Big Ups to Sacha, Ite?
Great (and apparently rare) interview with Ali G alter-ego Sacha Cohen (or rather, vice versa… or not) in the New York Times today. Particularly interesting is the distinction Sacha makes about his interview subjects and other targets being good sports. He says:
I think the term “sports” is wrong because that implies that they are playing along and they realize they’re part of the game. As far as I’ve seen, they’re not.
So there’s a sense with him that just playing along with the character isn’t being a good sport, it’s realizing your being had and playing along anyway. To use the language of improv, the target of the joke would “Yes, And” with Ali G, Borat or Bruno. I’m looking forward to the new season of the Da Ali G Show... there’s too little comedy featuring pranking white fat cats.
Insert Never Forgets Joke Here
Caught the sketch group Elephant Larry this past weekend in their new show “The Crime Machine.” The troupe of five guys put on a really energetic show, with some sketches working simply because of the players’ complete commitment to a premise such as “Fightman and Puncher,” featuring two superheroes who only catch bad guys incidentally because they’re too busy hitting each other. A lot. The video was nicely mixed in, culminating in a tandem bit where all five dance along to a imagined ubiquitous Will Smith tie-in rap for the film “I, Robot.” There’s some clunkers in there, but the highs outweighed the lows. My favorite performer was Geoff Haggerty, who lent a bizarre innocence to a scream of “bloody murder!”
Comedy is Timing. And this is far too late.
Saw this in the bookstore today. The Sitcom Career Book. I see this easily edged out in sales by Reality Casting for Congenital Morons.
While ordering Patton Oswalt’s album over iTunes, I noticed that a search for Genre:Comedy does not work on the store. Currently it just takes you to back to the main iTunes page. Don’t know if it’s always been this way or not, but it’s rather frustrating. The return of the comedy album has been pursued heavily by people like Uproar Comedy, Laugh.com and, most notably, Comedy Central Records.
The absence of a main comedy landing page on iTunes probably impedes online distribution of comedy records. With comedy such a spontaneous buy, the ability to have the “celestial jukebox” featuring a wide range of comedy may be exactly what the comedy album needs. Of course, iTunes has brought a lot of changes to the music industry itself, including returning emphasis on the single. Is there an equivalent to the single for comedy albums? Maybe having the first few tracks of Feelin’ Kinda Patton seeming isolated from the whole is a good thing in the new online distribution model?
Out o’ curiosity, I ended up on iTunes looking for Patton Oswalt’s Feelin’ Kinda Patton and lo and behold, there it was. I gave it a listen and found it incredibly entertaining.
Apparently the 80 or so minutes of the CD were taken from a two and a half hour set at Athens’ 40 Watt Club. So it feels a little choppy at first and thus a little setup/punch, setup/punch initially. To me, I like getting inside comics’ minds and finding how they arrive at stuff… the tangents are sometimes much better than the jokes themselves, so I was a little disappointed at first. But soon the tracks begin to connect together and create that sense you’re inside another mind. A highlight for me was Oswalt’s near verbatim description of a Stella D’oro Breakfast Treat commercial from the 70s that renders a marriage so vile and vicious, you wonder why anyone would imagine it would sell cookies. All very funny stuff. I read Patton’s taking some time off to make new material. Hopefully, this CD is building an audience ready for more.
Neglected to mention I listened to David Cross’s It’s Not Funny while on vacation too. There’s nothing like driving through the deep woods in Larry the Cable Guy country and listening to a commie-terrorist like David Cross spew his filthy joo mouth at decent God-fearing people. Thank Beelzebub!
I seriously loved how David Cross imagined the journey of exploitation it took to make the gold shavings for his fancy restaurant dessert. I imagine some would take David Cross to task for being in such a restaurant in the first place. I just find it amazing they could fit both their head and a stick in their rectum.
Though I do loves me a good comedy record, I ain’t so fond of listening to them over and over and over again. Even new masterpieces like Cross’s. That said, I’m planning on getting myself Patton Oswalt‘s Feelin’ Kinda Patton as soon as possible. The man has been a fave of mine for a while. He does stand-up for stand-up’s sake and, unlike a lot of comedians, unironically loves lots of pop culture ephemera. (And make it too, the guy wrote a well-regarded JLA comic last year.)
