrey didn’t win sooner. Of course, I don’t see a single one of his early films on the circa-2000 AFI’s 100 Laughs list. What happened? Did somebody just get around to watching Dumb & Dumber?
Shout Factory just put out a huge six disc set of Lenny Bruce’s comedy entitled Let The Buyer Beware. Great for any comedy completists who need to know who created the path stand-ups tread today, whether they know it or not. I admire Shout Factory for making such a (along with my blessed Freaks and Geeks DVDs. Rock!), but I wish they put longer previews of Lenny’s tracks on its web page. You see, back in the day, people were actually willing to wait through a long setup. But today, we only get a minute or so to see if we like anything. It would be nice to hear enough so unfamiliar buyers could get a real taste of the man. Still, you get a taste of Lenny’s rhythms with this excerpt of “To Is A Preposition; Come Is A Verb.” (quicktime audio file)