One of my favorite things about Patton has been how communicative he is with fans… particularly on what’s becoming alternative (for lack of a better name) comedy’s biggest message board, Mr. Show and Other Comedy on the Tenacious D “A Special Thing” Board. Check out this thread and see Patton be unfailingly honest not only about why MADtv doesn’t work but why he doesn’t work for MADtv, among other stuff.
Filed Under Stand-Up Comedy
Been a little too long. Won’t space these out so much.
The New York Daily News ran a perennial reporter-tries-comedy story today. I don’t know why editors accept such stories (or why a writer would even pitch one… ugh). I promise to try and spare you too many observations when I take some more improv class later this month. One of the reason I think we’re seeing stories like this one might be because we’re heading for another stand-up comedy boom.
Yeah, I said it.
Not withstanding the fact that comedy does better when times are bad anyway (or at least seems to), New York City has in the past few months seen the opening of three stand-up comedy clubs. Laugh Lounge, The Laugh Factory and, most recently, the return of the New York Improv. (I haven’t been to all these clubs yet, but I’ll try and do a comparison in a future entry.) This doesn’t count the relatively new PIT Improv theater and the HA Comedy Club, which is a little over a year old. (For a full run down of NYC Clubs, check this out. Damn!)
On top of that, the success of Last Comic Standing this summer (one of the few highlights in the newly-anointed year-round schedule espoused by the networks these days), stand-up comedy hasn’t been this visible since the 80s. I imagine the phenomenon of more comedy clubs is not (or will not be) a New York thing for long.
Of course new clubs will require well, acts. And though lots of people wanna be funny, The number of people pursuing stand-up, particularly in a nation filled with attention-seeking young people raised on the Real World, must be skyrocketing. (I have no evidence for this, no figures… just hunches, notions and a need for an entry today.) We got millions of Buck Stars out there, looking for the 15 and thinking stand-up is the way. And who can blame them? After all, Ant can do it, right? (Last cheap shot, promise)
Filed Under Sketch Comedy
More on SNL, God help us all:
One of the things I remember from that New York Magazine 1995 piece was an irate Al Franken yelling at Janeane Garofalo during a rehearsal for attempting to remember her lines, rather than reading the cue cards. At the time, I bought it, because I’d never seen Janeane do stand-up live, where she’s constantly referring to her notes (at least for what she wants to talk about). Her memory doesn’t seem the best. Her work-ethic may be different because she was an ensemble, but I wonder. Since they both work for Air America now, I imagine any animosity is gone. Common enemies kinda do that.
Also, is it just me, or has SNL sometimes just the biggest Vegas celebrity-impersonator show not performed in Vegas? Original characters happen sure, but so much of the cast repertoire plays with celebrity and political culture that has been beaten to death over the week by Leno, Letterman, Conan, Kimmel and Kilborn that by the time you see in on Saturday, who gives a rat’s ass? With the humor already gone, all you have to admire is the quality of the make-up and if the mimic nails his target’s vocal and facial tics. SNL may be, like Mad Magazine, a victim of its own success.
Those seeking the ultimate skeletons-in-the-closet tell-all about SNL will be a little disappointed with Gasping for Airtime. The book does have some candid details about some cast members and writers. But usually, Jay Mohr will couch a criticism or abusive behavior with some kind of praise. Take this note on Janeane Garofalo: “Though Janeane’s very funny and a talented actress, she was a drag when she worked at SNL.”
Similar stuff is said about Rob Schneider, Al Franken and, of course, Lorne Michaels. The only cast member Jay entirely dismisses is Ellen Cleghorne, and even then he at least gives her credit for hating him to his face.
More interesting then is his focus on the show’s insane pitching and writing schedule. Monday has everyone throwing spitballs at the host, which often involves lying about not having an idea or having ideas you have no intention of actually writing. Tuesday is an insane all nighter for anyone who wants to get a sketch on the show that week. A bleary-eyed Wednesday read through of 40 sketches leads to a another til-dawn rewriting session for the sketches that survive. And even then, during rehearsal, your sketch might go. The politics of what sketches get picked, with unfunny hosts (who Jay happily trashes) providing resistance at bizarre intervals, seems to have worked against Jay Mohr.
One of the things I always hear when discussing SNL with somebody is, “Why don’t they just cut a half hour out of the show?” The last half hour of the program is kind of a waste, but you still get the competition to be seen that Jay describes (and that would be even if you cut the cast in half… there’s sometimes 16 people including featured players). If there is a flaw in the show, this book has convinced me it’s not the length.